Yesterday was a long day, beginning with Faculty Meetings, continuing on to the last minute work sessions of the afternoon, and into an evening of New Student Orientation. The energy in the building last night was zizzly. The students who came into my room, both the student tour leaders and the new students, were sweetly earnest and polite. So many were clearly excited. I couldn’t help but ride onto that wave of lovely energy, despite the fact that I don’t quite feel ready.
I am ready, of course. My plans are in place–I just haven’t dithered over them as I often do. Today is a day for leaping into it, trusting the process, believing that my plans are sufficient to carry me. And I have the delightful energy of last night’s eager students to help me fly.
Gratitudes: This work, exhausting and overwhelming as it has often been. Spending time with colleagues and teenagers. Hopeful smiles. New things to learn together
May we do Justice, love Mercy, and walk Humbly! In Beauty!
“Every word you utter to another human being has an effect, but you don’t know it. If people began to understand that change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then, they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” – Howard Zinn
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” –Leonard Bernstein
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living In better conditions.” ~ Hafiz
“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.” ~ Christy Ann Martine
“Let us stand in the moment shoulder to shoulder like the deer on the verge we caught in our headlights, and listen for the distant unrolling of words.” –Beth Weaver-Kreider
Was it only two days ago I wrote about how The Stump has become dormant except for little flowerings of two or three types of shy mushrooms around the faerie door? But I forgot about the August rains. Yesterday, I went out and a new stage of frilly white oysters have burst from the northern arc. Something else, shy and yellow, was already melting toward a golden ooze on the southern exposure. Life returns in The Stump’s own season. The first photo is the entire group of oysters, and the others are individual portraits, and the golden ooze from the southern side.
And I too, observe my seasons, shifting and changing, sometimes going dormant for long periods in one or another of my realms of existence. Lately, I have been working with great intention at healing and feeding my solar plexus chakra. You can tell me (as one of my beloved scientific-minded children does) that it is all in my mind, and I will respond, “Of course it is!” That’s where so much of magick resides, in the changing of consciousness at will. I have needed to change my consciousness regarding my ability to get things done. Slowly and steadily, I am seeing changes, more will and energy to do the things that must be done. Step by slow step, I realize that when I want to call up energy to do something, I find a reserve there, small and patient, waiting for me to call it forth.
Like the energy of the stump, my own energies have been, for a long time, hidden beneath the surface, seemingly unavailable. But now, with careful tending, and a little August sun and rain, I feel the bloom.
May your day be bright with sparks of new-found energy in places where you least expect it.
Gratitude List: 1. Reminders to Be in the Body. 2. Things that wake me up. 3. This school. This classroom. These colleagues. The sense of students soon to populate this space. 4. Augusts rains. September sun. 5. Seasons.
May we walk in Beauty! In mercy, justly, humbly.
“There is another world, but it is in this one.” —W.B. Yeats
“There is a deeper world than this That you don’t understand There is a deeper world that this Tugging at your hand. . . There is a deeper wave than this Rising in the land There is a deeper wave than this Nothing will withstand I say love is the seventh wave.” —Sting (I think I am going to listen carefully to this song in the coming days as I make last minute preps for school)
“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter ’til they bloom, ’til you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” —Charlotte the spider
“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” —Doris Lessing
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” —Irish proverb
“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know from what we originate. The loss of purpose that so many of us feel is greater than the trajectory of our careers and personal lives, it is a cultural ailment which arises out of forgetting. Our lives are like the fruit of a heritage seed: Each of the generations that has preceded us has contributed to our life’s survival. There is an ancestral momentum to which we are beholden, and which carries us forward when we are in step with it. To hear this momentum, we must turn towards the soul. There, in our dreams, are the clues to what we love and what our lives long for.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“To teach is to create a space in which obedience to truth is practiced.” —Parker Palmer, from Abba Felix tradition
“As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of the rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.” —David Abram
“Establish the sacred space of the classroom so that the inner and outer spaces of the students are respected.” (I don’t know the source. Tell me if you know.)
Be ready for truth to find you. —gleaned from Parker J. Palmer
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
How do you find your fire? What is the thing that awakens you, gets you moving, feeling alive?
