Write a poem about a tree, or a grove of trees, or a quiet wood, or a wild forest.
Gratitude List: 1. Morning Thor snuggles 2. Oriole is back! 3. How the green of early sycamore leaves filters the light into the holler 4. Sleep 5. Mint chocolate chip ice cream
May we walk in Beauty!
“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.” —Barry H. Gillespie
“There is room for you at our table, if you choose to join us.” —Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing
“For beautiful to happen, the beautiful has got to be seen.” —from the musical “Ordinary Days”
“You will be found.” —from the musical “Dear Evan Hansen”
“How do you become the person you’ve forgotten you ever were?” —from the musical “Anastasia”
“The universe is not made up of atoms; it’s made up of tiny stories.” ―Joseph Gordon-Levitt
To all the children by Thomas Berry
To the children who swim beneath The waves of the sea, to those who live in The soils of the Earth, to the children of the flowers In the meadows and the trees of the forest, To all those children who roam over the land And the winged ones who fly with the winds, To the human children too, that all the children May go together into the future in the full Diversity of their regional communities.
Carl Jung: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
“Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth.” ―Rumi (Barks)
“You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend, or not.” ―Isabel Allende
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ―Bréne Brown, Wholehearted
In last night’s Dreamtime, I am at lodge or little village or somewhere. I am working at my friend’s shop, which is sort of like a little kiosk place in the lobby of the lodge. I can’t find anything. People are asking for herbs and homeopathic remedies, and I know what they are and where I would normally find them, but in this tiny space, I can’t find anything. People are nice about it, though. I find a piece of paper, written in my own handwriting years prior, but which seems to be relevant for this moment. In the dream, I can’t figure out how I can be in both times at once, and a whole part of the dream is me pondering that and trying to figure it out.
A little later, I am walking up on the hill behind the lodge/village in the moonlight. I pass a white tree with red and black shadows and patterns running up and down the trunk, and it’s all bathed in moonlight, glowing. It’s a moment of incredible beauty and wonder. I run back to the lodge/farm/village for my camera. On the way back up the hill, I pass the purple okra patch, which is beautiful in itself. I pause to admire the okra, and notice several stalks that are blighted and chewed by some animal. I’m lucky that I have one of those craft razors with me, and I slice off the dead and broken bits. My handy razor glints in the moonlight. I return to the Beautiful Tree, and realize that I have again left my camera behind, so I race back down the hill, which–as you may know–is particularly exhausting in dreams.
Then I am packing up my things and heading home from this place. My friend asks if I can take her puppy Otus (it is spelled like the owl and not the human name) along with me. He’s an adorable little ball of grey-brown fluff, and he loves to be with me. On the way home, I remember that my friend and her boyfriend were planning to move and would be looking at a new house on my route home, so I stop in. Since it’s an Open House, I just walk in. My friend and her boyfriend are singing together. He’s sitting in the living room looking through boxes, and she’s puttering around in the bedroom and kitchen, unpacking. They’ve already moved! They’re surprised to see me just walking into their house. They wonder if I knew the code to get in the front door, but I say it was open.
My friend offers me some art supplies and sets up a board and paper on her bed so I can paint. She introduces me to her new kitten, which turns out to be two kittens, and they’re living breathing animals, but they’re crocheted. They love playing with Otus the puppy. When I am finished with my painting, I clean up, find Otus, thank my friends, and wake up.
Much to ponder today: Layers of time. The White Tree. The need to capture a photo. Nurturing the okra. The colors of the tree and the okra. My shining and helpful razor blade. Otus the puppy (the screech owl, Otus asio, is personal symbol of mine). Walking into my friend’s house despite the combination lock. Space for art. The crocheted kittens.
