Symbolic Language

Big canvas, kind of a mess to start. Doorway–the threshold, the liminal space, the between.

Recently, I wrote a piece for someone about what symbolic language means to me, how I approach life and spirituality as a poet and a mystic rather than as a theologian, how stories and images speak to me more than finely-constructed arguments and manifestos. As an English teacher and word-nerd, I DO love strong argument and well-worded theses, but in the realm of the spiritual journey, they leave me cold and disheartened.

It’s part of my devotion to Jesus: He was a storyteller. He used symbolic language rather than cold dogma and doctrine. The Sermon on the Mount is as much poetry as it is doctrine. He’s getting a seriously bad rap these days–once again–as people who think they know his mind try to control and cage and exclude others using his name.

The Holy One, call Her what you will, is too unutterably beyond our comprehension for mere mortals to put Her in a box with our words and our religious doctrines. And the journey that each of us takes to find Them is too miraculous and individual and utterly free to be caged either. Find Them in the trees, in the stones. Find Him in the breeze rising over the hill. Find Her in the deep still waters of the pond or the roaring of ocean waves. The Great Mystery is there, waiting to be discovered, in your dreams, in your books, in your cards, in your meditations, in the gentle words your beloved speaks.

In the early days of this new and uncertain chapter of my life, my beloved sister-in-law gave me the image of standing in a doorway. I had just asked my Creative Writing students a week or two before to write a poem about doorways, how we look back at the past and look forward to the future, but stand poised in liminal space as we rest on a threshold. I’m trying to paint a doorway now. I’m rusty in the painting department, and I have never done such a huge canvas, but it’s healing to live into this image as I stand with my own hands on the doorposts, deciding to step into the unknown before me.

And just a few days ago, a beloved friend gave me a dream image about a road in an expansive landscape, with many smaller roads leading away, into blue sky and over rolling hills (I’m making the image my own now even as I repeat it). And, she said, despite the knowledge of the pain that I was feeling, there was joy because of the binder/book I was carrying, filled with my poetry and art. I picture it overflowing and spilling outward. Something in me is finding a home on this new road.

Friends have given me stones, cards, books, plants, candles in my time of wrestling and grieving–all symbols for my heart to latch onto as I figure out who I am on this new road.

What are the images that speak to your soul in times of crisis or joy? What dreams and visions and meditations inform your spiritual journey, your inward path?


Gratitude List:
1. Symbols for the pathway
2. How the trees shine green
3. The way the scent of these lilies of the valley reaches out to be noticed
4. A temporary new job! I’m going to be an aide in a Kindergarten class three days a week, and the lead teacher is a former student of mine. This is one of the happiest little circles!
5. The deep-hearted kindness of beloveds in these circles of community
May we walk in Beauty, in Love, in Spirit!


“If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an out-dated, irrelevant ancient text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it. This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not “what does it say?”, but “what am I looking for?” I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm.” ―Rachel Held Evans


“My interpretation can only be as inerrant as I am, and that’s good to keep in mind.” ―Rachel Held Evans


“I am writing because sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties.” ―Rachel Held Evans


“There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect. The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself. Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it, and once we sense it we are able to trust and open ourselves.” —John O’Donohue


“Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you the freedom to go and to stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in a time or need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living.” —Henri J. M. Nouwen


Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still
Be
—Fr. James Martin


“Empathy is the lifeblood of our fragile humanity, dear friend. It is the thing that sustains us all, and in moments like this it is more precious than ever. The world needs people like you who are willing to have their hearts broken; people who wake every day prepared to be wounded on behalf of another, because they know that this wounding allows someone to be seen and heard and known when they most need to be.” —John Pavlovitz


“Draw thy pen. Slay the beast.” —on a sign at a protest march


Doctor Who : “You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!”


“In her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes suggests that we all need to periodically go cheerfully and enthusiastically out of our minds. Make sure, she says, that at least one part of you always remains untamed, uncategorizable, and unsubjugated by routine. Be adamant in your determination to stay intimately connected to all that’s inexplicable and mysterious about your life.

