Into the Dark, December 11

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

Panic, a low-grade sense of not-right-ness, of un-cope-ability, wants to be the word of the day. Yesterday’s sore neck turned out to be a full-blown headache/migraine thing, and I sort of ghosted my way through the day. That all sounds like a complaint, but it sets the stage for this morning’s emotional “migraine”–when you feel bad, you feel like you’ll never feel better, you know? Like somehow, this pain in the neck, this uncertainty, this sense of doom and gloom is all it’s ever going to be.

But of course it isn’t. Pain fades. New forms of certainty and rhythm arise. Gloom and doom lift. The sun shines again. The shadows offer gifts of insight and wonder. And that’s the story of Advent for me. Sometimes, you have to endure to get through the night to the daytime. There’s my word for today: endure. I know: There’s so much joy in the lights and the music and the cookies, in the parties and the planning. Still, the walk into the darkness is an endurance test for some of us some years. Ten more days of walking into the night, and then we can turn around and start walking back into the daylight.

(And I’m okay, really. Just caught in the web of the season. Hit harder by the lengthy nights than I sometimes am. Which is why I am writing these daily reflections, of course. To make it through. To leave myself a trail of bread crumbs for next year’s journey.)


Gratitude List:
1. Today is not yesterday
2. Dinner with Dorm Students last evening
3. Twinkling lights in the living room
4. Cheese
5. Featherbed

May we walk in Beauty!


“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.” —Mahatma Gandhi


“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman


“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver


“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to [all].” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Keep Your Beloveds Close

Gratitude of Resistance Sixteen:
Reweaving the threads of friendship and memory with my Beloveds. We need to keep our Beloveds close in these times, and what can fight the tides of hate and intolerance and despair more effectively than eye contact across a table, sharing food, creating ideas and dreams together? Make each moment with those you love and trust a moment of prayer in action, a grand magic spell, a wishing bird of hope–that all may come and go in peace, that no one shall be forced away from the table, that a better way of living together in this world will be possible.

May we walk in Beauty!

Caught in the Brambles

Gratitude of Resistance Thirteen:
You know that feeling when you’ve been following a bright path in the forest, working your way from twinkling mushroom to red flower, and suddenly you find yourself completely lost and caught hopelessly in the brambles? You’re scratched and bleeding and entangled and far from home and you can hear the wolves closing in, and something moving around in the leaves nearby.

Then suddenly an army of mice and little birds appears. The mice carefully chew their way through the brambles that hold you and the birds bring you bright berries, and suddenly you’re free. There might still be wolves around, and you’re still scratched and bleeding, but you’re free now, and you know you’re not alone.

That was me yesterday, and all the wonderful people who reminded me that all is not lost, that much has been gained in the movement toward more kindness, more decency, more justice. And some of those berries are so bright and sweet: 100 Women Elected to Congress. That will have to become a poem, I think.

To top off the recovery, yesterday was a five-hawk day: a red-shouldered, three red-tails, and a mottled juvenile something-or-other.

Skyful of Crows

Yesterday as I was falling asleep, meditating on how we make the shift from incivility to kindness, I saw a sky full of crows flying across the sky of my inner eye. All of us together, Friends. Hope against hope. Believe in the Good which is to come. Be ready to Be Change. Love and joy.
 
I do not deny that I go to bed tonight full of anxiety and angst for what tomorrow brings, but there’s a boatful of hope sailing that swamp, and a vast cloud of wise souls flying that gray cloudy sky. I cast the web from me to you. Let’s weave and dream.

Hope and Zen

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

A Daily Day


Today’s Prompt is to write a Construction and/or a Deconstruction Poem.
I am wiped right out tonight, so I am going to do my favorite form of deconstruction. I am going to take a little poem and run it through Google Translate several times:

Every day, I am remade,
reborn from the husk
of yesterday’s creature.

(To Malayalam and back again)
Every day, I’m reconstructing,
Resurrected from throat
Today’s work.

(To Bangla and back)
Every day, I’m rebuilding,
Resurrection from throat
Today’s job.

