Mist, Moon, Mist


As November 6 approaches, and amid all the squeamishness I am feeling about the privileged way we do politics in this country, I am thinking about the “right” to vote.

June 4, 1919: The 19th Amendment finally offered women the right to vote in this country.

Except. Only White Women. Women put their bodies on the line for this right. They went to jail. They were beaten. They were brutally force-fed during hunger strikes. They were called terrible names, and experienced social shaming that destroyed their reputations. And they were white women, and they fought for white women. Some of my heras from that fight were notably silent on the subject of race. Others actively campaigned against women of color being included in the mix.

On this hand over here, I honor them for their selfless and courageous fight. They saw their moment and they took it, and the world was at least a marginally better place for it.

On this hand over here, though: Is it a victory, really, if it actively marginalizes such a large number of us?

My heras have feet of clay. Fatal flaws. Lack of real vision and insight and completely human compassion. Still, their work paved the way. But not for all of us. Did it at least open the door for all of us?

The Snyder Act, in 1924, finally gave the country’s original inhabitants the right to vote, five years after white women could vote. And looking at the kinds of voter suppression that took place for African American people after white people finally passed the 15th Amendment, it’s likely that many Native American women didn’t vote until much later.

While the 15th Amendment in 1870 ostensibly gave African American men the right to vote, we don’t have to look so far back into the mists of history to see how recently the Voting Rights Act was passed, to REALLY give black people the right to vote. It was on 1965, two years before I was born, and I’m not that old. So, while my grandmothers could have voted if they’d wanted to (it was against their religious principles, so they didn’t), my grandmothers’ African American sisters couldn’t vote until they were in their forties or fifties.

So this year I won’t be posting any images of the white suffragettes marching for women’s right to vote, as door-opening as that period was, as sacrificial as they were. And I am having trouble celebrating any movement to bring about ACTUAL Democratic voting in this country while the Supreme Court can take away the voting rights of First Nations people in North Dakota, while unscrupulous people are suppressing the black vote in Georgia, while elderly black voters are removed from a bus taking them to a polling place. There are more stories. Look them up.

I will honor the intent of the suffragettes who fought for the right to vote, for the doors they opened, and I will truly celebrate the life and work of the tireless Congressman John Lewis, who nearly died in the fight to bring about the Voting Rights Act.

There will always be undemocratic forces in this country that try to garner power for their own ends, to control the people. Voting, and fighting for the voice of all people to vote, is part of the bedrock of the democratic process.  And I will speak out–and I beg you to speak out, too–for the rights of ALL Americans to vote for those who are chosen to speak for us in the halls of power.


Gratitude List:
1. Good fiction. I am listening to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. I don’t know why post-apocalyptic literature is so charmingly comforting in these difficult times. Perhaps it has to do with reminding me that things aren’t as bad as all that. Yet. Feel free to psychoanalyze me.
2. Speaking Truth to Power–all the people who do so
3. Cool fall days
4. The river, the river, the river
5. Magical, prayerful, contemplative acts

May we walk in Beauty!


Rhapsody Part 7 – Mary Oliver

If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with
some small and easy story.
Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, fails, strives again. The world is perfect.
Love, however,
is an opera, a history, a long walk, that
includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep leaved hills.
*
“You either walk inside your story & own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” ~BRENÉ BROWN
*
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
October.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Live the question now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“and if i hear one more time
about a fool’s rights
to his tools of rage
I’m gonna take all my friends
and I’m gonna move to Canada
and we’re gonna die of old age” –Ani Difranco

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Prayers and Rage

Okay, so I am getting more nervous about the coming winter by the moment here, as I watch the busy tribe of squirrels on the bank behind the house. They are eating and gathering at a furious pace. If they have inside information, we’re in for a tough one.

And this is one healthy, glowing gang of critters: Their fur is sleek, and their bodies are filled out and muscular. They look like they’ve been lifting little weights. One of them, gorging on berries six feet up in a bush, began to slip downward. She didn’t even pause in her eating, but grabbed a branch beside her, somersaulted downward, landed on her feet with the berry branch still in her mouth, and continued eating. Little parkour ninja folk. And I know that squirrels are already that way, but these are just. . .more so.

