This morning, I decided to just dive into the myth that has been calling me, and I spent my writing time working on the story of Inanna/Ishtar, pondering the way her descent into the Underworld mirrors my own inward travels as the year turns cold and dark. I think this one will keep me busy for the rest of the week and beyond.
What symbols of your personal power and wisdom and authority are you prepared to relinquish as you circle downward into the deepest realm of your own inner knowing?
Gratitude List: 1. Myths and stories that frame and guide our own daily journeys 2. Small breaks 3. Seeking the fire within 4. Anticipation 5. Layers and layers of warm clothes
I think this is going to sound vague and smug and self-serving. I think my writing here and on social media is so often heart-on-my-sleeve, but this is more raw, more personal, more sulky, and yes, more vague, too. It’s a thing I want to talk about without talking about it. Do you ever have those experiences?
I’m dealing with some resentment and rage right now. I’m used to experiencing outrage on behalf of others. It sometimes feels like it’s become one of my defaults in recent years. Less frequently do I feel outrage on behalf of myself, and I don’t know exactly where to feel it, but here it is. It’s been plopped right into my lap. I think I have become really good at being reasonable about other people’s attitudes and behaviors toward me, so when I feel deeply and personally attacked about something that really matters to me, I have to take hours to process, to sort out what is mine, and what is truly cause for outrage. It’s a slow burn, rather than a quick blaze.
I don’t want to feed the fire by giving it air. Perhaps it will become the source of poetry and story, and I can give it a voice that way. Meanwhile, I think I need to re-start my Gratitude Practice, get back to essentials, take care of my own house so I don’t set fire to the houses of others.
Gratitude List: 1. A voice. Whether it’s a whisper, a shout, an echo, a web of sound, a single word, an avalanche of analysis: Give voice to your voice. Do not let anyone take it away from you. Boost the voices of others. Amplify the signal. 2. The ones who stand in the gap, who speak out for justice for those who are oppressed, who fight for the survival of the planet, who put people above greed and money. 3. The turning. Like the turning of the season to autumn, the world is turning. Like the transition from labor to birth, the world is groaning. From the fire comes new life. May we stand in solidarity with those who are midwifing the new thing into being. 4. Three cats in the house. 5. Cool weather and warm clothes. This is a not a metaphor. This is a metaphor.
Today is the last day of April! I love the adrenaline of poeming in April, always a little jittery, not sure I can pull anything out of the old noggin. But oy, am I ever glad when it’s done. I imagine it feels a little like finishing a marathon, though I wouldn’t know anything about that. Today’s Tuesday double prompt on Poetic Asides is to write a Stop/Don’t Stop poem.
Don’t. Don’t do it. Don’t wait for the right time, for some sublime exacting moment, for the torment of inaction to fracture your momentum.
Jump right into the story. Don’t stop planning, plotting, dreaming. Your days of glory seem so distant, but this is the instant you must engage.
Step onto the stage. Stop waiting, stop negating your own power. It’s your hour. The curtain’s rising. Surprise us all.
The old white dudebros we saw fawning over the job applicant as he wept and professed his love for beer and attacked the woman who dared to ask if he’d ever passed out from drinking are the same old white dudebros who did everything in their power to elect a president who thinks that because he’s a celebrity, he can do what he wants to women, and they’ll have to just take it. These ancient husks of the patriarchy didn’t care then about women, not about their wives and daughters, not about their mothers and their friends, nor about their mistresses either. And they haven’t suddenly started to care, or to consider women in their definition of fully and completely human. It’s always been about consolidating their power, and women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and people with any hint of “otherness” are right out, simply stepping stones and objects for their pleasure and subjugation.
Their operating systems run on money, sex, and power, and the first two are simply tools to get to the third. They’ll do their best to speak their version of Christianese in order to get the votes they want. They’ll talk about reason and intellect and democracy and patriotism, but their words don’t mean the same as ours. They live with a belief that women are emotional and irrational, but put them in the hot seat, and they fall into irrational, emotional rants and tirades themselves.
