Twelvenight: Small Stands Up to Big

I am grateful for deep, deep sleep during this Twelvenight. How blessed it is to rest well and soundly.

The consequence, of course, is that I do not remember my dreams, except as impressions, or fleeting images. Last night when I went to sleep, I asked for a word to come to me in the night. I would like a word to contemplate in the coming year, and I was hoping that the deep-self Fool might cast one up out of a dream as it sometimes does.

This morning I woke up not with a word or a narrative or images, but with a sense of the small standing up to the big, pushing back the tide of largeness that threatens to overwhelm the tiny.

Of course my subconscious would toss me such a morsel after yesterday’s meander with anxious demons. This potential for war with Iran has me panicky and anxious. I think I am managing the worry, mostly, but it takes a lot of deep intention and careful breathing. Of looking for news and analysis. Of ignoring news and analysis. Of connecting with others who believe that the people must stand up and say that we do not want war, that we have no quibble with the people of Iran and Iraq, that we want peace for our children and for the children of Iran. That the big powers must not have the last word about the world where the small ones will live.

And so the message of the morning is of the small ones pushing back the big ones. This coming week, Women in Black, a local Lancaster group connected to a worldwide peace movement, will stand silently on our courthouse steps with signs expressing our desire for peace. We may read Iranian poetry. We may weep. We may simply stand silently, as women have stood for decades, for centuries perhaps, in the public square, to tell the powers that be that we do not sanction sending the young ones to die in old men’s wars.

Then we will walk down the block to join in a larger community protest against war with Iran.

They will tell you that you are unrealistic.
They will tell you that you do not understand.
They will tell you that we must kill before we are killed.
They will tell you that world affairs are for the patriarchs to decide.
They will tell you to go back to the hearth and the kitchen and the children.
And then they will take those children and turn them into machines for their wars.
And we must be ready to stand between them and our children.
A flowing river of women, of grandmothers, of sane men, too,
standing between the powers of the angry old men
and the children of the US and Iran.
Take my hand. Hold the line.


Gratitude List:
1. The women, and men too, who are pledging to be Love in the face of hatred and war.
2. Despite appearances to the contrary, reason and humanity do often prevail against the powers of the angry old men.
3. Interspecies relationships. I love waking up curled into a ball with a small creature tucked into the circle of me and purring.
4. The poetry of Rumi and Hafez, from Persia, modern-day Iran. And for the poetry of modern Iranian poets. Yesterday afternoon, I read poems by Forough Farrokhzad.
5. Morning mist is magical.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 16: Companionship

Last summer’s wren nest from the behind the light switch in the shop. Even claustrophobic people love the cozy symbolism of a nest.

Today, as we Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, a song and a poem to sustain us on this walk through Day Sixteen toward Advent. Thank you for walking with me. Only five more days until Sunreturn, Beloveds. We are going to make it.

When I compare this year’s more deliberate and careful wander into the dark of December with last year’s panicked careen, I am filled with gratitude. I know I tried last year, but I had decided that I was going to try a keto-based way of eating last fall, and my deliberations were focused on that, and less inward. It was only when I reached the growing light of late January that I realized how deeply I had sunk into winter’s numbness. Last year, I probably should have checked in with a therapist to keep me coping. This year, I am watching and ready to make that call, in case I feel myself sinking into the pool of sadness. If the season weighs too heavily, or the cold seeps into your spirit, I encourage you to be ready, too, to check in with a professional.

Funny, isn’t it? Usually, we look for the light at the end of a tunnel, meaning we’ll be out and into the fresh air, but while this journey into the well of December may bring us to a lighted chamber, we have to turn and walk out again the same distance before we get back out of the tunnel. Still, that moment of coming to center and pausing, then the turning, and setting our faces toward the return journey into the light–oh, how I long for that moment. That will be so joyful. Five more days.


Here is a video of Brian Claflin and Ellie Grace singing “I’m Gonna Walk It With You.” Whether our journey is the descent into winter’s darkness, or the determined march toward justice, I am glad of your companionship. You can support Claflin and Grace by buying their music at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8boCrXOp9M.


I wrote this poem a few years ago, but it feels like it fits this moment, my deep gratitude for your companionship on this journey.