“At the same time, though, Estés believes you need to keep your unusual urges clear and ordered. Discipline your wildness, in other words, and don’t let it degenerate into careless disorder.” —Rob Brezsny, on Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky.” —Kahlil Gibran


“It seems that a whole lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, are under the impression that you can’t be a Christian
and vote for a Democrat,
you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution,
you can’t be a Christian and be gay,
you can’t be a Christian and have questions about the Bible,
you can’t be a Christian and be tolerant of other religions,
you can’t be a Christian and be a feminist,
you can’t be a Christian and drink or smoke, you can’t be a Christian and read the New York Times,
you can’t be a Christian and support gay rights,
you can’t be a Christian and get depressed, you can’t be a Christian and doubt.
In fact, I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals.” —Rachel Held Evans

Beltane Eve

A Reprise of Last Year’s Words:
Today is May Day Eve, one of those special moments in the solar calendar, situated between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. We’ve watched the riot of spring creeping over the gardens and fields, delighted in the shining colors of flowers and the tender greening of leaves, paid attention to what is hatching within us.

May Day, or Beltane, is about celebrating the freedom from that egg, about jumping into the green of the season, feet first, taking risks, whooping with joy. Dust off your wild barbaric yawp. Wanton is the word of this season. We’re stripping off the constricting cloaks and coats and scarves of winter, and running through the fields, barefoot and maybe naked (I’m going to keep that purely in the realm of metaphor).

What do you need to release and let go of in this season? What are the names of the items of clothing you drop in your wake as you run to the fields? What is the name of the green field before you, the thing you give yourself to with every ounce of your passion?

As we enter the season of Beltane, consider all that has kept you from living fully and joyfully and passionately into your purpose. Name the habits and boxes and dogmas that keep you from living in the world with your Whole Heart. Drop them. And run for the fields.


I’m not going to get all my poems written before the end of the month. I have five to do today, and a full schedule. Here’s the link to my slideshow, if you want to check out what I have done so far.


Gratitude List:
1. The Youngfolk who came to visit yesterday afternoon! Such a treasure! Such a marvelous treasure! And so healing.
2. Book Club–we haven’t been together for a little while, and I am eager to see them again.
3. Dreams with messages from deep inner realms (last night a woman cleaned my glasses for me), and gratitude for all the people who help me to see more clearly in waking life.
4. In a world where a couple people can do an incredible amount of damage, the throngs of good and loving and compassionate people outweigh the meanness a thousand to two.
5. Crossword Puzzles
May we walk in Beauty!


“Things aren’t so tangible and sayable as people would have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are world of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living. We live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” —Richard Rohr


“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” —Georgia O’Keeffe


“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” ―Rebecca Solnit


“The child’s hand
Folding these wings
Wins no wars and ends them all. “
―Thomas Merton

Feeling the Feelings

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, as I tend to, but then I was able to fall right back to sleep. In the hour and a half that followed I had this dream.

In the dream, I am writing a short story:

Once there was a girl who wanted her writing to be real and alive with emotional impact. So every day before she sat down to write, she would stand at her open window and simply let herself feel. As she let the feelings wash through her, she would weep, great tears falling like rain from her window onto the plants below. Then she would turn from the window, sit down at her table, and write.

One day as she was looking from her window, she noticed that leaves and vines were growing in wild riot below her window. As her feelings began to rise and flow through her, and the tears began to fall, she noticed that where each tear fell, a small plant would begin to grow, whether it fell on brick or wood or other plants. At the point of each tear’s impact, a leaf or sprout would emerge and start to grow.

Her feelings enriched her stories, and they also greened and grew the world around her.

In the dream, I become the girl who is writing. I am trying to help my friends solve a problem, but for each thing I offer to do, they see another problem on the other side. I retreat into myself, and start to wear my hair down over my face like a veil. I stand in corners and alcoves so I can watch people without being seen.

I am burdened with the weight of emotion and pain that has no solution.


It was sort of a relief to wake up and put down the weight of feelings! But although the dream is heavy, and the ending is isolating, I am grateful for the essential message, that feelings have a green and growing reality in the world outside ourselves.

