It’s another April. This year, grades were due at 8 a.m. on April first, so I didn’t even consider Poem-a-Day until after I’d muddled my way through the day, taken a nap, and eaten supper. But here I am. It’s a strange compulsion, this drive to write a daily poem, knowing that the next four weeks will have their own share of other stresses, that there will come a day, mid-month, when I will hate the way poetry is holding the whip above my head, when I will write a grocery list and call it a poem, just to get through the day. But now, on the first day of the month, everything seems bright and shiny, and I feel up for anything.
Brewer’s prompt today is to write a morning poem. I worked up a photo of this morning’s magenta cloud in a blue sky to go with it.
Finishing the Grades
The battle cry of yesterday’s ghost startled me into morning at precisely 4:38 according to the clock, and as I couldn’t wrestle the monster back into oblivion, I strapped on the day like a rusty sword and went downstairs in the chilly dark, to coffee and a blue screen, to the silent dread of numbers on a page, and the certainty of this day’s wave of work receding, while the pull of the next wave began its undertow toward the rising sun.
Last night before I went to sleep, I read an article about hypnogogia, that half-dream state between sleeping and waking where the mind is churning through images that feel portentous and wildly creative. It was a helpful reminder to me about dreamwork, about how to catch those elusive butterflies of dream and story that flitter away in the moment of waking. It makes me grateful that my body wakes me before the alarm, because I have those seconds to try to hold the moments of dream before the sudden noise of the alarm startles them away.
1) In the dream, I am in a grand-looking inn, but we are quickly noticing how poorly the place is built, more like a cheap television set than a truly beautiful space. The opulence is false.
2) In the dream, we are on the second floor of a building, dancing and pounding our feet, enjoying the sound of the echoes. We suddenly remember that there is someone living below us.
3) In the dream, I am standing under an umbrella on a bridge in the dawn, misty rain falling around me. There is a word in my head: trophism. I had to look that one up upon waking. Google says: “the turning of all or part of an organism in a particular direction in response to an external stimulus.” (Ah. I am turning my face to the light, like Kris’s poinsettias in church on Sunday.)
Gratitude List: 1. Words that come in dreams. In this case, “trophism,” like what I do when I turn toward the light. 2. Dream-bridges 3. Making a plan to catch up, and implementing in. Slow and steady, little tortoise. 4. Slow starts. “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,” said the poet, and it applies to oh-so-many forms of waking. 5. I think, perhaps, I can begin, just a little, to notice the increasing day.
May we wake to Beauty!
“Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
“He said the wicked know that if the evil they do is of sufficient horror men will not speak against it. That men have only stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.”
—Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing.
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
―Parker J. Palmer
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
―T. S. Eliot
We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and our eyes.
The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
“Perhaps the uprising of women around the world is the earth’s own immune system kicking in.”
—Nina Simons, Bioneers
A poem for the New Year:
Love Your Life
And a voice will come from the stillness
to give these words: Love Your Life.
You will know from its deep urging
to let go your well-worn list
of all you felt you first needed.
Begin here, freely,
from this muddy place.
It doesn’t matter if you are broken,
empty handed, shabby.
Go now, into the day:
the open trails, the markets,
the long trail to the sea.
Find all the ways
a lover loves the Beloved:
each hidden bloom, unspoken wound,
vagary of heart.
Become a brave and willing traveler
in a wild, forgotten terrain~
a realm of intimate, tender relating,
infinite mystery, un-tethered joy.
Now, moving in this world, you know
that love is the greatest fortune.
Only you will not amass it:
you are it.
—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, Befriending The Soul
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
It’s all been anxiety dreams again this night, at least what I remember. No visitations by interesting animals or night-time messengers. I suppose I shouldn’t simply ignore the anxiety dreams, but this is supposed to be my rest from teaching, and I’m tired of teaching all night in my dreams as well.
