Walk in Beauty

“And when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up or away; she looked into the eyes of the person sitting next to her. Which is harder, and better.” –Glennon Doyle Melton
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“As long as your curiosity is greater than your fear,
you will move forward.”
–Mehmet Murat Ildan
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“What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?
It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!” –Hafiz
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“We write poems in order to engage in the perilous yet necessary struggle to inhabit ourselves—our real selves, the ones we barely recognize—more completely.” –Tracy K. Smith
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“Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.” –Nelson Mandela
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“It is time for the next generations to continue our struggle against social injustice and for the rights of humanity. It is in your hands.” –Nelson Mandela
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WALKING IN BEAUTY
A Navajo Prayer

In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again

Hózhóogo naasháa doo
Shitsijí’ hózhóogo naasháa doo
Shikéédéé hózhóogo naasháa doo
Shideigi hózhóogo naasháa doo
T’áá altso shinaagóó hózhóogo naasháa doo
Hózhó náhásdlíí’
Hózhó náhásdlíí’
Hózhó náhásdlíí’
Hózhó náhásdlíí’


Gratitude List/Examen:
1. (What do you hear?) The fog here in the holler creates an interesting aural field. I feel like I am sitting in an isolated country space, with the sound of Cabin Creek gurbling down there, Susan’s wind chimes, a wren, a robin, a cardinal, some little chittery thing in the leaves of the sycamore. And then there are distant echoes that come from outside this inverted bowl of fog: an airplane, highway traffic, and a rooster, up the hill.
2. (What is satisfying?) Taking the wallpaper off the wall in the little room upstairs. Why is that so supremely satisfying, the feel of the paper coming off in strips?
3. (What do you see?) The umbrella arms of my sycamore friend, enclosing and sheltering this part of the hollow. I call her Wangari.
4. (Where does hope reside?) In knowing I am not alone, in knowing that small things become big things, that many of us together—doing our work—can make change.
5. (What are the words for the day?) Work, deliberation, play, stories, thunder, fog, watchfulness.

May we walk in Beauty!

Temple of Beauty

sine

Today’s Prompt is to write a poem about a specific, everyday sort of location.

Temple of Beauty
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I feel like an intruder in these halls of Beauty,
where the mirrors reflect each other to infinity,
and priestesses murmur dreams and blessings
into the hair of the seekers, where the smell
of exotic fruits and rare blooms mingle
with the (al)chemical tang of the unguents
and oils with which they anoint their acolytes.

I make my pilgrimage several times each year,
and perhaps it is my erratic attendance
that fills me with discomfort, the sense of not belonging
to this church of possibility, of transformation.
Yet, when I walk out the temple doors
I too am transmuted, changed,
the blessings dripping from my head
as I shake my hair in the autumn breeze.

Gratitude List:
1. Balmy weather
2. Our new neighbors are kindred spirits
3. The red Japanese maple out back
4. Sometimes actually knowing where the Yes goes, where the No goes, and how to hold the space between the two. I am grateful for all those who are helping me to practice.
5. The leathery red leaves of the little oak out back

May we walk in Beauty!

Ode to History in the Hospital

grandmas-hands1
My grandmother’s hands.

The prompt today is to write an ode or a poem dedicated to someone or something. I’ll do another in my series of History poems. I can hardly bear to remember the last one I wrote, on the eve of the Election. Poor History. She was looking so hopeful that night.

For History in the Hospital
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

She doesn’t look happy to see me.
I place the flowers on her windowsill
between a Get Well Soon balloon
and a giant teddy bear holding a red heart.

“I thought you said I didn’t have to
repeat myself–” she says. (“Repeat myself.”)
Her face is black and blue and she’s missing her front teeth.
She’s been beaten up before, I know.
Left for dead in alleyways,
trampled by the paparazzi,
mugged by dictators and tyrants.
She’ll recover. She will go on to watch it happen
again and again and again.

