These idea-fish that swirl and swish through the watery-airy stratum above my frantic brain, how they beg my attention, how they flip their fringed and flowing tails, how they sparkle in the sunlight.
I would catch them all and keep them,
dance with them in schooled formation,
watch them flow from my pen, from my
fingers, onto the pages, into the flow
of words, of sentences, of stories.
But the rushing streams of my living
have space and time for only a few,
a blue one here, three golden koi,
and a catfish with a mouth as wide
as the world. And then I must swim
with the currents for all I am worth,
hoping my chosen companions
will keep pace with me, while I find
us a quiet pool where we can settle
into the rhythm of the tales they bring.
So many I have had to release
back to the pools of time, hoping
that someone, somewhere else,
will find them, will see their beauty,
will set them flowing onto a page.
Today’s prompt on Poetic Asides is to write a stolen poem. Here’s my attempt:
Poetry Prompt: Write a Stolen Poem
I stole this poem years ago, actually, from a shelf in a corner of that old book shop on a quiet street down by the river. Dust motes twinkled in shafts of sun which slanted through the windows.
I eased the leather-clad book from a high shelf. I thought I heard it whispering. My fingers tingled with its electric pull.
I knew it would contain treasures: words like glisten and linger, like numinous, mellow, meringue. I thought it might glow on the page, hum my name, offer me words to ponder: tendril, exquisite, winsome, wander. And words strong and feral, like flame, wild, and bramble, courageous, incarnate, sycamore.
I thought it might tell me how not to be afraid, how to not put so much stake in other people’s opinions, how not to trust the lure of the the easiest road.
It did not disappoint. I’ve kept it, concealed, waiting for the moment, the right invitation, to reveal it.
Last night before I went to sleep, I read an article about hypnogogia, that half-dream state between sleeping and waking where the mind is churning through images that feel portentous and wildly creative. It was a helpful reminder to me about dreamwork, about how to catch those elusive butterflies of dream and story that flitter away in the moment of waking. It makes me grateful that my body wakes me before the alarm, because I have those seconds to try to hold the moments of dream before the sudden noise of the alarm startles them away.
1) In the dream, I am in a grand-looking inn, but we are quickly noticing how poorly the place is built, more like a cheap television set than a truly beautiful space. The opulence is false.
2) In the dream, we are on the second floor of a building, dancing and pounding our feet, enjoying the sound of the echoes. We suddenly remember that there is someone living below us.
3) In the dream, I am standing under an umbrella on a bridge in the dawn, misty rain falling around me. There is a word in my head: trophism. I had to look that one up upon waking. Google says: “the turning of all or part of an organism in a particular direction in response to an external stimulus.” (Ah. I am turning my face to the light, like Kris’s poinsettias in church on Sunday.)
Gratitude List: 1. Words that come in dreams. In this case, “trophism,” like what I do when I turn toward the light. 2. Dream-bridges 3. Making a plan to catch up, and implementing in. Slow and steady, little tortoise. 4. Slow starts. “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,” said the poet, and it applies to oh-so-many forms of waking. 5. I think, perhaps, I can begin, just a little, to notice the increasing day.
May we wake to Beauty!
“Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
“He said the wicked know that if the evil they do is of sufficient horror men will not speak against it. That men have only stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.”
—Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing.
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
―Parker J. Palmer
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
―T. S. Eliot
We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and our eyes.
The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
“Perhaps the uprising of women around the world is the earth’s own immune system kicking in.”
—Nina Simons, Bioneers
A poem for the New Year:
Love Your Life
And a voice will come from the stillness
to give these words: Love Your Life.
You will know from its deep urging
to let go your well-worn list
of all you felt you first needed.
Begin here, freely,
from this muddy place.
It doesn’t matter if you are broken,
empty handed, shabby.
Go now, into the day:
the open trails, the markets,
the long trail to the sea.
Find all the ways
a lover loves the Beloved:
each hidden bloom, unspoken wound,
vagary of heart.
Become a brave and willing traveler
in a wild, forgotten terrain~
a realm of intimate, tender relating,
infinite mystery, un-tethered joy.
Now, moving in this world, you know
that love is the greatest fortune.
Only you will not amass it:
you are it.
—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, Befriending The Soul
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
The traditional Twelve Days of Christmas last until January 6, Epiphany. Since I begin my Dreamtime walk on the solstice, I give myself a few more days in Dreamtime, and choose my images and words for the year from the soup of my Dreamtime stew on the sixth of January. Perhaps I throw things off by adding a few extra days to my high holy days of winter. The twelve days have particular cosmic significance, being the number of days’ difference between the lunar and solar years. The twelfth day itself is only a partial day. I suppose I could have my Epiphany tomorrow, and then I’d have committed myself to only twelve days of dreaming. But maybe I need a longer gestation period for my ideas and words and images.
