Holding the Boundaries

Art by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI. Brightwing Tarot.

I’m trying not to engage in too wide-ranging a re-interpretation of the cards as I find my way through the Fool’s Wanderings in the tarot, so I want to be careful with cards like this one, which I have always found unsettling. The Fool leaves the arms of the nurturing Earth in the Empress/Matrix card, and now meets the Emperor. As I meditate on the meaning of this card and what the Fool needs to learn here, I find the martial and domineering nature of the Emperor to crunch too intensely against my own notions of peace and justice.

The Emperor is the boundary-setter, putting their own Will into the world and establishing the edges. Rather than interpreting this card as the selfish and greedy conquest of a power-hungry patriarch, I look at this boundary-setting as an incredibly important moment in the Fool’s learning process, when they realize they, too, deserve justice and respect. In my own recent crisis, I find that I must make a stop here in the land of The Protector (whom I might end up calling The Boundary-Setter), and relearn how to re-member my own boundaries, how to shore up the walls of my garden, and say, “This far, and no further. Here is my limit.”

And it IS a re-learning and a re-membering. It’s never a once and done thing. This Fool that is me has been here in this place before, learning about boundaries and protection of my insides. I thought I had completely aced this lesson in the past. Yet I find myself here again. Again. The assault on my inner realm this time has been more intense than I could have previously imagined. Time to re-learn this lesson. With the Emperor/Protector/Boundary-Setter, I say, “I will protect myself. I will hold fast to my inner truth and not feel shame.”

And this one pairs so beautifully with the work of The Matrix, in this case a binary pairing that dances together to form a deeper complexity. The life force of The Matrix is free of boundaries and rule-setting, and the soul force of The Protector creates healthy and safe boundaries. Too much of one or the other, and the Fool will lose her balance.

And how can I truly create brave and safe where others can feel belonging if I cannot protect my own inner world? One thing that the traditional Emperor does not seem to know how to do is to ask for help. I’m grateful to add that layer to my version of the card. This Protector knows how to ask for help in times of breached walls.

Here is my Emperor poem from several years ago. I find that it’s one of those moments when my own voice from the past has something to say to the me of the moment:

Setting the Intention
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I will.
That should fill
the task list of the day.
Just say,
“I will.”

Then make that happen.
Make your will into a thing
Let it sing.
Give it ground.

Cast your boundaries around you:
east and south and west and north.
Go forth
and do your will.


Gratitude List:
1. Blue grosbeak. I know he makes my gratitude list every day now, but really, the sun twinkling off the deep cerulean of his feathers is such a revelation! I feel like Mother Mary is tapping me on the shoulder every time I see him. Such a Blue!
2. Safe and protected spaces, and the people who rush to help shore up the walls when they’ve been breached.
3. Father Richard Rohr’s words today on symbolic language for the journey of faith. I felt like he’d been watching my own story somehow. Powerful synchronicity.
4. Reclaiming my place.
5. So many Beloveds. You and you and you. Twice this past weekend, I met people in the flesh whom I have only known online, and I was so blessed to know and see their beauty in the real world. I can be really socially awkward, especially right now, but I love this sort of encounter! Balm to my soul.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

Mater and Matrix

So, the Fool has embarked upon adventure–unprepared but winsomely present to each moment on the road–has learned the elemental mysteries of the universe from the Medium, and has studied wisdom and lore from the Secret Keeper. The next two characters the Fool meets are usually called The Empress and The Emperor. By renaming the Empress Matrix, I haven’t actually managed to entirely pull this character out of the gender binary, for matrix is the source, the womb from which we are born, the fertile Earth, the rock bed on which crystals are formed. This is the birth-giver, the bringer of life: fecund, nurturing, fruitful, generative. The German word mater, from which we get the word mother, comes from the Latin matrix.

This Matrix, unlike Neo’s computer simulation, is the source of all life, the life force that pushes dandelions through concrete and pulls forth the greening of the spring, draws forth the flower, and brings flower to fruit. Then the Matrix locks up that life force into the hard shell of the seed to begin the cycle all over again.

After acquiring knowledge and power from Medium and Secret Keeper, the Fool must take time to grow, and to carefully observe the cycles of life, to feel the Life Force that feeds the Fool’s own self. The Fool learns to tend and nurture life force in the presence of the Matrix.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about The Empress:

Message from the Empress
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.


