How You Get There


I am signing off for a few days. I am going to the woods with some of my beloved community, to sing and laugh and play together, to walk the labyrinth in the woods, to listen for birdsong and look for tiny fungi in the leaf litter, to breathe and to wander. I will see you here in a few days.


“I remember nothing more about that night, except knowing that the enchantment of that moment would be with me forever, how what was burning so intensely in my heart could manifest itself in all of nature and how a song could thread itself through a needle, and stitch it all together, for one other-worldly, soul-aching, heart-breakingly hopeful glimpse of Nirvana.” –Excerpt of blog by Gloria Talcove-Woodward
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“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
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“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” –Louis C. K.
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“Never apologise for your sensitivity. It is the thinness of your skin which makes you brave. You are willing to live. You are willing to be alive.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
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“Acknowledge your mission. Trust your path. Become your chosen destiny.” –Jamie Sams
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“You are what you eat eats.” –Michael Pollan


Gratitude List:
1. Fridays: Week’s end, Faculty Hymn sing, the anticipation of rest and time in the woods with beloveds
2. Yesterday’s clouds, which were dragons and caves of flame and featherbeds
3. Teenagers and their enormous hearts
4. Monarch and dragonfly
5. Sharing laughter. What warmth of human connection when someone says, “Hey! Wanna hear a joke?” The social connection of good, healthy humor, how it bonds people together
6. (I am breaking the rules today and adding another) Playing with sentences. In a couple different classes right now, we are playing with sentence structure, copying the forms of professionally-written sentences, writing poems based on set formulae of absolute phrases and participial phrases. For some, it’s a bit tedious, but it has been delightful to watch the twinkle in the eyes of others when they begin to get it, to feel what it’s like to write a really elegant sentence.
7. (while I am at it. . .) Yesterday’s chapel talk by Brenda Martin Hurst. She reminded me of how much work has been done by so many to create a world and a church in which girls and women are valued as much as men and boys, and how much work there still is to do. I am grateful for my mother and others who worked with such love and courage and sheer will to begin to pave a way for women’s voices to be more fully heard in the Mennonite Church. This, more than anything, gives me great hope that some day we, too, can break through the wrongs against which we raise our voices.

May we walk in Beauty!

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I Need a Dragon

dragon
This is known as the Ljubljana dragon. One legend says it was killed by Jason and Medea, while they were still on friendly terms. Other legends say it was the ancient Slavic god Veles.

I don’t intend this as a poem. My thoughts tonight are fragmented as I consider the shifts that are occurring in the world in the next twenty-four hours.

Tonight I need a dragon.
I need a fuzzy pink hat with cat ears.
I need a photo of Michelle Obama saying, “. . .we go high.”
I need a soulful labyrinth.
I need to hold selenite and labradorite in my palms.
Tonight I need to pray and breathe and center.
I need a friendly ghost to tap me on the shoulder and wink.
I need a warm cat on my lap, purring.
I need a cup of tea with milk and honey.
I need a wild wind to blow.
I need a spot beside the heating vent.

Let’s keep reaching out, holding onto love, holding on to what is right and good and full of beauty. May we remain grounded in our desire to protect and heal that which we love. May we keep wide awake and aware, bearing witness, staying vigilant and conscious, grounded in our centers, offering our strength and power to those who need it. May justice roll down like waters.

I know of some people who are choosing to walk labyrinths tomorrow morning. I will be dancing through labyrinths of language in my classroom. During our chapel tomorrow morning, we will be celebrating the life and words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gratitude List:
1. The way breath and heartbeat simply happen.
2. The way breath births language.
3. The way language gives shape to meaning.
4. The way language carries the rhythm of heartbeat and breath.
5. Dragons

May we walk in Beauty!

Blessing for Election Day and Beyond

JClabyrinth
I find myself doodling and drawing labyrinths again–it always seems to happen when I am thrown off-balance. Here is one of my favorite labyrinths, up at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville.

Today’s Poetry Prompt is to write an Activity Poem.

Blessing for Election Day and Beyond
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

May we be spinners of webs,
catching each other,
wrapping each other
in silken threads
to keep us all from falling.

May we be builders of bridges,
creating firm pathways
so all may walk safely
over the chasm
or meet in the middle.

May we be wanderers,
willing to walk in the wild places,
seeking each other
when distance has
broken our circles.

May we be dreamers
and planners, wishers
and makers, devising a future
where everyone
may find a home in love.

Gratitude List:
1. A pileated woodpecker sailing through the treetops and sunshine on the way down Ducktown this morning. It has been a long time since I have seen one.
2. Getting the grades in. What’s the old saying? “The wonderful thing about hanging by your fingernails is it feels so good when you’re done.” Yeah, that.
3. The promise of a warm and comfortable bed very soon. I admit it, small as that hour is, the time change is challenging for me. I always feel like I need extra sleep to handle it. I am off to bed VERY soon.
4. Jon Carlson’s thoughtful reminder in chapel this morning: The really important thing is Love. I will carry that with me like a shiny pebble into the day tomorrow, and the days that follow.
5. You, my friends. You keep bringing me back to center when I start to fray around the edges. What bright and brilliant community.

Hold on tightly. Breathe deeply. Smile at each other often. Get some sleep.

Finding the Questions

imag1876
I spent last week quietly anticipating another walk of the Camp Hebron Labyrinth. On my Saturday morning walk own to the woods, I kept thinking how different the paths and the distances seemed in just a week. The thought appeared in my head: “It’s a different journey now.” Even though I am walking a similar path and toward a different destination, the journey keeps shifting and changing. Just moments after I had begun to ponder what I meant by thinking that, I arrived at the labyrinth to find that a tree had fallen across it.

I recently found this piece of paper on which I wrote, in the summer of 2015, a series of examen-type questions. I think I probably have already written these in the blog, but I am going to put them here again so that I can ponder them this week. I wouldn’t use more than five of them a day, probably, and for similar ones, like the first four, I would spread them out over days, to see how the different ways of asking almost the same question evokes different internal responses.

How did Mystery encounter you today?
How did you encounter Mystery today?
How were found by Mystery?
How did God/dess seek you?

What awakened you?
What vision brought your spirit awake?
What nudged you? (Or nudged you forward?)
Where does your heart sit?
What gave you wings?
What do you take on your journey?
What do you tuck into the corners?

What quickened within you?
What brought your senses (or your heart, your spirit, your brain) alive?
What do you take deeper?
What do you take into prayer?

What is the weight that you carry?

And not that I am thinking about it again, I’ll add some more from today’s heart:
What itches? What makes you uncomfortable?
What feels unsettled?
What skin are you shedding?
What muscles are you stretching?

Gratitude List:
1. Bridges, and bridge-building language and actions
2. Gathered Community
3. Getting the work organized, making a plan
4. Treasuring each other
5. Waking up–I am struggling with the actual physical process this morning. How much more intense it can be to wake up in other ways. May we always be open to the pull to wake further, to bring our dreams into the wakeful spaces.

May we walk in Beauty!

Wide and Close

JClabyrinth

Panorama photos provide interesting, and often slightly disturbing, perspectives.  This one captures the way the labyrinth at the Jesuit Center is in a little protected space, but also how it has a view of both the monastery and the grounds.  But the benches on either side of this photo are placed next to each other, on either side of the entrance to the labyrinth.

Gratitude List:
1. Learning a new thing.  I have been making empanadas, expanding my dough repertoire.
2. This kiddo is cutting and pasting magazine pictures, making his own little book of pictures he likes.
3. Reading with children.  This is connected to visceral memory from my childhood.  I sometimes say that I became an elementary school teacher years ago just so I could read to kids like my mother read to us.  Then I had kids so I could read to kids (there may have been some other reasons).  I cannot read CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien without hearing my mother’s voice.  My children will not be able to read Redwall without hearing my “interesting” attempts at various accents.  I sit on the couch, and no matter how hot it is, they snuggle under my wings.
4. Summer’s pacing.
5. Goldfinch Farm Crew!

May we walk in Beauty!

