Mater and Matrix

So, the Fool has embarked upon adventure–unprepared but winsomely present to each moment on the road–has learned the elemental mysteries of the universe from the Medium, and has studied wisdom and lore from the Secret Keeper. The next two characters the Fool meets are usually called The Empress and The Emperor. By renaming the Empress Matrix, I haven’t actually managed to entirely pull this character out of the gender binary, for matrix is the source, the womb from which we are born, the fertile Earth, the rock bed on which crystals are formed. This is the birth-giver, the bringer of life: fecund, nurturing, fruitful, generative. The German word mater, from which we get the word mother, comes from the Latin matrix.

This Matrix, unlike Neo’s computer simulation, is the source of all life, the life force that pushes dandelions through concrete and pulls forth the greening of the spring, draws forth the flower, and brings flower to fruit. Then the Matrix locks up that life force into the hard shell of the seed to begin the cycle all over again.

After acquiring knowledge and power from Medium and Secret Keeper, the Fool must take time to grow, and to carefully observe the cycles of life, to feel the Life Force that feeds the Fool’s own self. The Fool learns to tend and nurture life force in the presence of the Matrix.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about The Empress:

Message from the Empress
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.


The Matrix/Empress has no time for rule-making about bodies. Here is where the Fool learns about Embodiment, about Being a Body. Unlike certain strains of Buddhism and Christianity that stress transcending or mortifying the body in order to reach enlightenment or purity, The Matrix knows that the body is pure and right and holy. “Your body is a temple,” we were told in Sunday School, and were expected to hide and contain and control it. “Your body is a temple,” says The Matrix, “and it is meant to be celebrated and inhabited and experienced.”

How do you experience life in a body? Is it painful? Uncomfortable? Shameful? Joyful? Ecstatic? Primal? What meditations and movements, what breathing and noticing, can you do to more fully experience the deep sense of belonging in a body?


Gratitude List:
1. People who get it, who understand your story even when you need to speak around silent spaces. People who See you even when you feel like parts of you have become invisible.
2. Textile arts, particularly crocheting and knitting–how amazing that we can take one or two little sticks, and a piece of string, and make such amazing things? Knot and twist. There’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?
3. Wood thrushes calling in the woods at Sam Lewis Park this evening.
4. Disc Golf. I didn’t play because we only have two sets of discs, but it was such a delight walking through the course as the boys played. Child 2 said to Child 1, “You’ll have to hurry up and get your license so we can do this whenever we want!”
5. Blue grosbeak, a constant visual presence at the feeder, and oriole, a constant aural presence in the holler.
May we walk in Beauty!


“If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.”
—Franz Wright


“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —attributed to Buddha and to Nelson Mandela


“Let fury have the hour.
Anger can be power.
D’you know that you can use it?”
–The Clash


“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”
― Junot Díaz


“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King


“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath

Whatever the Day Means to You

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.

Visitors

IMAG1733
Yesterday, just after Ellis and I got home from school, all four of us were hanging out at the picnic table, talking about our days, when a vulture (I think turkey) flew low above the poplar tree and settled on the telephone pole at the end of the drive. I managed to grab my camera, and just as I  raised it and got into position for the photo, she opened her arms and turned her head like this. Like someone from an ancient Egyptian papyrus.  Holy moment.

If you don’t know me, and only read my daily gratitude lists, I wonder if my life might come across as unbalancedly charmed and positive. Five things every day to be grateful for. Happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction. It really is all there. But every life has its challenges and pain, too.

If this daily practice of inward-looking is teaching me anything, it is that the examined life must name and engage all the feelings and experiences that enter the heart.  And the practice of intentionally naming the gratitudes isn’t about ignoring the pain, or even simply putting the difficult things into context so that I can look away and only focus on the wonder and the loveliness. Sometimes it is about looking the hardest things in the eye and welcoming them in, too. Friendship and love bring us support and companionship and deep satisfaction, but opening the heart to others means that we share their griefs, carry their pain, open ourselves to the risks of broken relationships.  Noticing the hummingbird nest in the sycamore tree brings falling-down-on-your-knees wonder and daily magic, but it also makes heat waves and storms and predators anxious realities when your heart is filled with the fragile life of tiny birds. And wonder is not only the exquisitely impossible hummingbird, but the ancient bald vulture opening her wings in the sun.

