War Is Not the Answer

Wage Peace, spelled out in vegetables.

While the saber-rattlers practice their stern faces in mirrors,
we gather our children and see the reflections
of the eyes of mothers on the other side of endless wars,
holding their children to their own hearts.

While the war profiteers add up their numbers,
we count too, numbering our young people,
knowing that somewhere, in that distant land,
other mothers pull sons and daughters
away from that red line in the sand,
other teachers are doing the math
of the beloved scholars ripening
to the age of soldier.

We know, as those others know,
that collateral damage means someone’s child,
someone’s empty arms, someone’s heart torn apart.
We know that the men who make war,
the maestros who orchestrate the grand drama,
are not the ones who do the war,
are not the ones who live it.

We know, as the women of Iran know,
as the war-makers can never seem to understand,
that every casualty has a mother.

Gratitude List:
1. That quiet doe who slipped across the road in yesterday’s headlights, reminding me of shy tenderness, of the need to take great care in all things, to pay attention.
2. The people of Lancaster, standing in the freezing cold, holding up the hope of peace between nations. Young and old, and everyone’s toes like ice, but hearts warm and determined.
3. Doing the last-minute hopeful tweaks on second-semester classes. I love jumping in to second semester, despite the stress of the overlay of first semester’s finish on second semester’s start. Tabula rasa. Anything can be.
4. Last night I heard a story of a former student (before my time here) whose family has recently been reaching out to the school to share how much the school helped to shape–in often quiet and seemingly small respects–the life of their son. I’m grateful for all the ways in which the little things we do for each other open us to deeper connection–in ways we might not always be able to express.
5. The shine of snow-covered landscapes. Winter is not simply dark and drear. Some days, it dazzles!

May we walk in Beauty!

Epiphany: The Holy Aha!

Aha! The light is here. We have found our way by star and by dream, by following the song inside us.

Now we face a terrible choice. A new dream asks us to stand against a great evil that threatens to destroy this promise, that will destroy the lives of many children and their families until all is said and done. But we are used to following the paths where our dreams take us, and so we must see the child on his way, pack up our things, and head out another way, tricking the old king of his quarry.

Legends say that the astrologers and seers who followed the star in search of the child of promise came from Persia. At least some of them probably came from Iran. Rumi’s beloved Shams was from the city of Tabriz, in Iran, and my own beloved Hafez was from the city of Shiraz, Iran, where the Nasir Ol-Mulk–the Rainbow Mosque–is located today.

As my own country is crouched on the brink of a war with Iran, a rogue president at the helm and all semblance of Congressional checks and balances seemingly in tatters, we must consider our own response to despotic and ruthless leadership. How will we find a different way out of the murderous city? How will we protect the small ones? Perhaps today calls not for a quiet exit through the back door, but a conscious and public standing up and speaking out.

The people of Iran are not our enemy. We have, perhaps, more in common with them than with the angry old men who plot war between our countries.

What do your dreams tell you? Where will this star lead us today?

La Befana: The Epiphany Witch

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.
Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to. I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and besom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies on my broom,
chasing down the Holy Aha.

Gratitude List:
1. Dreams and visions
2. Watching a boy and his grandparents yesterday, putting together a giant Lego jet. Hearing him hum and whistle as he concentrated.
3. All the people who are standing up and speaking out.
4. All those crows! On the way home last night, as we were driving beneath a sunset sky full of crows, a boy began to sing, “Magical, magical, magical.” (Of course, when he noticed me appreciating it, he switched and sang, “Unmagical, unmagical, unmagical,” but it was too late. I had noticed.)
5. The holy Aha! Finding the way by starlight and dream. Choosing to disobey, if that what is called for.

May we walk in Beauty!

“To Keep the Spark of Life Inside Me Ablaze”

Today’s Prompt is to write a poem to the world:

Beauty Was There
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the beginning, she hovered there,
above the waters, molding the land,
holding the world in her hands,
crafting a world of fire, earth, water, air.

