Good Work

White Friends, this is difficult and constant work that we’re doing, that we must do, and continue to do. How can we really know how deeply we’ve been indoctrinated into this culture of white supremacy until we know it? And then know it more deeply? And then again. It’s not like a Bandaid that you rip off, and deal with the sting, and then everything’s fine. It’s layer after layer after layer.

And yes, it’s exhausting. And yes, it’s painful. But we have to do this work. Now. And always. It’s exhausting and painful for BIPOC folks to have to deal with microaggressions and explicit racism and systemic racism and inadvertent racism every day. We have to do this work. And keep doing it.

There is so much to learn on the way: new ways to articulate powerful ideas, new ways of exploring our own difficult feelings, new ways to see people and the world, new ways to experience the history of all of us, new ways to become more fully human.

I don’t quote many Bible verses here, but there’s one that fits pretty perfectly in this rhetorical moment. It’s in Romans 12: “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world. Instead, be transformed by the continual renewing of your mind, that you may discern the will of the Holy One: what is the good and acceptable and perfect.” The patterns of white supremacy in this (US) part of the world are institutionalized and powerful. It’s going to take some intentional and constant work to break and transform those patterns.

If you hear a new thing that challenges and unsettles you–about white supremacy, or privilege or fragility, or about taking a new look at US history and ideals–I urge and challenge you (me, us) to not begin in defensiveness and argument, but to simply sit quietly a moment, and ask yourself (myself, ourselves) how it applies, how the integrating of this idea might be transformational and renewing. And then begin to rip off that bandaid.

There are doorways all around us, leading us to places where we can be more fully human and humane, and right now there are constant opportunities to see them, to walk through them, to learn and to grow. Let’s join the Good Work, beginning with ourselves.


Gratitude List:
1. So many good and challenging things to learn.
2. Watching a thunderstorm from the shelter of the pavilion by the River.
3. Good exercise. Moving my body. Healthy, limber, and strong: That’s my mantra for the summer. (It includes a lot of aches and pains on the way, but they’re the good ones.)
4. Toads. They’re such wise and ancient folk.
5. Finishing projects

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


“You are a pure Soul in darkened soil.” —Rumi


“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” ―Helen Keller


“What we need is here.” —Wendell Berry


“Million-to-one chances…crop up nine times out of ten.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


“Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.” —André Gide


“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” —Ms. Frizzle


“We stand guard over works of art, but species representing the work of aeons are stolen from under our noses.” —Aldo Leopold


“It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a half-brick in the path of the bicycle of history.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


“Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites

On Monuments and History

(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

When you see the flags come down and watch the monuments getting removed, and you say things like, “But we can’t just erase our history,” please listen to how incredibly racist that is.

These are monuments to honor people who fought to keep people enslaved, placed there decades after the Civil War in order to try to control the narrative about who won and who lost, about who emerged dominant. These are monuments to racism.

They say history is written by the victors, and that is so often true, but the proponents of the confederacy could not allow a story that saw the people they had formerly enslaved taking an equal place at the American table. So they took hold of the story, placed statues of their slave-owning heroes in the public square, and swayed the narrative to place themselves again at the center.

Please don’t worry that we’re erasing history. We’ll keep teaching Civil War history, but we’ll also teach about the massacres and the lynching and the systematized racism that was put into place in order to terrorize and intimidate and demoralize Black people in its aftermath, to try to keep them unfree. We will teach the full history, of all of us. We’ll keep finding primary sources and researched, academic analysis of the post-Civil War era. And certainly, we’ll teach about those statues, which were raised by people who refused to lose a war, in order to offer a visual symbol of white supremacy. We’re not erasing history, and we’re not changing history. We’re completing the narrative.

As my friend Chantelle says, “Some of white history NEEDS to take a backseat.” It’s time, and past time, to tell the entire narrative.

And–Happy Juneteenth!
I know white people have a tendency to take over everything, and I don’t want to do that here. This is an important day in United States history, and I celebrate this day with all whose ancestors were enslaved in this country, when the word finally came two years later to Texas that “All Slaves Are Free.”

None of us are truly free until all of us are free. If ever we can celebrate true freedom and the hope of freedom in America, it is today. I pledge to continue that work of freedom in any way I can.


Gratitude List:
1. I saw a hairy woodpecker! I often wonder if some of what I am calling downies might actually be hairies, but those weren’t. When you know a downy, then when you see a hairy, you know it’s a hairy. I love how perception works like that.
2. Learning ALL the history, terrible as much of it is. Half a narrative is a false narrative.
3. Seeing my parents! We were allowed to visit at a distance with my parents last evening, and it was incredibly pleasant to sit and chat and see their eyes again.
4. I am almost finished with the prayer shawl. It will be complete in just a couple hours. I am grateful with the anticipation of passing it on to the young man it is meant to bless.
5. Indigo bunting–one drop of holy shining blue in all that writhing mass of green.