The Matrix/Empress has no time for rule-making about bodies. Here is where the Fool learns about Embodiment, about Being a Body. Unlike certain strains of Buddhism and Christianity that stress transcending or mortifying the body in order to reach enlightenment or purity, The Matrix knows that the body is pure and right and holy. “Your body is a temple,” we were told in Sunday School, and were expected to hide and contain and control it. “Your body is a temple,” says The Matrix, “and it is meant to be celebrated and inhabited and experienced.”

How do you experience life in a body? Is it painful? Uncomfortable? Shameful? Joyful? Ecstatic? Primal? What meditations and movements, what breathing and noticing, can you do to more fully experience the deep sense of belonging in a body?


Gratitude List:
1. People who get it, who understand your story even when you need to speak around silent spaces. People who See you even when you feel like parts of you have become invisible.
2. Textile arts, particularly crocheting and knitting–how amazing that we can take one or two little sticks, and a piece of string, and make such amazing things? Knot and twist. There’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?
3. Wood thrushes calling in the woods at Sam Lewis Park this evening.
4. Disc Golf. I didn’t play because we only have two sets of discs, but it was such a delight walking through the course as the boys played. Child 2 said to Child 1, “You’ll have to hurry up and get your license so we can do this whenever we want!”
5. Blue grosbeak, a constant visual presence at the feeder, and oriole, a constant aural presence in the holler.
May we walk in Beauty!


“If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.”
—Franz Wright


“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —attributed to Buddha and to Nelson Mandela


“Let fury have the hour.
Anger can be power.
D’you know that you can use it?”
–The Clash


“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”
― Junot Díaz


“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King


“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath

The Happy Medium

After setting out on the journey into the woods, or to the cliff’s edge, or through the deep and shadowy valley, the Fool encounters a series of individuals, wise mentors who offer the Fool help, advice, skills, and wisdom.

The first of these is traditionally called The Magician or Mage. I like the term Mage, because it reminds me of the three Magi of the legends that came from the “wise men from the east” who visited the Christ Child. I am also enamored of Madeleine L’Engle’s Happy Medium, who can see into the patterns of the cosmos. For now, I am calling this one the Medium. This advisor to the Fool has ready access to all the tools of water, earth, air, and fire, and has a deep spiritual capability to visualize the change they wish to see in the world, and then the inner fortitude to make it happen. The Mage or Medium doesn’t just let life happen to them; they happen to life. So the Fool, who has set out without any real planning or purpose other than adventure, receives here the training to develop a vision, to make a plan, to create what they want in the world.

I feel a little like I am the Fool seeking the Medium’s wisdom right now. How can I use the skills and tools that I have to draw to myself the Next Thing? How can I put my own thoughts and ideas into the world, envision a future, plan for what I want, and make it happen? All while maintaining the winsomeness of the Fool.


Here is a poem about Magic, for the Magician:

The Magic of Language
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Listen to the wisdom of the sage.
“What is language, but a kind of magic?
Here am I, in my own organism, my tower of Self,
and you there in your own lonely keep,
and how shall we bridge the gap between us
but by language? These webs of sound
we string together, we cast them through sky,
drawing out threads of meaning,
as with a wand, fiery threads of sense.

“We build this bridge on air,
scratch symbols on a page with feathers,
and stories flow like water between us,
borne on gossamer strands
of word on word on word.
We manage and tend our loneliness
by weaving cloths of language.
How can we find each other in the shadow
but for the flow of speech we offer
and the magic of these words upon the page?


Gratitude List:
1. Well duh! That was no indigo bunting! It was a blue grosbeak. I should have known that. I’ve seen and identified both in recent years. But my brain blipped, much as it does when it mistakenly equivocates unequivocable things in math-world. So yay! Blue Grosbeak!
2. I love Kindergarten! I love the stories. I love the shining eyes. I love the wiggliness. I love the dreaminess. I love the restfulness. I love Miss Nikki and Miss Abby, and I love being Miss Beth.
3. Putting Difficult Things behind me. No, I’m not going to start repressing Big Feelings, but you can only spend so long looking at the devastation of the wildfire before you start to clean up and replant and rebuild.
4. Foreacre Furfamily! We HAD to do something about the barn kittens yesterday. This is the second time a cat has given birth in the barn (that we know of). I think people drop off their cats at farms, and then the feral population burgeons. Last night we had a near tragedy involving some of the kittens and a mower, so we put out the call for someone to come take the kittens and the Foreacres responded! They have all five kittens safely cared for, and they even took the mama after we trapped her, so she can be fixed. I love people who care for animals.
5. Energy. Today is the first time in a long time that I haven’t felt a pressing need for a nap.
May we walk in Beauty!

