I was wrong yesterday. My friend had been telling me about an article on dreaming in different languages, and then he went on to chat about a book of Rilke poetry he bought. When he suggested the six phrases for us to use as the basis for some poeming, I didn’t realize they were lines from Rilke, which somehow increases the fun of this project. The first two lines of today’s poems are Rilke.
Gratitude List: 1. The goldfinches have gone golden. 2. This year is this year and not last year. 3. The pear trees in the orchard are blooming. 4. Apple Crisp, fresh from the oven. 5. Milkweed and dogbane cordage. May we walk in Beauty!
“Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. (Hope) is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.” —Rebecca Solnit
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” —Maya Angelou
“God invites everyone to the House of Peace.” —The Holy Quran
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell
“What a pity that so hard on the heels of Christ came the Christians.” —Annie Dillard
“The arc of history is long, and what we’re here to do is make a mark. . . . You do the work because you’re slowly moving the needle. There are times in history when we feel like we’re going backward, but that’s part of the growth.” —Barack Obama
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” —Rumi
“You are a co-creator of love in this world.” —Richard Rohr
“Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing out a space where new stories can root; in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves.” —Jeanette Winterson
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn Is just to love and be loved in return.” —Eden Ahbez
“Remember, the ugly, old woman/witch is the invention of dominant cultures. The beauty of crones is legendary: old women are satin-skinned, softly wrinkled, silver-haired, and awe-inspiring in their truth and dignity.” —Susun Weed
In her story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” Flannery O’Connor brings a family face-to-face with a serial killer called the Misfit, who, along with his minions, kills the family, one by one. It’s a stark and horrifying story, not only of the cold-blooded murders, but of the character of the matriarch of the family, a grandmother who believes in her goodness, her self-satisfied sense of privilege. She is blind to her bias, and willfully committed to her ideas of caste and race and privilege. At the very end, just before the Misfit kills her, she shows the merest hint of self-understanding, the briefest light of awakening to the truth. Standing over her dead body the Misfit proclaims: “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
Please understand that I am not advocating violence here in these violent times, but I kept hearing the Misfit in my head these past few days, beginning with watching Lindsey Graham speak with such passionate fervor in the dark hours between Wednesday and Thursday. Others, too, spoke with eloquence and zeal about how the terror of the preceding hours made them take a long look at how denying the fairly-cast electoral votes delegitimized the process and led to the type of unrest that caused the terror attack on their own building.
And yet, here we are, three days later, and they pull back, they equivocate. They condemn the acts of violence and the destruction, but they continue to press the false narratives that got us to this point in the first place. It now appears that the Vice President’s life was probably truly in danger, as many of us suspected, that among the hooligans and yahoos was a very organized group of would-be assassins intent on turning a protest into an insurrection (which they achieved) and an insurrection into an assassination and a bloody coup. And yet the Vice President remains silent. He dithers and equivocates as he has always done.
On Wednesday afternoon, Congress met the Misfit, and for a few brief hours, in the shock of terror, some of them woke up to the horror that lay beyond the web of lies they’ve been weaving. A glimmer of light shone through on Epiphany. But they seem to be settling back into silent complacency that only furthers the lies of the powerful who seek to loot and plunder our democracy as surely as the insurrectionists looted its halls and offices on Wednesday.
The landscape is littered with lies, seeded with falsehoods like landmines, like bombs hidden in the halls of justice. The fabric of reality is stained, torn and twisted, threads cut and tangled.
It’s nothing new, this rhetoric of insurrection. For years now, they’ve been spreading it on, lie by lie, suggestion by suggestion, layer by seditious layer, whipping the masses into a frenzy of rage and disenfranchisement.
Now is the time for clear-headed cleaning, gathering threads of Truth where we find them, patching and weaving, healing the fabric, stitching and mending, finding our way to the source of the lies and destruction.
