Epiphany: The Holy Aha!

Aha! The light is here. We have found our way by star and by dream, by following the song inside us.

Now we face a terrible choice. A new dream asks us to stand against a great evil that threatens to destroy this promise, that will destroy the lives of many children and their families until all is said and done. But we are used to following the paths where our dreams take us, and so we must see the child on his way, pack up our things, and head out another way, tricking the old king of his quarry.

Legends say that the astrologers and seers who followed the star in search of the child of promise came from Persia. At least some of them probably came from Iran. Rumi’s beloved Shams was from the city of Tabriz, in Iran, and my own beloved Hafez was from the city of Shiraz, Iran, where the Nasir Ol-Mulk–the Rainbow Mosque–is located today.

As my own country is crouched on the brink of a war with Iran, a rogue president at the helm and all semblance of Congressional checks and balances seemingly in tatters, we must consider our own response to despotic and ruthless leadership. How will we find a different way out of the murderous city? How will we protect the small ones? Perhaps today calls not for a quiet exit through the back door, but a conscious and public standing up and speaking out.

The people of Iran are not our enemy. We have, perhaps, more in common with them than with the angry old men who plot war between our countries.

What do your dreams tell you? Where will this star lead us today?


La Befana: The Epiphany Witch

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.
Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to. I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and besom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies on my broom,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitude List:
1. Dreams and visions
2. Watching a boy and his grandparents yesterday, putting together a giant Lego jet. Hearing him hum and whistle as he concentrated.
3. All the people who are standing up and speaking out.
4. All those crows! On the way home last night, as we were driving beneath a sunset sky full of crows, a boy began to sing, “Magical, magical, magical.” (Of course, when he noticed me appreciating it, he switched and sang, “Unmagical, unmagical, unmagical,” but it was too late. I had noticed.)
5. The holy Aha! Finding the way by starlight and dream. Choosing to disobey, if that what is called for.

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Bag of Dreams

I have absolutely no recollection of dreaming last night. The door between sleeping brain and waking brain is shut tightly. No narratives or images come from that world into this today.

This morning when I looked out the window at 5:35, the darkness was touched by a hint of grey. Dawn is slipping slowly and silently back the clock. Light returns.

The quotation in the image I attached above is from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Fergus and the Druid.” Fergus the King has relinquished his crown and abdicated his responsibilities as king, and he asks the Druid to teach him knowledge, to give him wisdom. Finally, after a little bit of back-and-forth, the Druid offers Fergus a bag of dreams. Though I put the words with the Fool, the Druid is much more earnest than the Fool, more shamanic, seeking wisdom in all things, pursuing knowledge. The Fool just trusts that the wisdom necessary for the moment will arrive when it comes. The Fool is both younger and older than the Druid, more foolish, and wiser.

Going back to school yesterday meant a different kind of mental focus, put me in more of a Druid zone, seeking knowledge with deep intention. But of course Teacher is an archetype of its own, the one who passes on knowledge and wisdom, seeking it like the Druid, drawing it out of the people themselves, helping them to find it. Druid, Teacher, Queen/King/Ruler, Fool: We are so many people at once, aren’t we?

On a morning when the dream-door is closed, still I carry with me the bag of dreams I have been dreaming. Today, they wrap me round as I go out again, stepping out as the Fool, the Druid, the Teacher, carrying my little bag–of dreams, of wisdom, of story. May your own dreams feed you and wrap you round.


