You need to brood, to hold the day-world deep, to creep through hallways and tunnels in buildings you half remember. Keep things in their rooms, hidden in hollows, behind oaken doors and up stairways, through arches and curtains, where they become something else, symbols of themselves, monsters and midwives.
You must step into the stream of the story, find peace in the threads of the tale that the smallest elf of your deepest self is telling you, sifting and shifting images, sliding pictures through your vision like an old-time stereoscope.
Do not try to remember. Look sideways, like you do at the Pleiades, which you can only see when you look beside them, and never directly. The memory of dreams requires just such a two-step, a soft and sideways focus, peripheral. Write them down. Don’t force sense upon them, but let them unravel onto the page.
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.
In these chill mornings, while we are waiting in the warm car in the dawn for our carpool companion to come out to the car, I watch how the light rises through the trees in her hollow, how the branches cross and tangle, creating loops and circles and triangles and the shapes of eyes. I am a fan of Zentangles, and I find that lately I am am obsessed with putting lines on the page, crossing and intersecting much as the branches intertwine, as though my mind might float away into the grey winter sky were I not to catch it in a tangle of lines on paper.
While I do sometimes use prayer to describe that place I go when I am consciously opening a space within me to communicate with the Great Mystery, I more often find myself thinking in terms of placing myself deliberately on the web of being, of holding my beloveds in the web of energy generated by Love. The dawn trees, the lines on a page, the webs of prayer: I am held, anchored at least momentarily in time and space. So, tangle will be my word for today, a tangle that holds and anchors and communicates along its seemingly random lines.
Gratitude List: 1. Tangles and webs 2. Trees and dawn 3. Stories that nourish my spirit 4. Planning 5. How meaning comes into being
May we walk in Beauty!
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ― Walt Whitman
I Looked Up
by Mary Oliver
I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitch pines—
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back—
color of copper, iron, bronze—
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.
What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.
When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.
At the Beginning of Winter
by Tom Hennen
In the shallows of the river
After one o’clock in the afternoon
An eighth of an inch thick.
Night never disappears completely
But moves among the shadows
On the bank
Like a glimpse of fur.
Flies and spiderwebs
Appear alone in the flat air.
The naked aspens stand like children
Waiting to be baptized
And the goldenrod too is stripped down
To its bare stalk
In the cold
Even my thoughts
Have lost their foliage.
“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”
― Joseph Campbell
Breath flows in, breath flows out,
Traveling always the curving path of the Goddess.
Breath flows spontaneously of its own will.
Thus all breathing beings
Continually give reverence to Her.
Be conscious of this unconscious prayer,
For She is the most holy place of pilgrimage.
She wishes for you to enter this temple,
Where each breath is adoration
Of the infinite for the incarnate form.
Into this body
As a nectar of the gods.
Every breath is a whisper
Of the Goddess:
“Here is the ritual I ask of you —
Be the cup
Into which I pour this bliss,
The elixir of immortal peace.”
Gratitude List: 1. Housecleaning. It’s not something we do with great regularity or relish here, and it’s very hard to clean a room with Legos strewn across the floor. Today, I got them to clean up the Legos and the techie junk that’s been cluttering up the whole downstairs for quite some time, and I vacuumed like a wild woman. I like to sit in the livingroom now.
2. Meeting a goal
3. Cool days
5. Good people working for good.
Gratitude List: 1. The Women’s Trio this morning at church. Blending of voices, colors, textures, rhythms.
2. Feeling the bass rumbling through the back of the pew.
3. Rain: Making it not-hot
4. Rain: I get to walk around with my cheery yellow duck-headed umbrella
5. Rain: Lying on my parents’ couch, wrapped in Uncle Henry’s red-violet blanket, watching the rain and listening to the murmuring and laughter between my parents and my children in the garage.
May we walk in Beauty! (And may all your basements stay dry!)
It’s not the clearest photo or the best composition, but you get the idea. Mama is on a nest. Stay away, coyotes and foxes and raccoons. May she and her nest be safe.
