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.

Seeking Blue


One of my ponderings, as I travel from place to place each day, is to meditate on the colors of blue, to try to identify various blues in the sky and the shadows. Even in my dreams, I am seeking blue, collecting moments of blue. In last night’s dream:

I am sitting on a grassy patch at the edge of a large parking lot, waiting for my friend who has gone to go collect some things from the car. There is a large smoky white cat purring on my lap. I am wearing a long blue dress, almost the color of Mary’s robes. My friend comes running up, her arms laden with packages, but she has one hand sort of free to hold a pair of binoculars.

“There!” she says, dropping her packages, and pointing down the hill behind me, where crowds of people are walking about. She focuses her binoculars. “You have to see it! She’s wearing the perfect blue!”

I look where she is pointing, and everyone is wearing blue, and some of them are exquisite. She tells me to look for a woman with a brown jacket on. And then I see it. Her dress is the perfect blue. It’s a little lighter than I have been imagining it, not quite as saturated as I have thought it would be. I wonder for a moment if the woman in the dress is Mary.


“Between us are vast distances, perhaps,
as vast as star to star and galaxy to galaxy,
or as blade of grass to blade of grass,
atom to atom–each space bridged
by gossamer web, threads of light and wind,
of prayer and dream, holding us together
with such beauty, with such insatiable desire
for the point of connection.”  ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?
How much have I put
on the line for freedom?
For mine and others?
As these freedoms are pared,
sliced and diced, where
have I spoken out? Who
have I tried to move?” ―Marge Piercy
*
“Before I am your daughter, your sister, your aunt, niece, or cousin, I am my own person, and I will not set fire to myself to keep you warm.” ―Hannah-Joy Robinson
*
“God is everywhere, but I have been in a lot of churches where God wasn’t really welcome.” ―found on FB
*
“People say you only live once. That’s incorrect. You only die once. You live every day.”  ―John Feal
*
“If we are to have a culture as resilient and competent in the face of necessity as it needs to be, then it must somehow involve within itself a ceremonious generosity toward the wilderness of natural force and instinct. The farm must yield a place to the forest, not as a wood lot, or even as a necessary agricultural principle but as a sacred grove – a place where the Creation is let alone, to serve as instruction, example, refuge; a place for people to go, free of work and presumption, to let themselves alone.” ―Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
*
In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


Gratitude List:
1. Whispers of fog caught like dreams in the trees of Flinchbaugh’s orchard.
2. The golden shift into autumn has begun to happen. There’s a diffuse golden quality to the light again, a way that the sun slants in, that I don’t experience as fully at any other moment in the year.
3. Sleep. This is big. Lately, my hips and shoulders always ache when I wake up, but it has been a long time since I have had a bout of insomnia. I hope I didn’t jinx this run by saying it. It’s really a big deal that, despite the aches, I keep managing to find my way back to sleep when I wake up.
4. The colors of blue
5. It’s pawpaw season. I need to find some. I can taste them already.

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding Your Fire

Today’s poem is for several of my friends, women of strength and courage, who inspire me with their continued dogged pursuit of the truth of their own voices: When no one seems to be listening; when others actively deny and twist their truth; when they doubt their own courage. They keep walking, keep speaking, keep wrestling. May they find their fire.

My lovely wanderer, my lonely pilgrim,
I have watched how you place your feet
so gingerly on the burning coals,
walking this pathway you never intended.

I have heard how you wrapped yourself
with the voice of the wind, and raged, like Lear,
in the cruel embrace of the storm.
I would have been your Fool in that lightning.

I have witnessed you wrestle the truth
from the burning jaws of the dragon,
standing your ground when no ground
seemed there to support you.

Oh Friend, may your voice be born of the flames,
may your spirit enkindle and blaze up,
born from the pain and the truth
you have bought with your grace and your courage.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Ah, well isn’t this just about perfect? Today the Fool found her fire. Tomorrow, she learns about Strength. Not the strength which is synonymous with force and violence, not strength which shows itself in the vilest threats, with the biggest bomb, with the fiercest snarl. This is the strength that knows itself, the power that calms the raging lion and gently closes its mouth, the protester who places a flower in the barrel of a gun, the lone figure in front of the tank on Tiananmen Square, the tulips that emerge after the late March snowstorm.

Gratitude List:
1. Berkeley Breathed
2. Another osprey. Yup. Four in a week.
3. Bleeding Hearts. All sorts.
4. Finding Fire
5. You. You have such strength and courage. You inspire me.

May we walk in Beauty!

Breath

It is time for another poem about breathing:
How you draw the air into your lungs,
so deeply, you feel it ready to escape
the bruised soles of your feet.

In-spire–draw the spirit inside you,
the breathing living breath, invite
breath, that wanderer, into your being,
feel it lapping at the southerly shores
of your lungs, filling the balloon of your belly.

The secret of breathing is the letting go.
You must never hoard inspiration. It dies
the moment it is chained or kept.
Let go. Breathe out. Breathe in again.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Find your fire tomorrow, Fool. What burns within you? What passion ignites your spirit?

Gratitude List:
1. Wednesdays must be Osprey and Eagle days. This afternoon’s spectacle was on the way home from Liza’s house: An adult and a juvenile eagle, two ospreys, and a red-tailed hawk. Feels like portents and omens.
2. Deadnettle is still purpling the fields and the willows are getting jiggy.
3. Redbuds bursting into bloom
4. Watching Mama goose watching Papa Cardinal in the green bush
5. Ferns are unfurling. I think I might also be unfurling. Maybe you are unfurling, too?

May we walk in Beauty!