The Tattered Pelt

This dream reveals itself and ravels like a fairy tale or myth.

It’s been two weeks since I listened to Martin Shaw telling the story of Fox Woman Dreaming, but something in my Dreambrain has reached back to that for images to tell myself this story.

Part One:
I am sitting on a concrete ledge, like a loading dock, of the garage of my house, looking out over the meadow and the woods beyond.

I hear a cry of frustration and rage: “Aaarrrnnnngh!”

At the edge of the woods, where the neighbors have logs for splitting, a large wolf is dancing around in extreme agitation. It has thrown an ax across the snowy field. Its fur is striped and brindled, mottled. It flips back and forth in its frustration. I know at once that the wolf is a shapeshifter.

I can feel its frustration deep within myself, and I am frightened as it runs up the field toward me.

I search around for something to offer it to help it, to distract it from attacking me.

I find that I am holding an old and tattered pelt of some animal fur. As the wolf paces around the side of the garage and the base of the ledge where I am sitting, I tear a piece of the pelt I am holding and toss it into the snow. It distracts and calms the wolf for a moment. It sniffs the piece of pelt but does not eat it.

Part Two:
I am walking down a brick pathway in a park, trying to feel the different rhythmic vibrations of the various bricks. I can sort of sense the patterns of a couple of them. I am trying to remember the poems/incantations for a ceremony to awaken and celebrate the awakening of the powers of a girl child. I am trying to help her to notice the vibrations in the bricks, trying to tell her the bits of incantations that I remember.

I am aware that the child is coming into her power and I am feeling the dissipation of my own.

As I am working with the bricks and incantations, I notice that the girl has found a stump with a large and tangled root system. A woman and a child, their faces painted with stripes of brown and yellow in many different shades, look out at me from the stump. The girl knows they are there and has been listening to them.

Unpacking:
I have so many questions.
Am I both the Wolf and the One Who Watches?
If I am the Watcher, have I given away my own shapeshifting power, my own Wild, in order to protect myself and appease the frustration–ease the loss–of another?
What have I done?! I have thoughtlessly torn my pelt. Is it possible to repair?
I feel acutely both the loss of my own Wild (the Watcher) and the sense that it’s unbridled and out of control (the Wolf).

And am I both the Child and the Teacher?
Again, I feel acutely the loss of my own powers even as I am able to recover a little of my awareness of vibration, my memory of the words of ceremony.
I feel a need to prepare the Child, to mentor and teach, but the work has moved beyond me, and she has found her teachers in nature.
But I am also the Child. She has met the spirit beings who inhabit the stump and they are teaching her.

Both pieces of my dream seem to be about internal rifts/separations that help me to see the ways I am disconnected from my Wild, from my own personal sense of my power.

Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to offer part of my pelt to the shapeshifter. Maybe that’s what I need to do, to offer my own inner Wolf the key to her transformation. But I need to tend to my “skin.”

And maybe I don’t need to focus so much on remembering the words and patterns of the ceremony for the Child, but just settle into a space where I can hear the living voices of the beings who surround me. I feel like this is a message to rely less on head knowledge, but to focus on simply perceiving what is around me.

Two nights ago, I dreamed again, as I often do at times of inner change and transformation, that I needed to push my way through a tight and claustrophobic portal in order to enter a new space. In these dreams, I sometimes refuse, or the dream ends as I am trying to find the courage to enter the constricting passage, but in my recent dream, I actually made it through the portal.

I think these dreams are connected. First, the portal, then the reckoning with the state of my own inner awareness.


Gratitude:
1. The way shifting and de-hoarding and organizing makes space for energy to flow more freely and serenely. Clogged energy is either stagnant or frenetic. Unclogged energy flows.
2. I’m getting really eager to dive into the planning process for the coming school year. I relish the shift of this energy from the overwhelm of last spring (of the past three semesters, really) to the excitement of setting the table for the coming academic feast.
3. Mending. Like de-hoarding, mending makes the energy flow. And physical mending causes the heart to turn toward the inner mending as well.
4. A different type of energy, but not unconnected: Feeling my own physical energy returning. It’s been a circuitous journey. But it feels so good when we go walking and I feel the surge of energy and strength in the stride rather than feeling like I am fighting against gravity.
5. Thresholds. Liminal spaces. Betweens.

