I need to sit quietly and spend some time understanding all that I have learned and experienced in the last three days as we’ve explored the Harriet Tubman Byway near Cambridge, Maryland. Words like inspiring and life-changing don’t quite do it justice.
Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in 2015 after a church meal at the house of friends. I had plans then to revise it, and never did. Perhaps that might be the task of the week ahead.
The Cherry Tree
After we had eaten, the adults shared stories in a circle underneath the trees.
The children rode the tractor wagon down the hill to splash and wander up the creek almost out of hearing or gather sweet black raspberries to pass around in paper cups, each set of fingers smashing down the fruit below until all was sludge scooped out and licked from purple hands: a sacrament.
Back from the creek and the fields and the barn they came, dripping water, straw in their hair, trailing jewelweed, clothes and fingers and smiles stained purple from berries.
We gathered beneath the cherry tree with buckets and bags. We all were children then, in the kingdom of the cherry tree, laughing, leaping high to catch her boughs to draw the clusters down within our reach. We could not hope to get them all, even when the children scampered up into her branches.
We laughed and were amazed at the wild abundance of the tree. And this was church as ever church can be, all of us filled, dazzled, alit.
May your mouth be filled with sweetness. May your ears be filled with the laughter of children. May your heart be as wide and open as the blue sky. And may your stories blend with the stories of others, reaching out and upward like the branches of a tree.
Things That Made Me Happy Today (Another way to say Gratitude): 1. The chenille bedspread. It’s so comforting to snuggle up under it. 2. My Best Bird, the Oriole, flitting in and out of the honeysuckle vines all morning. 3. The holler is filled with the scent of honeysuckle. 4. Reading Bud, Not Buddy with the kid before he headed off to school this morning. 5. Completing the grading for four of my six classes. Only two more to go! 6. Talking on the phone with Sarah this morning. 7. The way the sun dapples the pathway the deer have made in the bosque across the stream. 8. How Ellis hums to himself wherever he is, like his dad.
First of all: If this day when everyone speaks of mothers is a day unbearable to you, I wish you the spiraling green of a damp spring day, cool breezes which bring your skin alive, and birdsong which calls your spirit to adventure. If you just cannot do this day, I hope that you can make it your own. Call it the Day of the Lost and Venturesome Soul. Go forth and ride the winds with the joy of your own being in this place.
And also, I must mark this day for myself: First, for the mother who mothered me, who has shown me so much of beauty and goodness in the world, who reminds me to put on the brakes when I start sliding downhill into emotional pits. She taught me to look outside, and to look inside, to marvel, to wonder, to look at the crunchy emotions with as much curiosity as the soaring ones. She reminds me to trust my voice.
I know that not all of us have such women who raised us. In that case, I wish you nurturers in other guises, way-show-ers, path-markers, wise wells and founts of deep inner knowledge, who will mother and mentor you, no matter their gender or parental status. In my life, I have had many mothers who have been guides on this pathway, Hecates to my Persephone. Great gratitude to all of you, beloveds.
And my own mothering space is complicated, as yours might be, too. I began to lose my first pregnancy on Mother’s Day, and birthed my second in this season. I treasure these young souls in my care, and I love being their mother. And, befitting one of the besetting troubles of my own psyche, I feel inadequate to the task. I beat myself up for the many unmotherly things I have done. Still, I am grateful for this chance to grow more fully into myself with them.
On this day, I commit myself to finding my own mothering/mentoring role in the world, to point out the beauty, to encourage the inward look, to nurture, to guide, to mentor, to engage, to See.
No matter your relationship to this day, I wish you a sense of yourself as belonging in this world. Much love.
We’re still within the twelve days of Christmas, but since I start counting the Dreamtime at Solstice, we’re on to Day 13 now in this little pocket of my counting of time.
One of the things I begin to discover at this point in the process of collecting the words and images from my dreams is that I start to catch echoes of my collection in the world around me. Bridges and boundaries are common enough metaphors, but because they’ve been swirling around in my dream-soup, when I catch references to them in people’s daily speech, it feels like I am receiving secret messages. I am listening for echoes now, affirmation that the words and images I am sanding and honing are the ones I should put in my internal medicine pouch to carry into the coming year.