Today is a day to open and energize the solar plexus chakra. This year, I’ve felt sluggish and bleh in the face of the pandemic, especially since my illness. I’ve lost my drive, my energy. My will has been blunted. So, lately, I’ve been concentrating on my solar plexus, the seat of the will. Here’s a meditation I’m working on, which I think is good for a Solstice Day:
Find your resting equilibrium, either seated or standing or sitting in lotus position. Gently stretch your spine: left, right, upward–until you feel aligned. Breathe.
I’m a little obsessive about opening the chakras in order, so I start by breathing deep roots toward the earth star chakra, grounding and centering.
Then breathe that energy up into the base, the root, where survival and support are seated. Red. Solid.
Then breathe the energy up to the sacral chakra, where your senses are seated, your gut responses, your creative urges, your desires. Orange. Energetic. Fertile.
Now we take a little more time breathing into the solar plexus chakra. Golden light shines from that space between the heart and gut. I always picture the bees living here, making liquid sunlight. Feel the buzzing hum of the bees, the purring whir of their wings. And breathe and breathe. You know that twinkling lively light of a June morning? That’s the bee-light. That shines from within you. It’s the fire of the sun translated and transmuted by the Little Sisters into the golden light of the hive. Breathe and breathe. As the solar plexus opens and enlivens, can you sense the trays of golden sun shining outward from within you? Breathe and breathe. Direct that light outward. Know there’s is always enough. Know that you are in charge of the flow you keep, the flow you share outwardly. Can you taste the honey on your tongue? Golden. Alive. Shining.
Bask a while in the hive within you.
When you are ready, keep breathing that energy upward, to your green, green heart, and spiralling out to your palms. Healing. Tender.
Breathe it into your throat. The seat of your voice. Make a sound: a hum, a sigh, a wail. Speak your true name. Blue of the sky. Mary’s robes. Swirling.
Breathe into your third eye, the space between your brows that Knows, that Gnows, that Sees. That gets it. Indigo. Mystery. Gnosis.
Breathe into your crown, where silver and violet light cascade upward and fall around you. Send that energy up to the star chakras that connect you to the cosmos. You are a conduit, connecting the energy of earth at your roots to the energy of the stars above you.
Rest within yourself. Breathe and breathe. Feel that golden bee energy at your core bringing you alive.
When you are done, speak your name, sigh, stretch. Feel the energy running your spine. Take a taste of honey. Thank the bees. Thank the earth. Thank the sun.
the name of the song
you will sing
into the house
of this day?
Gratitude List: 1. A FUN and inspiring project. I am doing a Camp-in-a-Box project on zine-making for my school, and I am obsessed. I need to do more things like this. 2. I signed up for a Recycled Poetry class with PCA&D. I’ve been wanting to do something with PCA&D for a long time, and this is just perfect because it’s for me as a poet, but also as a teacher. 3. The different ways that light flows through different leaves. The edges and frills on the leaves of that little oak dance differently with the light than do the rounded and billowing leaves of the maple and the poplar. 4. How the lockdown has pushed me to grow. I had a conversation with someone online this morning about how I see the basic objectives for Speech class differently today than I did six months ago. So much of our modern speech-making happens in video format. I am going to add the video element as a basic part of Speech class in the future. I used to be scared to try adding more about making videos, but I have been forced into exploring that during this lockdown, and I am grateful for the new knowledge that I can share with students. 5. Those energy bars I made yesterday. I need to be careful not to eat too many! They’re so delicious.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly–in Beauty!
“A man who does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. And a man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man.” —Henry Ward Beecher, social reformer and abolitionist (1813-1887)
Here’s the best way to see a thing: catch the edge of light that burns around its opposite, that which it would otherwise obscure. —Mark Bibbins
I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone. I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold. I was not punished, was not turned to stone. How to believe the legends I am told? …
I turned your face around! It is my face. That frozen rage is what I must explore— Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place! That is the gift I thank Medusa for. —May Sarton, “The Muse as Medusa”
“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” —The Mad Hatter
“When you look at what is happening to our world—and it is hard to look at what’s happening to our water, our air, our trees, our fellow species—it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible.” —Joanna Macy
“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. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time.” —Joanna Macy
“And I consider myself a skeptic, but Lord, I’m an optimistic soul.” —Rising Appalachia
I read something yesterday that posited that one of the primary disruptions to civic life in this pandemic has been the shopping/consumption function. The author suggested that the loss of shopping–buying coffee, going to the mall, stopping in at the gas station quick-mart for a hot dog–is causing such angst for people because consumerism has become the primary civic relationship for most of us.
