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.
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.”
“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.
Last night before I went to sleep, I read an article about hypnogogia, that half-dream state between sleeping and waking where the mind is churning through images that feel portentous and wildly creative. It was a helpful reminder to me about dreamwork, about how to catch those elusive butterflies of dream and story that flitter away in the moment of waking. It makes me grateful that my body wakes me before the alarm, because I have those seconds to try to hold the moments of dream before the sudden noise of the alarm startles them away.
1) In the dream, I am in a grand-looking inn, but we are quickly noticing how poorly the place is built, more like a cheap television set than a truly beautiful space. The opulence is false.
2) In the dream, we are on the second floor of a building, dancing and pounding our feet, enjoying the sound of the echoes. We suddenly remember that there is someone living below us.
3) In the dream, I am standing under an umbrella on a bridge in the dawn, misty rain falling around me. There is a word in my head: trophism. I had to look that one up upon waking. Google says: “the turning of all or part of an organism in a particular direction in response to an external stimulus.” (Ah. I am turning my face to the light, like Kris’s poinsettias in church on Sunday.)
Gratitude List: 1. Words that come in dreams. In this case, “trophism,” like what I do when I turn toward the light. 2. Dream-bridges 3. Making a plan to catch up, and implementing in. Slow and steady, little tortoise. 4. Slow starts. “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,” said the poet, and it applies to oh-so-many forms of waking. 5. I think, perhaps, I can begin, just a little, to notice the increasing day.
May we wake to Beauty!
“Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
“He said the wicked know that if the evil they do is of sufficient horror men will not speak against it. That men have only stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.”
—Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing.
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
―Parker J. Palmer
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
―T. S. Eliot
We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and our eyes.
The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
“Perhaps the uprising of women around the world is the earth’s own immune system kicking in.”
—Nina Simons, Bioneers
A poem for the New Year:
Love Your Life
And a voice will come from the stillness
to give these words: Love Your Life.
You will know from its deep urging
to let go your well-worn list
of all you felt you first needed.
Begin here, freely,
from this muddy place.
It doesn’t matter if you are broken,
empty handed, shabby.
Go now, into the day:
the open trails, the markets,
the long trail to the sea.
Find all the ways
a lover loves the Beloved:
each hidden bloom, unspoken wound,
vagary of heart.
Become a brave and willing traveler
in a wild, forgotten terrain~
a realm of intimate, tender relating,
infinite mystery, un-tethered joy.
Now, moving in this world, you know
that love is the greatest fortune.
Only you will not amass it:
you are it.
—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, Befriending The Soul
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
Now, we walk back toward the Light. Step by step. The landmarks now are Christmas and Epiphany: The Coming of the Child of Promise, and the Holy Aha! Lighting bursting in on the veiled consciousness. Preparing to awaken.
Now is the time for dreaming, for listening to the stories and images and phrases that percolate and bubble up through our deepest selves. My word for today is dreaming. Time to mine the deep subconscious for the images that will inspire and expand me in the year to come.
In the past two nights, my dreams have offered me a grieving friend, and a woman who is farming something odd and strange (I can’t remember what it was). We’ll see what the next couple weeks have to offer.
Gratitude List: 1. Figgy Pudding 2. Valerie’s digital slide project. Now we have a thousand of the Africa slides in digital form, and we sat around last night and remembered together. 3. Citrus 4. Dreams 5. This is a Sunday when I don’t have to steel myself to prepare for a work week ahead.
May we walk in Beauty!
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
“We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness. True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.” —Wendell Berry
“Sincerity? I can fake that.” —Hawkeye Pierce
“There is a way of beholding nature that is in itself a form of prayer.” —Diane Ackerman
So much love to you. May your days have just enough solitude and just enough community, just enough warmth and just enough cool breeze, just enough celebration and just enough calm. —Beth Weaver-Kreider
Today we slip into time out of time as we begin our journey inward again, slipping closer to our star for the next twelve weeks or so. There’s something unaccountable about the coming days, something watchful and waiting, something shifting. In the coming days, between now and the glorious morning when we welcome the newborn sun–the light streaming in–on Epiphany, I watch my dreams extra closely, mining them for the rich ore of words and images that will be the precious stones I carry with me into the coming year. Last year, it was vultures, mostly. I’m not sure I am ready to let the vultures go, but we will see what this year’s dreams will bring.
Here is a shining gift of a poem by one of my best beloveds. May the light that comes to you this day, and the shadows that settle beside you, be filled with revelation and blessings.
Revelation For Beth, Winter Solstice 2018 by Mara Eve Robbins
Born into bodies. Steeds with spirit of storm gallop habits holding us back.