Long before terror and chaos pillaged the building, the lies were laid to pillage the truth, to bend the will of the gullible and power-hungry masses to do the silent bidding of the suited pirates who have laid the groundwork of sedition.
Calling for calm and understanding only veils the carnage, drawing another layer of lies to cover the wreck. Now is the time for the stark strands of truth to stand out and carry the narrative back from the brink of destruction.
Gratitude: Today I am grateful for truth, for narratives that center stories of people who have been cut from the narratives told by the powerful to skew the truth to their own agenda. I am grateful for the weavers and menders and spinners who pick up the torn and tangled threads and get to work to repair the tapestry of our story, holding the lie-mongers to account, and weaving in the threads of truth.
“A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.” —Amiri Baraka
“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” ―bell hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism
“Consider whether great changes have not happened deep inside your being in times when you were sad. The only sadnesses that are unhealthy and dangerous are those we carry around in public in order to drown them out. Like illnesses that are treated superficially, they only recede for a while and then break out more severely. Untreated they gather strength inside us and become the rejected, lost, and unlived life that we may die of. If only we could see a little farther than our knowledge reaches and a little beyond the borders of our intuition, we might perhaps bear our sorrows more trustingly than we do our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters us, something unknown. Our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, they take a step back, a stillness arises, and the new thing, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible, is music.” —Aldous Huxley
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” —Shel Silverstein
I know I did a lot of intense dreamwork last night, but the images and ideas are fleeting once again. I think I need to wake up and get writing before The Talker wakes up and starts his lengthy discourses on video games.
I’ve been meditating more on the gnomon, the sundial’s indicator. The perceiver. The indicator. Standing in its singular spot, the gnomon casts a shadow that shows the seeker where she is in the map of time. The gnomon must have a shadow in order to guide others to the truth of the moment. How can I be a truly helpful truth-telling guide if I do not know my shadow? If I do not stand boldly in the light of the sun, knowing that my shadow will flow out behind me for all to see? Perhaps this is the next step toward maturity.
Gratitudes: 1. Mending: I have a couple pairs of leggings that are developing some serious ladders, so yesterday I tried a woven mend that I saw on bookhou‘s Instagram videos last week. Mine ended up a little messy, but I definitely see the possibilities, and I have lots more holes to practice and improve on. 2. Last night I received a really moving message from a former student, talking about how, when I made the write poetry in Creative Writing class, he thought it was stupid, but when he had intense healing work to do after a painful time, he discovered that poetry was what he needed to be able to express what had happened to him. My heart hurts for the pain he must walk through, and it sings for the delight that something my work offered would be helpful in his healing. 3. For several months, I have been grieving the loss of a necklace I made. It has a bead and a pendant friends of mine brought me from East Africa, a large quartz crystal given to me by another friend, a cube of limonite Jon found on the farm, and a large garnet I bought at Radiance. Normally I am pretty philosophical about losing things, but this necklace was so attached to my web of beloveds and grounding places that it was a grief to lose it. Yesterday as I was re-arranging one of my altar spaces, I found the necklace, tucked in a corner where I had put it in a place of honor. It feels so good to wear it again. 4. How chakra meditations help to center me in my body. When I study religions and philosophical frameworks, ideas that separate the essential human from the body, that seek to raise the spirit/soul/essence out of matter in order to meet God or reach enlightenment, have always seemed incredibly suspicious and upside-down to me. My strongest sense has always been that the pathway to truth and knowing–gnowing–is by going deep, by centering myself within the body. Matter–matrix-mater matters. While I reject western materialism that clings to things as a superficial source of happiness, I think my pathway is material, enmattering. 5. How our Shadows can become our Guides. I am ready, I think, to take up this work. Having explored my shadows and begun to develop a sense of their shape and depth, I stand in the light and watch to see where they point.
May we walk in Beauty!
Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.
