Happy Earth Day!

“The earth, the air, the fire, the water: Return, return, return, return. . .” –Libana song

Contemplative Research Journey for Earth Day:
Contemplate the earth you walk, right in your yard, your neighborhood, your town.
If you can, put your bare feet on earth today.
Think about the people who were here before your, and before them.
Do you know who were the indigenous peoples who lived on and hunted and farmed and fished on the land where you stand?
What do you know of the soil and the rocks and minerals of your place?
What feeds the life of the place where you are?

Contemplate the plants of your neighborhood.
Can you name three trees? Five? Twenty?
Who is in bud now? Who is in bloom?
There is so much more than grass in the grass. Do you know the names of all the plantfolk who provide the green carpets you walk on?

Contemplate the wingfolk and the four-footed people who share this space with you.
Can you tell one shining bird from the other?
Can you differentiate their calls?
Can you see evidence of the night wanderers?
Who might be visiting your yards and gardens and alleyways while you sleep?
And the tiny insect people that try so hard to live inside our houses.
Have you watched them make webs, tend to their own business, seek the dark spaces?

What about the waters of your place?
Where does it come from and where does it go?
If you have wild water running near you, take some time today to trail your fingers through it.

Touch earth. Touch water. Touch bark.
Listen for the messages in birdsong.
Smell the rising spring.
Breathe wind. Take ten deep outside breaths.
Greet the Beings of your place with love and gratitude.


Gratitude List:
1. The guarddogwoods are beginning to bloom. Even though I no longer hang poetic laundry on their branches, I always feel like poetry itself is blooming when they start to throw pink at the sun.
2. Wangari Maathai, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg, Berta Caceres–and all the fierce and joyful activists around the world whom they represent.
3. The many Beings of Skunk Hollow. The shine and the flutter. The wafting and the whoosh. The verdancy. The brilliance.
4. Golda’s Lake and Goldfinch Creek and Ezilie’s Spring and Cabin Creek and the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Bay.
5. The promise of a new way. The hope of change.

May we walk, so joyfully, in Beauty!


Earth Day Words:
“The world is, in truth, a holy place.” —Teilhard de Chardin


“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” —Henry David Thoreau


“You are your own cartographer now.” —Ralph Blum


“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“Every creature is a word of God.” ―Meister Eckhart


“The forest for me is a temple, a cathedral of tree canopies and dancing light.” ―Dr. Jane Goodall


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” ―The Onceler (Dr. Seuss)


“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ―Rachel Carson


William Stafford: “I place my feet with care in such a world.”


“A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.” ―John Sawhill


Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ―Rachel Carson


“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.” ―Rachel Carson


“Few words are so revealing of Western sexual prejudice as the word Goddess, in contrast to the word God. Modern connotations differ vastly from those of the ancients, to whom the Goddess was a full-fledged cosmic parent figure who created the universe and its laws, ruler of Nature, Fate, Time, Eternity, Truth, Wisdom, Justice, Love, Birth, Death, Etc.” ―Barbara G. Walker


“Our vitality is inextricably bound up with creativity. Like a tree whose expression is fruit, giving our gifts is what keeps life pushing through our veins. It’s what keeps us feeling alive. As anyone who has strayed too far from their creativity knows, without it every corner of one’s life can fall prey to a terrible greying spread. As Kahlil Gibran writes about trees in an orchard, “They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —by Toko-pa Turner

Advent 10: Where Is Your Fire?

Here’s an image this morning of a tiny origami dragon, a reminder that we carry our fire within us as well as without. On that first day walking into this labyrinth, we checked our batteries, checked our fuel for the journey inward, for the lamps and lights that we carry. I have been feeling your fire, your warmth. I’ve been seeing the glimmer and twinkle of your light as we walk together down these dark passages.

Outwardly, my fire can seem pretty weak in December. I sleep a lot. I forget things. I find myself getting dreamy and vague. But inside, I am curling around my inner fire, like a bear or a rabbit or a chipmunk in winter, who curls itself around its heart core to keep the warmth inside. If you feel like your fire is disappearing, it might just be that you need to curl up around it, focus inward on the way it shines and warms, and rest.

