Spiraling Inward

It isn’t a labyrinth, exactly, although it serves the same prayerful purpose. If you look closely and use your imagination, you can see that I shuffled a spiral in to the base of the maple tree.

November was going to be for morning serious writing sessions for me. I was going to get right down to writing, first thing, before the household wakes up. Somehow it hasn’t quite unfolded with the grace I had hoped for. My mornings have been more frantic and last minute as I try to rearrange my brain from that deep space to the focus of the day. Easier to continue to focus my morning writing on the quick little projects that I usually work on. I don’t feel like this is a failure so much as a recognition that the work that I normally do in this time is all writing practice. It’s just not writing toward a particular end goal. I have to find a different time of day for the goal-centered writing.

And editing. This is not the first time I have been working with the goddesses who descend–with Innana/Ishtar, with Persephone–and I feel a little like I am rewriting, like what I need to to organize what I have already written before I start the new stories.

Today, I am going to set myself a little writing goal. I am going to write Skinny poems: They’re eleven lines long. Line 1 is a phrase that catches your attention. Lines 2-10 are one word each. Lines 2, 6, and 10 are the same word. Line 11 uses the exact same words as the phrase in line 1, and these can be in any order that works for you. Le Hinton introduced us to this form on Friday, and it’s captured my attention, especially since I have gone googling Le’s Skinnys.


Gratitude List:
1. Inner work that helps me to bear the walk into the darkness.
2. I received a sweet gratitude from a student yesterday, something that reminded me of who I am and what my purpose is.
3. Yellow labyrinth-spiral of leaves beneath the maple tree.
4. Reaching small goals.
5. Rice and refried beans wrapped in a tortilla with all the fixings. It’s simple comfort.

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!

Finding Your Wings

Gratitude List:
1. Feeling my wings
2. Grades are ready to submit for Quarter 1. How have we gotten here already?
3. Breath. It’s always there when I need it, and more effective than sugar or coffee for a quick lift.
4. Keeping the resolve
5. The tunnel to Faerie up in the orchard, between the pear and cherry trees.

May we walk in Beauty! Breathe.


Sit in a quiet place, calm and undisturbed. Shift yourself into place. Let your upper body fidget a bit.  Shrug and stretch, stretch your spine upwards, making little breathing spaces between all the bone. Sigh. Yawn. Sigh audibly. Settle your bones, making sure your ribcage is straight, your shoulders are restful, your hips are aligned.

Now begin to notice your breath as it enters and leaves the space of your body. Notice where your body rests on the chair, the floor, the earth. As you hold your awareness on your points of contact with earth, begin to draw the breath into your whole body. Breathe not only into your lungs, but into your stomach.

Feel the breath enliven your ribs and your gut. Breathe into the muscles and bones of your arms. Draw it down over your shoulders, swirling down your arms and down to your fingertips. As you breathe out, feel the breath flow out the tips of your fingers.

Draw breath down your spine. Let it flow out the base of your spine. Breathe it into your thighs and down your legs. Wiggle your toes and ankles as the breath fills your feet and trickles out the soles of your feet into the earth.

Breathe. And breathe. And breathe

Now shuffle your upper body once again, like a bird re-adjusting its feathers, and find your way to stillness, letting the breath continue to circulate through you.

Bring your attention to your back. Sit up a little straighter and pull your shoulders back. Can you sense your shoulder blades back there? These are your wingbuds. Breathe into them and out through them. Shift your shoulders as you need to, to maintain your awareness of them.

Feel or imagine them beginning to itch, to swell, to pulse with life. Feel the moment when a small, folded pair of wings bursts through the surface, like the tiny curl of a plant breaking through soil, or a small bird breaking out of an egg. As they grow larger with each breath, notice their color, their texture. Don’t rush to unfold them. Let them develop. Feel them in the space behind you. Roll your shoulders forward. Shrug. Give them space.

Then, when you are ready, on a breath, lift them upward and out. Feel their strength. Feel the way they lift you. Practice opening them and folding them. Notice how they become invisible when you fold them up, how you will be able to go about your normal life with your wings folded against your shoulders and back, and only those who Know will know.

Now when you need them, to give you strength, to help you move from one stuck place to a new open field—when you need to escape—when you need to see something from a distance, to change your perspective—now they will be there for you. All you have to do is to breathe into them, hear them rustle in the space behind you, stretch, and open.

Mist, Moon, Mist

Poem from a year or so ago:
Prayers and Rage
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

What can we give besides our prayers and rage?
And what will that avail?
Send out the story on October winds.
Fling it high, where crows are flying.
Send the message echoing into earth
with every pounding step you take.

Listen.
Let the shells of your ears gather the story.
Reel in the gossamer strands of the tale
and weave them into the veil you wear.
Listen for the stories of those who weep,
those who rage, those who only speak
with the shrug of a shoulder,
with a sigh, with a shudder.