In the beginning, she brooded,
her face obscured by shadows,
her thoughts filling the hollows,
her watchful eyes hooded.

She sent her dreaming forth,
streaming through the cosmos,
building like song to a crescendo,
filling newborn skies with morning.

In the beginning, she listened
for colors that flew in the wind,
singing that blew through her mind,
waves of color and sound risen

from deep within her breast.
Her thoughts became matter, feeling
mattered, materialized into being,
unbeing fled as her moon rose in the west.

And today we un-matter her being,
un-materialize the thoughts she formed,
de-stabilize the dances she performed
to set it all in motion. We’ve set it reeling,

ripping the fabric she wove.
It cannot be too late to change our ways,
to seek again the rhythm of her days,
to turn to her again and call her Love.

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
–Frida Kahlo
A little story by Amrita Nadi:
At the end of a talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”
The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”
Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he added, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back. . .but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”
“There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.”
–Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life
“Always there is something worth saying
about glory, about gratitude.”
–Mary Oliver, What Do We Know
*Do your little bit of good where you are;
its those little bits of good put together,
that overwhelm the world.
–Desmond Tutu
“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” –Jeannette Rankin

Gratitude List:
1. Strings of geese like beads across the sky. Fly well, Bright Ones!
2. This microwaveable bag of lavender and beans. It makes me warm and it eases the residual aches.
3. Wise friends
4. Tenderness. Basic kindness.
5. Stories of miracles and wonder.

May we walk in Beauty!

Pass It On

On the door of one of the buildings at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, a bronze wing serves as the handle. I took a photo, but the background, through the glass door, was messy and distracting. Running the photo through the Dreamscope App helps.

I am reposting the Layne Redmond quote because I want to see it next to the Natalie Goldberg quote–they resonate together somehow.

“All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed in the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythm of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.”
—Layne Redmond
“Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in each other’s presence we exchange our cells, pass on some of our lifeforce, and then we go on carrying that person in our body, not unlike springtime when certain plants in fields we walk through attach their seeds in the form of small burrs to our socks, our pants, our caps, as if to say, ‘Go on, take us with you, carry us to root in another place.’ This is how we survive long after we are dead. This is why it is important who we become, because we pass it on.”
—Natalie Goldberg
“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” —Gwendolyn Brooks
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
― Nelson Mandela
“War is not healthy for children and other living things.” —poster
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
― Paul Farmer
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
—Mary Oliver

1. I breathe in beauty, and I breathe out gratitude.
2. I breathe in solitude, and I breathe out gratitude.
3. I breathe in tenderheartedness, and I breathe out gratitude.
4. I breathe in the work of the coming day, and I breathe out gratitude.
5. I breathe in the Work that is before me, and I breathe out gratitude.

May we walk in Beauty!


Yesterday’s prompt was to write a historic poem.  I have been listening to 1776, by David McCullough lately, and it has been bothering me that even today, a book like this can be lauded as a great addition to our understanding of history when it is another basic description of battle after battle after stratagem after battle, with occasional mentions of the atrocities of plunder and rape and murder that went along with it.  Perhaps this is more of a rant than a poem.  It feels unfinished, too, but I need to move on.

The British blamed the Hessians and
the Hessians blamed the British and
the Rebels blamed them both for the atrocities
and probably the blame was on them, too.

The generals and captains moved their armies
through the cities and the orchards,
through the villages and through the towns.

Such constant disappointments
for those in high command,
such fear of wrong decisions,
of losing face and looking weak.

What if the reinforcements don’t arrive?
What if the soldiers run in fear?
What if the enemy has better guns?

But this is just the surface of the story.
The real tale is told always in the shadows,
the oblique or marginal reference
to ravishment and pillage,
cattle slaughtered, villages displaced.

The commanders and the generals
were quite disgusted with the plundering
performed by other armies in the war.
Always mentioned as atrocities
with a sigh of the scholar’s pen,
before we move along
to battle plans once more.

