As I process the dreams I have been having, I have been making and gathering symbols of my psychic flotsam of the past week or so. A couple summers ago, we went to the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. I took a picture of a door handle that was a wing, and did some digital altering. This morning I happened upon it, and noticed that it resembles the black wings of the vultures in my dreams a couple nights ago:
And yesterday as I was bringing in the trash cans, I noticed a little pile of corn husks I had brought back from a walk weeks ago and left in a planter. I had intended to make a corn dolly. Yesterday, I picked them up and started to work, but suddenly what I saw in my head was a jester, a fool, rather than a pioneer woman. So this happened:
Neither corn dolly nor straw man, she is a corn jester, a jokester, a trickster. Now I need to find some really good rainbow images. Oh! We did see faint sundogs yesterday afternoon! Rainbow spots.
Last night’s dream feels more like an anxiety dream than anything, but I don’t want to discount the images. I am sitting on a table in the middle of a church basement, leading a service or meeting of people gathered in a circle around me. I have to keep turning to face people in various parts of the circle. I am talking to a woman I keep calling Bibi (which means grandmother in Swahili), honoring her for the work she’s done, noting that she deserves the break that she is taking. A young man with a scruffy beard begins to pray, and I am sort of relieved because I wasn’t sure I could make the meeting go as long as it’s supposed to. But this man starts to ramble, making l-o-n-g pauses and using lots of Father-god and Lordy phrases, and I know that we’re all getting sort of uncomfortable with this almost militant gendering of the Holy One. Finally, the pastor, who is sitting next to the man, nudges him, and he sort of comes out of his prayer trance and sits up, and it’s over.
More hints at something to do with bringing patriarchal assumptions to light. I don’t know how that might be something new for the coming year. I am really tired of battling the patriarchy, tired of sidestepping them and ignoring them and waiting for them to finish. I want to jump back to wings and fools and rainbows. Hmm. Maybe instead of battling the patriarchy, I need to be the Fool to the crumbling system in the coming year.
Oh, and there’s the Bibi, the grandmother. Maybe it’s time to let the grandmothers rest and begin taking on the work they leave behind.
What are the images and messages you are receiving? What animals are crossing your path? What is catching your eye in these days of Time Out Of Time?
Gratitude List: 1. Eating and laughing with good friends. 2. Sundogs 3. Wings 4. Making things 5. Watching and Listening
Gratitude List: 1. Feeling my wings 2. Grades are ready to submit for Quarter 1. How have we gotten here already? 3. Breath. It’s always there when I need it, and more effective than sugar or coffee for a quick lift. 4. Keeping the resolve 5. The tunnel to Faerie up in the orchard, between the pear and cherry trees.
May we walk in Beauty! Breathe.
Sit in a quiet place, calm and undisturbed. Shift yourself into place. Let your upper body fidget a bit. Shrug and stretch, stretch your spine upwards, making little breathing spaces between all the bone. Sigh. Yawn. Sigh audibly. Settle your bones, making sure your ribcage is straight, your shoulders are restful, your hips are aligned.
Now begin to notice your breath as it enters and leaves the space of your body. Notice where your body rests on the chair, the floor, the earth. As you hold your awareness on your points of contact with earth, begin to draw the breath into your whole body. Breathe not only into your lungs, but into your stomach.
Feel the breath enliven your ribs and your gut. Breathe into the muscles and bones of your arms. Draw it down over your shoulders, swirling down your arms and down to your fingertips. As you breathe out, feel the breath flow out the tips of your fingers.
Draw breath down your spine. Let it flow out the base of your spine. Breathe it into your thighs and down your legs. Wiggle your toes and ankles as the breath fills your feet and trickles out the soles of your feet into the earth.
Breathe. And breathe. And breathe
Now shuffle your upper body once again, like a bird re-adjusting its feathers, and find your way to stillness, letting the breath continue to circulate through you.
Bring your attention to your back. Sit up a little straighter and pull your shoulders back. Can you sense your shoulder blades back there? These are your wingbuds. Breathe into them and out through them. Shift your shoulders as you need to, to maintain your awareness of them.
