A New Year Dawns

Here are two versions of the same photo, taken as the sky was beginning to show grey on this first morning of a new year. In the first, I played with filters and textures and color saturation in order to create a pensive mood. Looking at it here in this space, it feels anxious and wary and stark, especially next to the second version, which I ran through an AI Dream filter. This second one is still pensive, but cheerier, more hopeful.

While both are significantly changed from the original, both of them hold emotional truth that is deeper than the just-the-facts original. I AM going pensively into this new year. I am both rattled and happy, scratched and hopeful. The shadows are there, but they don’t scare me (not so much, anyway), and I am ready to explore them a little more deeply.

Usually I wait until Epiphany to declare my words to myself, but I am feeling settled now, ready to choose, ready to embark.

So, my word for this year is Embodiment. I have written about this idea before, the way I have always felt a deep sense of wrongness whenever religious and spiritual and self-help practices begin to talk about mind over matter, or about transcending the body, or about liberating the soul from its body trap. I understand at a base level the philosophical concept that this physical reality isn’t the Real Reality, but I don’t really accept it as a core principle. Or, as I understand it, I think I need to understand it through the physical body I live in.

I think it’s helpful to consider body, mind, and spirit, to see to all our various categories of health and wellbeing, but I always feel like the greatest health happens when I am working to integrate all the various aspects of myself rather than separating them out, dividing in order to conquer, particularly in the way the culture I live in seems to see the punishment of the body as a virtue, unless it fits some strange “idealized” vision of what a body should be.

I am soul embodied into matter. I think perhaps, yes, the soul part of me exists in a way that may transcend this physical plane. I get glimpses of that. But this collection of atoms that make up the physical part of me are no less ME than the sentient, thinking, yearning, indwelling part. And if my soul exists here in this present plane, then I believe it’s here for a purpose, to know what it feels like to touch and taste and see and hear and smell, to experience physical pain and pleasure, to be em-bodied.

Body imbued with soul, with spirit, with sentience. Soul enmattered. Mind ensouled. These different pieces of what we come to know of as Self are in this current configuration because they teach and inform each other. I think we hinder our evolution by trying to escape and transcend the magic of this intertwinement. Or, to take the positive twist, we further human evolution and our own personal destiny and purpose by becoming integrated selves, all the pieces braided together.

Two streams that I have been working with this year that relate to Embodiment are Creativity and Magick, so those are also words for my coming year. If I am categorizing the various parts of me, perhaps Creativity fits in the more mental realm, the ways in which the mind solves problems and develops new ideas. And Magick is the more spiritual, the prayerful, the awareness of deeper levels of reality, the level of the soul. So my quest for the year is how to braid my creative and spiritual selves more artfully into my physical reality.

Some implications:
* I will continue this journey to consciously stop beating up on my body for the way she looks or feels. I will offer her what she needs and tend to her aches and changes.
* I will live through this period of peri-menopause with as much consciousness and intention as possible.
* I will feed the creative and spiritual parts of mySelf as intentionally as I feed my physical Self. With care and with joy. For health and for satisfaction.

Last week, I posted a quote by bell hooks on Facebook, about how self-improvement when done as a simply inward-looking thing can become narcissistic, that we only become better in the context of community. A friend expanded this, pointing out the paradox that we cannot improve our communities unless we do our inner work. Both/And.

Perhaps that’s part of why I have this urge to keep this blog-journal public, to lay at least some of it bare so that I can place my own journey into the community context. It’s why, even while I recognize that aspects of my social media life have become addictive and need reigning in, the overall open and vulnerable quality of the community I have discovered on social media keeps me learning and growing from the inner journeys of so many circles of beloveds. We become better together.


Gratitude List:
1. Being a multi-faceted being: soul and mind and body and spirit and streams of energy braided into one Self.
2. Evolving, growing, changing, Becoming
3. Cats
4. Reflections: windows, mirrors, shadows. . .
5. Layers: in artwork, leaves, selves, reflections, clothing. . .
May we walk in Wisdom!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: The word for this last day of Kwanzaa is Imani, or Faith. Believe that your dreams have the power to create change in the world. May it be so for you and for me and for all who long for and work for justice in the coming year.


May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.
—Traditional Irish Blessing


“A writer without readers is just a person alone in a room.” —Barbara Kingsolver


Someone Should Start Laughing
by Hafiz (Ladinsky)

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing –Now!


“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Courage, Dear Heart.” —the Albatross (Aslan) to Lucy, C. S. Lewis


“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier.’” —Alfred Tennyson


“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” ―Joan Chittister


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T. S. Eliot


“And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
—William Blake


“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
―Mary Oliver

Materializing in the Shadows

I know I did a lot of intense dreamwork last night, but the images and ideas are fleeting once again. I think I need to wake up and get writing before The Talker wakes up and starts his lengthy discourses on video games.

I’ve been meditating more on the gnomon, the sundial’s indicator. The perceiver. The indicator. Standing in its singular spot, the gnomon casts a shadow that shows the seeker where she is in the map of time. The gnomon must have a shadow in order to guide others to the truth of the moment. How can I be a truly helpful truth-telling guide if I do not know my shadow? If I do not stand boldly in the light of the sun, knowing that my shadow will flow out behind me for all to see? Perhaps this is the next step toward maturity.