Gratitude List:
1. Pie. Yesterday was pie day in the faculty lounge. One of my colleagues is a masterful pie-maker. Once a year, he brings eight or ten pies for us to sample. It’s the best snack day of the year, and it made yesterday a celebration instead of a foggy slog.
2. My shiny students. Many of them were as tired as I was. So many of them just want to be done with the semester already. Me, too. But there’s joy and hope and community there, too, and for some students, school is the safe place, the belonging place. I am grateful that school can be that haven for those who need it.
3. Yesterday’s chapel speaker. It was mostly a personal introduction for a member of our school community, but he was engaging and lively. He caught students’ attention on the first day back from break. He made us laugh, he made us think.
4. Resolutions and intentions. I know all the reasons to be cynical about New Year’s Resolutions, but here’s the thing. New Year’s Day can be like the moon, and I can use the gravity of this day to help boost my energy as I create an intention. I have been wanting to maintain a higher daily step-count, but I sometimes I need the extra artificial push of a New Year’s Resolution or an outside challenge to motivate me. Here’s to the attempt!
5. Dawn is inching back the clock. Day is slowly lengthening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Back to Work

The work-world isn’t waiting for me to finish my Twelvenight ruminations. School starts again this morning. So my writing may, of necessity, be shorter.

Yesterday, I sort of dismissed my dream as the anxious eruption of school into my sleep-psyche. I set that little echidna to the side in my considerations of meaning. But it kept snuffling into my awareness throughout the morning. It felt odd to me that I would dream such a little-known creature. Josiah and I had read about them last year when he was doing a report on the platypus–echidna and platypus are cousins–but I haven’t thought about them since.

There are all those articles that keep popping up about the massive losses of animal life in the Australian fires. I had been thinking sadly of kangaroos and quokkas and wombats and koalas, but echidnas hadn’t crossed my mind. Why was I dreaming an echidna?

I mentioned the dream on Facebook, and a friend said that he, too, has been having Australia dreams, and I wonder: When the Earth is hurting, do we feel it in our dreams? Are we dreaming our own deep-self messages as well as picking up signals from the Beings around us? It’s a whimsical thought, and perhaps ought to be the organizing concept of a novel or short story, at least. But whether or not it’s a message from Earth herself, it draws my attention to the terrible loss on the other side of the world and gives me another connection to that world that I know so little of.

My friend said that he is planning to try to find the characters in his Australia dreams and ask them to tell him more. So I tried to find my way back to the echidna last night. I saw her just as I was falling asleep. A larger echidna came along and stomped on her neck. I managed to pull the larger one off, and save the little one, but then the dream was over. If that was a further message, it’s pretty traumatic. Sigh.

I have been doing some thinking about echidnas in the last day, how they have a hybrid sensibility to them: mammals who lay eggs, hedgehog/anteater/birds. They’re sort of not quite one thing or another, but wholly themselves. And their back feet seem to be on backwards. They can burrow backward with their powerful hind claws, which face behind them. The echidna is feeling like a perfect animal symbol for me to walk with this coming year. During the past four or five years, the tension has been building for me, the feeling that I am both teacher and writer and not quite either one, really. It’s hard to hold onto these two identities which demand so much of my time and brainwork. Perhaps the echidna is my message that this year is to be one of problem-solving, really figuring out how to be this hybrid creature that I seem to have become.

Last night’s dream: I need to go to Harrisburg for a meeting. I leave at 5:30 in the morning, and I am taking my little blue Festiva. It’s been so long since I have driven it that I can’t seem to adjust the height and angle of the seat and mirrors. I stop at a convenience store for coffee and batteries. I need three AA and three AAA for my Walkman. It’s really hard for me to get help getting what I need. People are busy and distracted.

The meeting is at the convenience store, so I sit down with my styrofoam cup of hot chocolate (where’s the coffee?) while someone is getting my batteries. We talk about the boss, who is corrupt, and is using his position at the store to enrich himself. He loves roller coasters, so he has built a small theme park with several special roller coasters that he can ride. We vote that the woman next to me will write a letter of complaint. The meeting is over, and I start to drive home.

It’s easy to see how several pieces of this are basic anxiety-dream elements. Before I went to bed, I worried that for some reason my watch alarm might not wake me up at 5:30. Do I have everything I need to make it through these two days of school? Can I fit myself back into the driver’s seat? My own particular work bosses are extremely ethical and generous, but the “boss” of my country seems to be enriching himself and satisfying his whims at taxpayer’s expense, and that has occupied a great deal of my mental energy in the past few years.