In last night’s dream, Jon and I and a child (perhaps an amalgam of the two boys) are trying to get somewhere, hitching rides on the trains like hobos. It’s really dangerous, and I am terribly worried that the child will fall off. We finally decide to stop taking the risks and walk, but by this time we are far out in the wilderness, in the woods, and getting to civilization will take days. We sleep in the woods, and find our food where we can. Despite the long walk and the uncertainty, it feels like the right choice. I think the child is really me, and some of the recent choices I am making about the way I work, and the boundaries I set, are making the journey harder and lonelier perhaps, but safer for that inner child. Good choices.
In other dreams I am trying to text Jon that my meeting has gone really short and I can take Ellis home from school after all. Technology and phones never seem to work in dreams. I cannot find the numbers or the right app to text. Typical anxiety dream. Will Deep Self really be able to get the necessary messages across to Waking Self?
Gratitude List: 1. The dawning of women. I was unprepared for quite how relieved I would feel yesterday looking at the images of those joyful, powerful women entering Congress. I thought I had experienced all the joy when I learned they had been elected, but yesterday was a joyful day. 2. The three million women of Kerala who made a chain to tell the world that it is the time of women. 3. It’s the Tuesday of my work week, but it’s Friday. I really needed this slow start. 4. Michelle Obama’s book. She weaves words and ideas well. Her story is so completely her own story and her family’s story, but she deftly weaves the connection of her story to the experiences of black families in the past century, so that as I am learning her own history, I am developing a deeper context for understanding the Great Migration, white flight from cities, and the persistence of structural racism. 5. Dean’s pies. Every year my colleague makes a tableful of pies (8? 10? 12?) for us. It creates truly impossible choices. I take tiny slivers of several. And it’s sublime. Yesterday was a delicious day.
May we walk in Beauty!
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We use language to build the structures upon which we hang our ideas. Language is the scaffold upon which we develop whole structures of thought. Language anchors and shapes and breathes life into thought and idea. Conventional thinking, and conventional language, can end up being a pretty tight little box of a windowless building that doesn’t let in the light. The air in there gets pretty stale. When language—and its attendant ideas—become calcified and crippled into arthritic patterns, poetic image and word-use can find new ways to say things, can break windows into the walls of those airless rooms and build ornate new additions onto the old structures. Poetry jars the cart of language out of its constricting wheel ruts. This is why poets and writers can make good revolutionaries—if they know their work and do their jobs well.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014
“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” —Carl Sagan
Mary Oliver, on the Great Horned Owl: “I know this bird. If it could, it would eat the whole world.” And then: “The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I too live. There is only one world.”
Fierce Wild Joy
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2016
May this year bring you joy
like crows rising from the fields
into the wind
rowing through the tempest
with nothing but feathers.
“Have patience with everything
that remains unsolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books
written in a foreign language.
Do not now look for the answers.
They cannot now be given to you
because you could not live them.
It is a question of experiencing everything.
At present you need to live the question.
Perhaps you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
find yourself experiencing the answer,
some distant day.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”
For the month leading up to Thanksgiving, I followed the lead of a friend and committed to daily gratitude practice that viewed gratitude as an act of resistance, to publicly and intentionally seek out things to be grateful for in the face of forces that seek to demoralize and oppress. To label each grateful paragraph in the first part of the month of November as an act of resistance helped me to keep that perspective, that to be grateful and kind and hopeful in the face of all that seeks to destroy goodness in the world is a primal act of resistance.
Yesterday, in conversation with some of my beloveds, we talked about resistance, about the man who jumped across a police barrier to take down a confederate flag, about the Dutch church that has been holding services for twenty-seven days to protect a family from deportation, about people who are writing letters and protesting on behalf of someone who has experienced a shameful injustice.
We may not be committing the big acts of bold resistance at this moment. Your life may be caught in the business of staying afloat or tending to the needs of your beloveds. Still, we can make it all a resistance. Small acts, little conversations, openness to the moment—opportunities to resist despair and destruction and to create new patterns and stories abound:
* Smile at people and make eye contact. Ask them about themselves. Open hearts are a great antidote to the fear and rage that float around us in our environment.
* Offer people food. Share meals. Experience the flavors of the world together. Develop culinary curiosity about foodways around the world. Watch Anthony Bourdain together.
* Keep your eyes on those who turn inward, who keep to the corners. Be a safe place, a docking spot for ships that are sailing through hostile waters.
*Build bridges with your words. I don’t have to agree with someone to be civil. I can be kind and open in conversation and still maintain a fierce and steady stance on the side of justice. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t always mean attacking. I am more likely to change someone’s mind in a civil conversation than in a battlefield conversation.
