Stay Home, Stay Safe

A Poem, Some Gratitudes, a Dream, and a Quotation Collection:

Listen, Friend:
I will not tell you that
god has a purpose for your anguish.
Your tragedy was not divine will
sending a lightning bolt to wake you up
or to teach you a lesson about trust,
whatever the street preachers tell you.

Bad things happen, and they keep on happening.
Why, just yesterday, I saw a story
about some mother’s child gunned down
in the streets in the daylight
and people stood by and took videos
with their new camera phones.
There’s no god in that, right?
No good in that, no god.

And I don’t know what Moses and his king were thinking,
but I can tell you that this plague is not some
divine retribution by a heavenly pharoah
trying to teach us all a lesson,
though there are lessons aplenty to learn,
if only we can open our eyes and see,
then see again, and deeper.

I still hold that there’s a Creative Force
that set the Universe in motion, a Love
that watches us and even extends Itself toward us
when we’re in the throes of agony,
even sends occasional lightning bolts
of insight when we’re at the edge of holding on.

I don’t know why the good ones die young
or why tornadoes always seem to hit the trailer parks
instead of the mansions on the hills,
why the rich fat cats recover from the virus
after all their disregard of caution,
and those who are already suffering
lose the ones they love.

But here, in all the chaos of unknowing,
is this web: A line from me to you, another
cast to the next one that you love,
and one of mine, and on and on,
a tender, joyful, fierce and loving web
of hearts that hold and notice
even in the midst of all that is being destroyed.



Gratitudes:
1. Health care workers. They’re stretched thin right now. Spare them some love.
2. This man, who plans meals for special occasions just like his mother always did.
3. Making things. I sewed all day yesterday. It made me happy.
4. Finally! After seventeen years here, we are getting the septic system replaced. The pipes are in, and all that remains is to finish hooking up all the extra pieces and to put the dirt back where it belongs.
5. Reflections

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


In the dream, I am in a large crowded theater where people are preparing a play. Everyone is excited. They’re throwing themselves into their roles. I am kind of on the sidelines, supporting, encouraging, wishing I could be part of the fun.

I can’t participate, because no one is wearing masks or social distancing. Also, I am supposed to be in quarantine, so why am I in a crowded theater?

I go sit in a little room with a few others who aren’t in the main cast, and suddenly realize that even I am not wearing a mask. Fortunately, I have one in my purse.

I know where this one came from. Yesterday, I scrolled past something that a friend of mine posted about the Covid Phone alert yesterday, and she and her friends were mocking it, scorning the governor, encouraging each other to get together with their families and friends today. But I know that people are going to get sick as a result of their irresponsible actions today, and some of them are going to die because they ignore the warnings. I know that my beloveds who work in hospitals are preparing themselves for the terrible decisions they are going to be needing to make in the coming weeks about who gets treatment, and who doesn’t.
I have SO MUCH to be grateful for, and I AM grateful, and joyful. But I am also worried and sad, and angry at my friend and her friends for being so cavalier about something that will claim people’s lives. Please make safe and responsible choices today, friends.

[Later Edit: I promise I won’t resent you if you are gathering with the responsible people of your bubble, tending to each other’s mental health as you responsibly gather. I know there are grey areas here. My sulks are reserved for those who simply ignore it all and pretend nothing is happening, and who scorn those who are taking precautions. Still, I wish safety for all.]


Thursday’s Thankful and Thoughtful Words:
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” —Meister Eckhart


“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” —Alice Walker (h/t Tony Brown)


“Perhaps you were brought to this place for just such a time as this.” —paraphrase from book of Esther


“We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. it is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable.”
—Nayyira Waheed


“Only those who attempt the absurd
will achieve the impossible.”
—M. C. Escher


“A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth. That this body of ours is the panchabhuta-the five elements that make the universe and make our bodies. The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory-this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe. There’s nothing that gives me deeper joy than the work of protecting the diversity and the freedom of the seed.” —Vandana Shiva


Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower
by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy

Listen
Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

The Vampire Poem

I’ve been a little obsessed with the vampire dream I had the other night, with the idea that I knew in the dream that I was watching the images appearing as I read a poem. I needed to have the poem. Because it has an old folk tale feeling, I kept getting caught up in archaic-sounding language. The rhythm and rhyme kind of happened naturally as I began, and even though it felt a little like a light-hearted cadence, I just plugged on. I’m sort of happy with it.