*#4 is really a rant. Please DON’T abandon your animals at farms in the country. Yes, there are mice in the barn for a feral cat to eat, but there are also bird’s nests all over the woods, and baby bunnies, and we want to enjoy the birds and the bunnies. And when you abandon your cat, someone else will have to be responsible for dealing with the offspring, and for getting the animal fixed.


“The Word is not a pet. The Word is the wildness behind creation, the terror of a black hole, the atomic violence of burning hydrogen within a sun.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“I stand before what is with an open heart. And with an open heart, I dwell in possibility.” —Macrina Weiderkehr


“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
― Ida B. Wells-Barnett


“Somewhere in the world there is a treasure that has no value to anyone but you, and a secret that is meaningless to everyone except you, and a frontier that possesses a revelation only you know how to exploit. Go in search of those things.

Somewhere in the world there is a person who could ask you the precise question you need to hear in order to catalyze the next phase of your evolution. Do what’s necessary to run into that person.” —Rob Breszny


“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.” —Stephi Wagner


“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” ―George Orwell


“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, that person sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” —Robert F Kennedy


“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil it multiplies it.” —Martin Luther King Jr


“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” —Frederick Douglass


“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” ―Jane Goodall

The Fool’s Mission

Another poem about the Fool:

Begin at the End
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Begin your road at the ending,
as the last pathway rounds the bend.
Dance to the lip of the chasm–
place your foot upon a bridge of rainbow.
Keep your eyes upon the distant wood,
your ears tuned to the song of undine and dryad.

Remember, your road is a circle,
and everywhere you are is the start of your journey.
Your road is of water, of vision, of air,
of heartbeat, illusion, and wisdom
a pathway of fire and smoke.

Feel how the sky under your feet holds you up,
how the earth at your back is made only of dreams,
how the only way forward is light and color,
how a distant harping draws you onward.


Gratitude List:
1. Indigo Bunting at the feeder: Impossible blue
2. New endeavors. I’m heading off to kindergarten in a moment
3. Just now, half a minute after I typed #1, the Bunting flew straight to the window. I was terrified that he was going to crash into it, but he flew up and hovered and looked in at me for several wingbeats! Holy holy holy!
4. Orchard Oriole
5. Silence
May we walk in Beauty!


“No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” —Lupita Nyong’o


TO MAKE A PROMISE
by David Whyte

Make a place of prayer, no fuss,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you,
let your words join to the world
the way stone nestles on stone
the way the water simply leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.

Now, leave them to go on,
let your words alone
to carry their own life,
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith. Walk away.


“Feminism requires precisely what patriarchy destroys in women. Unimpeachable bravery in confronting male power.” —Andrea Dworkin


“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” —Brené Brown

Speaking Justice, Enacting Peace

Talking to myself. You may listen in:

Meet it All with Love
Have a care with your words.
Speak justice.
Speak truth.
Words ignite.
Words incite.
Words inspire.
Have a care.

Don’t be afraid.
To act is to risk.
To not act is to risk.
Weigh and measure.

Meet it all with love.
Find joy in every place you can.
Be a prophet.
Be a fool.
Step into the gap
and become a bridge.

Avoid vengeance.
Provoke for change.
Provoke to love.
Provoke for epiphany.
Be a gadfly
and a peace-maker.
Be a prophet and a lamb.
Wise as a serpent,
harmless as a dove.

Enact peace.
Overturn the tables.
Rage and heal.
Meet it all with love.


American Parable:
Once a shepherd brought his sheep back to the fold after a long day of grazing in the high fields. As they entered the fold, he carefully counted each one, until he reached 99.

Oh no! One short! He must have lost one somewhere on the mountain! What would the other shepherds think of him if he lost a sheep? How would he ever live it down?

He stood a while in thought, then said, “Meh. What’s one sheep when I have 99 others? It was probably old or sick or weak anyway. A loser sheep. It is what it is.”

He locked his gates and doors, ate a hamburger from a golden plate, and went to bed.

Twelvenight: Synchronicity, Orenda, and the Fool

One of the subjects that keeps snagging my poetic attention is the landscape manuscript–how everything around us (not just the landscape) has a “text” that we might understand, if only we could read it. When I’m driving down the road and thinking about a knotty issue I am trying to resolve and I see three crows standing quietly in a winter field, or seven geese suddenly fly overhead in a raggedy V across my view, or something in the way the sun shines on the remaining leaves of that old oak seems to have a message for me–it’s as if there’s a deep text in the world that could be understood if only I knew the letters. And of course the landscape does have messages, and they can be read. It’s what farmers and meteorologists and hikers have done forever. It is what ecologists and environmentalists are doing right now, to save our lives.

