She has always been one of my favorite characters from the stories of Jesus, along with Photina, the Woman at the Well. Women who lived raw and wild, undomesticated and on their own terms. There always seems to be something more, something deeper, something I can’t quite hear or understand, like a powerful dream that’s just fading before I can remember the details, or a word that sits on the tip of the tongue without finding its way into the open air. Mary Magdalene holds a Mystery that is always one step deeper into the veil of mists, one more curtain to encounter, one more step into the wilderness.
All the attempts to nail down her mystery, to put words to it, always leave me a little cold, compelling as they are: Maybe she was Jesus’ wife or lover. Maybe she was the real writer of one of the canonic gospels. Maybe she is the Holy Grail. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Mary Magdalene sits, like the High Priestess, before the curtain of mysteries, and only as I gain wisdom will I be granted the clue or the code or the shaft of golden sunlight that will admit me to the next stage of understanding. Like all the deepest mysteries, like the Deep Self, she lives in the realm of image and symbol, offering egg and thunder, grail and alabaster jar, skull and hair and tears. Best understood on the level of a dream. Best spoken in poetry, perhaps.
That moment of Mary’s epiphany is the mirror of every moment of yearning and longing and ache. Deep grief gives way to confusion and an intensification of grief: Where have they taken the body? And then the moment when the Beloved calls her by her name. I can never write that without getting chills and tearing up. Thomas, Peter, The Emmaus Travelers–those surprises are all coming, all delightful. But this one moment of sunlight in a garden and the sound of her/my name in the voice of the Beloved–it needs no pinning down, no explanation.
Gratitude List: 1. Wind. Yes, it’s scary, and I don’t really need more anxiety right now, but it’s so beautiful and powerful. After the big winds, I always think, “Wind-shriven,” the world scoured clean. 2. This long weekend. I have not yet gotten my lagging work completed, but I have had three marvelous days of baking and sewing and trail-work and playing with the family. 3. The story of Mary Magdalene. I need her Mystery and Epiphany now, perhaps more than ever. 4. Making plans even in the midst of this uncertainty. Putting programs and ideas and lesson plans into online formats is so much less than ideal, but I feel myself growing and thinking in new ways. In the after, I will be informed by the ways my brain has been forced to adapt in these months, and hopefully that will contribute to a glorious new normal instead of a return to an old normal. 5. Martin Prechtel’s ideas about Grief and Praise. I am going to have to buy some of his books.
May we walk in Beauty!
“I pray to the birds. I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day—the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.” ―Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” ―Emma Lazarus
“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual.” ―Ernest Hemingway
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” ―Robert Frost
“What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as One, Received not in essence but by participation. It is just as if you lit a flame from a live flame: It is the entire flame you receive.” ―St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022)
“We love the things we love for what they are.” ―Robert Frost
“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.” ―Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” ―Sarah Williams
“Resist much, obey little.” ―Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” ―e. e. cummings
“If we do not mean that God is male when we use masculine pronouns and imagery, then why should there be any objections to using female imagery and pronouns as well?” ―Carol P. Christ
“Subversive language, however, must be constantly reinvented, because it is continually being co-opted by the powerful.” ―Carol P. Christ
The prompts today are “spirit” and “eggs.” And it is Easter, so that wants to weave into the mix. One of my favorite moments in all of the New Testament stories is the moment when Mary Magdalene is weeping in the garden, and asks the gardener where they have taken her beloved, and the gardener turns, and it IS her beloved, and he says her name. This feels like one of the holiest stories to me.
Grief is the Egg by Beth Weaver-Kreider
“Grief is not your problem. Grief is not the sorrow. Grief is the medicine.” —Martin Prechtel
There are people who sing when they weep, who wail for the dead in poems, chant the wandering spirits into seeds that will sprout in the new world as trees, or storms, or whales.
Grief is not the rock that entombs you. It is the egg of the thing to come, the precious perfume in the alabaster jar that finds its way to praise life and living even as it anoints the dead. The egg and the seed are the medicine.
Grief is no dead end road. It is the curtain rent in two, the woman weeping in the garden: “Tell me, if you know, where they have taken my beloved.”
Grief is the egg of the moment, radiant with sunlight, just before the gardener turns, and you hear your name.