Now I am sitting at my own writing table, looking out to the snowy hill behind the house, and the red-gold glow of the sun is illuminating the trees in the woods, first the tops of the trunks further up the hill, and now the little oak at the edge of the wood is glowing, too. (And then, in a moment, the clouds must have come over the sun, and the wood has gone wintry grey.)


Gratitude List:
1. The way the morning sun sets the woods to glowing.
2. Feelings, even when they are big, especially when they are big.
3. Long sleep and dreams rich with messages.
4. Something got into my kids yesterday. Kid #2 is always re-arranging his room, but yesterday he went big and tried a wildly creative (and mostly successful) configuration. Suddenly Kid #1 was re-arranging his monster computer set-up. I think he may have stayed up most of the night, but this morning, it looks mostly tidy and organized in a way it has never been. Settling into spaces.
5. Yesterday’s crockpot stew–comfort food on a cold wintry day.
May we walk in Wisdom!


“Today I am grateful for truth, for narratives that center stories of people who have been cut from the narratives told by the powerful to skew the truth to their own agenda. I am grateful for the weavers and menders and spinners who pick up the torn and tangled threads and get to work to repair the tapestry of our story, holding the lie-mongers to account, and weaving in the threads of truth.” —Mockingbird


“A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.” —Amiri Baraka


“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” ―bell hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism


“Consider whether great changes have not happened deep inside your being in times when you were sad. The only sadnesses that are unhealthy and dangerous are those we carry around in public in order to drown them out. Like illnesses that are treated superficially, they only recede for a while and then break out more severely. Untreated they gather strength inside us and become the rejected, lost, and unlived life that we may die of. If only we could see a little farther than our knowledge reaches and a little beyond the borders of our intuition, we might perhaps bear our sorrows more trustingly than we do our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters us, something unknown. Our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, they take a step back, a stillness arises, and the new thing, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“After silence,
that which comes nearest to
expressing the inexpressible,
is music.” —Aldous Huxley


“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
—Shel Silverstein

A New Year Dawns

Here are two versions of the same photo, taken as the sky was beginning to show grey on this first morning of a new year. In the first, I played with filters and textures and color saturation in order to create a pensive mood. Looking at it here in this space, it feels anxious and wary and stark, especially next to the second version, which I ran through an AI Dream filter. This second one is still pensive, but cheerier, more hopeful.

While both are significantly changed from the original, both of them hold emotional truth that is deeper than the just-the-facts original. I AM going pensively into this new year. I am both rattled and happy, scratched and hopeful. The shadows are there, but they don’t scare me (not so much, anyway), and I am ready to explore them a little more deeply.

Usually I wait until Epiphany to declare my words to myself, but I am feeling settled now, ready to choose, ready to embark.

So, my word for this year is Embodiment. I have written about this idea before, the way I have always felt a deep sense of wrongness whenever religious and spiritual and self-help practices begin to talk about mind over matter, or about transcending the body, or about liberating the soul from its body trap. I understand at a base level the philosophical concept that this physical reality isn’t the Real Reality, but I don’t really accept it as a core principle. Or, as I understand it, I think I need to understand it through the physical body I live in.

I think it’s helpful to consider body, mind, and spirit, to see to all our various categories of health and wellbeing, but I always feel like the greatest health happens when I am working to integrate all the various aspects of myself rather than separating them out, dividing in order to conquer, particularly in the way the culture I live in seems to see the punishment of the body as a virtue, unless it fits some strange “idealized” vision of what a body should be.

I am soul embodied into matter. I think perhaps, yes, the soul part of me exists in a way that may transcend this physical plane. I get glimpses of that. But this collection of atoms that make up the physical part of me are no less ME than the sentient, thinking, yearning, indwelling part. And if my soul exists here in this present plane, then I believe it’s here for a purpose, to know what it feels like to touch and taste and see and hear and smell, to experience physical pain and pleasure, to be em-bodied.

Body imbued with soul, with spirit, with sentience. Soul enmattered. Mind ensouled. These different pieces of what we come to know of as Self are in this current configuration because they teach and inform each other. I think we hinder our evolution by trying to escape and transcend the magic of this intertwinement. Or, to take the positive twist, we further human evolution and our own personal destiny and purpose by becoming integrated selves, all the pieces braided together.

