Today, as we Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, a song and a poem to sustain us on this walk through Day Sixteen toward Advent. Thank you for walking with me. Only five more days until Sunreturn, Beloveds. We are going to make it.
When I compare this year’s more deliberate and careful wander into the dark of December with last year’s panicked careen, I am filled with gratitude. I know I tried last year, but I had decided that I was going to try a keto-based way of eating last fall, and my deliberations were focused on that, and less inward. It was only when I reached the growing light of late January that I realized how deeply I had sunk into winter’s numbness. Last year, I probably should have checked in with a therapist to keep me coping. This year, I am watching and ready to make that call, in case I feel myself sinking into the pool of sadness. If the season weighs too heavily, or the cold seeps into your spirit, I encourage you to be ready, too, to check in with a professional.
Funny, isn’t it? Usually, we look for the light at the end of a tunnel, meaning we’ll be out and into the fresh air, but while this journey into the well of December may bring us to a lighted chamber, we have to turn and walk out again the same distance before we get back out of the tunnel. Still, that moment of coming to center and pausing, then the turning, and setting our faces toward the return journey into the light–oh, how I long for that moment. That will be so joyful. Five more days.
Here is a video of Brian Claflin and Ellie Grace singing “I’m Gonna Walk It With You.” Whether our journey is the descent into winter’s darkness, or the determined march toward justice, I am glad of your companionship. You can support Claflin and Grace by buying their music at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8boCrXOp9M.
I wrote this poem a few years ago, but it feels like it fits this moment, my deep gratitude for your companionship on this journey.
Stepping Toward the Solstice
We stand in the shadows. Hold my hand. The darkness suffocates. Look this way, to where the sun shines briefly through a curtain of ice. This. This one moment will sustain us for the next steps.
Gratitude List: 1. I made an enormous dent in my Impossible Mountain last night. Part of my relief today is the amount of work I accomplished, but a greater part of the relief is the feeling of that dam being unclogged. Still so much to do, but I have returned to the truth that Will builds Will. An act of will creates the possibility for more acts of will. As long as I keep that energy, I should make it. 2. Great gratitude to Nancy, for listening and sharing the story. I think I needed an accountability partner, and I used our conversation yesterday as the slingshot to get me around the hardest bits of the Impossible Task. 3. A new warm thing. I stopped at Goodwill and bought myself a new warm fleece jacket-thing. It’s for wearing around the house at home, and it’s cozy, and it’s a wild cat print, so it makes me feel a little fierce. Is that a middle-aged woman thing, to want to wear wildcat print? Or maybe it’s just a Leo thing. I know that some consider it a tacky thing, too, but I’m not fussed about that. It’s warm and it’s fierce, and so Merry Christmas to me. 4. The sacred moments within the mundane. 5. The anticipation of a snow day, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s going to pan out.
Has it been worse this year? I think it’s been worse. The dullness, the bone-weariness, the loss of zip and vim. The sleepiness compounded by insomnia, anxiety-ridden, with sudden nighttime joltings-awake. The Wintertime nightbird sitting on the chest, crying, “Shame! Loss! Devastation! Rage! Woe!” The burden. The Burden.
Winter is an enormous, lumpy, grey gunny sack full of dirty laundry that I must carry around on my back. It gets heavier and heavier by the day. Some years, it’s an act of sheer, daily endurance to make it through. There’s no extra energy to look around and see just how grey it’s all become. I just have to plod forward into the mist.
There are momentary compensations—shining blue days when sun sparkles on ice and snow, sky-heavy days when snowflakes whirl and dance through the air. Yes, momentary compensations. Breaks in the clouded heaviness. Few and far between. Just enough to keep me trudging in the direction of that pinprick of light in the far distance ahead.
And then the light begins to creep back in. The momentary compensations begin to string themselves together like shining beads. People like me, the ones who’ve been caught in Winter’s steely grey net—we lift our heads like small creatures catching a new scent on the breeze. We feel the wind in our whiskers, smell the freshness of the air, and catch a flashing glimpse of yellow aconite or blue-violet crocus.