Sun and moon with reins.
Leading us to light. Leading us through darkness.
Born into riddles with no stone. Wings often hidden. Scattered seeds.
We breathe to light. We breathe through darkness.
Born into purpose. Wavering faith in conviction. Truth countering accuracy.
We move to light. We move through darkness.
Born watching waves break generation, revolution into revelation.
Revealing light. Revealing darkness.
Gratitude List: 1. A friend who offers a poem to carry me through the shortest day. 2. Revelation 3. Revolution 4. Poetry 5. Shadow and Light
May we walk in Beauty!
And something I wrote one other Solstice:
How the Light Returns
Breathe deep the light-filled air.
Feel how the new sun touches you.
Remember the stars that circled you
through the long hours of darkness.
Sit within the circle of the dwindling dark
and feel the way it bathes you with memory.
Walk the bridge between dream and daylight.
These are the nights of the dreamtime. The tender new sun is born into the hush of midwinter, and we can hold the quiet light within us as we walk, careful step by careful step, out of the labyrinth. The inward journey into the darkness has stripped us of our crucial identity, piece by painful piece. And now, as we step outward, the darkness offers us new gifts, images that come in dreams. As the days gradually lengthen, and the dark nights wane, what words and images will the journey offer you to put into your pockets for the coming year?
“No matter what they ever do to us, we must always act for the love of our people and the earth. We must not react out of hatred against those who have no sense.”
May you grow still enough to hear the small noises earth makes in preparing for the long sleep of winter, so that you yourself may grow calm and grounded deep within. May you grow still enough to hear the trickling of water seeping into the ground, so that your soul may be softened and healed, and guided in its flow. May you grow still enough to hear the splintering of starlight in the winter sky and the roar at earth’s fiery core. May you grow still enough to hear the stir of a single snowflake in the air, so that your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation.
―Brother David Steindl-Rast
“When someone mentions the gracefulness of the night sky, climb up on the roof and dance.”
“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.” —St. Catherine of Sienna
Yesterday as I was falling asleep, meditating on how we make the shift from incivility to kindness, I saw a sky full of crows flying across the sky of my inner eye. All of us together, Friends. Hope against hope. Believe in the Good which is to come. Be ready to Be Change. Love and joy.
I do not deny that I go to bed tonight full of anxiety and angst for what tomorrow brings, but there’s a boatful of hope sailing that swamp, and a vast cloud of wise souls flying that gray cloudy sky. I cast the web from me to you. Let’s weave and dream.
I’m setting up the FB page for Skunk Holler Poetryworks. I think I need to get out the better camera and a tripod to try to make it crisper.
Some days, some weeks, the visitations come so clustered and thickly that I simply can’t ignore the fact that Someone has something I need to hear. Hummingbird is a regular. Snake was a startlement. Vultures are pretty common, like hummer, except. . .
A couple days ago, I wanted to return to my meditations at the beginning of the year, to revisit the idea of matter, enmattering. I read through my blog posts from early January, and jogged my memory about the dreams I had been having. Among them, a startling dream about an encounter with the child-spirit Ellegua of Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions.
While I want to be careful about not assimilating and taming and taking over the religions of other people groups (as white people are wont to do), I have been fascinated by the spirit world of Afro-Caribbean traditions and have studied them somewhat extensively, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Ellegua appeared to me in a dream. There were vultures (six, I think) in a field, and Ellegua took my hand and pulled me toward them. I didn’t want to touch them because I thought their feathers would be matted with dried blood and offal. Instead, they were soft as down, and the vultures bobbed their heads at us.
So the day after I renewed my memory of the vulture dream, Ellis and I encountered a pair of black vultures, one flying low over the road in front of us, and the other alighting on a telephone pole and looking down at us curiously as we passed slowly beneath it. That was yesterday. Today, on the way to school, we slowed down beside a field to watch four turkey vultures in a field. They eyed us closely as they hopped over the stubble, and for the first time in my years of watching them, I noticed the pronounced black and white “spectacle” marking in front of the eyes.
I was marveling at the triad of vulture visitations (noting that there were six vultures in real life now, like there had been in the dream) when I had to slow down again for a small creature running across the road ahead of me. Long, low, thin, and blondish, I thought, “Weasel!” and that’s what it was! I’ve never seen one in the wild. Otters. A mink. But this was my first weasel. Vultures and weasel.