The moon was high on a cool fall night,
and my child walked home in its silver light.
Her clothes were ragged and her feet were bare
and the moon laid a crown on her raven hair.

Approaching the field called “Soldier’s Rest,”
she saw an old man in soldier’s dress.
He too was tattered, from head to toe,
and he sat on a stump, with his head bowed low.

With a deferential nod as she passed by,
my youngster caught the old man’s eye.
“Stop for a while,” he called from his seat.
“I’ve a tale for you I’ve ached to repeat.”

Long she listened in polite fascination
while the elder unspooled his bitter narration
of stabs in the back and egregious wronging,
of betrayals and rages, unrequited longing.

After his recital, she begged his kind pardon,
and turned toward home, our small cabin and garden.
As soon as I heard her open the gate,
I gathered her into my arms. It was late,

and I bolted and barred the front door for the night
as she told of her encounter with the angry old wight
and showed me through cracks in the shutters the spot
up the road in the moonlight where the elder still sat.

We’d hardly turned and were crossing the floor
than the old one materialized through the door.
I guessed in an instant his vampire constitution,
but how could he enter without invitation?

He’d twisted her natural child’s civility
into the requisite welcome for entry.
Icy fingers of fear grabbed my throat and my spine
and my child sank to the floor with an anguished cry.

Through the snail-stepping hours of that longest of nights
I tended my child as he drew out her life.
I tried every hex, incantation, and prayer
to make him release her from his vampiric stare

but all I could do was to keep her alive
with my own spirit-breath. I cannot describe
the exhaustion and horror of each minute that passed
as I waited for dawn when my power at last

could unmake him. But then at the moment I thought I was lost
the first rays of morning broke in, and crossed
the vampire’s shadow. I saw him whiten like death,
and my beloved daughter drew one long deep breath.

I built up the fire and opened the door,
and our tormentor groaned and rose from the floor,
floated upward and out, and faded like song
as we heard the first notes of the first bird of dawn.

Take care, my friends, of the boundaries you keep.
The old tales ask for kindness, but vampires will creep
through your civil demeanor with evil inventions,
so be canny and wise and make clear intentions.


Thursday’s Words:
“If the Rhine, the Yellow, the Mississippi rivers are changed to poison, so too are the rivers in the trees, in the birds, and in the humans changed to poison, almost simultaneously. There is only one river on the planet Earth and it has multiple tributaries, many of which flow through the veins of sentient creatures.”
—Thomas Berry


“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“For a Star to be born,
there is one thing that must happen;
a nebula must collapse.
So collapse.
Crumble.
This is not your Destruction.
This is your birth.” —attributed to Noor Tagouri


‪”So much of bird flight is really expert falling, slipping into that delicate space within the argument between gravity and air resistance. That natural alchemy transforms a plummet into a glide. Someday, I hope to learn to fail like birds fall.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


Gratitudes:
1. My order of Africafe came today. I opened it up and the smell took me home.
2. All these mushrooms! So many, and so many varieties!
3. So much gold, and red. So much shine when the sun slants in.
4. People who carry on and do what they know is right even when they get blocked at every turn.
5. The life of Lucille Bridges, who gave her first-grade daughter Ruby the support she needed to face hostile crowds every day on her way to school. Ms. Bridges died today at age 86.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!

Unsettled

The pholiota limonella at the center of the Wheel of the Year have gotten expansive. I have given them names, but they’re the names of some elven folx who appeared to me in a dream, and in the fairy tales it’s kind of rude to use the truenames of the fae, unless you’re trying to keep them at bay, so we’ll call them Meadow and Chief for now.

In last night’s dream:
I am reading a poem, by Whitman or Sandburg or someone like that. I see the lines on the page as the images of the dream unfold.

A small girl is walking a path home to her cabin in the full moon light. (Why are small children always out at night in these stories?!?)

As she is passing a field which was a battlefield in the Civil War, she comes upon an old man, dressed in the tattered remnants of a soldier’s uniform, sitting on a stump in the moonlight. She listens politely while he tells her his story of woe and bitterness.