We’ve still got a bit of a trudge until we can lay down the burden of Winter and roll in the warm grass of Spring, but knowing that the end is in sight makes the Burden lighter. It’s one of those things, for me, where I don’t know quite how bad it is until I’m coming through the other side. When you’re focused on the endurance, you don’t stop to wonder if this time around is worse than the last one. You just put the next foot forward.
And now, I have those shiny beads: earlier sun in the mornings, the aconite slipping out of the mud of the garden, the birds of morning singing their Springtime songs, the geese, the swans, the caress of warmth in the afternoon air.
Gratitude List: 1. Morning birdsong and the Hope of Spring 2. The fun of the Youth Group Auction, a night when we all come together to support the young people. 3. This kid here at the table next to me, carefully and deliberately putting together his new Ertl tractor model, which he got at the auction. He gets frustrated and stops, saying he can’t do it. Then his curiosity and will overcome his frustration, and he gets back to it, solving the problems that seemed insurmountable. (Hmm. I think I am telling myself a story to live by.) 4. Magical conversations. Not simply deep and thoughtful, but full of synchronicities that fill the air of the room like a humming web. Like it’s the two of you talking, and then maybe fairies or angels joining in, the Great Mystery guiding the stories and images. 5. Watching these children grow. Sometimes, I am sad that the babies are gone, gone, gone. But they are Becoming so delightfully themselves. Yesterday, the dentist removed a baby molar from Child 1, to make room for the big tooth coming in. It was his last baby tooth. Another step toward adulthood.
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for Sunday Meditation:
“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.” —Hildegard of Bingen
“Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.” ―J.K. Rowling
“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation.” —Nikola Tesla
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.” ―Sophie Scholl
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ―Gilda Radner
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” —Anne Lamott
“And these children that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ―David Bowie
“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you. . .where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” —Adrienne Rich
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” —Dr. Cornel West
“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation―either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.
“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life―meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“We are all of us seeking a homeland, even though we have only seen and embraced it from afar. We are all of us strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” —Frederick Buechner
Love is not something you do; love is Someone you are. It is your True Self. Love is where you came from and love is where you’re going. It’s not something you can attain. It’s not something you can work up to, as much as something you allow yourself to fall into! It is the living presence of God within you, often called the Holy Spirit, or what some theologians name uncreated grace. You can’t manufacture this by any right conduct. You can’t make God love you one ounce more than God already loves you right now.” —Richard Rohr
Danielle LaPorte: “You might have to face your own sadness and empty places as you wish for an other’s sadness and emptiness to be lifted. You will have to acknowledge your interconnectedness, which is particularly difficult when you are moving on. You will have to face your disappointment head on — and what you see might burn your eyes.”
“Love is where you come from and love is where you’re going.” —Richard Rohr
“I have two daughters.
Their names are Memory and Loss.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (after Eavan Boland)
“You and I and everyone else in the world talk to ourselves constantly. The conversation is mostly silent and covert, however.
As a result, we get away with abusing ourselves; we assail ourselves with mean thoughts that we’d be far less likely to fling if we actually spoke them aloud.
Now might be a good time for you to break this bad habit. In fact, I’m going to officially declare that it’s Speak More Kindly to Yourself Season.
For best results, shun the usual telepathic communion with yourself. Instead, say every word aloud as you carry on your dialogues.”
Terry Tempest Williams. from Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert:
“I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget….
I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long walks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness….
I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine….
I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love..”
Gratitude List: 1. Dreams full of cats. Tortoiseshells: fluffy ones, really short-haired ones, ones that are mostly white, with tortie spots, ones that have streaks of white here and there. Third night of animal dreams, each time remembering the dream because I am awakened by a small furry person licking my face or purring in my ear, or walking on my head. I think Thor is something of a Dream Companion for me. The first night he came to us, he awakened me from a nightmare.
2. A gloriously cool fall day
3. Going to the book sale and Steam-O-Rama with the family
4. Wise and compassionate friends who model thoughtful and respectful discussion
5. Layers. A glosa of a glosa. Harmonies with deeper harmonies. Fractalization.