Stay Home, Stay Safe

A Poem, Some Gratitudes, a Dream, and a Quotation Collection:

Listen, Friend:
I will not tell you that
god has a purpose for your anguish.
Your tragedy was not divine will
sending a lightning bolt to wake you up
or to teach you a lesson about trust,
whatever the street preachers tell you.

Bad things happen, and they keep on happening.
Why, just yesterday, I saw a story
about some mother’s child gunned down
in the streets in the daylight
and people stood by and took videos
with their new camera phones.
There’s no god in that, right?
No good in that, no god.

And I don’t know what Moses and his king were thinking,
but I can tell you that this plague is not some
divine retribution by a heavenly pharoah
trying to teach us all a lesson,
though there are lessons aplenty to learn,
if only we can open our eyes and see,
then see again, and deeper.

I still hold that there’s a Creative Force
that set the Universe in motion, a Love
that watches us and even extends Itself toward us
when we’re in the throes of agony,
even sends occasional lightning bolts
of insight when we’re at the edge of holding on.

I don’t know why the good ones die young
or why tornadoes always seem to hit the trailer parks
instead of the mansions on the hills,
why the rich fat cats recover from the virus
after all their disregard of caution,
and those who are already suffering
lose the ones they love.

But here, in all the chaos of unknowing,
is this web: A line from me to you, another
cast to the next one that you love,
and one of mine, and on and on,
a tender, joyful, fierce and loving web
of hearts that hold and notice
even in the midst of all that is being destroyed.



Gratitudes:
1. Health care workers. They’re stretched thin right now. Spare them some love.
2. This man, who plans meals for special occasions just like his mother always did.
3. Making things. I sewed all day yesterday. It made me happy.
4. Finally! After seventeen years here, we are getting the septic system replaced. The pipes are in, and all that remains is to finish hooking up all the extra pieces and to put the dirt back where it belongs.
5. Reflections

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


In the dream, I am in a large crowded theater where people are preparing a play. Everyone is excited. They’re throwing themselves into their roles. I am kind of on the sidelines, supporting, encouraging, wishing I could be part of the fun.

I can’t participate, because no one is wearing masks or social distancing. Also, I am supposed to be in quarantine, so why am I in a crowded theater?

I go sit in a little room with a few others who aren’t in the main cast, and suddenly realize that even I am not wearing a mask. Fortunately, I have one in my purse.

I know where this one came from. Yesterday, I scrolled past something that a friend of mine posted about the Covid Phone alert yesterday, and she and her friends were mocking it, scorning the governor, encouraging each other to get together with their families and friends today. But I know that people are going to get sick as a result of their irresponsible actions today, and some of them are going to die because they ignore the warnings. I know that my beloveds who work in hospitals are preparing themselves for the terrible decisions they are going to be needing to make in the coming weeks about who gets treatment, and who doesn’t.
I have SO MUCH to be grateful for, and I AM grateful, and joyful. But I am also worried and sad, and angry at my friend and her friends for being so cavalier about something that will claim people’s lives. Please make safe and responsible choices today, friends.

[Later Edit: I promise I won’t resent you if you are gathering with the responsible people of your bubble, tending to each other’s mental health as you responsibly gather. I know there are grey areas here. My sulks are reserved for those who simply ignore it all and pretend nothing is happening, and who scorn those who are taking precautions. Still, I wish safety for all.]


Thursday’s Thankful and Thoughtful Words:
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” —Meister Eckhart


“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” —Alice Walker (h/t Tony Brown)


“Perhaps you were brought to this place for just such a time as this.” —paraphrase from book of Esther


“We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. it is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable.”
—Nayyira Waheed


“Only those who attempt the absurd
will achieve the impossible.”
—M. C. Escher


“A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth. That this body of ours is the panchabhuta-the five elements that make the universe and make our bodies. The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory-this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe. There’s nothing that gives me deeper joy than the work of protecting the diversity and the freedom of the seed.” —Vandana Shiva


Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower
by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy

Listen
Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Forest of Hours

Yes, I am obsessed with my mushroom friends.

Today, my friend Jindu wrote a poem of time and story and God, and I let that wave roll over me as I sat down to write my own poem. I think I let the poem tell me enough about myself to make me a little uncomfortable, maybe light a fire under me.

Forest of Hours
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

The clock has berated me all day,
complaining about my betrayal of time,
scorning the way I keep getting lost
in the forest of hours,
claiming I should be familiar
with the pathway home by now.

I am not time’s fool, you know,
nor God’s familiar. I’m no black cat,
no ignorant—or innocent—
child in the fairy tale. I know what I’m doing.
I’m wasting not time, but self.

I’m listening for the sound God makes
as she sings through the branches
of these hours that surround me.
I know in my bones that the story
has a hole in it somewhere, know without asking
that the wolf is standing there
right behind my left shoulder, and also
that there is a well in a stone tower
within a grove of oak
that holds the secret,
if only I can find the key
to fit the door.

But who is telling this story?
I could have sworn it was God,
but maybe I’m just fooling myself, brother.
Maybe the wolf has been lying to me
all along. Maybe God rides a broomstick
through the waving branches.
Maybe the story is telling itself.

Perhaps the clock has a point.
I am, after all, a middle-aged poet
with nothing much to show for my life’s work
but these rags, this tarnished key,
and the sense that I’ll find the secret
of the story in the next bright clearing.