My favorite poem on this topic is Rumi’s “Guesthouse”

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Gratitude List:
1. The vulture visitor
2. Yesterday I finally saw a hummingbird baby peeking a tiny head over the rim of the nest after the mother flew away. First a tiny ruffly wing, then the needle beak, then the round marble of a head–smaller than a marble! My heart fell down on its knees.
3. Welcoming it all, open-winged, like the vulture on the pole
4. Challenges that keep me from complacency
5. Fierce and tender mothers. My sister friends, holding each other through difficult times. Hummingbird.

May we walk in Beauty!

Fire Bird is Back!

Baltimore_oriole_male
(Not  my photo–from Wikipedia, labeled for reuse.)

Gratitude List:
1. Fire Bird is back in the hollow. The oriole has returned.  I have been watching and listening for weeks now.  Yesterday, as I was getting out of the shower, I heard his whistle.  I opened the window, and he flew in to sit on the branch of sycamore right in front of me, whistling and whistling.  I felt as though my longing had drawn him here. Later in the afternoon, his lady came, too, timid and whispery, yellow-green like the leaves on the poplar.  And he is such an impossible orange.  Satisfying orange.
2. A bright and shining bird of a boy who is ten years old today.  He is driven by his curiosity, compelled to explore and tweak and consider, to question and create and figure things out.  I can’t imagine anymore what life was like before he was part of it.
3. Drawing to ourselves what we love.
4. My mother.  Mentor and model, thoughtful and contemplative, she has done so much to make the world a better and more just place.
5. Mother Earth

May we walk in Beauty!

Arise, then, Women of this Day

2013 April 156

Those are the first words of Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation.  It was a call to action, not just to American mothers, but to all women in all nations, to come together to create peace between our countries and to repudiate the wars and violence that were being caused and prosecuted mostly by men.

I know that this day is difficult for many people for many reasons.  The word Mother is a difficult word for may people.  Mothers can be cruel or absent or distant or controlling.  Mothers can feel inadequate, captive, unappreciated (but for one day a year), shamed.  Motherhood may be elusive or greatly desired but seemingly unattainable.  Beloved mothers may be gone too soon, too soon.  My first memory of my own experience of being a mother was the Mothers Day ten years ago when I learned that my first pregnancy was failing.

Today, if this day is difficult and painful for you, I wish you a quiet place away from all the cultural glitz and holler of the day.  I wish you healing from difficult or grief-filled memories.  I wish you freedom from the expectations that clamor about you.  I wish you people in your life who nurture you and who help you discover you how strong you really are.  I wish you at least one person in your life who believes in you no matter what, who trusts your inner knowledge and ability to succeed. I wish you opportunities to mentor and care for others. I wish you the fire and power to bring to birth your own ideas and creations, to watch your dreams and projects and plans come into being as surely as any child is born into the world.

Gratitude List:
1. My mother, whom I would seek out as a friend were she not already my mother, who has been my guide as I find my own way into the land of motherhood, who believed I could do fly and sometimes sort of nudged me off the cliff’s edge a little, who has taught me the importance of firmly speaking truth to power, who has provided a motherly presence for so many people, who showed me how to pay attention and to look at the beauty of the world around me.  I love you, Mom!
2. The Motherline:
I am Beth Weaver-Kreider,
daughter of Ruth Slabaugh Weaver,
daughter of Lura Lauver Slabaugh,
daughter of Mary Emma Graybill Lauver,
daughter of Elizabeth Shelley Graybill,
daughter of Lydia Gingrich Shelley,
daughter of Elizabeth Light Gingrich,
daughter of Mary Dohner Light,
daughter of Anna Landis Dohner,
daughter of Fronica Groff Landis,
daughter of Susanna Kendig Orendorf Groff,
daughter of Elsbeth Meili Kundig,
daughter of Anna Barbara Bar Meili,
daughter of Barbara Biedermann Bar (born 1580 in Hausen, Switzerland).
3. All you who have been mentors and muses and fire-lighters and hearth-keepers for me.
4. My own two children (and perhaps also the two who did not come to be) and all they have taught me about who I am in the world, all the joy they bring.
5. Seed. Womb. Birth. Fire. Earth. Source.

May we walk in Beauty!