After his telling, she makes her way home, where her mother bolts the cabin door behind her. She tells her mother (the narrator of the poem) about the old man, and they look out the window to see him sitting there, way in the distance, in the moonlight. As she finishes telling her mother the story, suddenly the old man is in the cabin with them.

The poem (dream) ends with the mother reflecting on how sitting in the bitterness of old battles can turn a person into a vampire.

I think it’s a dream about the danger we’re in right now, with a bitter old soldier who lost his battles, stewing in his rage. He’s always been an energy vampire, and now he’s been mostly ignored for days. He’ll be hungry. Telling his story to each other only feeds him.
In the dream, the girl did not invite him in, but he came in anyway, perhaps taking her polite listening as a tacit invitation. Let’s draw our boundaries tightly now, and refuse to let ourselves be drawn in to the old battles again, refuse to listen to his story. We’re in a new place now, a safer place than we were, but we need to be vigilant and aware in order to truly make it safe.

I think that part of what startles me about this dream is that in the fairy tales, you’re supposed to be polite, supposed to listen to the elders, supposed to offer assistance to the poor. This was so clearly not that. Her politeness was all the invitation he needed to enter her space. The time for passive politeness is past. White people, especially, have allowed such evil to blossom through passive politeness, through our lack of confidence in confronting lies and abuse.

My friend Anna reminds me to stand within my truth, leaning neither forward nor backward, to feel myself surrounded by a golden light. One of the many helpers who has appeared to me in a dream is an angelic being made of golden light, with great glowing golden wings, so I feel myself surrounded by my dream-friend’s light, like the golden glow of an autumn morning, when the mists are just rising off the fields and everything is awash with light. This standing in one’s truth, Anna reminds me, is like the essential core of nonresistant philosophy, to know what you believe, and to hold to that, not getting caught up in all the rages and distractions of those who oppose a vision of justice.

I am unsettled today. I feel like it’s time to stop celebrating and start looking around, keeping our noses to the wind, not losing our commitment to standing in the center of our own golden light of truth, but all senses alert to the dangers around us. It began with my dream, the sense that some attention paid to the tattered soldier has given him the “right” of entry. On one hand, I want to let the old ghost fade quietly away into the moonlight without giving it any more attention. On the other hand, I have a sense of impending doom settling on my shoulders this afternoon, a feeling of havoc about to be wreaked, chaos to be unleashed.

I know that is his pattern, to promise destruction and wreckage, and then watch in delight as all the worried citizenry gathers to put out the fires. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. I think it’s time to let it go, to believe that someone is watching and ready to give warning out in the dark night, that everyone is positioned to do their very own job.

In the meantime, in the waiting, in the transition,
we give our attention to our work:
we continue to call for justice,
we keep rooting out white supremacy wherever we see it, especially in ourselves,
we dismantle the patriarchy,
we protect the vulnerable,
we care for the children,
we teach critical thinking and analysis,
we starve the vampire.


Gratitudes:
1. The golden light of autumn
2. The golden leaves of autumn
3. The golden pillar of energy that helps us to stand within our truth
4. The golden shine of the mushrooms in the Wheel of the Year mandala
5. The golden heart of you

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Beauty!

A Tumble of Words and Ideas

Samuel S. Lewis State Park

After nearly a month of silence here, I find it difficult to pull out particular threads of thoughts to put down in a blog post. Or perhaps it’s more a function of the times we live in, existing as we do within so many layers of challenge and crisis and change. So today’s post will be more of a smorgasbord than usual.


I am at odds with myself. There’s a Cackler in me who is rubbing her hands with satisfaction at the way karma has finally alit upon powerful people who have minimized the danger of the coronavirus. At the same time, my internal Monk is saddened to contemplate anyone’s suffering, and wants to wish ill upon no being, no matter how brutal and selfish that being is.

Message to self: It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to experience a sense of relief when an out-of-control train that has already been responsible for the deaths of many is suddenly slowed and perhaps side-lined. I’m letting the Monk and the Cackler work together here, working to avoid feeling and expressing glee at this turn of events, but allowing myself to feel relief: This could signal a shift that could save lives in the end.