I don’t know if I have ever noticed just how russet-colored is the feathery fur on their breasts until a moment ago when one stood to greet an approaching comrade, and his breast shone chestnut-red in the morning sun. And that’s another thing. You know how squirrels stand to look around and greet each other, hands on hearts? I’ve always thought it made them look sort of timid and cute in a timorous “oh-my-heart” sort of way. These folks, whenever someone else approaches, stand like little warriors, feet apart, spines straight, eyes alert, hands on their chests in a greeting of solidarity.

These people are readying themselves for a hard winter ahead. May the walnuts and berries be plenty. May you grow ever healthier and sleeker, small ones, as you do the work to prepare your colony for what is to come.


Gratitude List:
1. Squirrels
2. There was a roseate spoonbill down on the Flats last week. They say it’s gone, but I think I’ll drive down there and just look around. I am grateful to know such a being was here.
3. Oak leaves
4. Clouds
5. All the people doing the good work. Let’s not let ourselves get too discouraged. So much wrongness has seeped out of the cracks recently, and for those of us who want to believe in the beauty and marvel and goodness of everyone, it has been particularly painful. A friend of mine reminded me this morning that often there are still noble elements that reside within the souls of those who are living openly by greed and power-mongering and death-dealing, and we need to find ways to hold conversations that enkindle those sparks of Goodness. I’ll keep searching for that nobility while remembering that there are so many out there who continue to work and live from the depths of their Divine Spark. Like you.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Doorway:
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” -―Rumi
*****
“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves
into the rhythms of the human heart.
The earth is not outside us; it is within:
the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”
―John O’Donohue
*****
“There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”
―Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
*****
A Gift
by Denise Levertov

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.
*****
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively; go to the side and do it differently. Don’t waste time with oppositional energy.” ―Richard Rohr, writing about the thinking of Dom Helder Camara
*****
“The heart of faith is the call to love one another. . .” ―Avis Crowe
*****
“A child looking at ruins grows younger but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips in the sun.”
—W. S. Merwin, The Love of October
*****
“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
—Lucille Ball
*****
“My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated.” —Óscar Romero

Glorious Compensation

Gratitude List:
1. The glorious compensation for these darkly claustrophobic mornings is that we get to see the sunrise clouds on the way to school. I love sunrise clouds and sunrise skies.
2. Challenges. Our chapel speakers this week have been issuing challenges: See the sacred goodness in every person, turn off social media for two days, look for a situation in the world where dehumanization is happening and figure out how you can change that.
3. Fuzzy warm cats
4. A new good fantasy book to read: Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone
5. Raquel Vasquez Giilibrand’s chapbook Tales from the House of Vasquez. I read it yesterday, and found myself walking around chanting: madre, madrina, madrone. . . Mythic, legendary, ancestral: I love her poetry. It was like living in a dream while awake.

May we walk in Beauty!


John Philip Newell writes, “Knowing and naming brokenness is essential in the journey toward wholeness. To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.”
*****
“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
—Reinhold Niebuhr
*****
“The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self—to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
*****
“As long as I live,
I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood,
storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens,
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
—John Muir
*****
“The world is our Mother. If we destroy her, where will we live?”
—Kogi Mama
*****
“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life – meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” —Toko-pa Turner

Sacred Eating

Gratitudes:
1. Eating Verlen’s pepper. Great gratitude to the person who harvested them and brought them to church. It feels like such a sacred moment to share the food of a friend who has died. I could feel his smile.
2. Graceful lines of ink on paper
3. Stretching, strengthening
4. Origami. I found a pattern for a sweet little bat today, and my second try turned out a darling little critter. Now I need to find some pliable black paper.
5. Making knots in string. Crocheting again. All these bits of art and craft that make make life shiny.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Why are you so determined to keep your wild silently inside you? Let it breathe. Give it a voice. Let it roll out of you on the wide open waves. Set it free.”
―Jeanette LeBlanc
*****
“Lots of people talk to animals. . . . Not very many listen though. . .that’s the problem.” ―Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
*****
“When war is our only industry, the only crop is blood.” ―Will Giles
*****
Plant
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,
“Ahhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh
Because that is the purest
Sound.
—Hafiz
*****
“My journey has taught me that I must learn religion as the mystics learned it, through the inward quest that Jungian psychology has helped me with so much. Banding together in institutions, whether religious, academic or professional, helps some feel secure and able to look down on the unenlightened. But I’ve clearly learned that the inward quest must become one’s own before it’s any good at all.”
—Bud Harris, Ph.D.
*****
“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” —Gabrielle Roth
*****
“Blessed be your longing. Your endless ache. Your sharp crystal shatter. Your sea glass heart.” ―Jeannette LeBlanc

