A friend of mine gave me a book of poetry a few months ago. Titled Shaking the Pumpkin, it is a rich and careful compendium of traditional poems from Native North Americans, edited by Jerome Rothenberg.

Several of the poems are simply rituals recorded verbatim and translated into English. They appear almost more as linguistic research than actual poems, and magically, it is in this almost lab-like recording of the words that they begin to take on some of their poetic power for me.  Here, for instance, are selected lines from my favorite poem in the book:

Language Event 1
Eskimo

Use the language of shamans.

Say 	the leash				& mean	the father
“ 	a road 					“ 	the wind
“ 	soup 					“	a seal
“ 	Big Louse 				“	a caribou
“ 	what makes me dive in headfirst 	“	a dream
“ 	what cracks your ears 			“	a gun
“	a jumping thing 			“	a trout
“	what keeps me standing 			“	your clothes
“	the person with a belly 		“	the weather
“	the person with a belly getting up 	“	the morning
“	the person with a belly goes to bed	“	it's nightfall
“	the little walker 			“	a fox
“	walker with his head down 		“	a dog
“	a person smoke surrounds		”	a live one
“	a floating one 				“	an island
“	a flat one 				“	a wolf
“	a shadow 				“	a white man
“	another kind of shadow 			“	a person
“	the shadow-maker 			“	the shaman
“	he turned my mind around 		“	he told me something

I had planned to write my own this morning before the children woke up, but it’s too late for that now, because I took so much time trying to figure out how to format the poem. Meanwhile, I learned a tiny little thing or two about HTML formatting, so there’s that, and I’ll work on my Language Event poem another day.

Gratitude List:
1. I just found out that the monarchs are on the move in Mexico.  Spring is on its way, and the cycles of life continue for this year again at least.  We’ll set the table with all the local milkweed we can manage.
2. Labyrinths
3. Messengers, guides, crows
4. Markers, maps, cairns
5. Lent, the contemplative season

May we walk in Sunshine.

Gratitude List:
1. Wisdom
2. Compassion
3. Enthusiasm
4. Singing in 4-part harmony
5. Solitude

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1.  Unfrozen pipes.  This is half a week old. On Sunday night, the intake pipe in the spring froze.  It’s never done that before.  My fundi (Swahili for handyman) husband figured out how to unfreeze it and how to weight the pipe so it stays under the water in the spring so it doesn’t happen again.  (Knock on wood.)
2.  This new governor.  I don’t plan to be starry-eyed.  I haven’t been particularly excited about the work of the last couple  of governors.  This one has already put into place a moratorium on the death penalty in PA.  Maybe we’re moving into a more humane future.
3.  Snow geese.  Have I mentioned the snow geese?  Tonight, driving home in the snow, I watched them settle like snowflakes, like leaves, like feathers, into a field near the highway.
4. Being inside.  Having a warm house.  Saying prayers tonight for those without shelter.
5. Teenagers.  These people are so sparkly and earnest, so silly and irreverent, so sweet and so edgy.  I have probably said this one, too, but it bears repeating: The world is going to be in good hands if these people are going to be the ones running things.

May we walk in Beauty!

all this running
between one moment
and the next

from the room of this minute
into the room of the one to come
we scuttle and race

trailing the detritus
of our days like the stuff
falling from a half-open suitcase

appointments and obligations
litter the ground behind us
and we are gasping
grasping for the next

take a breath
sit down
on the floor of the room
of this moment in time

watch how the minutes flow over you
when you release your grasp
on the one ahead

watch how the space of this room
takes shape around you

watch how your breath
blooms into the air

 

Gratitude List:
1. Well-written popular history: Bill Bryson’s At Home, for example, which I am listening to in the car these days–a history of the house.  It has everything: agriculture, architecture, social classes, semantics and etymology.
2. Yesterday was Taking Care of Me Day.  I didn’t get a lot of work done, but I got my eyes checked and my hair done.
3. Sleep is appearing frequently on my list these days, and I am putting it down again.  I have had at least three or four 8+-hour nights lately (with minor interruptions from the cat).  It doesn’t always work, but I have found that when I can have a creative art project on the back burner of my mind during the day, I can pull it out and plan it during those moments of panic when I wake up and am suddenly panicky that I won’t get back to sleep.  Something about imagining artistic processes lulls my brain.
4. I have a love-hate relationship with this pedometer, but it’s really getting me moving.  Whoever devised this step-counting contest at school was a genius.  I have been the lowest number on my team for the first two weeks, and I am determined not to let them all down, so I stand and step in place during evening activities these days.  We play Uno a lot during these winter evenings, and I step my way through the games.  This morning my legs actually ache from all that stepping yesterday.  I hope it makes me healthier in the long run.  It is at least keeping me from being quite so sedentary.
5. Dawn.  Black tree silhouettes against newborn light.

