Gratitudes, Musings

Loosening Winter’s Grip

Has it been worse this year? I think it’s been worse. The dullness, the bone-weariness, the loss of zip and vim. The sleepiness compounded by insomnia, anxiety-ridden, with sudden nighttime joltings-awake. The Wintertime nightbird sitting on the chest, crying, “Shame! Loss! Devastation! Rage! Woe!” The burden. The Burden.

Winter is an enormous, lumpy, grey gunny sack full of dirty laundry that I must carry around on my back. It gets heavier and heavier by the day. Some years, it’s an act of sheer, daily endurance to make it through. There’s no extra energy to look around and see just how grey it’s all become. I just have to plod forward into the mist.

There are momentary compensations—shining blue days when sun sparkles on ice and snow, sky-heavy days when snowflakes whirl and dance through the air. Yes, momentary compensations. Breaks in the clouded heaviness. Few and far between. Just enough to keep me trudging in the direction of that pinprick of light in the far distance ahead.

And then the light begins to creep back in. The momentary compensations begin to string themselves together like shining beads. People like me, the ones who’ve been caught in Winter’s steely grey net—we lift our heads like small creatures catching a new scent on the breeze. We feel the wind in our whiskers, smell the freshness of the air, and catch a flashing glimpse of yellow aconite or blue-violet crocus.

We’ve still got a bit of a trudge until we can lay down the burden of Winter and roll in the warm grass of Spring, but knowing that the end is in sight makes the Burden lighter. It’s one of those things, for me, where I don’t know quite how bad it is until I’m coming through the other side. When you’re focused on the endurance, you don’t stop to wonder if this time around is worse than the last one. You just put the next foot forward.

And now, I have those shiny beads: earlier sun in the mornings, the aconite slipping out of the mud of the garden, the birds of morning singing their Springtime songs, the geese, the swans, the caress of warmth in the afternoon air.


Gratitude List:
1. Morning birdsong and the Hope of Spring
2. The fun of the Youth Group Auction, a night when we all come together to support the young people.
3. This kid here at the table next to me, carefully and deliberately putting together his new Ertl tractor model, which he got at the auction. He gets frustrated and stops, saying he can’t do it. Then his curiosity and will overcome his frustration, and he gets back to it, solving the problems that seemed insurmountable. (Hmm. I think I am telling myself a story to live by.)
4. Magical conversations. Not simply deep and thoughtful, but full of synchronicities that fill the air of the room like a humming web. Like it’s the two of you talking, and then maybe fairies or angels joining in, the Great Mystery guiding the stories and images.
5. Watching these children grow. Sometimes, I am sad that the babies are gone, gone, gone. But they are Becoming so delightfully themselves. Yesterday, the dentist removed a baby molar from Child 1, to make room for the big tooth coming in. It was his last baby tooth. Another step toward adulthood.

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Sunday Meditation:

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.” —Hildegard of Bingen


“Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.” ―J.K. Rowling


“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation.” —Nikola Tesla


“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”
― Rabindranath Tagore


“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee


“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.” ―Sophie Scholl


“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ―Gilda Radner


“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” —Anne Lamott


“And these children that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ―David Bowie


“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you. . .where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” —Adrienne Rich


“Justice is what love looks like in public.” —Dr. Cornel West


“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
―Elie Wiesel


“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation―either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.


“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life―meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa



Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Prayers and Rage

Okay, so I am getting more nervous about the coming winter by the moment here, as I watch the busy tribe of squirrels on the bank behind the house. They are eating and gathering at a furious pace. If they have inside information, we’re in for a tough one.

And this is one healthy, glowing gang of critters: Their fur is sleek, and their bodies are filled out and muscular. They look like they’ve been lifting little weights. One of them, gorging on berries six feet up in a bush, began to slip downward. She didn’t even pause in her eating, but grabbed a branch beside her, somersaulted downward, landed on her feet with the berry branch still in her mouth, and continued eating. Little parkour ninja folk. And I know that squirrels are already that way, but these are just. . .more so.

I don’t know if I have ever noticed just how russet-colored is the feathery fur on their breasts until a moment ago when one stood to greet an approaching comrade, and his breast shone chestnut-red in the morning sun. And that’s another thing. You know how squirrels stand to look around and greet each other, hands on hearts? I’ve always thought it made them look sort of timid and cute in a timorous “oh-my-heart” sort of way. These folks, whenever someone else approaches, stand like little warriors, feet apart, spines straight, eyes alert, hands on their chests in a greeting of solidarity.

These people are readying themselves for a hard winter ahead. May the walnuts and berries be plenty. May you grow ever healthier and sleeker, small ones, as you do the work to prepare your colony for what is to come.