But this one was so sudden,
such a quick attack, and she didn’t see it coming,
despite her long association with herself.
I feel like I am partly to blame, somehow.

“I should be just a bystander,” she whispers.
“A bystander. But this kind always knocks me down.
Knocks me down.” She looks at me over the top of her spectacles.

What can I tell her? “I don’t know what to do,”
I say, the helplessness catching in my throat.

And there she is, doing what she’s done all along,
since the beginning of History herself:
she comforts me from within her own misery.
“You’ll think of something. I’ve got to get off this
whirling merry-go-round. It’s just not so merry anymore.”

I nod. “Not so merry anymore,” she repeats.

**********
Some suggestions for myself (and you, if you want to join me):
1. Listen to music. Music heals, as Andrea Gibson says.
2. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before posting and re-posting.
3. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before responding to those who disagree. Remember that we’re here to open doors for the Great Mystery in each other.
4. Check out some Joe Biden memes.
5. Hug someone you love.
6. Look into people’s eyes.
7. Stretch. Actually physically stretch. Often.
8. Breathe.
9. Listen to the pain and rage around you, but don’t take it on your shoulders.
10. Find your anchors, the people who keep you from floating away in the rage and the grief.
11. Re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “You Were Made for This.”

Gratitude List:
1. Soft tacos for supper: kale and broccoli, onions, cheese, beans.
2. The regular chiming of Grandma’s clock. When I cleaned the house, I decided to wind it up and get it ticking again.
3. Sleep. I always seem to need more of it during the dark season.
4. Forging pathways
5. Bridges. All the bridges we build, the bridges we cross.

May we walk in Beauty!

Stand Still

garden peach
Garden Peach tomatoes. Sweet, juicy, almost fruity. These two happen to be heart-shaped.

Reading Parker Palmer this morning, I again came across this poem by David Wagoner. I had such a strong reaction to this when I first read it a couple years ago that I can still recall how my skin felt as the words took hold.

Lost
by David Wagoner, from Collected Poems 1956-1976

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.

Gratitude List:
1. She might not be gone. I was certain that the hummingbird had left her nest, either abandoning her eggs as unviable, or getting too skittish about all the activity below her. This is the sort of thing I worry about. Yesterday, I watched her zip up to the nest, and instead of sitting on it like she usually does, she perched on the rim, and stuck her beak down into the nest. I can’t be positive, but this appeared to be the behavior of someone feeding young ones. Holding out hope.
2. Jumping spiders. They’re sort of like teeny tiny puppies, only you don’t have to worry about who is going to take care of them. Yesterday, I encountered a tiny brown jumping spider who kept leaping from finger to finger. It was like she understood where I wanted her to jump to next. She would race toward me across the vast distance of my hand, and then look up at me, and then when the people at the picnic table laughed, she would suddenly stop and twist her body so she could look at them, and then we would resume our little game.
3. The village that raises the children. My kids hadn’t seen Sandra for several weeks, and yesterday when she came, they raced to her and couldn’t stop bending her ear. She listens to them, she converses at their level, but never talks down to them.
4. Also, the schools. Last night was Back to School night at Wrightsville Elementary. I love the teachers and administration and staff at this local elementary school. I love the friendly, earnest culture of the place.
5. Encountering Beauty–in words, in the visual realm, in the aural realm. Sort of like encountering that little spider–there are moments when Beauty seems to say, “I get you. I am here to play with you for this one bright shining moment.”

May we walk in Beauty!

Desire

luna

As you read, you can use your own name for the Great Mystery, the Force of Life, Beauty, Love:

Psalm of Desire
(14 August 2016, revised)

O God of Beauty,
God of Marvel,
God of Wonder,
the whole universe that you have made
is built upon desire:

the force that holds electrons in atomic orbit,
that keeps the planets in their dance around the sun,
and wheels the spiraled walk of galaxies
is that same force which holds us to the earth,
which pulls the tides up the beach and back,
and calls us from complacency
to yearn for something more.

