Claustrophobia and Crafting

Lots of fragments this morning, but they mostly seem to be part of one dream narrative.

I dreamed images last night–at least twice–of a couple collages I made by cutting images into strips and weaving them together. The final image made more sense as an image than it should have, a grey scale image of a family, slightly askew because of the weaving, on a background of pinks and magentas. There was a second collage as well, with blues in the background and a less clear image when the weaving was finished.

We’re at some sort of public building. Lots of people. I’m with Jon and the kids. I go to my car with a friend to get something, and the car is locked! I never lock my car. Someone has come along and locked it, and now I can’t get in. Frustration.

People are milling about, eating picnics, talking, playing basketball. I stood in the line to play one game of basketball, but after that game, I kept getting distracted and missing the pick-up. I had promised the coach that I wanted to play, and I didn’t want him to think I couldn’t keep my word. It’s mostly small boys playing, though there are some taller people. I finally remember to get in the line for pick-up, but I am late, and half the teams are already chosen. The coach chooses me, which means that some of the small boys who had been waiting to join a game are left out. I feel terrible about their disappointment, but grateful that I was sort of able to keep my commitment, even though I was a little late, and the coach gives me an eyeroll.

We’re looking for my mother. She was going to give me instructions for how to make a little beaded container using one of those big orange pill-bottles as the base. We can’t seem to find her.

I go into the basement, where I know my parents have an office in a windowless, cluttered room (my mother would not be happy in a cluttered windowless office). I have to walk past some people who are giving and receiving vaccinations. I know it’s okay to go into the office, but these people might not know that I’m related, so I try to act really casual. I slip into the office and look on the shelves for the supplies for the bead project, but there’s nothing there. When I turn to go out, I see that my parents had pushed the desks across the doorway to keep people from wandering in, and I don’t remember how I managed to slip past them to get in. I have to move them, with a loud scraping sound, to get past. It’s very claustrophobic.

I’m driving around outside with Jon and the boys, looking for my mom, in a long line of cars circling the building. When the traffic clears, somebody drives by in a yellow Dodge dart with a light green roof–the driver is wearing a llama costume. Later, as we are sitting on the lawn outside a wall of windows near the building’s garage, my friend Steve walks up, and I realize it was him wearing the llama costume.

In the next scene, we’re inside the garage instead of outside, and we’re trying to get going, but we have to crawl out through the lower set of windows. Such a claustrophobic prospect! I don’t know if I can manage it.

I can think of several waking-life referents for some of these pieces. I’m struck by the search for my mom, by the colors of pink and yellow and green, by crafting things–weaving images and beading, by claustrophobia, by keeping my word but in the process hurting someone’s feelings, by the llama, by art projects, by being unable to get in or out of places that I want to get into and out of.


I got a little caught up, yesterday, in grief over the way the truth is being brutalized and tortured, from the president’s abusive and gaslighting mobster-style phone call to the GA Secretary of State, to lies about Dr. Fauci’s alleged campaign to patent a super-virus that he could profit from. I, too, distrust the pharmaceutical companies. I don’t think our health ought to be so completely in the hands of people who make a profit from our disease. I think of the epidemic of pain-killer addictions which resulted in the overdose deaths of so many people, for example. But to jump from that to an assumption of the monstrosity of a scientific and medical community that would specifically develop the virus just so they could create a vaccine to combat it is a giant leap.

So. Gratitude comes hard today. When I try to pull up images of things I am grateful for in the last day, I have to walk past the broken body of Truth on the way. I can get there, it’s just in a context of real anxiety and grief.

Gratitudes:
1. Seeing the faces of my students again yesterday, even if it was on Zoom instead of in person.
2. The soft open. Going from the quiet and introversion of Break to the busy extraversion of teaching was eased by beginning remotely.
3. The satisfaction of mending tears in clothing. I always saw mending as a chore, but now it’s an art form, and I am loving the satisfaction of stitching a woven patch right into and over the hole.
4. I scheduled work days for all my classes today, so no Zooms, and it’s another chance to catch up a bit on things I didn’t get done during break. I’m in the zone. I will catch up to myself today.
5. Hope that we can mend and heal the Truth.

May we walk in Beauty!