Feel or imagine them beginning to itch, to swell, to pulse with life. Feel the moment when a small, folded pair of wings bursts through the surface, like the tiny curl of a plant breaking through soil, or a small bird breaking out of an egg. As they grow larger with each breath, notice their color, their texture. Don’t rush to unfold them. Let them develop. Feel them in the space behind you. Roll your shoulders forward. Shrug. Give them space.
Then, when you are ready, on a breath, lift them upward and out. Feel their strength. Feel the way they lift you. Practice opening them and folding them. Notice how they become invisible when you fold them up, how you will be able to go about your normal life with your wings folded against your shoulders and back, and only those who Know will know.
Now when you need them, to give you strength, to help you move from one stuck place to a new open field—when you need to escape—when you need to see something from a distance, to change your perspective—now they will be there for you. All you have to do is to breathe into them, hear them rustle in the space behind you, stretch, and open.
Today is Epiphany, the day the light dawns, the coming of the wise ones, the baptism of light, the moment of the Holy Aha! Cultures throughout the world celebrate today as the coming of the Three Kings. Orthodox Christians celebrate this as the day of the baptism of Jesus.
There is a moment, in the baptism story, when the Spirit of the Holy One appears in the form of a dove and speaks to those gathered, saying, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” My prayer for you, for me, for all of us in this coming year, is our significant dawnings and discoveries may be accompanied by the absolute shining certainty that we are the Beloved Children of the Universe. That the One who watches us, who wings above us, who blows through us, who shines light into our confusion and grief and fear, is well pleased with us. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that this is true, but it is sometimes hard to hold onto. You are Beloved.
Here’s my Dream and Meditation Soup from the Dreamtime. I’m organizing them by character, symbol, theme, and word: 1. Rhiannon, Epona, Kingfishers, the Madwoman in the Attic, the Ferryman, crossing-Maker, two-faced people 2. Bridge, Boundary, Shadow 3. Crossing, grief, solitude (privacy), sufficiency (insufficiency), resistance 4. Maferefun (Praise be!), Sawabona (I see you)
For the coming year, the three words that I will carry with me: Bridge, Boundary, Wing
I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for kingfishers this year.
Yesterday, my Beloved friend Mara asked her friends to write Epiphany poems. Because of its association with the Three Magi, I wrote my poem about the legend of La Befana, sometimes called the Witch of Christmas, because she flies around the world on her broom searching for the Child of Promise. When the wise ones stopped at her door on their journey to find Holy Child, they invited her to join their caravan, but she was too busy with her own concerns. The moment their dust disappeared in the distance, she regretted her choice, and ever since then, she searches. Sometimes she gives children sweets.
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: 1. The search for the Dawning 2. Bridges, even when they’re rickety and dangerous 3. Boundaries. I don’t believe in political walls. I do know that to preserve my own sanity in the coming year, I have to develop stronger boundaries within me between the working self and the creative self. I need to know myself separate from my work and not defined by my specific work identity. 4. Wings. Flight. Seeing things from new perspectives. 5. Knowing myself a Beloved child of the Universe.
May we walk in Beauty, Beloved Children of the Great Mystery.
Words for the Holy Aha! “A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” —Maya Angelou
“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” —Phil Ochs
“The sense-making in poetry is about getting behind the brain. A poem is a door. Sometimes poets make sturdy, locked, exclusive club doors that you can only enter if you are one of ‘us,’ or if you can speak (or pretend to know) the password. A really good and satisfying poem is an open and inviting doorway that frames the view in a particularly compelling way. ‘Look!’ it says. ‘Stand and stare. Take a deep breath. Then tell me what you see.’