We miss the sense of being known in our communities, of civic connection, and for so many of us, that happens in stores and quick-marts, in coffee shops and hair salons and restaurants. There’s nothing wrong with being happy to know and be known by the person at the cash register. I long for a Cheers bar where everybody knows my name, or a Central Perk Coffee Shop, where the barista knows I drink my coffee black.
While I don’t want my social and civic life to be defined by my buying habits and my consumerism, I do want to think deliberately and authentically about my civic and community engagement in the Opening Season. When the governor says that it is safe for us to move to green, how can my everyday interactions create belongingness and connection for the people I interact with? What will my primary civic engagements be? I think mine have been school and family and church, and circles of friends. How can I be deliberate about making those engagements spaces of healing and wholeness, of strong and trusting connection?
Yesterday, I wrote that blog entry about being weary. Then I got up off the couch, got dressed, cleaned the kitchen, and re-arranged my desk. It is amazing how much little things help. Also, I got more sleep that night than the previous one, so there’s that. I’m also going to try to keep a log for a few days, marking down the increments of how I spend my time. I began that yesterday and then fell off the wagon, and I frittered again, got lost in the miasma of the day’s sameness. I’m trying again today.
I do want to be clear with my internal critic and editor that I am not basing my sense of personal worth or happiness on productivity. This process is not about that at all. I’m not following in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin. This is about pulling myself out of the fogs and the swamps. This is about walking on solid ground for these last few weeks of school instead of slogging through mud. I’ll make sure that I continue to just Be, to Laze, to Loaf, to Dream.
Gratitude List: 1. Seasons and rhythms. Breath: in and out and in. Stretching. 2. Birdlife in the hollow. The wrens fledged a family of nestlings yesterday in the greenhouse. Jon took me up to greet them. And the house finches speak so tenderly from the walnut tree when humans walk too close to where they have hidden their nest under the forebay of the barn. And Ms. Bluebird has chosen the area outside my desk window for her primary hunting ground. Oriole, cardinal, indigo bunting, goldfinch, blue jay, bluebird: flashes of orange, scarlet, blue, yellow, blue, blue–all day long–among the vast greens and blues. 3. Some of my frittering has been about creative projects, so it has had meaning in my day-to-day. In the break moments of the day, I have some ideas for Things To Make, and that gives me a whole new kind of energy. 4. Those who stand in Love, against Empire 5. The solidarity of women. Men do it too, but I think of that moment of courage and care when those three women responded, in solidarity, to an angry racist.
May we walk in Solidarity, in Beauty!
Oh Kabir! Oh Hafiz! I am so glad I found both of these poems on the same day:
A Hole In A Flute by Hafiz
I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through listen to this music I am the concert from the mouth of every creature singing with the myriad chorus
I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through listen to this music
Ecstatic Flute by Kabir
I know the sound of the ecstatic flute, But I don’t know whose flute it is. A lamp burns and has neither wick nor oil. A lily pad blossoms and is not attached to the bottom! Where one flower opens, ordinarily dozens open. The moon bird’s head is filled with nothing but thoughts of the moon, And when the next rain will come is all that the rain bird thinks of. Who is it we spend our entire life loving?
“Geometry is the language of time.” —Khalid Masood
“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” —Brian Jacques
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” —Carl Jung
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” —Marcel Proust
“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” —John F. Kennedy
“Writing poetry is an unnatural act.” —Elizabeth Bishop
“They say goldfish have no memories, and I say their lives are much like mine.” —Ani DiFranco
Since I have been working from home, I have noticed–along with the uncomfortable energies of anxiety and irritability and grieving–a positive energy shift. In normal life, I am often exhausted and worn down. I can’t sleep past 5:30. I get home, and all I want to do is sleep. I try to get to the big grading projects, and it’s like trying to walk through a wall inside my brain. I start to feel like I am a lazy procrastinator. The sense of inadequacy makes me feel more tired and run-down.