As long as we keep writing history
as a necessary chess match,
writing the real costs into the margins,
giving the scholar’s nod to the horrors
before moving on to further tactics
we can excuse our appetite for war,
and ignore the real story.

Gratitude List:
1. The Tempest.  The play.  The Bard.  Those incredible student actors.
2. Affirmation.  Reminders that I have stepped on to the right path.
3. The gentle sounds of morning.
4. Good coffee.
5. The rhythm of work and rest.

May we walk in Beauty!

Please Do Not Read Again

Here is my Gratitude List, first today, in case you want to read that and skip the poem.  I went to bed last night, thinking about Gaza, and woke up this morning with terrible images in my dreaming heart.  The poem comes from that.  The Gratitude List is especially difficult on these broody days.

Gratitude List:
1. The image of the labyrinth.  You walk into it, feel the turnings, the changes, relinquish pieces of yourself, and return to the world renewed.  I know I will not always be wandering in the darkness.  I know there is a purpose to the wandering.
2. The people who are doing the work.  I come back to this again and again.  Every bit of work that we do for peace is part of the larger tapestry.  Whatever steps you take will hearten and encourage someone else to pick up a thread and weave.  I have to believe that this work will yield fruit.
3. The ancestors.
4. Morning comes after night.  Again and again and again.
5. Making things with my children.  Ellis and I are making a marvelous bag.  I dragged my feet–“We have this other bag already, which will serve your purpose splendidly!”  Sad face, then: “But this bag that you are going to make for me–I can say that I designed it!”  Okay, Boy, hand me my fabric scissors.

May we walk in Beauty.  May we walk in Peace.

2013 October 108

Now for the poem.  Don’t worry about me, please.  I need to walk into this labyrinth if I am to remain honest and true to something at my center.  I am afraid of the darkness, but I am not lost in the darkness.  Let’s hold each other’s hands.

A little over a  year ago, I wrote a poem titled “Please Do Not Read This Poem.”  I suppose this is a second part to that.  I am feeling raw these days.  I want to know what is happening in the world, want to know what my work is, but I cannot bear to read the news, cannot bear the feeling that I am complicit in the feeding of the war machine.

Here it comes again,
this poem I cannot complete,
cannot write,
cannot stop writing.

I am Lady Macbeth
and my hands are stained
with the blood of thousands,
yet I cannot stop my killing.

I am caught in the calculus:
How many chortling wrens
does it take to bomb a hospital?
How many of those fine heirloom tomatoes–
the Golden Girls, the Red and Green Zebras,
the Mr. Slabaughs and the Brandywines?
How many of them are required
to blow up a school
where refugees huddle?

Most days I hear my ancestors humming,
beginning their songs in the hallways of my heart,
lining the spiraling stairways of my DNA.

They accepted death by fire and water,
they received iron bars and stone towers,
they faced the sword,
rather than give their children and their gold,
rather than offer to Caesar
what they believed
did not belong to Caesar
(or to Mars, perhaps,
what did not belong to Mars).

I lack the moral fortitude
to hold back my yearly tithe,
and face the consequence of that.

Instead, I wake in the night
and calculate the costs
of all my killings.
When Caesar receives my birdsong,
my tomatoes and my blue-eyed chicory,
one full fourth of that
is funneled to the war machine.

Every fourth stone,
every fourth feather,
every fourth sunrise
bright over the hill,
every fourth chicken egg
warm from the nest
is feeding the birth of a drone
or a bomb or a rocket,
filling the ravenous belly
of the god of war.

All this murder leaves a trail.
Those bombs that kill
the children of Gaza today
were bought from my country,
from this war-machine
that feeds off my quiet hollow,
my singing stream,
my tiny fledging hummingbirds,
my royal poplar and my sycamore.

Some days,
the singing of my ancestors
is deafening.
Some days,
I hear the pounding of cannon
and see the dust rising,
even here in this place
where sunlight flashes on birdwing.