So instead of dreams, here is an image of three trees on a hillside. It felt like an archetypal image when I took it, and the digital distortions give it a dreamlike quality. Three trees on a green hill. Cat-claws slashes of jet trails across the sky. So many mystical traditions around the world, and through time, consider three to be an important number. Something in the human psyche responds to sets of three. Sets of three are dynamic, curious, energetic, satisfying. Three aspects of deity. Three wishes. Tragedies come in threes. Three guesses. Three days. Three challenges. Three trials.
Gratitude List: 1. Holy moments 2. Compelling images 3. Cornbread 4. Sleep 5. Family time
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for the Sixth Day of Kwanzaa: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.
“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming
A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche
“The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.”
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
(From the Talmud)
Lyla June Johnston
Dawn. It is dawn.
The sun is conquering the sky
and my grandmother and I
are heaving prayers at the horizon.
“Show me something unbeautiful,” she says,
“and I will show you the veil over your eyes and take it away.
And you will see hozho all around you, inside of you.”
Someone Should Start Laughing
A Poem by Hafiz
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing—Now!
Today’s Prompt is to write either a traditional sonnet or other structured poem, or an anti-form poem. I was going to try a sonnet, but I don’t think I have it in me tonight. Instead, an inelegant little haiku:
This doctor checks my
heartbeat, then prescribes purring:
It’s cat medicine.
“I touch God in my song
as the hill touches the far-away sea
with its waterfall.
The butterfly counts not months but moments,
and has time enough.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds beacons, causes proper matters to catch fire.To display the lantern of of soul in shadowy times like these -to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.”
“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.” —Brooke Hampton
“Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
“We live in a world of theophanies. Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can only happen if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.”
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien
You have been walking through desert for centuries,
walking for hundreds of miles toward mountains.
Suddenly there in your path stands the guardian.
Every quest, every dream, every task has its challenger–
She who will stand at the gate of your destiny,
waiting to ask you the questions you came for:
What is the thing that you fear? Can you face it?
What is the name of the monster that haunts you?
Can you look death in the eye and say, “Feed Me”?
If She reveals Herself at your parting,
you must be ready to hold what She offers you:
a small golden aster and three white-hot stones.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out–no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
Gratitude List: (I am achy and chilled tonight–hoping to get a substitute for classes tomorrow so I can kick this cold.)
1. The bright souls who populate my classes.
2. A warm bathrobe
3. This warm cat. Sachs seems to sense that I am under the weather, and he’s been clinging to me like velcro tonight. Cats are the original Reiki practitioners.
4. Warm socks
If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with
some small and easy story.
Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, fails, strives again. The world is perfect.
is an opera, a history, a long walk, that
includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep leaved hills.
“You either walk inside your story & own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” ~BRENÉ BROWN
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
“Live the question now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke
“and if i hear one more time
about a fool’s rights
to his tools of rage
I’m gonna take all my friends
and I’m gonna move to Canada
and we’re gonna die of old age” –Ani Difranco
Gratitude List: 1. Biking by the River, north of Marietta
2. Science Saturday: We made three kinds of slime/gak, and also oobleck
3. Getting enough sleep
4. Inspiring ideas (this time from a TED talk)
5. How cats are like dragons. I feel like we live with little fluffy house-dragons. Inscrutable. Demanding. Condescending. But tender by turns.
“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”
“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” –Vincent van Gogh
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those downstream do unto you.” –Wendell Berry
Every step you take is a doorway to somewhere new,
a choice between what was and what will be.
Do not fear the darkness behind you
nor the mists that rise in your path.
Pause on the threshold a moment.
Take a deep and aching breath,
and straighten your shoulders.
Release the past with gratitude
for all that it has taught you,
and step forward in strength and beauty.
“Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.”
Gratitude List: 1. Rest
Today is the feast day of St. Hildegard of Bingen. If I have a patron saint, it would be her. She loved music and art, herbalism and stones. She was mystic, poet, doctor, composer, artist, and theologian. I’ll include some of her quotations in the mix below.
Here, to begin the curated quotations of the day, is something I wrote last year about writing poems, and then a poem I wrote about Sadness.
