Beloveds and Starlight

When I wrote the Star prompt, I had just walked through a Facebook thread with three friends, creating an online sort of ritual/story together. This was a powerful Starlight experience.

And hours later, I could not know how deeply I would again be experiencing the Starlight in the presence of my Beloveds. Thirty years of deepening friendship.

Sit with your sisters in a circle,
and feel the truth of how your hearts
are woven together
every bit as real as that basket
under the hall table
where a fine cat is purring.

You will hear the echoes
of the towers that have fallen,
see the memory of rubble in the eyes.
Say out loud, “I see you.”
Say, “I witness.”
Weave the new strands together.
See how your stories
are one singular tale.

Feel the starlight
making a net around you,
a silver basket reflecting your own.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
After she experiences the Star, the Fool finds the Moon. Oh, the Moon! Luna, lunacy. Tidal pull and woman’s guide. Well of creative expression. The Fool may find a tension between her feral and domesticated selves. Moonlight is a reflected light. It holds mystery and dreaming, fear and enchantment.

Gratitude List:
1. Seeing and being seen. Witnessing. Speaking and Listening.
2. Rituals of friendship and belonging
3. Lifelong friends. Keeping an empty chair for the one who could not be there with us.
4. Weaving stories together.
5. Time out of time.

May we walk in Beauty. In Friendship.

Falling

I am having too much fun with friends this evening, so this one will be short.

Every time I climb this Tower,
I think I have finally learned
the secret of flying instead of falling,
how to rest on air, how to sink
through air like water.
Still, each time the falling
comes as a shock,
like the tumble into frigid waters,
the air knocked out of me,
the ego battered by wind and flame.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Tomorrow, after the terror of falling from the Tower, the Fool finds the relief of the Star. Resting in the cool and twinkling light. It is a time of renewal and hope and inspiration. She breathes.

Gratitude List in Honor of Earth Day:
1. Julia Butterfly Hill
2. Rachel Carson
3. Wangari Maathai
4. Vandana Shiva
5. Jane Goodall
6. Friends meeting in the rain to climb a tower that may or may not be there, with four crows flying, mist parting like a curtain, and a red rider disappearing into the west. And a salamander. And nursing pain together.

May we walk in Beauty!

Bedevilment

Today in Creative Writing, we did a fun bit of wordplay from the website Writing ForwardYou make lists of a dozen or so nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Then you make a list of prefixes/suffixes. Using your lists, you add prefixes and suffixes to some of your nouns in order to create words of your own. Then you make up new compound words, use nouns as verbs and adjectives as adverbs–all to experiment with using language in different ways.  Today’s poem, using the prompt of bedevilment, comes out of that writing experience.

I have dungeoned my wonder,
enshaded my joy,
chaining myself in the ragecage
I made for my shadowling.

Addicted to fury,
I fought fear with burning,
teethful in reaction,
and wasting my flame.

When you make a rope of curses,
you catch your own head in the loop.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
The tower. It may have begun as the Tower of Rapunzel, where her witch-mother kept her waiting. It may have been a fortress, strong and impenetrable, or a solitary place of retreat. But this tower is falling, burning, lightning-struck, and the Fool is falling, falling. To understand the lightning-struck tower, it may be necessary to remember the journey the Fool has taken from learning temperance to the experience of bedevilment and addiction. We find our balance, and then we fail, and so we are thrown off-balance again, and need to find a new grounding. The experience of falling from the Tower is about losing your attachment to your ego. The Fool has to learn that she cannot be completely in control.

Gratitude List:
1. The misty fogginess in the hollow as dusk fell. It felt like a fairy tale world.
2. The way rain brings out the deepness of the colors.
3. Kreutz Creek Library Book Sale
4. Mandalas
5. Kindnesses. Today, standing in the hallway, I watched one of my students who sometimes seems a little isolated by his extreme shyness. He was walking quietly through the crowd in the hall, head down, and another kid saw him and just reached out and bumped him on the shoulder and grinned at him, noticing him. The shy boy smiled back. It might seem like a small, almost unremarkable kindness, but I think it was really actually pretty huge for the shy one. That’s the kind of people these young folk are. I know that my school is not perfect, and that unkind words and bullying occur, but more than that I am aware of kindnesses, of thoughtfulness.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tempering

As I have aged, my flames
have tempered my steel,
my temper has blazed, then waned,
my temperature flared
and lowered and raised.