Terry Tempest Williams:
“I have found my voice on the page repeatedly when a question seized my throat and would not allow me to sleep. But I have to tell you — I have to re-find my voice every time I pick up my pencil. It’s usually out of love or loss or anger. And the question then becomes: how do we take our anger and turn it into sacred rage and find a language that opens hearts rather than closes them?”


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” —e. e. cummings


“Again and again, our dreams demand leadership of us, calling our life’s vision forward into the world, step by tenderbrave step.
“The practice above all practices is to relinquish the immature desire to be taken care of (by our parents, spouse, government, guru, church, etc), and to parent our own originality. To give ourselves the support that we may never have received.
“To get behind the creation of one’s life is to recognize your influence in ‘the way things are,’ and nurture your vision with protective discipline until it is strong enough to serve in the world on its own.” ―Toko-pa Turner


“You learn to write by reading and writing, writing and reading. As a craft it’s acquired through the apprentice system, but you choose your own teachers. Sometimes they’re alive, sometimes dead.
“As a vocation, it involves the laying on of hands. You receive your vocation and in your turn you must pass it on. Perhaps you will do this only through your work, perhaps in other ways. Either way, you’re part of a community, the community of writers, the community of storytellers that stretches back through time to the beginning of human society.” ―Margaret Atwood


“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” ―Fred Rogers


“Good poetry, I think, is more about finding your way by signposts than about following a map. It gives readers a few cues and clues, sets us loose, and then waits for us to say, “Oh! I recognize this territory! I know this landscape.” A series of seemingly unrelated but compelling images can spring to life when sprinkled with the fairy dust of beautiful language or the hint of a story. While I want to be able to understand enough of the controlling idea of a poem for it help me create some sort of sense, the most satisfying meaning that I derive from reading a good poem comes not through the intellectual front door, but through the back door of the emotions. Meaning made through emotional connection rather than mental processing often appears in the form of wonder and holy surprise, even when it comes in a painful or angry guise. Poetic understanding is gut-level understanding. I have long been a fan of singer-songwriter Paul Simon. I don’t think I know what he means about anything, but he always makes me feel something.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014

Getting Back to Work

In the dream: I am working in an office. It seems like it’s a fairly new business, or else a lot of the employees are new, because people are trying to figure out what is the best way to make things run efficiently and equitably. There’s a general discussion about whether a couple should be allowed to do their work while snuggling together on one chair, as one couple is doing.

It’s a very open office plan, with many work stations set up on tables, and cubicles that are more like library carrels, and the walls between rooms are glass. People are bustling about, doing their work. One guy, dressed in a green shirt and a tie with wide black and white stripes, is trying to hand out Christmas cards, but he doesn’t know who is who, so a group of us is pointing out people for him. Everyone is dressed very formally, but playfully so, with bright colors and prints.

My friend works as an administrative assistant, and is having terrible luck getting people to sign documents for her. People aren’t answering their phones or returning her emails. I start to ask whether her husband, who is also an admin assistant in the company, manages to get people to respond, and she snaps, “Of course they respond to him. He’s a man.”

Retelling this dream exhausts me. It puts me on edge much more than it seems it should from the surface. Perhaps it’s a dream about getting back to school tomorrow, getting the work done, even when it seems like no one is really listening and responding.

Mid-day edit: I just accidentally opened my camera on the selfie side and it brought back some troubling images from a dream fragment. I look in a mirror, and my face looks kind of red, and a few moments later I look again, and my face is covered in a raised rash. My chin and cheeks are swelling. I don’t remember what happened after that.


Gratitudes:
1. A good long walk at High Point yesterday.
2. Sorting through the ideas to prioritize projects and create plans for how to finish some of them.
3. Ham and bean soup. Leftover Christmas ham in leftover black-eyed peas from New Years, with leftover roasted roots from another meal. The beets turned the soup a beautiful borschty red.
4. The trees of Goldfinch farm: sycamore and walnut, locust and willow and oak, maple, and the poplar stump, who is so incredibly alive.
5. The sounds of birds outside. We haven’t even opened the curtains, but the wren and the nuthatch have been chattering on the balcony where Jon put up a thistle feeder and a suet feeder.

May we walk in Beauty!