Gratitude List:
1. Squirrels
2. There was a roseate spoonbill down on the Flats last week. They say it’s gone, but I think I’ll drive down there and just look around. I am grateful to know such a being was here.
3. Oak leaves
4. Clouds
5. All the people doing the good work. Let’s not let ourselves get too discouraged. So much wrongness has seeped out of the cracks recently, and for those of us who want to believe in the beauty and marvel and goodness of everyone, it has been particularly painful. A friend of mine reminded me this morning that often there are still noble elements that reside within the souls of those who are living openly by greed and power-mongering and death-dealing, and we need to find ways to hold conversations that enkindle those sparks of Goodness. I’ll keep searching for that nobility while remembering that there are so many out there who continue to work and live from the depths of their Divine Spark. Like you.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Doorway:
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” -―Rumi
*****
“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves
into the rhythms of the human heart.
The earth is not outside us; it is within:
the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”
―John O’Donohue
*****
“There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”
―Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
*****
A Gift
by Denise Levertov

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.
*****
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively; go to the side and do it differently. Don’t waste time with oppositional energy.” ―Richard Rohr, writing about the thinking of Dom Helder Camara
*****
“The heart of faith is the call to love one another. . .” ―Avis Crowe
*****
“A child looking at ruins grows younger but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips in the sun.”
—W. S. Merwin, The Love of October
*****
“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
—Lucille Ball
*****
“My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated.” —Óscar Romero

Fictions, Gratitudes

Always a Trail to Follow


Here is a tiny story-thing I wrote last year on this day:

In the days when the people had begun to keep their lives in great boxes, living less and less on the land, a girl was born who could read the scripts and runes in the landscapes.

When a frog leaped into the pond with a startled “Eeep!” the ripples and circles in the surface of the pond read, “Splash!” of course, but also something about the day being green, the waters cool on the gills, and the polliwogs growing hale and hearty.

In a branch burrowed and tunneled by bark beetles, she could read the insect-runes: “Chronicle of the Year of Our Lady Wingshine: We are preparing for another winter. Tunnels and fortifications are underway and a healthy grub population is thriving. No woodpeckers spotted in three cycles.”

The branches on the trees crossed and curled to make whole novels of story, revealing the secret lives of owl and warbler, the gossip of squirrels, and the wisdom of ancient oaks.

Across a vast tangerine sunset, she read the letters and lines created by flocks of migrating geese and calling swans: “When your heart has two homes, you will always be a wanderer.”

And much more subtle, but as real as the words in water or bark or sky, the musky tang of a fox in the undergrowth wove through the lines and curls of autumn grasses, which she read as, “There is always a trail to follow, if you will give your heart to the moment.”


Gratitude List:
1. Chicken Pot Pie for supper. Jon’s a great cook!
2. One of my students, who is an artist, talks about how she sees beauty in every person. Yes.
3. Settling into the darkness of winter. It’s not easy for me. I have to talk myself through it every year. I love the womb of dark. I love the comforting raven’s wings about me. Still, I feel as though I am losing time. I want to sleep and eat and sit and dream. I am finding my winter rhythm. Don’t ask too much of me right now.
4. Mist in the morning over the bridge. We all imagined where we wanted to be when we came through the mist on the other side of the bridge. We were still in Columbia, but that’s okay. Sometime I really do want to come through the mist into Avalon or Hogwarts or Iceland.
5. The dreamtime. My brain begins to gather dreams in its cobwebs in these long nights. There was snow in last night’s dream.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Leaving the Winter Malaise

nieghbor   limekiln
Love they Nieghbor–under the Route 30 bridge, and walking the trail toward the old lime kiln.
limekiln2   comma
One of the openings of the old lime kiln, and an Eastern Comma Butterfly on a poison ivy vine. Inside, the wings are as orange as a monarch. Outside, it looks like a leaf. February is a rather disconcerting moment of the year in which to observe a butterfly.
bridger   where-the-spring-appears
Lamppost by the bridge, and the source of a trailside spring.

This winter hasn’t been particularly cold or cruel. Lots of warmish days, very few nights of uncontrollable shivering, very little troublesome travel-weather. Perhaps it’s the temperament of the times as much as the season itself that has gotten me feeling like I am in an endless tunnel with no way out.  I feel like we’ve cemented our routine of go to school, come home, snack, bicker, eat, sleep, and start again. I haven’t been pushing the kids outside, haven’t been pushing myself outside. I’ve been feeling trapped and claustrophobic. Like winter.

I guess I just have to feel that existential malaise every winter, no matter how mild the weather. Then there comes a day, shortly after Brigid’s Day, when a new breeze blows, the vanguard of spring flowers begin to appear, and suddenly I can breathe again. Today was that day.

Gratitude List:
1. This day. Warm sun.
2. Walking on the Susquehanna River Trail with my guys.
3. Skunk. I don’t like that smell–and this evening’s burst was an eye-watering reminder of why this hollow is called Skunk Hollow–but it’s a good reminder that the wild ones still hold sway here.  And a reminder to continue to resist in skunk’s fashion. Don’t bite–just make a big stink.
4. A butterfly in February! (I don’t suppose it will make it through the next cold spell, but it was a lovely visitor to see today.
5. Public shared spaces: parks and trails and visitor centers.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Patience

toad

Toad. Symbol–for me, at least–of grounding, of quiet, thoughtful observation. The toad is a wise  and patient watcher who doesn’t get rattled about much of anything, except perhaps grabby humans. There’s always time, for a toad. The toad is a simple center of gravity. Resting is baseline. Movement throws the whole works off balance with a waddle or a leap. A toad is the base chakra–solid support and the instinct to survive and thrive.

