Wise Friends and Wise Dreams

In last night’s dream, there are four photos of me with clouds behind me. It’s clearly exactly the same smiling image of me, but the clouds behind me are different: In one, they’re sort of happy and flowery, in another they’re simply bland and grey, in one they’re dramatic, and in one they’re clearly in the menacing form of a shark.

I’m wrangling these days with what it means to be honest and real in the midst of crisis. On one hand, I think it’s important not to put on a false face, to not pretend like nothing’s wrong when things are crumbling. I have always been grateful for people who let me in, who share the deep realities, even when they’re painful. I want to follow their modeling.

On the other hand, it’s not safe for me or others for the shark-cloud or the rainclouds to be obvious all the time. We wear the sunny face to protect ourselves and others. It would be exhausting to be wearing those drama-clouds all the time, and it would control every conversation. And I don’t want everyone to see those.

So there’s a balance, and I feel like I am only learning the way to sort them out. I might thundercloud you when we’re in a light and airy space, or look cheery and chipper when I really want to tell you how much everything just sucks.

I think this uncertainty about how to feel the Big Feelings and still be “socially appropriate” is something some of us never quite learn to sort out. Every time I live through something momentous, it’s always the same. Perhaps it’s my social awkwardness coming out. So many of our children’s books deal with how to feel Big Feelings–we probably ought to all have a shelf of those in our houses.

I received a card from a friend yesterday in which she gave me the excellent advice to give myself time and rest on this part of the journey. “If you had broken your leg two weeks ago,” she wrote, “would you really expect yourself to climb the hills around your house now?” Sage advice from a wise woman. Also, I am a seven on the Enneagram, and pain avoidance is my specialty, but, as another friend told me: “You’ve got to feel it to heal it.”

Between my wise beloveds and my dream state, some good reminders to sit with the strong emotions, not to simply pack them away and ignore them.

When you are in crisis and the world seems to crumble around you, may you, too, feel the protecting arms and gentle words of beloveds to hold you through your storms.


Gratitude List:
1. I heard Oriole this morning! My best friend bird is back in the holler! No matter how chilly the day today, I am going to have the doors open at least for a little while, so I can listen for him.
2. The healthy green of the new leaves on my Mary Magdalene (Lenten) Roses. Really, the healthy green of everything right now!
3. Wise, wise beloveds.
4. I went to the Junior Recital of one of my students at Millersville last evening. Such incredible talent. I am awed and delighted at the many different gifts of these almost-adults.
5. Sometimes when you’re sad, people feed you. Nothing like a lemon muffin to bring some loving zest to the first morning of another week.
May we walk in Beauty!


“A woman who has uncovered and honors her intimacy with the earth through developing a relationship with nature or through the power within her own body carries a wisdom of infinite mystery and potential. She moves through life with one foot in a strange ocean, one on the solid land of her ordinary life.This is not just an idea, but a way to live. Mystics, artists, and mothers of young children know this ability to be half-absorbed in unnameable creative forces.” —Hilary Hart


“The only time incorrectly is not spelled incorrectly is when it is spelled incorrectly.”


“There is no such thing as one-sided generosity. Like one ecosystem, we are each at different times receiving or purging, growing or pruning. In those moments when you believe you aren’t receiving enough, consider what you most want to receive might be the thing you need to give away.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” —Henry David Thoreau


“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.” —Joanna Macy


“What if the Creator is like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s God: “like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence”?
What if the Source of All Life inhabits both the dark and the light, heals with strange splendor as much as with sweet insight, is hermaphroditic and omnisexual?
What if the Source loves to give you riddles that push you past the boundaries of your understanding, forcing you to change the ways you think about everything?
What if, as Rusty Morrison speculates in “Poetry Flash,” “the sublime can only be glimpsed by pressing through fear’s boundary, beyond one’s previous conceptions of the beautiful”?
Close your eyes and imagine you can sense the presence of this tender, marvelous, difficult, entertaining intelligence.” —Rob Brezsny

Speaking Justice, Enacting Peace

Talking to myself. You may listen in:

Meet it All with Love
Have a care with your words.
Speak justice.
Speak truth.
Words ignite.
Words incite.
Words inspire.
Have a care.

Don’t be afraid.
To act is to risk.
To not act is to risk.
Weigh and measure.

Meet it all with love.
Find joy in every place you can.
Be a prophet.
Be a fool.
Step into the gap
and become a bridge.

Avoid vengeance.
Provoke for change.
Provoke to love.
Provoke for epiphany.
Be a gadfly
and a peace-maker.
Be a prophet and a lamb.
Wise as a serpent,
harmless as a dove.

Enact peace.
Overturn the tables.
Rage and heal.
Meet it all with love.


American Parable:
Once a shepherd brought his sheep back to the fold after a long day of grazing in the high fields. As they entered the fold, he carefully counted each one, until he reached 99.

Oh no! One short! He must have lost one somewhere on the mountain! What would the other shepherds think of him if he lost a sheep? How would he ever live it down?

He stood a while in thought, then said, “Meh. What’s one sheep when I have 99 others? It was probably old or sick or weak anyway. A loser sheep. It is what it is.”

He locked his gates and doors, ate a hamburger from a golden plate, and went to bed.

Season of Revisions

Now we come to the Season of Revisions. I am not only speaking of poetry here; I am speaking poetically. I have habits of mind and habits of space and movement to revise and to refine. I have thoughts and ideas, plans and intentions to revise and to renovate. Perhaps my poetic revisions can be like a wave that will help me in other areas to continue to move always in the direction I want to move, to break the stasis, to step out of the rut, to live–as US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera says, “in a flourishing way.”