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
—T.S. Eliot


“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.
—Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“Perhaps the uprising of women around the world is the earth’s own immune system kicking in.”
—Nina Simons, Bioneers


“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
—Terry Pratchett

Deep Sleep

I can’t draw the dreams back from last night’s wanderings. After several nights of twisting-turning, last night was a sleep-like-a-rock night, so I have no dream images to work with today. Even the cats were quiet last night. I must remember to praise them for that.

Today, I begin my walk from Time Out of Time. I MUST get some work done. I need to put aside some of the dreaminess so I can focus.

I realize that I am living with a fair amount of anxiety about January 6, and Inauguration Day. So much has been destroyed, even when it seemed like goodness and reason simply had to prevail, that I am not sure I want to believe that we’re actually on our way out of this mess.


Gratitudes:
1. Zoom calls with friends and family. The shining faces of beloveds. Telling memory-stories, updating, speaking hope.
2. That cardinal, a drop of scarlet in the grey of morning, how the greens are richer and more satisfying after rain.
3. Practicing something until you can feel, can SEE, the improvement. My first attempts at a woven visible mend were pretty poor and puckery, but by last evening, I was catching my stride, and my fingers were learning what to do.
4. Sharing dreams and omens with friends.
5. And now the morning is no longer grey. The sun has topped the eastern ridge and caught the leathery leaves of the little oak on the bluff out the window, and the world is a-sparkle.

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


There is a deeper world than this
That you don’t understand
There is a deeper world that this
Tugging at your hand
—Sting


“The Work. I am learning, slowly and in tiny little ways, to stop asking myself what I can get from each moment, but instead what my Work is here in the moment. And realizing, ever so dimly, that when I am really doing my Work (really doing my Work), I am also receiving what I need.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Peter Drucker


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly.” —Margaret Fuller


“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair.”
—Minna Thomas Antrim


“How do we go on living, when every day our hearts break anew? Whether your beloved are red-legged frogs, coho salmon, black terns, Sumatran tigers, or fat Guam partulas, or entire forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, or oceans, or the entire planet, the story is the same, the story of the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved.” ―Derrick Jensen, Dreams

Convoluted Dreamways

In the middle of the night I woke up just as someone was giving me a message. It was like I was a student in a classroom, and the teacher was writing these things on the board:

Living By Their Rules:
1. You will only succeed if you push down the others around you.
2. There is not enough for everyone.

I’m sort of glad I woke up at that point. I don’t think I want to see that play out. Don’t want to try to fit in to that system.

More dreams about forgetting my mask and being among others who simply don’t care. Trying to pull my shirt collar up above my nose to protect myself and others.

Also, I heard a bird call, loudly, while I was in a large room, like a mall (I think the sound was the real world entering my dream), and saw, instead of the singer, two tiny green hummingbirds, no larger than bumble bees, circling around each other by a red wall in an elaborate aerial dance.


Gratitudes:
1. Tabula Rasa
2. My wonderful mother, who was born 80 years ago today.
3. Squirrels, how they stand with their hands on their hearts. I love the white spots behind their ears, the pensive look on their faces when they are looking up at the feeders–and yes, they’re a pain at the feeders, but they belong here, too.
4. Color and texture. I’m an eccentric in my sartorial choices because I like to mix colors and prints and textures. Might look funny, but it makes me oddly happy.
5. How small acts can be rituals, like mending torn clothing focuses the mind on Mending.

May we walk this year in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: The word for this last day of Kwanzaa is Imani, or Faith. Believe that your dreams have the power to create change in the world. May it be so for you and for me and for all who long for and work for justice in the coming year.


“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Courage, Dear Heart.” —the Albatross (Aslan) to Lucy, C. S. Lewis


“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier.’” —Alfred Tennyson


“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” ―Joan Chittister


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T. S. Eliot


“And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
—William Blake


“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
―Mary Oliver

Quiet and Color

I needed sleep long and deep last night, so the dream-realm was quiet, at least as far as dream (re)collection goes. There is a book, by an author whose name is Ratzia (or Rascia) Hescht. My sleep-drenched brain felt that was important to remember. Perhaps that ought to be my pen name. This morning, there is a bright red cardinal in the beige world outside, a singular pop of brilliance, like a single name drawn from the mists of dream.


Gratitudes:
1. Deep sleep and feeling rested
2. The potential of an open day ahead
3. Learning–again and again–to listen to my body
4. Mystery and magic and webs of connection
5. The inward path

May we walk in Beauty!