We need to get to them in their language. If money talks, we do what we can to hit them in the pockets. We support their opponents in the mid-terms. We boycott anything and everything they’re connected to. We refuse, ourselves, to be buyable and sellable.
The sex is harder. If you know the wives and lovers of the dudebros, use your eloquent influence to call down the legacy of Lysistrata upon their heads. Empower the sisters to abandon the beds of the patriarchs. If you share a bed with a dudebro, practice some celibacy, sister. (I’m not advocating leaving the bed of true allies, of course.)
And as for power, as some wise woman wrote on her protest sign: We grab ’em by the midterms. We empower women and people of color. We stump and rally and canvas and speak out for women’s voices and women’s leadership. We amplify the voices of black women, of Latina women, of trans women, of immigrant women, of women in wheelchairs and women with mental illness. We listen to single mothers. We listen to teenaged women. We #VoteforHer. We #BelieveHer.
We make a space for Women’s Country within the space of our existing structures, and then we expand and we rise, and we set the old patriarchal structures on fire, to be blown away like so much ash.
The Old Boys’ Club, the frat house, the dudebro world, the patriarchy is dying. Today we light the match to burn it down.
Gratitude List: 1. October. It is, as they say, my favorite color.
2. Stories. How they fuel activism. How they build empathy. How they open hearts and minds.
3. Bright colors
4. The autumn slant of sunlight
May we walk in Beauty!
Today’s Notes and Quotes: “To make a living is not to make a killing. It’s to have enough.” —Wendell Berry
“None of us is getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Nanea Hoffman
“God is love, without asterisks.” —Father Stratis of Afghanistan
“People often say, with pride, ‘I’m not interested in politics.’ They might as well say, ‘I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future or any future.’ . . . .If we mean to keep any control over our world and lives, we must be interested in politics.” —Martha Gellhorn
Imagine a world in which every child, at the moment of its birth–and often months before–is placed into a category, labeled and processed. “You are this,” it is told, before it even opens its eyes for the first time. It is dressed according to its category, handed a list of assumptions about itself based solely on singular physical characteristics. It will be given a particular subset of toys to play with and expected to behave in certain ways based entirely on the category it was assigned.
One category of children will be encouraged to cry, to be tender, to look on the world with wonder and delight. Children in this category are raised to nurture and care for others. They are trained from the moment they are born to look to the needs of others. They are told that their lot in life will be to care for the young, to see to the needs of the elders, and to serve the desires and needs of the members of the opposite category.
Members of the other category are told that it is never acceptable to cry, and they are punished for showing emotions, which are–for them–a sign of weakness. They are trained to be aggressive and strong, powerful and dominating. They are pushed to excel in competitive games of strength. They are trained to be the leaders of the society, told that members of the other category will see to their needs. They are meant to protect, and must be served by others in order to fulfill their obligations as defenders and providers.
I had the disturbing experience the other day of hearing some people discussing something that someone in one of my circles said about women’s roles in society, the “inborn” leadership qualities of men. This is an acquaintance, and not a close friend, but I feel like it might be important for me to address it, to ask if what I heard is true, and if so, express my concern. I am really bad at this sort of thing, but I feel like this is one that needs to be addressed, especially in the particular circle where it occurred. In the night last night, when I would wake up, I found myself thinking about it, and trying to see it from outside the culture. What would it look like to someone from another planet, to see how we categorize ourselves into two genders with incredibly powerful ideas about what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior for people, simply because of the accident of the gender they were born with?