“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming
“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman
A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (From the Talmud)
“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana
“By our love and our need for love we become for one another midwives of the true self.” —James Finley
“Civility will not overturn the patriarchy.” —Mona Eltahawy
“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.” —Bryan Stevenson
“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie
“In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language.” ―Adrienne Rich, 1993
“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you… where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” ―Adrienne Rich
“More firebrand women. More dragon spirited women. More loud women. More angry women. More hard women. More intimidating women. More history-making women. More rebel women. More rebel women. More rebel women.” ―Nikita Gill
Last week, a friend of mine asked me to write a poem for her and her friends who are having a bonfire circle, a healing time and a safe space to express their fears and anxieties and anger and hope in a time when their lives and identities are in danger–it’s a racially diverse group with many gay and trans folks. I love how she has taken on this healing work, and I am so proud to be her friend, and so honored to write a poem to bless them.
You Are Elemental by Beth Weaver-Kreider for Faith and her Friends and in memory of Rem’mie Fells and Riah Milton
Someone once told me we are made of starstuff. Enough of the dust of the cosmos breathes through us that we can believe we belong, made as we are of the essence of that which forms all that is. Whatever you believe about yourself, know this: you belong in the web of it all. You are an elemental miracle of a living, breathing being, and you are the very expression of Desire Itself, manifested.
Whatever you experience of masculinity or femininity, what you experience as androgyny, all of that is emblematic of your Divinity, your connection to the Source from which we all are born. Don’t let them tell you, no matter how unsettled you may feel in the body you were born in, that you are not made in sacred grace, each atom, each particle, each space within you, formed as you are of earth and water, wind and flame–every name you choose that means your soul and spirit, that means your own transforming body, is sacred, holy, breath and birth.
You, whose journey is all about transforming who you are into who you feel yourself to be, are built into the likeness of the One who made the world, created in the shape of the Universe Itself, whose very name is Change, which set the rules in motion, to cause the caterpillar to feel her unsettled urge to break away from caterpillar life, to take his time in his quiet cocoon, to emerge as their own beautiful butterfly. You make yourself, you match yourself to yourself, you rhyme, you move to the subtle rhythms driven by the itch for mutability placed within you by the Holy One Themself.
May you breathe deeply in the skin you’re in. May you feel your holy fires awaken. May the blood that pulses in the rivers of your veins remind you of the waters of the Earth which bring you, again and again, to birth, as you shape and form and create yourself to be the you you know yourself to be. May the very Earth you walk on hold you up and remind you every day that you Belong. Blessed Be.
Gratitude List: 1. Webs 2. Spinning strands together 3. The tender human connections the Fab 5 model 4. FINALLY starting a project that has been hanging over my head, literally. Yesterday, I spent several hours scraping the ceiling of the balcony porch to get it ready to re-paint. It is going to take days, and I don’t have the stamina for more than two or three hours of it at a time. But it is started! 5. Yesterday, we caught glimpses of one of the young raccoons searching the hillside for grubs and bugs. Jon got a good photo of it from the treehouse where he was nailing up walls. Last week, we discovered the body of one of the others, and it’s been hurting my heart so that I can hardly even type the truth of it. It was good to see life continuing on with such focus and curiosity in its sibling.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly–in Beauty!
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. . .
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” —Tom Robbins
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ―Victor Hugo
“Everybody’s In, Baby.” ―The Love Warriors
“And when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up and away; she looked into the eyes of the person next to her. Which is Harder. Better.” ―Glennon Doyle
“When we ask for help, we are building community. We are doing away with this notion that we should be practicing at detachment. We are rapturously attaching! We become responsible for tending to one another’s pieces. Not only is the giver allowed to express their bestowing heart, the receiver is taken into a greater tenderness of their own giving nature. As we grow our capacity for gratitude, which is another way of saying completeness or belonging, we are healing our tinygiant part of the world’s devastating wound of scarcity.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Forever is composed of nows.” ―Emily Dickinson
Rob Brezsny: ‘So it turns out that the “blemish” is actually essential to the beauty. The “deviation” is at the core of the strength. The “wrong turn” was crucial to you getting you back on the path with heart.’
