Bottle of Water, Bottle of Wind

reading

Gratitude List:
1. Feeling better. All day, I have been feeling a general malaise, achy and dull. By the time school was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, and I was sure I would call for a substitute for tomorrow. But I had no fever, and I didn’t want to call off if I could help it. Now, after rest and coffee and supper, I feel like a new person. It feels so good to feel good.
2. Light. Christmas lights, lamps, room lights. This is the season when the encroaching darkness makes me panicky. I could hardly bear it today, but there are plenty of lights about. I will bathe in the lights that I can get. Perhaps I’ll have to take my lunch breaks outside these days in order to gather a little more sunlight.
3. Boy and his dad playing chess here at the end of the table.
4. Boy reading with his cat under the Christmas tree.
5. Shining lights–you and you and you.

May we walk in Beauty!

A longish story today. I have been mulling it for several days now, writing a little here, a little there. I think it’s time to bring it into the light:

Bottle of Water, Bottle of Wind

Have you ever been to the Bottle Lady’s stand at Market? Oh, I can never remember exactly where she’s located. I always have to search a bit to find her. She wears a dress and a cardigan sweater like every Mennonite woman at every little vegetable stand in the building. Unlike them, her hair escapes her bun to fly in curls and wisps about her face like a halo.

The first time I saw her, she was nibbling a bit of baklava–that’s why I think her stand might be somewhere near the Greek Delights stand, and I definitely recall the delightfully eye-watering horseradish of the neighboring stand. She winked at me: “You should go over there and get some of this before it’s gone. It’s delicious!”

I paused in my meanderings to peruse her wares: row upon row of empty bottles, in stepped shelves cascading over a purple velvet cloth with golden trim. Each bottle wore a tag held in place with a colored ribbon. The labels looked to be mostly in languages I didn’t understand, some in strange scripts and pictograms. On the lowest shelf was a small dark-blue bottle with water inside. I could read its label clearly: Waters of the World.

The Bottle Lady watched me pick it up and hold it to the light. “That one’s three hundred dollars,” she told me, licking the sticky baklava filling from her fingers. I quickly replaced the bottle on the shelf, lest I break it. “The one you want is right next to it–see there? No, the one on the left, with the green ribbon. See the label? Dreams Come True. That one is only a dollar today.”

Before I’d even had a chance to register what was happening, she had wrapped the bottle in tissue paper, and placed it in a little paper bag gift bag with glitter all over it. I simply pulled out my wallet and handed her a dollar. I couldn’t help but smile. I rarely remember my dreams, but I still had flashes of the dream from the night before, in which I stumbled through a strange city, finding money in odd places.

As I stopped at the Greek Delights stand to buy some baklava, I spotted a five dollar bill on the ground at my feet. I asked all around, but no one seemed to have dropped it, and the owner of Greek Delights refused to hold it for someone who might or might not return. “You just keep it, Sweetie. You just keep it and spend it on a little something for yourself.”

Sure, I connected it to the little bottle. It was hard not to, especially when I found a quarter, two dimes, and a dollar bill on the sidewalk–all just on the walk to my car! It lasted for another week or so. Every time I walked down the street, I found at least a coin or two. I found bills tucked into my jeans, caught between the couch cushions, in the dryer hopper at the laundromat. I kept it all in a jar–over one hundred dollars by the time the luck dried up.

It was a couple weeks before I found myself at market again, and I just couldn’t find her stand. I could have sworn it was between the Greek Delights and the horseradish man–but when I went there, there was no stall between them: they’re direct neighbors. I couldn’t imagine what I had been thinking. I had almost given up, and I was standing in the really long line at the Sacred Grounds Coffee stand–my friend Zia works there, and I wanted a mocha to warm me up on a cold day–when I turned around, and there was the Bottle Lady’s stand. It must have been the baklava that made me think it was on the other side of Market. I wandered over, not paying attention to the fact that I was losing my place in line. There were fewer bottles on the stand this time. “I’ve had really good business today,” she told me, as she sipped her coffee. “How’d the Dream thing work for you?” she asked.