This afternoon, as I was helping out with group activities for ninth graders outside the school, a ruckus of feathered folk burst out of a tree nearby: a really large crow followed by three smaller birds, flickering orange like little flames in the sun. Orioles! Three males chasing a crow. Perhaps it was after their little ones. But it felt like a message to me. Three flames. One great big mystery.
In my list of messengers, do I include the great blue herons that flap across my field of vision every day or so? They’re definitely on the move. The early butterfly sightings? The groundhogs standing on their hind haunches, surveying their fields like the farmers they are?
It’s a lot to ponder.
Do you get visitations, too? Periods of time when the animal- and bird-realms, and maybe plant- and tree-realms, or stone-realms, seem to come in clusters and chunks, with messages that you can decipher if you only take the time to meditate and contemplate their meanings?
I write this in the moments before I head upstairs to dream-time. Perhaps I’ll find more images there to enrich the story.
“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”
“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” –Vincent van Gogh
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those downstream do unto you.” –Wendell Berry
Every step you take is a doorway to somewhere new,
a choice between what was and what will be.
Do not fear the darkness behind you
nor the mists that rise in your path.
Pause on the threshold a moment.
Take a deep and aching breath,
and straighten your shoulders.
Release the past with gratitude
for all that it has taught you,
and step forward in strength and beauty.
“Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.”
Gratitude List: 1. Rest
To build the bridge from where I am to where I want to be:
I will gather cobweb, shadow, feathers, rainbow.
I will weave a net of dreamings:
spider, lion, wolf, a blazing number seven,
labyrinthine city, and a tower with a thousand rooms.
Every day, I step a little closer to the chasm,
another key, a shining pebble on the pathway,
birdsong in the mist, a shifting shadow in the forest.
Rungs on Wednesday’s Ladder:
“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”
~ Khalil Gibran
Richard Rohr: “The wild beasts and the angels reside in the same wilderness. . .”
“There is another world, but it is in this one.” ~William Butler Yeats
“It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor” ~ Nelson Mandela
“There is always this tension between the lengths we wish to travel in life and the depths we long to penetrate in dreaming. By dreaming, I mean not only the sacred transmissions we receive in the night, but the dreaming we also do in the day: Listening to the wiseness of a moment, an encounter, a humble patch of land. Engaging with magic in an ongoing conversation.” ~ Toko-pa Turner (@ Dreamwork with Toko-Pa)
“God is as available and accessible as the very thing we all do constantly—breathe. Isn’t it wonderful that breath, wind, spirit, and air are precisely nothing—and yet everything?” —Richard Rohr
Advent At Midlife
I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is sacred.
I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I believe.
~ Mary Anne Perrone
“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. …Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.”
~Aldous Huxley – Island
Fascinating dreams last night, strange, but not so unsettling as the night before. Doing yoga in a silent dawn, outside under the trees–this one happened at least twice. The main “problem” dream was this:
I look out the sliding glass door of the breezeway to see what looks like a cougar slipping through the grasses. When I get a better look at it, I can see tufty ears, like a lynx, and a golden spotted ruff, mane-like, on its shoulders. It’s taller, with thinner legs, proportionally, than a lynx, and almost wolf-like in shape.
I find it online by looking up maned wolf, and discover that there has been an escape of a young one (it isn’t actually a maned wolf–more feline) in the area. It comes up to me while I am in the garage, but I am too scared to let it approach (it is BIG), and I slip inside and close the door.
Later, I tell my friend about it and she says, “You should have welcomed it in. It needed your company.”
In my waking moments today, I looked up maned wolf and lynx, and it is nothing like either, but sort of a mishmash of the two. Come to think of it, it was very hyena-like, but the dream-memory keeps saying wolf-cougar-lynx. It’s a much better image to carry with me today than the previous night.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings;and of the gay
great happening ilimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
―e. e. cummings, read at our wedding 27 years ago today
“To live a creative life,
we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
―Joseph Chilton Pearce
“If music be the food of love, play on.” ―William Shakespeare
“At the still point, there the dance is.” ―T.S. Eliot
* “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” ―Leonard Bernstein
“rebellion: playing streamside with my babies, teaching them and letting them teach me that water is alive” ―Natasha Alvarez
Gratitude List: 1. Twenty-seven good years married to Jon. I know that this is not something to take for granted.
2. Trinidadian cooking. Oh. My. Callaloo. We had a peanut drink, chicken corn soup with cassava, doubles (a spongy bread with chickpea stew), and a chicken stew with buss-up-shut (Trinidadian bread that you use to eat the stew much in the way you use injera in Ethiopian food).
3. All those monarchs yesterday! Must be migration.
4. Used book sale
5. Music chapel today: We have some incredibly talented students.