Listen, too, to those who walk right in,
who step into your circle without invitation.
Listen to the voices that are hard to hear.
Offer only the bread that is yours to give.
Be like the old gods, with the raven Wisdom
on one shoulder and Memory on the other,
and Reason perched upon your hat.

Offer what is yours:
your rage,
your prayer,
your watchful quiet heart.


And another, more thematically whimsical:
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
October.


Gratitude List:
1. Finding my way again to deep breath.
2. Chilly autumn rain. Yes, really. The melancholy of a rainy fall day can be satisfying even for sanguine personalities.
3. While I have never been a big fan of the cold season, I love wearing layers and leggings, and that season has returned, and so I feel much more comfortable in clothing.
4. This full-spectrum lamp that Jon bought to help boost us through the coming winter. Light-bathing.
5. The distinctly autumn sounds of the calls of geese and jays and crows. I feel my animal self more distinctly in these days, pulling between the longing to migrate and the longing to hunker down and burrow in.

Much love. Blessings on your Day!

Wear Gratitude Like a Cloak

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” —Rumi
Like big sweaters and soft scarves on a chilly fall morning, I am finding a return to a regular practice of gratitude to be fortifying against internal chills.

Gratitude List:
1. One small boy submitted a cello piece he wrote, to the York Symphony Orchestra Song Writing Contest for students. He received a call from the director yesterday that he won an honorable mention. I’m so happy that his hard work received some recognition.
2. Stories. Grit. Resilience. Resolve.
3. The small sounds of morning. The little water fountain, a boy shuffling through pages in the next room. Small cat squeaks and mews of greeting.
4. Advocates.
5. A warm robe and slippers.

May we walk in Beauty!

Needing Gratitude

I think this is going to sound vague and smug and self-serving. I think my writing here and on social media is so often heart-on-my-sleeve, but this is more raw, more personal, more sulky, and yes, more vague, too. It’s a thing I want to talk about without talking about it. Do you ever have those experiences?

I’m dealing with some resentment and rage right now. I’m used to experiencing outrage on behalf of others. It sometimes feels like it’s become one of my defaults in recent years. Less frequently do I feel outrage on behalf of myself, and I don’t know exactly where to feel it, but here it is. It’s been plopped right into my lap. I think I have become really good at being reasonable about other people’s attitudes and behaviors toward me, so when I feel deeply and personally attacked about something that really matters to me, I have to take hours to process, to sort out what is mine, and what is truly cause for outrage. It’s a slow burn, rather than a quick blaze.

I don’t want to feed the fire by giving it air. Perhaps it will become the source of poetry and story, and I can give it a voice that way. Meanwhile, I think I need to re-start my Gratitude Practice, get back to essentials, take care of my own house so I don’t set fire to the houses of others.

Gratitude List:
1. A voice. Whether it’s a whisper, a shout, an echo, a web of sound, a single word, an avalanche of analysis: Give voice to your voice. Do not let anyone take it away from you. Boost the voices of others. Amplify the signal.
2. The ones who stand in the gap, who speak out for justice for those who are oppressed, who fight for the survival of the planet, who put people above greed and money.
3. The turning. Like the turning of the season to autumn, the world is turning. Like the transition from labor to birth, the world is groaning. From the fire comes new life. May we stand in solidarity with those who are midwifing the new thing into being.
4. Three cats in the house.
5. Cool weather and warm clothes. This is a not a metaphor. This is a metaphor.

May we walk in Power.

52

I woke up at four-thirty this morning, the morning of my 52nd birthday, to the sound of a coyote howling, deeper down the hollow. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so it looks like I will welcome the dawning of my 53rd year.

Wikipedia reminds me that if you consider the majuscules (capitals) and miniscules (lower case) as separate letters, you’ve got 52.

There are 52 weeks in a year, with an extra day added to make 365. Perhaps this year, I will work on living with that sense of the extra day, the time beyond time.

On a piano, there are 52 white keys. Perhaps now I begin to learn the complexities of playing on the half notes.

There are 52 cards in a deck of playing cards, plus that extra tricksy Joker. Perhaps this year, I’ll be a Wild Card, playing any role I choose in the game.

(In the minutes it has taken me to write this, the sky has gone from the luminous grey of the pre-dawn, to a shining indigo. The dawn chorus is beginning.)

The web page Affinity Numerology tells me: “The numerology number 52 is a number of introspection and expression of a personal sense of freedom. It is studious and is mentally sharp. The energy the number 52 represents tends to do whatever attracts its attention as desirable to experience. But not on a whim. It analyzes what it experiences and what it observes.” I’ll take it.

Isn’t aging a wonderful thing? We grow more into ourselves, year by year. Sometimes I feel like I am a very young person, encountering the same ideas and experiences over and over again as if they were new, but always at a deeper level of awareness. Life’s a spiral–I keep coming back to the same things, but not really at the same place. Looked at from the top down, it could appear to be a solid, repetitive circle; looked at sideways and from a distance, it looks like a straight line. But we keep spiralling on.