Two streams that I have been working with this year that relate to Embodiment are Creativity and Magick, so those are also words for my coming year. If I am categorizing the various parts of me, perhaps Creativity fits in the more mental realm, the ways in which the mind solves problems and develops new ideas. And Magick is the more spiritual, the prayerful, the awareness of deeper levels of reality, the level of the soul. So my quest for the year is how to braid my creative and spiritual selves more artfully into my physical reality.

Some implications:
* I will continue this journey to consciously stop beating up on my body for the way she looks or feels. I will offer her what she needs and tend to her aches and changes.
* I will live through this period of peri-menopause with as much consciousness and intention as possible.
* I will feed the creative and spiritual parts of mySelf as intentionally as I feed my physical Self. With care and with joy. For health and for satisfaction.

Last week, I posted a quote by bell hooks on Facebook, about how self-improvement when done as a simply inward-looking thing can become narcissistic, that we only become better in the context of community. A friend expanded this, pointing out the paradox that we cannot improve our communities unless we do our inner work. Both/And.

Perhaps that’s part of why I have this urge to keep this blog-journal public, to lay at least some of it bare so that I can place my own journey into the community context. It’s why, even while I recognize that aspects of my social media life have become addictive and need reigning in, the overall open and vulnerable quality of the community I have discovered on social media keeps me learning and growing from the inner journeys of so many circles of beloveds. We become better together.


Gratitude List:
1. Being a multi-faceted being: soul and mind and body and spirit and streams of energy braided into one Self.
2. Evolving, growing, changing, Becoming
3. Cats
4. Reflections: windows, mirrors, shadows. . .
5. Layers: in artwork, leaves, selves, reflections, clothing. . .
May we walk in Wisdom!


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.


May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.
—Traditional Irish Blessing


“A writer without readers is just a person alone in a room.” —Barbara Kingsolver


Someone Should Start Laughing
by Hafiz (Ladinsky)

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing –Now!


“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

Seeking the Messages

This thing I do every year, during the high holy days between Solstice/Christmas and Epiphany, of listening for words and watching for repeated images and ideas in waking life and in dreamtime, helps me to focus on a theme for the year. In recent years, I’ve gotten pretty free with throwing everything into the mix. This exuberance has meant that I end up with such a collage of ideas and words that are somehow loosely tied together that I can’t seem to keep my focus as much throughout the year, and end up forgetting or dropping my theme by midyear.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It serves me for a while, and then I move on to another idea. This year, in June, while I was on my silent retreat, I found three words that I have been gnawing on for the past six months: Embodiment, Creativity, Magick. As I sort through my dreams and images from the past few days, I keep returning to these words. And yesterday, one of my new Facebook friends wrote a powerful piece about how focusing on embodiment helps her through times of anxiety. That’s the sort of message I look for. This word has been flittering about inside my skull, and then someone brings it up, or I hear it across a room, or it comes in a dream. Those are the patterens I search for.

As for the dreams, I’m finding a lot of anxiety there, and weariness. Last night, I was trying to care for two children, a boy and a girl. We were assigned a room on the fifth floor of a run-down building. It was so cold we slept in cardboard boxes. I was terrified I was going to lose the children. Typical anxiety dream.

In a later dream, I was at a farming conference with a group of people. A couple of us went up near the front to try to get seats for the group. I really wanted to hear the speakers. But nothing ever really happened. People milled about, and speakers seemed to go up and get ready to speak, but then something else would happen, the speakers would switch out, and eventually a bunch of us fell asleep on a mattress at the back. When we woke up, most people had already left. The weirdest thing about that dream was that at one point I was talking to a couple of farmers we’d once worked with (in the dream, they were just generic men–not any specific people I know in waking life), and I was struck by how crusty and rough-talking these earnest and thoughtful men had become. They were both smoking cigars, but they looked like stage cigars, with a glowing bulb in the end and little bits of orange and red tulle fabric to look like glowing ash. But smoke was coming from the ends, and they were getting shorter.