“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble” —John Lewis tweet


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s word is Nia, Purpose. This refers to the purpose of building African culture through community endeavor. As a white person, this is another reminder to me to take a learning and listening posture, and to use the privilege culturally stamped on my skin to give space and voice to others.


“Being curious is the most important part of being a journalist. It might be the most important part of being anything.” —Lemony Snicket


“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.” —Virginia Woolf


“And when I had asked the name of the river from the brakeman, and heard that it was called the Susquehanna, the beauty of the name seemed to be part and parcel of the beauty of the land. That was the name, as no other could be, for that shining river and desirable valley.” —Robert Louis Stevenson, 1879


The New Song
by W. S. Merwin
For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then
there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song


“We need wilderness and extravagance. Whatever shuts a human being away from the waterfall and the tiger will kill [her].” —Robert Bly


“Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends, the desire to live is the same within all of us…” ―Rai Aren


Someone asked me what is your religion? I said, “All the paths that lead to the light.” —Anonymous

Finding the Deeper Meanings

Three parts to last night’s sleepless-disturbed dreams:
I think the cats were doing Goblin Parties in the night, because in the dream I am watching a family of lynxes in the field across the road. It’s sunny and snowy and they’re walking through the corn stubble. Two are either fighting or mating or playing, because they’re yowling and tussling (cue the cats). The interesting thing about the lynxes is that they’re tiger-lynxes. They’re shaped and sized like lynxes, but striped like tigers, with black and white fur, and a ridge of rusty orange along their backs. Later, they’re in the house, and I can get them to come out of hiding by banging on pots and pans.

Then Jon and I are finding our way into a park somewhere, up on the top of a hill, through the woods, sort of like the drive in to Rocky Ridge Park if we were coming from the other direction. There’s a camp at the top, beautiful old buildings, sunset over a lake where a meditating woman is doing yoga in the water, even though it’s winter. We park by the lodge and go in to see if our reserved room is ready. The man who is in charge of the rooms, cleaning and renting, seems to have forgotten that we were coming, or was hoping we wouldn’t. He starts slamming around the halls and rooms, swearing under his breath. Another guest sits with us in the hall as we wait, chuckling at the angry cleaning guy. I am pretty sure that I have been in different versions of this camp in dreams before.

Then I am in one of the high-rise hotels that I often visit in dreams. This time I am there as a teacher, or for a teachers’ conference or something. I go to visit one of the older and very experienced teachers. He tells me the logo on one of his school flags, which he finds very humorous: “Please Pick Up the Machinations.” (I think I have that correct. It may have been Don’t rather than Please.) He thought it very witty. I head back to my office room in the hotel, which is open to the hall (more of a cubby than a room, actually), and one of my friends is there (not someone I recognize as a being I know in waking life, but someone I am very attached to in the dream). He says he is there to eat with me, and I am really touched that he realized I was feeling lonely and confused. I offer him the lemonade packets that were left in my office space by the hotel folks–he doesn’t want any coffee.

All of this wandering through spaces semi-familiar, places that exist on the margins of reality, where I return, again and again, in dreamings. I know I am feeling confused about finding my way through some really important places in my waking life, and it makes sense that I would see it here in dreamland. In the last two sequences, one person was angry that I had appeared, and a second was helpfully offering me advice, and a third was quietly willing to be present to me in my confusion. If this is indeed about my confusion regarding how/whether to publish, and what to work on first, and how to go about it, perhaps I need to seek out a friend who is willing to listen and be present, and a publishing mentor or life coach (I’ll take lemonade and witty jokes). I feel like the mentor has given me a message to pay attention to. Unfortunately, unless I can remember whether he said Don’t or Please, and until I can decipher what the heck it means, I don’t know if I can make much use of it.

Oddly, I have dreamed of lynxes before, and it was also during Twelvenight. Lynxes are secretive and elusive, watchers. Lynxes see things others miss. Tigers are about courage and will and sensuality.


