Advent 6: Examining Shadows

Every year, I have to talk myself through this. I love darkness. I love the quiet and the rest, the comfort of enveloping night. And–

And the short days and long nights also fill me with a growing sense of panic, a sense of claustrophobia, as the night comes early and the dark lingers late into the mornings. I feel the panic rise, like it does when my clothes are too tight or I’m in a crowd, closed in on all sides by people, or when the seatbelt in the car pulls tight and won’t let go. It takes a conscious effort of will and a lot of self-talk to get myself back to the quiet space where I can sit in the darkness of early evening and remember how good it is to sit in the warm yellow glow of a lamp and feel the gentle arms of darkness around me.

So, here in the sixth passage of this labyrinth walk into December, I want to look into the shadows. Perhaps tomorrow, or another day, I will look into the more metaphorical shadows inside me (they make me claustrophobic, too), but yesterday I was caught up in looking at the blues and the indigos and violets that glow in the edges of the shadows and color the deeper areas. The under-shadow of the clouds was such a blue yesterday that I wondered if my eyes are developing a more acute sense of blue as they grow aged and fuzzy. The indigos beside the blue were richer, more lustrous. I think I know why the search for indigo has been a human obsession.

This morning, the shadows cast beyond the lamplight cross shadows falling through the archway to the kitchen. The lines between create distinct zones and areas, but try to look directly at the borders between light and shadow and doubled shadow, and suddenly the boundaries blur and disappear. Stare too long at the edges of a shadow and it starts to pulse and shift.

Without light, there is no shadow. Yesterday when I got home from work, I climbed onto the picnic table to catch a photo of the glorious shadows cast by the sycamore tree onto the red wall of the barn. The moment I raised my camera, a cloud slipped in front of the sun and the shadow was gone.

On today’s journey into winter, shall we explore the spaces between sun and shadow, consider the ways that light creates shadow, hone our noticing of color and line in the deepening shadows of winter?


Envisioning:
(On Sunday, Michelle asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)

Yesterday, One of my friends told me of a woman in a retirement center who greets each person she passes with, “God loves you.” This reminds me of a student of mine who would come into class every day with a high five and a “Make it a great day, Ms. Weaver-Kreider!” And of the students who always thank me as they are leaving class. And of the people who look others in the eye, and make the effort to make that powerful human contact for just a moment in the day. Loving interaction which in which we See each other–that’s my vision for today.

Coping

This is going to sound whinier than I mean it to be. It’s just a reality. Kind of funny, actually, when I’ve worked my way to the other side of it.

In summer, troubles just roll off your back. In winter, they stick together and compound each other, like those little fuzzy seed balls that stick to your socks when you walk in the fields. They catch hold of each other and suddenly they’re one big mass, and you can’t really separate them from each other. For example, the car was hit by a deer, and the light switch in the bedroom broke, and the Prius tail light is out, and the kitchen light and the bathroom lights burned out on the same day, and when we did get a new car, the front light was out, and then the water pump starting gasping like it was going out of business. In summer, you fix things and then you move on. In winter, you feel the weight of cosmic fate pounding you down with each little thing. And so many of these tiny things had to do with lost light, it began to feel like someone was making fun of me: “You feeling a little anxious about the shorter days? The loss of light is bothering you? Let’s try this.”

Ugh. Tiny, minor details. Nothing to get fussed about. You fix stuff and you move on. In summer. In winter, you gripe about it, and you feel burdened, and then you fix stuff and move on.


Gratitude List:
1. There is a frog who lives in the springhouse. This knowledge makes me happy.
2. Sun streaming in to the hollow
3. The sleeping silence of a Saturday morning house
4. The Givers. Lancaster raised $10.5 million for charitable causes yesterday. I kept the ExtraGive main page and the page for our school on the board all day yesterday, and kept refreshing it for my students to see. Thank you, Lancaster, for giving your time and money and hearts to help build up our community.
5. The vibrant browns of late autumn. The salmon-beige beech tree leaves in the understory of the woods along Ducktown Road. The leathery burnt-orange of this oak up the hill. The auburn oak across from Flinchbaugh’s.