May we walk in Beauty!


“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf


“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.” —Mollie Marti


“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“I take care of my own.” —Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


“You are my own, and I am yours–I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.” —Anne Lamott


“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


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


“To be brave is to behave bravely
when your heart is faint.
So you can be really brave
only when you really ain’t.”
—Piet Hein


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair


“You can never go down the drain.” —Mr. Rogers


“Good People,
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


“Just living is not enough said the butterfly, one needs sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” ―Hans Christian Anderson


“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” ―Dalai Lama

A Calming Retreat

In June, right after school was over, and before I had even completed my grading, I went on silent retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, probably my last time there, as the Jesuits are selling the building and grounds. I needed that healing time.

In the weeks since, I have been taking stock, clearing out my hoard (fabric, mostly, but more will come), and working on getting healthy.

Here is a little photo essay of my time on retreat:

On the way, I stopped and walked the labyrinth at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church near Lititz. On the way out of the labyrinth, the word embodiment came to me. That became the focus of my retreat. When I got home, I listened to sonia renee taylor’s The Body is Not an Apology. I liked it so much that I bought my own copy so I can underline bits and read sections to my classes.
My room. First time I have had air conditioning. It was very hot, so I actually spent more time in my room than usual.

I took along a white cloth and some red thread. I have been inspired by several instagrammer embroiderers to begin to create a story cloth, something that’s not specifically functional, but is more of a journal, a dialogue with my inner self. On one of the first days there, I was meditating on something I’d read, a Buddhist idea about the base of the spine being where the three rivers meet. I began to consider what my three rivers are. Along with embodiment, I received creativity, and magic/mysticism. So I began embroidering the flowering hand image I found framed on the wall–for creativity. Then I embroidered a full body–my body–with wings and a crown, to represent embodiment, being alive within this body. And later, I embroidered my stump, the center of my current magical work, representing the inner work and the spiritual connection to the Source of All Life. All three are connected to a center cauldron, which is the place where the three rivers meet. Other images above include some collages I made while meditating, a painting (“You can become all flame,” said the ancient desert abba), and the back of my #alonetogether sweater, which I completed during retreat.

Every year when I am at the monastery, I greet Jesus in the stairwell when I go up and down the stairs. This year, he and the painting of Mary with the sacred heart were especially meaningful as I held my anxieties about my father’s upcoming open-heart surgery (all has gone exceedingly well, and he is now recovering and regaining his strength).

More than almost anything, perhaps, I will miss this grand cathedral beech.

Yeast

Here are some yeast stories:

There’s something about being in isolation that makes a person want to bake. I started by trying to make hamburger buns for our first isolation birthday. The practice round was so successful with the kids, that I kept making them, and I played around with the recipe, making spiral rolls and garlic rolls. And then, just like that, I was out of yeast. And Giant was out of yeast. And Sue’s was out of yeast. No one has whole wheat flour either.

I complained on Facebook, and a friend who had just received her mail order of a pound of yeast said she would put some in the mail for me this week. What a tender gesture! I never would have let myself accept such an offer in the Before, but now, Yes, please and thank you. And such a feeling of being cared for.

My sister also ran out of yeast. As she was on a walk the other day, a neighbor who was unloading groceries from the car called out and asked her if she needed paper towels. No, my sister called from a safe distance, but yeast–now that’s a difficult thing to come by. Just a couple days later, her neighbor dropped off yeast at my sister’s door.

The sharing takes on a sacramental edge these days. And yeast. Sharing yeast is sharing something even more elemental than a cup of sugar. No matter how much I research and study what yeast is and how it (they?) does its work, it will always be something mystical, something magical, to me. Bread and wine, the elements of sacrament in more than just the Christian tradition, are both yeast-based. I once heard someone talking about the two kinds of plants–monocotyledons and dicotyledons–and how corn is a monocot and grapes are a dicot, and that the elements of bread and wine bring together those two forms of plants with the magic of yeast and fermentation. And I think I won’t try to wrap that up with a nice essayist’s conclusion. It feels like a mystery that needs to stay quietly behind the veil, hinted at, marveled at, unexplained for now.