Speaking of dreaming, I hd a most amazing dream last night, about driving through a little village with massive trees on either side of the road. The leaves were yellowed, and the branches were gnarled and curling. from the ends of the branches hung thousands of red and yellow fruits. Eventually we were walking beneath the trees, which hung down over the village like archways. People would just reach up and grb a fruit when they needed it.

What you need is there for you, if you just reach out your hand.


Envisioning:

(At the beginning of Advent, my pastor 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.)

I think today of the youth activists combatting the climate crisis, how they speak up, how they stay on task, how they avoid attacking those who attack them, but relentlessly (there’s that word again) speak the truth of their message over and over again. They don’t let themselves get caught in the culture war that their elders keep trying to pull them into. They simply tell the story, again and again and again. They hold the truth of their vision without taking up the sword.

Combustible Child

I was a little obsessed yesterday with the way the sun shone through the wine and water glasses.

In the dream, there is a combustible child, who is likely at any moment to burst into flame: hair, chest, shins on fire. I am the child, running to escape a mob of children. Their fear and their curiosity and their rage torment me. I just want to be alone, so I can burn in peace. I burn, but I am not harmed. But my fire can burn the buildings of the town, and the trees.

Also I am a child in the mob. I run with the others, trying to catch the combustible child. I want to protect him. I know that some of the others mean to kill him, and I want to be the first to find him, to warn him, to help him. But he is always ahead of us.

We are in the labyrinthine passages beneath an old mill building. I am the child, running and hiding, afraid the light of my burning will show the children where I am. I am also seeking the child, fearful that he will hurt himself, or burn the building down, but mostly that the other children will hurt him.

I have found a way to the roof of the old mill. The others are still mostly down in the underground passages. The building is wood, but it is not burning beneath me, although other buildings have burned in the past. Down below, I am a child in the mob; I hear two children talking. They have discovered one of the secrets of the combustible child: “I think he was the one we thought had drowned there in the lake. Remember?” I have to find the combustible child and warn him.

(I welcome comments and thoughts about my dreams. I don’t feel comfortable with the “Your dream means” sort of interpretations, but speculative and conjectural comments and questions are better for helping me to think through what might be going on.)


Gratitude List:
1. How tears sometimes bless the receiver of tears. Sharing emotion, like sharing bread.
2. Laughing with loved ones
3. Pumpkin coconut pie, venison pie, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake pie
4. Sweet soft cat. I’m a little grumpy because Thor was chasing Sachs all around the house, thumpily and hissily. I could not get him to stop. I came downstairs to the recliner, hoping it would distract him, and I could get back to sleep. No. I held him and gave him a lecture about chasing kitties. No. Every time I settled down to sleep, he was off and thundering. The minute I turned on the light and picked up the laptop, he jumped up beside me, rolled onto his back, and fell into a deep sleep. Sigh. And am I grouchy? No, I just love this soft warm breathing presence beside me. I’ll nap later.
5. Belonging. I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.

May we walk in Beauty!

Combustible

On these November days, instead of writing a daily poem, as I have for most of the past eight Novembers, I am writing short pieces of prose: fiction, meditation, dream. This morning’s piece was simply a telling of last night’s dream:

Combustible

The hillsides are covered with loosely growing trees, not quite close enough to be woods, and yet woods, for all that. Some places are woodsy enough that no sky shows through, though there is space enough between to see through them down the hillside to where the paths curve and separate. To the east, the trees open out toward bare grassy hillside and the smell of the sea. In the shade at the edges of the wood, three tidy white-washed Baba Yaga huts stand on stilts in a sandy courtyard, and further off, beyond the first grassy hill, smoke rises from a little village.

The trees are sinewy and resinous, Mediterannean, not pine—more like laurel, if laurel were thirty feet tall. The trunks are thin and many-branched, but open, and the leaves are mostly at the crowns, letting light filter magically through. All is green and blue and twinkling golden. Though there are no people, there is the sense of people, the presence of people doing people things.

