The prompts today were Quirk and Earth–lovely little sound play there! This happened while I was out walking:
Sentience by Beth Weaver-Kreider
What is this being human, but the quirk of birth into this form of organism here on Earth? Are you more person than the plants who daily give you grateful breath, receiving yours in sacred reciprocity? Am I more being than the stones made of the minerals that map my own bones and blood?
What is sentience, but knowing oneself within one’s place? And that flat rock up on the hillside does it with much more grace than either you or I. Rocks and rivers, ibises and spiders, fish and fox— all inhabit their beingness with as much instinct and awareness as you or I could hope to muster.
What is the human drive to settle always at the top, to strive for dominance, defining us as something always more complete, more comprehensive, more masterfully apt, than ape or aster?
Hasn’t this been the root of our disaster, the lines we draw between ourselves and the living, breathing world around us? Thus we place ourselves outside of place, when we refuse to acknowledge other knowing, other forms of growing into personhood and being.
Better we should recognize the neighborhood of beings who surround us, each with their own song and story, each with their own wisdom, if we knew only how to notice.
“The earth, the air, the fire, the water: Return, return, return, return. . .” –Libana song
Contemplative Research Journey for Earth Day: Contemplate the earth you walk, right in your yard, your neighborhood, your town. If you can, put your bare feet on earth today. Think about the people who were here before your, and before them. Do you know who were the indigenous peoples who lived on and hunted and farmed and fished on the land where you stand? What do you know of the soil and the rocks and minerals of your place? What feeds the life of the place where you are?
Contemplate the plants of your neighborhood. Can you name three trees? Five? Twenty? Who is in bud now? Who is in bloom? There is so much more than grass in the grass. Do you know the names of all the plantfolk who provide the green carpets you walk on?
Contemplate the wingfolk and the four-footed people who share this space with you. Can you tell one shining bird from the other? Can you differentiate their calls? Can you see evidence of the night wanderers? Who might be visiting your yards and gardens and alleyways while you sleep? And the tiny insect people that try so hard to live inside our houses. Have you watched them make webs, tend to their own business, seek the dark spaces?
What about the waters of your place? Where does it come from and where does it go? If you have wild water running near you, take some time today to trail your fingers through it.
Touch earth. Touch water. Touch bark. Listen for the messages in birdsong. Smell the rising spring. Breathe wind. Take ten deep outside breaths. Greet the Beings of your place with love and gratitude.
Gratitude List: 1. The guarddogwoods are beginning to bloom. Even though I no longer hang poetic laundry on their branches, I always feel like poetry itself is blooming when they start to throw pink at the sun. 2. Wangari Maathai, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg, Berta Caceres–and all the fierce and joyful activists around the world whom they represent. 3. The many Beings of Skunk Hollow. The shine and the flutter. The wafting and the whoosh. The verdancy. The brilliance. 4. Golda’s Lake and Goldfinch Creek and Ezilie’s Spring and Cabin Creek and the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Bay. 5. The promise of a new way. The hope of change.
May we walk, so joyfully, in Beauty!
Earth Day Words: “The world is, in truth, a holy place.” —Teilhard de Chardin
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” —Henry David Thoreau
“You are your own cartographer now.” —Ralph Blum
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke
“Every creature is a word of God.” ―Meister Eckhart
“The forest for me is a temple, a cathedral of tree canopies and dancing light.” ―Dr. Jane Goodall
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” ―The Onceler (Dr. Seuss)
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ―Rachel Carson
William Stafford: “I place my feet with care in such a world.”
