Such a strange and wakeful night it was. The borders between sleep and unsleep were oddly porous. Toward the end there, I did fall into deeper grooves of dream and sleep. I don’t feel particularly unrested, so there’s that. Perhaps it’s the load of work still to get done this week, or the doings in the House today, or the season, or the excitement of going to play practice again after twenty-five years. Or maybe it was simply cats and digestion.
This season, I have been reading Gayle Boss’ All Creation Waits again, learning about the various states of torpor and hibernation and quiet of various animals throughout a northern winter. I, too, feel torpor taking me, but it’s not always about deep sleep for me. Sometimes, it feels more like a simple need to rest quietly and profoundly, while the stories play out in my brain.
Winter is, for me, the Dreaming Time. I do head more readily toward sleep, if I don’t always actually make it to the deepest waters. After Solstice and Christmas, in the hush of nights when the planet seems to pause in its dance, as she begins the whirl back to exquisite balance, I listen more closely to my dreams, watching for symbols and images and words that I might mine for use in the coming year. Already, my night-brain seems to be readying me for the work of conscious dreaming.
Now comes the work of remembering and sorting the images that come in those half wakeful moments between the dreaming and sleeping and waking. May your dreams bring you wisdom.
Gratitude List: 1. The startling talents of my students. 2. The wisdom of dreams and darkness 3. Break is coming 4. Only 3 days until Sunreturn 5. Little spaces in the coming day in which to breathe
Now, we walk back toward the Light. Step by step. The landmarks now are Christmas and Epiphany: The Coming of the Child of Promise, and the Holy Aha! Lighting bursting in on the veiled consciousness. Preparing to awaken.
Now is the time for dreaming, for listening to the stories and images and phrases that percolate and bubble up through our deepest selves. My word for today is dreaming. Time to mine the deep subconscious for the images that will inspire and expand me in the year to come.
In the past two nights, my dreams have offered me a grieving friend, and a woman who is farming something odd and strange (I can’t remember what it was). We’ll see what the next couple weeks have to offer.
Gratitude List: 1. Figgy Pudding 2. Valerie’s digital slide project. Now we have a thousand of the Africa slides in digital form, and we sat around last night and remembered together. 3. Citrus 4. Dreams 5. This is a Sunday when I don’t have to steel myself to prepare for a work week ahead.
May we walk in Beauty!
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
“We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness. True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.” —Wendell Berry
“Sincerity? I can fake that.” —Hawkeye Pierce
“There is a way of beholding nature that is in itself a form of prayer.” —Diane Ackerman
So much love to you. May your days have just enough solitude and just enough community, just enough warmth and just enough cool breeze, just enough celebration and just enough calm. —Beth Weaver-Kreider
The sun is not yet rising on this morning of Sunreturn. That’s a term I think I made up myself. Over the years, I have felt the need to slightly separate my Solstice observance from my deep celebration of the next day. I need to keep a space for both: for marking the full darkness, and for joyful honoring of the returning of the light. So I made up a word for it, unless I stole it from someone else.
On Solstice, I settle into the darkness, feel the long night, the blanket of winter. But on Sunreturn, I delight in the turning back to the sun. Yesterday, we reached the end of the tunnel. I could sit in the darkness and feel the satisfaction of another year’s journey to the outer reaches. Today, we turn our faces again to the sun, and begin the journey toward that light.
So my word for today is Sunreturn. May the sun shine upon you. As I have written this, drinking coffee with my sister and my father, hearing the wind whistling around outside, the day has gently dawned into grey morning.
Gratitude List: 1. Christmas karaoke in chapel yesterday 2. The Welcoming Place at MCC 3. Last night’s Solstice Celebration at Community Mennonite. 4. The young man did not jump off the bridge. I might not be able to ever wash that image from my brain, seeing him sitting there, officers and caregivers and concerned citizens gathered around and below him. I suppose all those helpers gathered around were, in their way, Clarence the Angel. I will listen for the bells of the season with a different ear this year. 5. Sunreturn
May we walk in beauty!
