I know all about rainy days and Mondays, and a long string of wet grey weather can make me sad, too. Still, a crisp and breezy drizzly morning feels to me like adventure, like sea change, like a new thing blowing in. Something in me starts to wake up on days like this.
And this is Beltane Eve, the halfway point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. The Wheel turns. We might be living in a radically different world than we expected a year ago. But the Earth spins on. Here in the northern hemisphere, days lengthen, and despite the chilling breezes, the warm times are coming. The skies may be grey, but they’re clearer of pollutants than they’ve been for years. The waters are running clearer, too. Do the buds and blossoms of spring seem more vigorous, more filled with life force? Are the greens greener?
Beltane is about abandoning yourself to the experience of the life force that is burgeoning around you, being willing to risk losing yourself in the wild. And maybe finding yourself, too. Even if your existence is tied, these days, to a house, how can you celebrate yourself today (and this week and this season) as a being who belongs to the wild, who feels the life force within yourself as surely as the tree outside your window is feeling the sap rising from root to branch?
Gratitude List: 1. Wildness 2. Green 3. Wind 4. Energy 5. You
May we walk in Beauty! (Such, such Beauty!)
“Things aren’t so tangible and sayable as people would have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are world of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living. We live ourselves into t anew way of thinking.” —Richard Rohr
“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” —Georgia O’Keeffe
“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” ―Rebecca Solnit
“The child’s hand Folding these wings Wins no wars and ends them all. “ ―Thomas Merton
“The earth, the air, the fire, the water: Return, return, return, return. . .” –Libana song
Contemplative Research Journey for Earth Day: Contemplate the earth you walk, right in your yard, your neighborhood, your town. If you can, put your bare feet on earth today. Think about the people who were here before your, and before them. Do you know who were the indigenous peoples who lived on and hunted and farmed and fished on the land where you stand? What do you know of the soil and the rocks and minerals of your place? What feeds the life of the place where you are?
Contemplate the plants of your neighborhood. Can you name three trees? Five? Twenty? Who is in bud now? Who is in bloom? There is so much more than grass in the grass. Do you know the names of all the plantfolk who provide the green carpets you walk on?
Contemplate the wingfolk and the four-footed people who share this space with you. Can you tell one shining bird from the other? Can you differentiate their calls? Can you see evidence of the night wanderers? Who might be visiting your yards and gardens and alleyways while you sleep? And the tiny insect people that try so hard to live inside our houses. Have you watched them make webs, tend to their own business, seek the dark spaces?
What about the waters of your place? Where does it come from and where does it go? If you have wild water running near you, take some time today to trail your fingers through it.
Touch earth. Touch water. Touch bark. Listen for the messages in birdsong. Smell the rising spring. Breathe wind. Take ten deep outside breaths. Greet the Beings of your place with love and gratitude.
Gratitude List: 1. The guarddogwoods are beginning to bloom. Even though I no longer hang poetic laundry on their branches, I always feel like poetry itself is blooming when they start to throw pink at the sun. 2. Wangari Maathai, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg, Berta Caceres–and all the fierce and joyful activists around the world whom they represent. 3. The many Beings of Skunk Hollow. The shine and the flutter. The wafting and the whoosh. The verdancy. The brilliance. 4. Golda’s Lake and Goldfinch Creek and Ezilie’s Spring and Cabin Creek and the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Bay. 5. The promise of a new way. The hope of change.
May we walk, so joyfully, in Beauty!
Earth Day Words: “The world is, in truth, a holy place.” —Teilhard de Chardin
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” —Henry David Thoreau
“You are your own cartographer now.” —Ralph Blum
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke
“Every creature is a word of God.” ―Meister Eckhart
“The forest for me is a temple, a cathedral of tree canopies and dancing light.” ―Dr. Jane Goodall
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” ―The Onceler (Dr. Seuss)
“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
William Stafford: “I place my feet with care in such a world.”
“A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.” ―John Sawhill
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ―Rachel Carson
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.” ―Rachel Carson
“Few words are so revealing of Western sexual prejudice as the word Goddess, in contrast to the word God. Modern connotations differ vastly from those of the ancients, to whom the Goddess was a full-fledged cosmic parent figure who created the universe and its laws, ruler of Nature, Fate, Time, Eternity, Truth, Wisdom, Justice, Love, Birth, Death, Etc.” ―Barbara G. Walker
“Our vitality is inextricably bound up with creativity. Like a tree whose expression is fruit, giving our gifts is what keeps life pushing through our veins. It’s what keeps us feeling alive. As anyone who has strayed too far from their creativity knows, without it every corner of one’s life can fall prey to a terrible greying spread. As Kahlil Gibran writes about trees in an orchard, “They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —by Toko-pa Turner
I had a couple long conversations with Thor yesterday. I reminded him that my success rate for waking up in the morning has been 100%, so he doesn’t need to check whether I am still alive. I told him to wait until the alarm goes off. And here’s the thing: He did not wake me up last night.
