Song for Brigid’s Day

You know how a little task, left to smolder, grows and builds until it’s a raging, impossible fire? I let that happen this past semester with some of the grading that needed to get done. It just got out of hand. I can make all the excuses: the distraction of election and insurrection, winter depression, the frustration of trying to work with assignment submissions online and students who simply cannot seem to figure out how to submit so they email you or leave the documents in their shared folder. Still, it was me not getting it done.

My friend Gloria says she’s read that incorrigible procrastination (my adjective) is related to low self esteem. I think I must have work to do there, and of course that feeds into the sense of depression and the further procrastination.

Last night, at about three, I finally put the first semester to rest. It’s a relief, but the chronic nature of my procrastination has now created a lingering sense of inadequacy that dogs me, makes it hard to celebrate joyfully.

But here is a breathing space: Today is Brigid’s Day. Brigid was a goddess of the British Isles, who became conflated with Saint Brigid. Notice her in whatever guise she calls to you–she is the Teacher I need for this moment. She calls for commitment to your purpose, calls for responsibility and accountability. Not a heavy and forced and angry accountability, but a joyful and purposeful walk into your destiny.

Like our friend the groundhog takes stock of shadows and light, of what will be needful for the next six weeks as we walk out of winter and into spring, today (this season) is for taking stock, for considering what inner and mental health resources we may have on hand, what we will need to search out in the coming weeks, in order to make it through.

So, on the night when so many of my friends were tending their hearthfires in honor of Brigid, and meditating on her healing and inspiration, on how she stirs the Earth and Her creatures to waken, I was finishing a task, slipping in just under the wire to be accountable to my work, celebrating this seasonal shift toward awakening with my own wakeful process, my commitment to my task, late and haphazard as it felt.

The wakefulness of this moment, when the Earth begins to stir beneath her blanket of snow, requires acknowledgement and tallying of the past, and striving and moving into the future. Commitment to make a change. I have been telling myself at the beginning of every semester that I will be on top of things THIS time. And still, I fall and I fail. Perhaps I need to get some help in this coming season. Our school, in conjunction with a local mental health organization, offers at least one free session with a trained counselor in a year. Perhaps my commitment on this Brigid’s day should be different than my usual bombastic “I can do this myself!” Perhaps it should be to seek help, find resources that will support me to meet my goals.

1. Resolve
2. Awakening
3. Wisdom of the Grandmothers
4. Snow Day
5. This cat Sachs, who is trying to rest in the circle of my arms as I type. He keeps putting his paw on my hand. He is purring. He likes snow days as much as I do.

May we walk in wisdom and Beauty!

Song for Brigid’s Day
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?

Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.

The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”

As you move out onto the road,
Brigid’s sun upon your face
will trace your outline full behind you,
defining you in the Shadow
which will be your soul’s companion
into spring.

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“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?” —Terry Tempest Williams

We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time. And it is an adaptive response.” —Joanna Macy

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” —Virginia Woolf

“Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.” —St. Teresa of Avila

“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear. I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” ―Lauren Oliver, Delirium

“You can never leave footprints that last when you are walking on tiptoes.” ―Leymah Gbowee

Two Today

Gratitude of Resistance:
A couple different ones today.
1. Yesterday’s chapel, led by Latinx students. Students from the Dominican, from Puerto Rico, from Colombia, from Guatemala, and from Honduras stood up and spoke about culture and foods and people from their countries. On Wednesday, they had asked students from around campus to write their stories of experiencing discrimination based on their race. In chapel, students stood up and read these stories, as though they were coming from their own voices. It was really powerful.
2. Getting home. Yesterday afternoon was really trying for me. School was let out just before noon for the snow, and the drive home on the highway was a white knuckle experience. We couldn’t make it up Cool Creek Road. But there were beautiful moments in the story. We took refuge for an hour or so in the home of friends who live at the bottom of the ridge. Rochelle gave me coffee in a mug that says: “I love you. That’s all.” Our sons did computer whiz-kid stuff together in their den, and their sweet puppy Ophelia washed my face with kisses and snuggled on my lap. It was a moment of serene and utter safety in the midst of an anxious trip. It gave me courage to get out and try again. We made about 8-10 attempts on the hill until a plow finally came through at 4:30 and we made it up to the top. It was such a relief to get home and snuggle with cats and sit in the living room with the whole family.

Taking Stock

Mine is not a particularly stressful life. My basic needs are met. I know my kids will be fed. I have great support systems: family, friends, colleagues, students, church. My traumas have been few, and my griefs have occurred within the compassionate circles of people who know how to love. My greatest stresses are the ones I put on myself, usually: taking on more than I can accomplish, frittering away too much time that could be spent actually doing things I love.

In the face of stress, I tend to go all British: keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on. Often that serves me wellit keeps me from getting too deep into the circular ruts that I can gouge in my brain. Fall down. Get up. Keep walking. Fall down again. Get up again. Continue. It works. And my gratitude and mindfulness spiritual practices have helped to keep me away from the ruts.

Today, however, my mind began to enumerate all the stressors that have plagued me in the past few weeks. Instead of entering the ruts, as I began to list them all, I suddenly began to feel a weight lifting. The tiredness and crankiness and insomnia and heaviness that have begun to plague me seemed no longer unreasonable. In the past month, I have felt a little buffeted, a little at the mercy of fate. When I can recognize that, accept that it gets me down, maybe I can offer myself a little compassion, take a rest, and move forward.

1. It started several weeks ago, with the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. How to hold that? How to respond? How do we break an organization with such power and grasp as the NRA?
2. Shortly after that, my family started getting sick. Fortunately for us, none of us got the full-fledged flu, or at least our immune systems battled well. But all of us got sick. One child was out of school for almost a week. The parents were both just barely holding on. We probably should have all taken a sick day together and just laid around getting our rest and fluids.
3. Finally we made it through the worst of the sickies, and then we got hit by a wind storm that took out our power, water, and heat for the best part of three days.
4. Monday, the morning after the power finally came on, my eldest son fell up the stairs on his way to class and broke his arm. We finally managed to get him back to school and practicing for a performance this weekend.
5. Today at lunch, one of my students, who sits near my desk, said she heard my phone vibrating behind the desk over and over again all period. I woke it up, and it lit up with phone and text messages saying that my youngest son’s school (his entire district, actually) had been evacuated due to a bomb threat.
6. And through it all, I have continued to try to figure out what my role is in resisting the Death Eaters who seem to be taking over.

That’s a lot of stress. And at each point, I realized how fortunate we are:
1. Comforting community
2. My children are well and healthy for the most part
3. Three days is not very long to be without power, in the grand scheme of things, and we could go to my parents’ house for heat and water and light.
4. A broken arm is not a concussion, is not a chronic disease, is not a long-term problem. Little kid bones tend to heal fast and well.
5. My children have many adults, from family members to teachers and administrators, who are looking out for their safety and best interests. And I know that their classmates whose families have fewer support structures than we do also receive the same benefit of caring and tender teachers and administrators.
6. No one has to resist the Death Eaters alone. We’re all in this together. And it’s been done before.

May we walk in Beauty!