“A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.” ―John Sawhill
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ―Rachel Carson
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.” ―Rachel Carson
“Few words are so revealing of Western sexual prejudice as the word Goddess, in contrast to the word God. Modern connotations differ vastly from those of the ancients, to whom the Goddess was a full-fledged cosmic parent figure who created the universe and its laws, ruler of Nature, Fate, Time, Eternity, Truth, Wisdom, Justice, Love, Birth, Death, Etc.” ―Barbara G. Walker
“Our vitality is inextricably bound up with creativity. Like a tree whose expression is fruit, giving our gifts is what keeps life pushing through our veins. It’s what keeps us feeling alive. As anyone who has strayed too far from their creativity knows, without it every corner of one’s life can fall prey to a terrible greying spread. As Kahlil Gibran writes about trees in an orchard, “They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —by Toko-pa Turner
MESSAGES TO SELF: Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in sunshine. Breathe in the fluttering of bird wings in sunlight. Breathe out worry and anxiety and grief. Breathe in the solidity of trees. Breathe in the stalwart courage of oak and locust and sycamore. Breathe out worry and anxiety and grief. (They will still be there for you to examine and explore. For now, let them go.) Breathe in and raise your head. Drop your shoulders. Stand or sit up straighter. Breathe the worry and sadness out the soles of your feet, into Earth. She can hold them for you. Breathe in love and compassion. Breathe out gratitude. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Today at some point, put you bare feet on Earth. Put your fingertips in water. Place your hands oh so tenderly on the bark of a tree. And breathe.
Gratitude List: It feels like these lists are all beginning to repeat, as I sit at the same window every morning to write these lists, and my days look the same. 1. Bird life in the holler. One goldfinch is now fully suited up for summer. Phoebe is speaking its name into the cool morning. The sun turns that red cap on the downy woodpecker to fire. 2. The trees that surround me. 3. The waters that run through the hollow on their way to the River. 4. A lighter day today. The assignments are a little lighter today, and I am going to grade speeches. Enough. Enough. I have done enough. 5. Finding joys and wonders and delights to balance the sadness and anxiety.
Take Care of Yourself. Take Care of Each Other.
“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.” —Alain de Botton
“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.” —Joanna Macy
“We should have respect for animals because it makes better human beings of us all.” —Jane Goodall
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.” —Rumi
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” —Harriet Tubman
“The little grassroots people can change this world.” —Wangari Maathai
“Some form of the prayer of quiet is necessary to touch me at the unconscious level, the level where deep and lasting transformation occurs. From my place of prayer, I am able to understand more clearly what is mine to do and have the courage to do it. Unitive consciousness—the awareness that we are all one in Love—lays a solid foundation for social critique and acts of justice.” —Richard Rohr
“You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” —Anonymous
Today’s Prompt is to write a correspondence poem. Mine will be about the elemental correspondences with the cardinal directions.
In the east, the birds are singing the day awake, the breezes whisper through the branches, and all the bells are ringing. Inspiration flies in on golden wings. Weave, spin, and cut the threads with a two-edged blade of finest silver. What is being born in you?
To the south, the sun is burning, and that which came to you as woven light begins to kindle and flame up. Life force surges all around you, and you feel your own fires rising. Nurture the burning within you. What is calling you to dance?
In the west, the creeks and brooks tumble over stones and sand and clay, on their way to rivers and bays and oceans. Now is the time to listen to your heart, to flow with the feelings that stream through you and around you. What is the message of your heart?
To the north, the wolves are howling, where caves are hidden in the boulders. The roots of things travel fathoms deep, and earth is a solid base for your footsteps. Your body is your home, and you must tend it, listening for echoes from within the earth herself. What holds and supports you?
Move to the center and feel the spirit swirling, the place where wind and flame, water and stone meet and quicken, where animating breath meets life force, where heart meets head, and stone becomes flesh, and the Beloved calls you to Become. Will you answer the call of Love?
You stood–still–in the center of the room,
the dancers weaving in and out about you,
a silken mask hid all your face but your eyes.
If they noticed you, they gave no sign.
They whirled about and sipped their wine.
They never took note of your disguise.
Sometimes the simplest way to hide
is in plain view, where the blase few
will never hear your silent sighs.
*(A little dramatic, perhaps, but i’ll work it up a bit later. For now, it’s time for bed.)
“No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
–Thomas Hood, No!
“I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” –Mary Oliver
“Awake my dear. Be kind to your sleeping heart. Take it out into the fields and let it breathe.” –Hafiz (I know I posted this one recently. I still need it.)