Gratitude List: 1. Josiah and I just witnessed the most amazing thing! While I was writing my dream, I glanced up to see the raccoon (we’d seen her once before) striding purposefully over the bluff and down to one of the walnut trees in a little circular area behind the house that I call the cauldron. (I hollered “Raccoon!” and Joss was the only one awake to come watch with me.) She paused and looked my way, then climbed the tree. When she reached a branch about house height, she slipped in behind the branch to a place where there must be a hollow place. We watched her take hold of a little one, bring it down the tree in her jaws, and carry it up over the bluff. She was gone for several minutes, anxious minutes for us, while we watched another baby up on the branch, trying to figure out how to follow its mama. Finally she returned and got that one, too. We think she must have already moved at least a third kit before we saw her the first time. What a deep and satisfying pleasure to witness such a moment. My hat is off to this careful and intentional mama. Those little ones will soon be too big for her to carry up the walnut tree in her mouth. I suppose she and the little ones are the ones who ate the duck eggs from the nest by the pond. Such sadness. Such thriving life. The wheel of life is beautiful and terrible. 2. I successfully baked a crusty, tasty, yeasty loaf with my wild yeasts yesterday. It was SO satisfying. Maybe now, instead of discarding my extra starter, I should bake flat cakes to leave out for the raccoon family. 3. That oriole is the loudest voice in the hollow, and constant, and beautiful–an orange flame dancing along the branches of the neighbors’ walnut and flitting from clump to clump of new leaves. 4. I might be emotionally done with school, but if I have to push through, it is nice to do it with a cat snuggled up to my thigh. If I sit on the couch, I usually end up with a cat snuggled up on each side. 5. I watched a short video this morning of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s reflections this morning that helped me recalibrate (her words) a bit, to shift my focus again to living in the moment and not living for the moment of The End of All This. Maybe you want to watch it, too. 6. Dream messages: I think everything is going to be okay, in the end. I will get into the places I need to get into. There will be quiet and gentle community. I will be true to my inner guides. I will do useful work. 7. So many necessary gratitudes today. Last one for today: Our neighbor found her cat. We’d been watching a calico cat in the neighbors’ yard across the street for the past few days. She was hanging out with one of the feral ginger bobtailed cats that we call Gunther and Stumpy Bob. Yesterday we found a paper in our mailbox from the neighbor up the street, asking if anyone had seen her calico cat. I texted her that we had seen her and that we would keep our eyes out. And she texted back that they had found her! It’s interesting how, when one’s heart is bruised and weary, the relief in a small story like this brings such a lightness and lift.
May we walk in Wonder and 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
“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
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.
I have known this was coming, and still it seems sudden. We received the call today that the tree service is ready to come take down the Uncle Poplar who stands above us, cools us in the summer, draws my magnificent oriole friends to us in the spring, and holds part of the heart of our farm. He was here long before we came, watching the tender grandmother who lived here. He held the hammock where I lay in the days of grief recovering from my first miscarriage, and where I lay with new babies to nurse in cool spring breezes. He has watched over our children and the families of countless customers.
He has been a city, a veritable nation of birds and insects and bats and faerie folk. Friends have climbed into his branches. We’ve reached out and touched his hanging branches with our toes from the swings, and one tome he held one of our big bouncy balls for months before someone tossed another ball high enough to get him to relinquish his grasp. We’ve sneezed every spring in the drenching pollen from his glorious blossoms. Along with our Auntie Sycamore, he has been half of the gate that guards the entrance to our home.
His roots have been rising. Each year, the driveway is lifted a little further, cracking near the garage where his mighty roots are shifting upward. He endangers the foundations of the house he has protected. And he is tired. In every storm, he drops massive limbs, though none have damaged more than rain gutters on the house. But it’s time.
I sang him a song and burned some incense around his trunk this afternoon. Tomorrow will be a sad day, but it will be exciting as well. We have never seen a tree brought down. I will gather small branches for wands and runes. Perhaps we’ll carve some spoons and bowls. The tree folks will take away most of his wood.
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.
Years ago, during the month of April, I kept a poetree. Two dogwood trees stand on either side of my driveway. I would hang poems from the branches of the one closest to the house. Rain and snow caused problems until I got smart and hung them in plastic sheets. Since I have been teaching school, I have not had time to tend and April poetree, except on my bulletin board in the classroom one year. The year of this photo, 2013, I called myself the laundress of poetry, hanging my fresh sheets in the sun every few days.
Today’s prompt is to write a temptation poem. This year’s poems feel more solid than some years in the past. Fewer toss-offs, fewer place-holders. Today’s poem might fit those categories, but it has a little promise, I think:
Lead me not into temptation,
not into the Faculty snack room,
not into the valley of Facebook,
not into the sleepy arms of the recliner.
Lead me not into the second pot of coffee,
not into the bargain bin at the yarn store,
not into the library book sale,
not into the place of shiny stones.
Lead me into the long afternoon walk,
into the quiet seat in the spring sunshine,
into the circle of the oriole’s song,
into the embrace of a weeping pink tree.
Lead me into a whole classroom of laughter,
into the smile of a child,
into the room of your song,
into the twinkling space of your gaze.
First, a tender message I found in my classroom zen garden today.
Then, blue sky in the space between the red barn and the poplar and sycamore trees. Even the sleepy walnut in the background is beginning to put on her summer clothes.
