Summer Solstice

A joyful Summer Solstice to you, my Loves!

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.

Joyful Solstice to you!

What is the Name of the Song?

What is
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

Balancing the Energy

This is the little zen garden in my classroom. It was constantly changing throughout the day as different students would rake and arrange it. I miss those moments.

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

Twelvenight: Back to Work

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 5: Webs of Prayer

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?”

and Joy Harjo’s “Eagle Poem”:

“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.

Once Was a Woman

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Leaping Spirits of Trees

Gratitude List:
1. Today is not yesterday. Yesterday I never quite came out of the fog. This morning I already feel crisper than I did at any point in the day yesterday, so hopefully that was just a blip. I feel ready for this one.
2. Homemade cookies. MCCL kids, for making those kits: Thank you!
3. People who are anchors. You know who you are. My life is so much better for your presence. Thank you. (Actually, maybe you don’t know you’ve anchored me. It might be the kind thing you said, or the story you told, or the little quote you posted on social media, or the way you talk about someone you love, or the way you genuinely look people in the eye when you talk to them, or the way you take a deep breath and stand up straight when you have something hard to do: I notice, and I am inspired and anchored just by being near you.)
4. Also, people who are speaking and living truth. Especially in times when so much truth is being so cynically bartered for power. Thank you.
5. For the trees, for the “leaping greenly spirits of trees” (even when you are no longer green, your spirits still leap greenly: holy, holy): Thank you.*

May we walk in Beauty!
*e. e. cummings reference

Crickets and Silence

glass

This evening, a group of people from my church is going to the airport to welcome a family from Ethiopia and take them to their new home.  May this become a safe and welcoming place for them, a friendly place where the children may grow up in the knowledge that they are loved and treasured.

Gratitude List:
1. Crickets
2. Those moments when Silence is my companion
3. Finding energy
4. Cool mornings (I am trying so hard not to be whiny and fussy about the hot afternoons in my classroom. It helps if I focus on the coolness of the mornings and live into that.)
5. Good literature

May we walk in Beauty!

Season of Owl

2013 May 032

This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .
Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s really lovely start to the new semester.  Nobody, including myself, is very squirrelly yet (we’ll get there, I’m sure).
2. The energy of teaching a new class.  Like being the newbie again.  I’m a little terrified, but in a good and energizing way.
3. Clouds.  Whole fantasy worlds and landscapes there above us.  This is the time of year when the clouds are tinged with sunset as I drive home, and tinged again with sunrise on my way to work.
4. Snow.  Just a dusting.
5. How a hot drink warms hands and face.

Blessings on your day!  May you find Beauty.