And sometimes the visual and aural messages in my environment do seem to align themselves in perfect messages that feel like they’re meant for me, specifically, to read. Again, this is whimsical and playful rather than scientific. And it also captures my attention. I’m not going to make a judgement about whether or not the Holy One Herself, or the Universe, or the faeries, set up yesterday’s little alignment just so my heart could see it, but I will claim the whimsy, say that the synchronicity caught my heart, and then I will use it to construct the next steps of intuitive meaning for the shape my ponderings take in the coming days. I’d rather step into the future making meaning from the rich webs of whimsy and coincidence that surround me than refusing to gather the symbols that dance through my life and live with meaning defined only by the hardest of logic.

I was driving across the Route 30 bridge, listening to the most recent episode of “This Jungian Life” podcast, on the Trickster archetype, because my friend had recommended it to me. I was thinking about the Fool, and how I hoped that this archetype would inform my activism in the coming year, speaking truth through the lies in the way only the Fool can. The theme of the podcast suddenly turned to the way that tricksters throughout history have been challengers of suppression and repression and autocratic rule, how they act as a corrective when a person or a system becomes too rigidly rule-based and oppressive. There was a “click” in my brain at the coincidence of thought and outer message.

At that moment, my eye caught the new Sight and Sound billboard at the end of the bridge—shining purple, it advertised their upcoming production of Queen Esther, and one of my favorite Bible phrases, from the book of Esther, took up the central space in large letters: “FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.” Again, an internal click.

As I passed the billboard, a large vulture swooped low above the highway. Click.

Yes, it’s whimsy and intuition, poetry and dreaminess, rather than hard science or pure logic or cold reason. While I need the latter, while I value science and logic and reason as important mental processes, I think a world that makes meaning without the more poetic processes is bereft of the spark of spirit.

And so it is settled, this day before Epiphany. My word, my archetype, my guiding principle, for the coming year is the Fool. Sacred clown. Jester. Trickster. I’ve been considering how the Fool subverts the dominant paradigm (to use an old phrase) to speak the truth behind the lies. In a political milieu swimming in falsehoods, how does the Fool speak truth? Lear’s Fool spoke from deep love and tenderness, was not afraid to speak harsh truths right to the king’s face, and kept repeating the truth from various angles until the truth shone in.

Even the travelers whose arrival we celebrate today and tomorrow, the Wise Ones, the magi, have an element of the Fool. Magi, Mages, Magic, Image, Imagination. The truth they first told Herod was too bald, too open, too dangerous, and so, when they were presented with the deep truth of this Child, they disobeyed the king and fled home a different way, tricking the King. Still, the consequences were grave and terrible for too baldly proclaiming the truth to the king in the first place. This is lesson to be deeply conscious of to whom and how the truth is presented. The Fool must be wise.

So. The Fool.
Those black vulture wings are also in my consciousness.
And the echidna, a hybrid creature who survives and thrives because it is more than one thing.
Those mists and rainbows, veiling and shattering, scattering light.
Wading in the water: Do you want to be well?
And Aslan’s words to Lucy: “Courage, Dear Heart!”

There is one more thing, a more abstract word rather than an archetype: Orenda. It comes from the Iroquoian language systems, and it refers to the spiritual power that exists in all things, the energy that we transmit between us, that we can access to change the world.

Okay, and there’s one more thing. My friends. Community. Last night’s dreams were a succession of anxiety dreams. In several scenes, I was trying to find Joss, and just couldn’t make contact. In several scenes, I had little fiddly school details to remember and take care of while I was rushing around trying to do other things. In several scenes I was in a car, constantly missing my exit, needing to turn around, but unable to get around another car or to fit my car into the space of the turn-off. Finally, standing on a sidewalk, about to throw my phone on the ground because I couldn’t get it to make a simple call to Joss, a group of my college friends walked up. Nancy took my phone and got it to dial Joss. Gloria put her hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes, and started to tell me a helpful story. The others gathered around. I could feel everyone’s presence. And I calmed down. Friends. I get by with a little help. . .

What are your messages from the coming year? What words and images coalesce for you? What synchronicities in your inner and outer landscape call to you to listen and follow?


Gratitude List:
1. Friends. How even in my dreams, my beloveds appeared to bring me peace. You. The little connections that are bigger than you know. The way the web of our connections holds us up, and holds the world.
2. The spiritual force within each one of us that enlivens and enlightens and helps us to bring change and goodness into the world.
3. Synchronicity and coincidence and making meaning where it comes.
4. Image and imagination and magic.
5. Being greeted throughout the day by cats.

