Breathe. Ground. Prepare.

Sweet Shining and Shadowy Beloveds:
This morning, it’s hard to keep believing in justice, hard to keep the long view in mind, hard to hold a vision of a world in which people of courage make decisions for the good of all, with wisdom, humility, and honor.

Part of me longs to enumerate all the horrors and destructions of the past week, to see the hurts laid out like a cadaver, to identify each killing blow, each bruise, each scar.

But that would only serve to feed the rising panic that’s been gathering in my gut this week, and perhaps in yours, too. Those pieces will come later, in poems. But now it’s time to tend to ourselves, to shore up and take stock and plan our way forward.

Let’s fight this collective panic attack. If we’re left lost and quivering, we only feed their power. Oh yes, I’m lost this morning, and quivering, too, re-traumatized. Let’s acknowledge it, notice where it lodges in our bodies.

My muscles actually ache from all the tightness I’ve been holding in. My head is pounding and my brain is foggy.

Now, it’s time to push back the panic:
Breathe in.
Straighten your spine. Lower your shoulders.
Breathe out.
Roll your neck and shoulders.
Stretch and wriggle your spine until you feel yourself to be a line drawn between heaven and earth, a conduit of energy that flows through you.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Notice every place your body is touching a surface. Notice the sensations in your body.
My backside and thighs on the chair. One foot on the floor, one on a chair rail. This cozy jacket keeps me just warm enough. My tongue’s a little scalded from that first sip of coffee.

What do you hear?
The water in the cat’s drinking fountain, a small boy clicking his tongue, the creaking of an old house on a chilly morning.

What do you taste? (Grab a bite of something, or remember a favorite taste sensation.)
The bite of pepper and the creamy counterpart in the pepperjack cheese.

What do you smell?
Coffee, vanilla, springtime

Look around you. Find a color, a texture, a beautiful thing.
The shining scarlet drop of red on the head of that downy woodpecker. The sweet, soft salmon leaves of the Japanese maple, still clinging to the branches and twigs. So many winter goldfinches on the thistle bag!

Now, here we are in the doorway of a new season.
Today and tomorrow mark the beginning of Imbolc, the Season of Stirrings. New life is coming, cold snap or not. Sap will rise. Seeds will sprout. The Earth spins and whirls on in her dance through the cosmos.

One of the old names for today is Candlemas, when we acknowledge how the light has been within us all along, how much light we have to offer. Take stock of your candles. What is the small flame that you can offer the world in this moment? What is the fuel that you share?

Perhaps you are already doing it–tending daily to children or calling your senators, teaching teenagers to ask discerning questions or planting seeds for the crops that will feed your neighbors, healing bodies, gathering friends, listening. Today, this week, this month, do that work like a prayer, like a magic spell. Do it with intention, knowing that your work is changing the world, that what you do is fighting the forces of wanton destruction and power-mongering.

And maybe take up another thing this week. Make cranes for the Tsuru for Solidarity March, when Japanese Americans for social justice will be marching on Washington in early June to demand the closure of internment camps in the United States. Become an advocate for immigration reform. Send money or food to groups who are taking food to asylum-seekers forced to wait in inhumane conditions in Mexico. Express your support for Muslim people, and people from African and Asian countries which have been added to the US travel bans. Help people register to vote.

To combat the lies and obfuscations: Speak truth. Magically. Prayerfully.
To combat the normalized cruelty: Speak compassion and tenderness. Prayerfully. Magically.
To combat the power-mongering: Share your privilege. Offer the microphone, the stage, the moment. Do it prayerfully. Do it magically.
To combat the greed-mongering: Be generous. Give. Share. Do it magically and prayerfully.

Another ancient name for this day, this season, is Brigid, after the ancient goddess of the Celtic peoples, who offered her muse to poets, to metalworkers, and to healers. She later became syncretized with the beloved St. Brighid, and so this aspect of human understanding of the Divine was not lost. Water and flame and word are her tools, her symbols. Today, make a poem, or make art, or make a nourishing broth to honor the gifts the Holy One has given you to make and change and heal. Do it prayerfully, as an act of defiant hope in the face of lies and cruelty and greed.

