Some days feel like the lightning rods of days. Today has been one of those. People attacking people and institutions I love. Attacking me. People working together to answer with love, to hold out our arms, to support each other. Good, hard work–Good Good Work. It’s wearying. And still, there’s the daily and the mundane work to get done in the midst of this other.
I am glad I’ve chosen the path of poetry this month to get me back to the inner work of writing and get me out of my own head.
I don’t know how to withstand the onslaught of the culture wars, especially when they begin so directly to affect me and those I love. Offer love. Offer a hand. Offer a word of wisdom or care. Hold steady. Be the conduit for the Holy One.
My own path, while embracing a wide and universal understanding of the spiritual, is grounded in the Anabaptist Christian tradition. I don’t think I have ever asked myself so frequently, “What would Jesus do?” as I have in the past week, the past months. Is this the moment to turn over tables? Is this the moment to offer stories? Is this the moment to bear witness silently? Is this the moment to ignore the ones who rage and spit, and simply do the Work I am called to do?
Today’s poem form is the mondo. I used this form to try to express some of this inner processing:
Gratitude List: 1. Friends who walk with each other and share the burden. 2. So many kinds of daffodils! (Read that Wordsworth poem over and over and over). 3. Finding center. Holding center. 4. The open-armed ones who welcome all to the table. 5. Writing again. This fog that has held me in the past six months lifts faster as I find my way back to words. May we walk Justly, in Mercy, and Humbly–in Beauty!
“We write to taste life twice.” —Anais Nin
“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” —Maya Angelou
“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.” —Wangari Maathai
Jon found this bookplate in an old book he is selling at work. It was a thin volume, a sort of literary guide to Jerusalem. Because he is who he is, Jon had the idea to Google their names, and he found an image of their gravestone, near Philadelphia. Lincoln Cartledge died at age fifty, while Letty Merrell Shallcross Cartledge lived into her eighties. We became sort of melanchly considering how short their side-by-side travel actually was. Further searches find other old and rare books being sold online noting the Cartledges’ tender bookplate, and several references to, and a few images from, Lincoln Cartledge’s career as a photographer in the Philadelphia area.
At some point, in the very early 1900s, when this couple got married, they placed at least a few special personalized bookplates in their book collection. Over a century later, strangers are moved by the inscription–“O’er rough and smooth to travel side by side”–and left with an ache of knowing how short their side-by-side travel was. Make the most of the rough and smooth that you are traveling side by side with your beloveds. We never know how how short or long our time will be.
Ah. And I said that up there about Jon being the researcher he is, and now, of course, I see again how this is one of the elements that draws us together, because I can’t stop the researches this morning. The phrase comes from this poem:
Sonnet to a Friend By Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849)
WE parted on the mountains, as two streams From one clear spring pursue their several ways; And thy fleet course hath been through many a maze In foreign lands, where silvery Padus gleams To that delicious sky, whose glowing beams Brightened the tresses that old poets praise; Where Petrarch’s patient love and artful lays, And Ariosto’s song of many themes, Moved the soft air. But I, a lazy brook, As close pent up within my native dell, Have crept along from nook to shady nook, Where flow’rets blow, and whispering Naiads dwell. Yet now we meet, that parted were so wide, O’er rough and smooth to travel side by side.
Hartley Coleridge is, as you have guessed, the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wikipedia (the teacher’s favorite source to hate) says that his father even wrote about him in two poems: “Frost at Midnight” and “The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem.” You can follow those rabbit trails if you choose. Does the poem sound sort of Wordsworthian to you? No surprise there: He wrote the poem for Dorothy Wordsworth, William’s sister, also a writer. You can use The Google to find a book about their friendship: Dorothy Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge: The Poetics of Relationship written by Nicola Healey.
Rabbit trails. May your trails be pleasant today, Soulkin, and bring you small delights of discovery, whatever trails you follow.
Gratitude List: 1. Research rabbit trails. On the Enneagram, I am a 7, which means that when we first studied the Enneagram together, I kept saying I thought I was this or that or another thing, probably all of them (7s want to experience EVERYTHING). Deep down, I thought I was probably a 7, but I didn’t feel like I was worthy of the number, not being adventurous enough. Everyone else said, “Duh, you’re a 7,” so I accepted it gladly. I think I have a pretty strong 6 wing, but I can fall with a thud into 8 when I am stressed. Eights are the people I am most likely to fight with, including my own stressy self. All that to preface the point that I adore my solid 5 of a husband, and I love to follow his researchy rabbit trails. I can’t wait for him to wake up today so I can show him the things I have discovered about the Cartledges and the source of the phrase on their bookplate. 2. People keeping the pressure on the system for change. Whatever you do to be part of that, keep doing it. 3. Time to READ! I’m finishing my half-read books so I can get working on the stack, which has grown even taller in recent days. 4. Soulkin. That’s us. I wish I had crafted that word myself. I discovered it somewhere online. It’s what we are, you and I on our parallel and mingled and divergent journeys. 5. That viny brambly mess on the bluff is threatening to take over the world, but it’s got a thousand shades of green, and all sorts of tinyfolk live in its secret ways, so we must take great care in how we tidy it up, so as not to disturb the families of the little ones who live there. And messy as it is, it’s got a wild beauty.
Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly–in Beauty!
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” —Hannah Arendt
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ―Audre Lorde
Omid Safi says: “There are three times in life when we experience this kind of a loveglance. With our parents, our beloved, and a spiritual teacher. How lovely the glance, how lovely the glancer, how lovely the one glanced at.”
“You are not an Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.” —Vandana Shiva
“Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.” ―Lao Tzu
“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet…maybe we could understand something.” ―Federico Fellini
“When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.” ―Jane Austen
Rob Brezsny: Thomas Merton’s notion of what makes a saint doesn’t have to do with being a perfectly sinless paragon of virtue. The more important measure of sanctity, he said, is one’s ability to see what’s good and beautiful in other people. The truly holy person “retires from the struggle of judging others.”
You are the mountain, but awake. You are the rain, but breathing. You are the forest, but unanchored. You are the soil, but with choice. You are the sunlight, but dreaming.
Soon, you will be these things again. Mountain. Rain. Forest. Sunlight.
So, what will you do until then? —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist