Rivers of Life


I carefully outlined the significant stages of my life, but somehow forgot to put my 18-22 section on there–and that was a SIGNIFICANT part of my life. It’s where I met Jon, where I met my lifelong friends. Where I learned to hold on to love even through a rough patch. I want to remake it in paint or colored pencils.

I am pretty strongly anti-established-religion. White Christian evangelicals in the US today are complicit with such great evils that I want nothing to do with them. I see people who say they follow the way of Jesus shrugging their shoulders and ignoring the pain of children torn from their parents by a government they support. I see them rabidly calling for more ill-treatment of people seeking asylum at our borders. I see them fighting for systems and policies that further marginalize people who are ill and struggling with poverty. I see them speaking with vitriol and rancor toward people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people from other countries. The list goes on.

There’s a quotation, often attributed to Gandhi (though perhaps erroneously), that goes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m a fan of Jesus, too. I just don’t like a lot of the people who claim him. I don’t think it’s possible to really “get” who Jesus was and support a political administration that tears families apart, that regularly spews such racist and xenophobic and homophobic and misogynist hatred. I sound really judgey here, and I try hard not to be judgey, but I can’t withhold my judgement at times of great injustice and destruction.

On the other hand, I love a lot of Christians. In fact, despite its harsh beginning, this post is really about a church that I love, a place where I–with all my wild, witchy, unsettled, doubtful, defiant, questioning universalism–can feel belonging. We’re all welcome in this place, and questions are blessed, and crunchy feelings are held and observed together. Some people use very specific God-language that I couldn’t bring out of my own mouth, but I don’t feel uncomfortable because my own non-specific and outside-the-box language is accepted, too. I am not the only one who calls the Holy One by the name of Mystery. And I don’t want to be in a place where everyone believes exactly the same thing–just a place like this, where Love is the guiding principle.

And we sing together. And we make art. And we talk and dream and stand up to the powers together. We talk earnestly with each other and we laugh together, and cry. Our children feel safe and loved. It’s Real Church. It’s good community. I am grateful for each of the individuals who make up the circle of us.

Gratitude List:
1. Making collages with Chloe and Monica and the others this weekend at camp. Drawing the Rivers of our Lives with Josiah and Andrea and Maggie. Soulful art-making.
2. Storytelling. Vulnerable, life-affirming, tear-filled, laughter-filled, life-sharing storytelling.
3. Fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. I have severely curtailed my sweets intake in the past month, and I don’t let myself eat sugary things unless I am absolutely sure it will be worth it. This cake was completely worth it.
4. Christine’s Box of Tea. I tried the Stash Chocolate Hazelnut, which was sublime.
5. We are in the Golden Season: Goldenrod, sunflowers, slanting sunlight in the afternoons, Jerusalem artichokes, yellow walnut leaves. Glorious golden! Now for some coolness, please?

May we walk in Beauty!


“None of us are 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 that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Christopher Walken
*****
“Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
*****
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.” —David Whyte
*****
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its’ imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” —Annie Dillard
*****
“Forms are the symbols of formless divine principles; symbolism is the language of nature.”
—Manly P. Hall
*****
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.” —C. G. Jung
*****
From Omid Safi:
The great mystic Zol Nun (Dhu ‘l-Nun) met a woman at the sea shore.

He asked her: “What is the end of love?” She answered: “O simpleton, love has no end.”

He asked why.
She said: “Because God, the Beloved, has no end.”
*****
“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.“ —Gloria Steinem
*****
In the silence before time began, in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation,
at the birth of every creature,
at the centre of each moment
is your splendour.
Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the splendour of this moment. Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the blazing splendour
that burns from the heart of this moment. —John Philip Newell
*****
Hafiz:
“I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being.”
*****
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” —Emma Goldman

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Ride the Wave


Today’s prompt is to write a poem titled __________ Wave.

Ride the Wave

If you watch closely
as it approaches
you can begin to feel
the energy enter your body
before the water
even takes shape.

Enter the sound and the color
before the matter engages you.