While I await the precious gift of yeast from Joan, I have begun to capture my own wild yeasts. They say that the yeast of any place is distinctly OF that place. So these are my Goldfinch Yeasts. Is is a flock? A herd? They’ve been bubbling for days, strong and lively, and today they smell sour and yeasty. Yeast Beings, I greet you.


Capturing Yeast: I’ve done this before, but it’s been years, so I watched some videos and read some tutorials. Here’s the process I’ve been using:

In a wide-mouthed jar, I put 3 Tbsp. of flour and 2 Tbsp. of water. Mixed, covered with a special cotton cloth and rubber band (perhaps any cloth will do), and let stand in a warm place for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, I stirred. Then another 12 hours later, I added another 3 Tbsp. flour and 2 Tbsp. water. The tutorials say five days until yeast is ready for baking. This is the morning of day five for me. Tomorrow, I will find a recipe and bake. Maybe pizza dough for supper, or rolls for the boys to snack on. And some day we’ll find whole wheat flour again. Meanwhile, it’s white bread.

That’s the process. Stir every 12 hours, and feed every 24 hours. Though none of the experts have mentioned it, I suspect it might be helpful to sing to them as you stir, or to speak poetry to them. Greeting them and praising them can’t hurt.


Gratitude List:
1. Yeast
2. People who share yeast
3. Bread and wine
4. Awaiting oriole
5. The promise of a new week.

May we walk in Mystery.


“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
―Ursula K. Le Guin


“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” ―Claude Monet


“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” ―Malala Yousafzai


I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering in the street. Come out!”
“Leave me alone. I’m sick.”
“I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here,
and he wants to resurrect somebody!”
―Jalaludin Rumi


“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi


“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
―Anaïs Nin


“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you should not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries.”
―Haruki Murakami


“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” —Richard Rohr

Twelvenight: Synchronicity, Orenda, and the Fool

One of the subjects that keeps snagging my poetic attention is the landscape manuscript–how everything around us (not just the landscape) has a “text” that we might understand, if only we could read it. When I’m driving down the road and thinking about a knotty issue I am trying to resolve and I see three crows standing quietly in a winter field, or seven geese suddenly fly overhead in a raggedy V across my view, or something in the way the sun shines on the remaining leaves of that old oak seems to have a message for me–it’s as if there’s a deep text in the world that could be understood if only I knew the letters. And of course the landscape does have messages, and they can be read. It’s what farmers and meteorologists and hikers have done forever. It is what ecologists and environmentalists are doing right now, to save our lives.

And sometimes the visual and aural messages in my environment do seem to align themselves in perfect messages that feel like they’re meant for me, specifically, to read. Again, this is whimsical and playful rather than scientific. And it also captures my attention. I’m not going to make a judgement about whether or not the Holy One Herself, or the Universe, or the faeries, set up yesterday’s little alignment just so my heart could see it, but I will claim the whimsy, say that the synchronicity caught my heart, and then I will use it to construct the next steps of intuitive meaning for the shape my ponderings take in the coming days. I’d rather step into the future making meaning from the rich webs of whimsy and coincidence that surround me than refusing to gather the symbols that dance through my life and live with meaning defined only by the hardest of logic.

I was driving across the Route 30 bridge, listening to the most recent episode of “This Jungian Life” podcast, on the Trickster archetype, because my friend had recommended it to me. I was thinking about the Fool, and how I hoped that this archetype would inform my activism in the coming year, speaking truth through the lies in the way only the Fool can. The theme of the podcast suddenly turned to the way that tricksters throughout history have been challengers of suppression and repression and autocratic rule, how they act as a corrective when a person or a system becomes too rigidly rule-based and oppressive. There was a “click” in my brain at the coincidence of thought and outer message.