I feel like my dreams reflect the anxiety of the times. How can I take care of the Beloveds in my circles, and still have enough energy left for my own inner and artistic life? How can I maintain my true self when social and community rules and conventions seem to keep shifting? How can we build and grow the new thing when rest itself has become work?

What dreams and messages are you receiving these days?


Gratitude List:
1. I’m still feeling the resonance in my chest of playing music with Val and Henry several days ago: violin, clarinet, and tenor recorder. I’ve always liked clarinet, but now I am in love with it. What a rich sound, and what a blend of instruments. I don’t know if it’s just with recorder, or whether other instrumentalists hear it, but when recorders play together, there’s often an overtone, a separate voice, that layers itself in the mix. Often it’s a clue that the instruments aren’t quite in tune with each other. But sometimes, it blends and supports the other instruments, like an angel humming along. This happened during that session. At first, I thought my father was humming a harmony along with us.
2. A misty morning.
3. Time out of time. This is healing and rejuvenating time for me.
4. This sturdy little oak up on the bluff. It’s probably thirty or more feet tall by now, but still young and skinny. I remember when it was a sapling, just my own height. Thank you, friend squirrel, for planting this beautiful guardian of the hilltop.
5. Bright red cardinal on a branch out in the mist and the grey.
May we walk in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s word is Nia, Purpose.


“The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief.
When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: ‘What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.’ People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion.” —Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935)


“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier. ‘” —Alfred Lord Tennyson


From An African Prayer Book
by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Wonderful one, you live
among the sheltering rocks.
You give rain to us people.
We pray to you,
hear us, O Strong One!
When we beg you, show your mercy.
You are in the highest places
with the spirits of the great ones.
You raise the grass-covered hills
above the earth,
and you make the rivers.
Gracious one!
—Rozwi, South Africa


“We arise today
in the Eternal Flow of Mercy
who was here when the land began to breathe,
when the first tribes began to roam,
and when the colonists came to settle.
We arise today
in the Eternal Flow of Wisdom
who is dimly perceived in the stones,
the stories and the studies of all our peoples.
We arise today
in the Eternal Flow of Life
who seeps through land and limb and love.
Amen.”
—Ray Simpson


“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


“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


“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

Disrespected

This was an odd night of dreams, and probably anxiety-related, about going back to school in less than a week, but my dreams were about students walking out of my class without telling me where they were going, or treating me rudely. On one hand, it’s an odd anxiety to have, because I don’t feel that anxiety too much in daily teaching anymore, but on the other hand, I do have a couple classes this semester in which I have felt a need for a more authoritarian attitude because of the squirreliness of several students in the class.

Either way, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether people are respecting me or not. Perhaps I should?


Gratitude List:
1. When you post something on Facebook about getting a hammer for the patriarchy, and your dad says, “Keep hammering!”
2. Being back home, even though the several days with family were marvelous. I am glad to be back in my own bed, and back with the catfolx.
3. Apple pie and ice cream for breakfast. Hey, it’s Time out of Time–I can do what I want!
4. We broke tradition and took down the tree before Epiphany because it was dropping a blizzard of needles, and it’s nice to have the library clean again, and my new crafting table in place below the window.
5. Fat little white-throated sparrow on the feeder.
May we walk in Beauty!


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


XXIX
Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.
Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.
― Antonio Machado, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems

The Tattered Pelt

This dream reveals itself and ravels like a fairy tale or myth.

It’s been two weeks since I listened to Martin Shaw telling the story of Fox Woman Dreaming, but something in my Dreambrain has reached back to that for images to tell myself this story.

Part One:
I am sitting on a concrete ledge, like a loading dock, of the garage of my house, looking out over the meadow and the woods beyond.

I hear a cry of frustration and rage: “Aaarrrnnnngh!”

At the edge of the woods, where the neighbors have logs for splitting, a large wolf is dancing around in extreme agitation. It has thrown an ax across the snowy field. Its fur is striped and brindled, mottled. It flips back and forth in its frustration. I know at once that the wolf is a shapeshifter.

I can feel its frustration deep within myself, and I am frightened as it runs up the field toward me.