Some quotations for your day:
“When you teach your daughter, explicitly or by passive rejection, that she must ignore her outrage, that she must be kind and accepting to the point of not defending herself or other people, that she must not rock the boat for any reason, you are not strengthening her prosocial sense; you are damaging it—and the first person she will stop protecting is herself.” —Martha Stout
“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
―Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” ―Henri J.M. Nouwen
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” ―Natalie Goldberg
“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
“That story you writin’ just might save the world. That poem you throwin’ down, could end wars.” ―York Poet and Shining Woman Christine Lincoln
saw me and said,
I showed up,
Wipe your tears
and be silent.
I said, O Love
I am frightened,
But it’s not you.
Love said to me,
there is nothing that is not me,
“Be here. Let your wild self fly free.” ―The Crows
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” —Coretta Scott King
“If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.” —Gospel of Thomas
“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.”
“The ultimate measure of a person is not where [he/she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [she/he] stands at times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The weight of the world is love.
Under the burden of solitude,
under the burden of dissatisfaction
the weight, the weight we carry is love.”
“What have you done for color?”
“Beauty is whatever gives joy.”
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” —Rachel Carson
with tender ferocity
and ingenious empathy
and wild compassion”
Have you caught the rustle of wings
as the train rushes through,
hardly slowly to stop at the station?
Have you felt the breath in your ear
as the quiet sun leaps from the ridge
and touches your face like a lover?
Have you noticed the shadow that darts
just at the edge of your vision
as the river flows with purpose
under your ancient bridge?
And suddenly, before you–
before you can take another breath,
the madness is upon you,
the craving has taken you,
the pen is in your hand,
the words glow and bleed
beneath your fingers.
“Dreams make the inner life substantial, giving it dimensionality, colour and form. Ritual is the further enfleshment of the unseen; a way of feeding that which is nourishing you so that your living conversation with the holy in nature grows in strength and vocabulary.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
Gratitude List: 1. Snow sure is pretty
2. By hook or by crook, I am ready for the new semester to start today. Now if only I can find a few hours to finish up last semester’s grading. . .
3. I’m getting a whiteboard in my room, which will be nice and easy. I will, however, miss the beauty of chalk work. I’m a secret chalk artist, and I do love to leave little drawings on my board. But the surface was really rapidly wearing away. The other sad thing is that one of my own high school memories of this room is of walking into the classroom and seeing the same green chalkboard filled with Mrs. Banks’s neat and beautiful cursive notes. There were some of us who sought to emulate her handwriting. The more notes, the better–we got more practice copying the beauty.
4. The way you can’t keep a group of English Teachers on a focused conversation because everything comes back to grammar and pedagogy.
5. Chocolate. You know how it helps Harry Potter recover from the dementor attacks? Yeah.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.” ―Rumi
“The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.”
“Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy.”
―Sarah Ban Breathnach
“Any feminist who has ever taken the high road will tell you the high road gets backed up.” ―Andrea Gibson
“Almost every woman I have ever met has a secret belief that she is just on the edge of madness, that there is some deep, crazy part within her, that she must be on guard constantly against ‘losing control’ — of her temper, of her appetite, of her sexuality, of her feelings, of her ambition, of her secret fantasies, of her mind.” ―Elana Dykewomon
“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.”
“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of one who gives and kindles joy in the heart of one who receives.”
―St. Seraphim of Sarov
It’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do, while the planet was plundered?
what did you do, when the earth was unravelling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do once you knew?
―Drew Dellinger, Ph.D.
“At any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” ―Abraham Maslow
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
— Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)
“Never forget: Justice is what love looks like in public.”
Gratitude List: 1. More powerful storytelling this morning
2. A nap
3. Rain. I love rain.
4. Gaining clarity through the fog
5. I love this little purring person who has to always sit on my lap.
Full Moon filtered through flowery Dreamscope app.
“This earth that we live on is full of stories in the same way that, for a fish, the ocean is full of ocean. Some people say when we are born we’re born into stories. I say we’re also born from stories.” –Ben Okri
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” –Albert Einstein
Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words.
When I opened my hand, they flew away.
“On Hearing that My Poems
Were Being Studied in a Distant Place”
Richard Rohr quotes Thomas Keating on the way of peace: “It means to show love tirelessly, no matter what happens. That’s the meaning of turning the other cheek. Once in a while you have to defend somebody, but it means you’re always willing to suffer first for the cause—that is to say, for communion with your enemies. If you overcome your enemies, you’ve failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded.”