(To Gujarati and Amharic and back)
I will rebuild every day,
From the Crucifixion
They work today

(Chinese)
I will rebuild it everyday
Crucified
They work today

(Hausa)
I’ll rebuild it everyday
Cross
They work today

(Sindhi)
I’ll give you a daily day
Cross
They work today


“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
—Nelson Mandela
***
For a day, just for one day,
Talk about that which disturbs no one
And bring some peace into your beautiful eyes.
—Hafiz
***
“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.” —proverb
***
“All religions, all this singing, one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity. The sun’s light looks a little different on this wall than it does on that wall, and a lot different on this other one, but it’s still one light.” —Rumi
***
The magic of autumn has seized the countryside;
now that the sun isn’t ripening anything
it shines for the sake of the golden age;
for the sake of Eden;
to please the moon for all I know.
—Elizabeth Coatsworth
***
“. . .fairies’ gold, they say, is like love or knowledge–or a good story. It’s most valuable when it’s shared.” —Heather Forest, The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies


Gratitude List:
1. A Tuesday that was a Friday. Big sigh of relief.
2. Time to catch up on my work.
3. That moon
4. The musical students of LMH
5. Resolve

May we walk in Beauty!

Dial Up the Magic


Today’s prompt is to write a ______ if ______ poem. His examples all filled the blanks with longish phrases, but this came to me:

If I sleep I will speak
Speak if I sing
Sing if I breathe
Breathe if I wait
Wait if I weep
Weep if I dream
Dream if I sleep.

 


(For some reason, the quotations from last year on this day all seem to be intended to comfort myself from some great sorrow)

” ‘They kept going, because they were holding onto something.’
‘What are we holding onto, Sam?’
‘There’s still good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.’ ”
—J. R. R. Tolkien
*
“Somewhere deep in the forest of grief
there is a waterfall where all your tears may flow
over mossy rocks, under watchful pines.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“But this moment, you’re alive. So you can just dial up the magic of that at any time.” —Joanna Macy
*
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” —E. B. White
*
“Love imperfectly. Be a love idiot. Let yourself forget any love ideal.” —Sark
*
“Everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything exists, only because I love.” —Leo Tolstoy
*
“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong
*
“Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don’t stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even galaxies.” —Frederic and Mary Ann Brussa
*
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
—Carl Sagan
*
“There are certain things, often very little things, like the little peanut, the little piece of clay, the little flower that cause you to look WITHIN – and then it is that you see the soul of things.”
—George Washington Carver


Gratitude List:
1. The way the large flocks of little birds line the electric lines when the pause to take a rest in their migrations, making the lines look furry
2. The way the color just keeps coming, keeps deepening, keeps astounding
3. The way the year has turned, from despair and rage to a kind of hope
4. The way the Open Secrets of Hollywood and Political Power are being blasted open so that powerful men can no longer hide their predations
5. Kale with dried tomatoes for supper

May we walk in Beauty!

The Dragon in the Park



“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver
*
“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
Listen.”
―Rumi
*
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
―Carl Jung
*
“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
―Mary Oliver
*
“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
―Hafiz


Gratitude List:
1. On the way past Sam Lewis Park yesterday afternoon, we saw a dragon in the sky. And two dinosaurs. And two trilobites. People were flying kites. I think they’re known as Finnish kites. A high up leader kite is tethered to a balloon-style kite. The higher kite pulls the lower one up into the air. It’s amazing to watch.
2. Bubbles. Also at the park, a couple had brought along several buckets full of soap solution and long rope-style bubble wands. They created enormous bubbles.
3. Sharing stories. Stories, like bridges between us.
4. The Labor movement–people believing in their cause–in worker safety, in justice and fairness in pay, in reasonable hours, in respectable treatment of employees.
5. Playing games with the kids.

May we walk in Beauty!