I seem to need a lot of batteries, and coffee/chocolate, to keep me going. I ought to spend some more time working out how to best use and renew my energy. I ought to be using rechargeable batteries by now, anyway. And where was my reusable mug? I was rushing and anxious, and so I was not managing my resources very well. Slow down and savor, I think I told myself a day or so ago. Slow down and find the resources I need instead of frittering away with non-renewable energy sources. There’s a pretty serious message for someone who walks the borderlands of exhaustion.


Gratitude List:
1. The messages in the most mundane anxiety dreams.
2. Echidnas. What an odd and lovely dream-animal to get to know.
3. I didn’t get it all done, but I got a LOT done, and that’s something.
4. As reluctant as I am to get back to work, I am eager to see my school-people again. They give me energy. I do love being a teacher.
5. This is only a two-day week, after all. I can do two days. In fact, as much as I grumbled about going back today rather than Monday, I think there’s something to be said for starting with a short week.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 10: Where Is Your Fire?

Here’s an image this morning of a tiny origami dragon, a reminder that we carry our fire within us as well as without. On that first day walking into this labyrinth, we checked our batteries, checked our fuel for the journey inward, for the lamps and lights that we carry. I have been feeling your fire, your warmth. I’ve been seeing the glimmer and twinkle of your light as we walk together down these dark passages.

Outwardly, my fire can seem pretty weak in December. I sleep a lot. I forget things. I find myself getting dreamy and vague. But inside, I am curling around my inner fire, like a bear or a rabbit or a chipmunk in winter, who curls itself around its heart core to keep the warmth inside. If you feel like your fire is disappearing, it might just be that you need to curl up around it, focus inward on the way it shines and warms, and rest.

Speaking of dreaming, I hd a most amazing dream last night, about driving through a little village with massive trees on either side of the road. The leaves were yellowed, and the branches were gnarled and curling. from the ends of the branches hung thousands of red and yellow fruits. Eventually we were walking beneath the trees, which hung down over the village like archways. People would just reach up and grb a fruit when they needed it.

What you need is there for you, if you just reach out your hand.


Envisioning:

(At the beginning of Advent, my pastor asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)

I think today of the youth activists combatting the climate crisis, how they speak up, how they stay on task, how they avoid attacking those who attack them, but relentlessly (there’s that word again) speak the truth of their message over and over again. They don’t let themselves get caught in the culture war that their elders keep trying to pull them into. They simply tell the story, again and again and again. They hold the truth of their vision without taking up the sword.

Advent 7: There Lives in Me

When I taught at a Waldorf School, we taught a little poem to the children:
There live in me an image
of all that I could be.
Until I have become it,
my heart is never free.

For some reason, as I try to recall it, my mind always substitutes “shadow” for “image.” It’s like something tickling at the back of my brain is trying to remind me that I am not only what can be seen on the surface, but that there’s something else there, too, some deeper me that needs to be recognized and integrated before I am truly whole and free.

Several years ago, I wrote a poem on the subject:

Shadow
I will be Crow.
Stone Steps to the Lady Shrine.
Spider’s tidy strands.
Moss. Pine cone.
Lichen. White stone.

Lady, what have you to say to me?

There lives in me a shadow. . .
Water trickling in the grotto.
Bark of the Sycamore Tree.
Crow. Willow.
Acorn. Sparrow.

What have you to say?

An image of all that I could be.
Ladybug on Her child’s chubby knee.
Spider in the fold of Her robe.
Green leaf. Cool breeze.
Whisper. Oak trees.

Become the Shadow.

I am the Crow and the Spider.
Scent of new boxwood.
The whisk-footed Squirrel.
Egg sac. Chickweed.
Web. Speedwell.

Breathe.

(From Song of the Toad and the Mockingbird by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider, Skunk Holler Poetryworks, 2013.)