In your head, a soundtrack starts to play, a woman’s voice talking about a sudden and catastrophic event, how one moment one notices the short bursts of steam rising from individual trees, curiously taking in the strange phenomenon, and then, suddenly, the whole wood will combust, not a long-burning, raging conflagration, but a whoosh of fire that’s there one moment, and in the next is gone, leaving bare and charred hillsides. You wonder why there are no signs to warn visitors off the paths. And then you notice the explosive bursts of mist and steam puffing from random trees on the hillside below you. Should you start to get nervous? If the voice is correct, it could happen at any moment. But you are entranced, curious, unable to give yourself to fear. You turn onto a path that leads up the hill toward the Baba Yaga courtyard, intending to explore the little huts, to see if anyone lives there. At the edge of the courtyard a long tube suddenly rises, like a cannon being aimed for a blast, and powerful jet of water bursts into the air, raining down on the little houses, raining down on you, sparkling through the sunlight, wetting the trees. Looking back the way you came, you can see several more of the water cannons discharging their spray through the groves and woods covering the lower hillsides.

You wander through the small village beyond the Baba Yaga houses, where people wander, eating foods from the markets, taking pictures beside the quiet houses, murmuring to each other. You look back over the hillsides where you have been wandering, and the trees have vanished. At the edge of the village, the green grass ends at bare soil. Everything is gone. Despite the water precautions, the woods and pathways are gone. An enormous yellow bulldozer rumbles over the destroyed land.


Gratitude List:
1. Dreams and their messages
2. Many sources of light
3. The lull after the grading storm. There’s so much more to do, but after a weekend of fierce grading, I took a break last night and rested.
4. The line of orange light along the horizon at dawn
5. New England clam chowder when it is made well

May we walk in Beauty!

Rescuing Cassandra

Hear the story of Cassandra: She longed to serve the goddess Athena, to give herself to wisdom and law, to craft and mathematics, to courage and strategy and skill. Athena offered her a life filled with the tools and the skills of her own empowerment, her own scholarship. In Athena’s worship, she could follow the trails of her own curiosity and speak the truths she encountered.
Enter Apollo. As patriarchs so often are, he grew jealous of the woman’s devotion to the women’s ways, fearful of truths spoken that issued from sources not under his control. He offered Cassandra music and poetry, promised her the gift of prophecy if only she would serve him instead, a beautiful bird in his golden cage, there to do his bidding and sing his songs instead of her own. Safe. But the safety he promised was his, for her inner knowing, her self-assurance threatened the ego that wanted control of everything. The wisdom of women was mysterious to him, and the mystery disconcerted him and terrified.
So he cursed her. Although she refused him, still he gave her the gift of prophecy he had offered, and she would always speak true. Her voice would ring out in the marketplace, telling the story of what was to be. But the curse was this: her voice would not be heeded. As happens in the belly of any patriarchy, the woman’s voice was ignored and discounted. Old wives’ tales! they scoffed. Cassandra is making things up, looking for attention. Pay her no mind.
And the fire she saw and spoke of engulfed the city. The mercenaries and looters and kidnappers swarmed the streets as she had foreseen. They broke the ten-year siege, and overthrew the city. Cassandra herself became a pawn of the men in their men’s war, a tool of their scheming.
Heed Cassandra, Friends. Listen to her words. Perhaps we can yet rescue her from Apollo’s clutches.


Gratitude List:
1. The Cassandras who will not be silenced, who speak even when threatened, even when they are ignored.
2. Circles of beloveds.
3. Speaking it out loud. Telling the story that itches to get out.
4. The magic of wind and water, fire and air. Everywhere we look, there is magic.
5. Lights at the ends of tunnels.

May we speak our Truth.

Holy Goose

The Advent of the Holy Goose
Pentecost 2019

I could have sworn there were teeth on that bird,
how She came roaring into the room,
wings wide, neck cast toward us like an arrow,
hissing, engulfing us with feathers and fire.

No gentle dove, She.
No quiet candle flame
setting the saintly halos aglow.

We were herded by holiness,
dented by Her divinity,
shaken, awakened–that beak
breaking us open.
We shattered, pieces
scattering the floor,
the fire pouring through us
as the wind spilled in the door.