(I feel like I should explain #4. On the way here to the Welcoming Place from school yesterday, the traffic on 222 slowed suddenly and measurably. As we approached a bridge that goes over the highway, we noticed that traffic was completely stopped on the other side, beginning at the bridge. I speculated that someone had stood on the overpass and thrown things down on passing motorists, because there were people gathered on the bridge. Only as we approached did I see that they were gathered at a short distance from a clearly distraught young man sitting on the edge of the bridge. The highway was closed for a couple of hours. News reports say that a police officer eventually “grabbed” the man, and he was taken to a hospital for observation.)
“There is really only one way to restore a world that is dying and in disrepair: to make beauty where ugliness has set in. By beauty, I don’t mean a superficial attractiveness, though the word is commonly used in this way. Beauty is a loveliness admired in its entirety, not just at face value. The beauty I’m referring to is metabolized grief. It includes brokenness and fallibility, and in so doing, conveys for us something deliciously real. Like kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, what is normally seen as a fatal flaw is distinguished with value. When we come into contact with this kind of beauty, it serves as a medicine for the brokenness in ourselves, which then gives us the courage to live in greater intimacy with the world’s wounds.” —Toko-pa Turner
“God has scattered the proud in their conceit.
God has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.” —Mary
“No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.” —Kahlil Gibran
“Always there comes an hour when one is weary of one’s work and devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.” —Albert Camus
“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop. ” —Rumi
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.
Today we slip into time out of time as we begin our journey inward again, slipping closer to our star for the next twelve weeks or so. There’s something unaccountable about the coming days, something watchful and waiting, something shifting. In the coming days, between now and the glorious morning when we welcome the newborn sun–the light streaming in–on Epiphany, I watch my dreams extra closely, mining them for the rich ore of words and images that will be the precious stones I carry with me into the coming year. Last year, it was vultures, mostly. I’m not sure I am ready to let the vultures go, but we will see what this year’s dreams will bring.
Here is a shining gift of a poem by one of my best beloveds. May the light that comes to you this day, and the shadows that settle beside you, be filled with revelation and blessings.
Revelation For Beth, Winter Solstice 2018 by Mara Eve Robbins
Born into bodies. Steeds with spirit of storm gallop habits holding us back.
Sun and moon with reins.
Leading us to light. Leading us through darkness.
Born into riddles with no stone. Wings often hidden. Scattered seeds.
We breathe to light. We breathe through darkness.
Born into purpose. Wavering faith in conviction. Truth countering accuracy.
We move to light. We move through darkness.
Born watching waves break generation, revolution into revelation.
Revealing light. Revealing darkness.
Gratitude List: 1. A friend who offers a poem to carry me through the shortest day. 2. Revelation 3. Revolution 4. Poetry 5. Shadow and Light
May we walk in Beauty!
And something I wrote one other Solstice:
How the Light Returns
Breathe deep the light-filled air.
Feel how the new sun touches you.
Remember the stars that circled you
through the long hours of darkness.
Sit within the circle of the dwindling dark
and feel the way it bathes you with memory.
Walk the bridge between dream and daylight.
These are the nights of the dreamtime. The tender new sun is born into the hush of midwinter, and we can hold the quiet light within us as we walk, careful step by careful step, out of the labyrinth. The inward journey into the darkness has stripped us of our crucial identity, piece by painful piece. And now, as we step outward, the darkness offers us new gifts, images that come in dreams. As the days gradually lengthen, and the dark nights wane, what words and images will the journey offer you to put into your pockets for the coming year?
“No matter what they ever do to us, we must always act for the love of our people and the earth. We must not react out of hatred against those who have no sense.”
May you grow still enough to hear the small noises earth makes in preparing for the long sleep of winter, so that you yourself may grow calm and grounded deep within. May you grow still enough to hear the trickling of water seeping into the ground, so that your soul may be softened and healed, and guided in its flow. May you grow still enough to hear the splintering of starlight in the winter sky and the roar at earth’s fiery core. May you grow still enough to hear the stir of a single snowflake in the air, so that your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation.