And also, this is the Groundhog’s moment. Tomorrow is the day when we check on the burrowers and the underworld dwellers. What light do they see? What shadows? In Advent, we walked into our own shadows. On Epiphany, we celebrated our light. And now, as we feel the heavy weight of the week’s shadows like a physical burden upon our shoulders, we must acknowledge and greet our own shadows. How do they give us power? How do they sap our power? Can we work with them instead of against them? Can we find their deepest meanings?

We can’t know what the coming days will bring. Too many signs point toward historical repetitions that turn me to salt, to stone. I freeze. I feel small and insignificant. But I must remember, constantly: Nothing we do now–to fight the tides of hatred and cruelty, to stand between the powerful and the vulnerable, to create holiness and beauty and health–will be wasted, no matter what happens. Now, perhaps more than ever, every act of hope and healing and love matters.

And:

We are not alone. You are not alone. Reach out. Take hands. Build the webs. Ask for help, and be the helper.

Let’s situate ourselves so that we are always ready–strong enough, centered enough, grounded enough–to step up and do the work of love and compassion and justice, to stand up, to stand between, to risk, to raise our voices, to be the fierce and defiant hope for the future we want to create.

Advent 15: Finding the Flow

An attempt at an automatic drawing. I think, in its purest sense, it’s supposed to be non-representational, but my mind started pulling out that tree, so I went with it. And then, there’s that bird. . .

We’ve considered the element of air as we have drawn in our breath. We’ve considered our fire, and tended our lights. Now, perhaps, it’s time to consider the element of water, as we travel deeper into this winter labyrinth.

Perhaps today’s passage opens onto an underground river, and we can settle ourselves into little boats for this part of our spiral toward the center. Or swim–walk right in and let the water carry you gently in its arms. Today, I want to think about the flow of my life.

So often, here in this dark and inward time of year, when my inward voices tell me to slow down, rest more, begin taking note of the dreams and the silences, the rest of the world turns up the pace to a frantic pitch, with parties and shopping, raucous frenzy and noise. For some of us, the response to the darkness is to push it back with activity and color and sound. I am grateful to have the festival atmosphere to dip into. The Big Party of this season is how many of us cope with the gathering darkness, and I have no quarrel with other people’s festivities. But I need to take great care in this season how I spend my energy.

One of the more common things I hear people express in these days is their exhaustion, how the constant round of parties and gatherings and things to do and prepare for completely wipes them out. In many families, this work still seems to fall to the women. I’m grateful to be part of a family where much of the pressure of holiday preparations is taken on by my partner, or else we do them jointly, together. I’m not sure I could cope with the added stress of the approaching end of semester along with a full load of holiday prep.

One way that we deal with the challenges to the easy flow of our lives in the frenzied season is simply to do less. We buy fewer presents. We have one afternoon in which we all decorate, and only a little. We focus our festivities on the kids’ school events and family gatherings.

Still, my flow in this season is choppy, blocked in places, and racing beyond my capacity to stay afloat in others. I know that my stacks of grading, and my avoidance tactics are the things that clog the passages and keep me from flowing gracefully. Somehow, I need to come to terms with the dailiness of the workload, to steadily chip away at the challenges that hinder my smooth progress. The thing is, the clogged places force the stream in other places to race along at an unmanageable pace.

If your life is a river flowing through a tunnel, what are the things that clog and impede the flow of your stream, causing the water to flow frantically and wildly in other parts of the passage? What do you need to do to shift and clear the blockages? Wendell Berry points out that “the impeded stream is the one that sings.” So perhaps it isn’t necessary to clear all blockages completely, just shift the impediments enough so that we can hear the song rather than the roar. Today, I commit myself to doing several hours of steady, unclogging work. I can already hear the echoes shifting in the tunnel. I can almost hear the song behind the roar.


