Poem a Day: 12

The prompts today are “spirit” and “eggs.” And it is Easter, so that wants to weave into the mix. One of my favorite moments in all of the New Testament stories is the moment when Mary Magdalene is weeping in the garden, and asks the gardener where they have taken her beloved, and the gardener turns, and it IS her beloved, and he says her name. This feels like one of the holiest stories to me.

Grief is the Egg
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

“Grief is not your problem.
Grief is not the sorrow.
Grief is the medicine.” —Martin Prechtel

There are people who sing when they weep,
who wail for the dead in poems,
chant the wandering spirits into seeds
that will sprout in the new world
as trees, or storms, or whales.

Grief is not the rock that entombs you.
It is the egg of the thing to come,
the precious perfume in the alabaster jar
that finds its way to praise life and living
even as it anoints the dead.
The egg and the seed are the medicine.

Grief is no dead end road.
It is the curtain rent in two,
the woman weeping in the garden:
“Tell me, if you know,
where they have taken my beloved.”

Grief is the egg of the moment,
radiant with sunlight,
just before the gardener turns,
and you hear your name.

Breath Lifts Spirit

Look what the goddess does when she is sad:
She takes up a tambourine, made of taut skin
and rimmed with castanets of brass,
and she begins to dance.
The sound blares out wildly,
reaching even to the depths of the underworld,
so loud, so clamorous is it.

Look what the goddess does when she is sad:
She finds the wildness in herself,
and as she does,
she finds that there is joy there too.
–Patricia Monaghan (attr. to Euripides)

Gratitude List:
1. One young snow goose in the flock of a thousand Canadas across the road from my parents’ house yesterday.
2. Anticipation: I have an education conference coming up at the end of the week, and I always look forward to the feeling of a little retreat. All the mundane tasks are taken care of. I get my own little room with my own little bed. I love getting to talk to colleagues and others, but also having time completely to myself.
3. Stories that inspire and heal
4. How breath lifts spirit
5. All the people who are working for justice.

May we walk in Beauty!

Be Softer With You

“Be softer with you.
You are a breathing thing.
A memory to someone.
A home to a life.”  ―Nayyirah Waheed
Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.  ―Raymond Carver
Powerful words from Rob Brezsny:
“The real secret of magic is that the world is made of words,” said Terence McKenna in “Alien Dreamtime,” “and that if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”

Here’s my version of that hypothesis: What world you end up living in depends at least in part on your use of language.

Do you want to move and breathe amidst infertile chaos where nothing makes sense and no one really loves anyone? Then speak with unconscious carelessness, expressing yourself lazily. Constantly materialize and entertain angry thoughts in the privacy of your own imagination, beaming silent curses out into eternity.

Or would you prefer to live in a realm that’s rich with fluid epiphanies and intriguing coincidences and mysterious harmonies? Then be discerning and inventive in how you speak, primed to name the unexpected codes that are always being born right in front of your eyes. Turn your imagination into an ebullient laboratory where the somethings you create out of nothings are tinctured with the secret light you see in your dreams of invisible fire.
“The power of love is stronger than the power to destroy.”  ―Vandana Shiva
“And then–
and then your eyes will open
as if waking from a dream
or waking into a dream
and the dew-drenched grasses
will sparkle before you
like gold in the morning
and you will know.

You will know what it is
you have come for.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.”  ―Fatema Mernissi
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” ―Robin Williams as Mr. John Keating in Dead Poets Society
“Well, I don’t only think that the biosphere is in trouble, I know it is. I just have to look around in the environment, in which I live.
In my own part of the part of the world, I keep telling people, let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation. Now the problem is, people don’t make those linkages.”
—Wangari Maathai
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
—Robin Williams

Gratitude List:
1. Holy Ground: The Earth we walk on, our callings, our destinies
2. Sacred Flame: The burning bush, the kindling of compassion, energy, the spark of life
3. Hallowed Water: Cleansing, purifying, nurturing life (May the waters all run free!)
4. Sublime Air: The breath of life, inspiration, drawing us out, pushing us onward
5. The Indwelling spirit: Vivifying, transforming

May we walk in Beauty!



Quiet, thoughtful, tired today. So much to absorb from my three days of learning to keep circles. Now the work is to learn to apply and integrate the practice into my work, into my Work. And after three days of circling with twenty-five others, that specific circle itself must settle in like a seed and germinate within. And now, somehow, I must now reintegrate into the world outside the circle.

I think it would be good for me, sometime in the next two months, to sit in circle with people who are planning to vote for Trump, people who are planning to vote for Clinton, and people who are voting for Stein or Johnson. Perhaps some non-voters should be in there, too. I could not be the Circle Keeper, but I think I would come out of such an experience a much healthier person, hopefully less anxious, less furious.