This morning, I woke up with the word “Maferefun” in my head. I had been reading an article earlier in the day about religious traditions around the world, and Maferefun is the Yoruba greeting for the holy ones. It means something like, “I greet you. Praise be!” A nice word, I think, to greet the new year, and a reminder to myself that all about me is holy. All carries the spark and imprint of the Creative Mystery. It is our work to notice and to greet it as we see that livingness in the world and the people around us.
Elderly bench that holds me as I sit in the morning, I greet you. Praise be. Purring cat who wakes me in the dawn, I greet you. Praise be. Owl calling your family home from hunting, I greet you, Praise be. Sun soon to rise over the ridge, I greet you. Praise be.
Gratitude List: 1. Slow Starts–Today is Professional Development, and then two days of classes for the week. 2. Setting boundaries 3. Knitting and Crocheting: Making beauty from a knotted piece of string 4. The Enneagram, a thoughtful tool 5. Reading together as a family. Jon bought us a copy of Danny the Champion of the World to read to us this break because he remembered loving it as a child. I missed part of it while I graded yesterday, but I heard the beginning, and the tender ending last night before the children went to bed.
May we walk in Beauty! I greet you! Praise Be!
Words for Wednesday’s Slow Start: “The Work. I am learning, slowly and in tiny little ways, to stop asking myself what I can get from each moment, but instead what my Work is here in the moment. And realizing, ever so dimly, that when I am really doing my Work (really doing my Work), I am also receiving what I need.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Peter Drucker
“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly.” —Margaret Fuller
“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair.”
—Minna Thomas Antrim
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T. S. Eliot
“How do we go on living, when every day our hearts break anew? Whether your beloved are red-legged frogs, coho salmon, black terns, Sumatran tigers, or fat Guam partulas, or entire forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, or oceans, or the entire planet, the story is the same, the story of the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved.” ―Derrick Jensen, Dreams
ONE OR TWO THINGS
by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems: Volume One (Beacon Press)
Don’t bother me.
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes
for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.
The god of dirt came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever,
which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.
One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning– some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.
But to lift the hoof!
For that you need an idea.
For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,
Gratitude List: 1. Doorways 2. Dreams 3. Sleep 4. Sun in the holler 5. Hopeful baking
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for a Golden Friday: “Who would I be if I didn’t live in a world that hated women?” —Jessica Valenti
“The heart is right to cry
even when the smallest drop of light, of love, is taken away
Perhaps you may kick, moan, scream—in a dignified silence,
but you are right to do so in any fashion…until God returns to you.”
“All water is holy water.”
“The mullahs of the Islamic world and the mullahs of the Hindu world and the mullahs of the Christian world are all on the same side. And we are against them all.”
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
“You know what breaks me, when someone is visibly excited about a feeling or an idea or a hope or a risk taken, and they tell you about it but preface it with: “Sorry, this is dumb but—.”Don’t do that. I don’t know who came here before me, or who conditioned you to think you had to apologize or feel obtuse. But not here. Dream so big it’s silly. Laugh so hard it’s obnoxious. Love so much it’s impossible. And don’t you ever feel unintelligent. And don’t you ever apologize. And don’t you ever shrink so you can squeeze yourself into small places and small minds. Grow. It’s a big world. You fit. I promise.”
“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than our fears and prejudices.” ―Jimmy Carter
“The reality is we have more in common with the people we’re bombing than the people we’re bombing them for.” ―Russell Brand
Gratitude List: (Reprise from 2016)
1. Words that lead me through the labyrinth
2. Words that open doors and build bridges
3. Words that nudge and tickle and surprise
4. Words that scour and scrub and wake me up
5. Words that wonder and question and probe
6. Words that frame and structure and organize
7. Words that soothe and hold and bless
8. Words that weave people together
Full Moon filtered through flowery Dreamscope app.
“This earth that we live on is full of stories in the same way that, for a fish, the ocean is full of ocean. Some people say when we are born we’re born into stories. I say we’re also born from stories.” –Ben Okri
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” –Albert Einstein
Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words.
When I opened my hand, they flew away.
“On Hearing that My Poems
Were Being Studied in a Distant Place”
Richard Rohr quotes Thomas Keating on the way of peace: “It means to show love tirelessly, no matter what happens. That’s the meaning of turning the other cheek. Once in a while you have to defend somebody, but it means you’re always willing to suffer first for the cause—that is to say, for communion with your enemies. If you overcome your enemies, you’ve failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded.”
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” –Rumi
Gratitude List: 1. Singing “Swing Low,” “Oh When the Saints,” and “I’m Gonna Sing” in chapel today
2. Beautiful morning rain
3. Looking back through old blog posts this afternoon, watching how the ideas and dreams that I began to sift and plant last winter have begun to gestate within me.