When I look into my own shadows, they’re composed of as many subtle colors and hues as the ones that intersect across my living room floor in the mornings. Some are indeed frightening and uncomfortable, because they are unknown, because they hold the secrets of my unresolved and unacknowledged self. Others hold a thrill, because they hide the daring and adventurous and wild side of me, because they harbor the self hinted at in my dreams. They whisper to me, ask me to take up the work they have.

The various personality and temperament studies I have done often point toward shadow work, to exploring those unexplored regions inside. I have found the Enneagram to be particularly helpful in this work. In the Enneagram, I am a pretty standard Seven, an Enthusiast. I call it Hedonist, to remind myself of the shadow possibilities. The Enthusiast wants to enjoy life to the fullest. What choose one option when five will do? We tend to overschedule ourselves, to take on more than we can handle, to eat too much and drink too much. We have a thousand unfinished projects because we want to try everything. We can be enjoyable companions because we like to pile on the fun. Some of the shadows that dog me are hoarding and gluttony and pain avoidance. There isn’t time or attention span enough to handle all the projects and ideas and things that I want to take on. And I get so excited about the next new thing that I avoid the actual work of other things I have committed myself to. In this case, working with my shadows means knowing this pitfalls, working with the anxiety that comes with saying no to the next new and exciting thing that comes along, learning to discipline myself to do the next thing that might bring work or pain.

And there are shadowselves that call me to integrate my the wilder, fiercer, more daring part of me into my everyday self. The shadows call: “Don’t let yourself be tamed! Don’t become domesticated! Don’t settle into safety and predictability. Don’t settle for the status quo.” It’s these shadowselves that raise their heads when everyday systems of oppression and injustice, patterns that everyone seems to accept, make us raise our heads and look around and start to ask questions. In order to live in a world that actively creates unjust systems, parts of ourselves slide into the shadows in order to function with minimal pain and less of the jarring sense of contradiction. Change in the world comes about when we let these sleeping shadows wake up and live within us.

Here, on the eighth day of our journey into the shadows of the December labyrinth, let’s walk into those rooms where our shadows wait, and examine their colors and shapes and textures. What might they have to teach us? This afternoon, I must tackle some things I have been avoiding, and set up a plan for myself to focus instead of fluttering from bright and shiny thing to bright and shiny thing.

What goal will you set for yourself? Maybe your natural state is to try to control all the details, and today you will let go of control? Maybe you’re dogged by particular shadow anxieties, and today is the day to look at them more closely, perhaps in the company of a beloved who can help you? Perhaps today is the day to wake up some sleepy shadows and start to make a plan to break the chains in an oppressive system that profits from your sleepiness?


Envisioning:
(At the beginning of Advent, my pastor asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)

I think of the people of Landisville Mennonite Church and others who work with them to be companions to refugees and asylum seekers and immigrants who have been detained in York County Prison. These people are holding a vision of a welcoming community that helps people find their way in a new place. A group of people has come out of this work to raise money to pay the bonds for immigrants in the York detention center. Their website is IBAEPA.org, The Immigration Bond and Advocacy effort, if you would like to participate in their making their vision a reality.

Combustible Child

I was a little obsessed yesterday with the way the sun shone through the wine and water glasses.

In the dream, there is a combustible child, who is likely at any moment to burst into flame: hair, chest, shins on fire. I am the child, running to escape a mob of children. Their fear and their curiosity and their rage torment me. I just want to be alone, so I can burn in peace. I burn, but I am not harmed. But my fire can burn the buildings of the town, and the trees.

Also I am a child in the mob. I run with the others, trying to catch the combustible child. I want to protect him. I know that some of the others mean to kill him, and I want to be the first to find him, to warn him, to help him. But he is always ahead of us.

We are in the labyrinthine passages beneath an old mill building. I am the child, running and hiding, afraid the light of my burning will show the children where I am. I am also seeking the child, fearful that he will hurt himself, or burn the building down, but mostly that the other children will hurt him.