* It IS about changing minds and hearts. It is about setting fears and anxieties to rest. The destroyers rely on fear. They’ve weaponized and monetized it. We can walk into the world with courage and draw out the bravery of those around us. Open hearts are brave hearts.
* Speak up for justice. We don’t have to go into conversations blazing with fury and rage against the president. But we can (and should) call out the racist and misogynistic and xenophobic language. We can graciously and civilly state our own desire for more grace and civility and diversity.
* Don’t be afraid to call out your own “side.” Politicians on every side make greedy and unjust choices. Name it when you see it.
* Be grateful. Be joyful. Dance. Find delight and awe in nature. And children. And small animals. All of that—joy and delight and tenderness and curiosity and awe—is active resistance to the tide of destruction.
* Be ready. There may come moments when we are called upon to take the bigger step, the bolder step, the more dangerous or fierce step. We can position ourselves so we are ready to do the thing that must be done when we are called upon to do it.
* Support those who are taking the big and fierce steps right now. Letters and public praise for the ones who taking public stands for justice go a long way to establishing a culture that resists destruction.
*What are your daily acts of resistance?
Gratitude List: 1. Small and large acts of Resistance. Acts of love. Acts of hope. Acts of kindness. 2. Oak trees 3. Family time: games, food, stories, puppy and cat, laughter, wrangling the serious issues 4. Shelter 5. A good rest
May we walk in Beauty!
Sunday’s Treats: “Let my anger be the celebration we were never / supposed to have.” —Jacqui Germain
I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness. It’s right in front of me, if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.
“The eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“You’ve seen my descent.
Now watch my rising.”
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”—Thomas Merton
“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” —Mary Oliver
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.” ―Rumi
“The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.”
“Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy.”
―Sarah Ban Breathnach
“Any feminist who has ever taken the high road will tell you the high road gets backed up.” ―Andrea Gibson
“Almost every woman I have ever met has a secret belief that she is just on the edge of madness, that there is some deep, crazy part within her, that she must be on guard constantly against ‘losing control’ — of her temper, of her appetite, of her sexuality, of her feelings, of her ambition, of her secret fantasies, of her mind.” ―Elana Dykewomon
“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.”
“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of one who gives and kindles joy in the heart of one who receives.”
―St. Seraphim of Sarov
It’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do, while the planet was plundered?
what did you do, when the earth was unravelling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do once you knew?
―Drew Dellinger, Ph.D.
“At any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” ―Abraham Maslow
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
— Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)
“Never forget: Justice is what love looks like in public.”
Gratitude List: 1. More powerful storytelling this morning
2. A nap
3. Rain. I love rain.
4. Gaining clarity through the fog
5. I love this little purring person who has to always sit on my lap.
“I (we) need to find ways to make Joyfullness part of the resistance tool box. . .To resist the evils of our day we must find the joy of shared humanity and let it pollinate the rage at what threatens that.” —Craig Sottolano
“Emergence never happens all at once. It is a slow stepping into the expanded capacity of your next self. You may need practice at releasing in those places you’ve grown accustomed to bracing which, like a tight swaddle, was comforting in its limits. But when the time to remain hidden comes to its natural end, you must begin to inhabit your new dimensionality. Breathe into the fullness of your gaining altitude and consider that what presents itself as fear may actually be exhilaration. As your future approaches you, worry less how it may receive you and say a prayer instead for your becoming approachable.” —Toko-pa Turner
“I was often in love with something or someone,” wrote Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. “I would fall in love with a monkey made of rags. With a plywood squirrel. With a botanical atlas. With an oriole. With a ferret. With a marten in a picture. With the forest one sees to the right when riding in a cart to Jaszuny. With a poem by a little-known poet. With human beings whose names still move me.”
“Oh what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox. This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table.”
Translation by Neil Douglas Klotz, Sufi
O Birther! Creator of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us— make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now-
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly— power to these statements—
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow: Amen.
by Syrian Poet Adonis
Translated By Khaled Mattawa
from “Elegy for the First Century”
Bells on our eyelashes
and the death throes of words,
and I among fields of speech,
a knight on a horse made of dirt.
My lungs are my poetry, my eyes a book,
and I, under the skin of words,
on the beaming banks of foam,
a poet who sang and died
leaving this singed elegy
before the faces of poets,
for birds at the edge of sky.
Gratitude List: 1. Remembering the music that was important in certain growing stages. Graceland. Closer to Fine.
2. The ways that modern social media brings back connections and conversations from twenty or thirty years ago. Re-connections.