I told her it had been lots of fun, sort of a thrill really. I wondered if she might have a bottle with a love potion in it or something. She gave a musical laugh, then got really serious, studying me as if I were an object under a microscope. “No. No love potions for you right now,” she said. She started to sort through the bottles on the shelves, humming tunelessly to herself. At intervals, she would look up at me with a keen and studying glance, then start clinking and shifting the bottles again. Her hand brushed against the little cobalt bottle of Waters of the World, sending it tipping dangerously toward me. I had instinctively reached out to steady it, and caught it as it fell.

“Whew. That’s fortunate,” she breathed. “I have been saving that for someone. Ah, here’s the one for you.” And she reached out and scooped the tiny bottle of water from my hand, and replaced it with a larger bottle, ornately etched with a tiny dragon. It appeared as empty as most of the others, but as I looked closer, I could see that it was filled with a cloudiness, like smoke. I could make nothing of the letters on the tag. “What is this?” I asked.

“You can see it right there on the label,” she said. “Gumption. That will be two dollars.” And as I looked again, the letters resolved themselves in my brain, and I could read the word in its elaborate script.

Yes, I certainly had more energy, more get-up-and-go, in the coming days. She told me to keep my door closed that night in my room, and to take the cork out of the bottle just before I drifted off to sleep. The next morning, I felt more rested and ready for the day than I had in years.

And that’s how it went. Every few weeks, I’d find my way to Market, search around for the Bottle Lady’s stand, and only find her when I had given up and decided to do something else. I don’t have a good sense of direction, and Market can be confusing. I can never remember whether that bakery with the German-style bread is in the third or fourth row down from the entrance, and there are always a few little stands that are empty, and then there’s just something about the way all the women who work there look sort of the same. Still, I always seemed to find her just when I had decided to give up the search.

She always seemed to choose for me. Oh, I asked for something specific each time I went, but she always had some suggestion or idea that seemed right for me, so I just went along, paying one or two dollars each time. Once I bought a plain little Mason jelly jar with a screw-top lid labeled Common Sense. Paid five dollars for that one. Oy, did that one ever get me through a week of weirdness.

The bottles and jars began to accumulate on my bedside stand. Sometimes I would try to re-use them, and there were often some minor effects, but nothing like the pure moment when I first opened the bottles themselves.

Each time I saw her, I asked about the lovely blue bottle of Waters of the World. Had the buyer come for it already? Why was it still there? What were Waters of the World? I could never quite get an answer out of her about it, but she always gave me a good tip for what treats to buy myself:

“The samosas over at the Middle Eastern stand are really spicy today! You should get two for your supper.”

“You have to try one of these fresh fruit smoothies from the smoothie stand–it’ll be good for what ails you.” She was right, of course.

“Mrs. Stoltzfus over at the bakery has some really nice whoopie pies today. Just the regular traditional kind without any funky flavors in the fillings. They’re so much better that way, don’t you think?” And I agreed, and bought one for my dessert. It was so big, I had some left over for the next day’s breakfast.

One Saturday last month, I met Zia when she got off work at the Sacred Grounds. Zia had been feeling sort of depressed, like she was spinning her wheels, stuck like molasses in her job at the Grounds, and not sure how to take the next step to anywhere. “Let’s go see this Bottle Lady you’re always talking about,” she said.

It was sort of embarrassing–I couldn’t really say where the stand was exactly, but we wandered around, bought some German chocolate from the German stand, and I bought Zia a little potted narcissus from the Plant Man. We had given up searching for the Bottle Lady, and were making our way toward the exit next to the fishmonger, when I spotted her purple cloth, tucked between the celery folks and the woman who sells gourmet dog biscuits.

She was nibbling on a cookie shaped like a dog bone. “Oh yes,” she said when she saw my wide eyes. “I can see that it would be confusing. No, the cookie stand on the other side of the aisle is celebrating Adopt-a-Dog week at the Humane League by selling these incredible dog-bone cookies. They have chocolate centers. You should try some.”