May we walk in Beauty!

Some kid-stories from the weekend:

–On a walk with a Small Boy, we were walking along the hedgerow, and I noticed that deep musky base-note odor and said, “Do you smell the fox?”  Boy blinked, grinned, and said, “No.  That was just me.”  Getting more and more like his dad every day.

–Yesterday, someone was running around the house, yelling, “Happy Villaintine’s Day!  I’m a Villain!”

Gratitude List:
1. Crocheting.  I love this business of taking a piece of thread/yarn/ribbon/string and giving it a form and a shape.  It means something more than it means, you know?  It’s one of those meditative activities that brings clarity and focus to my brain.  Threads of thought, threads of emotion, threads of conversation get twisted and knotted and formed into something tangible.
2. Putting puzzles together with my parents.  Playing Uno with my kids.  Gathering around the table to delight in each other.
3. Wind!  Oh, that wind!  Little snow devils twisting and twirling over the fields.  Wild gusts and squalls whooshing through the hollow.  Wind makes me feel feral, makes me want to fly with the rebel crows, makes my bones ache with longing to travel. (Maybe this is why I need the grounding and centering action of crochet right now.)
4. Transformation.  Transfiguration.  Metamorphosis.  Change.  Shift.  Revolution.
5. So many shades of green.

May we walk in Beauty!

Today when we had walked to the top of the hill, we stopped to examine that big patch of ice that formed when water pooled just above the eastern corner of the fields beside the little grassy airstrip at the top of the ridge.  It formed a nice ice-puddle which Joss immediately dubbed his very own skating rink.  I got to increase the step-count on my pedometer by walking around and around and around the puddle, holding on to his hand as he skidded and slipped over the icy surface.  It was a classic Christopher Robin moment, a small boy happily involved in the imaginative possibilities of the moment.

At one point, he lay down on the ice, and said, “Oh!  It’s beautiful!  There’s writing here!”

The ice had crystallized in a hieroglyphic pattern across the surface.

“Can you read it?” I asked him.

“No.  It’s in cursive.”

But there’s not a shred of doubt in your mind, Small One, that the writing is there to be read, if only one can crack that cursive code.  I know the feeling.  I had experienced it myself only moments before, watching a flock of Canada geese honking their way toward the River in front of a Michelangelo sunset sky, the shifting patterns of Vs undulating across the clouds.  I had the same feeling as we were watching the robins moving through the fields, the dark brown of their backs seeming to make the very earth bubble and boil like a live thing.  I get that feeling when I see bird tracks in the snow like cuneiform writing on the most transitory of tablets.  And it’s the same feeling I get when I see a branch or twig that has been burrowed by small insects who leave behind their trails in the wood, like a complex system of writing just waiting for me to figure it out.

Perhaps it’s just that age-old human trick of trying to make sense and meaning out of the seemingly random patterns of a chaotic natural world.  Or perhaps it’s an intrinsic awareness that we all have, that even if the random patterns about us do not make alphabetical sense, there’s an underlying order or patterning to everything around us, a purposefulness.

Maybe the point is not so much the attempt to decipher the coded purpose in the pattern, but to notice it and wonder at it where and when we see it, to lie down right there on the ice and say, “Oh, it’s beautiful!  There’s writing here!”

Gratitude List:

1.  Sleep
2. Doorways
3. Crocheting
4. Anticipating time off
5. Sleep

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1. Snow geese.  In the distance, it looks like a flock of Canadas, but there’s something less substantial about them, leaner, longer in the wing–and their silhouettes are just a little lighter in the blue.  Then they flash in the sun and you see the white, and the onyx wingtips.  The turning of wheel into spring is real when the sojourners begin their trek homeward.
2. The great horned owls are out there calling each other.
3. I never did write about that Full Moon last Tuesday, how it was hanging over the edge of the horizon as I drove out the driveway in the morning, and how, when I cleared the top of the ridge, it suddenly seemed to leap into the sky.
4. I am grateful for the way my church values children.  Participation in services, rituals and rites of passage, and Child Protection Policy.  A whole Sunday service and sermon given to the need to have a strong and sound Child Protection Policy.
5. Walking around the farm this afternoon with my little scientist, photographing animal tracks and scat.
6. Singing a sick child to sleep.
7. Balance.  Form and Freedom.  Structure and Creative License.  I had some really good discussions last Friday with several of my classes about rules, why we need them, why we sometimes need to break them.  About extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for ethical behavior.  About consequences and responsibility.  I have some wise, wise people in my life, and many of those wise folks are under the age of twenty.