In the two and a half weeks since I’ve been working at home, I find that I have to remind myself to stop working. I have to make it a point to take breaks. I feel like I have the energy to work like I need to, to do ALL the grading.
As I have been pondering it, I realize that the energy shift has to do with introversion and extraversion, with being an ambivert–both intro and extra. I think that in many public spaces I present primarily as an extravert, and I love that part of myself. When I am teaching, the interaction with students, whether one-on-one or in a class setting, is one of my great joys. I love pushing myself outward, meeting the other, making connection. But the constant extraversion, and the need to be “on” all the time, takes a toll on my emotional energy. The introvert never gets fed.
Grading, while it’s a solitary sort of task, is (I think) an extension of the extraverted element of the working day. In normal life, I just hit a wall and can’t seem to get past it to push myself out there to do the next thing. My extravert side is exhausted and run-down, and my introvert can’t find the energy to get back into balance.
These days, the grading and the school communicating is pretty much all I have for that crucial connected part of my work-life. My introvert is being fed with lots of quietness and stillness, even in this crowded house. I pace myself. I have re-taught my body to sleep until 6:30. The grading and the school communications give my life purpose and structure. The wall between me and the grading projects is gone. I just sit down and do the next thing. I actually feel (mostly) adequate to these particular tasks.
But I miss my students terribly. I can hardly bear that I might never see some of them again. I know that some of them are hurting and struggling, and I don’t know how to be Present through a computer. When this is over, I will happily go back to physical school. Despite what I am learning about myself and my energy, I don’t think I am meant to be a cyber-school teacher. I need faces and classrooms. While I think that my teaching can be perfectly adequate from home, there’s nothing like the magic of exploring ideas about literature and writing in a real-time class. And there are costs to this kind of work. I NEED to have a life outside of school, and now that school has invaded my home, there is almost nothing that is not school. I must set boundaries, and leave some work unfinished.
I think I will need to hold some of this sense of empowerment and adequacy that I am gaining in my introverted time when I return to extraverted life. Perhaps this current sense of being adequate to the grading tasks will stick to me a little more solidly and I will be able to manage my ambiverted self with a little more balance and grace.
Gratitude List: 1. National Poetry Month! Something to break up the steady monotony of constant school. Today’s prompt is to write a new world poem. 2. Chipping sparrows. They’re so sweet, sort of timid, smaller than the white throats, and they wear those rusty caps. When they come in to the bird feeder, they sometimes hover for a couple seconds before they alight. 3. The sound of a woodpecker rat-a-tatting in the walnut tree. 4. Vanilla in my coffee. I make coffee shakes in the mornings: hot coffee, a little butter a little coconut oil, half-and-half (if I have it), and a scoopful of vanilla protein powder. Blend and drink. 5. How the altered times are teaching me things about myself, things I knew in my head, but didn’t have the space within which to explore the deeper truths.
Take care of each other!
Words for the Day of the Holy Fool: “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” —Julian of Norwich
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” —Carl Jung
“The historical Jesus probably looked like an average Syrian refugee. You know…the ones we turn away.” —Rebecca James Hecking
“Poems are maps to the place where you already are.” —Jane Hirshfield
“Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation. The choice is to draw the blinds and shut it all out, or believe.” —Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson
“When you do not know you need mercy and forgiveness yourself, you invariably become stingy in sharing it with others. So make sure you are always waiting with hands widely cupped under the waterfall of mercy.” —Richard Rohr
“All four gospels insist that when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene does not run. She stands firm. She does not betray or lie about her commitment to Jesus—she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching—perhaps both. But why—one wonders–do Holy Week liturgies tell and re-tell the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, while the steady and unwavering witness of Magdalene is passed over—not even noticed? How would our understanding of the paschal story change if instead of reflecting upon Jesus dying alone and rejected if we were to reinforce the fact that one person stood by him and did not leave? For this story of Mary Magdalene is as firmly stated in scripture as the denial story. How would this change the emotional timbre of the day? How would it affect our feeling of ourselves? How would it reflect upon how we have viewed, and still view, women in the church? About the nature of redemptive love?” —Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal Priest
“When I feel this fog rolling in on me, I light fires of affection in the hearts of others. I tell them in tangible ways how the life they live makes me live mine differently, how precious and important they are to the rest of us. That fire then becomes like a beacon which burns through the grey and which I can sail towards.” –Toko-pa Turner
It’s good to leave each day behind, like flowing water, free of sadness. Yesterday is gone and its tale told. Today new seeds are growing. —Rumi
The work-world isn’t waiting for me to finish my Twelvenight ruminations. School starts again this morning. So my writing may, of necessity, be shorter.