I have found a way to the roof of the old mill. The others are still mostly down in the underground passages. The building is wood, but it is not burning beneath me, although other buildings have burned in the past. Down below, I am a child in the mob; I hear two children talking. They have discovered one of the secrets of the combustible child: “I think he was the one we thought had drowned there in the lake. Remember?” I have to find the combustible child and warn him.

(I welcome comments and thoughts about my dreams. I don’t feel comfortable with the “Your dream means” sort of interpretations, but speculative and conjectural comments and questions are better for helping me to think through what might be going on.)


Gratitude List:
1. How tears sometimes bless the receiver of tears. Sharing emotion, like sharing bread.
2. Laughing with loved ones
3. Pumpkin coconut pie, venison pie, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake pie
4. Sweet soft cat. I’m a little grumpy because Thor was chasing Sachs all around the house, thumpily and hissily. I could not get him to stop. I came downstairs to the recliner, hoping it would distract him, and I could get back to sleep. No. I held him and gave him a lecture about chasing kitties. No. Every time I settled down to sleep, he was off and thundering. The minute I turned on the light and picked up the laptop, he jumped up beside me, rolled onto his back, and fell into a deep sleep. Sigh. And am I grouchy? No, I just love this soft warm breathing presence beside me. I’ll nap later.
5. Belonging. I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.

May we walk in Beauty!

Protector of the Children

This woman is from a really recent dream/image. I frequently wake up with dream-images in my head, or fragments of song, or a word or phrase, instead of a story. In this case, the central woman is wearing flowing blue robes, and lined along the edges of her cloak are children that she is protecting. She is very much a Mary-figure, and the children are safe in the folds of her cloak. There are dozens and dozens of them. May it be so.


Gratitude List:
1. The ones who protect children. Thank you.
2. The water protectors and earth protectors. Thank you.
3. Core values and deep conscience. We had a lengthy and powerful discussion in a class yesterday about making choices based on core values. My students are wise.
4. Refried beans and tortillas. Weeks ago, Jon made an enormous pot of refried beans, and froze the leftovers in batches. I love refried beans and tortillas.
5. Wordplay.

May we walk in Beauty!

Through the Veil

This is Catherine Witwer (1833-1905), married to Isaac Weaver. My Great-Aunt Elizabeth Nolt Weaver (her granddaughter) said that she cared for women in childbirth (a lay midwife, I think), and then cared for their older children in her own home so the mothers could recover. Aunt Lizzie told me that people called her Mammy.

They lived at the White Hall Mill on Weaverland Road near Union Grove. My Great-Grandfather John W. Weaver was their son, and his son Daniel was my grandfather, who is my father’s father.

All sorts of ancestors, known and unknown, line the spiraling staircases of your DNA, watching, singing, remembering for you. What will you carry forward as you walk through the veil of this season?


Gratitude List:
1. The way the sun slants through colored leaves in this season when we step further into the darkness.
2. Stepping forward.
3. The light we carry inside ourselves.
4. Knowing, as we walk into this tunnel of seasonal darkness, that we will walk out again in a season to come.
5. The bright candle flame of a new idea.

May we walk in the glow of each other’s lights.

Skimming the Surface

It’s a little like flying, but it’s more like falling without touching the ground. When I was a child, I did it frequently enough in my dreams that I was convinced I could do it in waking life, too. Perhaps I could.

I’m trying to get somewhere fast in a dream, usually down a hillside. Instead of the frustrating and dreaded molasses-feet dreams, in which my feet won’t move, no matter how hard I will them, in a skimming dream I am so intent on getting where I am going that I stop actually putting my feet on the ground. Momentum carries me down the mountainside and I just keep my feet off the surface, sort of like skiing on air. Last night’s mountainside was really muddy, and I knew I’d get stuck, so I just coasted downhill through the air. It was a little hairy at moments, getting through the trees, and worrying that I might run into a bear.