I have strutted and fretted
my hour on the stage
written my rage on the page,
and wielded my words like a sword.

Now I stay in a more temperate range.
I attempt to remain more balanced today.
A gentler temperament has pacified
the brash face of the past.

Temperance need not steal the voice,
nor make a canary of the screeching harpy.
Simply, the word-sword no longer slashes
with indiscriminate hacking,
but a well-balanced metal
now guides the blade.

###
I am pushing myself to work outside my comfort zone, to shift out of the mind-rut that has caught my wheels this last week. It’s hard for me to assess the strength and weakness of a poem when it steps so far out of my typical poetic spaces.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
It’s such an orderly progression. The Fool must learn about Temperance before she encounters the Devil. What bedevils you? What holds you bound? That’s the Fool’s encounter tomorrow. Addiction, cruelty, bondage to fear and uncertainty, repeated cycles of patterned behavior and habit that keep us from growing: that’s the bedevilment.

Gratitude List:
1. Chapel today was an outdoor celebration of Earth Day: drums, art, poetry, sheep shearing, fly fishing, and all sorts of other interactive activities for students to be in nature. They returned to class with winsome smiles and wind in their hair.
2. A thousand shades of green
3. Ferns. They grow inches every day.
4. Pushing outside the boundaries of habit.
5. Tiger swallowtails

May we walk in Beauty!

Death and Temperance, and the Wall

 

I have hit the poetry wall tonight. I’ve been feeling it coming for a couple days now, the slowing, the resistance in my brain as I approach it. And here, tonight, with Death as the prompt, I don’t know where to go. I want to make it light and fluffy, toss it off without thinking. I don’t have the brain cells for much work tonight, and my will to work is shallow and listless. Then I remind myself that some of the shiniest poems happen at the moment of the wall. Of course, that’s when some of the worst ones happen, too. Sigh.

 

 

No, I think she’s a woman in a red cloak
with gentle brown eyes and midnight skin.
Unlike the ferryman, she asks no token,
no proof of passage or confession of sin.

She carries a sickle instead of a scythe,
appearing in fevered delusions and dreams,
and though you may dread to see her arrive,
you will cherish her presence on the journey.

###
There now. I’ve written something. I honestly can’t tell whether I like it or not. That’s part of the wall, too, the loss of a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Best to just get it down there, and come back to it with a clear head when April is over.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
So much of it is about Balance, isn’t it? Justice, a few days ago. Even Death–there’s always a balance between death and life, between the fear of it and the hope for it. The Lovers–they’re all about balance between the opposite parts of our inner nature. Tomorrow, again, is another sort of balance: Temperance. We’re not talking about periods of US history here, but about the concept. Passion and zeal are important drivers, and they can be great when you need to get the chariot moving, but fokeeping it going straight and steady, you’ve got to find the temperate balance. Can the Fool, in her naive and wandering heart, find the deep meaning of Temperance?

Gratitude List:
1. Pink trees
2. Cool breeze
3. Bees
4. (Ack! Now I need to keep going with this.) Poetries (Don’t judge me.)
5. Cheese (Hey now, I do love it, and we had some mighty fine Pepper Jack for supper.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Odin’s Ordeal

To get at the truth,
you have to get down to the roots,
deep down to the roots,
to the water under the roots.

Suspended between all worlds,
you hang in the air
between death and life,
between heaven and earth,
looking down, looking to water,
to the wells of water beneath the tree.
There’s fire too, fire in the tree,
lightning in the branches of the oak.

After your windy ordeal,
nine nights and nine days,
you look down once more
and behold the secret of language.
The words trickle through your fingers,
singing in the waters that surround you.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Tomorrow the Fool encounters Death. I’ll write a death poem for tomorrow. Last year, I tried writing a poem which personified Death, anthropomorphized her. Perhaps I’ll try to do a version of that for tomorrow. Always remember that the ending which Death represents always create spaces for new beginnings.

Gratitude List:
1. The smell of flowers, everywhere.
2. The guard dogwoods are blooming.
3. The lilacs are blooming.
4. It’s warm enough to hang out outside after school.
5. Power naps.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Opposite of Justice

Perhaps I could find my way to the doors of Justice
if only I could balance these tablets of Beauty and Rage,
could hear the wind in the trees while the harpies are shrieking.
Will I throw off the balance of nature if I listen to their song?
Or will it ruin the arc of the story if I shoo off the bird-women
and sit by the River with the wind in my hair?