―Brother David Steindl-Rast
“When someone mentions the gracefulness of the night sky, climb up on the roof and dance.”
“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.” —St. Catherine of Sienna
I came home yesterday to this pensive smile. Does anyone else see inanimate objects smiling?
My brain has filled with fog. What is it veering away from? What wintry truth do I avoid by settling myself back into the mists and bogs of my brain?
Perhaps it’s just the overweening weariness of February. I don’t care what anyone says: It might contain fewer days, but February is the longest month. Some years February is harder than others. Maybe I just need a little more sunlight.
I begin to notice the sunreturn in January, and that has its thrill, but by February, the process seems too slow and ponderous. Just bring me light, already! It’s coming. I might be grouchy about it now, but I can wait. The sun always returns, whether I am paying attention or not. Meanwhile, I will see what I can learn from the bogs and fogs of February.
Gratitude List: 1. Musings. Every year, my church puts together our own book of writings for Lent. People take the lectionary scriptures and use them as a jumping off point for writing a contemplative piece. I look forward to it every year, every morning reading a thoughtful pondering by someone in the congregation.
2. Hot sauce
3. Editing. Last night, I submitted a packet of poems to the Spoken Word Festival. I haven’t sat down to simply edit and revise my work like that for a long time, and it felt so good. I need to be careful–the editing bug catches me like an obsession. I need to put this one off until the summer so I can focus on my daily work. I don’t think I have the discipline to just work on one poem at a time. But the dream of putting together the next book will feed me for the next few months.
4. The sun will come back. It always does.
The sun is not up yet today, and I must be off, but this is from a previous, and snowy, year. Here comes the sun!
Sunreturn is the name I give it. After the longest nights, we whirl back to face our star.
Last night’s dream images:
Riding on top of the bus–terrifying. I had to tell the others that I needed to find another way to get where I was going. I was too afraid of sliding off. There was one person–I don’t know who he was, though he was substantial and comforting–who let me hold on to him while I was up there.
Trying to find route 76. Also called Trout Highway. (I don’t know a rural Rt. 76 in waking life, nor a Trout Highway.)
Vast and glorious vistas–rolling hills and mountains, like Scotland. I think I needed to be on top of the bus to really get those views. Sigh.
Getting separated from my friends (because I couldn’t handle sitting on top of the bus), but finding my own way anyway.
Gratitude List: 1. Watching Mandela with people from the school community last night. The turn-out was a little small, but hopefully it will still spark some good discussions about how to respond to unjust situations. “This is how it begins.”
2. Sunreturn. This morning. In a few minutes. We begin to whirl back toward the sun, begin to turn our face once again sunward.
3. Christmas Break. Soon. Soon. Soon.
4. Kindness. It gets a little under-rated, and sort of smooshed under the big calls for Change and Justice. It gets pushed aside sometimes by Righteous Indignation. But Kindness needs its own time in the center.
5. How these children are growing and changing and becoming themselves. It’s terrifying (No! Where’s my little tyke?) but so beautiful to watch. Just now, a small person came to tell me something, and I didn’t entirely recognize his face as he spoke. Some new, older child is emerging. Even the loss of a teeny tiny baby tooth shifts the way he looks, the way he speaks.
The sun is setting out of the hollow now on this day before the the shortest night. At about this time tomorrow (6:03 EST to be exact), we reach our furthest point on the outbreath of this trip around the sun.
Pause. Regroup. A moment of holy hush.
These are the days for dreaming and contemplation, for listening for the messages.
What words, what images, will you glean from your dreamings to take with you into the coming wheel around the year?
Gratitude List: 1. The night has secrets and messages to offer.
2. Sunreturn is upon us. I have made it to the center of another season of darkness. Now for the journey back around.
4. People believing that their work makes a difference. It does, you know.
5. Blessings. Benedictions. Beannacht.