Gratitude List:
1. Enough. Enough work to keep me occupied. Enough time to do what needs to be done (I do not feel this one deeply, but I am trying to live it).
2. Live choral music
3. How stories interact in my own personal narrative, shifting my interpretation and experience of my own unfolding tale.
4. Christmas cookies, especially those peppermint ones a student brought to school on Friday.
5. The flight of birds, high-flying flocks, and the furtive dashes of little birds seeking seeds in the chill. Be warm and filled, little ones!

May your day have warmth and light.

Will You Answer the Call of Love?

A shadow is a kind of reflection.

Today’s Prompt is to write a correspondence poem. Mine will be about the elemental correspondences with the cardinal directions.

In the east, the birds are singing the day awake,
the breezes whisper through the branches,
and all the bells are ringing.
Inspiration flies in on golden wings.
Weave, spin, and cut the threads
with a two-edged blade of finest silver.
What is being born in you?

To the south, the sun is burning,
and that which came to you as woven light
begins to kindle and flame up.
Life force surges all around you,
and you feel your own fires rising.
Nurture the burning within you.
What is calling you to dance?

In the west, the creeks and brooks
tumble over stones and sand and clay,
on their way to rivers and bays and oceans.
Now is the time to listen to your heart,
to flow with the feelings that stream
through you and around you.
What is the message of your heart?

To the north, the wolves are howling,
where caves are hidden in the boulders.
The roots of things travel fathoms deep,
and earth is a solid base for your footsteps.
Your body is your home, and you must tend it,
listening for echoes from within the earth herself.
What holds and supports you?

Move to the center and feel the spirit swirling,
the place where wind and flame,
water and stone meet and quicken,
where animating breath meets life force,
where heart meets head, and stone becomes flesh,
and the Beloved calls you to Become.
Will you answer the call of Love?

That Which Claims Us All

Brewer’s Poetic Asides Prompt today is to write a prediction poem:

Who could have predicted that flame?
On the same day water took the Titanic,
who could guess that fire would claim
the cathedral of Our Lady?

Or that the mosque on thrice-holy Temple Mount
would on the same day see its courtyard catching fire?
We want our works to last forever, our ships unsinkable,
our mosques and temples and cathedrals
proof against the ages, against the ravages of time.

We weep for beauty and reverence lost,
tossed by water, by flame, into the void.
And we stand, unified in our common horror,
to gasp at the falling spire, to sing in the face
of that which claims us all in the end.

Poplar and Sycamore

Today’s Poetic Asides Prompt is to write a lone poem.

Some trees develop friendships, they say,
filling out their branches on the outer edges,
criss-crossing the air between them
with a fine hatch of lighter branches,
creating two halves of a single crown.

When they took down the old poplar,
seventy years old and ninety feet tall,
and rot-wood spreading from its heart,
half the sky in the hollow was revealed,
its other half still obscured by sycamore,
now lone and lopsided, missing half a crown.

Beneath the drive, buckled now by poplar’s knees,
are their roots still entwined?


Gratitude List:
1. Green grass, blue sky, puffy white clouds, and pink trees.
2. The children playing outside together
3. Serendipity and synchronicity
4. Traffic was a breeze this afternoon. (I know this one seems petty, but it’s a really big deal to me. On a good day, I can get to school in 25-30 minutes. The ride home can top 45.)
5. The water is back on. We have not had water since Friday when the pump failed. The plumber is now my hero, and I told him so.

May we walk in Beauty!

Day of the Monarchs

Monarchs mating. May your tribe grow and thrive, Brightwings!