“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” —Samwise Gamgee


“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” —Miles Davis


“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” —Frida Kahlo


A little story by Amrita Nadi:
At the end of a talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”
The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”
Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he added, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back. . .but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”


“There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.” —Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life


“Always there is something worth saying
about glory, about gratitude.”
—Mary Oliver, What Do We Know


Do your little bit of good where you are;
its those little bits of good put together,
that overwhelm the world.
—Desmond Tutu


“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” —Jeannette Rankin


When we see the Beloved in each person,
it’s like walking through a garden,
watching flowers bloom all around us. —Ram Dass


“You came into this world as a radiant bundle of exuberant riddles. You slipped into this dimension as a shimmering burst of spiral hallelujahs. You blasted into this realm as a lush explosion of ecstatic gratitude. And it is your birthright to fulfill those promises.
I’m not pandering to your egotism by telling you these things. When I say, “Be yourself,” I don’t mean you should be the self that wants to win every game and use up every resource and stand alone at the end of time on top of a Mt. Everest-sized pile of pretty garbage.
When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the self that says “Thank you!” to the wild irises and the windy rain and the people who grow your food. I mean the rebel creator who’s longing to make the whole universe your home and sanctuary. I mean the dissident bodhisattva who’s joyfully struggling to germinate the seeds of divine love that are packed inside every moment.
When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the spiritual freedom fighter who’s scrambling and finagling and conspiring to relieve your fellow messiahs from their suffering and shower them with rowdy blessings.” —Rob Brezsny


“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ―Brother David Steindl-Rast

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!

The Journey Downward and Inward


Leaving the old shell behind. Grasshopper transformation.

“Let us not make America Great again.That greatness they yearn for was rooted in death and oppression. Let us make America Good. For all, for the very first time.

Do not let it go without saying. If you and your family denounce white supremacy: say it. Let it be known. You are not how you feel or think. You are what you say and do.” –Glennon Doyle
*
“Hate evil and love what is good. We have to be able to say that evil is evil. It’s not something that exists on many sides.” –Rabbi Jack Paskoff of Lancaster, PA
*
“I repose in myself. And that part of myself, that deepest and richest part in which I repose, is what I call ‘God.'” –Etty Hillesum
*
“THE JOURNEY DOWNWARD
Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. In the process of discovering bodhichitta [the awakened heart], the journey goes down, not up. It’s as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward the turbulence and doubt. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. At the bottom we discover water, the healing water of bodhichitta. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.”
–Pema Chödrön
*
“I invite you to think about your relationship to human beings who haven’t been born yet. What might you create for them to use? How can you make your life a gift to the future? Can you not only help preserve the wonders we live amidst, but actually enhance them?” –Rob Brezsny
*
Lewis Carroll: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.”
*
“Some days,
you feel as though
you have been walking that knife edge
forever,
too afraid
to look to right or left.
And then one day,
you raise your gaze
and there before you
is the green valley
with a blue glass lake
and a silent island
that you have been seeking
in every dream
since you were born.” –Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“I demand unconditional love and complete freedom. That is why I am terrible.”  –Tomaž Šalamun
*
“You want weapons? We’re in a library! BOOKS! The best weapons in the world.” –Doctor Who
*
“A banjo will get you through times of no money, but money won’t get you through times of no banjo.”  –John Hartford


Gratitude List:
1. The voices of Amanda Kemp, Kevin Ressler, Rev. Forbes, Andrea Brown, Jim Amstutz, and others at the Lancaster vigil last night. I am so proud of Lancaster and York for turning out like they did.
2. The stately and friendly architecture of downtown Lancaster.
3. The little screech owl trilling in the hollow. And then the great horned owl all in the early morning.
4. Sachs came out from under the bed! (See how I changed the spelling there? He is a person of such grave dignity that Socks seems insufficient. Sachs, on the other hand, has a grandeur, and even a hipness, which is in keeping with the cat himself.)
5. One more week of summer schedule. I am going to make the most of it!

May we walk in Beauty!

Love Wins

Gratitude List:
1. Love wins.
2. Fried tomatoes for breakfast
3. Such a birdy day: titmouse fledglings, nuthatch, crows, cardinals, goldfinch, swallows. . .
4. Dream visitors: turkey, this time
5. Tomato sandwiches for supper

May we walk in Love!

Marvel and Wonder

How would things change if, every time we approached the word God in our speech, we would instead use the word Love?  Parker Palmer does this sometimes, and it is powerful: We are made, each one of us in the image of Love.

Would we be less judgmental, more likely to be little versions of Love ourselves?

***

Last night in the Dreamings, I was in a green field of clover and vetch at the edge of a wood.  I was out in the field and standing just outside the trees and looking at me very intently, watching and observing me, was Turkey.  I was gathering blue feathers in the field, and a teen-aged boy was walking up the path toward me.  Turkey watched.  I wanted to be friendly to the boy, but I didn’t want to encourage conversation because gathering the feathers was a private and personal thing for me and I wanted to be alone to contemplate.

I have been reading Jamie Sams’ words about Turkey, a symbol of the Give-Away, the “deep and abiding recognition of the sacrifices of both self and others.”  She seems to be a symbol of reaching a new and deeper place.  Feathers are gifts to me, symbols of my communication with Spirit, and blue feathers are about finding my voice.  I feel like Turkey was watching me, like the “woman of that place” in the Denise Levertov poem, to be sure that I was noticing and appreciating the gifts, both the social and the contemplative moments (especially the contemplative rhythm of summer), the voice, being in the presence of Spirit.

The Fountain
by Denise Levertov

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched — but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were
refreshed.

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

– See more at: http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/blog/2013/03/15/denise-levertov-the-fountain-2/#sthash.1onaRPdD.dpuf