“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.” ~~ Muriel Rukeyser
“We discover the Earth in the depths of our being through participation, not through isolation or exploitation. We are most ourselves when we are most intimate with the rivers and mountains and woodlands, with the sun and the moon and the stars in the heavens…We belong here. Our home is here. The excitement and fulfillment of our lives is here…Just as we are fulfilled in our communion with the larger community to which we belong, so too the universe itself and every being in the universe is fulfilled in us.”
~ Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe
Words of Howard Zinn:
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don’t ‘win,’ there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.
“An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
“If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
It may seem harsh, but that’s sort of his point–
“Christians, I know, I’m sorry; I know you hate this and you want to square this circle, but you can’t. I’m not even judging you. I’m just saying, logically, if you ignore every single thing Jesus commanded you to do, you’re not a Christian. You’re just auditing. You’re not Christ’s followers. You’re just fans.”
Gratitude List: 1. Saffron yellow is the color of the season, and everyone is wearing it. I don’t usually pay much attention to the colors of the season,but this is a stunning color. I might have to buy myself something in saffron.
2. Moonrise tonight. The moon was like a mist, a ghost, veiled face.
3. Two purrfolk on my lap at once
4. Grace and mercy
Full Moon filtered through flowery Dreamscope app.
“This earth that we live on is full of stories in the same way that, for a fish, the ocean is full of ocean. Some people say when we are born we’re born into stories. I say we’re also born from stories.” –Ben Okri
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” –Albert Einstein
Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words.
When I opened my hand, they flew away.
“On Hearing that My Poems
Were Being Studied in a Distant Place”
Richard Rohr quotes Thomas Keating on the way of peace: “It means to show love tirelessly, no matter what happens. That’s the meaning of turning the other cheek. Once in a while you have to defend somebody, but it means you’re always willing to suffer first for the cause—that is to say, for communion with your enemies. If you overcome your enemies, you’ve failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded.”
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” –Rumi
Gratitude List: 1. Singing “Swing Low,” “Oh When the Saints,” and “I’m Gonna Sing” in chapel today
2. Beautiful morning rain
3. Looking back through old blog posts this afternoon, watching how the ideas and dreams that I began to sift and plant last winter have begun to gestate within me.
4. Somehow, I know that I will be able to build that bridge from where I am to where I need to go
5. Cannoli dip
“Be softer with you.
You are a breathing thing.
A memory to someone.
A home to a life.” ―Nayyirah Waheed
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth. ―Raymond Carver
Powerful words from Rob Brezsny:
“The real secret of magic is that the world is made of words,” said Terence McKenna in “Alien Dreamtime,” “and that if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”
Here’s my version of that hypothesis: What world you end up living in depends at least in part on your use of language.
Do you want to move and breathe amidst infertile chaos where nothing makes sense and no one really loves anyone? Then speak with unconscious carelessness, expressing yourself lazily. Constantly materialize and entertain angry thoughts in the privacy of your own imagination, beaming silent curses out into eternity.
Or would you prefer to live in a realm that’s rich with fluid epiphanies and intriguing coincidences and mysterious harmonies? Then be discerning and inventive in how you speak, primed to name the unexpected codes that are always being born right in front of your eyes. Turn your imagination into an ebullient laboratory where the somethings you create out of nothings are tinctured with the secret light you see in your dreams of invisible fire.
“The power of love is stronger than the power to destroy.” ―Vandana Shiva
and then your eyes will open
as if waking from a dream
or waking into a dream
and the dew-drenched grasses
will sparkle before you
like gold in the morning
and you will know.
You will know what it is
you have come for.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.” ―Fatema Mernissi
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” ―Robin Williams as Mr. John Keating in Dead Poets Society
“Well, I don’t only think that the biosphere is in trouble, I know it is. I just have to look around in the environment, in which I live.
In my own part of the part of the world, I keep telling people, let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation. Now the problem is, people don’t make those linkages.”