This is a moment for the type of complexity I have been attempting to integrate since I began working with the Bowl of the Heart several years ago: All of it goes in there together, painful and tender, vengeful and compassionate. We’re many-faceted creatures, we humans, and we have the capacity for myriad responses. While I want to always be appealing to my better nature, I cannot deny the Cackler her space. And I can learn from her. The quiet Monk in me was trying so hard to respond with light and wisdom that I almost missed the essential message of the Cackler–that it is okay to be relived that this bit of suffering being visited upon those who inhabit the White House may be a pathway toward mitigating the suffering of thousands.


A few days ago, I checked in with the faeries about a couple things I’ve lost. One was pretty urgent and timely. The other is a necklace I haven’t seen for over a year, a treasured piece I made myself from various shiny and dangly things I’d received from beloved friends.

Within a couple hours, I found the first, most urgent thing, but I still haven’t found the necklace, although I have been searching all the place that suddenly popped into my head.

But last night, I had a haunting, lingering dream. I kept waking up with images of the two beings in the dream, sometimes with clear recognition of their names, and then falling back to sleep, only to wake up again with their images in my brain. They were two elves, dressed in skinny suits like a 1950s boy band, with white shirts and black skinny ties. They were both dark-haired with piercing dark eyes, very Spock-like.

I woke up, feeling like they wanted to cut some sort of deal with me, like they were looking to draw up a contract. I thought if I could remember their names, I could outwit them, control them, but in the stories, magical names also sometimes backfire, and it’s perhaps best that I don’t quite remember. I do want my necklace back, but I’m not ready to sell my fate to a pair of pushy dream-beings. Still, it couldn’t help to make an offering. . . (I know, I know, no first-born children or anything like that).


I’ve started painting my nails. It’s strange, because I tend to feel like I am a little kid playing dress-up, or like I’m sort of wearing drag when I wear make-up or get my nails done. It’s like it’s territory that doesn’t really belong to me. I identify completely as she/her, and have never had any questions about my gender, but there are myriad ways to express femaleness, and the salon/nails/make-up way has not really been part of my way. I always feel like I’m in someone else’s territory when I do these things.

But I am loving wearing different colors on my nails. I change the color every weekend. A couple weeks ago, I just had to get green. I needed green nails. Today, I painted them RED! My fingernails are red. I needed flames on my fingers right now. Hmmm. I should see about getting some little flame decals. . .


I realized the other day that I almost never find feathers anymore. Perhaps I am not looking hard enough? Or maybe I don’t need them now. Or maybe it’s because we no longer have the glorious owl-perch of the poplar tree anymore.

The day after I began to ponder this, I found this woodpecker feather at the park:

This week two girls stopped outside my classroom to read my bulletin board during my prep period. When I went to say hello, they thanked me for my poster about how all people are valued in this classroom. They said they would like it to include something about how we live on stolen land. I love that they were so ready to add their own pieces, so open to ask for what they want, so intersectionally aware. We talked about how the statements on the poster are all stated in positive ways, and the stolen land piece doesn’t seem to quite fit that tone, but how that’s not quite a good answer even so. I do have a little poster in my room about the people who were first here on the land where we attend school, but I really want to add a line that will respond to their request, if it’s possible. (Or maybe I’ll move that poster out to my hallway bulletin board. One of the girls said she is going to make me a drawing of the hands of many different races gripping each other in a circle, to add put next to the sign.

I would love ideas about how to include an intersectional awareness of the truth of that statement–We are living on stolen land–in the grammatical and tonal context of this. Feel free to offer me your thoughts.


Some Random Gratitudes:
1. Red-breasted hawk on a snag down Schmuck Rd.
2. My wise and compassionate students.
3. The Wheel of the Year. All comes around again.
4. Smoothie for breakfast
5. The treehouse. I spent a couple hours up there yesterday, reading and drawing.

May we walk in Beauty!