May we walk in Beauty!

DIY Mythmaking and a New Poetic Form

I’ve been thinking about my poetic process, looking through some of the neglected poems that I want to figure out how to publish, and realizing that quite a number of my poems are myth-making poems. I use poetry as a DIY Mything process, taking my own experiences and observations and transmuting them into myths. This thought is tangling with the threads of my current morning writing project of working with the Inanna story. Storytelling, writing, speaking–this whole language gig–is all about how we make meaning in the world. Art, too, as a communicative process, is about charging existence with meaning.


Gratitude List:
1. Meaning-making, DIY Myth-making, poetry, art, communication
2. Participating in a Literary Festival, listening, learning, absorbing
3. Good writing
4. How the sun shines in
5. Oak trees

May we walk in Beauty!


I’ve been thinking again about the process of poetry. In my AP Literature class recently, I have had the students choose a poetic form, no matter how lofty and traditional or edgy and nonsensical, to teach to the class. We’ve had some delightful lessons this week, learning the Magic 9 and the Nonet and the Rondeau and the Fib, among others. Yesterday, we found ourselves with a little extra time after the presentations, and we were ready to do our own thing, so we spent half the period creating our own poetic form! We developed our own rules for our own Lit Poetic Form. The process was delicious and intensely collaborative. At the end, we came up with this:

Lit Poem
Two stanzas of seven lines each.
It’s a word-count poem, with the following pattern:
Stanza 1: 1, 3, 5, 7, 5, 3, 1 (It makes a diamond shape)
Stanza 2: 7, 5, 3, 1, 3, 5, 7 (This one makes an hourglass form)
When you put them together, they look somewhat like a lit candle. (Get it?)
The rhyme scheme goes like this:
Stanza 1: abcxcba (in which x is random and unrhymed)
Stanza 2: cbaxabc (in which x is also random, and not necessarily rhymed with the first x)

This is how we make meaning. We spent twenty minutes collaboratively creating a world, complete with its order and purpose. Now we have to write the poems to prove its viability.

Through the Veil

This is Catherine Witwer (1833-1905), married to Isaac Weaver. My Great-Aunt Elizabeth Nolt Weaver (her granddaughter) said that she cared for women in childbirth (a lay midwife, I think), and then cared for their older children in her own home so the mothers could recover. Aunt Lizzie told me that people called her Mammy.

They lived at the White Hall Mill on Weaverland Road near Union Grove. My Great-Grandfather John W. Weaver was their son, and his son Daniel was my grandfather, who is my father’s father.

All sorts of ancestors, known and unknown, line the spiraling staircases of your DNA, watching, singing, remembering for you. What will you carry forward as you walk through the veil of this season?


Gratitude List:
1. The way the sun slants through colored leaves in this season when we step further into the darkness.
2. Stepping forward.
3. The light we carry inside ourselves.
4. Knowing, as we walk into this tunnel of seasonal darkness, that we will walk out again in a season to come.
5. The bright candle flame of a new idea.

May we walk in the glow of each other’s lights.

In the Doorway of Lost Hopes

Today’s prompt is to write a sketch poem. Most of my poetry is sketches anyway, imagistic moments, a few lines of spiderweb, a dash of color, touch of light.

Crouching in the doorway
of your lost hopes,
you raise your head.
Morning sun dazzles your eyes
in a wash of gold and green.
Someone’s rooster crows
in the distance,
and a thousand little birds
bring the garden alive.

And then your name,
there in the too-bright light:
an egg, a seed,
planted in the soil
of your confusion, your grief.

Wake up! Do not try
to touch the heart of it.
Not yet.
Breathe it in.
Let it grow within you.
Now go and speak your truth
to those who will listen.

Welcome, 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

May we walk in Beauty!