Voices Made of Fire

If you could trust your voice completely,
if you didn’t have to consider how how others would respond,
if you didn’t have to be safe, to be tame, to be docile and
humble, acceptable and charming and quiet,
if you had not been trained to make your words
into an easy chair, to turn your voice to honey:
What would you say?

Will You Answer the Call of Love?

A shadow is a kind of reflection.

Today’s Prompt is to write a correspondence poem. Mine will be about the elemental correspondences with the cardinal directions.

In the east, the birds are singing the day awake,
the breezes whisper through the branches,
and all the bells are ringing.
Inspiration flies in on golden wings.
Weave, spin, and cut the threads
with a two-edged blade of finest silver.
What is being born in you?

To the south, the sun is burning,
and that which came to you as woven light
begins to kindle and flame up.
Life force surges all around you,
and you feel your own fires rising.
Nurture the burning within you.
What is calling you to dance?

In the west, the creeks and brooks
tumble over stones and sand and clay,
on their way to rivers and bays and oceans.
Now is the time to listen to your heart,
to flow with the feelings that stream
through you and around you.
What is the message of your heart?

To the north, the wolves are howling,
where caves are hidden in the boulders.
The roots of things travel fathoms deep,
and earth is a solid base for your footsteps.
Your body is your home, and you must tend it,
listening for echoes from within the earth herself.
What holds and supports you?

Move to the center and feel the spirit swirling,
the place where wind and flame,
water and stone meet and quicken,
where animating breath meets life force,
where heart meets head, and stone becomes flesh,
and the Beloved calls you to Become.
Will you answer the call of Love?

That Which Claims Us All

Brewer’s Poetic Asides Prompt today is to write a prediction poem:

Who could have predicted that flame?
On the same day water took the Titanic,
who could guess that fire would claim
the cathedral of Our Lady?

Or that the mosque on thrice-holy Temple Mount
would on the same day see its courtyard catching fire?
We want our works to last forever, our ships unsinkable,
our mosques and temples and cathedrals
proof against the ages, against the ravages of time.

We weep for beauty and reverence lost,
tossed by water, by flame, into the void.
And we stand, unified in our common horror,
to gasp at the falling spire, to sing in the face
of that which claims us all in the end.

Jettisoning

Last night, I made this (perhaps) rather rash statement about my intentions for the Season of Brigid, this Lent: “That’s it then: Every day during Lent, I will jettison one physical item that keeps me from living a full interior life. Clutter tends to imprison my spirit, and this Lent will be about freeing myself from some of the bondage of my stuff. One thing a day for the season that takes us to Easter and Ostara, filling the whole season of Brigid with clearing and Cleansing.”

During the Season of Brigid, the six weeks from Imbolc (February 2) to Ostara (Spring Equinox), I like to focus on cleansing and cleaning and clearing. Brigid asks for focus and commitment; lightening the burden of the physical clutter helps me to keep my focus on my inner work.

Similarly, the work of Lent (which falls in the same season) is to give up our attachment to the things and addictions that keep us from focusing on the inner work, on the path of Love.

I like the word “jettison” that I used there. I think it might become my theme-word for the season. It feels a little drastic, like perhaps the ship is sinking. Although I don’t feel that sort of desperation, I like the sense that it lightens the burden, lets the boat float higher in the water.

Today’s objects to let go are my four brass candlesticks. I have kept them on top of Grandma Weaver’s glass-fronted cabinet, where they have slowly been tarnishing and gathering dust in the years we have lived in this house. Since we have had children, we rarely burn candles, for fear of tipping and burning. They belong to an earlier stage of my life, one that I let go with joy as I continue to live into the next stages of being a mother. First Baby now has a startling peach-fuzz mustache. I suppose I’ve become a little dusty and tarnished, too, in the years of that transformation.

As I carried the candlesticks out to the giveaway box, they rang against each other, and made such sweet music, I almost returned them to their shelf for the joy it gave me. But no, someone else will polish them and love them and treasure them, music and shine and shimmer and all.