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Bag of Dreams

I have absolutely no recollection of dreaming last night. The door between sleeping brain and waking brain is shut tightly. No narratives or images come from that world into this today.

This morning when I looked out the window at 5:35, the darkness was touched by a hint of grey. Dawn is slipping slowly and silently back the clock. Light returns.

The quotation in the image I attached above is from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Fergus and the Druid.” Fergus the King has relinquished his crown and abdicated his responsibilities as king, and he asks the Druid to teach him knowledge, to give him wisdom. Finally, after a little bit of back-and-forth, the Druid offers Fergus a bag of dreams. Though I put the words with the Fool, the Druid is much more earnest than the Fool, more shamanic, seeking wisdom in all things, pursuing knowledge. The Fool just trusts that the wisdom necessary for the moment will arrive when it comes. The Fool is both younger and older than the Druid, more foolish, and wiser.

Going back to school yesterday meant a different kind of mental focus, put me in more of a Druid zone, seeking knowledge with deep intention. But of course Teacher is an archetype of its own, the one who passes on knowledge and wisdom, seeking it like the Druid, drawing it out of the people themselves, helping them to find it. Druid, Teacher, Queen/King/Ruler, Fool: We are so many people at once, aren’t we?

On a morning when the dream-door is closed, still I carry with me the bag of dreams I have been dreaming. Today, they wrap me round as I go out again, stepping out as the Fool, the Druid, the Teacher, carrying my little bag–of dreams, of wisdom, of story. May your own dreams feed you and wrap you round.


Gratitude List:
1. Pie. Yesterday was pie day in the faculty lounge. One of my colleagues is a masterful pie-maker. Once a year, he brings eight or ten pies for us to sample. It’s the best snack day of the year, and it made yesterday a celebration instead of a foggy slog.
2. My shiny students. Many of them were as tired as I was. So many of them just want to be done with the semester already. Me, too. But there’s joy and hope and community there, too, and for some students, school is the safe place, the belonging place. I am grateful that school can be that haven for those who need it.
3. Yesterday’s chapel speaker. It was mostly a personal introduction for a member of our school community, but he was engaging and lively. He caught students’ attention on the first day back from break. He made us laugh, he made us think.
4. Resolutions and intentions. I know all the reasons to be cynical about New Year’s Resolutions, but here’s the thing. New Year’s Day can be like the moon, and I can use the gravity of this day to help boost my energy as I create an intention. I have been wanting to maintain a higher daily step-count, but I sometimes I need the extra artificial push of a New Year’s Resolution or an outside challenge to motivate me. Here’s to the attempt!
5. Dawn is inching back the clock. Day is slowly lengthening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Happy New Year!

The Fool rides a dragonfly.

On this day when everyone’s attempting to solve and re-solve their solutions, to resolve their resolutions, to tend to their intentions, I’m still waiting on a word. I watch my dreams and inner questions until the shining sixth, Epiphany, until the kings come. Wise ones. Mages. The light pours in on Epiphany and wisdom comes to the house.

It doesn’t really matter which day you embark on the journey. It only matters that you take it. Today we stand with Janus in his doorway, looking back and looking forward. With the double-faced god beside us, we can simultaneously look behind to the road that has brought us here, and ahead to the road we’re soon to take.

How could I live the coming year without that knowledge of the shadow that travels behind me, the road I walked to get here, the person I have been? It’s so easy, when we turn over a new leaf marking a new season in our lives, to simply yank the leaf from its twig, but the what-will-be is built upon the what-was. The new self which is emerging only arrived at this doorway on the persistent legs of the self which brought me here.

Whether you are waiting, like me, for Wisdom to come on Epiphany, or whether you step away from the door this morning to begin the journey of the year, this is the season of the set intention, the forward-moving affirmation. This is the time of the tabula rasa, the blank page upon which you can write whatever you choose.

Do you have a resolution for the coming year? A re-solution, perhaps, to an old and persistent problem?
Or perhaps you need this official moment to end a habit that has you in a rut? Or to begin a new one that will get you traveling a more liberating and exciting road than the one you’ve become accustomed to walking?
Many people I know prefer to call it an intention rather than a resolution. Perhaps an unachieved intention sounds less like a broken promise than an unsolved resolution.