“I feel like I want a disclaimer before I write a poem about sadness. I realize that my life has been free of the iron grip of sadness that many people experience through depression or trauma or deep, recurring grief. I wrote this poem because I am trying to be Rumi’s GuestHouseand welcome in any and all who come my way, to learn from them what they would teach me. Sometimes I am a poet sitting at a pool, fishing out a single word at a time. Other days, I sit beside the stream, and the poem jumps right out into my lap and only needs to be tidied up a bit before it’s ready for the page. This is one of the latter.”
She’s a strange guest, is Sadness.
She knocks on the door
and when I open it
she turns her face away, says,
“You probably shouldn’t invite me in.”
But when I close the door,
she comes in anyway,
seeping in around the edges
and standing with her back to the wall.
And then she grows.
When I look directly at her, she dissipates
into the indigo shadows,
and all I can see are her eyes,
full of grief, full of resignation.
Sadness. It’s hard to know her, really,
to understand what she wants of me.
Sometimes she comes in as a cold wind
and I feel my senses tingle with the approach of her
before the world goes numb in her silence.
“We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a hope. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening. To use our own voice. To see our own light.”
―Hildegard of Bingen
“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.”
―Hildegard of Bingen
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” ―Ram Dass
“If you spell HA backwards, you get AH! Put them together and you get AHA!” ―Jeff Raught (I think I got the quotation right)
“Like billowing clouds,
Like the incessant gurgle of the brook,
The longing of the spirit can never be stilled.”
―Hildegard of Bingen
The Red Wheel Barrow
by William Carlos Williams
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
“She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans…. But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.”
―Hildegard of Bingen
Gratitude List: 1. I keep learning new things: There is so much to give away, to let go, before I know I have enough.
2. Patience. I have enough Patience, if I can find it behind that stack of Busy-ness that keeps getting in the way.
3. Wisdom. I know I have enough Wisdom here, but it keeps getting lost behind the boxes full of Knowledge and Know-it-allness.
4. Sleep. I can get enough of that, if I just work at it. Sleep is such hard work lately, but it’s better than insomnia.
5. Feathers. What does a feather mean?
My parents put so much care into the growing of their bed of lisianthus flowers. This one is only slightly altered with the Dreamscope app. The photo was a little blurry, but I like the composition, so I sent it through the filter.
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” ―Bill Bullard
“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” ―Lao Tzu
“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” ―Mae Jemison
“You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoe.” ―Leymah Gbowee
“I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.” ―Clara Barton
“When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition.” ―James Finley
“This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists. Our planet teeters on the brink of atomic annihilation; dangerous passions of pride, hatred and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; and men do reverence before false gods of nationalism and materialism. The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.” ― David Suzuki
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ―W.B. Yeats
“There are two ways to live:
you can live as if
nothing is a miracle;
you can live as if
everything is a miracle.”
Gratitude List: 1. The Lehman fields of sunflowers, how they turn their golden faces to the rising sun.
2. I have a very light day today because of 9th-grade testing and orientation. I have a bad cold and a sleep deficit, so it’s perfect timing.
3. How we get to create the meaning of our own stories.
4. The way a cup of coffee transforms me from sleep to waking. I know it is a drug, but it sure was a helpful one this morning.
“I didn’t need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.” -Anne Lamott
“Morning is the best of all times in the garden. The sun is not yet hot. Sweet vapors rise from the earth. Night dew clings to the soil and makes plants glisten. Birds call to one another. Bees are already at work.” – William Longgood
“Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn — and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb. So, let us drink a cup of tea.”
– Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
“There is ecstasy in paying attention.”
– Anne Lamott
Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.
Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.
Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.
Gratitude List: 1. Little Baby Anya examining her Uncle Dick’s face with such intensity.
2. Preparing songs for Anne’s ordination. Making music with Val and Todd.
3. Kids having fun together in the pool. I still watch closely, but today was the most relaxed I have ever been with my children in the pool.
4. Summer morning rain
5. A straight seven hours of sleep, not waking up even once