Rune for Our Times

The times are feeling fearful to me. After listening to a discussion on the radio on the way home, in which People Who Seem to Know Things suggested that there’s a possibility of uprisings and violence after this election, I offer a slight paraphrase of the Rune of St. Patrick:

At Pisgah in this fateful hour,
I place Earth and Heaven with their power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By divine help and grace
Between myself and the powers of destruction!


Gratitude:
For the golden leaves of autumn and the golden eyes of the cats.
For darkness, of rest, of birth, of preparation for the new thing coming.
For the inquisitive and curious minds of teenagers.
For the web of beloved hearts that yearn and work for justice and peace, for true equality and for functioning and healthy communities.
For you, beloveds. For you. For you.

May we walk humbly, loving mercy, doing justice, ever in Beauty.

Truth and Lies

Winsome Chaos: I pulled random words from my word pool tickets to label photos and objects.

Why are poetry and fiction so important in human cultures? What is it about the imaginative telling of a thing that thrills listeners of all ages, makes our minds sit up–criss-cross applesauce–and hang on the smallest word of the storyteller? Nonfiction and biography, the “true” story, is also compelling and engaging, but there is something about fiction, about the fantastic, the imaginative, the made-up, that sets fire to human imagination, across times and cultures.

Ursula Le Guin, in her profound introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness, wrote of truth and lies in storytelling: “I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth. The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

In his famous essay, “Of Truth,” Francis Bacon discusses how the human mind bends toward the lie, how earlier philosophers spoke of poetry’s vinum daemonum, wine of the devil, the lies that draw the reader down the delicious pathway of imagination.

In my own estimation, Madeleine L’Engle got most deeply at the heart of this in her discussion of the differences between truth and facts. “Truth,” she said, “is what is true, and it’s not necessarily factual. Truth and fact are not the same thing. Truth does not contradict or deny facts, but it goes through and beyond facts. This is something that it is very difficult for some people to understand.”

“Tell all the truth,” said Emily Dickinson, “but tell it slant.”

More steps in the creation of meaning: Finding the deep truth within the fictive or poetic “lie.” Seeking new and startlingly relevant meanings in the strange juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated facts and ideas. One of my students added the word “speaking” to her word pool. “Is it okay,” she asked, “if I put this word with a photo of a woman with a zipper across her mouth?” Yes, oh yes, please–that’s the point here. And in that little “lie”–the woman, unable to speak, labeled “speaking”–you may have told a deeper truth than any of us can express in straight talk.


Gratitude List:
1. People who let themselves cry. There’s a priestly quality to profound and honest tears in public gatherings. Suddenly everyone has just a little more permission to be human, too. Feelings are invited into the circle.
2. A day off.
3. The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., the way his words continue to echo their challenges today. Will we listen to the challenges as well as the inspirations?
4. The deep truths that make themselves available in poetry and fiction and art.
5. Red cardinals in the sere winter landscape.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hawk and Heart and Hummingbird

Heart

Working with gratitude helps me to situate myself in time and place.

During these times of reflection, I am often hyper-aware of being here in this moment, right here, where I listen to the birdnews of the moment, the sounds of the day waking up, the thumps and bumbles of the smallfolk upstairs waking up.

This moment, where I look around to see the way the sun leans in or yawns behind grey haze.
This moment when I sit in expectation of the bright yellow falling leaf, the flash of birdwing across my window, the way sun sparkles on spiderweb.
This moment, in which yesterday’s movement is written in the aches and quirks of my muscles, the curve of my spine.

From the anchor of this moment, reflecting on the list takes me backward and elsewhere, to the color and shape of yesterday, to the shining white pebbles of moments past. I can pick them up and examine them, say, this one and I remember. I can watch how those pebbles are spun into golden strands sustained over time: The presence of a tiny impossible bird in this span of days. The season of the tang of tomato and the sweetness of basil. The long lazy days spent with the exploring feet and minds of my children.

The dailiness of the list also takes me forward into time. This has become my homework, the job I carry with me into each day. It is one of the anchoring ropes which I hold as I step into uncertain future, feeling my way in the grey mist as I go. Stepping forward with the search for gratitude on the agenda means I must go with an open heart, an open mind, searching not only for things, for items to check off my list, but for connections. It means walking into the future as into a puzzle, looking for five pieces of the coming day that will help me to shape the meaning of the picture that surrounds me.

I have been wondering lately at how this has become a habit, how I feel anxious and unmoored if I miss my daily list. For years, it was a thing I would do on occasion, as the mood hit, but in the past several months, it has become a deeper spiritual practice. I shift it from time to time, asking myself questions, or writing the list as a poem. Still, instead of becoming boring or tedious, it has become ever more a place where I can talk to myself, remind myself who I am, where I am, what I am doing here.

Gratitude List:
1. Getting into the “zone,” that headspace where you get so wrapped up in the work that you don’t notice time passing.
2. Situating myself in time and space.
3. Hummingbird. Please bear with me, but this lives with me as a constant thrill of electric delight in this season. Almost every time I walk outside my house these days, I see her. If she is not on her nest, I can wait and watch quietly, and I will hear her dzipping a zigzag through the air, or I’ll catch a flash of movement through the bright spaces between the leaves of the sycamore. Always. My heart is so full of hummingbird.
4. Hawks. The youngster who lives here in our hollow has begun to settle down and accept her emergence into independent adulthood. Her cries have become more purposeful, less demanding and sulky. She’s finding her way. At the same time, friends of mine on temporary sojourn in a hospital hours to the south of me have been watching a hawk from the hospital window. She has become the Guardian, the One-Who-Watches. In these days, when my heart is here in this place and also in that place, I find comfort in our taloned watchers, a sense of the thread that crosses distances. My heart is full of hawk.
5. The powerful truth of thread, of yarn. How ideas and love and dreams are spun like yarn, twisting people and thoughts together, expanding and lengthening through time and space, connecting, always connecting. How threads are woven and knitted together to make cloth, unifying, incorporating different people and ideas together, connecting, always connecting. How diversity of color and texture within a cloth is part of what makes it beautiful. The image that keeps returning to my mind these days from Madeline L’engle’s Wrinkle in Time, of the distance from one end of the thread to the other, but how a wrinkle brings the ends together–I think this applies to distant hearts as well as to tessering through space. When we tune our hearts to each other (an act which I call prayer), we create a wrinkle that brings us together, no matter what sort of distance in time or space or belief separates us.

May we walk, always, in Beauty.