“The ways creative work gets done are always unpredictable, demanding room to roam, refusing schedules and systems. They cannot be reduced to replicable formulas.
[…]
To spin the web and not be caught in it, to create the world, to create your own life, to rule your fate, to name the grandmothers as well as the fathers, to draw nets and not straight lines, to be a maker as well as a cleaner, to be able to sing and not be silenced, to take down the veil and appear: all these are the banners on the laundry line I hang out.
[…]
Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.” ―Rebecca Solnit, from: “Men Explain Things to Me”


“The first product of self-knowledge is humility.” —Flannery O’Connor


“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ―Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook


“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.” ―Barry Lopez


“‘Remember on this one thing,’ said Badger. ‘The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.’” ―Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel


“Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.” —Maya Angelou


“With dreamwork, we are endlessly tenderising ourselves to subtletly. When we begin to know its dimensions, pain can no longer envelop us in an indistinct mass. It’s not that we are ridding ourselves of suffering, but rather learning its name, which is the prelude to befriending it.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


Humility
by Mary Oliver
Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.


“On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree.” —W. S.Merwin


“Nature never repeats itself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton


“All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” —Kabir


Mirabai Starr said, “Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens. Poets speak truth in a very naked way that bypasses the rational mind. Poetry evokes, rather than describes.”


Kathleen Norris writes, “Poets understand that they do not know what they mean, and that is their strength. . . . Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the limits of language, and our knowing, and are dependent on our senses to ‘know’ for us.”


“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed can keep millions of people from starvation. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the world’s future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred…”
—His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

More Dreams

Dream: I’m in Dreamtown. I don’t know what else to call it, but it’s a place I often go in dreams. Sometimes I even recognize streets or buildings from dream to dream, but not often. I just know its the same city. There are other dream towns, too.

My sister parks her van and puts the keys under the seat, says she’ll see me later. I am going to wander in town a bit and check out some of these yard sales. It’s a little surprising that people are having yard sales during this time, but they sort of seem to be social distancing. I don’t remember seeing them in masks, but masks have not really entered my dreams yet.

After a while, I go to get in the van to drive home, and in the few hours I have been there, a whole bunch of foxtails have grown up between the cab and the bed of the pick-up (it is now my old red F150 instead of Valerie’s Van). I’m kind of glad to be driving the old pick-up again. I back out of the parking lot onto the road, put it in first and accelerate, but the truck keeps going in reverse. The brakes don’t work. The gears won’t shift into forward. I am hurtling backwards down a steep city hill.


That’s where I woke up. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was a school dream, or a dream about the feelings I am experiencing right now.
It’s all so out of control.
Even the vehicle has changed.
The weeds grew up while I was away.
Everybody out there is going about their normal business as though nothing has changed.
I’m hurtling backward downhill.
I can’t focus enough to get any serious school planning done. I can’t get it in the right gear.

Breathe. Pray. Sit in the chair. Do the work. Be ready for plans to change. Steer the truck.

Yesterday, on my birthday, I made myself a set of prayer beads. It’s based on the 108 beads of the Tibetan mala, but I am not Buddhist, so I hesitate to call it anything that specific. I am very intentional about not buying new things for new projects, but using up what I have, so I scrounged stone beads from my collection, and used a turquoise skull bead for my main bead. I chose the skull bead intentionally, as the symbol often associated with Mary Magdalene, who perhaps had more reason than most of us to contemplate the mysteries of life and death. With the tassel on the end, the skull looks like La Calavera Catriona on her way to the dance, which adds a nice layer of meaning. I added a dangle-bead Hand of Fatima, which represents protection and safety.

Here are the things I am going to do to try to deal with these anxieties:
1. Sit at my desk and Do My Work.
2. Keep hanging my worries on the willow.
3. Carry my prayer beads with me. In these early days of wearing it, I want to let the prayers kind of form themselves as I notice the worries that arise. (The cording is nylon, so I can disinfect them when I wear it to school.)
4. Be as conscientious in the classroom about cleaning and disinfecting as possible. Be strict about masking and distancing.
5. Meditate on the web. So many wonderful people have reached out to say they are praying for teachers, and thinking about us as we prepare for the coming year. I feel like I am on a golden web of people’s prayers and energies, along with my colleagues and students.
6. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Really, I am still fairly grounded and centered. I am like a lion, I think, quick to rage or jump into action in response to attack or hunger, but mostly lying around, still and quiet, unbothered. Both. It takes a quirky dream or another announcement from the governor or scary numbers in the news to get me to jump up and take off. But the worries are always there, and in the meantime, I have to be as prepared as possible for school to begin.