“If not for reverence, if not for wonder, if not for love, why have we come here?” ―Raffi
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ―Anne Frank
This week I have been the worship leader for my church’s Sunday service, my first time to prepare the videos to open the service, to pray, to bless us at the end, and to ask others to do children’s time and scripture. It felt daunting, and it highlighted how much I miss being part of that weekly gathering. And so last night’s dream:
In the dream, I am planning worship, asking people to make videos for the Sunday morning service. The pastor suggests that we really need a saxophone solo, so I go searching for people I know who could record a saxophone solo, but suddenly it’s no longer quarantine, and we’re holding church in a parking lot in a city (on folding chairs) and it’s about to begin and I have not yet found someone to do the saxophone solo when an old friend comes walking by and I ask him, and he starts to play “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” and everyone gets up and follows him in a dancing march around and around the parking lot, and everyone is laughing and dancing and celebrating, and no one is afraid to bump into anyone else or to touch.
And now I am crying.
The other day, Jon and I were talking about what it will mean when parts of Pennsylvania go from red to yellow, and I realized that for me, it won’t necessarily be any different. Really, in life Before, I mostly went to four places: church, school, and to visit our parents. When we go to yellow, we still won’t go to church, we definitely won’t go to school, and I don’t think we’ll be able to visit retirement communities yet. It feels pretty bleak.
I wrote that thing the other day about the After, how the time when this is over won’t be a “getting back to normal.” I like that awareness that people are putting into the world–this is a time for change and transformation, to envision what the new way will be when we are again out in the world. Still, for me, I long to get back to a normal where we can brush past each other in public, link arms, hug, dance, celebrate together without fear, when we can go marching in, joyfully, to the public places we share together.
Gratitude List: 1. Sometimes something that appears and creates stress is also really exciting. I have a week to get my whole classroom cleared (that means my thousand and one books packed, too) because it looks like construction on our air conditioning will begin in June! 2. Anticipating Oriole 3. Quiet mornings with my boy before anyone else is up 4. Good stretching 5. Dreaming well
May we walk in Beauty!
“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.” —Nina Simone
“A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” —Rachel Naomi Remen
“The secret to waking up is unscrambling the word earth.” —anonymous
“I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.” ―Rachel Held Evans
“What a comfort to know that God is a poet.” ―Rachel Held Evans
“Geometry is the archetype of the beauty of the world.” —Johannes Kepler
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” —John Keating (Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society)
“You are the Ground of all being the Well-Spring of time Womb of the earth the Seed-Force of stars. And so at the opening of this day we wait not for blessings from afar but for You the very Soil of our soul the early Freshness of morning the first Breath of day.” —John Philip Newell
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” ―J.K. Rowling
Gratitude List: 1. How dreams and half-dreams bring clarity. 2. A low-impact day today. Juniors and Seniors are busy. My other students will mostly write and read quietly. 3. People who speak the truth, who aren’t swayed by money and power, who stand between the powers and the vulnerable. 4. Sweater weather. 5. Sometimes people who are blissfully unaware of the wound you are wearing give you exactly the words necessary to make it bearable.
Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?
Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.
The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”
As you move out onto the road, Brigid’s sun upon your face will trace your outline full behind you, defining you in the Shadow which will be your soul’s companion into spring.
Brigid’s Day has dawned bright and sparkling. The groundhog and her rodent kin have seen their shadows. The crone can merrily wander through the woods edge and hedgerows to gather firewood for the next six weeks of winter.
And here’s one of the sacred truths of the moment: If I’m willing to look deeply into the reality of my own shadows, if I’m willing to know them, to understand how they reflect me and show my inner realities, then I have nothing to fear from the shadows. I have nothing to fear from the coming weeks of winter.