May we walk in Beauty.

Random thoughts from a walk around the farm this afternoon:

–This Step-Counting contest at school is doing what it is supposed to, getting me out and walking.  I am afraid I am letting my team down with my low, low numbers.  I am more sedentary than I admitted to myself–grading and FB and granny squares and playing Legos keeps me sitting in one place.  A lot.
–On one hand the pedometer feels like a ball and chain.  I check it every half hour or so throughout the day, and I am feeling incredible pressure to get up and walking.  On the other hand, it pushes me to get outside and walk, which I don’t usually take the time for, so it’s freeing me, too.
–I like being on a walk.  I live having been walking.  I like having walked.  I just don’t like going walking.  It’s the anticipation and the getting myself in gear part that I don’t like.
–There were tracks everywhere in the last bits of snow and slush: deer, squirrel, bird, bird, bird, and canid.  Maybe that last is fox, maybe dog, maybe coyote.
–I haven’t seen a coyote in years, though Jon saw a pair of them only a couple weeks ago.  I was pretty desperate to find evidence of them in the tracks today.  One set of tracks had a really largish print, and the claws pushed deep into the snow.
–I found a grey-ish owl pellet and broke it apart to look for the mouse bones. But then I realized it was probably a misshapen piece of raccoon poo.
–The bees are sleeping.  I wonder how they’re surviving the winter in their hive.
–I found two unopened pods in one of the milkweed patches.  We brought them down to the house.  Jon has been collecting milkweed seeds with the hope that he can get some to grow in the spring to give away.
–One Small Boy came up to me and said, “Best snack ever!” as he crunched a chunk of ice in his left hand and then chewed off a bite of the kale in his right hand.
–That yellow frost-nipped kale looks about as winter-bitten as I feel right now.

 

Gratitude List:
1. Wind that scours
2. Fire that transforms
3. Water that purifies
4. Earth that supports
5. Spirit that inspires

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1. That gypsy wind yesterday, on Brighid’s Day, that scoured the sky, scooped me through the afternoon, tossed geese and crows about like winter leaves.
2. Those crows, those devil-may-care rebels, those renegades, those defiant fliers.  They leapt into the wind, fierce and fearless.
3. Those geese, less jaunty than the crows, more at the mercy of the winds.  Still, they motored on through the gales.  And then one group banked against the grey background of cloud, and they were snow geese, sojourners already returning.  And then there were whole flocks, and some were dark, the Canadas, who live here all year long, and some were the frosty white northerners with their jet black wing tips.  And did I mention it was Brighid’s Day?
4. And on the subject of the wind, there is that new art installation at the new train station in Lancaster with all those twisty bits that whirl in the breeze and stop my heart for just the briefest moment before it goes dancing away with the wind.
5. And then there was that tangerine glow this morning, and two rays of sunlight shooting a magenta X across the low grey cloud, an X that seemed to mark this very moment in time, the quarter point between the cross points of the Solstices and Equinoxes, this Quickening season of Brighid, of the Candle, of the Time-of-the-Small-Animals-Awakening.

Beauty all Around!

It is Groundhog’s Day. That whistle pig is the guide. It’s time to assess: What will I keep hidden in the dark recesses of winter and what will I bring out into the light? As the groundhog is emerging from winter sleep and starting to think about the Farmer’s vegetables, what will I open my own eyes to? What plans will I make for the coming season?  How ill I nourish myself?

It is Brigit’s Day. Her followers committed themselves to keep her fires always lit. What flames need my vigilance and attention in the coming year?  What paths and processes will I commit myself to following?  What will be my contemplative work in these final weeks of winter?

It is Candlemas. Time to tend to the candles, to bless the tools that will give me light in the coming year.

Here’s to February, the longest month.

Gratitude List:
1. The work of the emergency Women’s Shelter in Lancaster at the YWCA.
2. Early morning sun and late afternoon sun casting long blue shadows of trees over the snowy fields.
3. Looking forward.  Looking backward.  Looking inward.
4. Six weeks.  It’s only six weeks.  I can make it through winter.
5. You.  Thank you for all the ways you keep the fires lit, all the ways you bring light, all the ways you lift your candles and say, “Here.  This is the way.”

May we walk in Beauty!

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