The road to February is littered with broken resolutions and lost intentions, with holy words discarded and new habits jettisoned as old habits creep from the undergrowth and reattach themselves. I don’t think this means we shouldn’t set intentions or resolutions. Perhaps we need to set the intention and then set a second intention: To tend the first. If I set the intention to get 7,000 steps a day, and I succeed for a week or two, but then fall away, I will have had a less sedentary week or two. That’s a good thing. The idea, then, is to come back to it. Perhaps 7,000 is too much to ask, amid all the other things I need to accomplish. So maybe I re-set my intention and say 5,000 steps a day during the weekday, and 7,000 on weekends. And I try again, with fresh will and determination. After all, February first is another new beginning.

And I think we need to take great care in the intentions we set. If I decide that I don’t like the way I look these days, so I am going to whip my body into shape by diet and exercise, that’s a punishing resolution. My body is going to rebel, and the deep-self is going to feel attacked. But the fact is that for my whole life, I have needed to keep re-setting the intention to move more, and to maintain a healthier balance of the foods I eat. I don’t believe in self-denial. I will never entirely give up chocolate or ice cream or cookies, because then I am bound for failure. But I can probably re-set some of my boundaries with the sweet things. Slow down and savor.

Now there’s a good intention for experiencing life in 2020: Slow down and savor.

In the coming year, may you be kind to yourself. May you set reasonable goals that help you meet with success and fulfillment. May you bring out the best you, informed by all the versions of yourself that you have been. May you not jettison old versions of yourself along the trail behind you, but transform yourself in ways that acknowledge all the work you’ve done to get here.


Blessing for the New Year
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

May you be born
fresh and shining
into the new year
and may the old you
continue, too,
a thread that ties you
to past versions
of your truest self,
for we need to be
constantly reborn
while we hold a deep sense
of the shape we create
in the universe.


Gratitude List:
1. All the birdlife of yesterday! It felt like we were in a legend. Suddenly, after weeks of very little bird activity, there were birds everywhere: bluebirds on the wires, finches and sparrows at the feeders with juncoes and mourning doves catching the windfall below, woodpeckers rowing through the space between trees. On the road, flocks of little birds schooled from grove to grove of roadside trees. Vultures, and maybe an eagle, hung in the updrafts above the Susquehanna. And a kingfisher chattered on Fishing Creek.
2. A good, hard hike/climb on the Mason-Dixon Trail south of Long Level. The trail rises above the river on a steep rocky ridge climb, and you’re on a dragon’s back of up-jutting rocks for a quarter mile or more, the river flowing wide like a lake on your left, and Fishing Creek rushing rapidly down the steep ravine to your right.
3. The hike reminded me of the moment in Prince Caspian when the children and Trumpkin are walking along the gorge, trying to find their way, and Aslan appears to Lucy. She must make a choice to follow him rather than going the way the others are going. She knows what is right, and she must follow that way, even when the others mock her for seeing things they cannot see. Even though he doesn’t say it at that moment in that book, I still heard him say, “Courage, Dear Heart” as we picked our way along the stony pathway. I’ll take that with me into the New Year.
4. We meant to go to Infinito’s for their pizza bar for supper last night, but they had closed early for the holiday. Instead, we went next door to Asian Yummy, and it was beautiful as well as yummy.
5. Again, as I feel the sadness and loss of these long mornings for writing and thinking, I can only be grateful for the gift of them in this Time out of Time. While I have not made headway on any projects in particular, I have stretched my writing/thinking muscles on the blog, and it has been satisfying and fortifying.

May we walk in Beauty!


Last January, I had repeated visitations from kingfisher, in waking life, in dreams, in conversations, in books. I chose kingfisher as one of my symbols for the year. Yesterday, as we were finishing our hike, climbing down the ridge toward Fishing Creek, where it moves slowly in deep pools before rushing down the ravine, we heard a kingfisher chattering in the hollow, over and over again. When I got home, inspired by a friend who is writing Shadormas, I wrote this two-stanza shadorma (3/5/3/3/7/5):

Kingfisher,
who visited me
at the start
of the year
chattered farewell to the year
this cold afternoon.

And vulture
floated like eagle
through currents
o’er the ridge
while last year’s waters flowed down
the Susquehanna.


Dreamwork:
I don’t have much to say about last night’s busy anxiety dreams. In the dream, there is some sort of educational conference going on. It is both at my school, and not at my school. I go into a room, meaning to climb the stairs and go up a few floors, but it’s kind of Escher-like in design. I climb a flight of stair, walk along a landing, and the next flight leads down again into the same room, though I don’t really remember stepping down. Someone tells me I need to find the secret door on the landing. After that it’s possible to find stairs that go up, but each leads to an identical room with the same weird stair situation.

At one point, my colleagues are walking through my bedroom, and I say, “It wouldn’t be so bad if I felt this tired at the end of the day, but I feel like this right after waking up!”