Gratitude List:
1. Such an overflowing bowl of birthday greetings yesterday! I’m so grateful for all my beloveds, in both my physical and virtual worlds.
2. Goldfinches on the thistles.
3. Chocolate ice cream cake.
4. Making things.
5. Bright fingernail polish. I always feel a little like I’m in drag or something when I wear make-up or fingernail polish. They don’t feel quite like me. But I love shiny colors on my fingertips, and I will keeping painting my nails until I get bored or tired of touching up the chipped bits.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” —Leonard Cohen


“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” —Robin Williams


“One gives one’s life to be and to know, rather than to possess.” —Teilhard de Chardin


“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” —Rumi


Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.


“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
–William Stafford


“Perfectionism is a virus which keeps us running on the treadmill of never-enoughness. It is inherently deadening for how it strives and never arrives. Failure is embedded in its very pursuit, for our humanity can never be homogenised. The only antidote is to turn away from every whiff of plastic and gloss and follow our grief, pursue our imperfections, exaggerate our eccentricities until they, the things we once sought to hide, reveal themselves as our true majesty.” –Toko-pa Turner

Coronavirus Dream

No raccoons this morning. I am such a worrywort, and when I start to care deeply, then I begin to worry about Every Little Thing. We’re assuming that Mama came back for her baby sometime yesterday when we weren’t watching. We’re assuming that she didn’t take them up this tree last night–I have read that they often choose different hiding places each day or week. Just because I kept smelling fox yesterday doesn’t mean that they’ve encountered the raccoons, and just like the raccoons need to feed their littles on birds’ eggs, foxes need little raccoons to feed their littles, so the cycle of life continues. . .


Two nights ago, I dreamed I met a llama. Nothing more remains of that dream, except the llama coming to greet me.

Last night I had my first coronavirus dream. Jon and I were going somewhere in the car, and I realized that I didn’t have my mask along. I told Jon I needed to use his, but he was pretty strict about sharing masks and said I couldn’t use his. The people in the building where we were going to be were all pretty skeptical about social distancing and mask-wearing, so I NEEDED to have my mask to keep me and them safe, and to normalize mask-wearing. Just as we pulled in to the place, I found a scarf in the car, so I wrapped it around my head like a hijab, covering my mouth and nose, although I knew the people in the building would find that triggering.


Gratitude:
Color is so important to me. This morning, Indigo Bunting and Blue Jay were at the feeder together. Moments after they flew away, a bright red cardinal and a glowing yellow goldfinch flew in, followed a red-bellied woodpecker with its cap on fire.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

Poem a Day: 15

Pear blossoms and barn

Today’s prompts were fun to mash up: “dream,” and “middle of the week.” Also, I had my Creative Writing students write a list poem today, so I wanted to try one of those, too. Pile on the fun.

Transformation
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

On Sunday, she dreamed she was inside an egg,
arms and legs curled tight, and light (diffuse)
swirling through the veil of shell around her.

On Monday, she dreamed she walked a pathway
underneath an overarching fern. Fronds unfurled
where dragonflies hovered above, large as dragons.

On Tuesday, she dreamed of thorn and bramble,
rose and blackberry sending tendrils grasping,
catching clothing, and bright crimson drops of blood.

On Wednesday, the fulcrum of the week, no dream
disturbed her sleep, no portents woke her,
no messages arrived through the veil between.

On Thursday, the forest of her dreams darkened
and wolves prowled just beyond her firelight.
Wolves howled in shadows, eyes a-glint.

On Friday, she died in her dreaming, yet stood
at the edge of the clearing, watching her body
where it lay among mayapples and mushrooms.

On Saturday, the dream spread a wide
gleaming sea in her path. She stepped
into a coracle boat, ivory, smooth as eggshell.

Aconite Awakens

Trying to make sense of a dream last night. Buying an old three story house in the city, taller than all the surrounding houses, dozens of rooms. The owners left so much stuff behind, and there was so much to discover: clothes, games, Civil War memorabilia, books, kitchen items. They even left two cats. I think this is a dream of abundance, of sudden knowledge that I have more inner resources than I realized. Now, I need time to meditate in waking life to make the connections.