Gratitude List:
1. Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit
2. Autumn is in the air
3. The circles expand out and outward
4. Poetry, how it says things that cannot articulated in didactic words
5. We are more alike than we are different

May we walk in Beauty!

Living in the Empire


Tomato season is upon us.  Those speckled romans in the upper right hand corner appear to have done a little hybridizing with the Amish pastes–so many of them are chunky and round.

I had a conversation with a wise man yesterday (my father).  My book on the desert mothers and fathers caught his eye, and he told me about what he had read about the movement of these communities into the deserts of what is now Syria and Palestine and Egypt–that they appear to have been reacting to the Christianization of empire in the 4th and 5th centuries.  Watching how their spiritual path had been taken and used to unify people under military and nationalistic banners, they chose instead to retreat into the deserts.

We got to talking about how our own direct spiritual ancestors, Mennonite Anabaptists in Switzerland in the 1500s, were also confronting the ways in which faith and spirituality had become a tool of empire and state-building. They refused to baptize their babies into the state church, choosing to untangle their spiritual story from the story of the religious city-states.  Many of them paid with their lives.  Many of them fled that empire for the new world.

Today, I think we also live in a time of empire-building, when the engines of state appropriate and exploit spiritual dogmas in order to consolidate power.  We have no desert to flee to, no new world that holds the promise of a life lived according to principle outside the boundaries of empire.  And perhaps flight is not what is called for in these days.  Perhaps the work of today demands that our desert monastic cells and our new world communities be villages of spirit, grounded inside ourselves.  Perhaps our work is to build and strengthen what St. Teresa of Avila, in the 1500s called the Interior Castle, the spaces inside ourselves that experience the life of the spirit in deep communion with the Great Mystery, a place where political and empirical powers hold no sway.

And then, how does the tending of our own inner gardens inform our daily living in the empire?  How will I explore my anxieties and concerns about things like elections and drone warfare and poverty and refugees in light of my inner journey?  How will I act in the outer world, if I am informed by my own inner amma in her quiet desert cell?  What will our communities of spirit look like here, within the belly of the empire, if we do not set ourselves apart in desert communities or sail away to a new land?  How do we keep our circles wide and inviting, our conversations holy and uplifting, our actions principled and full of resolve?

The movement of spirit that I see today is not defined by a singular religious group or sect.  It crosses religious boundaries.  The Muslim seeker and the Christian seeker, the Sikh, the witch, the Buddhist, the agnostic, and the universalist–it is one spirit community, working together to live with intention and purpose, with compassion and wisdom, calling forth that longing to experience the life of the spirit within each other and with everyone they meet.

Gratitude List:
1. I found the hummingbird nest yesterday.  It’s been a couple years since I found one.  I just happened to be looking at the right place at the right moment when she flew in and settled on her nest.  What a miracle of existence is the hummingbird.
2. This seems petty, but it’s a biggish deal to me: the warning lights in the Prius went off.  I decided to drive her for small errands yesterday because we couldn’t get a car appointment until this morning.  After two or three stops, she stopped giving me panicky lights.  My mechanic says to just keep watching for the lights and hope she was just resetting something.  I was afraid of a huge repair bill.
3. The inner work.  Knowing you’re out there, and so many others are with us, tending our inner gardens, building and connecting communities of spirit.
4. How sleep refreshes.  I felt really run down yesterday.  Jon said maybe I didn’t eat enough.  I thought maybe it was the humidity.  My bones ached.  I thought I might never feel rested again.  A good sleep has done the trick this time.
5. Inter-species friendship.  Here’s Fred, talking to me about breakfast.  I had to give him my attention and respond to his questions and snuggle and feed him.  Now he has settled quietly into the chair right beside me, companionably.  What a great guy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Being a Body

I think it is time for me to start planning my retreat to the monastery when school ends this spring.  I want to go sit under the boughs of the cathedral tree again.

Gratitude List:
1. Gulls by the hundreds flying in the dawn across the River
2. Watching the freshmen really take up the work of deep discussion
3. How one foot just goes in front of the other.  Then the next one.
4. The sense of sight.  As my eyes age, I am more and more keenly aware of how appreciate clear vision.
5. Being in a body.  Incarnation.  There is so much to learn in this body, and I spend entirely too much time wishing it were different in some way, like I just did by wishing that my eyes weren’t aging quite so quickly.  And every moment, every itch, every ache, every noticing, is a chance to learn something about the interaction of spirit and matter.

May we walk in Beauty!

Mouse in the House

The room is a little dark, and it’s a Chromebook photo, but you can get the idea of the sweetness from this.

Gratitude List:
1. Tabea’s radish mouse
2. Steadily working on the “slow, gentle ripening of the human spirit.”  –Cynthia Bourgeault
3. Distilling thought into words
4. Listening to 9th grade short stories
5. Moderation.  Balance.

As salamu alaykum.  Walk in Peace.  Walk in Beauty.