At that moment, my eye caught the new Sight and Sound billboard at the end of the bridge—shining purple, it advertised their upcoming production of Queen Esther, and one of my favorite Bible phrases, from the book of Esther, took up the central space in large letters: “FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.” Again, an internal click.

As I passed the billboard, a large vulture swooped low above the highway. Click.

Yes, it’s whimsy and intuition, poetry and dreaminess, rather than hard science or pure logic or cold reason. While I need the latter, while I value science and logic and reason as important mental processes, I think a world that makes meaning without the more poetic processes is bereft of the spark of spirit.

And so it is settled, this day before Epiphany. My word, my archetype, my guiding principle, for the coming year is the Fool. Sacred clown. Jester. Trickster. I’ve been considering how the Fool subverts the dominant paradigm (to use an old phrase) to speak the truth behind the lies. In a political milieu swimming in falsehoods, how does the Fool speak truth? Lear’s Fool spoke from deep love and tenderness, was not afraid to speak harsh truths right to the king’s face, and kept repeating the truth from various angles until the truth shone in.

Even the travelers whose arrival we celebrate today and tomorrow, the Wise Ones, the magi, have an element of the Fool. Magi, Mages, Magic, Image, Imagination. The truth they first told Herod was too bald, too open, too dangerous, and so, when they were presented with the deep truth of this Child, they disobeyed the king and fled home a different way, tricking the King. Still, the consequences were grave and terrible for too baldly proclaiming the truth to the king in the first place. This is lesson to be deeply conscious of to whom and how the truth is presented. The Fool must be wise.

So. The Fool.
Those black vulture wings are also in my consciousness.
And the echidna, a hybrid creature who survives and thrives because it is more than one thing.
Those mists and rainbows, veiling and shattering, scattering light.
Wading in the water: Do you want to be well?
And Aslan’s words to Lucy: “Courage, Dear Heart!”

There is one more thing, a more abstract word rather than an archetype: Orenda. It comes from the Iroquoian language systems, and it refers to the spiritual power that exists in all things, the energy that we transmit between us, that we can access to change the world.

Okay, and there’s one more thing. My friends. Community. Last night’s dreams were a succession of anxiety dreams. In several scenes, I was trying to find Joss, and just couldn’t make contact. In several scenes, I had little fiddly school details to remember and take care of while I was rushing around trying to do other things. In several scenes I was in a car, constantly missing my exit, needing to turn around, but unable to get around another car or to fit my car into the space of the turn-off. Finally, standing on a sidewalk, about to throw my phone on the ground because I couldn’t get it to make a simple call to Joss, a group of my college friends walked up. Nancy took my phone and got it to dial Joss. Gloria put her hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes, and started to tell me a helpful story. The others gathered around. I could feel everyone’s presence. And I calmed down. Friends. I get by with a little help. . .

What are your messages from the coming year? What words and images coalesce for you? What synchronicities in your inner and outer landscape call to you to listen and follow?


Gratitude List:
1. Friends. How even in my dreams, my beloveds appeared to bring me peace. You. The little connections that are bigger than you know. The way the web of our connections holds us up, and holds the world.
2. The spiritual force within each one of us that enlivens and enlightens and helps us to bring change and goodness into the world.
3. Synchronicity and coincidence and making meaning where it comes.
4. Image and imagination and magic.
5. Being greeted throughout the day by cats.

May we walk in Beauty!

Invented Magic

Gratitude of Resistance Fourteen:
The CryptoNaturalist–an account I follow on social media accounts. His name is Jarod K. Anderson, and he has a podcast (I don’t find time to listen to podcasts, but if you do, I think you might want to check him out). Short, wise, pithy epigrammatic notes about the humans occupy in the context of the universe. Here’s a recent example: “We are so quick to invent magic. To purchase magic. To bruise our fingers trying to squeeze magic from concrete and asphalt. What pale imitations we find compared to the poignant wonders we discover when we simply ask questions of our living world and bother to learn the answers.‬”

May we walk in Beauty!