Gratitudes:
1. Walking around the property yesterday, I caught a strong whiff of Fox. I learned years ago to distinguish the scent, and I often catch it for a brief moment in wild places. I always second guess myself, but yesterday I walked back up hill for thirty paces or so, and walked back down, and caught it again. Fox is one of the guiding archetypes in the wisdom cards I received for Christmas, and just that morning I had been meditating on a card of a little fox family.
2. The gleaming surfaces of freshly-scrubbed copper-bottomed pots. I like the way they seem to take on an extra shine in the twenty seconds after you finish scrubbing.
3. Lattes. These mornings, I have been making coconut or almond milk lattes with coconut oil and vanilla and honey. A lovely way to start the morning.
4. Synchronicity. I have been contemplating the word gnosis (deep, more intuitive spiritual understanding of the world), and this morning on a FB thread, where my friend Hussein (a first-language Arabic speaker) and I were discussing the role of breathing in poetry and speech and communication, he mentioned his love of fiqh, the study of deep meanings.
5. Continuing in Time Out of Time. Oh, I’ll do work this week, too, but it’s a gift to be in this space of restfulness and contemplation.

May we walk in search of deep understanding.


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Word is one of my favorite Swahili words: Ujamaa. Cooperative economics. How can we create local systems that develop economic justice for all? How can we share our finances in ways that build up the community?


“Don’t let the tamed ones tell you how to live.” —Jonny Ox


“The best way for us to cultivate fearlessness in our daughters and other young women is by example. If they see their mothers and other women in their lives going forward despite fear, they’ll know it is possible.” —Gloria Steinem


Mark Twain: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”


Frederick Buechner:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”


“A night finally came when I woke up sweaty and angry and afraid I’d never go back to sleep again. All those stories were rising up in my throat. Voices were echoing in my neck, laughter behind my ears, and I was terribly, terribly afraid that I was finally as crazy as my kind was supposed to be. But the desire to live was desperate in my belly, and the stories I had hidden all those years were the blood and bone of it. To get it down, to tell it again, to make something—by God, just once to be real in the world, without lies or evasions or sweet-talking nonsense. It was a rough beginning—my own shout of life against death, of shape and substance against silence and confusion. It was most of all my deepest, abiding desire to live fleshed and strengthened on the page, a way to tell the truth as a kind of magic not cheapened or distorted by a need to please any damn body at all. Without it, I cannot imagine my own life. Without it, I have no way to tell you who I am.” —Dorothy Allison, from “Deciding to Live”


Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov:
“Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”


“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15

Listening in Dreams

One of the ways I try to remember my dreams is, when I wake up in the night after a dream, I note the main points in my head before I fall back to sleep, and then in the morning, I gran those little phrases, like pieces of paper swirling in a wind, and try to tack them down in writing first thing in the morning. There were several of these last night, but the clearest, most compelling dream was right as I was waking up.

I am at some sort of church service/picnic (I do not recognize the people there from waking life). I know that at 3:30, as things are winding down, I am to meet with one of the women about some sort of planning, but I forget, and by the time my child is getting antsy and begging me to go, it’s 3:58. Another woman approaches me. Apparently, she had written me an email (and I hadn’t seen it) that she wanted to meet with me at 4:00 to talk about her child.

We sit down to talk. She pulls out papers, color photocopies of photographs and notes she’s been taking. Her teen child is coming out as trans, and she wants to talk to me about it. She is open and accepting of the child, at least on the surface, but she is agitated. She worries about what her conservative Mennonite family will think. She worries about how the relatives in Argentina will respond. She keeps tearing the papers. At one point she gets up to go ask someone else a question, and I gather up the pieces of paper, wondering how they could be so shredded–I hadn’t seen her tearing these.

This one seems–perhaps deceptively–straightforward. I teach at a private Christian school. I have very intentionally made it part of my role to be ready to listen to parents of LGBTQ+ kids, to hear their questions and worries, to try to walk them through their own anxieties and stereotypes, to help them find their way to expressing their deep unconditional love for their children in the midst of their own confusion. Perhaps the dream points to deeper agitation, maybe for myself as well as the parents. The torn pieces of paper stand out to me, as well as the frustration of not being able to finish a sentence, not being able to help the mom relax enough to settle into an understandable narrative.

There’s also my own anxiety about keeping appointments. I missed the one I had planned, and almost missed this one because I hadn’t checked my email. Ugh. I hate the way meetings and appointments disrupt the flow of a day. That’s been one of the side blessings of this pandemic time–fewer meetings.