Thank you, my friends, for walking this spiral with me. We were made for these times.

Gratitude List:
1. Coyotes howling in the holler
2. Getting older
3. Dawn chorus
4. My wise, wise friends
5. The fluttery purr of a contented, sleepy cat

May we walk, always, in Beauty!

Welcome, Spring!

We are two days in to the season of Awakening, of Hatching, of Breaking Open. Two days in, through wind and sunshowers, through gusting rain and rushing cloud. Last year, on the second day of spring, a foot of snow fell in the hollow. This year, a seemingly endless drench of rain.

In the season of Brigid, back in February, we felt the Earth stirring, noticed the sap rising, watched pull toward birth and sprouting. Now we feel the promise, watch the winter aconite drop seeds for next years golden cups, and Persephone’s footprints–all shades of crocus–springing up across the lawns, uncontainable by flower beds.

What, in you, is hatching now? What thing, which has lain long and silently within you like a seed in the darkness, now seeks the sun and breezes? Hold that thing within you, like a seed. See the rough, hard casing which has protected it in its dreamstate. Breathe in the sun of spring, the chill air biting as it enters, and feel your lungs, your belly, your capacity, expand. Watch the casing of your dreamseed break open, and feel the roots push downward within you. Feel the sprout nosing upwards to the light and warmth of spring. What is being born within you? What new capacity? What new heartspace? What plan and purpose? Blessed be your seeds. Crack open. Seek the sun. Feel the rains of spring caress your growing roots.

Gratitude List:
1. The groundhog who is nosing around on the hillside behind the house
2. A day off, to ponder and paint, and catch up on the work
3. The fog of winter is lifting
4. Watching the children grow and become so gallantly themselves
5. The seeds which are sprouting

May we walk in Beauty!

Into the Dark, December 18

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

My principal opened a faculty meeting yesterday by asking us to all turn to a neighbor and tell one good thing that happened in the day. It can be easy, when gathered with colleagues, to air the frustrations of the day, so to set the stage for a meeting by getting us to recall one good thing was to set us up for a moment of gratitude. He could hardly get us to be quiet and return our attention to the meeting, we got so wrapped up in finding the twinkling moments of the day.

Today’s word in this winter walk will be gratitude. Noticing, marking, paying attention to each bright thing that appears, each mysterious shadow that reveals itself, each twinkling moment that expands itself within me. Several friends and I do (mostly) daily gratitude lists which we share on our social media pages. It’s not to brag or to create a facade of lives in which everything runs smoothly and beautifully, but to remind ourselves and each other to keep watch, even in times of great sorrow or loss, to pay attention and take note of those things which bring joy, which bless our inner lives. In these days, even in the midst of political turmoil and injustice, there is so much to be grateful for.


Gratitude List:
1. Community of gratitude–being supported and buoyed up by others who have also chosen this work as a spiritual discipline.
2. There are lights at the end of this tunnel
3. The pianist in yesterday’s chapel–David Berry of Eastern Mennonite University. He brought energy and wonder into the space, and such music!
4. Singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” with the campus choral groups on Saturday night. One of my colleagues reminded me yesterday of how incredibly sublime that was.
5. I say this one a lot, but it’s one of the things that helps me hold onto hope in difficult days: the Good People doing their Good Work.

May we walk in Beauty!


“We must give the story of our misfortunes a home. This always seeking to start anew, to cover our eyes and elude pain, eventually only makes refugees of our wounds. They follow at our heels and seep into the background life of every new love. They become the distant, tenacious ache which howls with a silent mantra of unbelonging. We must remember and be willing to say their name. We must house our displacements, gather them close and feed them with our remembering until they acquiesce as the great allies that they are.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Maybe this is crazy, but I think the right to own a gun is trumped by the right not to be shot by one.” —Andy Borowitz


“Sit in stillness and listen to what your heart prays.” —Ruth Jewell


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

For Such a Time

Gratitude List:

  1. Murder of Crows in the trees outside my parents’ house
  2. Bittersweet—I know it’s an invasive and a pest, but I love it.
  3. The ones who feel Injustice in their bones and then stand up
  4. Fuzzy nap companions
  5. The autumn slant of light that makes everything shine

Thoughts for Monday:

“It’s important to be brave and to not keep silent.” —yesterday’s Children’s Message in church


“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


Blessing for the Visitor
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

May you who wander, who sojourn, who travel,
may you who make your way to our door
find rest for your tired feet and weary heart,
food to fill your bellies and to nourish your minds,
and company to bring you cheer and inspiration.
May you find comfort for your sorrows,
belonging to ease your loneliness,
and laughter to bring you alive.

And when your feet find themselves again upon the road,
may they remember the way back to our door.


“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


“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” —George McGovern