4. Somehow, I know that I will be able to build that bridge from where I am to where I need to go
5. Cannoli dip
“A society is defined not only by what it creates but also by what it refuses to destroy.” ―John C. Sawhill
“There are no ordinary people.You have never talked to a mere mortal. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.” ―C. S. Lewis
“We have the power to turn our upsidedown world right.” ―Leymah Gbowee
“Once upon a time, they say, there was a girl…there was a boy…there was a person who was in trouble. And this is what she did…and what he did…and how they learned to survive it. This is what they did…and why one failed…and why another triumphed in the end. And I know that it’s true, because I danced at their wedding and drank their very best wine.” —Terri Windling
“Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing.” —Linda Hogan
“Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps. It must be fed; it cannot be ignored.” —Patricia A. McKillip
“When you put your hands and mind and heart into the knowing of a thing … there is no room in you for fear.” —Patricia A. McKillip
“There are no simple words. I don’t know why I thought I could hide anything behind language.” —Patricia A. McKillip
Gratitude List: 1. Foods class. The boy has to make a snack or dessert for the family this weekend. He wanted to make cannoli. I convinced him to try making cannoli bites instead–still a little complicated, but not quite so demanding as the real thing. I love watching him work independently. And HE is supposed to clean the kitchen!
2. The writing of Patricia McKillip. Her words transport me to a dream-state where many levels of reality are working at once. I am currently read The Book of Atrix Wolfe, one of the books that I reread every few years because it reminds me to keep in mind the consequences of action and inaction.
3. Breakfast at Columbia Market House. We wanted to go to Hinkle’s because we want to get there as often as possible before they close, but the line was incredibly long. Instead, we got to eat omelet and crepes and soul rolls at Columbia Market House.
4. Playing board games with the family. Okay, so The Farming Game is truly a little too realistic for comfort, but there’s something addicting about it. “Can’t we just go through one more year? Maybe I can make up for last year’s losses!”
5. Hopes and dreams.
“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” –Audre Lorde
“This is the true meaning of embodiment: To show up with wholehearted presence for this moving encounter with life. Instead of clambering towards ever-furthering horizons or withdrawing into distractions and addictions, showing up for those absences in our lives. Welcoming our fears and discomforts as necessary conditions to creativity. Loving the gestation as much as the harvest, even while remembering the barren season that must follow. Aspiring, in all things, to be human.” –Toko-pa Turner
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
“Human beings lose their logic in their vindictiveness.”
–Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born,
and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere–on water and land.” –Walt Whitman
A Prayer for the World
Rabbi Harold Kushner
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Gratitude List: 1. Crows in the mist
2. Robins making a deafening ruckus in the hollow at dawn
3. A murmuration of starlings
4. The tender, open, compassionate hearts of teenagers. Every day, there’s something that melts my crusty heart a little.
5. I love Jon’s new job
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” ―Thomas Merton
“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen” ―Robert Bresson
“We have to learn to love people even if they are not giving you what you want… and then not take it personally. If you feel hurt, you have to recognize that they are not hurting you because you are you, but because they are them. You have to try not to be so hard on yourself.”
“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ―Meister Eckhart
“You will stand at the center of your story
and decide in this moment who you will be.
You get to decide how you will play your part,
and that will help to decide the outcome.”
“And may the light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle set in two windows of a house, bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.” ―Celtic Blessing
“If you are doing the right thing for the earth, she’s giving you great company.” ― Vandana Shiva
“The outward form of things passes away, but the essence remains forever. How long will you be besotted with the shape of the jug? Cast aside the jug, and seek the water. If you look too closely at the form, you miss the essence.” ―Rumi
“If the believer understood the meaning of the saying
“The color of the water is the color of the receptacle,”
He would admit the validity of all beliefs and
He would recognize God in every form and every object of faith.”
If the believer understood the meaning of the saying
“The color of the water is the color of the receptacle,”
He would admit the validity of all beliefs and
He would recognize God in every form and every object of faith.
~Ibn ‘ArabiIbn ‘Arabi
Last Year’s Gratitude:
“How everything connects. Your heart and mine. The hummingbird and the vulture. Poems and stories and art. The thin spidersilk of prayer, spun out across impossible chasms.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
Gratitude List: 1. Lying on a bed with a cat snuggled up on either side of me.
2. My surprise 50th birthday dinner. My sisters and my mother took me out to John Wright Restaurant. I am so fortunate to have these incredible women in my life.
3. Crawfish Etouffee
4. Saturday afternoon naps (and waking up and realizing that the poison ivy covering every inch of my body was only a dream)
5. Walnut trees. The walnut by the barn is the last to get dressed every spring, and the first to disrobe in the fall, but the way she plays with the light in her leaves is the finest art.