Prayers and Rage

Okay, so I am getting more nervous about the coming winter by the moment here, as I watch the busy tribe of squirrels on the bank behind the house. They are eating and gathering at a furious pace. If they have inside information, we’re in for a tough one.

And this is one healthy, glowing gang of critters: Their fur is sleek, and their bodies are filled out and muscular. They look like they’ve been lifting little weights. One of them, gorging on berries six feet up in a bush, began to slip downward. She didn’t even pause in her eating, but grabbed a branch beside her, somersaulted downward, landed on her feet with the berry branch still in her mouth, and continued eating. Little parkour ninja folk. And I know that squirrels are already that way, but these are just. . .more so.

I don’t know if I have ever noticed just how russet-colored is the feathery fur on their breasts until a moment ago when one stood to greet an approaching comrade, and his breast shone chestnut-red in the morning sun. And that’s another thing. You know how squirrels stand to look around and greet each other, hands on hearts? I’ve always thought it made them look sort of timid and cute in a timorous “oh-my-heart” sort of way. These folks, whenever someone else approaches, stand like little warriors, feet apart, spines straight, eyes alert, hands on their chests in a greeting of solidarity.

These people are readying themselves for a hard winter ahead. May the walnuts and berries be plenty. May you grow ever healthier and sleeker, small ones, as you do the work to prepare your colony for what is to come.


Gratitude List:
1. Squirrels
2. There was a roseate spoonbill down on the Flats last week. They say it’s gone, but I think I’ll drive down there and just look around. I am grateful to know such a being was here.
3. Oak leaves
4. Clouds
5. All the people doing the good work. Let’s not let ourselves get too discouraged. So much wrongness has seeped out of the cracks recently, and for those of us who want to believe in the beauty and marvel and goodness of everyone, it has been particularly painful. A friend of mine reminded me this morning that often there are still noble elements that reside within the souls of those who are living openly by greed and power-mongering and death-dealing, and we need to find ways to hold conversations that enkindle those sparks of Goodness. I’ll keep searching for that nobility while remembering that there are so many out there who continue to work and live from the depths of their Divine Spark. Like you.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Doorway:
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” -―Rumi
*****
“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves
into the rhythms of the human heart.
The earth is not outside us; it is within:
the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”
―John O’Donohue
*****
“There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”
―Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
*****
A Gift
by Denise Levertov

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.
*****
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively; go to the side and do it differently. Don’t waste time with oppositional energy.” ―Richard Rohr, writing about the thinking of Dom Helder Camara
*****
“The heart of faith is the call to love one another. . .” ―Avis Crowe
*****
“A child looking at ruins grows younger but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips in the sun.”
—W. S. Merwin, The Love of October
*****
“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
—Lucille Ball
*****
“My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated.” —Óscar Romero

Rage and Rain and Rest

I copped out a little on the Lenten unloading today. I was tired and cranky, so I pulled out several pieces of jewelry. I know I have too much jewelry, and it’s not particularly painful or brave to give away jewelry.

I find rage to be exhausting. It’s a seemingly constant barrage of tragedies born of our lack of political will to stand up to the NRA and fight for the lives of our nation’s children. If you want to be pro-life in this day, #breaktheNRA. Don’t vote for any politician who gets political money from the NRA.

Gratitude List:
1. As always, the music chapels at school are a lift and a treasure. students show tremendous courage and vulnerability to go on stage and perform. And they’re incredibly gifted.
2. The helpers. Mr. Rogers says to look for the helpers.
3. Rain and rest. Sleep-inducing rain on the roof.
4. It’s almost Friday
5. Cats. Whenever a human is sick, the cats seem to feel it their bounden duty to sit upon the sick one until she feels better. Cats are natural Reiki masters. I am not sick, really, but I caught that cold, and cat therapy has helped.

May we walk in Beauty.

Ranting

I have been ranting for the last couple of days. Here’s the gist:
Quote by Nancy Shulman:
“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”
***
Dallas Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress said: “Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.”

To the contrary: The word “shithole” is nothing compared to the vulgarity of the sentiment he expressed.

I have been quietly not openly calling myself a Christian for years now, because I do not like the look of Christianity in this country. I now openly walk away from the name. I continue to be a Follower of Jesus, in an Anabaptist and Universalist sort of way, with an emphasis on the feminine nature of the Great Mystery, and a belief that the Great Mystery is within everything and everyone. But I can no longer categorize myself as a Christian. I do not belong in any way, shape, or form to the same group as this man. No, we clearly are not following the same Jesus. Yes, this is judgemental. Yes, it is not being accepting of differences. There are differences I will not accept. Racism and xenophobia have absolutely no role in the realm of Jesus. If that is Christian, I am not that. I will have no part of that. Rather than trying to claim the term as something that embraces me as well, I walk away from it.

I will not check myself in as a Christian on polls and forms. If you ask my religion, I will no longer tell you that I am “a Christian, just not one of those.” Public Christianity in the United States is nothing I recognize as having anything to do with Jesus.