“Good poetry, I think, holds a paradoxical perspective on language itself: it acknowledges the inadequacy of words to completely map an inner geography, and it also steps with reverence and awe into the sacred space that language creates between writer and reader. Words are both inadequate and holy.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014
“Where does despair fit in? Why is our pain for the world so important? Because these responses manifest our interconnectedness. Our feelings of social and planetary distress serve as a doorway to systemic social consciousness. To use another metaphor, they are like a ‘shadow limb.’ Just as an amputee continues to feel twinges in the severed limb, so in a sense do we experience, in anguish for homeless people or hunted whales, pain that belongs to a separated part of our body—a larger body than we thought we had, unbounded by our skin. Through the systemic currents of knowing that interweave our world, each of us can be the catalyst or ‘tipping point’ by which new forms of behavior can spread. There are as many different ways of being responsive as there are different gifts we possess. For some of us it can be through study or conversation, for others theater or public office, for still others civil disobedience and imprisonment. But the diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious.” —Joanna Macy
Why Are Your Poems So Dark?
by Linda Pastan
Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?
And doesn’t the white page
without the dark stain
When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.
Instead he invented
ebony and crows
and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.
Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”
Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.
“In a time that would have us believe there is always more to strive for, more to accumulate, more enlightenment to reach – the most radical stance we can take is enoughness.
What if we quit trying to be spiritual and aspired to be human instead?
What if there is nothing to fix because we are already whole?
What if there was no time to prove ourselves, because we’re consumed with marveling at life?
What if there is no reason to hold back our gifts, because they are meant to be given?
What if every morsel, every glance, every moment and every breath is a miracle of enough?” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Gratitude: 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.
You say you don’t believe the stories the moon was telling
last night as she rose among the sparkling stars
over the rim of your feather pillow?
You say you’ve forgotten the song she sang,
the way her voice wrapped your heart
in a blanket made of spider silk?
You say you never find yourself lost and alone
and deliriously satisfied in the meadows of a dream?
Surely you have heard the singing when the rainbow arcs the sky?
Surely you have seen the pattern of the swallows’ dance above you?
Surely you can’t have missed the feel of the moon’s fingers
as she caresses your forehead on a summer night?
Friends, I am on the cusp of a big change, standing at the very edge of the cliff now, remembering that I have wings, but not sure that I am ready to fly. Oh, I know the wind will catch me, and I know all will be well, but it is right and proper, I suppose, for butterflies to fill the belly in the moments before the leap.
Today is my last Friday of farm harvest for the summer. While I will continue to fill in the cracks as I am able, Tuesday will essentially be the day I take off the farmer’s hat and put on the teacher’s hat.
I am going to try to continue to be present here on the blog through the changes, to continue to write gratitude lists, and hopefully poems, too. But the space may get a little dusty and cobwebby from time to time as I work to figure out how my new morning schedule works, and where I can carve out writing time in my new world.
Gratitude List: 1. The morning’s rosy sky
2. Creative community: currently, this postcard project, and how one word or phrase or idea on a postcard I receive becomes the thread I grab for the next two or three poems.
3. Wings. The fierce feeling of the wind in the eyes in the moments before leaping.
4. Last night the hamster cage was left open. I am grateful that Jon found Afil before Fred the Cat did.
5. Shuffling. How the pieces can fit together in many different ways. Sometimes I get afraid to shift things around for fear I’ll set the whole thing crumbling, but new patterns begin to emerge instead, new ways of making it all work.
It’s just the first third of the sestina. I pooped out and watched Chinatown with Jon this evening instead of finishing the poem.
It’s all one big pool.
One fountain, one single source.
Only take what’s yours for today.
Connect yourself to Earth and Sky and spread your wings.
Listen through the words, for the word that gets overlooked;
that one word could hold the whole story.
You are the Teller of your own story.
Don’t be afraid to dive into the pool,
but remember not to leap before you’ve looked
and swim against the current, to your source
where you will rise from the waters, find your wings
and fly into the dawning of the day.
Prompt for Saturday
. . .is to finish the sestina, of course. I’m making my own rules this month, and so I’ll give myself two days for the sestina. Seems reasonable to me!
1. Quetzal and Panther
2. Finding the wings
3. Smoked Sea Salt
4. Motherhood–learning to hold on, learning to let go