Honest Anger


Gratitude List:
1. Grocery Shopping with Jon. It felt sort of like a date.
2. How things come together sometimes when they seem like they won’t, and how that space of uncertainty is often where the magic comes seeping in.
3. Rituals of healing
4. The power of stories. We watched Nanette last night. Hannah Gadsby has some of the most powerful reflections on the importance of story that I have ever heard.
5. Hot Tea on a chilly evening

May we walk in Beauty!

The Pathway of Magic

  

  

Gratitude List:
1. Housecleaning. It’s not something we do with great regularity or relish here, and it’s very hard to clean a room with Legos strewn across the floor. Today, I got them to clean up the Legos and the techie junk that’s been cluttering up the whole downstairs for quite some time, and I vacuumed like a wild woman. I like to sit in the livingroom now.
2. Meeting a goal
3. Cool days
4. Cheese
5. Good people working for good.

Much love!

Pathways of the Heart

Mountaintop  42068733_360534797822346_7202145227302807350_n(1)

Looking back through some of my previous blog posts, I came upon this again this morning, something that keeps leaping out at me from the past to remind me to open my throat. Today Joss is nine and Ellis is twelve. They must have been three and six at the time of this story:

This morning when we were playing with our gnomes, Joss decided that the gnome house was on fire, and he raced to get a group of gnomes to put it out. “Red! We need all the red gnomes!” Exactly–to put out a fire, it takes lots of red gnomes. Ellis chimed in, “And Minus! We need the Minus Gnome! Because a house with fire Minus the fire is just a house!”

Sometimes I sure would like to use some of Minus Gnome’s magic on me. An anxious Beth Minus anxiety is just Beth. Angst-ridden, anger-struck Beth Minus angst and anger? Beth. So that’s a nice little thing to do with meditation. Of course as soon as I began to work with the idea, it hit me again that the angers and angsts are so often born of compassion and caring, and for those I have been seeking the services of Multiplication Gnome. I need to untangle the compassion from its attendant anger at injustice, its partner anxiety at losses to those I love.

Wow. Look at those words that I wanted to get rid of: Angst, Anxiety, Anger. . .I looked them up, along with their sister Anguish. There at their root is angh-, which comes from the Indo-European language tree, and generally refers to distress of some sort. That lovely vowel–ah–cut short in the back of the throat, closed up along with all hope of breath: Angh!

Fear, shame, anger, distress: what sound emerges when you truly feel them? Angh! Choke.

But still, that lovely vowel–ah–the first we say in so many languages: Mama, Abba, Baba, Dada, Nana, Papa. The opposite of the choke, our family names, our names for the Ineffable Mystery: they release the breath in a tender sigh. Ah. There we go.

When I get really stuck in the Angh, I can dislodge that choke with a little Hahaha, a great belly laugh to force the air back through, a little spiritual CPR, so to speak. Or skip down the street with a Tra-la-la, a little song to start up the rhythm of breathing again. Or a little eureka, a bright discovery with a great Aha!

So the next time I wake up at three in the morning, suddenly filled with the dread of what is happening to this world that I have brought these light-filled children into, or choked with shame for some harshness I have spoken to their tender hearts, I think I will apply the Ah!, the Mama, the Ha! and see if that breath can be a lullaby to take my spirit back to sleep.


Gratitude List:
1. Breathing through the angh- to the aaaaaah
2. Long sleep last night
3. Re-orientation: Not getting stuck in the ruts of rage, but carrying the coals tucked in my apron to use at need
4. So many names for the Great Mystery
5. Building relationships with those who are not human: ducks, cats, trees, rivers, stones. . .

May we walk in Beauty!

Belonging at the Table


I’m pretty sure it was the bread that made me weep. The cup was on the table, but there was no bread. (Truth be told, I was already in tears by that time, from the moment of the offertory song:
“She’s got the whole word in her hands.”)