There are many people I know who continue to claim and reclaim the word, and I do not judge them. I, however, feel that at this point in time, I need to make a clear distinction between what I believe and what seems to be the path of U.S. Christianity.
***
This is no shock. We knew he was racist. Still, putting it into the public discourse so baldly demands that public figures, especially ones who follow Jesus, repudiate the language. One can say that this is not surprising, that he’s been doing this all along. That is true. But this is a level of unstatesmanlike public discourse that needs to be addressed right now. Robert Jeffries certainly did. His counterparts need to speak up. Now.
***
I believe in the path of Love, but this is one of the biggest challenges to that, even more than Dick Cheney. It was easier when it was abstract, but having an actual person to work it out with is really hard. I should probably take a FB break and read more Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron and Richard Rohr. Still, I feel a need to be part of the conversation. Somehow, I think these things need to happen in tandem: the inner work and the outer work.

Let’s keep talking about how to manage this. If not to Love, if not even to stop hating, at least to manage it all, to not be drowned, ourselves, in the hatred.

This I can say: I love You. I love my family, my students, my colleagues, my Beloved Friends, the sun and the earth and the animals. The moon. Those who are downtrodden and beaten and excluded. And because of that Love, I must fight the Wrong that these men are unleashing.

I have a sense that my hatred will not be an effective tool in that, though I have not managed to quell it. My anger can go either way, to push me to toward effective Work, or to enmire me in the bogs.

I cast a line from me to you, a line of Love for all that we love in common.
***
“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” –Elie Wiesel
***
I have been neglecting the grounding work of my gratitude lists during a couple of days when I desperately needed the grounding.


Gratitude List:
1. The fine musicians and singers at my school. They are really given the opportunity to learn and to shine.
2. A long weekend
3. Bright souls, all around
4. A warm hat and slippers
5. Being surrounded by stories

May we walk in Beauty!

Resting in the Shadows

This year, and this week, I understand more than ever why the ancient ones celebrated the eves of the High Holy Days as well as the days themselves. This year I found that before I could enter into the delight of Sunreturn, I had to settle into the darkness with more intentionality than ever. I needed the comfort of the shadows, and I couldn’t move toward the sun before I acknowledged the darkness at a very deep level. The eve of Solstice became the day for breathing in the shadows, feeling the blanket of darkness surrounding me.

So as the sun rose today on the first of Sunreturn, instead of my usual feeling of wild escape from the claustrophobia of the inward walk, I felt a reluctance to leave, a deep gratitude that–although I relish the shine of bright winter days–I still have ahead of me more short days and long nights to ponder the darkness, to become familiar with the tender shadows.

This is a good time to ask ourselves what our shadows really are. What are those parts of ourselves that seek darkness, that live within us, but with undefined edges, and hidden faces? Rage, I think, is one of mine–an emotion I return to time and again, each time with a deeper awareness of what it offers me, and still I cannot quite see it clearly. It is veiled within the shadows. I think my need for solitude and quiet belongs to my shadow-world. It’s like an instinct, a reflex, something that rises within me, and I must be alone and silent.

May this be a blessed time of shadow-walking for you, a chance to more deeply seek and see your inner self.

Gratitude List:
1. Living with someone who can always make me laugh when I get stuck in an angry rant.
2. The clouds of the morning, reflecting on the River
3. Candy canes
4. Reading To Kill A Mockingbird with students, watching their faces as they realize who it was who brought Jem home after the attack.
5. Reading Julius Caesar with students. There’s so much in there about power and ambition, about loyalty and betrayal, about honor and loss of it.

May we walk in Beauty!

Broken Vessel

Today’s Prompt is to write a response poem. I’m tired and grouchy, so this might have to be it for tonight–more prose than poem. I have grading to do and a manuscript to edit.

Outrage
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Every day, another outrage,
a rage outside the norms.
And yet, it’s only what we expect
from a man who began
by race-baiting the Mexicans
and took it down from there.

Day by day, the rages get outer and outer.
You think that escalator couldn’t carry him
any lower, but it does,
and he’s jumping up and down
to make it go faster.

Can’t ignore it because it doesn’t go away.
Can’t respond because he begs attention.
Hate and outrage feed the monster,
but silence normalizes, so we’re caught
in this limbo of no right response.


Gratitude List:
1. Fairy Tales
2. Poetry
3. Songs
4. Awakenings
5. Revelation and revolution

May we walk in Beauty!

Music and Rage


Gratitude List:
1. The amazing choral concert at my school tonight. I can’t quite find the superlatives to describe our choir director without sounding like I am over-blowing the talent of our choir director. World-class would not be an exaggeration.
2. Cool mornings. Warm afternoons.
3. Sonneting with students.
4. This practice, which keeps me from wallowing in rage for at least a few minutes in the wake of today’s health care debacle. I admit that I am really struggling tonight to move out of the rage into a contemplative place. I don’t want to reflect. I want to throw things and say things I’ll probably regret. So. Breathe. Breathe again. Breathe again. Feel the rage, but don’t let it be the only answer.
5. Writing sonnets with the Creative Writing crew.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tempering

As I have aged, my flames
have tempered my steel,
my temper has blazed, then waned,
my temperature flared
and lowered and raised.