Another of my colleagues, who retired a few years ago, is there, and he has brought his pet echidna. It’s really quite curious and adorable. It keeps sort of morphing into a puppy.

Perhaps I do need to pay attention to the exhaustion bit in here, and the confusion of stairs.

Twelvenight: Harvesting Images

As I process the dreams I have been having, I have been making and gathering symbols of my psychic flotsam of the past week or so. A couple summers ago, we went to the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. I took a picture of a door handle that was a wing, and did some digital altering. This morning I happened upon it, and noticed that it resembles the black wings of the vultures in my dreams a couple nights ago:

And yesterday as I was bringing in the trash cans, I noticed a little pile of corn husks I had brought back from a walk weeks ago and left in a planter. I had intended to make a corn dolly. Yesterday, I picked them up and started to work, but suddenly what I saw in my head was a jester, a fool, rather than a pioneer woman. So this happened:

Neither corn dolly nor straw man, she is a corn jester, a jokester, a trickster.
Now I need to find some really good rainbow images. Oh! We did see faint sundogs yesterday afternoon! Rainbow spots.

Last night’s dream feels more like an anxiety dream than anything, but I don’t want to discount the images. I am sitting on a table in the middle of a church basement, leading a service or meeting of people gathered in a circle around me. I have to keep turning to face people in various parts of the circle. I am talking to a woman I keep calling Bibi (which means grandmother in Swahili), honoring her for the work she’s done, noting that she deserves the break that she is taking. A young man with a scruffy beard begins to pray, and I am sort of relieved because I wasn’t sure I could make the meeting go as long as it’s supposed to. But this man starts to ramble, making l-o-n-g pauses and using lots of Father-god and Lordy phrases, and I know that we’re all getting sort of uncomfortable with this almost militant gendering of the Holy One. Finally, the pastor, who is sitting next to the man, nudges him, and he sort of comes out of his prayer trance and sits up, and it’s over.

More hints at something to do with bringing patriarchal assumptions to light. I don’t know how that might be something new for the coming year. I am really tired of battling the patriarchy, tired of sidestepping them and ignoring them and waiting for them to finish. I want to jump back to wings and fools and rainbows. Hmm. Maybe instead of battling the patriarchy, I need to be the Fool to the crumbling system in the coming year.

Oh, and there’s the Bibi, the grandmother. Maybe it’s time to let the grandmothers rest and begin taking on the work they leave behind.

What are the images and messages you are receiving? What animals are crossing your path? What is catching your eye in these days of Time Out Of Time?


Gratitude List:
1. Eating and laughing with good friends.
2. Sundogs
3. Wings
4. Making things
5. Watching and Listening

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Omens and Messages

Today, some notes on the dreamwork I do during Twelvenight. I just read Caitlyn Matthews’ blog post, “The Omen Days: The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the most thorough consideration of the folklore and legend of the intercalary days (December 26 to January 6) that I have been able to find in a long time. Twenty or so years ago, I had done some reading about this season in the medieval calendar and pieced together my own practice for this period of Time out of Time. I’ve lost my original sources, so it was a delight to find her writing.

The search for omens and divination for a coming year may feel superstitious and strange to you. I think of the dreams and images that roil in my head during these days as guiding archetypes and images for the coming year. The observation of my dreams and the search for images in waking life is, for me, like being a beachcomber carefully combing the sand for anything the ocean of my psyche may toss up. Pick up a pretty shell here, a pebble there, a piece of driftwood, an oddly-shaped something of no known origin. When I lay them out on a table and examine each, some of them seem to fit into groups and categories, while others get discarded. Some I can make immediate sense of, while others I carry with me for months, loving them for their inscrutability, hoping that they’ll offer me a connection at some later point in time.

These inner labyrinths we’ve been traversing and exploring in the quiet work of Advent are also vast and unknowable oceans, tossing up bits of flotsam for us to examine. It can happen in recurrent dream messages, where the little hard-working elf of my deep self sends pictures and stories to try to get my attention. We don’t speak the same language, the deep self elf and I–she communicates in images and oblique stories that my waking self must interpret.

The same process often happens in waking-life observations and meditations. Several days ago, I wrote about the Fool, the topsy-turvy tumbler who offers true wisdom to the wise ones, often in the form of riddles. In the days since, the archetype of Fool has caught fire in my imagination, recurring to me throughout the day. I keep finding more that I want to say about the Fool. Then I read the seven little books that my family bought for me from Hedgespoken Press. One, in particular, Twilight by Jay Griffiths, is a prose-poem essay, a thoughtful meandering through the deep symbolic qualities of twilight. One of his primary images is the Trickster, the Fool. My own deep-self elf began to do a little dance. If she could speak in words, she’d be yelling, “See? See? Do you see the connections?” Instead, a deep satisfaction, a nearly audible visceral click occurs somewhere in my inner spaces. I get it, deep in my gut.