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


“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou


“I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ―Anne Lamott


“[E]ducation is not just about utilizing a particular curriculum, or ensuring that critical reflection in a community follows a particular formula. It is full of intangible and random events. It is not just taught in the classroom, but lived in the midst of the community in ways that are not even fully quantifiable.” ―M.S. Bickford on the educational theories of John Westerhoff


“The trouble with trouble is, it starts out as fun.” ―Anonymous


“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. . .give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
—Leymah Gbowee


“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.” —Wangari Maathai


“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.” —Wangari Maathai


“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” —Joseph Campbell


“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
—Ray Bradbury

O’er Rough and Smooth to Travel

Jon found this bookplate in an old book he is selling at work. It was a thin volume, a sort of literary guide to Jerusalem. Because he is who he is, Jon had the idea to Google their names, and he found an image of their gravestone, near Philadelphia. Lincoln Cartledge died at age fifty, while Letty Merrell Shallcross Cartledge lived into her eighties. We became sort of melanchly considering how short their side-by-side travel actually was. Further searches find other old and rare books being sold online noting the Cartledges’ tender bookplate, and several references to, and a few images from, Lincoln Cartledge’s career as a photographer in the Philadelphia area.

At some point, in the very early 1900s, when this couple got married, they placed at least a few special personalized bookplates in their book collection. Over a century later, strangers are moved by the inscription–“O’er rough and smooth to travel side by side”–and left with an ache of knowing how short their side-by-side travel was. Make the most of the rough and smooth that you are traveling side by side with your beloveds. We never know how how short or long our time will be.

Ah. And I said that up there about Jon being the researcher he is, and now, of course, I see again how this is one of the elements that draws us together, because I can’t stop the researches this morning. The phrase comes from this poem:

Sonnet to a Friend
By Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849)

WE parted on the mountains, as two streams
From one clear spring pursue their several ways;
And thy fleet course hath been through many a maze
In foreign lands, where silvery Padus gleams
To that delicious sky, whose glowing beams
Brightened the tresses that old poets praise;
Where Petrarch’s patient love and artful lays,
And Ariosto’s song of many themes,
Moved the soft air. But I, a lazy brook,
As close pent up within my native dell,
Have crept along from nook to shady nook,
Where flow’rets blow, and whispering Naiads dwell.
Yet now we meet, that parted were so wide,
O’er rough and smooth to travel side by side.

Hartley Coleridge is, as you have guessed, the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wikipedia (the teacher’s favorite source to hate) says that his father even wrote about him in two poems: “Frost at Midnight” and “The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem.” You can follow those rabbit trails if you choose. Does the poem sound sort of Wordsworthian to you? No surprise there: He wrote the poem for Dorothy Wordsworth, William’s sister, also a writer. You can use The Google to find a book about their friendship: Dorothy Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge: The Poetics of Relationship written by Nicola Healey.

Rabbit trails. May your trails be pleasant today, Soulkin, and bring you small delights of discovery, whatever trails you follow.


Gratitude List:
1. Research rabbit trails. On the Enneagram, I am a 7, which means that when we first studied the Enneagram together, I kept saying I thought I was this or that or another thing, probably all of them (7s want to experience EVERYTHING). Deep down, I thought I was probably a 7, but I didn’t feel like I was worthy of the number, not being adventurous enough. Everyone else said, “Duh, you’re a 7,” so I accepted it gladly. I think I have a pretty strong 6 wing, but I can fall with a thud into 8 when I am stressed. Eights are the people I am most likely to fight with, including my own stressy self. All that to preface the point that I adore my solid 5 of a husband, and I love to follow his researchy rabbit trails. I can’t wait for him to wake up today so I can show him the things I have discovered about the Cartledges and the source of the phrase on their bookplate.
2. People keeping the pressure on the system for change. Whatever you do to be part of that, keep doing it.
3. Time to READ! I’m finishing my half-read books so I can get working on the stack, which has grown even taller in recent days.
4. Soulkin. That’s us. I wish I had crafted that word myself. I discovered it somewhere online. It’s what we are, you and I on our parallel and mingled and divergent journeys.
5. That viny brambly mess on the bluff is threatening to take over the world, but it’s got a thousand shades of green, and all sorts of tinyfolk live in its secret ways, so we must take great care in how we tidy it up, so as not to disturb the families of the little ones who live there. And messy as it is, it’s got a wild beauty.

Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly–in Beauty!


“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” —Hannah Arendt


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ―Audre Lorde


Omid Safi says:
“There are three times in life when we experience this kind of a loveglance.
With our parents, our beloved, and a spiritual teacher.
How lovely the glance, how lovely the glancer, how lovely the one glanced at.”


“You are not an Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.” —Vandana Shiva


“Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.” ―Lao Tzu


“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet…maybe we could understand something.” ―Federico Fellini


“When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.” ―Jane Austen


Rob Brezsny:
Thomas Merton’s notion of what makes a saint doesn’t have to do with being a perfectly sinless paragon of virtue. The more important measure of sanctity, he said, is one’s ability to see what’s good and beautiful in other people. The truly holy person “retires from the struggle of judging others.”


You are the mountain, but awake.‬
‪You are the rain, but breathing.‬
‪You are the forest, but unanchored. ‬
‪You are the soil, but with choice.‬
‪You are the sunlight, but dreaming.‬

‪Soon, you will be these things again. Mountain. Rain. Forest. Sunlight.‬

‪So, what will you do until then?‬
—Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

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>

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.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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!