Gratitudes:
1. Mending: I have a couple pairs of leggings that are developing some serious ladders, so yesterday I tried a woven mend that I saw on bookhou‘s Instagram videos last week. Mine ended up a little messy, but I definitely see the possibilities, and I have lots more holes to practice and improve on.
2. Last night I received a really moving message from a former student, talking about how, when I made the write poetry in Creative Writing class, he thought it was stupid, but when he had intense healing work to do after a painful time, he discovered that poetry was what he needed to be able to express what had happened to him. My heart hurts for the pain he must walk through, and it sings for the delight that something my work offered would be helpful in his healing.
3. For several months, I have been grieving the loss of a necklace I made. It has a bead and a pendant friends of mine brought me from East Africa, a large quartz crystal given to me by another friend, a cube of limonite Jon found on the farm, and a large garnet I bought at Radiance. Normally I am pretty philosophical about losing things, but this necklace was so attached to my web of beloveds and grounding places that it was a grief to lose it. Yesterday as I was re-arranging one of my altar spaces, I found the necklace, tucked in a corner where I had put it in a place of honor. It feels so good to wear it again.
4. How chakra meditations help to center me in my body. When I study religions and philosophical frameworks, ideas that separate the essential human from the body, that seek to raise the spirit/soul/essence out of matter in order to meet God or reach enlightenment, have always seemed incredibly suspicious and upside-down to me. My strongest sense has always been that the pathway to truth and knowing–gnowing–is by going deep, by centering myself within the body. Matter–matrix-mater matters. While I reject western materialism that clings to things as a superficial source of happiness, I think my pathway is material, enmattering.
5. How our Shadows can become our Guides. I am ready, I think, to take up this work. Having explored my shadows and begun to develop a sense of their shape and depth, I stand in the light and watch to see where they point.

May we walk in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.


“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming


“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman


A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (From the Talmud)


“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana


“By our love and our need for love we become for one another midwives of the true self.” —James Finley


“Civility will not overturn the patriarchy.” —Mona Eltahawy


“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.” —Bryan Stevenson


“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie


“In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language.” ―Adrienne Rich, 1993


“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you… where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” ―Adrienne Rich


“More firebrand women. More dragon spirited women. More loud women. More angry women. More hard women. More intimidating women. More history-making women. More rebel women. More rebel women. More rebel women.” ―Nikita Gill

Take Up Your Whole Space

Gratitude List:
1. Indigo buntings
2. There are twins in the holler! Fawns who’ve just been allowed to start exploring dancing through the neighbors’ yard, flicking into the woods. Curious. Sweet. Timid.
3. Vulture or eagle or hawk shadows that spill down the hill.
4. Last weekend’s Elements class. Such a marvelous group of thoughtful people.
5. Re-reading Hugh Lofting’s The Twilight of Magic with the boys. I discovered this book in my school library in fifth grade, and I read and reread and rereread it. MY first real introduction to the character of the wise woman who is accused of being a witch.

May we walk in Beauty!

Messengers


I’m setting up the FB page for Skunk Holler Poetryworks. I think I need to get out the better camera and a tripod to try to make it crisper.

Some days, some weeks, the visitations come so clustered and thickly that I simply can’t ignore the fact that Someone has something I need to hear. Hummingbird is a regular. Snake was a startlement. Vultures are pretty common, like hummer, except. . .

A couple days ago, I wanted to return to my meditations at the beginning of the year, to revisit the idea of matter, enmattering. I read through my blog posts from early January, and jogged my memory about the dreams I had been having. Among them, a startling dream about an encounter with the child-spirit Ellegua of Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions.

While I want to be careful about not assimilating and taming and taking over the religions of other people groups (as white people are wont to do), I have been fascinated by the spirit world of Afro-Caribbean traditions and have studied them somewhat extensively, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Ellegua appeared to me in a dream. There were vultures (six, I think) in a field, and Ellegua took my hand and pulled me toward them. I didn’t want to touch them because I thought their feathers would be matted with dried blood and offal. Instead, they were soft as down, and the vultures bobbed their heads at us.

So the day after I renewed my memory of the vulture dream, Ellis and I encountered a pair of black vultures, one flying low over the road in front of us, and the other alighting on a telephone pole and looking down at us curiously as we passed slowly beneath it. That was yesterday. Today, on the way to school, we slowed down beside a field to watch four turkey vultures in a field. They eyed us closely as they hopped over the stubble, and for the first time in my years of watching them, I noticed the pronounced black and white “spectacle” marking in front of the eyes.

I was marveling at the triad of vulture visitations (noting that there were six vultures in real life now, like there had been in the dream) when I had to slow down again for a small creature running across the road ahead of me. Long, low, thin, and blondish, I thought, “Weasel!” and that’s what it was! I’ve never seen one in the wild. Otters. A mink. But this was my first weasel. Vultures and weasel.

