Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is “space.” My friend Linda’s prompt is “silver bullet.”
Faithless by Beth Weaver-Kreider
These days we divine by numbers and watch the spiral uncoil, no longer lazy and languid, but each day adding the sum of an earlier day to the new total— n = (n-1) + (n-3)— like a poisoned Fibonacci sequence with hiccups, unraveling into space.
And the madman on the television is huckstering promises of easy endings and fantastic fortunes, a silver bullet for every ill, anything to raise his ratings,
and meanwhile the lions of jazz are dying of the virus, the poor get poorer and the sick get sicker, and the hospitals are scrambling for supplies.
Rogue churches crowd sanctuaries, passing the virus instead of the peace, putting their faith in a man who has proved himself faithless time again and time again.
No lies, no arrogant bluster, no matter how they will it so, will save us now.
Perhaps this is a new survival of the fittest, where fitness means a willingness to listen to the science, instead of the autocratic mumbling of this fool of a leader whose god may indeed roar to life again come Easter– the Great God Mammon, trailing behind him thousands of dying souls in his wake.
Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
Making space. Those will be my words for today. Clearing kitchen and floors, getting ready for the Yule tree. If nothing else, getting a Christmas tree into the house each year demands that we rethink our daily clutter and find a way to shift the mess. Last weekend, Josiah decided that since we weren’t yet getting a tree, he would decorate anyway, and decorate he did, forcing us to begin the process of clearing and shifting. He set up the mantelpiece to look like a city street, with the carolers and the nutcracker, the Bavarian gnome from his uncle, and his grandmother’s wooden Santa.
Here is a poem by spiritual director Martha Postlewaite about making space:
Clearing by Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worth of rescue.
“You can’t oppress someone who is not afraid anymore.” —Cesar Chavez
“Among wolves, no matter how sick, no matter how cornered, no matter how alone, afraid or weakened, the wolf will continue. She will lope, even with a broken leg. She will strenuously outwait, outwit, outrun and outlast whatever is bedeviling her. She will put her all in taking breath after breath. The hallmark of the wild nature is that it goes on.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“If a child is to keep alive [her] inborn sense of wonder, [she] needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with [her] the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” –Rachel Carson
“When women were birds, we knew otherwise. We knew our greatest freedom was in taking flight at night, when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of Stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” —Leonard Bernstein
Gratitude List: 1. Indigo buntings
2. There are twins in the holler! Fawns who’ve just been allowed to start exploring dancing through the neighbors’ yard, flicking into the woods. Curious. Sweet. Timid.
3. Vulture or eagle or hawk shadows that spill down the hill.
4. Last weekend’s Elements class. Such a marvelous group of thoughtful people.
5. Re-reading Hugh Lofting’s The Twilight of Magic with the boys. I discovered this book in my school library in fifth grade, and I read and reread and rereread it. MY first real introduction to the character of the wise woman who is accused of being a witch.
Today’s prompt is to write a response to one of the previous poems from the month. I chose my April 27 poem.
There once was a girl
who was so afraid of spiders
that when a web of song,
a web of prayer,
came floating to her
on a breeze, she ran
as fast as she could
in the other direction.
There once was a girl
who was so afraid of darkness
that when a quiet veil
of comforting shadows
fell about her,
she fell down in terror
and hid her head
until the staring sun
came out again.
There once was a girl
who was so afraid of heights
that when her friends
sang bridges that led
to safer meadows,
she could not unfreeze
her footsteps from the Earth
to flee toward the havens.
Whenever she ran from her fears,
they always caught her.
Whenever she froze in terror,
she found herself engulfed.
I would like to say she learned
to reach her hands toward her friends
and find her way home.
Gratitude: I am grateful today for the concentric and interlocking circles of community in my life, for the people who keep their protective eyes on my children, who teach and mentor them and love them.
“To love is to recognize yourself in another.” ~Eckhart Tolle
“You can never really go back to the same waters. Not only are you no longer the same, but neither are the waters you left. The current has changed. The elements of nature have affected the stream. When you return, although it appears the same, it really is a different river and you are a different person. Therefore, you cannot cross the same river twice.”
– Alice Walker
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face
grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.
In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.
And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
The ancient ones know.
They will tell you the way.
Stand quietly before them.
Let their stillness enter you.
Listen for their songs of mystery.
“Who will tell us who we are
when the voices of the trees are silenced?
Who will give us direction
when the sentinels of the forest
can no longer tell us the way?”
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
that actually exist,
like the hummingbird.
how she hovers, how she hums,
how she flies like a whisper. *
The Real Work
by Wendell Berry
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ~Rachel Carson
Gratitude List: 1. Here is a marvel: I made him inside me, but this boy knows so much more than I do. The Chromebook just kicked itself off the wi-fi (or something). He tinkered with something on his iPad for a few minutes, and suddenly everything worked again. It’s such a marvel to see them grow and develop like this. I knew that they would learn their way ahead of me, but I had no idea it would be happening this early, or this incomprehensibly.
2. Creating spaces
3. Bridges, pathways, doorways, webs
4. Defining my own terms
5. Homemade rice pudding
Gratitude List: 1. This: “Sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. ” —President Obama
2. Bree Newsome–She climbed that flagpole and took down that obscenity. She’d had enough already. When they put cuffs on her, she held her head up, smiled, and recited the Lord’s Prayer as they walked her out. We showed the video to the boys–“Sometimes,” I told them, “people break laws for good reasons.”
3. Cat on my lap on a chilly evening. His head is so heavy on my right wrist, I might have to quit typing.
4. Shifting and re-making spaces. Ellis wants space of his own, so I am giving him my “Room of Her Own” and moving my space up to the attic. I’ll have to see what it’s like in weather changes, but right now it feels just right. Even more my own than the little room was down below.
5. Tending the head space, as well as the heart space.
from the room of this minute
into the room of the one to come
we scuttle and race
trailing the detritus
of our days like the stuff
falling from a half-open suitcase
appointments and obligations
litter the ground behind us
and we are gasping
grasping for the next
take a breath
on the floor of the room
of this moment in time
watch how the minutes flow over you
when you release your grasp
on the one ahead
watch how the space of this room
takes shape around you
watch how your breath
blooms into the air
Gratitude List: 1. Well-written popular history: Bill Bryson’s At Home, for example, which I am listening to in the car these days–a history of the house. It has everything: agriculture, architecture, social classes, semantics and etymology.
2. Yesterday was Taking Care of Me Day. I didn’t get a lot of work done, but I got my eyes checked and my hair done.
3. Sleep is appearing frequently on my list these days, and I am putting it down again. I have had at least three or four 8+-hour nights lately (with minor interruptions from the cat). It doesn’t always work, but I have found that when I can have a creative art project on the back burner of my mind during the day, I can pull it out and plan it during those moments of panic when I wake up and am suddenly panicky that I won’t get back to sleep. Something about imagining artistic processes lulls my brain.
4. I have a love-hate relationship with this pedometer, but it’s really getting me moving. Whoever devised this step-counting contest at school was a genius. I have been the lowest number on my team for the first two weeks, and I am determined not to let them all down, so I stand and step in place during evening activities these days. We play Uno a lot during these winter evenings, and I step my way through the games. This morning my legs actually ache from all that stepping yesterday. I hope it makes me healthier in the long run. It is at least keeping me from being quite so sedentary.
5. Dawn. Black tree silhouettes against newborn light.