What the Holy One Can Do with Dust (Jan Richardson)

How day dawns in Skunk Holler

That title is a quote from Jan Richardson’s Poem “Blessing the Dust.” You probably want to read it today.

Today I am home from school with a sick child. It’s a nice chance for some slow, quiet time in between checking his temperature and beating him mercilessly at a game of Monopoly.

It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of that 40-day journey before Easter, a moon-bound season between the season of Brigid and the season of Ostara. As spokes on the eight-pointed solar wheel, Brigid and Ostara occur on the same days every solar year: Groundhog’s Day and Spring Equinox, ancient celebrations of the quickening of life in the earth, and the time of hatching and birth that is spring. But Lent is fluid, floating along the surface of the solar year, woven into the cycles of the moon and its dance with that Equinox sun. On Brigid’s February morning, we look to our shadows and consider whether the light we have within us will serve us until the spring. We take stock of our inner reserves and resources. In Lent, we take that question further, considering the question of enough.

During Lent, we look inward and wonder at the holes and spaces within. We see our lack, and instead of shrinking away in fear and despair, we say, “Yes,” and “Yes” again. Here is who I am. I know that I can be one who betrays the Holy One, one with the potential to deny my beloved. I know how I can cringe in fear, hide in shadow, whimper and whine in dread and shame. And I know, too, that I can walk toward those shadows within myself, because only in walking through those shadows will I encounter the shining lights that sparkle on the other side–also within me.

Last night, I gathered with a group of colleagues and students from my school to participate in the first of five Racial Justice Trainings (workshops? seminars? mentoring sessions?) that will happen throughout the spring. During the evening, our facilitator, Dr. Amanda Kemp, challenged us to keep a journal during these weeks of trainings, to ground and center ourselves so that we can hold space for transformation, to walk toward our fear, to challenge our assumptions and implicit biases. It feels to me like just the discipline to take up on this moon-clad journey toward Easter, to consider this time of training as my Lenten Work.

So often we get Lent wrong. We think we have to do penance for our evil ways, to enshroud ourselves in shame, to bewail our miserable selves. But when we simply throw it all off as just an exercise in self-flagellation, I think we get it wrong, too. This is a time to look realistically at who we are inside, what our strengths and our failings are. Lent is a time of discipline–not beatings and beratings, but careful training and thoughtful self-education. Amanda inspires me to take hold of this coming season as a time to consider my accountability, to look at the ways in which I participate in the unjust systems of today, just as the religious elite at the turn of the millennium participated in the destructive systems of their day. In this season, I commit myself to assess my inner world, to take stock of my role in the breaches and breaks, to walk toward my fears, to become a mender and repairer of the web.


Gratitude List:
1. Rest
2. Re-assessment
3. Seasons
4. Sunshine
5. Story

May we walk in Beauty!

The Birth of Spring


(Photo taken in 2014, on a shining morning.)

Today, snow or no snow, our planet whirls into another season. Here in the western hemisphere, in the northern temperate climates, the early flowers have been up and blooming, calling to the bees. I have yet to see the early foragers this year, and it makes me anxious.

Someone must awaken the bees!
The crocus have opened their golden throats.
The windflowers have blown awake
out on the lawn.
Where are the Queen’s daughters?
Where are the melissas?
Someone awaken the bees!

On this first day of Ostara, the ancient holiday to celebrate the awakening spring, on the day when night and day are equal in duration, I like to ask myself questions to awaken my spirit:

What are the instincts and drives within me that must awaken, like the bees, to get my work done, to find the food I need to carry me through the season?
What new things are stirring within? What is awakening? What is hatching?
How do the forces of balance and imbalance work in my life? What can I do to bring more elegant balance into my daily rhythms? In what ways can I disrupt the balances which keep me caught in a rut?
This year, I keep coming back to the question of what calls me awake? When I fear that the bees will not awaken, I think about the sleepy spirit within me that likes to settle into sameness. It takes some effort to wake up, and then to wake up again, and to keep waking up, shedding the outer layers, like an opening flower.

Today, I will watch for the bees.
Today, I will keep my eyes open for the People of Feathers, who wing their way across the sky.
Today, I will feel the breezes on my face.
Today, I will keep listening for the voices of the bees, and for the voices of the young people.

Blessed Ostara to you! Happy Equinox! A Joyful spring. Walk in Beauty.

Jettisoning

Last night, I made this (perhaps) rather rash statement about my intentions for the Season of Brigid, this Lent: “That’s it then: Every day during Lent, I will jettison one physical item that keeps me from living a full interior life. Clutter tends to imprison my spirit, and this Lent will be about freeing myself from some of the bondage of my stuff. One thing a day for the season that takes us to Easter and Ostara, filling the whole season of Brigid with clearing and Cleansing.”

During the Season of Brigid, the six weeks from Imbolc (February 2) to Ostara (Spring Equinox), I like to focus on cleansing and cleaning and clearing. Brigid asks for focus and commitment; lightening the burden of the physical clutter helps me to keep my focus on my inner work.

Similarly, the work of Lent (which falls in the same season) is to give up our attachment to the things and addictions that keep us from focusing on the inner work, on the path of Love.

I like the word “jettison” that I used there. I think it might become my theme-word for the season. It feels a little drastic, like perhaps the ship is sinking. Although I don’t feel that sort of desperation, I like the sense that it lightens the burden, lets the boat float higher in the water.

Today’s objects to let go are my four brass candlesticks. I have kept them on top of Grandma Weaver’s glass-fronted cabinet, where they have slowly been tarnishing and gathering dust in the years we have lived in this house. Since we have had children, we rarely burn candles, for fear of tipping and burning. They belong to an earlier stage of my life, one that I let go with joy as I continue to live into the next stages of being a mother. First Baby now has a startling peach-fuzz mustache. I suppose I’ve become a little dusty and tarnished, too, in the years of that transformation.

As I carried the candlesticks out to the giveaway box, they rang against each other, and made such sweet music, I almost returned them to their shelf for the joy it gave me. But no, someone else will polish them and love them and treasure them, music and shine and shimmer and all.