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” –Rumi
Gratitude List: 1. Singing “Swing Low,” “Oh When the Saints,” and “I’m Gonna Sing” in chapel today
2. Beautiful morning rain
3. Looking back through old blog posts this afternoon, watching how the ideas and dreams that I began to sift and plant last winter have begun to gestate within me.
4. Somehow, I know that I will be able to build that bridge from where I am to where I need to go
5. Cannoli dip
“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.” ―Maya Angelou
“I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had, and lift you up like a prayer to the sky.” ―Rumi
“The world has been abnormal for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a peaceful and reasonable climate. If there is to be any peace or reason, we have to create it in our own hearts and homes.” —Madeleine L’Engle
“Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature,
but only in contradiction to that which is known to us of nature.” —St. Augustine
“If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself.” —Glennon Doyle Melton
“See there! In your palm
are the rivers of story,
dragonfly wings, the pathways
of the heart: love, grief, desire.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
The raucous owls were silent in their bamboo haunts
this morning as I rushed up the hill to meet the moon
emerging from her umbral shadow,
from her ombre ochre cocoon.
What moth will she become?
What butterfly will I?
I sat a moment at the junction where my road
meets the ridge, Mt. Pisgah Road before me,
then the tidy fence,
the dusky hill meadow,
a lacy line of trees across the hilltop,
and the changing moon above in chestnut orange glory
nestled into the indigo dawning.
I caught glimpses of her on my way down the ridge
and then in my mirror as I crossed the bridge
over the water and under the last dusk of night
and I saw then that she was only now just fading into the shadow,
only entering her transformation.
I had to leave her there behind me to do her work
behind the veils of dusky morning
while I drove into the shining pink of sunrise,
Venus riding high before me
and two crows above
lifting their wings in alleluia.
New Moon Haiku
“The now-naked arms
of the walnut tree cradle
the newly-born moon.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” —attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
Gratitude List: 1. Manna: there will be enough
2. Silence but for the night singers
3. Seeking the bridges to span the chasms
4. Rain and coolness
This is the last morning of my summer rhythm. Tomorrow, a new thing begins, a new school year. I am ready, eager for the day tomorrow with my colleagues, then welcoming the students on Tuesday. I am not entirely sure what will happen in this space. The leisurely search for quotations and ideas that summer offers will thin and dissipate like morning mist or dawn birdsong. Something will happen here, most likely daily, but I am not sure what that will look like until I am living it. Here’s to the new adventure!
“We never really grow up; we just learn how to act in public.” ~Bryan White
“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter ’til they bloom, ’til you yourself burst into bloom.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” –Charlotte the spider
“Love your enemies, and pray for the ones who persecute you.” ~Jesus
*“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” ~Doris Lessing
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” ~Irish proverb
“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know from what we originate. The loss of purpose that so many of us feel is greater than the trajectory of our careers and personal lives, it is a cultural ailment which arises out of forgetting. Our lives are like the fruit of a heritage seed: Each of the generations that has preceded us has contributed to our life’s survival. There is an ancestral momentum to which we are beholden, and which carries us forward when we are in step with it. To hear this momentum, we must turn towards the soul. There, in our dreams, are the clues to what we love and what our lives long for.” – Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“To teach is to create a space in which obedience to truth is practiced.” –Parker Palmer, from Abba Felix tradition
“As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of the rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.”
Gratitude List: 1. I met a woman named Paloma yesterday. She was very gracious when I gushed at her about how I loved her name.
2. Yesterday when I pulled in to a parking lot, I stayed in the car a while to listen to an interview with an incredibly thoughtful and articulate student leader from UVA. While I was sitting there, I began to notice the swallows. They must be migrating. There were dozens of them, making little flights between the trees, scooping up insects as they flew, the morning sun golden on their wings.
3. Today will be time with one of my beloved communities, celebrating a group of young people.
4. Playtime with cats. We have a box where we keep their toys, and Thor likes to go look in and choose which toy he wants to play with. They both love laser pointers.
5. That incredible spider. It creeped us all out when we found it in the Lego bin, but it was amazing. It didn’t seem to be as robust as a wolf spider, but it had a few inches of legs, and it was furry.