Gratitude List:
1. The aconite is up, golden buttercups catching the slanting sun rays of a winter afternoon.
2. Walking with Josiah after school. He instigates a walk almost as often as I do.
3. Maybe it’s the season for sundogs? We saw a really sparkly spot of one on the way home again yesterday.
4. I went to bed early last night, and slept all night until morning. Good, solid rest. May my brain be less foggy today than yesterday.
5. My students. All of them, and two in particular, who chose during their Speech class interviews to be interviewed about what it’s like to grow up black or bi-racial in the the US. It’s not their job to teach the rest of us, but they chose to open up their stories, and we learned. Deeply. Most of the best learning moments are not orchestrated by the teacher.

May we walk in Beauty!

On the Dream Scene

In the dream, I am back in a little town where I have often found myself in dreams. It’s a fully realized little town, with neighborhoods and trees and people and traffic. It’s miles away from any other town or city, out in a scrubby desert. On the outskirts of town are several truckyards–I suppose this is the source of the town’s thriving economy. But this is something I know from previous dreams about the place.
**
In this particular dream, we are living in a house (that I think belongs to us or a friend). People come and go through the property, and the path leads over a steep, muddy embankment in the corner of the yard. When I skid down over the hill, I realize at the bottom that the mud and grass cover an enormous quartz crystal “colony.” Some beautiful points are visible beneath the mud. Bits have broken off, and points and broken pillars of crystal scatter the lower yard. They’re so clear and shiny, even amidst the mud that they look almost more like Herkimer Diamonds than Quartz. I collect LOTS of random pieces, and someone has left baskets of stones and little carvings and treasures on the sidewalk near our house. I know that they are for us, if we want them, so I decide to come back and get them later, along with several of the more beautiful quartz bits.
**
A little later, we’re going to eat lunch at the cafe in the community center (which might also be our house, or next to our house). We’ve gone to taste the Bhaktar (not a waking-life word or recipe), which is a cracker-like bread crumbled into a bowl with a creamy soup poured over top. On the way in, we pass a student of mine who is taking people’s orders. She looks at me and says, “Have you ever seen James Kinder’s wife? She reminds me so much of you!” I google them, and it turns out that she is the creative director of the plays and events at the community center.

After lunch, we watch some of the dancers preparing a performance at the community center. I don’t think James Kinder’s wife looks or acts anything like me. She reminds me a bit of Amanda Palmer, someone with a lot of creative energy and vision, which I really admire, but super vampy/campy in her own aspect, which makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward. I wonder if people perceive me as vampy and insincere. Not that she is insincere, really. I just can’t get past the vampy-style mask to make a human connection. I wonder if people think of me as wearing too much of a mask to really get to know me.

The dance performance they’re preparing is amazing. Back stage (or maybe on stage), I make friends with the Kinders’ sweet black cat.
**
A little later, my whole family is gathered at our house. Everyone seems to have something they really want to do right there at the house, but I want to explore the town. Finally, I get up the nerve to tell everyone that I would like to go window shopping. They sort of chuckle, but they don’t make fun of me for wanting to shop. I say it’s because I want to get the steps on my step-counter.
**
Just as I am waking up, I find myself fascinated with how my legs and arms move as I am walking up the hill, and I realize that I am actually in someone else’s body. I’m not sure if anyone else notices. I enjoy the odd experience of being in a different body. Her limbs are long and thin and very dark brown. I’ve tripped and scratched her knee, but I don’t feel the hurt.
**
A small ginger cat in the waking world is licking my cheek, and someone is meowing in the hall to say that no one filled the cat food bowl before we went to bed, so the dream ended and the day began.


Gratitude List:
1. Sincerity and honesty. People who can interact without too much of the mask.
2. While I am tired of the recent days of constant waking in the night, the waking brings the memories of dreams, and dreams are fascinating, and they offer me clues to my deeper self.
3. New strategies for handling the workload. There’s always hope that another way to organize will help me keep up with things better this time.
4. Reading books to a small person. I’m going to string this out as long as he can take it. He still demands that we read every night.
5. The interplay between language and ideas. In AP Comp, we watched a TED talk by Lera Boroditsky on how language shapes thought, and I am finding that the video itself is giving me new language for thinking about how vocabulary actually directs the shape of abstract ideas.

May we walk in Beauty!

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!