Stepping Toward the Solstice

We stand in the shadows.
Hold my hand.
The darkness suffocates.
Look this way,
to where the sun shines briefly
through a curtain of ice.
This. This one moment
will sustain us for the next steps.


Gratitude List:
1. I made an enormous dent in my Impossible Mountain last night. Part of my relief today is the amount of work I accomplished, but a greater part of the relief is the feeling of that dam being unclogged. Still so much to do, but I have returned to the truth that Will builds Will. An act of will creates the possibility for more acts of will. As long as I keep that energy, I should make it.
2. Great gratitude to Nancy, for listening and sharing the story. I think I needed an accountability partner, and I used our conversation yesterday as the slingshot to get me around the hardest bits of the Impossible Task.
3. A new warm thing. I stopped at Goodwill and bought myself a new warm fleece jacket-thing. It’s for wearing around the house at home, and it’s cozy, and it’s a wild cat print, so it makes me feel a little fierce. Is that a middle-aged woman thing, to want to wear wildcat print? Or maybe it’s just a Leo thing. I know that some consider it a tacky thing, too, but I’m not fussed about that. It’s warm and it’s fierce, and so Merry Christmas to me.
4. The sacred moments within the mundane.
5. The anticipation of a snow day, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s going to pan out.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 15: Finding the Flow

An attempt at an automatic drawing. I think, in its purest sense, it’s supposed to be non-representational, but my mind started pulling out that tree, so I went with it. And then, there’s that bird. . .

We’ve considered the element of air as we have drawn in our breath. We’ve considered our fire, and tended our lights. Now, perhaps, it’s time to consider the element of water, as we travel deeper into this winter labyrinth.

Perhaps today’s passage opens onto an underground river, and we can settle ourselves into little boats for this part of our spiral toward the center. Or swim–walk right in and let the water carry you gently in its arms. Today, I want to think about the flow of my life.

So often, here in this dark and inward time of year, when my inward voices tell me to slow down, rest more, begin taking note of the dreams and the silences, the rest of the world turns up the pace to a frantic pitch, with parties and shopping, raucous frenzy and noise. For some of us, the response to the darkness is to push it back with activity and color and sound. I am grateful to have the festival atmosphere to dip into. The Big Party of this season is how many of us cope with the gathering darkness, and I have no quarrel with other people’s festivities. But I need to take great care in this season how I spend my energy.

One of the more common things I hear people express in these days is their exhaustion, how the constant round of parties and gatherings and things to do and prepare for completely wipes them out. In many families, this work still seems to fall to the women. I’m grateful to be part of a family where much of the pressure of holiday preparations is taken on by my partner, or else we do them jointly, together. I’m not sure I could cope with the added stress of the approaching end of semester along with a full load of holiday prep.

One way that we deal with the challenges to the easy flow of our lives in the frenzied season is simply to do less. We buy fewer presents. We have one afternoon in which we all decorate, and only a little. We focus our festivities on the kids’ school events and family gatherings.

Still, my flow in this season is choppy, blocked in places, and racing beyond my capacity to stay afloat in others. I know that my stacks of grading, and my avoidance tactics are the things that clog the passages and keep me from flowing gracefully. Somehow, I need to come to terms with the dailiness of the workload, to steadily chip away at the challenges that hinder my smooth progress. The thing is, the clogged places force the stream in other places to race along at an unmanageable pace.

If your life is a river flowing through a tunnel, what are the things that clog and impede the flow of your stream, causing the water to flow frantically and wildly in other parts of the passage? What do you need to do to shift and clear the blockages? Wendell Berry points out that “the impeded stream is the one that sings.” So perhaps it isn’t necessary to clear all blockages completely, just shift the impediments enough so that we can hear the song rather than the roar. Today, I commit myself to doing several hours of steady, unclogging work. I can already hear the echoes shifting in the tunnel. I can almost hear the song behind the roar.


Gratitude List:
1. Enough. Enough work to keep me occupied. Enough time to do what needs to be done (I do not feel this one deeply, but I am trying to live it).
2. Live choral music
3. How stories interact in my own personal narrative, shifting my interpretation and experience of my own unfolding tale.
4. Christmas cookies, especially those peppermint ones a student brought to school on Friday.
5. The flight of birds, high-flying flocks, and the furtive dashes of little birds seeking seeds in the chill. Be warm and filled, little ones!

May your day have warmth and light.

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!