Scattering Prayers

milkweed  lawnlabyrinth
Scattering Milkweed seeds like prayers.

Yesterday I mowed a labyrinth into the grassy patch between the barn and the greenhouse.  The boys and I took a basket of milkweed pods that we had gathered last fall, and spiraled our way into the center of the labyrinth, where we scattered the the fluff like prayers.  Prayers for the monarchs, for the future of these children and the planet that supports them, for the people I carry in my heart.  For you.  For me.  For transformation, and for compassion and for love.  For Beauty, and for fun.

Gratitude List:
1. That wren out there reminding me to keeping listening, keep talking, keep the conversation going.
2. Being in a body.  These morning aches, this slightly blurry vision, this stuffy head–it’s all part of being in the body, along with tastebuds, sensations of cool breezes and warm sweaters, satisfying stretches.
3. Prayers.  I am re-establishing my connection to the word prayer.  I will keep using my other words, too–carrying stones, casting webs, holding the bowl–but prayer is a strong universal signifier for being mindful and concerned, and I am finding that I am choosing it more often to represent what I do, wordless as it so often is.
4. That tiger swallowtail that slipped like a sunbeam down the green slope of the ridge yesterday.
5. Compassion, and all the places you find it.

May we walk in Beauty!

Keep Turning

IMG_2261 (2)

I am finding the simple three-circuit labyrinth to be really satisfying.  Like a spiral, each circuit brings you one step closer toward the center, yet there’s that unsettling turning at the end of the circuit.  Wait a minute!  I’m now going the other way!  Still, despite the change in direction, I continue to move ever closer to the center.  This hit me yesterday.  Life has sent me reversals.  I have had moments when I have suddenly changed directions.  The whiplash can feel overwhelming, the sense of lost time or futility in what came before–but the turnings also bring me closer to the center.  The apparent about-faces and the changes of plan do not mean that I am going backwards, undoing the past.  I am still moving closer to the center. It all leads toward the center.

Gratitude List:
1. (What feeds you?) The red of the poppies.  I think I could probably live on the food of that red.  Such an impossible color.  That and the orange of Oriole.  And the thousands greens of the last week of May.
2. (What finds resolution?) I now have fewer balls to juggle, fewer plates to keep spinning in the air.  I can look to caring for my children more intentionally, to tidying and cleaning and systematizing.
3. (What images draw you?) The labyrinth.  We used the labyrinth as the structure for the service in church yesterday, and this Wednesday, I will be focusing on the labyrinth for my mini-course with my students.
4. (Who has been helpful?) Walt Whitman, Rachel Carson, Sojourner Truth–I will meditate on the words and lives of these wise ones this week.
5. (What helps you cope?) This little air conditioner.  If I choose to live beneath the branches of a grand tulip poplar, I must have respite during its blooming season.  This magnificent tree draws our orioles to us.  Its leafy embrace cools us here in the hollow during hot summer days.  It stands across from the sycamore like a sentinel.  It is a city teeming with life, vibrant with the flashing colors, the buzzing and twittering conversations, the busy living of its residents. Its buttery blooms are elegant. . .and toxic to me.  We make allowances.  We adjust ourselves sometimes to live with those we love.  For the week or two that it sends pollen to bless the world around, I spend my time at home in these rooms with the air conditioner on, venturing out for short periods to listen to birdsong, to watch the sun shift across the sky.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here’s to the Fool!

Today’s poetry prompt is to write about resistance:

I have seen the way the world is weighted,
heard you murmuring the words
distress, despair, disgrace,
marked the way it seems the fates
conspire to place you
underneath the wagon’s wheel.

If I can try one phrase to bless
this wretched space in which you rest
between the gales and squalls,
let it be this:

May your soul be a sail.

Your spirit will resist the winds that drive you
into dusty earth or claw you from the cliff-face.

May you catch that wind and rise.
May you surprise yourself in flight.