“Today’s bread comes from all around the world,” they said. But where was the bread? It was not the lack of bread that made me weep, but the bringing of it. As they spoke of pita, and the Syrian people who have been caught between warring fronts for seven years, a mother brought her children and pita to the tables, children who have relatives in Lebanon, Syria’s neighbor and a country healing from its own civil war.

Then while a mother and her child brought tortillas, the bread of her homeland Honduras, to place upon the tables, they reverently recalled to us those from Central America who have suffered, whose children have been torn from parents’ arms when they come to our borders seeking safety.

And then while a father from Indonesia brought his son with steamed Indonesian bread for the tables, they spoke of the tsunami and devastation.

They reminded us of Puerto Rico and of hurricanes and of how it feels not to be believed when you tell your terrible stories, and a grandmother and her small one came forward with a baked loaf like we eat in the United States.

I thought perhaps I couldn’t take Communion today, I who want nothing to do with so many who call themselves followers of Jesus. I thought perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps the anger would keep me away from the table. Until the table was filled with bread and tears. Until grief stepped in to the place of anger, and I, too, felt like I belonged at the table.


Gratitude List:
1. Gingerbread Cookies. At our school auction, we auction off gingerbread cookies. The cookies represent students in our system, and people bid on them to donate money to increase our ability to offer financial aid for students. They were some of the highest priced items at last night’s auction. I am blown away by people’s generosity.
2. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. Not sure why I am finding a post-apocalyptic feminist novel quite so comforting in these times, but I am really caught up in listening to it.
3. Rage and tenderness. Kindness and anger.
4. Rituals that bring healing as well as marking it. “She’s got the whole world in her hands.”
5. Fall weather. All two hours of it today. Really. I know it’s coming.

May we walk in Beauty!

Bringing Down the House of Dudebro

The old white dudebros we saw fawning over the job applicant as he wept and professed his love for beer and attacked the woman who dared to ask if he’d ever passed out from drinking are the same old white dudebros who did everything in their power to elect a president who thinks that because he’s a celebrity, he can do what he wants to women, and they’ll have to just take it. These ancient husks of the patriarchy didn’t care then about women, not about their wives and daughters, not about their mothers and their friends, nor about their mistresses either. And they haven’t suddenly started to care, or to consider women in their definition of fully and completely human. It’s always been about consolidating their power, and women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and people with any hint of “otherness” are right out, simply stepping stones and objects for their pleasure and subjugation.

Their operating systems run on money, sex, and power, and the first two are simply tools to get to the third. They’ll do their best to speak their version of Christianese in order to get the votes they want. They’ll talk about reason and intellect and democracy and patriotism, but their words don’t mean the same as ours. They live with a belief that women are emotional and irrational, but put them in the hot seat, and they fall into irrational, emotional rants and tirades themselves.

We need to get to them in their language. If money talks, we do what we can to hit them in the pockets. We support their opponents in the mid-terms. We boycott anything and everything they’re connected to. We refuse, ourselves, to be buyable and sellable.

The sex is harder. If you know the wives and lovers of the dudebros, use your eloquent influence to call down the legacy of Lysistrata upon their heads. Empower the sisters to abandon the beds of the patriarchs. If you share a bed with a dudebro, practice some celibacy, sister. (I’m not advocating leaving the bed of true allies, of course.)

And as for power, as some wise woman wrote on her protest sign: We grab ’em by the midterms. We empower women and people of color. We stump and rally and canvas and speak out for women’s voices and women’s leadership. We amplify the voices of black women, of Latina women, of trans women, of immigrant women, of women in wheelchairs and women with mental illness.  We listen to single mothers. We listen to teenaged women. We #VoteforHer. We #BelieveHer.

We make a space for Women’s Country within the space of our existing structures, and then we expand and we rise, and we set the old patriarchal structures on fire, to be blown away like so much ash.

The Old Boys’ Club, the frat house, the dudebro world, the patriarchy is dying. Today we light the match to burn it down.


Gratitude List:
1. October. It is, as they say, my favorite color.
2. Stories. How they fuel activism. How they build empathy. How they open hearts and minds.
3. Bright colors
4. The autumn slant of sunlight
5. Books

May we walk in Beauty!