I am taking some photos these days with the aim of capturing images of portals and entrances. The deer trail photo yesterday was one of those.
The Kreider family heirloom peonies are opening.
Mostly wild herbs for tea: two kinds of plantain (for respiration), willow (for the head pain), clover, chamomile and catnip (to slow my system down), violet leaf, nettle, several kinds of mint, lemon balm, henbit, dandelion, dock, wood sorrel, and a few locust blossoms. I added local honey as it was cooling, and a few dashes of elderberry tincture for sipping.
Gratitude List: 1. Orioles everywhere! I saw a pair at school this afternoon while I was doing border patrol at the lower parking lot during the social. My Icarus has been singing constantly in his poplar tree. And while I was gathering wild herbs for tea, I saw and heard a pair of orchard orioles working on their nest.
2. The scent of locust and poplar tulips which fills the hollow.
3. The herbal allies which appear at this time of year to help me cope with the poplar and locust blossoms, which make me sneeze, and make my eyes and throat itch, and fill my head with a cottony fog.
4. These ever-shiny young people with whom I spend my days. The twisty feeling in my gut is upon me again. I approach June with such an incredible feeling of relief, and such a wistfulness about seeing them go.
5. Good basil pesto
#resist — I found this in my classroom zen garden last week.
I am sure that I have written this before. Still, it seems to want to be said again.
The first time I was pregnant,
I spent Mother’s Day
with the dawning awareness
that I was losing that baby.
The next Mother’s Day,
I held that one’s brother in my arms.
Becoming a mother was fraught
with much more peril than I’d anticipated,
each son preceded by a shadow child,
a rainbow child.
We talk amongst ourselves
about the lost ones,
and we wonder:
Were they just the first attempt
of these two who made it,
missing the train on the first go?
Were they the vanguard,
making a pathway
for their brothers to follow?
Were they forces of nature,
unleashed into the world
to watch and protect?
But here in the sun of today
are these two shining changelings,
eyes older than time.
They know they belong here
in these bodies made of earth,
of wind and bone.
Perhaps they sometimes hear
the spirit children
singing in their dreams.
Some random quotations:
“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” ― Bob Marley
“Truth is an agile cat. It has more than nine lives.” ― Joy Harjo
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” ― Mark Twain
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” ― Fran Lebowitz
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Gratitude List: 1. Wood duck on Goldfinch Pond.
2. Three chittery indigo buntings flitting across the road.
3. The new giving project idea at church. I have never seen such unmitigated joy in response to the announcement of a new giving project. People clapped.
4. My mother. All the wisdom and Presence she offers to so many people.
5. And my grandmothers. And my mother-in-law. And all the women who have been mother to me. And Mother Earth.
6. My children: the two who bless and challenge me every day.
7. All our children, who challenge me/us to make the world a better and a safer place.
8. And Icarus Oriole, who sings to me all day. (I know he is really singing to Her Ladyship who hides herself greenly in the leaves, but it feels like he is singing to me.)
Here I am, stepping out of my little dream-cottage, into the world again, a little at a time.
When the stress of the everyday gets too stressy, I begin to fantasize about what my little witch-poet’s cottage might look like: thatched roof and cob walls, a nice big window, sunflowers and poppies and blue-eyed chicory in the garden, and a bee skep on a bench. Inside, a fireplace and bookshelves, cabinets to hold stones and papers, birds’ nests on the mantel, a comfortable recliner and a writing desk. (Somehow, in the filtering process to modify this photo, my gnome-friend Solomon Shandy appeared in the photo. He’s in the lower left-hand side of the photo–can you spot him?)
“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” –John F. Kennedy
I wear beads on one arm for Beauty,
beads on the other for Kindness.
I need a third arm for Rage.
Some say she was a mermaid or a selkie,
a creature of both land and sea
moving with ease in either element
and graciously bridging the space between.
That is true, of course, but they didn’t know
how on windy days, she rose with wings above the surf,
or how her sudden laugh would often draw her into flame.
Gratitude List: 1. Icarus Oriole–always calling in my treetops of May
2. A LONG afternoon nap, with a warm blanket and a cat on my lap
3. Friends had a fundraiser yard sale today for their nonprofit. We scored the game Mousetrap, and Connect Four, and a novel by Jane Yolen that I had never read.
4. May Day at Wrightsville Elementary. It had to be inside because of the rain. I ran the Color Spin game, and had a blast trying to increase the odds for the littlest kids. The community comes together to make a good time for the kids.
5. Watching ET with the family. Turn on your Heartlight. I’ll be right here.