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
Gratitude List: 1. Holy Ground: The Earth we walk on, our callings, our destinies
2. Sacred Flame: The burning bush, the kindling of compassion, energy, the spark of life
3. Hallowed Water: Cleansing, purifying, nurturing life (May the waters all run free!)
4. Sublime Air: The breath of life, inspiration, drawing us out, pushing us onward
5. The Indwelling spirit: Vivifying, transforming
Monarchs mating. May your tribe grow and thrive, Brightwings!
“There is so much in eternity that is trying to reach us, if only we can suspend our wranglings long enough to be touched.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.”
—D. H. Lawrence
“Water, the Hub of Life. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Water is the most extraordinary substance! Practically all its properties are anomalous, which enabled life to use it as building material for its machinery. Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893 – 1986) Hungarian-American physiologist; Nobel laureate
“There is really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”
“God is only ever where we stand with our neighbor in trouble and against injustice.”
“Follow the waters,
lean in with the trees,
breathe the cool morning air,
walk through the swirling mists.”
Gratitude/Examen: 1. (How did you meet the Mystery?) Monarchs dancing in the field. A small person’s excitement to tell me that he and his dad had watched monarchs mating. May there always be monarchs.
2. (What brought you awake?) Hard work in the heat and humidity. I do want to be cautious about pushing myself out there when it’s so hot, but it does feel good. Strengthening. Working the body gives the mind and heart time and space for a different pacing.
3. (What is the message from your heart?) Listen. When there is clamor, when there is silence, when there doesn’t seem to be anything to listen to or for.
4. (What takes you into the Center?) Hints of magic and mystery all around. There is so much I do not understand at an intellectual level about the world around me, but sometimes my heart gets glimpses.
5. (What do you take forward?) The inner stillness. This is getting redundant, perhaps, but it is the lesson I am learning in these days of heat and humidity, of getting work accomplished and finding energy even in the lethargy induced by the weather. There is an inner stillness that can find its way from the moments of solitude into the clamor of the day. (Most of the clamor is pretty delightful, even when it’s bickering children.)
I was going to try to get a sonnet written today, but I just couldn’t seem to make it past the first quatrain, and that was thuddy and bumpkish. It kept wanting to be six feet instead of pentameter. I’m okay with that, if only I can get it to sing a little more. So a little free-verse for my tired brain tonight, and form will happen later when I can keep my eyes open.
Arrange yourself upon the earth,
feet in the soil. Feel the magnetism
of mineral and metal, the cool pull
of mud and moss and peat.
Do not worry. Already you have learned
the ways to walk upon the air,
to bridge the chasm on a rainbow.
Now it is time again to learn
to walk with gravity.
TOMORROW’S PROMPT: The Fool takes to the Air. She’s met Water and Earth, so tomorrow takes us around to the realm of in-spir-ation, spirit, the butterfly-wing flash of thought and idea, AHA! Sanguine and playful, air may seem to be the Fool’s primary element, but there is always more to learn.
Gratitude List: 1. Hanging out with Keri and Bobby. Bobby is a good sport!
2. Student musicians
3. Student Credo statements
4. Putting bare feet on earth
5. Ice cream and apple fritters.
May all beings find their Waters:
those who grind and punch,
those who crack and strike,
those who shout and crunch,
who scrape and gnash and chomp.
May Waters smooth and soothe them.
May all beings find their Waters:
those who fritter and dither,
those who flitter and twinkle,
those who flutter and pitter,
who skitter and wheedle and wheeze.
May Waters calm and caress them.
May all beings find their Waters:
those who boil and bubble,
those who smolder and steam,
those who stew and simmer
who pop and sizzle and seethe.
May Waters restore and refresh them.
May all beings find their Waters.
TOMORROW’S PROMPT: Today the Fool wandered through the realm of Water. Tomorrow, let’s take her into the realm of Earth. What will ground her? What will support and hold her? What will nourish and sustain? Earth is the realm of that which is manifest, which is made physical. Tomorrow the Fool learns about Earth.
Gratitude List: 1. This question from Chapel this morning: What is the narrative that shapes your life? So many stories to live by, to center on.
2. Water, how it refreshes and calms and soothes
3. How the words sometimes find their way, even through a brain full of fog
4. The angle of shine in the dawn