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

Wise Friends and Wise Dreams

In last night’s dream, there are four photos of me with clouds behind me. It’s clearly exactly the same smiling image of me, but the clouds behind me are different: In one, they’re sort of happy and flowery, in another they’re simply bland and grey, in one they’re dramatic, and in one they’re clearly in the menacing form of a shark.

I’m wrangling these days with what it means to be honest and real in the midst of crisis. On one hand, I think it’s important not to put on a false face, to not pretend like nothing’s wrong when things are crumbling. I have always been grateful for people who let me in, who share the deep realities, even when they’re painful. I want to follow their modeling.

On the other hand, it’s not safe for me or others for the shark-cloud or the rainclouds to be obvious all the time. We wear the sunny face to protect ourselves and others. It would be exhausting to be wearing those drama-clouds all the time, and it would control every conversation. And I don’t want everyone to see those.

So there’s a balance, and I feel like I am only learning the way to sort them out. I might thundercloud you when we’re in a light and airy space, or look cheery and chipper when I really want to tell you how much everything just sucks.

I think this uncertainty about how to feel the Big Feelings and still be “socially appropriate” is something some of us never quite learn to sort out. Every time I live through something momentous, it’s always the same. Perhaps it’s my social awkwardness coming out. So many of our children’s books deal with how to feel Big Feelings–we probably ought to all have a shelf of those in our houses.

I received a card from a friend yesterday in which she gave me the excellent advice to give myself time and rest on this part of the journey. “If you had broken your leg two weeks ago,” she wrote, “would you really expect yourself to climb the hills around your house now?” Sage advice from a wise woman. Also, I am a seven on the Enneagram, and pain avoidance is my specialty, but, as another friend told me: “You’ve got to feel it to heal it.”

Between my wise beloveds and my dream state, some good reminders to sit with the strong emotions, not to simply pack them away and ignore them.

When you are in crisis and the world seems to crumble around you, may you, too, feel the protecting arms and gentle words of beloveds to hold you through your storms.


Gratitude List:
1. I heard Oriole this morning! My best friend bird is back in the holler! No matter how chilly the day today, I am going to have the doors open at least for a little while, so I can listen for him.
2. The healthy green of the new leaves on my Mary Magdalene (Lenten) Roses. Really, the healthy green of everything right now!
3. Wise, wise beloveds.
4. I went to the Junior Recital of one of my students at Millersville last evening. Such incredible talent. I am awed and delighted at the many different gifts of these almost-adults.
5. Sometimes when you’re sad, people feed you. Nothing like a lemon muffin to bring some loving zest to the first morning of another week.
May we walk in Beauty!


“A woman who has uncovered and honors her intimacy with the earth through developing a relationship with nature or through the power within her own body carries a wisdom of infinite mystery and potential. She moves through life with one foot in a strange ocean, one on the solid land of her ordinary life.This is not just an idea, but a way to live. Mystics, artists, and mothers of young children know this ability to be half-absorbed in unnameable creative forces.” —Hilary Hart


“The only time incorrectly is not spelled incorrectly is when it is spelled incorrectly.”


“There is no such thing as one-sided generosity. Like one ecosystem, we are each at different times receiving or purging, growing or pruning. In those moments when you believe you aren’t receiving enough, consider what you most want to receive might be the thing you need to give away.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” —Henry David Thoreau


“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.” —Joanna Macy


“What if the Creator is like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s God: “like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence”?
What if the Source of All Life inhabits both the dark and the light, heals with strange splendor as much as with sweet insight, is hermaphroditic and omnisexual?
What if the Source loves to give you riddles that push you past the boundaries of your understanding, forcing you to change the ways you think about everything?
What if, as Rusty Morrison speculates in “Poetry Flash,” “the sublime can only be glimpsed by pressing through fear’s boundary, beyond one’s previous conceptions of the beautiful”?
Close your eyes and imagine you can sense the presence of this tender, marvelous, difficult, entertaining intelligence.” —Rob Brezsny

Horizon

On one of the poem-a-day prompts lists one of my students dug up at the beginning of April, the prompt for the 25th is to write a poem about the word Horizon. The events of my April have meant I have fallen a few days behind on my poeming. (Well, that’s my excuse anyway!)

Horizon
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

The horizon
lies on
the edge of
the world

and you never
can reach it
though you seek
with your whole heart.

It is always
a day’s journey
away from the place
where you start.


Gratitude List:
1. The way the horizon always leads onward
2. Guests. Guests require a little housecleaning, and a clean house is nice. Plus, guests are nice.
3. The hostas are coming up!
4. I think I saw my friend the oriole this morning. It could have been something else with the sun hitting it just so. But he should be here any day now. I am listening for you, Friend!
5. How poetry holds feelings.
May we walk in Beauty!


“To love, my brothers and sisters, does not mean we have to agree. But maybe agreeing to love is the greatest agreement. And the only one that ultimately matters, because it makes a future possible.” —Michael B. Curry


“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


“Immature people crave and demand moral certainty: This is bad, this is good. Kids and adolescents struggle to find a sure moral foothold in this bewildering world; they long to feel they’re on the winning side, or at least a member of the team. To them, heroic fantasy may offer a vision of moral clarity. Unfortunately, the pretended Battle Between (unquestioned) Good and (unexamined) Evil obscures instead of clarifying, serving as a mere excuse for violence — as brainless, useless, and base as aggressive war in the real world.” —Ursula K Le Guin


“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

NPM Day 29: Tree

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

Deep Dreaming

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 Make Me Happy

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.

What brings you joy?

Farewell, Old Friend

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.

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!

Argle-Bargle

Bleeeeding

Today’s prompt is to choose a little-known English word and use it for a title. I chose two.

The Argle-Bargle of the Blatherskite
(meaningless babble of a chatterer)

I mean it when I say
that I mean what I say,
and I say what I mean,
which is to say
that I mean something.

You know you want to
want what you want
when you want it
and you know
you want it now.
Now you know it.

We’ve come this far
by coming to terms
because the terms
are endearing my dear

It’s not over ’til it’s begun
or so they say.
Red Rover, come over.
It’s over. It’s done.


Gratitude List:
1. Greeeeeeen!
2. The Deer of Skunk Hollow
3. Anticipating Oriole
4. This boy who is looking over my shoulder and conferring with me about my grammar
5. The way new poems rise

May we walk in Beauty!

PoeTree

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.


Gratitude List:
1. Pink
2. Yellow
3. Yellow
4. Pink
5. Pink

May we walk in Beauty!