Zia was poring over the labels on the bottles, trying to read the cryptic writing. “Can my friend buy one of your bottles of Dreams Come True?” I asked.

The Bottle Lady gave Zia her studying look, over the tops of her glasses. “No-o-o-o,” she said slowly. “I think this one has not been having such good dreams lately.” Zia crinkled her forehead and nodded.

“How about. . .this one!” Her hand paused above a little green bottle with swirls and spirals embossing its surface. “Yes, I think you could use a Bottle of Wind.” Of course she was right, as right as she’d been about samosas and smoothies and whoopie pies and every bottle she’d ever sold me.

We paid and were putting the little package carefully into Zia’s bag, when the Bottle Lady turned to me: “It’s high time you took your Waters of the World, don’t you think? I’ve got that one on Special today for three dollars.” I barely had time to gasp before she had it wrapped in tissue paper and was plopping it into my hand.

She told me how I needed to keep replenishing the waters: a tear here, a raindrop there, a drop of water from the River I crossed each day on my way into town. How I was to give it a gentle shake when I had added a new water. How I needed to keep releasing the waters, too: water a plant with one drop, put a drop behind my ears or on my forehead, offer a drop to the palm of a weeping friend, give a drop to the River. How it all balanced out when I was careful and thoughtful and full of gratitude. “I know you are ready for this,” she said with a wink. “I don’t think I will be seeing much of either of you again here for a little while. Don’t forget to buy yourselves some cookies on the way out.”

The Bottle of Wind blew through Zia’s life with a beautiful chaos, and now she’s off to New Hampshire for a three-month writing residency at some kind of artists’ camp. I’ve never seen her so happy. And my Waters of the World? I am tending the waters carefully, replenishing them regularly, releasing them with gratitude. And tomorrow I am catching a flight to Iceland–I want to see glaciers. And then to wherever the waters seem to take me. I’ve packed up all my empty bottles in a padded box. Who knows what I may find to put in them?

Market opens at six o’clock tomorrow. You should go see if you can find the Bottle Lady. I can’t honestly tell you where her stand is, but if you look around a while, I am sure she’ll appear somewhere.

Invisible as Wind

sweetfred-edited

Today’s Tiny Tale:

There once was a boy who could become invisible as the wind. He would vanish without a word, without leaving a trail, and slip through the cracks in the walls, underneath doors, between lines of lazy type across a page.

Gratitude List:
1. Sundogs
2. The robust and muscular figure of a hawk in a skeletal winter tree
3. Stories
4. Snuggly cat
5. Sleeping and dreaming. This is the season.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Girl Who Could Read the Landscape

2014 April 119

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. Advent songs
2. Sunday lunch with my parents
3. Naps
4. New stories, old stories, holding stories
5. Bringing in the greens

May we walk in Beauty!

Leave a Trail

my-heart-edited
Heart of Stone. It doesn’t always mean what the song-writers say it means.

“I want to be a mermaid. I’m half-mermaid already. The human half.”  ~~my friend Liza

“I am always aware, when I am trailing an idea–it may be a god in disguise.”  ~~Dr. Martin Shaw, Westcountry School of Myth

I have been thinking of shape-shifting lately, and of myth, and of magic. I have been pondering art and poetry and activism. Pondering hysteria and alarm, contemplation and calm. I have been considering how we can leave a trail for our children and grandchildren, so that when the people of the future look back upon us, they will be able to see the webs of resistance that we created against the tides of hate and insult and discrimination and injustice.

heartstone

She appeared at dawn, her skin shining in the water, the color of the sun rising over the ridge, a tangerine carp-fish large as my thigh, her head breaking the surface for a hush of a moment. Bubbles broke the surface. Fish and womanfish, she spoke: “Leave a trail for them to follow.” And she was gone in a whisk of orange fin, water roiling behind her, the tiny sunfish and polliwogs scattering to the shallows.