Yesterday, I sort of dismissed my dream as the anxious eruption of school into my sleep-psyche. I set that little echidna to the side in my considerations of meaning. But it kept snuffling into my awareness throughout the morning. It felt odd to me that I would dream such a little-known creature. Josiah and I had read about them last year when he was doing a report on the platypus–echidna and platypus are cousins–but I haven’t thought about them since.
There are all those articles that keep popping up about the massive losses of animal life in the Australian fires. I had been thinking sadly of kangaroos and quokkas and wombats and koalas, but echidnas hadn’t crossed my mind. Why was I dreaming an echidna?
I mentioned the dream on Facebook, and a friend said that he, too, has been having Australia dreams, and I wonder: When the Earth is hurting, do we feel it in our dreams? Are we dreaming our own deep-self messages as well as picking up signals from the Beings around us? It’s a whimsical thought, and perhaps ought to be the organizing concept of a novel or short story, at least. But whether or not it’s a message from Earth herself, it draws my attention to the terrible loss on the other side of the world and gives me another connection to that world that I know so little of.
My friend said that he is planning to try to find the characters in his Australia dreams and ask them to tell him more. So I tried to find my way back to the echidna last night. I saw her just as I was falling asleep. A larger echidna came along and stomped on her neck. I managed to pull the larger one off, and save the little one, but then the dream was over. If that was a further message, it’s pretty traumatic. Sigh.
I have been doing some thinking about echidnas in the last day, how they have a hybrid sensibility to them: mammals who lay eggs, hedgehog/anteater/birds. They’re sort of not quite one thing or another, but wholly themselves. And their back feet seem to be on backwards. They can burrow backward with their powerful hind claws, which face behind them. The echidna is feeling like a perfect animal symbol for me to walk with this coming year. During the past four or five years, the tension has been building for me, the feeling that I am both teacher and writer and not quite either one, really. It’s hard to hold onto these two identities which demand so much of my time and brainwork. Perhaps the echidna is my message that this year is to be one of problem-solving, really figuring out how to be this hybrid creature that I seem to have become.
Last night’s dream: I need to go to Harrisburg for a meeting. I leave at 5:30 in the morning, and I am taking my little blue Festiva. It’s been so long since I have driven it that I can’t seem to adjust the height and angle of the seat and mirrors. I stop at a convenience store for coffee and batteries. I need three AA and three AAA for my Walkman. It’s really hard for me to get help getting what I need. People are busy and distracted.
The meeting is at the convenience store, so I sit down with my styrofoam cup of hot chocolate (where’s the coffee?) while someone is getting my batteries. We talk about the boss, who is corrupt, and is using his position at the store to enrich himself. He loves roller coasters, so he has built a small theme park with several special roller coasters that he can ride. We vote that the woman next to me will write a letter of complaint. The meeting is over, and I start to drive home.
It’s easy to see how several pieces of this are basic anxiety-dream elements. Before I went to bed, I worried that for some reason my watch alarm might not wake me up at 5:30. Do I have everything I need to make it through these two days of school? Can I fit myself back into the driver’s seat? My own particular work bosses are extremely ethical and generous, but the “boss” of my country seems to be enriching himself and satisfying his whims at taxpayer’s expense, and that has occupied a great deal of my mental energy in the past few years.
I seem to need a lot of batteries, and coffee/chocolate, to keep me going. I ought to spend some more time working out how to best use and renew my energy. I ought to be using rechargeable batteries by now, anyway. And where was my reusable mug? I was rushing and anxious, and so I was not managing my resources very well. Slow down and savor, I think I told myself a day or so ago. Slow down and find the resources I need instead of frittering away with non-renewable energy sources. There’s a pretty serious message for someone who walks the borderlands of exhaustion.