Gratitude List:
1. Warm clothes on a cold day.
2. A house that keeps my children warm.
3. A good story to listen to.
4. These sunny yellow walls.
5. Patience. Thoughtful observation.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Last Night of Twelvenight

jack-frost

Tonight is the last night of Twelvenight, the last of the Days of Christmas. Tomorrow morning the Light dawns. The Magi arrive. Watch for the Aha! what is waiting within you to be discovered?

Meanwhile, here in the dark nights of Winter, I have been ruminating on dreams and images, the ideas and words that have been floating around me in the days since Solstice, searching for my word for the coming year. I have some ideas: there are the recent frequent family references to my Aunt Lizzie along with her appearance in my dreams, there’s the eagle that keeps appearing at different places on my way to and from Lancaster, the calls to listen to my intuition, The Fool, the fire imagery. I’ll see if tonight’s dreams bring any sorting or synthesis. Tomorrow I find my 2017 Word.

Gratitude List:
1. That eagle again–this time sitting in a tree at Sam Lewis State Park as we passed on our way home this evening.
2. This sleeping thing seems to be working better lately. So much better. Of course, less disturbed sleep means fewer remembered dreams, but I’ll take the restedness over the dream-messages at this point.
3. I can’t stop writing about the sky. So orange this morning–deep, deep, glowing russet–and this afternoon a golden stair of light spiraling down through cloud.
4. Saying no, sorting, keeping what stuff is mine, but only that stuff.
5. The power of poetry to get students talking about emotions and internal landscapes.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Doorway to Winter

2013_october_110

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about a month. I will try an acrostic:

November
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Now we settle the fields for winter
Once the final harvest is gathered,
Verdant green of summer turning
Ever into autumn’s golden.
Morning sun sprinkles the hillsides
Before the chill of night recedes.
Enter the doorway to winter.
Rest in the womb of the dark.

Gratitude List:
1. A clean house. I didn’t get any grading done today, but my house is clean again, and I feel like I can live in it instead of just existing in it.
2. Water. Clean water. Wild water. River and stream water.
3. November. I still have much to learn from November. This is the third year that I am back to work, and November is no longer the gentle quiet slide into winter. I need to take care to give myself solitude and dreaming time in the coming weeks as we wander into the dark.
4. Many chances to practice. Practice nonattachment. Practice nondefensiveness. Practice nonviolence in word and gesture.
5. This cozy red fleece nightgown-thing that Sandra gave me last year.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

Living Into the Questions

stone
Circle of Stones

You there
in the center of the circle
and all of us gathered around

Silence
within the weight of the moment
and stillness in the bowl of time

We breathe
waiting, holding you inside us
and watching for what yet may be

Gratitude List:
1. Blessing each other in our transitions
2. Living into the questions
3. Holding the paradoxes
4. Preparing for winter
5. Listening for the messages

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Winter’s Last Stand

I know I have felt this panic before.
February has finally ambled its pokey self
right out the door and we sit on the cusp
of March which should mean spring,
but doesn’t.  What it is, is:
it’s the last month of pregnancy.
When you know and your body knows
that the next thing should be upon you
but something in the universe conspires
to keep you in the grip of what has been
just a little longer, but you know
that this one could go long.
Just like the last one did, and how will you,
how will you ever bear it?  Not one
more month, not another week, even.
Oh please, Timekeeper of the Universe,
if you know what is in me, get this child,
get this everlasting winter, get it out of me,
get it over with.  I’m ready for transition.

Gratitude List:
1.  Game night.  All generations.  Dutch Blitz tournament.  Letting our hair down.
2.  Mallard couples flirting on the pond
3.  Dusting off the tschotschkes
4.  Altar-building (which may be a repetition of #3)
5.  Rhythm of the in-breath, out-breath, pause.

May we walk in Beauty.

Gratitudes, Poems

Winter Balances

A quick little poem.
I am of two minds about winter.

One moment:
Enough, I say!  Enough
of the suffocating darkness,
of the cold that drives me
into my bed, a-quiver.
Enough of the river
frozen halfway to stone.
Enough of the bone-chilling
mind-numbing ache of it.

Then, sun on the snow,
a-sparkle, a-dazzle,
glinting ferociously:
Here is your light!
Bathe in it, draw it in,
into your marrow,
carry it deep in your heart,
in the depths, in the shadows.

Gratitude List:
1.  The way the winter sun sparkles through the bathroom window at Radiance and hits the Mary Oliver poem about summer.
2.  Talking it over
3.  The gift of vulnerability.  I want to be always strong, strong like you.  And then you open your heart and show me: “Here is the way.  Here are the places that are fearful to look upon.”  I have so much to learn.
4.  Healing energy like that bright winter sun, shimmering all around.
5.  Assessing and tweaking

May we walk in Beauty.