It was exhilarating, feeling it happen, remembering how to do it with a body-memory similar to riding a bike. This morning, I feel it like I did when I was seven, that inner knowing that I can ski the air. Perhaps it’s a message from my Deep Self that I can slip the leaden bonds of winter, and move through the world again with more grace and ease.

Dream Elegy

. . .holding this bagful of winter.

In the dream, as I was waking:
I am translating a four stanza Spanish poem into English. I race to get the translation down. Something of my dreamself knows that I am waking, and I must hear the whole thing.

In real life, my Spanish is shaky at best, not sufficient to translate anything like this. I lay in bed for a while before I got up, reciting the last lines (all I could remember) over and over again, so I wouldn’t forget them the minute I got out of bed:

“. . .and so you left us, holding this bagful of winter.

And you,
freshest flower of the morning,
will bloom forever
in my heart.”


Mary Oliver’s “box full of darkness” may have been in my subconscious, though that hasn’t been one of the poems I have been meditating on in these past few days. It feels too personal to be my own elegy for her, not having known her. But hers is the death I have been living with for these last few days. Were I to write such a poem consciously, I would cringe a little at the rather overblown feel of “freshest flower of the morning,” but I somehow feel as though I am messing with words and ideas that aren’t quite mine, even though they escaped the dreamhole in my brain.


Gratitude List:
1. All the poetry she left us.
2. The way she taught me to look, and then to SEE,
3. to examine the inner as well as the outer landscapes,
4. how she encouraged me to feel at home roaming both inner and outer worlds.
5. How her words always find me when I need them.

May we walk in Beauty!


I keep pondering the arrogant smirk of that boy in the pictures of the protests yesterday, mocking an elder, defiant, twisted, domineering, entitled. I am so sad for him and his friends, so troubled for the shallow and scrappy world they are setting themselves up to live in. I’m angry, too, of course, and I hope they face consequences, but I pray (yes, that’s the word) that they will have to face themselves, somehow, that the mirror of Nathan Phillips’ face will help them to look at themselves, that they will take warning, that they will take up their humanity.

In my own life are quite a number of young men, and some of them tend toward arrogance. Some of them, caught in such a moment, would perhaps join in the energy of such a mob. I hope to heaven that they wouldn’t, but I see some of that self-satisfied arrogance in some of my own circle.

I must look again into the faces of the young men in that crowd and know that they, too, are loved and loveable. They are redeemable. But not if we keep giving them the wall of our rage to butt up against. They are begging for a wall. Let’s follow the example of the wise elder Nathan Phillips and give them mirrors instead.

Young MAGA men, I hope you look back on yesterday and feel shame, great shame, for your actions and words. I hope those of you who stood by and laughed will understand that you, too, were participants in an act of great arrogance and entitlement and shame. I hope you know that by not stepping in and standing up to your friends, you, too, wear that shame. And Smirking Boy, I pray that you will be able to see yourself through the thick haze of patriarchal dominance and posturing that seems to have caught you in its grip.

But I hope you do not stop at shame. May the shame itself be only the outer shell of a seed that will burst forth within you, a seed of desire to do right, to respect your elders, to offer recompense for your terrible disrespect of a man, of a people, of a history, of humanity. May you be humbled, may you choose a new way, may you seek beauty and goodness and respect and gentleness.

And may the rest of us be mirrors instead of walls. I would walk in the footsteps of the drummer.


Daughter, the songs of women
are the first words of children
—Abby E. Murray, in Rattle Magazine


“Our vitality is inextricably bound up with creativity. Like a tree whose expression is fruit, giving our gifts is what keeps life pushing through our veins. It’s what keeps us feeling alive. As anyone who has strayed too far from their creativity knows, without it every corner of one’s life can fall prey to a terrible greying spread. As Kahlil Gibran writes about trees in an orchard, ‘They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.”
—David Sobel


“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.