Honoring collective work and community responsibility, ujima, with my friends who are celebrating Kwanzaa.
I love that ujima comes after kujichagulia, self-determination. When we each get our own house in order, our own mojo going, then we can work together to build and strengthen our communities. Here in these days of stillness as the earth is poised to swirl back into the Long Day, what a wonderful idea to contemplate: How can I carry my own energies into community-building in the New Year?
And of course, Kwanzaa is an African American holiday, so the question for me becomes: How can I use the privilege I was born with to support and strengthen the community-building work of BIPOC?


“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” ―Anaïs Nin


“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.
It seems that we Christians have been worshiping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey. The worshiping feels very religious; the latter just feels human and ordinary. We are not human beings on a journey toward Spirit, we are already spiritual beings on a journey toward becoming fully human, which for some reason seems harder precisely because it is so ordinary.” ―Richard Rohr


“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.” ―Desmond Tutu


“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

The Stag and the Hunter

I’ve decided to make a physical Dream Bundle, to collect my words and symbols in the next week and a half. I have known that the physical act of designing and creating, of touching and gathering, is part of what makes a ritual real, but it has taken me years of this annual inner process to realize that a physical element would guide the work.

Last night’s dreams: Much of the dream takes place on a front porch, children coming home from school. I’m watching for two in particular–not sure why. There’s something vulnerable about these two. I miss connecting with them one day, and my brother says to be sure to engage the one in particular on the coming day, because he needs to find out how to help the young man.

One of our relatives brings in the deer he has shot, a buck. My niece is delighted to go with him and help him to gut and skin it. She knows she can do this, even though she has never done it before, because she is a nurse skilled in anatomy. Although the rest of the dream is sunny and warm, this Hunter comes to us through snow, the Stag over his shoulders. He is clad in grey and green, with a Robin Hood-style wool hat.

It’s pretty convoluted and wispy this morning, though pieces have been coming back as I write, particularly the image of Hunter and Stag. I do get this: focused, intentional helping. Working together to identify and meet needs. Using our own skills to solve problems.

Also, there’s the Stag and Hunter. In folklore and myth, the Stag is killed for the health and well-being of the community. The Hunter, in this case, is a quiet and sensitive young man with an eye for Beauty. I am fascinated by how this felt like an incidental part of the dream, but as I wrote other pieces, the dream memory of the image has strengthened and coalesced, as if to say, “This one: This is the important piece that ties it all together.”


Gratitude:
Light and shadow.
Voices from the past and voices bringing the future.
Dreams and messages.
How the light enters.

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


“There is more to life than we previously imagined. Angels hide in every nook and cranny, magi masquerade as everyday people, and shepherds wear the garments of day laborers. The whole earth is brimming with glory for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.”
–Howard Thurman


Marking Kwanzaa with my friends who celebrate. Today’s word is Kujichagulia. Self determination. (Even if you don’t know Swahili, it’s a fun word to roll around in your mouth. Try it. Emphasize the second and second to last syllables.)


The first people a dictator puts in jail after a coup are the writers, the teachers, the librarians — because these people are dangerous. They have enough vocabulary to recognize injustice and to speak out loudly about it. Let us have the courage to go on being dangerous people.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ―Carrie Fisher


“The stories I cared about, the stories I read and reread, were usually stories which dared to disturb the universe, which asked questions rather than gave answers. I turned to story, then, as now, looking for truth, for it is in story that we find glimpses of meaning, rather than in textbooks. . . . Fortunately, nobody ever told me that stories were untrue, or should be outgrown, and then as now they nourished me and kept me willing to ask the unanswerable questions.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“We need to dare disturb the universe by not being manipulated or frightened by judgmental groups who assume the right to insist that if we do not agree with them, not only do we not understand but we are wrong. How dull the world would be if we all had to feel the same way about everything, if we all had to like the same books, dislike the same books.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“But I believe that good questions are more important than answers, and the best children’s books ask questions, and make the reader ask questions. And every new question is going to disturb someone’s universe.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“So let us look for beauty and grace, for love and friendship, for that which is creative and birth-giving and soul-stretching. Let us dare to laugh at ourselves, healthy, affirmative laughter. Only when we take ourselves lightly can we take ourselves seriously, so that we are given the courage to say, ‘Yes! I dare disturb the universe.’” —Madeleine L’Engle

Fragments and Anxieties

So many random dream images from last night. They’re fragmented, but they all seem connected somehow.

