Mental Health Break

Today, I am taking a day of work-rest. With stacks of grading that are somehow not grading themselves, I asked to take this day off so that I could catch up to myself. It will not be a day of rest, exactly, but it will be restful. It will be at my pace, though I need to keep it moving so I get as much work accomplished as possible.

And it will be silence. Hours of silence. Me and the cats and the papers. No one needing anything from me except for an occasional head-rub. I need a mini-vacation from being needed. And it’s strange, when my work is words, when the spoken word is my favorite art form to observe and to do, that the rest that I crave is a break from speech. I long for this coming day of silence.

I have begun looking at the mini-breaks that I take in my day, trying to mark and acknowledge them and live into them, so that I can feel them as balm and not simply as escape. In that thirty seconds after the room empties and I need to head off to chapel, can I take three intentional deep breaths? Instead of walking down the hall to lunch, might I detour outside for a moment and greet the Three Magnolia Trees in the corner behind the old classroom building? Can I take three minutes of my prep period to listen to a piece of music every day? Or open my journal and do a five-minute word-dump or fast-write?

What if we were to try to see our moments, or breaks in the day, as little vacations instead of as escapes? If we were to intentionally stop and take breaths, make art, feel silence, listen to our heartbeats, put our feet on earth, commune with plant-beings? I think this will be my plan for the shadow journey ahead.


Gratitude List:
1. The earnestness of Lancaster people to resist injustice and to create compassion. Last night I attended a public meeting of Wing, a local group begun to try to develop community responses to the crisis created by recent immigration policies. The meeting was held at my church, and we filled the parking lot and the edges of the parking lot and the grassy spaces along the lot, and people parked down the streets and walked to the church. There is good energy in this community to do something to help those who are suffering as a result of this country’s harsh immigration detention policies.
2. Women in Black. I am heartened by this group of women who are committed to standing in protest of violence. Last night we stood with a sign proclaiming our solidarity with Kurdish women who are suffering in the wake of Turkish incursions.
3. Poetry and story. The weaving of words.
4. Yesterday, after I asked for today off, I felt such a release of tension and pressure. I’m grateful for understanding administrators and colleagues. I will be a much better colleague and teacher myself for having this day to breathe and catch up.
5. Dawn. The coming of light into the day.

May we walk in Beauty!

DIY Mythmaking and a New Poetic Form

I’ve been thinking about my poetic process, looking through some of the neglected poems that I want to figure out how to publish, and realizing that quite a number of my poems are myth-making poems. I use poetry as a DIY Mything process, taking my own experiences and observations and transmuting them into myths. This thought is tangling with the threads of my current morning writing project of working with the Inanna story. Storytelling, writing, speaking–this whole language gig–is all about how we make meaning in the world. Art, too, as a communicative process, is about charging existence with meaning.


Gratitude List:
1. Meaning-making, DIY Myth-making, poetry, art, communication
2. Participating in a Literary Festival, listening, learning, absorbing
3. Good writing
4. How the sun shines in
5. Oak trees

May we walk in Beauty!


I’ve been thinking again about the process of poetry. In my AP Literature class recently, I have had the students choose a poetic form, no matter how lofty and traditional or edgy and nonsensical, to teach to the class. We’ve had some delightful lessons this week, learning the Magic 9 and the Nonet and the Rondeau and the Fib, among others. Yesterday, we found ourselves with a little extra time after the presentations, and we were ready to do our own thing, so we spent half the period creating our own poetic form! We developed our own rules for our own Lit Poetic Form. The process was delicious and intensely collaborative. At the end, we came up with this:

Lit Poem
Two stanzas of seven lines each.
It’s a word-count poem, with the following pattern:
Stanza 1: 1, 3, 5, 7, 5, 3, 1 (It makes a diamond shape)
Stanza 2: 7, 5, 3, 1, 3, 5, 7 (This one makes an hourglass form)
When you put them together, they look somewhat like a lit candle. (Get it?)
The rhyme scheme goes like this:
Stanza 1: abcxcba (in which x is random and unrhymed)
Stanza 2: cbaxabc (in which x is also random, and not necessarily rhymed with the first x)

This is how we make meaning. We spent twenty minutes collaboratively creating a world, complete with its order and purpose. Now we have to write the poems to prove its viability.

Baiting the Hook

Today’s Poetic Asides Prompt is to write a poem titled “Complete (____).” I’m going to take a little bit of liberty.

The Compleat Poet

Bait your hook with a juicy image,
the wriggling worm of a story,
something you’ve pulled
from the muddy garden plot
of an ancient dream,
or from underneath the rock
of a hidden memory.

Your elements are tabula rasa and type.
Sounds and silences.
Language and lore.

Walk along the stream-bank
every morning at dawn,
so you can learn how the mist
rises above the waters
just before the fish start leaping.

Learn their habits,
their secret hiding places,
their favorite words and phrases.
Bring them the most succulent morsels.

Tease your line across the surface,
dipping down with quick
and tantalizing strokes.
Cultivate patience.

Carry your treasures home in a pail,
or scrawled in a notebook or napkin.
Learn to cook them fresh.

Not Why, But How

Today’s Prompt on the Poetic Asides blog is to write a Reason Poem:

There is no reason.
Simply this:
The Beloved is. And you are.
And that is all there is for reason.

Oh, there’s a tiny blue butterfly
on a golden flower in a field of green.
And the way that vulture
stood upon the wind
above the river last winter,
how you could see
the snow-furred animal shape of the ridge
through the stripes of naked trees.