Today’s Notes and Quotes:
“To make a living is not to make a killing. It’s to have enough.” —Wendell Berry
*****
“None of us is getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Nanea Hoffman
*****
“God is love, without asterisks.” —Father Stratis of Afghanistan
*****
“People often say, with pride, ‘I’m not interested in politics.’ They might as well say, ‘I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future or any future.’ . . . .If we mean to keep any control over our world and lives, we must be interested in politics.” —Martha Gellhorn

An Old, Old Story

gator

About a week ago, I had an extremely unsettling dream, which is not uncommon during stressful times and times of seasonal change. I wrote about it the following morning:

In the dream, we decide that our car is amphibious, so we drive it through the pond. Surprisingly, it works, and only starts to sputter when we get to the other side. On the way, we see a phainopepla, a shining blue bird with a little red on its crest. It’s sitting on the water in a short of moon shape, break in the air. It’s very thin. As we approach the other side of the pond, we see an alligator in the shallows! This is exciting!

We start to climb the hill on the other side and the alligator follows us. The hill is steep and rocky and the alligator is FAST. We’re not really worried. Ellis sort of jumps down toward the alligator to see which way it will take. Ellis is on a sort of a sled. Suddenly the alligator leaps up and catches Ellis and they zoom down into a rocky hole.

Just like that, they’re gone. I can’t believe it. I try to rewind the dream. I try to make a different thing happen. I try to make him come shooting out of a hole at the base of the hill, but my dream won’t let me take over. He’s just gone. I throw rocks into the hole to try to kill the alligator so it can’t hurt Ellis, but then I realize that the rocks will hurt Ellis. We cannot find him. He’s just gone.

I’m weeping in my dream. People want to talk to me, to comfort me, but I won’t look at them. I keep trying to rewind, to go back, to make it be different, to hold him, to warn him, to know the danger before it happens, but nothing works. As a last resort, I wake myself up, and lie there waiting for the dawn.

Friends offered so much wisdom. My son is growing up. At every single stage of his development, my pride in his developing independence has wrestled with my anxiety about letting him go. This has some obvious connections in the story.

Another friend simply wrote to me, “Demeter. This is the time Persephone descends.” This hit me like an arrow. The thing that rode on my back all day after the dream was the sense of un-comfort-able grief. I refused to be comforted. I felt like I was living in Demeter’s heart.

Grateful that I can feel myself so connected to the goddess of the season, and grateful that I have images for my anxiety about my own child growing up, I began to look at other layers. In the days before my dream, we had first begun to hear of allegations of sexual assault against a man running for one of the most ethically-based jobs in our country, an assault that occurred when they were both teenagers. In my daytime world, as a teacher in a high school, I have hundreds of daughters: young women who are wide awake and speaking their minds; young women who are sleeping, unaware, lulled by cultural signals about who they “should” be; young women who are actively trying to stay in the relative “safety” of their cages; young women who are dawning, awakening, bursting forth. I cannot protect them all.

And this story we are living in the US today, it’s as ancient as the oldest myths and stories, isn’t it? You know the story? In brief, Hades, the god of the underworld, kidnaps and rapes Persephone, the teenaged daughter of Demeter, goddess of cereal grains and fields and farms and the earth’s abundance. Demeter cannot be comforted. She is distraught. She wanders the world in her anguish, seeking her daughter, but her daughter cannot be found. Finally she approaches Zeus, god of the sky, leader of the Olympians, to ask for justice for her daughter. But Hades is Zeus’ brother, and Zeus is hesitant to upset his brother. Finally, he acquiesces, but only after Demeter refuses to make things grow, and the people start to die. Unfortunately, because Persephone has eaten six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, she must stay with Hades for half of every year, and can only rise to the upper world with her mother for half of each year.

Here is how it happens: A man who lives according to his shadows, according to the instinct of his reptilian brain, attacks a young woman. He has taken something essential of her Self captive, claimed it as his own. She may walk again in the sunlight, but part of her will always reside in the halls of shadow. Her mother (the women) wander the world in grief and rage, demanding justice, but the one to whom they can go for justice in a patriarchy is a brother to the attacker, and he’s more interested in preserving his power and his relationship to his brother than in meting out real justice for the woman. Hades continues as a powerful god. Demeter grieves and rages in her cycles. Persephone continues to be held captive by her memories and the trauma that now resides in her body.

Are we strong enough to break the cycle?