This afternoon, as I was helping out with group activities for ninth graders outside the school, a ruckus of feathered folk burst out of a tree nearby: a really large crow followed by three smaller birds, flickering orange like little flames in the sun. Orioles! Three males chasing a crow. Perhaps it was after their little ones. But it felt like a message to me. Three flames. One great big mystery.

In my list of messengers, do I include the great blue herons that flap across my field of vision every day or so? They’re definitely on the move. The early butterfly sightings? The groundhogs standing on their hind haunches, surveying their fields like the farmers they are?

It’s a lot to ponder.

Do you get visitations, too? Periods of time when the animal- and bird-realms, and maybe plant- and tree-realms, or stone-realms, seem to come in clusters and chunks, with messages that you can decipher if you only take the time to meditate and contemplate their meanings?

I write this in the moments before I head upstairs to dream-time. Perhaps I’ll find more images there to enrich the story.


Gratitude List:
1. Visitors
2. Reminders
3. Messages
4. Dreams
5. Meditation

May we walk in Beauty!

Making It Matter

My word for this year will be Matter. Matter, the primal stuff, the essence, the source. Matter, from mater, which is mother, which is source. What matters? What manifests? What incarnates and comes into being? Matter is that which is of consequence, of significance, of importance. Material, substance, that which has form.

My work for the year is to take the idea and make it real, to materialize it, to manifest it, to enmatter it. The work of the year will matter: it will be important, it will manifest, it will go from idea to reality.

The dreams that have accompanied me this month have been about approaching with curiosity ideas and tasks which make me uncomfortable, about stepping with courage into the work that approaches.

There was the dream about the young Ellegua who beckoned me to wide green field where we greeted a flock of vultures. Their feathers were surprisingly soft.

There was the dream about the three girls (Graces? Goddesses? Muses?) who led me forward, and laughed kindly at my timidity.

There was the dream where I was told two times (and very distinctly): “This is how you will begin to do battle with the big lie.” And then there was no further direction. How? How am I to battle the lie?

There was a dream about bears which turned themselves into trees. And then the trees turned into birds and flew away.

There was the dream of a blue sky and some sort of hazy philosophical discussion, and someone gesturing around the vast bowl of blue, “It all makes sense, unless you factor in the Goddess. If you add the Goddess to the mix, it all becomes a mystery.”

What a hodgepodge of ideas and images! They’ll be in my toolbox as I contemplate what it means to make the ideas matter in the coming season.

Do you choose a word or a phrase or an idea or image to accompany into the New Year? How do you find it?


Gratitude List:
1. Good movies. We watched Amal last night on Netflix. We hadn’t heard of it, but Jon was looking through the Rotten Tomatoes movies with 100% ratings and found it. I concur with the rating. It was simply sweet, and deeply profound, like an excellent short story. You should watch it, too.
2. A lovely quiet day with Joss yesterday. It was just the two of us, playing games and reading. My voice is hoarse from reading.
3. The house is still clean. I can still think.
4. Dreams that light the way.
5. Blue skies and mystery.

May we walk in Beauty!


“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
—Zora Neale Hurston
***
I see her walking
on a path through a pathless forest
or a maze, a labyrinth.
As she walks, she spins
and the fine threads fall behind her
following her way,
telling
where she is going,
telling
where she has gone.
Telling the story.
The line, the thread of voice,
the sentences saying the way.
—Ursula K. Le Guin (from “The Writer On, and At, Her Work)

Being a Body

DSCN8041
I think it is time for me to start planning my retreat to the monastery when school ends this spring.  I want to go sit under the boughs of the cathedral tree again.

Gratitude List:
1. Gulls by the hundreds flying in the dawn across the River
2. Watching the freshmen really take up the work of deep discussion
3. How one foot just goes in front of the other.  Then the next one.
4. The sense of sight.  As my eyes age, I am more and more keenly aware of how appreciate clear vision.
5. Being in a body.  Incarnation.  There is so much to learn in this body, and I spend entirely too much time wishing it were different in some way, like I just did by wishing that my eyes weren’t aging quite so quickly.  And every moment, every itch, every ache, every noticing, is a chance to learn something about the interaction of spirit and matter.

May we walk in Beauty!

What Does it Matter?

Just a few more days!  I love the challenge of these months, and I am so glad to get the break when they are done.  Today’s prompt is to write a matter/anti-matter poem.  I just let this one run its little free-association course.

Aunty Matter strides into Grandma’s kitchen
in her black stockings with holes in the heels
and a long black velvet dress
with fine lace insets.

She pirouettes.

“What does it matter, Mater,
if I should wander once in a while?
The fact of the matter is:
I’m green only for a day
before my dreams are heaped
in that pile of rubble in the orchard.”

It’s just a matter of time, perhaps
until she’s gone down the anticline,
until she’s reached the event horizon,
the point of no returning.

Still, the young ones are donning
black stockings of our own
to follow her in her dance
as though the dance is all that matters.

 

Gratitude List:
1. People working for Justice
2. People willing to engage the hard conversations
3. People with hope in their hearts
4. People who sing even when it’s dark
5. People whose M.O. is Love

May we walk in Beauty!