Fictions, Gratitudes

That Moon!

Gratitude List:
1. That Moon!
2. Starting to get the energy back
3. Those Thai ads about kindness. Ellis has to find a video about random kindness for class, so we were looking at the Thai ads. I had to make myself stop, I was getting too weepy.
4. Music. Today’s soundtrack is Mindy Nolt and Siobhan Miller.
5. This marvelous recliner.

May we walk in Beauty!

scrolls

They knew instinctively that the scrolls must be kept secret and safe. Gormlek cleared away the rubble of the fallen wall, patched and repaired it, leaving a little doorway that even his granddaughter had to stoop to get through, and covered the door with a wooden cabinet that could be rolled aside for entry, but looked solid and immovable enough to a scanning eye.

In the evenings, when the day’s baking and sales were finished and Gormlek had returned from his day’s work in the Houses of the Dead, the little family would take a scroll from the hidden annex, and read the ancient hi’Stories of the Queens of Zammarqand.

“These sound like the fairy tales that Granny tells me when I visit her in the village!” Leeta told her mother. “There’s the one about the Prince of Karadzu, who came to Zammarqand to seek for the hand of Princess Jinna in marriage, but Jinna did not want to marry him, so she challenged him to a game of chess. If he won, she would marry him, but if she did, he would give her his proud stallion and walk home. That stallion made Princess Jinna the winner of every horse race in the city for years afterward.”

Bilhah’s eyes were bright. “I’ve been thinking that, too, how Granny seems to know these hi’Stories, how her tales are little mirrors of the stories in these parchments. Do you think they’re true, Abba? Or are they just someone’s written-down version of the fairy tales?”

Gormlek carefully studied the parchment at hand, the candle-light flickering over his face. Finally, he said, “Our hi’Story does not begin with the Wolf Kings–I am certain of it–although that is what we boys were taught in school, that the city began when Chinngis Djin settled the river valley. But those hi’Stories always say he conquered the people of the city, so there must have been a city before the Wolf King’s reign. All my life, I have heard the stories of Granny and the others, of a different life, a different city, a different hi’Story. Even the grannies say that their stories are nonsense, little ditties to be told to the children and ignored by everyone else. But now I think that they have been keeping the oldest hi’Stories alive in their tellings.

<More on this part of the story tomorrow>

Fictions, Gratitudes, Musings

The Secret Ways of Hi’Story

wolf

Gratitude List:
1. Help with the tale
2. Feeling better every day
3. Getting work done
4. Crusty bread, toasted and buttered
5. Hot chocolate

May we walk in Beauty!

*****
These stories are becoming something of a family project. I read a few at a time to the children, and then they ask what will happen next, and what bits of the story I will reveal next. Or they make suggestions about how to unpack something in the next bit of story. I don’t quite know where all this is going. Perhaps if they come together into some sort of form, I will edit and revise them and try to publish them some day, but for now, it’s a pleasant thread to follow.

I think I will continue to spell it “hi’story,” to emphasize the story piece of it. Because Chinngis Djin tried to erase the Wolf Queens, the era of the Wolf Queens has become legend, and Story is a crucial part of keeping them alive.

While I have chosen to separate my story from the real Samarkand by changing its name a little, and placing it in something of a fantasy realm, I found the story of the sack of the city by Genghis Khan in 1220 to be rather compelling, and so I have kept him in the parallel. Several sources call him the Blue Wolf, and in one source, he is spelled Chinngis Khan.  At this point in the process, I do not intend to do the careful research necessary to make this an academically accurate historical/cultural novel. I just want to follow the thread of this hi’story, and see where it takes me.

The Secret Ways of Hi’Story

The hi’story of Zammarqand seemed to begin with the coming of Chinngis Djin, the Blue Wolf of the North. In the year 1220, the Blue Wolf and his hordes had ridden down the steppes like a mighty wind, conquering the villages and cities in their path, setting up fierce and brutal warriors to control the lands they overthrew. In the city of Zammarqand and it surrounding villages, the subjugation included an overthrow of hi’story. The great library was burned, the temples torn down, and the sacred groves were uprooted and laid waste. The Wolf Mother shrines that lined the inner walls of the city were simply plastered over, along with the dozens of small shops that were built right into the city walls.

The Wolf-Queen, daughter in a line of a thousand queens before her, was deposed and slain publicly in the market square, her children dragged off as slaves with Chinngis Djin’s southward-surging army, never to be seen in Zammarqand again. The peaceful rule of the mothers was ended, and a new day of military might and harsh rule began.

