Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Epiphany: The Holy Aha!

Today is Epiphany, the day the light dawns, the coming of the wise ones, the baptism of light, the moment of the Holy Aha! Cultures throughout the world celebrate today as the coming of the Three Kings. Orthodox Christians celebrate this as the day of the baptism of Jesus.

There is a moment, in the baptism story, when the Spirit of the Holy One appears in the form of a dove and speaks to those gathered, saying, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” My prayer for you, for me, for all of us in this coming year, is our significant dawnings and discoveries may be accompanied by the absolute shining certainty that we are the Beloved Children of the Universe. That the One who watches us, who wings above us, who blows through us, who shines light into our confusion and grief and fear, is well pleased with us. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that this is true, but it is sometimes hard to hold onto. You are Beloved.


Here’s my Dream and Meditation Soup from the Dreamtime. I’m organizing them by character, symbol, theme, and word:
1. Rhiannon, Epona, Kingfishers, the Madwoman in the Attic, the Ferryman, crossing-Maker, two-faced people
2. Bridge, Boundary, Shadow
3. Crossing, grief, solitude (privacy), sufficiency (insufficiency), resistance
4. Maferefun (Praise be!), Sawabona (I see you)

For the coming year, the three words that I will carry with me:
Bridge, Boundary, Wing

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for kingfishers this year.


Yesterday, my Beloved friend Mara asked her friends to write Epiphany poems. Because of its association with the Three Magi, I wrote my poem about the legend of La Befana, sometimes called the Witch of Christmas, because she flies around the world on her broom searching for the Child of Promise. When the wise ones stopped at her door on their journey to find Holy Child, they invited her to join their caravan, but she was too busy with her own concerns. The moment their dust disappeared in the distance, she regretted her choice, and ever since then, she searches. Sometimes she gives children sweets.

La Befana: The Epiphany Witch

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.
Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to. I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and besom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies on my broom,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitude:
1. The search for the Dawning
2. Bridges, even when they’re rickety and dangerous
3. Boundaries. I don’t believe in political walls. I do know that to preserve my own sanity in the coming year, I have to develop stronger boundaries within me between the working self and the creative self. I need to know myself separate from my work and not defined by my specific work identity.
4. Wings. Flight. Seeing things from new perspectives.
5. Knowing myself a Beloved child of the Universe.

May we walk in Beauty, Beloved Children of the Great Mystery.


Words for the Holy Aha!
“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” —Maya Angelou


“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” —Phil Ochs


“The sense-making in poetry is about getting behind the brain. A poem is a door. Sometimes poets make sturdy, locked, exclusive club doors that you can only enter if you are one of ‘us,’ or if you can speak (or pretend to know) the password. A really good and satisfying poem is an open and inviting doorway that frames the view in a particularly compelling way. ‘Look!’ it says. ‘Stand and stare. Take a deep breath. Then tell me what you see.’

“Good poetry, I think, holds a paradoxical perspective on language itself: it acknowledges the inadequacy of words to completely map an inner geography, and it also steps with reverence and awe into the sacred space that language creates between writer and reader. Words are both inadequate and holy.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014


“Where does despair fit in? Why is our pain for the world so important? Because these responses manifest our interconnectedness. Our feelings of social and planetary distress serve as a doorway to systemic social consciousness. To use another metaphor, they are like a ‘shadow limb.’ Just as an amputee continues to feel twinges in the severed limb, so in a sense do we experience, in anguish for homeless people or hunted whales, pain that belongs to a separated part of our body—a larger body than we thought we had, unbounded by our skin. Through the systemic currents of knowing that interweave our world, each of us can be the catalyst or ‘tipping point’ by which new forms of behavior can spread. There are as many different ways of being responsive as there are different gifts we possess. For some of us it can be through study or conversation, for others theater or public office, for still others civil disobedience and imprisonment. But the diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious.” —Joanna Macy


Why Are Your Poems So Dark?
by Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?
And doesn’t the white page
seem unfinished
without the dark stain
of alphabets?
When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.
Instead he invented
ebony and crows
and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.
Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”
Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.