3. The coming of autumn means cauliflower!
4. A brand-spankin’-fresh new week
5. Yesterday’s naps and organizing
A good reminder in church today: Let’s listen more than we talk. Or listen before we talk, perhaps. What is the pain behind the lashing out? What is the story behind the closed doors and windows? Where does that rant come from? What truth can be excavated from a bagful of raging fury?
And then: Let’s speak up more than we are silent. Although it sounds like the opposite of the first part, it’s really a good next step, isn’t it? Listen first. Find the source of pain, of confusion, of anger, of despair. Then speak up. When you see an injustice, speak out. The front of the bulletin at church today was the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote:
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
We have a new generation in the current walk toward justice. Will we need to repent again for our silence, or will we meet the challenges ahead with courage and joy, speaking up for those who are harmed by hatred of their race or country, their sexuality or gender, their religion or their class?
Courage and joy. I wish you Courage and Joy.
Gratitude List: 1. William Carlos Williams moment: So much depends on a green field dotted with white gulls in the winter rain.
2. My church congregation, who welcome students from my school to lead the service today on anti-racism, with much applause and appreciation.
3. Those young people. I learn so much from them. Constantly. They will lead us. We just need to give them the safe spaces to learn the power of their voices. And then we need to be their back-up, their safety net, their boosters. I am incredibly proud of them. Break every chain.
4. That shade of brown/salmon/ochre that is the color of the leafy forest floor seen through trees on a rainy day. You know the color I’m talking about? It’s so satisfying.
5. Listening. Speaking Up.
What will you write on this page,
a blank ocean of white before you,
waiting for your mark?
The words and the images you lay upon this day
you will write with your grandmother’s pen,
with drops of blood from your fingertip,
with the blue quill of a wingfeather
dropped on the wind
from a passing jay.
Will you write joy? Will you write patience?
What will you write when grief
appears upon the page?
How will you work
around the stains of tears and sweat,
of oil and the smudges of your daily labor?
Let your words be beautiful and terrible,
your images shining and crisp,
your actions ancient,
yet newer than the fragments
of blue eggshell in your cupped hand.
Gratitude List: 1. This blank page of a school year beginning
2. My earnest and compassionate colleagues
3. The Shining Ones who will walk in my doorway today
4. The Work: Love and Learning. Love of Learning.
5. Bridges. Every moment is a bridge.
By Monday, the gills have expanded and developed, the underside of the universe.
Working up a poem that I wrote a year ago:
Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
where your ancestors wandered.
It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.
It will not offer you answers
to the why of war
or end the stench of battles.
Still, the waters may offer you
questions instead, questions
that will create the riddles
to draw you onto the path again
despite the darkness
that surrounds you.
Gratitude List: 1. I have been given this day in which to do my work.
2. How emotion settles in the body. I know this can be unsettling, too. I read something yesterday by Darshana Avila, about sensing the way that happiness and sadness settle in the body, noticing where they are, what they do in the body, not judging them or their presence as “good” or “bad.” She noted that when we reflect on the way emotions are sensed in the body, happiness and sadness don’t always feel that different. They just are. It reminds me of Rumi welcoming all comers to the guesthouse.
3. New questions. I have to ask Anne Marie sometime to remind me of the entire list she offered in church on Sunday, a series of questions that comes from the peacebuilding work of the Great Lakes Initiative in eastern Africa. The ones that stick with me are, “What do you lament?” and “What does joy look like?” I like the way the questions are phrased, instead of simply asking what makes you sad or happy–which are equally valid questions.
4. This one feels a little petty because it’s so material, but it has wider implications for me: Yesterday I found some dresses at Columbia Re-Uzit, and then I drove past my friend’s farm stand, and she was also having a yard sale, and I bought some of her clothes. So now I feel like I have the outfitting necessary for the coming school season. It’s one more thing off my plate, accomplished with minimal effort and thought–that’s the piece I am grateful for. That, and the lovely colors and textures, and the thought that I will be wearing some things that my beautiful and gracious friend has worn. In that context, clothes are more than just clothes, you know?
5. What shall I pull out for this last one? I do not yet have a Thing of Beauty on the list, other than my lovely new dresses. Oh, here it is: the bouquet of lisianthus blossoms my mother brought to me yesterday to have on the table today as I am working on my class preparations. Deep purple-violet and vibrant red-violet. (My parents brought me flowers, AND they are caring for my children for a couple days so that I can focus solely on the preparations for school.)