Josiah and I buy sandwiches in some sort of sunny outdoor courtyard. People are setting up for some sort of event, so we put together a couple of chairs and sit down. One of the custodians from school makes a chair for himself and eats with us.

Jon and I are in a classroom. I think we’re back in elementary school. We’re ahead of the class, so we get to sit near the back and read the next material on our own. The class is finished with the work, but the teacher can’t find the test. I have little plastic animals set up all around my desk and on the windowsill behind me. I’m a little claustrophobic in the space, worried I’ll send my little animals tumbling if I move.

I’m in a Victorian sort of house with two other young women. It’s the next class (after the one in the previous paragraph), and we’re reading a Shakespeare play together. The one woman gets bored and wanders off. I am helping the other to read the parts. It sounds more like Jane Austen than Shakespeare. The other woman tires out, but we’ve been reading for half an hour, so we quit.

I am frantically calling people and trying to find out where my baby is. Someone took him and said they’d bring him right back, but I can’t get in touch with anyone.

I’m on a sort of courtroom, and the proceedings have been going on for hours. I’m bored. Suddenly I notice that the one lawyer is terribly sick. His eyes are red and puffy and he’s sneezing. No one else seems to notice, but I am frantic about finding my mask and putting it on. I move to a corner of the room near a window.

I find a telephone and try to remember how to dial my parents’ number to tell them about the missing baby. This never goes well in dreams, but this time when I pick up the old-fashioned receiver, my mother is right there, on the other end of the line! I think that perhaps everything is going to be okay.

I decide to rid my bike through the countryside to get home to my parents. This is common in dreams for me. I get to a place that is familiar to my dream-self, except that the corn has grown up on all the corners. Someone has placed blankets on the corn all around, as if they needed somewhere to hang a thousand blankets to dry. The road to the right should be the right way to go, but it seems to curve up ahead in a way that it isn’t supposed to. I ride several yards up toward the curve, but it actually turns back upon itself in a loop and ends up heading back the way I have come. Someone has planted their corn across the road! Just as I decide to ride back the way I have come, I wake up.

The odd thing in the waking up was that I thought I was hearing people speaking, so faintly it could have been my imagination (which it probably was). I thought maybe one of the kids was up really early, listening to a video somewhere in the house. But there’s no sign of anyone. Maybe it was the heat coming on that sounded in my dreambrain like people talking.

This set has a lot of little anxieties: the lost child, the inability to get to my parents, the unprepared teacher, the claustrophobia, the coronavirus, the confusing pathway home. So many of these are my dream-tropes for lostness and confusion. In each one, I am just going along, trying to muddle through each scene the best I can, which is what Jon and I are doing here, trying to make the best of this strange year. This will be a lovely introverts’ holiday, all of us together here, but we also need our people, and we can’t quite see how the road ahead will lead us to them. It seems to be recursive, bending back upon itself.

If there’s a message here, it’s to tend to my anxieties, to notice how the worry affects my choices.


Gratitude:
1. The messages of dreams
2. Quiet holidays
3. Loving hearts, even at a distance
4. There will be an end to this
5. All the people who are working to keep us safe, and to bring an end to this.

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


Someday soon, we all will be together, if the Fates allow. . .”


“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. . . .get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel


“From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.”
—Rory Cooney, from “Canticle of the Turning”


Making the House Ready for the Lord
by Mary Oliver
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice–it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances–but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.


“I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through
listen to this music
I am the concert from the mouth of every creature
singing with the myriad chorus” —Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” ―Mary Oliver


“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass


“I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple—or a green field—a place to enter, and in which to feel.” ―Mary Oliver

Deep Sleep and Fleeting Dreams

Last night’s sleep was deep and dreams were fleeting.

Gratitudes:
1. Deep sleep
2. Yesterday I saw a bald eagle, right here at the house
3. Baking
4. I’ll see my parents today, if fleetingly
5. All of you, candles and stars, lights twinkling in your own particular constellations, bringing the light.

May we walk in Beauty!


Christmas Eve Ponderings:
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
—Omar Khayyám


“In our heart and soul we are each like Mary, holding the possibility for a birth that can change the world.” —Llewellyn Vaughan Lee, Quote from A Prayer at the Winter Solstice (2012)


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
but let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune but do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
—Max Ehrmann 1927