I search around for something to offer it to help it, to distract it from attacking me.

I find that I am holding an old and tattered pelt of some animal fur. As the wolf paces around the side of the garage and the base of the ledge where I am sitting, I tear a piece of the pelt I am holding and toss it into the snow. It distracts and calms the wolf for a moment. It sniffs the piece of pelt but does not eat it.

Part Two:
I am walking down a brick pathway in a park, trying to feel the different rhythmic vibrations of the various bricks. I can sort of sense the patterns of a couple of them. I am trying to remember the poems/incantations for a ceremony to awaken and celebrate the awakening of the powers of a girl child. I am trying to help her to notice the vibrations in the bricks, trying to tell her the bits of incantations that I remember.

I am aware that the child is coming into her power and I am feeling the dissipation of my own.

As I am working with the bricks and incantations, I notice that the girl has found a stump with a large and tangled root system. A woman and a child, their faces painted with stripes of brown and yellow in many different shades, look out at me from the stump. The girl knows they are there and has been listening to them.

Unpacking:
I have so many questions.
Am I both the Wolf and the One Who Watches?
If I am the Watcher, have I given away my own shapeshifting power, my own Wild, in order to protect myself and appease the frustration–ease the loss–of another?
What have I done?! I have thoughtlessly torn my pelt. Is it possible to repair?
I feel acutely both the loss of my own Wild (the Watcher) and the sense that it’s unbridled and out of control (the Wolf).

And am I both the Child and the Teacher?
Again, I feel acutely the loss of my own powers even as I am able to recover a little of my awareness of vibration, my memory of the words of ceremony.
I feel a need to prepare the Child, to mentor and teach, but the work has moved beyond me, and she has found her teachers in nature.
But I am also the Child. She has met the spirit beings who inhabit the stump and they are teaching her.

Both pieces of my dream seem to be about internal rifts/separations that help me to see the ways I am disconnected from my Wild, from my own personal sense of my power.

Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to offer part of my pelt to the shapeshifter. Maybe that’s what I need to do, to offer my own inner Wolf the key to her transformation. But I need to tend to my “skin.”

And maybe I don’t need to focus so much on remembering the words and patterns of the ceremony for the Child, but just settle into a space where I can hear the living voices of the beings who surround me. I feel like this is a message to rely less on head knowledge, but to focus on simply perceiving what is around me.

Two nights ago, I dreamed again, as I often do at times of inner change and transformation, that I needed to push my way through a tight and claustrophobic portal in order to enter a new space. In these dreams, I sometimes refuse, or the dream ends as I am trying to find the courage to enter the constricting passage, but in my recent dream, I actually made it through the portal.

I think these dreams are connected. First, the portal, then the reckoning with the state of my own inner awareness.


Gratitude:
1. The way shifting and de-hoarding and organizing makes space for energy to flow more freely and serenely. Clogged energy is either stagnant or frenetic. Unclogged energy flows.
2. I’m getting really eager to dive into the planning process for the coming school year. I relish the shift of this energy from the overwhelm of last spring (of the past three semesters, really) to the excitement of setting the table for the coming academic feast.
3. Mending. Like de-hoarding, mending makes the energy flow. And physical mending causes the heart to turn toward the inner mending as well.
4. A different type of energy, but not unconnected: Feeling my own physical energy returning. It’s been a circuitous journey. But it feels so good when we go walking and I feel the surge of energy and strength in the stride rather than feeling like I am fighting against gravity.
5. Thresholds. Liminal spaces. Betweens.

May we walk in Beauty!


“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf


“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.” —Mollie Marti


“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“I take care of my own.” —Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


“You are my own, and I am yours–I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.” —Anne Lamott


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.” ―Leymah Gbowee


“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to
remember that the planet is carrying you.” ―Vandana Shiva


“To be brave is to behave bravely
when your heart is faint.
So you can be really brave
only when you really ain’t.”
—Piet Hein


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair


“You can never go down the drain.” —Mr. Rogers


“Good People,
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


“Just living is not enough said the butterfly, one needs sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” ―Hans Christian Anderson


“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” ―Dalai Lama

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