Gratitude List: 1. The doves are getting all amorous out there in the weeds and the vines. Sure sign of spring. 2. During my lunch watch yesterday, at least three students came up and told me about book series that they love. 3. I correctly identified that Araucana hen in the FFA quiz in chapel yesterday, even if I missed the one about the cultipacker. 4. Friday. It’s Friday 5. How the kids in Speech class support each other. Some powerful stories were told.
May we walk in Beauty!
I’ve been really circumspect about not discussing the Democratic political candidates here. From the early days of 27+ candidates, I have been mostly sitting back to watch what happens. It feels to me like the more we citizens fight about our candidates, the more unruly the whole process becomes, the ore tarnished all the candidates become. When a nominee rises to the top, I don’t want them to be muddied and bruised by the Dem rivals. But this most recent candidate is causing me no little angst, and so here are a few thoughts, Andy Rooney-style:
I have not been particularly vocal about my candidate choice in the primary, and I’m still keeping all the doors open, with the exception of one candidate. I think it’s best, in general, to avoid jumping into the negativity and back-biting tornado. Still, when you line them up on a debate stage, you can sing Sesame Street’s teaching song “One of these things is not like the others. . .” with a pretty clear view of the one that “just doesn’t belong.” If he wins the nomination, I don’t know how I will be able to vote.
Speaking of Andy Rooney, I am getting so tired of grumpy old white men running things. Just tired. Tired. And I’m getting grumpy–like those old white men.
I can get behind a woman who can speak the truth about the Old Boys’ Club right to their faces. Call them out. Stand up to them. Call the bluff on their obfuscations. Such a woman empowers other women. I feel intense gratitude for people who don’t let the boors hide their bad behavior under a veneer of Good Old Boy bluster.
Stridently calling out bad behavior is not the same thing as being mean. Sometimes you have to be strident to be heard above the bluster and the big money.
I laughed out loud at the Elle article by R. Eric Thomas. Google it–you know how.
Can someone tell Bernie that pointing at people comes across and hostile, and emphasizes all the negatives of the grumpy old white man persona?
Some of you are older white men. I have no quibble with you, per se. I just want to try something different in the White House for a while.
Dear Sweet Thor, I know I said that I love the sound of your happy chirpy morning purr, and I do. Thing is, “morning” is the operative word in that sentence. It resonates a little differently at 3:30.
I love the way you pat my face so sweetly with your paw, but again, what is sweet at 5:30 only startles and annoys me at 4:00. The same is true of whiskers in my face, of walking up and down my body with your needle-fingers, of licking my hands. Please know that, no matter how much you lick my hands, I will not be petting you before the alarm goes off.
So far in my life, I have a 100% record of waking up in the morning–not always on time, I grant you, but usually–so you do not need to check on me every fifteen minutes from 3:30 onward to make sure whether I am still alive. Further, rolling over, stretching out my legs, yawning–these are not signals of my imminent awakening. They usually help me get back to sleep, unless, of course, someone is trying to wake me up.
One more thing, small dude: While I work hard at being culturally competent, I am never going to sniff your butt. You can stop offering. Especially in the night when I am trying to sleep.
See you in the morning, Sweetie.
Gratitude List: 1. Boy has been writing poems. “Who assigned you that prompt?” I ask. “Oh, I just decided to write a poem for fun.” Heart is melting. 2. Stretching and breathing. In-spir-ation. 3. Last night, I looked back through my New Orleans 2003 journal. I need to get back into doing watercolor sketches. 4. Carving spaces for myownself 5. All the little signs of spring.
We are two days in to the season of Awakening, of Hatching, of Breaking Open. Two days in, through wind and sunshowers, through gusting rain and rushing cloud. Last year, on the second day of spring, a foot of snow fell in the hollow. This year, a seemingly endless drench of rain.
In the season of Brigid, back in February, we felt the Earth stirring, noticed the sap rising, watched pull toward birth and sprouting. Now we feel the promise, watch the winter aconite drop seeds for next years golden cups, and Persephone’s footprints–all shades of crocus–springing up across the lawns, uncontainable by flower beds.