Gratitude List: 1. The messages in the most mundane anxiety dreams. 2. Echidnas. What an odd and lovely dream-animal to get to know. 3. I didn’t get it all done, but I got a LOT done, and that’s something. 4. As reluctant as I am to get back to work, I am eager to see my school-people again. They give me energy. I do love being a teacher. 5. This is only a two-day week, after all. I can do two days. In fact, as much as I grumbled about going back today rather than Monday, I think there’s something to be said for starting with a short week.
As I walk today’s fifth passage into the dark labyrinth tunnel of December, I can’t help but contemplate the cobwebs. In my physical house, the spiders have moved in from garage and attic to the house proper, seeking warmth and light and fresh insects. (Some of that is on my list winter comforts, too, though not the third.) I do take down the webs when the spiders become too assertive with their territory-claims, but mostly I live and let spin. They’ve learned to eat the stink bugs in the past five years or so, so I can’t begrudge them too much real estate.
And the web is my primary symbol of prayer. For being such a universal activity in so many religious (and even nonreligious) traditions, prayer remains nearly undefinable. What we do when we pray varies by person and situation. While I can speak a prayer in words, and I love poetic communal prayer, as an individual and contemplative activity, prayer for me has been more of a visualization or meditation, more like a raising of energy, than a direct invocation.
For thoughts on prayer, I tend to turn to the poets rather than the theologians, though when the theologians speak poetically, I am more likely to trust them. I like Mary Oliver’s perspective in “The Summer Day”:
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done?”
“To pray you open your whole self To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon To one whole voice that is you.”
When I pray, I feel myself on the web, feel you on the web, feel the love, the intention for healing, for restoration. It’s not a physical feeling, perhaps, but usually the metaphor is realer than words for me, and I sense the thrum and tug of the energy between us humming like. . .well, like a prayer.
Today, here in this metaphorical passageway, with cobwebs above our heads, and the watchful spiders around us, let’s practice working with that web of prayer. Consider some situation for which you long to see healing and rightness return. On a breath, send out a line of spidersilk on the breeze toward that spot in the field of existence. Be the spider, surfing the electrical currents in the air, tugging the strand taut between you the the story you pray for. Feel the hum of energy and breathe your own healing intention along that line. I will listen for you on this web of which we all are part, and wait to feel your energy.
Envisioning: (On Sunday, Michelle asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)
Yesterday, someone sent me a link to a story of three young men who noticed an elderly woman sitting alone at a restaurant. Something prompted one of them to go and ask if he could sit with her. He asked her about her life, and she told him that she was a widow, approaching what would have been her 60th wedding anniversary. He asked her to join him and his friends at their table, and they had a transformative encounter that enriched them all. They were separated by gender and age and race, and yet they met with open hearts, and a tender and holy connection was made.
I’ve been doing a little series of short-form poems with the idea of a middle-aged woman at the center of a fairy tale. I have been playing with writing prose fairy tales on the subject, but short-form poetry works more easily into my schedule, and the condensed qualities of poetic forms lend themselves to the cryptic and mythic thinking of the fairy tale. In these beginning stages of perimenopause, I fine myself comparing notes with my younger self at menarche, noting the ways that the hormonal shifts affect me: energy pits, headaches, emotional bounces, self-doubt, bursts of confidence. I’ve done quite a lot of fairy tale analysis over the years, from feminist reinterpretations, to Jungian dream-style considerations, to uncovering layers that reveal ancient goddess stories. The constant through most of the stories is the girl, the girl, the girl. I’m walking out the other side of the woods now, or walking into a different woods altogether. I feel a need of re-imagining the girl-hero’s journey as she begins her croning time.
Gratitude List: 1. Fairy tales and what lies beneath them 2. Warm blankets 3. Stir fry on noodles, with hot sauce. The other night, we added brussel sprouts to the stir fry, and the boys just ate it up without comment or complaint. And they chose chopsticks over forks. For some reason, that made me especially happy. 4. People around the world who are standing up for human rights and for the planet. 5. Tiny little personal escapes throughout the busy moments of the day. Five minutes into a poem. Two minutes into a deep breath. A glance through a Luci Shaw or Jean Janzen book on the writing process, a quick dip into the world of a beautiful picture, a quick friendly chat with a colleague or student.