Love slips out through the bars of reason.
Like the butterfly, like the vulture.
Like golden, like whisper, like tears.
It’s more vision than reason,
more realm, more white horse
galloping through dream.
More one single ray of light
shining through the forest canopy
to sparkle on a stone at your feet.

Why do you love me? has only one answer:
You are. But how? Now there is a question
with myriad answers, vast as the universe.
Look up and outward, and you will see.

How do you love me? you ask the Beloved.
She answers: Stone, sunshine, horse,
breeze, butterfly, waterfall, and blue, blue, blue.

A Brilliant Brigid’s Day

Song for Brigid’s Day
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?

Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.

The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”

As you move out onto the road,
Brigid’s sun upon your face
will trace your outline full behind you,
defining you in the Shadow
which will be your soul’s companion
into spring.

–2018

Brigid’s Day has dawned bright and sparkling. The groundhog and her rodent kin have seen their shadows. The crone can merrily wander through the woods edge and hedgerows to gather firewood for the next six weeks of winter.

And here’s one of the sacred truths of the moment: If I’m willing to look deeply into the reality of my own shadows, if I’m willing to know them, to understand how they reflect me and show my inner realities, then I have nothing to fear from the shadows. I have nothing to fear from the coming weeks of winter.

Yesterday after I got home, I went out to shovel the drive so it would be easier for Jon to get up the slope. My neighbor came out to help me. She loves to shovel snow, she said. She loves winter, especially when it’s cold and snowy. And for those moments with her, shoveling and talking together, I too loved the cold and the snow. For the beauty, for the exercise, but mostly for the neighborliness.

Questions to Contemplate in the Season of Brigid
This is the season of sunlight and shadow:
What is the shape of my shadow?
How does it hamper me?
How does it hold me?
How does it tell me the shape of my soul?

Brigid is the Smith, she who works the forges:
What within me is being tempered this season?
What is being shaped and shifted?
What sacred patterns are being traced along my edges?
What useful tool am I being forged to become?

Brigid is the Healer.
The waters of her well bring wholeness.
What spaces within me need the touch of her waters?
What dis-ease drains my vitality?
How can I offer the waters of healing to others?

Brigid is Patroness of Poets.
How do words shape my reality, like iron is shaped in the forge?
How do my words bring healing, like water from the well?
How can I speak poetry into the cold and the shadows
of the season which is upon us?
Can I offer my daily words with the care and the artfulness of the poet?

Poetry

Gratitude of Resistance Twenty-Three:
Poetry. November always feels a little frantic because I add writing a poem a day to my schedule. I have been doing this for so many years that by now, I would feel lost and bereft if I didn’t do this. It’s part of what holds me to my true purpose. I love teaching, and I feel like I belong in this job with these students and these colleagues at this time in my life. But I have chosen Poet as my identity, and whether or not my poetry ever makes an impression in the world, I would no longer be able to do my other work without it. November and April and summer always bring me back to poetic center.

May we walk in Beauty!

Handing the Gift


Today’s prompt is to write a love/anti-love poem. I ended the day today sort of exhausted, partly because of the incredible resistance I am getting from some students in my Creative Writing class.

I see it in your eyes when you ask the question
(the loathing, the defiant refusal to accept)
“Why do we have to study poetry?”
And in this moment I do not know how,
after all these years of this work,
to hand you this gift
that I love so deeply,
which you so staunchly refuse.

It’s about your own power,
I want to tell you,
about your power to say
exactly what you want to say,
to take that roiling mass of uncertainty
that slides out from behind the tough mask
you put on for me,
to take all that and give it words,
to sort it, to speak your truth,
to know the beauty and the strength
of your own words, to find your way
into yourself.

Now. Close your eyes and open your hands.


Gratitude List:
1. My contemplative friend Handsome Joe, how he cocks his beak to look at me as I pass. Paddling in his pool in the creek, or strolling through the green grasses of his estate.
2. The red sprouts of peonies lifting their heads by the shop.
3. The first fern fiddleheads unfurling.
4. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s their azure and indigo underbellies that capture me.
5. The challenges and delights of belonging to a community.

May we walk in Beauty!

Case Clothed

The prompt for today was to write a “Case ______” poem. I immediately thought of Case Closed, but that felt really cliched, almost what the prompt was fishing for. Then Jon made some comment on my outfit for the day, something about my sartorial responsibility, and suddenly I was off and running. My closet isn’t quite as dire as this makes it sound, perhaps, but. . .well. . .perhaps it is.

Case Clothed

It’s a clear case of sartorial irresponsibility,
a cache of clothes exploded to infinity.
My closet’s filled with clothes that don’t suit me.
Textures and colors that please the eye,
but little that fits my current sensibility,
which is perhaps my own inability
to see the consequences of my own materiality,
to truly understand the concept of simplicity.
It’s time to chase my self-indulgence with austerity,
And close the case on this insanity.


Gratitude List:
1. Soft fur, soft feathers, soft blankets
2. Wildness
3. Wind
4. Poetry
5. Perspective

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding the Thread

flowers11

Gratitude List:
1. Reading poetry with friends
2. Mama goose on a nest by the pond
3. The Middle School exhibition at my school tonight.
4. We found Sachs the cat, after he spent the night locked in the back part of the basement.
5. Finding the thread of the story.

May we walk in Beauty!