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!

Love and Spring Tonic

 
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

May we walk in Beauty!

All Our Children


#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,
the waymakers,
making a pathway
for their brothers to follow?

Were they forces of nature,
faerie children,
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.)

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Doorway of My Cottage


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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Icarus and the Smell of Rain


It’s such a relief to not have to write a poem today, and at one quiet moment in the day, I sat down and started writing something that I was thinking, and suddenly I had written another poem. Sigh. I just can’t NOT. But I forgot it at school, so I’ll have to post it another day.

Gratitude List:
1. Crows: This morning, we passed a crow sitting on a bit of corn stubble. You know how they pump their bodies up and down when they caw? This one seemed to be chuckling to itself, its body shaking as it cawed.
2. Although I am disappointed and a little anxious that I have not yet seen or heard my friend Icarus the Oriole yet this spring, I did hear one of this cousins in the sycamores at school this afternoon. I love sycamores.
3. A good, deep nap.
4. My wish bundle. I put it out into the elements on spring equinox, and brought it in this afternoon, unwrapping the cloth and trying to pull apart the papers. It’s going to take me a little time to figure out how to create a project from it, but I am looking forward to the process. I wonder how I can shape my intentions more clearly?
5. Rain. The smell of rain.

May we walk in Beauty!

Oranges

DSCN9232
I have oranges in the dogwood tree for Oriole, but he seems uninterested.  He prefers the sycamore fluffs at the tops of the trees.  The dogwoods have lost their pink in the three days since I took the photo.

Gratitude List:
1. Cool May–whenever I start to kvetch about being too cold, I remember the beastly heat at the end of the year last year, and I am grateful.  I have not started up my classroom air conditioner at all this spring.
2. Deep, flowing conversations.
3. Your heart.  My heart.  The strands of love and compassion that connect those dots.
4. White fluffy clouds in blue sky.
5. Passing on the Flame.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gardens and Islands

DSCN9214
Season of the ferns.

Gratitude List:
1. Goethite, those small brown-black cubes we find in the fields.  Remineralized pyrite.  Philosopher’s stone.
2. The Curious Garden.  A small boy came home from school yesterday, inspired by a book/video his teacher had shown him in class.  He wanted me to help him to create a place behind the house where he would put plants he likes.  Then he took me inside to show me the book on the computer.  As we were finding this, he said, “I think you’re really going to like this one.”  I love that, that he is sharing literature with me, thinking about whether I would like it.  And he was right.  I really did.
3. Meeting the challenges.  I’m really living into The Odyssey right now, looking at the islands of Odysseus’s journey, thinking about the things that derail me, that challenge me, that keep from becoming my truest self, and the challenges that help me to become my truest self.
4. Planning my contemplative retreat.  I’ve chosen dates for my monastery trip.  Today I will call and reserve my little room.  I cannot express how deeply satisfying this is.
5. I also heard orioles on campus yesterday–even one in the tree outside my window!

May we walk in Beauty!