And so, for me, I think this year may have me following the path of the Fool, searching for that click again. Because my brain loves intellectual work, part of my exploration will include searching through Shakespeare for fools and fools’ talk. Because of Lear’s Fool, I trust Shakespeare on this. I might have to do some collage work or painting or doodling of fools. And when I see a representation of the Fool or the Sacred Clown or the Trickster in the mundane world, I’ll recognize her and we’ll wink at each other.

In some of the circles I work and play with, we do careful dreamwork together, telling dreams and reflecting on their symbols. One of the things we try to do is to tell the dream in present tense. It can take some work to get into that groove, but the immediacy of the present-tense telling often draws forth images and colors and general weirdness that get ignored in a past-tense telling. All storytelling is a process of choosing which details to tell and which to ignore. We try not to censor out the odd and seemingly-insignificant details in our dream-tellings. Often those deep-self elves have a purpose in the sudden shifts, when your sister is now a sparrow or you step out of bed and find yourself walking on air. In dream-tellings, the truth is often in the weird. Then when others reflect on the dream, we are careful not to baldly interpret. We rarely say, “I think your dream means. . .” More often, it’s “That red dress really catches my attention. I wonder if you have any associations with red?” Dreamwork seems to proceed best when done dreamily. Interpretation is fluid and watery, not calcified. And no one is an expert. We all have skills at noticing.

As often happens in dreams, last night’s setting was in a big rambling building. Sometimes, even though the rooms and halls are unfamiliar, my dream-mind knows exactly here I am. For years, my building dreams were located in my grandmother’s house, though not in any rooms that existed in my waking reality. School dreams have frequently recurred, as have various hotels.

Last night’s dream is in a school. I’m in the library, talking to a couple of colleagues. We are discussing giving an extension on a big paper to a student who has been sick. Students are looking for books. Out of the window, in the long straight rows of orchard trees, a vulture keeps spreading its wings wide against the green of the leaves. I can see the individual feathers and how the light shines on them. At some point in the discussion, I find that I am holding a small figurine of the bird, and my colleague says, “Oh, that’s just a crow.”

As we are leaving, important visitors come into the library, mostly men in short-sleeved button-up shirts and ties, with pens in their pockets. They look like Mennonite men from the seventies. They enter the library in two straight lines. I smile politely and edge past them. They feel like history, like people from my childhood, and so I am kind of drawn to them, but wary as well. I don’t really want them to notice me.

Yesterday, it felt somehow wrong to end the storytelling about the horrors of the day with my dream of the night before. Only a fragment, really: I am walking sock-footed up wet stairs around the outside of a big old rambling house, carrying a folding chair because I want to sit on the roof and watch a rainbow.

So, my current collection of Twelvenight deep-self flotsam for now contains a Fool, shining black wings, and a rainbow. I think the patriarchy is walking through there somewhere, too, but I will wait and see what connections that one makes. Oh, and that solemn phrase from two days back: “There’s more than two ways to think about it.” This table of gathered flotsam is going to get pretty full in the next nine nights!

What about you? What has been roiling and boiling inside you in these last days and weeks? What does the dreaming season have to tell you?


Gratitude List:
1. I can feel the light returning.
2. While I’ve been grateful for deep sleep, last night’s troubled sleep offered me more memorable dreaming to work with.
3. The seven little books that my family bought me for Christmas from Hedgespoken Press. Seven Doors in an Unyielding Stone is the name of the series. I love the writers: Terri Windling, Rima Staines, Tom Hirons, Jay Griffiths and more. I love the feel of them in my hands. They’re little and thin. I love the design, the font, the paper choice. I have been mulling and muddling self-publishing some more of my poetry for several years now, and this design is so compelling and enchanting, I might let it inspire me to next steps with that work.
4. This lo-o-o-ong break. Do you know what it feels like to breathe deeply and satisfyingly after you’ve recovered from the panting of a long walk or run? That.
5. Messages from that deep-self elf: dreams, contemplations, messages, archetypes, images, flashes of color. Psychic flotsam. The poetry of the deep inner realms.
6. Bonus: There are now 1000 condors! I can distinctly remember when there were fewer that 25, and I think there were only 8 in the wild!

May we walk in Beauty!