Gratitude List:
1. The Chalice Labyrinth.  Balancing my light and my shadow.  Finding my way across the divide between the different parts of me.
2. Six deer silhouetted in the dusky moment just before dawn.
3. And then the sunrise.  I am learning my colors: magenta, chartreuse, indigo, aquamarine, tangerine.  And there’s one that’s not quite peach and not quite tangerine, something I can’t quite name yet.
4. Walking over the fields with my guys: Jon, the boys, and Fred the Cat.  And that bird: peregrine, perhaps.  Or osprey.  Long crooked wings, and white beneath, sweeping over the fields in the spring breeze.
5. Saying yes to the new thing, new growth, new learning.  Trusting, like the Fool, in the grace of wind to catch me in the leap.

May we walk in Beauty!

Language Event

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.

Please Do Not Read Again

Here is my Gratitude List, first today, in case you want to read that and skip the poem.  I went to bed last night, thinking about Gaza, and woke up this morning with terrible images in my dreaming heart.  The poem comes from that.  The Gratitude List is especially difficult on these broody days.

Gratitude List:
1. The image of the labyrinth.  You walk into it, feel the turnings, the changes, relinquish pieces of yourself, and return to the world renewed.  I know I will not always be wandering in the darkness.  I know there is a purpose to the wandering.
2. The people who are doing the work.  I come back to this again and again.  Every bit of work that we do for peace is part of the larger tapestry.  Whatever steps you take will hearten and encourage someone else to pick up a thread and weave.  I have to believe that this work will yield fruit.
3. The ancestors.
4. Morning comes after night.  Again and again and again.
5. Making things with my children.  Ellis and I are making a marvelous bag.  I dragged my feet–“We have this other bag already, which will serve your purpose splendidly!”  Sad face, then: “But this bag that you are going to make for me–I can say that I designed it!”  Okay, Boy, hand me my fabric scissors.

May we walk in Beauty.  May we walk in Peace.

2013 October 108

Now for the poem.  Don’t worry about me, please.  I need to walk into this labyrinth if I am to remain honest and true to something at my center.  I am afraid of the darkness, but I am not lost in the darkness.  Let’s hold each other’s hands.

A little over a  year ago, I wrote a poem titled “Please Do Not Read This Poem.”  I suppose this is a second part to that.  I am feeling raw these days.  I want to know what is happening in the world, want to know what my work is, but I cannot bear to read the news, cannot bear the feeling that I am complicit in the feeding of the war machine.

Here it comes again,
this poem I cannot complete,
cannot write,
cannot stop writing.

I am Lady Macbeth
and my hands are stained
with the blood of thousands,
yet I cannot stop my killing.

I am caught in the calculus:
How many chortling wrens
does it take to bomb a hospital?
How many of those fine heirloom tomatoes–
the Golden Girls, the Red and Green Zebras,
the Mr. Slabaughs and the Brandywines?
How many of them are required
to blow up a school
where refugees huddle?

Most days I hear my ancestors humming,
beginning their songs in the hallways of my heart,
lining the spiraling stairways of my DNA.

They accepted death by fire and water,
they received iron bars and stone towers,
they faced the sword,
rather than give their children and their gold,
rather than offer to Caesar
what they believed
did not belong to Caesar
(or to Mars, perhaps,
what did not belong to Mars).

I lack the moral fortitude
to hold back my yearly tithe,
and face the consequence of that.

Instead, I wake in the night
and calculate the costs
of all my killings.
When Caesar receives my birdsong,
my tomatoes and my blue-eyed chicory,
one full fourth of that
is funneled to the war machine.

Every fourth stone,
every fourth feather,
every fourth sunrise
bright over the hill,
every fourth chicken egg
warm from the nest
is feeding the birth of a drone
or a bomb or a rocket,
filling the ravenous belly
of the god of war.

All this murder leaves a trail.
Those bombs that kill
the children of Gaza today
were bought from my country,
from this war-machine
that feeds off my quiet hollow,
my singing stream,
my tiny fledging hummingbirds,
my royal poplar and my sycamore.

Some days,
the singing of my ancestors
is deafening.
Some days,
I hear the pounding of cannon
and see the dust rising,
even here in this place
where sunlight flashes on birdwing.