What, in you, is hatching now? What thing, which has lain long and silently within you like a seed in the darkness, now seeks the sun and breezes? Hold that thing within you, like a seed. See the rough, hard casing which has protected it in its dreamstate. Breathe in the sun of spring, the chill air biting as it enters, and feel your lungs, your belly, your capacity, expand. Watch the casing of your dreamseed break open, and feel the roots push downward within you. Feel the sprout nosing upwards to the light and warmth of spring. What is being born within you? What new capacity? What new heartspace? What plan and purpose? Blessed be your seeds. Crack open. Seek the sun. Feel the rains of spring caress your growing roots.
Gratitude List: 1. The groundhog who is nosing around on the hillside behind the house 2. A day off, to ponder and paint, and catch up on the work 3. The fog of winter is lifting 4. Watching the children grow and become so gallantly themselves 5. The seeds which are sprouting
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
Today’s prompt is to write a poem titled __________ Wave.
Ride the Wave
If you watch closely
as it approaches
you can begin to feel
the energy enter your body
before the water
even takes shape.
Enter the sound and the color
before the matter engages you.
And suddenly you are part of it,
caught in the song of it,
bound in the curve and the crash
and the pull of the wave.
Gratitude List: 1. Speedwell and dandelion and grape hyacinth and violet and deadnettle. The little quiet beauties that catch your eye when you’re least expecting it. “Wake up now,” they say.
2. Spring in the air
3. People who put their souls and hearts into what they do. Art that is more than technical perfection, but is a reflection of humanity.
4. Getting some of the work done. Not nearly enough. But some. The load begins to lift.
5. Blooming. Flowers, children, teenagers, relationships, work, ideas.
Years ago, during the month of April, I kept a poetree. Two dogwood trees stand on either side of my driveway. I would hang poems from the branches of the one closest to the house. Rain and snow caused problems until I got smart and hung them in plastic sheets. Since I have been teaching school, I have not had time to tend and April poetree, except on my bulletin board in the classroom one year. The year of this photo, 2013, I called myself the laundress of poetry, hanging my fresh sheets in the sun every few days.
Today’s prompt is to write a temptation poem. This year’s poems feel more solid than some years in the past. Fewer toss-offs, fewer place-holders. Today’s poem might fit those categories, but it has a little promise, I think:
Lead me not into temptation,
not into the Faculty snack room,
not into the valley of Facebook,
not into the sleepy arms of the recliner.
Lead me not into the second pot of coffee,
not into the bargain bin at the yarn store,
not into the library book sale,
not into the place of shiny stones.
Lead me into the long afternoon walk,
into the quiet seat in the spring sunshine,
into the circle of the oriole’s song,
into the embrace of a weeping pink tree.
Lead me into a whole classroom of laughter,
into the smile of a child,
into the room of your song,
into the twinkling space of your gaze.
You are my favorite color:
that golden shine of sun on the trees in the morning,
that deep cotton grey of dusk,
that rich mocha brown of turned earth,
that silvery sheen on blue waters.
You are my favorite sound:
the sigh of a breeze through the sycamore,
the quiet hum of a child at play,
the full-throated song of a joyful choir,
the chorus of birdfolk at dawn.
You are my favorite feeling:
this tingle of warm sun in spring chill,
this shiver of the spine at a memory,
this sigh of soft satin on the inside of the wrist,
this ease of rest at the end of an aching day.
I remember drawing this five years ago after I had a little dream about a little gnome/elf/spirit-being who chose to be my helper.
Sometimes lately, I feel as though the bridge can’t hold. The gulf between us is widening, and the the bridge is strained almost beyond repair. This cultural divide in the US keeps growing, keeps expanding. What words can we string together into lines and cables to hold the space between us? Or do we just give up? Wave goodbye across the chasm? Accept that we no longer have common ground? It has torn the fabric of my church, torn the roots of families and friendships, of social groups and communities.
I know I am part of the problem. My own ideals and values keep me settled on one side of the chasm. I must speak up and speak out for what I believe to be right and against what I believe to be great wrong. I can no more shift my position than I could leap into air and fly across the widening gulf. But there are places of common ground between us–I am certain of that, and I don’t know how to connect them when the space between us grows so rapidly.
What I think we need to recognize is that when we are torn apart from each other in these ways, something within us is also torn. When you and I can no longer touch or hear each other across this chasm, something within each of us also becomes unmoored, unhinged. If the bridge breaks, we all lose something of ourselves. Gratitude List: 1. That golden moment of sun touching the snowy tops of the trees as it enters the hollow.
2. The spring songs of sparrow and wren and titmouse.
3. As frustrating as his attention is at 5 am, I love the way this little ginger cat loves me.
4. Catching up. Yesterday brought me a lot closer to being caught up.
5. The threads that hold us together.