I have strutted and fretted
my hour on the stage
written my rage on the page,
and wielded my words like a sword.

Now I stay in a more temperate range.
I attempt to remain more balanced today.
A gentler temperament has pacified
the brash face of the past.

Temperance need not steal the voice,
nor make a canary of the screeching harpy.
Simply, the word-sword no longer slashes
with indiscriminate hacking,
but a well-balanced metal
now guides the blade.

###
I am pushing myself to work outside my comfort zone, to shift out of the mind-rut that has caught my wheels this last week. It’s hard for me to assess the strength and weakness of a poem when it steps so far out of my typical poetic spaces.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
It’s such an orderly progression. The Fool must learn about Temperance before she encounters the Devil. What bedevils you? What holds you bound? That’s the Fool’s encounter tomorrow. Addiction, cruelty, bondage to fear and uncertainty, repeated cycles of patterned behavior and habit that keep us from growing: that’s the bedevilment.

Gratitude List:
1. Chapel today was an outdoor celebration of Earth Day: drums, art, poetry, sheep shearing, fly fishing, and all sorts of other interactive activities for students to be in nature. They returned to class with winsome smiles and wind in their hair.
2. A thousand shades of green
3. Ferns. They grow inches every day.
4. Pushing outside the boundaries of habit.
5. Tiger swallowtails

May we walk in Beauty!

Betwixt

spider

Perhaps I have written about this before, about trying to stand in the space between rage and despair. About the way that both of them distract from the ability to stay awake and alert. If we are to do our Work in this week, in this year, in this season, in this lifetime, we cannot afford to let ourselves lean too far into either space. There’s a reason it’s called blind fury–in the throes of absolute rage, I cannot see the broad picture, cannot get in touch with the essential humanity of all the people in the story, cannot keep perspective. It is the same with despair.

We will probably find ourselves walking into both of these doorways in the coming days, but if we are to be effective at the Work that lies ahead of us, we cannot afford the luxury of remaining long in either room. Neither can we afford to let them go entirely. We need to keep in mind that we are a complex beings and can hold all of these pieces at once.

In these days, let us remain in the place betwixt the poles, owning our own despair and rage, helping to hold and carry others’ burdens of the same. But let’s keep them as lenses for interpreting the times, as tools for stimulating and inspiring our work, instead of letting them numb and blind us to the reality around us. Let’s be like the spider, neither creature of air or of earth, but who inhabiting a space between. Let’s build our webs of Work and Prayer and Song and Standing Up and Creating Belonging here in the space between the fire of rage and the stone of despair.

On this day, I think of Martin Luther King, who must also have carried with him large portions of both despair and rage, but who stood between, holding his vision of who people could be and what justice looked like, with clarity and great will. May we follow in his steps.

Keep breathing. Keep watching. Keep speaking up. Keep spinning and weaving, singing and knitting, dancing and shouting. Keep holding each other.

Gratitude List:
1. Quiet time to work quietly
2. Paying attention
3. Looking forward to a new semester
4. Remembering–both the challenges and the joys
5. Knitting, weaving, spinning–all of us together

May we walk in Beauty!

Prayer and Rage

imag2090

What can we give besides our prayers and rage?
And what will that avail?
Send out the story on October winds.
Fling it high, where crows are flying.
Send the message echoing into earth
with every pounding step you take.

Listen.
Let the shells of your ears gather the story.
Reel in the gossamer strands of the tale
and weave them into the veil you wear.
Listen for the stories of those who weep,
those who rage, those who only speak
with the shrug of a shoulder,
with a sigh, with a shudder.

Listen, too, to those who walk right in,
who step into your circle without invitation.
Listen to the voices that are hard to hear.
Offer only the bread that is yours to give.
Be like the old gods, with the raven Wisdom
on one shoulder and Memory on the other,
and Reason perched upon your hat.

Offer what is yours:
your rage,
your prayer,
your watchful quiet heart.

Gratitude List:
1. Rage and prayer
2. Memory and Wisdom
3. Reason
4. Listening deeply. Being listened to deeply.
5. Graphic novels. I know this one is rather out of the context of the others, but the boys and I are really into graphic novels these days: the Amulet series, Zita the Spacegirl, Knights of the Lunch Table, and Mouse Guard. We really love Zita and her poor friend Randy who has a case of the squeaks.

May we walk in Beauty!

Weary

I am so weary.
So furious and weary.
So weary of my fury.

You’ve got your hands in the air.
I’ve got my hands at your back.
They’ve got their hands on your throat,
and our hands are prying at them,
our hands are clawing with all our might.
We are screaming with all the strength
our sob-wrenched throats can utter.

And the hands that hold the gun,
the hands that squeeze the breath,
they look like mine.

The voice that says,
again and again,
in such a tone of reason,
that rings in my ears,
“Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty.”
It sounds like mine, somehow.