Back to the Streets

Several years ago, when our nation was plunging headlong into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I found myself going to street protests sometimes twice in a week.  The level of work and focus and organizing was exhausting, but the community experience of standing silent witness together helped me to get through some of the really shadowy spaces I inhabited during those times.  Still, I burned out.  And when I moved to the farm and had children, and our country settled in for the long haul in these wars, I found myself slipping out of the realm of the activist.

So it was with a little trepidation and a little excitement that I tucked my children into the car today to run to Lancaster for the March Against Monsanto.  My youngsters are really too young to understand the implications of Genetically Modified Organisms, and I don’t want to bring them too close to the shadowy places where I walk in regard to this story: the sense that nothing we can do will change things, that we can have a majority of Americans wanting to know what’s in their food but that we still can’t change the system because it’s not really about democracy, it’s about money.  You see how I spiral down into it?  So I try to protect them from it, let them get the sense that somehow speaking out will make a difference.  And I try to believe that, too.

It’s fun to imagine that Monsanto execs went into their ivory tower this evening and said, “Well, time to wrap it up, folks.  The people have spoken.  They don’t want us.”  But I don’t think we did anything to frighten the monster today.

I do think that we raised a lot of energy today, all over the world, like a prayer, like a magic spell.  There was deep respect and joy and energy and hope at the march today.  It was a lovely experience, and I was glad that I took my children.  If we can just all grab hold of a little of that energy, spread it around a little, throw out strands of it like a great web, keep raising consciousness tenderly and with compassion, keep remembering that to withhold our dollars from the beast is the best way to starve it. . .then just maybe we can make a difference.

I have to believe that.

Gratitude List:
1.  Taking to the Streets
2.  Watching the boys play together up the hill, discovering the spray of mist leaking from the irrigation hose.
3.  Believing in the future
4.  Our Little Sisters the Bees
5.  Rhubarb Tort

May we walk in beauty.

Pantoum, Revisited

Last night I  posted a fragment of a pantoum that I hoped to finish today.  Instead, when my head hit the pillow, a new idea began to form, and now I have other ideas.  I think it’s not too thunky for a first pantoum.  I want to work on more of them just for the fun of it, though this one is thematically perhaps not so fun.

There are so many things to write.
There is more than a chicken egg, speckled blue,
more than the way the flash of sun momentarily overcomes sight,
more than way I am always seeking a path to you.

There is more to write than an egg, speckled blue.
There is apathy, for instance, and betrayal, and war,
there is always the way that I am seeking that path to you,
but there are drones that spill death on a distant valley floor.

There is the way that apathy and betrayal lead to war,
there is the fact that we use religion to excuse our hate,
and those drones keep spilling death on a distant valley floor,
while we ignore our role in it, while we hesitate.

Religion is a poor excuse for permission to hate.
And sunny dogmas often obscure our sight.
Take responsibility for each other, don’t hesitate.
There is so much more to write.
Prompt for Saturday

Okay, Sandra Collin, here goes.  Write a poem about sticky words.  I love this and am nervous that I won’t be able to do it any justice.  Thanks for the prompt!
Gratitude List:

1.  Dancing in fairy dust at the shop
2.  Unpacking a box of incense.  I smell so good!
3.  Kitty cuddles
4.  Rose Quartz
5.  Chicken Soup with Rice–the food and the book.

May we walk in beauty.

Breathing Love Into the Wound

I will write today’s poem later.  Just now, I need to write this.

Recently, I have been working on keeping an open heart, trying to breathe through the ideas and events and stories that hurt and frighten and anger me.  Today, I am struggling with it as I contemplate the story of Israel and Gaza, and as I think about the killing that is being done in our name in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And then of course, I think about Congo, and. . .

I want to turn away, turn inward, create a shell, cover it with cynicism and rage and let the hopelessness ooze out all around.  There is a ringing in my ears.  I think I need to learn to live more in the layers, to breathe into the space of my everyday, and into that other enraged and frightened place in my heart.  To remember that I do not need to react.  I only need to hold it.  But is breathing love into the wound of the world enough?