In the days of Leeta the Storymaker, three hundred years after the coming of the Blue Wolf, the governance of the city had settled into a patriarchal rhythm that had a great deal less surface brutality than it had in the first century following the coming of the Blue Wolf, though its deep reality was one of repression of the city’s daughters, and a near-complete erasure of the city’s hi’story prior to the coming of Chinngis Djin.

But hi’story has a way of making itself found. Images of the tender-eyed Wolf Mother proliferated in secret places in the city, for those who had the eyes to see. Grandmothers faithfully remembered the fairy tales and stories, passing them on to daughters and granddaughters. Young women would dream dreams of a great and watchful She-wolf sitting in the gateway to the city. Travelers would come upon wild groves of trees growing in near-perfect circles. And in the city, in houses that were built right up against the city walls, occasionally a plaster wall would give way, and a little room would open up, a small chamber holding a statue of a nursing wolf or a bust of the Wolf Mother.

When she was eight, in her sleeping room at the back of the little shop of Bilhah the Baker, Bilhah’s daughter Leeta one day discovered a crack in the wall. She had been ill for three days, and boredom was beginning to grow greater than the illness that kept her to her room. The child began to pick at the crack. Her mother, pulling a large tray of mooncakes from the ovens, heard a rumble and a crash. Racing back to her daughter’s room, she discovered Leeta unhurt, but covered in plaster dust, standing awed in the entrance to a newly opened chamber into the city wall behind the house.

The walls of the chamber were lined with shelves and each shelf was filled with scrolls, perfectly preserved through the centuries. The plastered walls that had been intended to erase the city’s hi’Story had instead preserved it perfectly for distant generations.  A plaque on one wall read “ElSheba Hi’Storian.”

Gormlek the Mourner had taught his daughter and then his granddaughter to read, a minimally revolutionary act in a city where only boys attended school, and the education of girls was frowned on or scoffed at.  Leeta and her mother wasted no time in reading and cataloging their new treasures.

Gratitudes, Poems

Ode to History in the Hospital

grandmas-hands1
My grandmother’s hands.

The prompt today is to write an ode or a poem dedicated to someone or something. I’ll do another in my series of History poems. I can hardly bear to remember the last one I wrote, on the eve of the Election. Poor History. She was looking so hopeful that night.

For History in the Hospital
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

She doesn’t look happy to see me.
I place the flowers on her windowsill
between a Get Well Soon balloon
and a giant teddy bear holding a red heart.

“I thought you said I didn’t have to
repeat myself–” she says. (“Repeat myself.”)
Her face is black and blue and she’s missing her front teeth.
She’s been beaten up before, I know.
Left for dead in alleyways,
trampled by the paparazzi,
mugged by dictators and tyrants.
She’ll recover. She will go on to watch it happen
again and again and again.

But this one was so sudden,
such a quick attack, and she didn’t see it coming,
despite her long association with herself.
I feel like I am partly to blame, somehow.

“I should be just a bystander,” she whispers.
“A bystander. But this kind always knocks me down.
Knocks me down.” She looks at me over the top of her spectacles.

What can I tell her? “I don’t know what to do,”
I say, the helplessness catching in my throat.

And there she is, doing what she’s done all along,
since the beginning of History herself:
she comforts me from within her own misery.
“You’ll think of something. I’ve got to get off this
whirling merry-go-round. It’s just not so merry anymore.”

I nod. “Not so merry anymore,” she repeats.

**********
Some suggestions for myself (and you, if you want to join me):
1. Listen to music. Music heals, as Andrea Gibson says.
2. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before posting and re-posting.
3. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before responding to those who disagree. Remember that we’re here to open doors for the Great Mystery in each other.
4. Check out some Joe Biden memes.
5. Hug someone you love.
6. Look into people’s eyes.
7. Stretch. Actually physically stretch. Often.
8. Breathe.
9. Listen to the pain and rage around you, but don’t take it on your shoulders.
10. Find your anchors, the people who keep you from floating away in the rage and the grief.
11. Re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “You Were Made for This.”

Gratitude List:
1. Soft tacos for supper: kale and broccoli, onions, cheese, beans.
2. The regular chiming of Grandma’s clock. When I cleaned the house, I decided to wind it up and get it ticking again.
3. Sleep. I always seem to need more of it during the dark season.
4. Forging pathways
5. Bridges. All the bridges we build, the bridges we cross.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Repeating Herself

leaves

Today’s prompt is a Two-for-the-Price-of-One:
Nothing will be the same. Nothing will ever change.
I’m going to add a third in my series of History poems. You can see the other two Here and Here.