“In a time that would have us believe there is always more to strive for, more to accumulate, more enlightenment to reach – the most radical stance we can take is enoughness.
What if we quit trying to be spiritual and aspired to be human instead?
What if there is nothing to fix because we are already whole?
What if there was no time to prove ourselves, because we’re consumed with marveling at life?
What if there is no reason to hold back our gifts, because they are meant to be given?
What if every morsel, every glance, every moment and every breath is a miracle of enough?” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Into the Dark: December 1

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, a claustrophobic pressure in my soul. The darkness begins to feel overwhelming, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously contend with the darkness, to ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, when we proclaim the light really and truly returned, I will set it down here on the blog. Knowing how the season hits me, I will give myself permission for some minimal days, a sentence or two, or soothing words from another poet or writer instead of my own. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

The first panic rises
when the days begin to dwindle,
when the darkness fills the afternoons,
and each day-cycle offers less light.

At first, I cannot make peace with darkness,
cannot move, cannot stop moving,
cannot rest for the restlessness.

In the last month, the dark has become
something like a living creature,
a dragon or a bear that pursues me
down the tunnel of the year.

So. First, we feel the panic,
name the restlessness,
sit with the great bear of darkness,
no matter how restless,
no matter how afraid,
no matter how filled with dread.

As the dark surrounds my soul
and presses into the light-filled rooms,
I will ask its name, and listen
for the words it has to teach me.

Today, I think the name is insufficiency.
Within myself, I fear I do not have reserves
of patience, or goodness, or strength,
of time, or will, or energy
to make it through. Insufficiency
is an ache in my bones, a rodent
gnawing in the back of my brain.

The trick I am trying is simply to sit
with the names that come,
not to deny the ugliness or fear.
I will not end this with an affirmation
that denies the reality of the feeling.

Today, I will meet only one goal,
and then perhaps I will find the strength
for another, and another.
I will find the inner resources
for a single task at a time.


Today’s Gratitude:
Yesterday, due to some schedule changes, I had an ad hoc study period with students who are not usually in my classes. After lunch, a spirited group came laughing into my room to ask me to settle a silly argument. They pointed to a blue circle on a package of gummy fruit. “What is this this?” they demanded. When I said I was sure it was a blueberry, giggles erupted. Some said blueberry, some said grape.

It was a good-humored debate among a group of four girls from different places in the world: Bahrain, US/Russia, China, and Belize. One of them has a sign language interpreter. They weren’t ignoring their differences or trying to be all the same–they were reveling in their differences, finding delight in each other and in their difference of perception.

We just kept up the conversation for the rest of the period, and two others came in just after, and joined, these two from Ethiopia. The playful conversation grew and expanded, and soon someone was asking these two what it was like to be twins, and everyone was sharing stories.

I know that we don’t always meet our goals to be as inclusive as we want to be. We still have separation of race and ethnicity and social class and identity at our lunchroom tables, but we do break through. We do expand beyond our little circles. We have times of totally un-self-conscious openness when we delight in our stories together.

Gratitudes, Musings

Making It Matter

My word for this year will be Matter. Matter, the primal stuff, the essence, the source. Matter, from mater, which is mother, which is source. What matters? What manifests? What incarnates and comes into being? Matter is that which is of consequence, of significance, of importance. Material, substance, that which has form.

My work for the year is to take the idea and make it real, to materialize it, to manifest it, to enmatter it. The work of the year will matter: it will be important, it will manifest, it will go from idea to reality.

The dreams that have accompanied me this month have been about approaching with curiosity ideas and tasks which make me uncomfortable, about stepping with courage into the work that approaches.

There was the dream about the young Ellegua who beckoned me to wide green field where we greeted a flock of vultures. Their feathers were surprisingly soft.

There was the dream about the three girls (Graces? Goddesses? Muses?) who led me forward, and laughed kindly at my timidity.

There was the dream where I was told two times (and very distinctly): “This is how you will begin to do battle with the big lie.” And then there was no further direction. How? How am I to battle the lie?

There was a dream about bears which turned themselves into trees. And then the trees turned into birds and flew away.

There was the dream of a blue sky and some sort of hazy philosophical discussion, and someone gesturing around the vast bowl of blue, “It all makes sense, unless you factor in the Goddess. If you add the Goddess to the mix, it all becomes a mystery.”

What a hodgepodge of ideas and images! They’ll be in my toolbox as I contemplate what it means to make the ideas matter in the coming season.

Do you choose a word or a phrase or an idea or image to accompany into the New Year? How do you find it?


Gratitude List:
1. Good movies. We watched Amal last night on Netflix. We hadn’t heard of it, but Jon was looking through the Rotten Tomatoes movies with 100% ratings and found it. I concur with the rating. It was simply sweet, and deeply profound, like an excellent short story. You should watch it, too.
2. A lovely quiet day with Joss yesterday. It was just the two of us, playing games and reading. My voice is hoarse from reading.
3. The house is still clean. I can still think.
4. Dreams that light the way.
5. Blue skies and mystery.