A glinting of sunlight shafted through maples, and the air around the pond’s edge filled with sudden electricity. The pond waters boiled forth and a golden bird erupted from the surface. Sunlight lanced and ricocheted through the glade, and I lost the trail of shining feathers in the glare.

The surface of the pond became a still and silent mirror once again, a capricious breeze skuthered a cloud across the sun’s face, and a single golden feather floated lazily out of the hole of sky between treetops.

Later, I climbed the hill to the high fields, pausing to search the pathway for shining quartzite, or the gaze into the blue sky for signs of the bird. Reaching for a shining stone in the path, my fingers found a silky feather, one side golden, one side blue. My ears pricked at a whistle and a calling over the crest of the hill. I topped the ridge, and the golden bird fluttered out of the trees to earth before me. “Leave a trail,” she called. “Something for them to follow.”

Again, she was gone, this time a whisk of a tail into grasses and brambles, ginger-furred fox, fleetfoot. A phantom. Eyes could not avail, but for slight shimmering movements ahead in the meadow, yet scent drew me onward to follow her trail. Down the steep hill of the orchard she led me, up over the hill to the field of the winds.

Two trees stand at the field edge, one tall and graceful, losing its last leaves in the autumn wind, the other broken and twisted, dead for long years. The trees of life and death. Again the sun was shining, a shaft glowed between the trees, and for one brief moment I saw the pointed nose of the fox, and heard one last time, “Leave a trail for others to follow.”

stonehear

Gratitude List:
1. The annual tree-hunt at McPherson’s Tree Farm. Setting up and decorating for the holidays.
2. Exploring the cycle of the coming year with a dear friend, an old soul with a young heart.
3. These webs–sometimes I read or hear a thing that resonates with what has been happening in my head, and suddenly, I see the webs of the idea everywhere. Mindweb synchronicity.
4. I really like our new neighbors.
5. Saturday evening games of Sorry and Farkle.

May we walk in Beauty!

How Do You See the Sky?

blue2   sky-blue
blue-sky

Another November has come and gone. Such a feeling of sadness, such a feeling of relief. The pressure of a poem every day can be intense, especially when I am already tired, already busy. But it keeps me in the soup of words in ways that teaching doesn’t lead me.

Gratitude List:
1. When you set your heart on blue, it shows itself to you. I do not know how else to describe it, but to say that some colors seem to appear when you ask for them.
2. A good month of poeming. It was hard work, and I pooped out some nights, but I got some good work in, too. It keeps something in me alive to write even when I don’t have time to focus on it for long periods. I’m going to revise and edit several of them for the chapbook contest.
3. Mushrooms. Mycelium. Fungi. Whole networks of underground communication are functioning. Watch for the fruiting.
4. Bagels. Sometimes a few happy carbs are all you need.
5. Nikki Giovanni. I love her fearless work with rhythm and rhyme.

May we walk in Beauty. In Blue.

You’ll Be Flying

elves

Today is the last day of the November Poem-a-Day Challenge. The Prompt is to write a Last-Chance poem.

Last Chance
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Last dance
take a chance
never any
backward glance

high hopes
a grand scope
acrobat
walks the rope

doing or dying
never stop trying
before you know it
you’ll be flying

Gratitude List:
1. Making Progress
2. Mist. Have I mentioned mist on the River? How it crawls along the surface of the water and boils up into the air? Fog and mist.
3. How dreams and ideas are like mist–they’re so ephemeral, but so substantial. You swim in them, even though you can’t touch them.
4. Warm scarves
5. The way the students in my Foundations class are making connections, thinking, processing. Lots of strong EQ in that class.

May we walk in Beauty!

Love and its Opposite

imag2427

Today’s Prompt is to write a Love/Anti-Love Poem. I realize that I am pooping out on these. Much work to do, and little time for poeming. I’ll leave it at this for tonight.

Love and its Opposite
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

The opposite of fire is not more fire,
we know that–just like Frost’s desire–
his opposite was ice, which like him I suppose
would dim the fire until it froze.