“There is so much in eternity that is trying to reach us, if only we can suspend our wranglings long enough to be touched.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.”
—D. H. Lawrence
*
“Water, the Hub of Life. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Water is the most extraordinary substance! Practically all its properties are anomalous, which enabled life to use it as building material for its machinery. Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893 – 1986) Hungarian-American physiologist; Nobel laureate
*
“There is really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”
—Arundhati Roy
*
“God is only ever where we stand with our neighbor in trouble and against injustice.”
—Naomi Wolf
*
“Follow the waters,
lean in with the trees,
breathe the cool morning air,
walk through the swirling mists.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


Gratitude/Examen:
1. (How did you meet the Mystery?) Monarchs dancing in the field. A small person’s excitement to tell me that he and his dad had watched monarchs mating. May there always be monarchs.
2. (What brought you awake?) Hard work in the heat and humidity. I do want to be cautious about pushing myself out there when it’s so hot, but it does feel good. Strengthening. Working the body gives the mind and heart time and space for a different pacing.
3. (What is the message from your heart?) Listen. When there is clamor, when there is silence, when there doesn’t seem to be anything to listen to or for.
4. (What takes you into the Center?) Hints of magic and mystery all around. There is so much I do not understand at an intellectual level about the world around me, but sometimes my heart gets glimpses.
5. (What do you take forward?) The inner stillness. This is getting redundant, perhaps, but it is the lesson I am learning in these days of heat and humidity, of getting work accomplished and finding energy even in the lethargy induced by the weather. There is an inner stillness that can find its way from the moments of solitude into the clamor of the day. (Most of the clamor is pretty delightful, even when it’s bickering children.)

May we walk in Beauty!

A Woman Must Be Willing to Burn



“A woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it is that she truly loves.”  —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
*
“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
*
“I can’t offer justice so I offer just trees.” —Kilian Schoenberger (who photographs trees and woods)
*
Make it All a Prayer
Beth Weaver-Kreider

make it all a prayer
each motion, each thought, each step
feel the connection
that silver strand that pulls you
to the heart of another
*
Dalai Lama: “There are only two days of the year in which nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. That means today is the ideal day to love, to believe, to create and to live.”
*
“We cannot assume the sacredness nor spiritual livingness of the earth or accept it as a new ideology or as a sentimentally pleasing idea. We must experience that life and sacredness, if it is there, in relationship to our own and to that ultimate mystery we call God. We must experience it in our lives, in our practice, in the flesh of our cultural creativity. We must allow it to shape us, as great spiritual ideas have always shaped those who entertain them, and not expect that we can simply use the image of Gaia to meet emotional, religious, political, or even commercial needs without allowing it to transform us in unexpected and radical ways. The spirituality of the earth is more than a slogan. It is an invitation to initiation, to the death of what we have been and the birth of something new.”
—David Spangler


Gratitude List:
1. Rain
2. Bluebirds
3. Fresh berry smoothies
4. Hear/reading people reminisce
5. My friend, the sycamore tree

May we walk in Beauty!

It’s Not So Much

Not So Much
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

It’s not so much about whether you can control the horses,
but whether you want to take the chariot for a spin at all.
Are you ready for the change it will bring you?
Do you really have the will to leave that golden city
to shrink on the horizon of your memory?

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
This is the time of the poetry-writing month when I begin to question whether I have the stamina to make it through. So the Chariot was a good one for me, though it is pretty slim because I am so tired.  Let’s give the Fool a bit of a rest, too. Before she moves on in her journey, let’s give her a few days to learn the Elements. Tomorrow, she’ll explore Water. Write her a water poem–journeys, dreamings, intuition, emotion, psychic insight, love, and internal wisdom. What will she learn about water?

Gratitude List:
1. Words and singing.
2. Making hot dogs at the fire pit.
3. Sleep
4. Memorizing poems
5. Intuition

May we walk in Beauty!

A Pleasant Day


It’s a pleasant day for an old man cat, when the sun shines and the catnip is rising through the myrtle.  (Photo by Farmer Jon.)

UNESCO has named March 21 World Poetry Day.  Someone on my Facebook page suggested we mark the day by quoting Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” I read that part of that one to my classes today.

See if you can catch
a wriggling poem from air
to mark the new day.

Gratitude List:
1. Happy cat
2. Clear fresh water
3. Poetry and Poets
4. Wise women
5. A good book

May we walk in Beauty!