Not only do we hunger for you,
but you are the very force of our longing,
the Magnet which draws us ever outward
from the limiting walls of our own egos
to seek your face in all that surrounds us,
to seek your heart in the hearts of our neighbors,
to follow the pathway that leads us homeward.
You are the Magnet which draws us, finally,
into the home of our deepest selves,
where we are most truly
what you have made us to be.

Our yearning for you is an echo
of your own yearning for your children.

May we carry the knowledge within us,
deep in our cellular constellations,
pulled with the tides of our blood,
that our own deepest longings
are the echoes of your voice
calling us to you.

Draw us ever closer to your Center,
as the sun holds the planets in constant orbit,
as a mother draws her child to her heart,
that our longing may lead us always to you,
our Truest Home.

Gratitude List:
1. Preparing the heart space. So much work remains to be done, but the work on the heart moves on apace. (I copied this from last year’s August 15 list.)
2. Memories of luna moth. I haven’t seen any this year (yet), but I love looking at photos from other years.
3. How Love will always trump dogma. Generous spirits.
4. The wise and loving community.
5. Feathers. Wings. Wind. Flight.

May we walk in Beauty!

Encountering Mystery

lily pond

Today’s gratitude list is unashamedly entirely based in the natural world, though perhaps I am speaking of other things as well, as is so often the case, even when I don’t know it.  I find that often the things that catch my attention in waking life are not so far distant from the mythic images and ideas that meet me in the dream world. There are layers of meaning in those images, ideas reaching out to be met and understood. What if we were to see the wakeful, open-eyed world in the way we looked at the dream-world? As though it were a place to encounter Mystery, as if each moment were an opportunity to be spoken to by the sentient soul of creation, which some people call Goddess or God, which I often call Mystery or Beauty (I recently discovered that naturalist John Muir did the same).

In this recent post on her blog, psychologist Sharon Blackie quotes James Hillman: “Psyche, Hillman said, is not in us; we are in psyche. And I believe that if psyche is shaped by myth, by mythical images and symbols, then myth is not in us: we are, in some deep and indefinable sense, in myth. ‘It is not we who imagine, but we who are imagined.’ What if we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us?” I love this.  Can you sense Myth, Mystery, God/dess, Beauty, imagining you, offering you a hand at every turn, inviting you to See, to Experience, to Encounter?

The dream worker Toko-pa Turner, in this blog post, titled “Courting the Mystery” (in which she, too, quotes Hillman) writes, “I believe one of the great challenges of our time is our coming back into relationship with mystery. Rather than making an expectation of our needs being met, let us make a courtship of that which we admire. Let us make our lives alluring enough that the mystery might become curious of us! Let us stand with a respectful distance and make an invitation of ourselves, such that wildness might decide to approach us. Let us find ways to pray ourselves to the forest, even when we hear nothing back. Let us keep returning to that silence and allow ourselves to be shaped by our yearning for answers.”

Sometimes prayer is simply the act of paying attention, of noticing the way the world calls out to us, begs for us to respond and interact and participate.  Yesterday was full of those moments for me, those callings, those shining yearning standing-in-the-doorway holy places. And I didn’t go out searching. There they were to be grasped, between the moments of bickering children, of making plans for my coming year, of getting the quotidian work done.

Now the trick is to find them even when the butterflies aren’t flying, even when the hummingbird is not dipping her head to look at me from her nest, even when the day is grey or hot, even when I am emotionally drained or angry or frightened. Beauty is still there.  Mystery is always surrounding us, just waiting to be noticed.