“A poem is an egg with a horse in it.” –4th grader, FB post
“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?” –Rumi * “There are people who advocate and practice compassionate listening, there are those who embrace voluntary simplicity, who remove the calluses from their hearts and keep them open to feel the pains of others. Seek them out, I urge you, and join them in their compassion.” –Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalom * “The moon rose over an open field.” –Paul Simon * “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” –Fredrick Douglass * “Love is the strongest force in the universe. We must keep walking in the direction of love, no matter what we hear and see around us. No matter our human failures. No matter what happens, or appears to happen.And if we are thankful for that love, the power magnifies. Forgiveness is a process of love. Love is not bound by religion, belief system, or man-made laws. Our human minds cannot comprehend the immensity of it. We are lit by it, or we would not be here. Some smother the light with fear and acts of fear. Others tend their light and they light the world. Breath feeds the light. Breathe deep today, and continue walking toward that which will enlighten, no matter what burdens you are carrying of shame, grief, or fear. No one can buy their way or push their way ahead of everyone else. We are all in this together.” –Joy Harjo
Gratitude List: 1. Sweater weather
2. What the eyes say
3. Baby steps
4. The deliciousness of sleep
5. That delicate little yellow moth on the outside of the window
I fear this may be a little disjointed, perhaps two poems in one. I wanted to bring in some of the symbols of the priestesses who offer me challenge and invitation: Mary Magdalene, Eve, Hildegard of Bingen, Marie Laveau.
Meeting the High Priestess
How do you enter? How will you come?
Will you pass through the gates in perfect love and perfect trust?
Will you push back the veil of your own free will?
Do you have clean hands and a pure heart?
Contemplate roundness: circle and arc and sphere.
She holds out the apple, the egg and the skull,
the pregnant belly of the moon,
the round face of the grail,
the spiraling ends of the scroll,
the coiling round of the python.
Speak your Truth, and enter, and the Mysteries will be revealed.
Will the Truth set you free, or will it bind you,
with your dawning knowledge, to responsibility?
For ignorance is no longer bliss,
and a Truth once known
cannot be unknown again.
TOMORROW’S PROMPT: The Fool, still heady with the mysteries of today, will meet the Emperor tomorrow. Will he be a challenger or an ally? Or both, perhaps. The Emperor makes the laws, sets the boundaries, holds you accountable. He can be willful and demanding, tyrannical when he is unevolved. But when he is truly doing his work, he creates a balance and a structure within which the Fool can experience a sense of safety. He’s the Apollo to your Dionysus, the Roman to your Greek, the outline to your ramble. What poem will you make of him or his laws and boundaries?
Gratitude List: 1. Dead nettle. Have I mentioned dead nettles lately? Fields of purple glisten in the morning dew.
2. Glory clouds on the way home from work, sunrays streaming down. Clouds. All Clouds.
3. Fried egg on toast.
4. Sun on rain-wet leaves in the woods.
5. A pair of Canada geese have chosen to make the pond their home for now. They have created an artful nest at the edge of the pond, and Mama is sitting on it.
It happened to me again this morning. I woke up with the fragments of dream-world swirling through my brain, but as text, not as image. “I place it into my bowl full of winter.”
And then there was more, several more surreal, semi-attached bits of cobweb-phrases. But those I don’t remember.
Something about the key to my grandmother’s house.
I woke up and tried to write it as a poem. All I could do was to write and re-write the phrase. Again and again. So this will be my next poetry prompt. I’ll try again tomorrow. Join me, if you like, or pull an image or phrase from your own dreaming to join to mine. We’ll see what we come up with, eh?
In the meantime, here’s a photo of my goofy son and a blue egg. And a gratitude list.
1. Funny Blue Cat: Winky sat on one of Ellis’s pastel drawings last night and now she is blue, providing lots of laughs today.
2. White ducks in the rain on the green grass. I’m not trying to channel WCW, but I love this pair of white farm ducks that seem to love sitting on the lawn of the Rutter’s right next to the road. They could be under the forsythia bushes. And I love the look of them in the rain.
3. The lovely people who send me images. My heart is so warmed and encouraged by the photos, the wonder, the story my cousin Don told me about seeing a white dove with the fire of the sunset in its eyes.
4. Community-building. Changing the system together. I went to see the movie Fresh tonight. Family First Health, a local medical practice offered the screening free at York Little Theater. They’re pushing for real health, those folks, eating real food. I love Joel Salatin and his “Chicken-ness of the chicken, pig-ness of the pig, tomato-ness of the tomato.” He gets the deep archetypal import of it all. And Don Ikerd. I love Don Ikerd–he says we can change, we can wean ourselves from industrial ag and back to real actual food again. Now, if only the small farmers can make a living in the meantime. . .
5. Being who I want to be. I feel like the chrysalis may soon be ready to crack open.
Take mine, yours, any heart.
and hold it tenderly
in the bowl of your hands,
in the warm breathing space
where your open palms
have held damp soil,
warm eggs fresh from the nest,
where you have cradled
the heads of tiny babies,
Gratitude List: 1. Gentle reiki from Nicki
2. Charoite with yellow-green calcite inclusions
3. Learning to say No
4. (The other) Beth Weaver’s seductive chocolates
5. The Way Things Work book