“A poem is an egg with a horse in it.” –4th grader, FB post
“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?” –Rumi * “There are people who advocate and practice compassionate listening, there are those who embrace voluntary simplicity, who remove the calluses from their hearts and keep them open to feel the pains of others. Seek them out, I urge you, and join them in their compassion.” –Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalom * “The moon rose over an open field.” –Paul Simon * “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” –Fredrick Douglass * “Love is the strongest force in the universe. We must keep walking in the direction of love, no matter what we hear and see around us. No matter our human failures. No matter what happens, or appears to happen.And if we are thankful for that love, the power magnifies. Forgiveness is a process of love. Love is not bound by religion, belief system, or man-made laws. Our human minds cannot comprehend the immensity of it. We are lit by it, or we would not be here. Some smother the light with fear and acts of fear. Others tend their light and they light the world. Breath feeds the light. Breathe deep today, and continue walking toward that which will enlighten, no matter what burdens you are carrying of shame, grief, or fear. No one can buy their way or push their way ahead of everyone else. We are all in this together.” –Joy Harjo
Gratitude List: 1. Sweater weather
2. What the eyes say
3. Baby steps
4. The deliciousness of sleep
5. That delicate little yellow moth on the outside of the window
The Haines Shoe House, in Hellam Township, just a few miles from Goldfinch Farm. We finally took a tour yesterday. If you live near here, you should go there, get some ice cream, and take the tour.
“. . .my grandmother would get very annoyed when anyone would talk about “the power of love.” Love, she insisted, is not power, which she considered always coercive. To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
“Stories beget understanding,
Understanding begets respect,
Respect begets justice,
Justice begets peace,
That is the power of story.”
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.” ―Vincent van Gogh
“When we share our stories and dreams, we are accepting help in the shouldering of responsibility and despair. By extension, our windfalls and triumphs belong to us all. In witnessing each other, we are cross-pollinating our wisdoms and broadening our storylines, moving the locus of our attention from competition to collaboration. No longer governed by personal lack, we begin to make decisions as an ecosystem would, from the appreciation of our indivisibility.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past.” ―Robert Holden
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Gratitude List: 1. June bugs making lazy drunken circles in the tall grass by the walnut tree. There must be hundreds of them this year. They seem so ancient, so impossible.
2. Yesterday’s lower humidity
3. The roller coaster flight of the goldfinch. It feels like joy.
4. Fun coincidences. FB tells me that we went to the Shoe House on July 16 last year, too. That must be our Shoe House Day. And what a historical gem it is. What a quirky and delightful story of Mr. Haines, the philanthropist who built it. And they have good ice cream.
5. How people gather ’round. How people hold each other, even strangers. It makes me believe that there is a will to goodness within us.
After nearly two full days without electricity, I want to make all five point on my Gratitude List something about the wonders of electricity and how grateful I am for running water and lights at the flip of a switch. Part of me, however, is a little embarrassed, a little chagrined with myself, for my dependence on this wonder of the modern world. Why is it so hard to manage? Of course, there’s always the anxiety over spoiled food–because we’re so dependent on electricity, we end up with quite a lot of time and money invested in the contents of our refrigerators. I have a friend who has made the transition away from the use of a refrigerator. I’m not entirely sure how exactly she manages it, but it does seem like a good choice. Refrigerators and freezers are real energy hogs.
But aside from the fridge, why does loss of power throw me for such a loop? I go to bed at dark, instead of staying up later than my body thinks I should. That’s not a bad thing. We carried buckets of water from the kiddie pool up to the bathroom so we could flush the toilet. We had filled the kiddie pool the day before the power died–how lucky was that? The buckets were heavy. And it took a lot of trips over the two days we were without power. So who am I to grumble about carrying water upstairs to my bathroom when women in many places of the world are walking often a mile or more, perhaps twice a day, likely with a baby on their backs or children at their ankles, to get the small amount of water that their family will use for the day.
So now the power is back on. I am back to wasting electricity and water. One of the privileges of living in a wealthy nation is that we take our waste for granted and forget that we are wasting. Perhaps I can use this experience to give me practice, to help me live more mindfully, with more awareness, so that I can be more conservative of Earth’s precious resources, so that next time the power goes out it will be a minor inconvenience rather than a serious frustration.
Gratitude List: 1. Those clouds in the evenings after the storms, bunches hanging low into the magenta of the sunset.
2. The way the shining, fresh-washed blue sky shone out between those clouds, like Mary’s robe.
3. The Ganesha cloud I saw yesterday morning, looking for all the world like the jolly elephant god riding the winds across the sky.
4. A day of really moving in to my classroom, beginning to feel myself in the space.
5. All the power available to me, in so many ways. May I not take it for granted.