Gratitude List:
1. Listening to the bluebirds welcoming the morning, the song sparrow, the surrounding chorus of birds, the various clubs of cicadas powering up their drones from several corners of the hollow, and suddenly, like a shift in air pressure, the dzip-dzip-thrrrim-dzip of the hummingbird finding the perfect angle into her bottlecap of a nest.
2. Indigo buntings calling to each other across the fields.
3. Monarch and swallowtail and buckeye. Did I say monarch? Yeah, I saw one, dipping her fiery wings as she surfed a breeze over the pear orchard toward me, and it made my heart happy. So happy.
4. So many tiny frogs on the lily pads on the pond, yeeping in terror when we walked too close, croaking in the rushes. The air above the pond was electric with the movement of dragonflies and damselflies darting, and tiny frogs hopping across the lily pads.  And further up, the swallowtails made lazy lines and loops in the sunshine, spiraling all the way to the top of the tallest poplar.  I must have seen two dozen or more yellow swallowtails at the pond yesterday.
5. Watching the bat again, darting impossibly fast in her circling beneath the poplar and sycamore trees. She was so quick, my eyes couldn’t scan her. I could imagine she was winking in and out between worlds. At one point, she came and circled twice around Joss and me where we were standing snuggling. So add to this one the wonder on a small boy’s face at being recognized by a bat in flight.

In Beauty may we walk.

Only Love Will Guide You

DSCN8162

There is no other answer.
Not purity.
Not righteousness.
Not power.
Not rules.

No book or map.
No speaker.
No leader.
No thing you can buy.
No magic elixir.

Only love will guide you in the end.

Gratitude List:
1. (What do you hear?) Wren calling, coffee bubbling, cat purring, child playing with gnomes
2. (What do you see?) Green, rain, orange fur, deep shadow, reflections
3. (What do you smell?) Clean clear air, earth after rain, coffee
4. (What do you feel?) Chill on my skin, dampness of air, morning aches, tickle in my nose
5. (What do you remember?) Birds in the rain, nap with a warm cat, laughing children, chocolate bar

For all these I am grateful.  May we walk in Beauty!

Following Your Task

DSCN9104

A little poem after reflecting on Mary Oliver (“You do not have to be good.”) and Caitlyn Siehl (“[Being pretty] is not your job.”).  This is an interesting draft to begin, but I definitely want to craft this one and perfect it.

When you crossed the threshold
into the indigo shadows of the Old One’s hut,
she took hold of you with her bony claw
and gave you three impossible tasks.

But none of them were beauty.
None of them were goodness.
She does not demand of you
what your stepfamily expects,
out there beyond the forest’s reach,
in their comfortable cottage
covered with vines and flowers.

The crone can see that your path leads
away from pleasantries and loveliness.
She knows the world will demand your strength,
the full force of your determination.
She knows that sometimes the most arduous task
is to turn your face away from the mirror
the others have given you,
the one in which you see
what they want you to see.

Seek the needle in the haystack,
catch the wind in a bag,
find the golden flower that grows
on the farthest mountains
beyond the lands of comfort.

When you return,
the mirror will be truly yours,
to see yourself as only you can see.
Then you will sit in the quiet shadows
waiting for a young one to coming humming
along the forest path to ask you for fire.

Gratitude List:
1. Students performing Shakespeare.  I knew they could manage the comedies with flair and finesse, but I had no idea they could do Julius Caesar with such incredible power.  A gender-fluid cast.  Brutus stayed male, but Caesar and Antony were female.  As always, they made it utterly accessible.  This could definitely be an award-winning performance.
2. One of the little jobs I get to volunteer for at school is Apple Pie Judge (I came back to this to capitalize it).  And the teacher in charge actually thanked ME for participating.  Heh.  No, that was all my pleasure, thank you.  These kids can bake a mean apple pie.  And it’s just one more way for students to get recognition for their abilities that go beyond the traditional boundaries of sports or music or academics.  Those were some fine pies.
3. Remembering this: You don’t do it all at once–you go step by step by step.
4. The baby green on the sycamore and poplar trees.
5. Today is Wrightsville’s Poem in Your Pocket Day.  I am going to rush home from school so I can go with the family around the town so the boys can read their chosen poems at participating businesses.

May we walk in Beauty!