Live Like the Truth is True

“I want to live like the truth is true and go where love has not been found.” –Al Letson, host of podcast Reveal, quoting Father Greg Boyle, about his reasons for protecting a white supremacist from a beating
*
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
*
“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
(excerpt from “Inversnaid”) –Gerard Manley Hopkins
*
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what to hope for.
And the most you can do is live inside that hope.”
–Barbara Kingsolver
*
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
~ Roald Dahl
*
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~C. S. Lewis
*
“Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.” ~Lou Reed


Gratitude List:
1. I came home from work yesterday and went upstairs, and both cats were on top of the bed. Nobody scurried away in terror at the approaching sound of my feet. No one even flinched when I came into the room. We’re making progress.
2. First responders and rescuers in Texas. I worry about what mob spirit does in fractured times. Those who have put their time and lives on the line to rescue people and animals caught in the floodwaters are participating in a different sort of “mob” spirit, building off of each other’s energies to save lives.
3. Spiralized summer squash sauteed with tomatoes, topped with pesto.
4. Reading poetry to young people
5. The silence of early morning, when the thundering goblin cats have settled down, and only I and the crickets are awake.

May we walk in Beauty!

Beauty Everywhere We Turn


Potato Plow

“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear. That means watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” —Krishnamurti
*
“…We are called to not run from the discomfort, not run from grief or the feelings of outrage, or even fear. And if we can be fearless to be with our pain, it turns; it doesn’t stay static. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it… The other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world. Our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.” —Joanna Macy
*
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only love can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
*
“If words come out of the heart, they will enter the heart.”
—Rumi
*
“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.” —Hal Borland
*
“Love what God loves, which is everything. . .no exceptions.” —Richard Rohr
*
“Native Americans say: It is not you who sees the wolf. Not the small you: the fearful ego-bound self which makes fixed concepts out of separation, and only gazes on the beauty of this world to label and possess it. No: when you are ready, wolf may show itself, if it chooses. It may reveal some aspect of its deeper being that dissolves what you think you know, and brings you back to wonder and the unity in which all mind-made fears and oppositions are dissolved. And then you can return to the ever-present flow of freedom, like the horses, rewild your tamed and shuttered senses and learn again from life directly, in the one eternal Mystery that is made new in every moment.” —Eleanor O’Hanlon
*
“We have so far to go to realize our potential for compassion, altruism, and love.” —Dr. Jane Goodall
*
“Find yourself a cup of tea: the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things.” —Saki


Gratitude List:
1. The way social changes move gently outward, like breath. How social consciousness IS raised. You can hear me trying to work with my anxiety about Nazis in the streets, eh? I think about how, before Bree Newsome climbed her flag pole, much of white America didn’t have a strong opinion on the emblems of slavery. I was uncomfortable with the Confederate flag, grouchy about statues honoring Confederate heroes, but I hadn’t yet internalized how deeply wounding they were, hadn’t seen them through the eyes of those they were intended to intimidate. There was a time I was vaguely aware that my skin color was something of a protection, but I hadn’t really explored the incredible degree to which my white skin privileges me. Now our consciousness is raised. In the words Maya Angelou, one of the greatest voices of our time, “When you know better, do better.” Yes, we will.
2. My photographer friends. Such moments of beauty and wonder and marvel they bring me. Teeny tiny toadstools, fat baby porcupines, rabbits grazing in morning dew, flowers in their gardens, laughing children, spider webs ornately adorning the bushes. These things don’t cancel out the rage and worry of the recent days, but they help me to hold it. I can accept the worry and fury in my heart without having to ignore or repress them when I have Beauty to hold as well.
3. So often, the right quotation appears at the exact moment. I have been pondering how to hold and face the anxieties I am experiencing for the world in which my children are growing up, and suddenly, I am coming across quote after quote on looking into fear.
4. And truly, I think that these children are meant for these days. Our children, our students–they will walk boldly into the future with a deep understanding of issues and ideas that we are only barely able to grasp, and with open hearts full of compassion. I am so grateful for their wisdom, tenderness, and courage.
5. I’m on my way out to sort tomatoes. The biodiversity in tomatoes and potatoes is such a delight and a wonder. Pink Beauties, Mr. Slabaughs, Green Zebras, Garden Peaches, Cosmonaut Volkovs, Goldies, Lemon Boys, Virginia Streaks, Speckled Romans. Their names are a poem, like their skins. Beauty, Beauty, Beauty!

May we walk in Beauty!