The Pathway of Magic

  

  

Gratitude List:
1. Housecleaning. It’s not something we do with great regularity or relish here, and it’s very hard to clean a room with Legos strewn across the floor. Today, I got them to clean up the Legos and the techie junk that’s been cluttering up the whole downstairs for quite some time, and I vacuumed like a wild woman. I like to sit in the livingroom now.
2. Meeting a goal
3. Cool days
4. Cheese
5. Good people working for good.

Much love!

Oaks


Today’s prompt is to title the poem the name of a plant, and then to write the poem.

Oaks
(for the people who sit in their trees to stop the pipeline)

The women themselves are oaks
in this ocean of oak,
in these groves of trees–
Sycamore, Poplar, Pine–
riding their boats,
tiny houses high in the boughs of the oak trees.

Riding the waves of storm,
surfing the wind high up in the branches,
they have no safe port, no harbor,
no safe place to re-supply.
Below them, the sharks circle,
waiting for the first sign of weakness.
But their friends, too, have made a circle,
a web to hold the women who sit in the oaks.

The women are watching and waiting.

They are protectors.
They are the guardians.
They are trees and the mothers of trees.
They know the secrets of the acorn.
They know how long it takes an oak to grow.
They have the patience of mountains.


Gratitude List:
1. Warm spring weather
2. Spring breeze
3. Reading books together
4. The defenders of the earth
5. Magic

May we walk in Beauty!


A few weeks ago, I had a Facebook conversation with several friends about the books we loved as children because someone we loved read them to us. The conversation was brought on by a post by the author Kate DiCamillo, who wrote about her elementary school teacher reading her The Island of the Blue Dolphins. Kate DiCamillo is herself the author of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. On Friday, at the Kreutz Creek library book sale, I bought a copy of Edward Tulane. When Joss saw it, he said his Library teacher had read it to his class, and that it was one of his favorite books, and he said we were going to take a break in our reading of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising in order to read it. We just finished reading it now, on the porch, and even though I knew what was going to happen, even though my heart had been broken and mended with Edward’s half a dozen times already, when the absolute perfect ending happened, I went to pieces and sobbed. Oh. It is exquisite. It is now one of my favorite books, too.

The Room of this Moment

Reposting a Poem from some time ago:

The Room of the Moment
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

ll this running
between one moment
and the next

from the room of this minute
into the room of the one to come
we scuttle and race

trailing the detritus
of our days like the stuff
falling from a half-open suitcase

appointments and obligations
litter the ground behind us
and we are gasping
grasping for the next

take a breath
sit down
on the floor
of the room
of this moment
in time

watch how the minutes flow over you
when you release your grasp
on the one ahead

watch how the space of this room
takes shape around you

watch how your breath
blooms into the air


Quotations for a Snowy Sunday Morning, Audre Lorde’s Birthday:
“There is a pivotal juncture in every Heroine’s Journey when she stands alone. Instinctually she is led by the depth of her convictions to take a stand – to name the unaddressed – to call out of hiding the secret malaise in her community. To bring to the surface some yearned-for truth. She arrives at a standpoint not without doubts, but in spite of them. Worse than the criticism such disobedience can invite, may be her rejection from those who are at odds with her truth. But the silent prayer which keeps her company in the night is that it is not for her critics that she raises her voice, but for those who would otherwise be made voiceless.” —Toko-pa Turner, “Belonging”
***
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” —Voltaire
***
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ―Mary Oliver
****
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor … Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ―Rumi
***
“Persephone walks abroad. The crocus have opened their golden throats and the earnest melissas are gathering pollen as an offering to their queen.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider, a few Februaries ago
***
“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.” ―Audre Lorde
***
“Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs.” ―Audre Lorde
***
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me, and eaten alive.” ―Audre Lorde
***
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” ―Audre Lorde
***
“And we must ask ourselves: Who profits from all this?” ―Audre Lorde
***
“Your silence will not protect you.” ―Audre Lorde
***
“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” ―Meister Eckhart

Magic Happens

Gratitude List:
1. I love writing poems in November, and I am always relieved when November is over.
2. Some days, you just let the students hijack the lesson and magic happens as they tell their own stories.
3. Morning mists and magenta sunrises
4. Trying again after you fail
5. The open spaces of a weekend

May we walk in Beauty!