What is the opposite of justice? Is it injustice or mercy?

On one side of the story is a silent horse, white as a ghost,
patiently waiting in tall meadow grasses. On the other side
of the river, of the fence, of the tale, three vultures in trees
open their wings to the sun. Between them, a poppy,
red as blood, sways in the morning breeze.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
In the old Norse story, Odin All-Father, ruler of the gods of Asgard, hung himself upside-down from the World Tree Ygdrassil for nine days and nights in order to gaze into the depths of the Well of Urd to learn the meanings of the runes, the ancient alphabet. He accepted no help from anyone, and hung in limbo between life and death until he had gained their secrets. Tomorrow, the Fool encounters the seeker for knowledge, the one who is willing to sacrifice comfort, to risk death, perhaps, in order to gain wisdom that will benefit the world. I never thought about it this way before, but Odin’s relentless search for knowledge reminds me of scientific thirst. What would you endure in order to gain wisdom and knowledge?

Gratitude List:
1. Poetry Read-Aloud Day in Creative Writing Class. There is a magic to the random collection of poems chosen by students. Suddenly a work by Robert Frost is informing the words of Tupac Shakur, or three students in one class all choose Langston Hughes poems. Magic.
2. Playing in the sandbox with a small person. If I am there and designing labyrinths and rocks gardens for my character (who happens to be a rather beat up truck), he takes up the burden of telling the story of the play that we are making up, his demolition derby cars zooming around the sandbox, knocking each other over the hills.
3. Springtime birdsong. My heart lifts and lifts. (Was I really that completely caught in the whirlpool of winter? Each day something new in me thaws.)
4. People of Peace
5. Problem-solving. Finding the language.

May we walk in Beauty!

Turning the Wheel

it can be that quick
the change from one state to another
there’s that moment of devastating awareness
the kick in the gut and the tumble into the terrible truth
then the cold crypt of devastation
the going numb

but there’s that moment when you turn your face
away from the shadows and into the glare
and you don’t know yet who is it you see
but there’s something in the stance
something about the voice
the why are you weeping
and you don’t dare to hope
but then you hear your own name
and it all falls away
and the wheel has turned
and Love is there

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Justice. Tomorrow the Fool learns about Justice. We activist-types throw that word around as if it’s the answer to all that is wrong with the world. Simple, easy. Justice for the poor, the oppressed, the mistreated. Justice will roll down like waters, said MLK, quoting the ancient prophet. We Menno-types like to quote that verse about doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. All that is good and great, but the Fool is going to need to deepen her understanding of Justice in order to penetrate more fully into the woods of her psyche. Justice can be hard and harsh, and sometimes leaves no room for the mercy we desire. The justice of the natural world can seem cruel and unforgiving. How will the Fool encounter Justice? What wisdom can you offer her?

Gratitude List:
1. Stories of Holy surprises
2. Ritual days that hold all the emotional terrain
3. It’s not just that the stone is rolled away, nor that the tomb is empty. It’s that you hear your own name spoken with love and joy.
4. Family time
5. Unfurling

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Desert


Mary at the tomb.

The way out of the desert, said the old woman,
can only be found by entering the desert.

No one can show you the way,
and if you have not first found the way
through the windy dunes of your own heart,
you will never find the secret pathways
through the shimmering sands.

The desert, she said, gives life,
but only if you know how to look for it.

If it is death which you seek,
the desert will help you to find it.
But life is hidden everywhere
if you have but the will to seek it.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT: Tomorrow the Fool encounters the Wheel of Fortune. Life changes. What was up will go down, and those who were crushed by the heavy weight of the wheel will rise to the top. Kings are brought low and paupers rise to greatness. Fortunes change. Hopes and promises are dashed and all is lost, and then suddenly despair is swept away and joy and delight return once more. Sounds a little like Easter morning?

Gratitude List:
1. Making connections
2. How we give our stories meaning. How our stories make us.
3. Creme Brulee for dessert
4. Intuition
5. Rituals of the Wheel of the Year. Living the stories again and again.

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!