You Don’t Have To
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

History has caught up with me again.
She sidles up to me in line at the polls.
“I like the new look, Sister,” she says
fiddling with her many scarves and shawls.
“Yup. I like the new look,” she says again.

I watch her fidgeting and fussing
like she always does. She can’t keep still.
She makes me jittery. A feather boa slips
off her shoulder to the floor.
I don’t think I’ve changed a bit in twenty years,
except for wrinkles and sags. But now
I look at her more closely:
“History–Is that a black eye?”

She avoids my gaze and sighs,
occupied with tucking in her shirt,
adjusting her wide hat upon
her elaborate hairdo.

“Okay, okay,” she says finally,
“So I dressed as Susan B. for Halloween.”
I watch her gather up her shawls.
“I dressed up as Susan B. for the Elec–”
“I know,” I interrupt. “You don’t have to
repeat yourself.” For the first time ever,
History looks me right in the eye:
“You’re right, Sister. I sure don’t.”

Gratitude List:
1. Poll Workers. Thank you to all of you who have given your time to make our democracy run. A friend of mine was among a group of poll workers threatened by a voter today. Police intervened.
2. Susan B. Anthony
3. Birds
4. The constants. Love, for instance.
5. Fresh air.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Goldenrod and History

lizzie
It has been a least a couple weeks since I have posted a purple lisianthus. I love the complementary colors–purple and gold–pulsing there beside each other.

Here is a poem I wrote last November.

Waiting for History to Repeat Herself
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Waiting for History to repeat herself
is turning me into a statue of salt.

She sits next to me in the cafe,
stirs a load of sugar into her brew:
“It takes the edge off the inevitability,”
she tells me. “Inevitability is bitter, Girl.
It twists my gut into knots.”

She pours the cream,
sloshing it all over the counter,
and grabs a scone from her plate.
Her elbow sends the coffee mug
careening to the counter’s edge.

“I knew that would happen,”
she says, waving her butter knife
a little too close to my face.

I want to grab her, yell,
“Slow down a minute, Hon.
Relax. Take your time to settle in.
Concentrate on what you’re doing
right here in this moment,”

but she seems to be reading my mind.
“Impossible,” she blurts,
scattering crumbs across the counter top.
A dollop of jelly plops off her scone
and into her coffee. “I can’t slow down,
can’t settle, can’t give you time
to catch your breath on this one, Babe.”

Outside, snow curls out of the mist,
and voices call out sharply.
I’ve heard them all before:
Protect the Fatherland.
Eliminate the immigrants.
This is the time to show our
strength, to flex our iron arm.
Be very afraid.

“It’s beginning,” says History,
one elbow in the puddle of coffee,
the other in the wayward jam.
“I’ve heard it all before, Girl.
It’s the same damn grind,
over and over again.”

I sip my coffee black.
“Inevitability, Sister.”
She draws out the syllables
and hands me the cream.

Gratitude List:
1. Goldenrod! Have I said goldenrod? It’s everywhere now, and it shines. How it shines.
2. Those sunrises that seem to cover the whole spectrum of color
3. Commiseration.
4. Father Serafim and his choir of Assyrian singers
5
. Goldenrod. I think the fairies live in patches of goldenrod.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Questioning the Wolf

Little Red
I am a big fan of reinterpreting the wolf, of finding new ways to look at fairy tales. I think that’s one of the great beauties of fairy tales: like dream images, they can hold so many meanings, so many messages. I need my wolf today to be as big and scary as the messages from last night’s dream. I need Little Red to be little and solid as she confronts the creature. (This image is all over the internet, but I cannot seem to find the author’s name, or I would gladly give credit. I would like to see more work by this artist.)

In recent years, my most difficult dreams have been those disturbing anxiety dreams where I can’t find my classroom or I am totally unprepared or I can’t find clothes that fit. It’s been years since I had one of those dreams that wakes you up, paralyzed and sweating, unable to move anything but your eyeballs, months since I have had one of the ones that leave me with disturbing, haunting images that I can’t get out of the back of my head.  This morning, I woke up with an adrenaline shot and a searing image from one of those.

Isn’t that the funny thing about dreams? The lovely ones, the weird ones, the ones that feel like they have thoughtful messages–those I need to capture and hold onto with pen and paper the second I open my eyes, or they’re gone like frost crystals in the morning sun, dissipated like a mist. But the ones that pierce and hurt, the images that haunt and ache, that tell you the stories of your deepest, most panicky fears–those live on like a bad smell, like a poison ivy rash.