Gratitude List:
1. I have great gratitude for Sam Ovalle of Sam’s Auto in Akron. Finally, we have the Prius back with us in working order. We’ve been driving my dad’s car for six weeks, the last one with the Service Engine Soon light on. Tonight I had to learn the Prius all over again. I tried to honk the horn when an approaching car passed in a no-passing zone, and accidentally turned on the radio (“You really showed him!” said Jon).
2. Mist on the River
3. Mist in the fields
4. Mist caught in the trees
5. Mists in the little River Towns

May we walk in Beauty!

Walk in Beauty

leaf2

Every December, as we begin to seek our way down the steps into the last darkness before the light returns, I carry within me the story of the Conestogas, the last tiny village of Susquehannock people who lived in Lancaster, who were brutally massacred by the Paxtang Boys, a band of white men who wanted to wipe out the Native people.

I suppose it’s because last week I was going through some of my poetry that mentioned them that their names were in my head, but this morning during my insomniac looping, the names began to appear in my brain-loop, like messages: Sheehays, Wa-a-shen, Ess-Canesh, Tea-wonsha-i-ong, Kannenquas, Tee-kau-ley. These were the six who were murdered in their village in Conestoga on the morning of December 14, 1763. I tried several years ago to memorize their names, but I didn’t realize that I had managed it until the wee hours of this morning. They appeared like a message. Two weeks later, the marauders broke into the Lancaster jail, where the remaining six adults and eight children of the Conestoga band were being kept for their protection, and killed them all.

May we do better in these days. May we be more effective at standing between the vulnerable ones and the marauders. How can we keep the Paxtang Boys from riding again?

* * * * * * * *

Today’s Prompt is to write a poem that begins: I Want __(Blank)__. I am tired and I still have work to do, so this will be a little riff.

I Want the Moon
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I want the moon on a platter.
I want my cake and a side of pie.
I want a day when no one needs me.
I want a Michelangelo sky.

I want to wander in an oak grove.
I want to sing incantations in the rain.
I want to run away to islands.
I want to come back home again.

I want to sleep in a seaside hammock.
I want to memorize every color of blue.
I want to write a thousand poems.
I want to spend more time with you.

Gratitude List:
1. Sometimes things just work out better than you expect them to. Big sighs of relief.
2. These two little (not-so-little) rosy-cheeked folks at my table.
3. How Jon takes care of us when I can hardly remember to take care of myself.
4. Leaves
5. The comfort of knowing that you are there, holding all this, too. So many of us are doing the Work, day by day and minute by minute.  So much love.

May we walk in Beauty!

Falling Apart

shadow

Today’s poetry Prompt is to write a Falling Apart poem.

Falling Apart
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

First: Everything begins to work in sync. From within the random chaos,
a pattern emerges, a rhythm, a mutual response between working parts.
Cooperation and tunefulness abound. Order prevails.

Second: Before long, the sameness of the patterns and the rhythms
begins to grate on the inner ear. A background whine hovers
just within earshot. Orderliness begins to thump and thud.

Third: Some of the ordered bits begin to stumble, miss a step,
misfire. Still, the march plods on, and the bumbling is only a hiccup
in the ordered scheme of things. Weariness sets in.

Fourth: A counter-rhythm develops. Syncopation sets in. Suddenly,
a wild dance whirls through the march. Chaos returns with a will.
The order has been subverted, the structure shredded.

Fifth: All sense of order has fallen apart. Randomness reigns.
The beauty of the wild begins to appear–itself–as a sameness.
Colors and sounds and sensations begin to sort themselves.

Sixth: Everything begins to work in sync.

Gratitude List:
1. More wonderful family time together. Nate riffing on the piano. What a musician!  Jon’s delicious lasagna. Uno has to be one of the best family games.
2. Shadows. Secret scenes and messages in the shadows.
3. Watching the boys take on creative projects and take pride in their work.
4. Thanksgiving Break. It wasn’t long enough, but it was wonderful while it lasted.
5. Dark Chocolate: Lemon Pepper Ginger.

May we walk in Beauty!