Yesterday after I got home, I went out to shovel the drive so it would be easier for Jon to get up the slope. My neighbor came out to help me. She loves to shovel snow, she said. She loves winter, especially when it’s cold and snowy. And for those moments with her, shoveling and talking together, I too loved the cold and the snow. For the beauty, for the exercise, but mostly for the neighborliness.
Questions to Contemplate in the Season of Brigid This is the season of sunlight and shadow: What is the shape of my shadow? How does it hamper me? How does it hold me? How does it tell me the shape of my soul?
Brigid is the Smith, she who works the forges: What within me is being tempered this season? What is being shaped and shifted? What sacred patterns are being traced along my edges? What useful tool am I being forged to become?
Brigid is the Healer. The waters of her well bring wholeness. What spaces within me need the touch of her waters? What dis-ease drains my vitality? How can I offer the waters of healing to others?
Brigid is Patroness of Poets. How do words shape my reality, like iron is shaped in the forge? How do my words bring healing, like water from the well? How can I speak poetry into the cold and the shadows of the season which is upon us? Can I offer my daily words with the care and the artfulness of the poet?
1. Grocery Shopping with Jon. It felt sort of like a date.
2. How things come together sometimes when they seem like they won’t, and how that space of uncertainty is often where the magic comes seeping in.
3. Rituals of healing
4. The power of stories. We watched Nanette last night. Hannah Gadsby has some of the most powerful reflections on the importance of story that I have ever heard.
5. Hot Tea on a chilly evening
The young folk have developed some lovely intricate stacks of wood and stone in the zen garden.
Gratitude List: 1. The Black History Month chapel today. The students lead and teach us.
2. Chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips.
3. The slow blink of cat’s eyes.
4. Sickness seems to be abating.
5. Hope and zen.
A couple years ago, I had a girl in my freshman class who entered every classroom on high alert, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. She didn’t wait to be bullied or insulted–she was ready to lash out at the least hint of a slight, the least whiff of aggression. Within days, most of her classmates were steering a wide path around her, terrified that they might accidentally look at her the wrong way and find themselves on the receiving end of her wrath.
One of the things I love about my school is the restorative way that teachers and administrators work with students. Teachers kept reminding her to keep her language school-appropriate, to speak more gently with her classmates. Students who felt harmed by her sharpness were cared for and comforted, and she was held accountable for the harm she caused. Still, she was treated like a person herself, not like a perpetrator, not like a problem. The adults understood that she was experiencing an extreme sense of vulnerability, that her social anxiety and the pain she was dealing with in her personal life made her push people away before she could be hurt.
Gradually, she began letting other students and adults near her. She discovered that people liked her for who she was, that we appreciated her quick wit, that she could make us laugh and smile. She began to talk and write about deeper things, too. When she lost someone she loved, instead of retreating to her cave and biting anyone who came near, she wrote it out. She talked about it. She let her friends hold her and care for her.
Now she’s a junior. She’s finding her voice, catching her stride. She can still make you cringe when she gets into a temper. She’ll always be good at speaking her mind. But the aggressiveness is tempered with gentleness. Instead of masking her vulnerability, she uses her tender heart to find connections with others who hurt. She’s beginning to speak out about issues and causes that matter to her, using both reason and passion. She’s becoming a leader. I am proud of her, and grateful for this community that helped her find her way to her best self. She’s going to be one of the ones who changes the world.
Gratitude List: 1. Beloved community that provides a place for us to fail and try and fail and try and learn and become.
2. The way the sunlight spilled across the fields as dawn arrived.
3. Magenta, Indigo, Aquamarine, which is to say: The clouds at sunrise.
4. The way those five crows flying in a perfect line laced up the clouds they flew between.
5. The members of the Silhouette Magazine staff. They’re witty, earnest, playful, and thoughtful. I’m proud of the assembly they presented this morning.