I know last night’s dream had messages for me. I used every technique I could think of to erase the image, and it isn’t holding such power over me as it did in the panicky moment of waking, though it’s still there, lurking. Now is the time to look back at it from this slightly safer distance and ask it what it wants to tell me. I am Little Red Riding Hood talking to the Wolf, Vassilissa in the house of Baba Yaga.

Gratitude List:
1. The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen.  How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.
2. History. How we live into it today, wear it like a scarf over the clothes of this moment. Not just our own personal history, but deep history, the history of our ancestors, our nations, our idealistic and philosophical and spiritual pathways.
3. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s revolutionary stuff. I keep coming back to it, seeing it with fresh eyes. One of my favorite poems. One of my favorite spiritual growth essays. One of my favorite revolutionary treatises. It’s all in there.
4. Butterflies! Everywhere. They’re just everywhere. Monarchs flit along the highways and down the River. The swallowtails drift across the hollow all day long. I wish I could see a residual image of their pathways. I bet they’ve flown an intricate dreamcatcher across our life here, a web. (Perhaps it was that dream catcher that caught this morning’s fearsome nightmare before it could settle too deeply.)
5. Cooler days are coming.  Which is a thinly veiled complaint about the current heat. It bothers me so much more than it used to. So I will live with the happy thought of cool autumn days and chilly nights with a warm quilt.

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.

Gratitudes, Poems, Poetry Prompts

Marching

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a historic poem.  I have been listening to 1776, by David McCullough lately, and it has been bothering me that even today, a book like this can be lauded as a great addition to our understanding of history when it is another basic description of battle after battle after stratagem after battle, with occasional mentions of the atrocities of plunder and rape and murder that went along with it.  Perhaps this is more of a rant than a poem.  It feels unfinished, too, but I need to move on.

The British blamed the Hessians and
the Hessians blamed the British and
the Rebels blamed them both for the atrocities
and probably the blame was on them, too.

The generals and captains moved their armies
through the cities and the orchards,
through the villages and through the towns.

Such constant disappointments
for those in high command,
such fear of wrong decisions,
of losing face and looking weak.

What if the reinforcements don’t arrive?
What if the soldiers run in fear?
What if the enemy has better guns?

But this is just the surface of the story.
The real tale is told always in the shadows,
the oblique or marginal reference
to ravishment and pillage,
cattle slaughtered, villages displaced.

The commanders and the generals
were quite disgusted with the plundering
performed by other armies in the war.
Always mentioned as atrocities
with a sigh of the scholar’s pen,
before we move along
to battle plans once more.

As long as we keep writing history
as a necessary chess match,
writing the real costs into the margins,
giving the scholar’s nod to the horrors
before moving on to further tactics
we can excuse our appetite for war,
and ignore the real story.

Gratitude List:
1. The Tempest.  The play.  The Bard.  Those incredible student actors.
2. Affirmation.  Reminders that I have stepped on to the right path.
3. The gentle sounds of morning.
4. Good coffee.
5. The rhythm of work and rest.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Small Town

Today’s Auto Writing Prompt: Featuring at least one example from each of the five senses, describe a small town.  It is helpful for me to force myself to do a sudden descriptive writing piece since this is the type of work I demand from my students.

The town marches straight up the hillside. Walking up Main Street from the River, you feel the weight of gravity pulling you backwards and downwards.  Perhaps it’s the weight of the town’s own defiant history, furtively harboring the desperate people who followed the River northward to freedom and burning the bridge across the River to keep the southern armies from marching on their neighbors to the east.  Brick and stone and wood–your fingers can almost trace the layers of history, read the stories of rebellion and desperation in the walls of this town.

On a clear breezy day, you will just catch the briefest whiff of the metallic tang mingled with rot (almost more a taste than a smell) that comes from the dump high on the ridge, and the town is daily filled with the rumble of trucks from many parts of Pennsylvania and her neighbors on their way to unload their burdens at the landfill.

Gratitude List:
1. The heart-filling gratitude of students.
2. Little naps
3. Nailing it, but also trying again when I don’t nail it. So, second chances.
4. Being part of a team, a net, a compassionate web–knowing that others are also looking out for the ones I feel troubled about
5. Snowy mornings.  My favorite thing, besides a little extra time in the mornings with my family, is seeing the tracks in the snow.  Cat feet. Squirrel feet. Bird feet.  Wingtips.

May we walk in Beauty!