Earlier in the month of April, I tossed out this poem one evening:

Message from the Empress

In the orchard over the ridge
the trees have broken into a riot of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet grass beneath.

Let us riot too.

Let us spread
our blooming fingers to the sky,
opening our mouths and our hearts,
meeting destruction with bloom,
with green, with simple beauty,
with overpowering fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.

Last week I subjected it to a several-step revision process that I asked my Creative Writing students to engage in:

Step One:
Change up the line lengths. Consider tossing in some tabs to change the shape of the poem on the page. Or center. Or right-justify.

Step Two:
Find six interesting words in your poem. Using an online thesaurus, your own head, or the help of a friend, write three+ synonyms for each word, and substitute them for the words in your poem.

Step Three:
Go back to Step Two. Retype those six words, or choose six more. Find three+ rhymes for each of those words, using an online rhyming dictionary, or the help of a friend or your own head. Can you tuck any of these words into your poem? Also, listen for words with similar sounds–vowels and consonants–even if they don’t rhyme. Can you add or substitute any of those words in your poem?

Step Four:
Rewrite your poem, using rhythm and rhyme. This one may feel like the most complicated one, but see if you can feel a sense of the rhythm of your words. (I have revised my revision process: originally I had steps three and four in opposite order. They make much more sense when you transpose them.)

Step Five:
Read through all your versions. Is there one that stands out as the strongest to you? Are there parts of different ones that you like? Mix and match. Choose your favorite version so far and type that one in.

I ended up with this:

Message from the Empress

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
     Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
     Let us be wanton.

***
I’m still not sure that this is my best version, but I feel a real satisfaction. I hope my students can feel a little measure of that satisfaction with their own poems.

Gratitude List:
1. Wise and open-hearted colleagues
2. Sharing food
3. Revising, renewing, renovating, reactivating
4. Yellow feathers, yellow flowers
5. Breath. Inspiration. Breath.

May we walk in Beauty!

Strength


The word itself, you know?
That single vowel that holds
the whole thing together.

It could go straight or striped or stringy,
but that itself is the strong one,
holding the word for the full length.

Like you, it may seem to carry
the whole world on its shoulders.
Like you, it has the necessary strength.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Tomorrow, the Fool goes to meet the wise one in the wilderness. Call him the hermit. Call her the witch in her cottage–Baba Yaga, perhaps? Or one of the Abbas or Ammas of the desert. Tomorrow, the Fool visits the wise elder who has left society behind in order to concentrate on that which is sacred and holy, to walk an inner journey. The hermits and crones, the Abbas and the Ammas, carry their lights with them into the shadows. They know that the pathways lead inside the seeker.

Gratitude List:
1. A day off. Time out of time.
2. Fire. One boy spent hours building and maintaining a fire this morning.
3. Sand. Another boy spent hours playing in the sand today.
4. Spring. Sometimes I don’t realize how hard winter has been until spring comes. I realize that I have been living as though I would always be in the shadows and chill of this past winter. I don’t think I realized how deeply November dragged me down. But spring is here, finally, and I can live outdoors again.
5. Walking. A boy and I walked two miles this afternoon–down Schmuck Rd. to Canadochly where a small flock of sheep and baby lambs was grazing, and back up to the top of the ridge where Schmuck meets Mt. Pisgah and a horse and three cattle-folk watched us pass, then back down to home again.

May we walk in Beauty!

Frost and Flame

Gratitude List:
1. Wise and compassionate friends who help me to explore and understand my rage, to settle it, to channel it, to use it.
2. There are always so many new things to learn, so many steps to learn.
3. Sun and shadows on snow.
4. Rest
5. Flan–One of my students brought me a huge slice today. Heaven.

May we walk in Beauty!

Not Quite Right in the Head

edna

(Since it has been something of an Edna St. Vincent Millay week. . .)

We’ve been playing with syllable-count poems.  This batch of Creative Writing students is so deliciously earnest.  None of us remember to look at the clock during class, and we write and we write and then we’re scrambling to get out the door in time to get to chapel.  Here is a syllable count poem based on my birthday (8-10-1-9-6-7):

The way your eyes shine fills my heart
I see the way it is growing in you
Love
The capacity to love yourself
The way courage is dawning
As you step toward your star

Okay–it was a quick one and needs polish.

Gratitude List:
1. The voices of students in chapel this week: Victor and Nati talking about stereotyping on Tuesday, and yesterday Mackenzie’s song and Maddie’s beautifully open-hearted conversation about her brother.  I know I say this often, but it is because it is true: If these are the people who are to take us into the future, it is going to come out okay.  They’re brilliant, compassionate, thoughtful, and wise.  They speak their minds clearly and well, inviting others into the conversation rather than telling their audience what to believe.  I am proud, so proud of them.
2. A new thing.  Anticipation.  Revitalizing.
3. I have a Poet-Tree again!  It’s on the bulletin board in my classroom, and it might look a trifle wonky, but my students have graciously complimented me on my efforts as it took shape, and today we’ll begin adding the leaves (their little poems).  They respond with such fervor to anything visual.
4. I just asked Josiah what I am grateful for, and he said, “Me!”  Which is the absolute truth.  And for Ellis.  And for Jon.  And for all my family, and for You, too, of course.
5. Stories from the past.  This morning Facebook reminded me that three years ago, Ellis told me that he was tired, but that he could fix that by stepping into his robot costume and turning on the revver-upper.  I am still looking for my revver-upper, but meanwhile I will take deep breaths, sip my coffee, and imagine what it might be.  Perhaps I need to make me a robot costume.

May we walk in Beauty!