When You Flew

   

   

Gratitude List:
1. Chicory everywhere! Bluer as sky, blue as Mary’s robe, blue as my beloved’s eye. Joy on the roadside.
2. Cucumber rounds with cream cheese. Perfect. Just perfect.
3. Dragonflies
4. Novels. Stories. Narrative. They teach me who I am.
5. Biscuits and gravy.

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Wednesday:

“While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.” ―Brennan Manning
***
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” —Frida Kahlo
***
Rob Brezsny ft. Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“Devote yourself to your heart’s desire with unflagging shrewdness. Make it your top priority. Let no lesser wishes distract you. But consider this, too. You may sabotage even your worthiest yearning if you’re maniacal in your pursuit of it.

Bear in mind the attitude described by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”: “All that you are seeking is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.”

Speculate on what exactly that would look like in your own life. Describe how your heart’s desire has been waiting for you, seeking you.”
***
“Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.”
―Robert Hass, Field Guide
***
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ―Albert Einstein
***
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ―Terry Pratchett
***
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.”
―Walt Whitman
***
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche

The Bridge is Fraying

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Heart at Rest


In the dream, I too looked directly at the sun. Gold-orange sparkles flashed out from the surface, crackling and twinkling in the air in front of the enormous orb. Was it my looking that caused the sparks, I wonder? And then I turned my face to the other side of the sky, and the moon hung over the horizon, bigger than a hundred moons, filling the sky with its silver face.


“Anyone who feeds on majesty becomes eloquent. The bee, From mystic inspiration, fills its rooms with honey.” ―Rumi
*
“A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.” ― John Ciardi
*
“The heart must be at rest before the mind, like a quiet lake under an unclouded summer evening, can reflect the solemn starlight and the splendid mysteries of heaven.”
―McDonald Clarke (1798–1842) New York poet
*
“How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God


Gratitude List:
1. Those owls. Every night now, my sleep is measured by the rhythm of the owls.
2. The new week is a blank slate
3. Even when the night is a tangle of sneezing kid and twisting dreams, there has been sleep, enough to refresh and renew
4. Interlocking rings of community
5. The ones who speak truth to power. How much we need them today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Walking Around Shining


Handsome.

I have an uneasy relationship with the first part of the Bible. I am not a friend of the deity who calls on a nation to enter a land and slaughter everyone, except for the virgins that the marauders want to take for themselves. The height of hypocrisy, in my opinion, is the Christians who pull violent quotes out of the Quran to prove that Islam is a religion of violence, when I could show you many verses in the Judeo-Christian book that show a Divine Force calling for genocide. Thank goodness, we have a little space for interpretation in our holy texts. Jewish people find the God of Love in their text, a God who cares for the people and the land. Christians find a God who sends God’s child in human form to teach the people to Love, Muslims find a prophet who tells them that doing good works is pleasing to Allah.

So here, in my list today, is a quotation from Deuteronomy, one of the books I tend to avoid, because it’s in some of those early books where we find an Accounting God, who keeps close record of every little infraction in order to prove you’re not worthy. And this is a total proof-text, I suppose, because it’s prophet speaking, and I am using it as a self-blessing.  The sentiment is beautiful, and a blessing to teachers who want their work to be about nurture and development and growth. We use texts for our own purposes, and find in them what we need. There’s danger in that, that we twist and manipulate words and ideas. Still, it’s often how we meet texts: we find that which applies to our own story, and say, “Yes! This!”


“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” —Deuteronomy 32:2
*
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” —Thomas Merton (Oh, but I am going to try, Thomas Merton. I am going to try.)
*
Deep breath.
Straighten the spine.
Scan the wide vista before you.
Feel the morning breeze
as the sun rises
over the far horizon.
Another deep breath.
Spread your wings.
Leap.
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”
—Alvin Toffler
*
“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again.
But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description.
You are It.”
—Rumi
*
“Though my soul may set in darkness
it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
—Attributed to Galileo
*
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” —from The Talmud
*
“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.”
—George Santayana


Gratitude List:
1. The day ahead
2. The day behind
3. This moment where I sit
4. Work that is Work
5. Dreams

May we walk in Beauty!