May we walk in Beauty!


“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
—Zora Neale Hurston
***
I see her walking
on a path through a pathless forest
or a maze, a labyrinth.
As she walks, she spins
and the fine threads fall behind her
following her way,
telling
where she is going,
telling
where she has gone.
Telling the story.
The line, the thread of voice,
the sentences saying the way.
—Ursula K. Le Guin (from “The Writer On, and At, Her Work)

Gratitudes, Musings

Give Yourself to Love

roots

Another year has dawned, Bright Ones! And of course time is a human construct. Where we begin to count its passage on this Wheel of the Year is utterly arbitrary. I like how it has come to be that we create a passage, a doorway in time, here in this place of winter, just after we have swung around the sun again and begun to whirl in toward Equinox. I love the Days Out of Time marked by the twelve or fifteen days of Solstice or Christmas to Epiphany. I revel in the dreamtime of these days.

I have been mining my dreams again for the word or phrase that I will take into this year. Several years ago, I woke up one morning with the word Palimpsest in my head. It became my word for the year, the idea that we live in layers, simultaneously experiencing the past and the present. The next year was Bridge. The next, Mystery and Secrets and Impeccability. And last year’s phrase was Bold Wise Counsel. Ooh. That was important. What will be my word for this year, I wonder? I have begun to wait until the Dreamtime of Twelvenight is officially over on Epiphany, so I will give myself these next five nights to settle. I think because we celebrated Epiphany Sunday at church this morning, I am particularly impatient this year.

Join me? Keep particular watch on your dreams (daydreams, too) and conversations in the coming days. What images keep coming back? What songs present themselves? What names keep surfacing in conversation? Be like the Magi, who followed their intuition and a star through the dark nights to seek their truth. What will be your words and images for 2017?

Here is a poem I wrote in 2015 about the impatience and the anticipation of seeking out the word or idea that I will use to shape and mold my story for the coming year:

Waiting for the Dreams
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

While I wait for the dreams to be complete
while I sit at the feet of winter
listening

waiting for the little bell to ring
for the sound of rushing wings
for the things born in darkness
to take form
to rise up–

while a vulture flies across my window
red root and plantain nourish and heal me
a lynx crouches by a granite outcrop in the meadow
the storyteller raises her voice in a chant of longing
and a silent girl turns the corner ahead of me

I sit down to work
and sleep overtakes me:
One more vision for the road
One more message for the journey

Gratitude List:
1. Give Yourself to Love. What a song. I loved Mindy and Jared’s version this morning.
2. The Magi–colorful, messy outsiders who followed their intuition and a star: What a story about stepping into the unknown dark to seek their truth with only the stars and their intuition to guide. Mindy’s tales of magi this morning: Giving, Resisting, and Being Honest.
3. Dinner with the family, reflecting on the ways in which our parents have inspired us, considering–in their presence–some of the legacy they have given us: noticing beauty, advocacy, mentoring others, using their own voices to empower others. The story of Grandpa wanting to send my mother to college, how Uncle Moses and Aunt Lydia told him to send her to EMC, which is where she met my father. The story of Joe Shenk introducing them, and of their first “date.” How series of decisions come together to make a story happen.
4. Those vultures, sunsheen on their black feathers, kettling above Columbia this morning.
5. An afternoon with my college friends. Dear, dear thoughtful people. There’s never enough time together, and yet even a few hours is satisfying. What a profound blessing it is to have friends who are family.

May we walk in Beauty!

Poems

Waiting for the Dreams

Each year, during the long nights between Winter Solstice and Epiphany, I carefully watch the dreams and pictures that appear to me, gleaning ideas and images that might be helpful to me in the coming year.  This year I am impatient.  I have been cataloging my list for the past two weeks and I want to solidify it and crystallize it.  But it’s also delightful to anticipate what these last few nights might show, so I will wait, and perhaps nudge some of my list into a poem:

While I wait for the dreams to be complete
while I sit at the feet of winter
listening

waiting for the little bell to ring
for the sound of rushing wings
for the things born in darkness
to take form
to rise up–

while a vulture flies across my window
red root and plantain nourish and heal me
a lynx crouches by a granite outcrop in the meadow
the storyteller raises her voice in a chant of longing
and a silent girl turns the corner ahead of me

I sit down to work
and sleep overtakes me:
One more vision for the road
One more message for the journey