And suddenly you are part of it,
caught in the song of it,
bound in the curve and the crash
and the pull of the wave.


Gratitude List:
1. Speedwell and dandelion and grape hyacinth and violet and deadnettle. The little quiet beauties that catch your eye when you’re least expecting it. “Wake up now,” they say.
2. Spring in the air
3. People who put their souls and hearts into what they do. Art that is more than technical perfection, but is a reflection of humanity.
4. Getting some of the work done. Not nearly enough. But some. The load begins to lift.
5. Blooming. Flowers, children, teenagers, relationships, work, ideas.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tender Threads

Today’s Prompt is to write a ________ Thread poem

Tender Threads

Threads of story, threads of dream,
webs stretch across vast distances,
holding the space between your story and mine,
between this heartbeat, and that one.

Silver cords of energy stitch our hearts
into a single cloth that spreads
outward, a cloth of all the threads
that we have been, from the birth
of the first grandmother
to the newest person on the planet,
one tapestry, one weaving.


Gratitude List:
1. We had a girls’ choir from a school in South Africa sing in our chapel today. It was a sublime experience.
2. A student told me that I looked like a Persian princess today. I felt exotic instead of frumpy.
3. One of my students has been going through a rough patch, and it’s been apparent in her world-weary eyes. Today she came to talk to me, and her eyes were clear and sparkly again. My own heart lifted. May she find her way into the sunshine, and home to herself.
4. Spring morning birdsong
5. The tender hearts of my Beloveds.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotes and Notes for the Day

Thursday’s Thoughts:
People Like Us
by Robert Bly

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can’t remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can’t remember where
He was when they went to sleep. It’s
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time
To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he’s lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,
You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death you’re safe.
***
I will hold your heart
as I hold all the stories
which you’ve let slip through
the filters of your fingers.
How they are caught in my web!
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
***
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” ―Frederick Buechner
***
“The words you speak become the house you live in.” ―Hafiz
***
“Humans are the most intellectually advanced animal on the planet and yet, we are destroying our only home. The window of time is very small, but I refuse to believe that we cannot solve this problem.” ―Dr. Jane Goodall
***
“Memory makes the now fully inhabitable.” ―David Whyte
***
“Things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance even after the physical contact has been severed.” ―James Frazer
***
“Which world are we trying to sustain: a resource to fulfill our desires of material prosperity, or an Earth of wonder, beauty, and sacred meaning?” — Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
***
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” —John Steinbeck
***
“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation. All things have a frequency and a vibration.” —Nikola Tesla

Handing the Gift


Today’s prompt is to write a love/anti-love poem. I ended the day today sort of exhausted, partly because of the incredible resistance I am getting from some students in my Creative Writing class.

I see it in your eyes when you ask the question
(the loathing, the defiant refusal to accept)
“Why do we have to study poetry?”
And in this moment I do not know how,
after all these years of this work,
to hand you this gift
that I love so deeply,
which you so staunchly refuse.

It’s about your own power,
I want to tell you,
about your power to say
exactly what you want to say,
to take that roiling mass of uncertainty
that slides out from behind the tough mask
you put on for me,
to take all that and give it words,
to sort it, to speak your truth,
to know the beauty and the strength
of your own words, to find your way
into yourself.

Now. Close your eyes and open your hands.


Gratitude List:
1. My contemplative friend Handsome Joe, how he cocks his beak to look at me as I pass. Paddling in his pool in the creek, or strolling through the green grasses of his estate.
2. The red sprouts of peonies lifting their heads by the shop.
3. The first fern fiddleheads unfurling.
4. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s their azure and indigo underbellies that capture me.
5. The challenges and delights of belonging to a community.

May we walk in Beauty!

Ranting

I have been ranting for the last couple of days. Here’s the gist:
Quote by Nancy Shulman:
“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”
***
Dallas Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress said: “Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.”

To the contrary: The word “shithole” is nothing compared to the vulgarity of the sentiment he expressed.

I have been quietly not openly calling myself a Christian for years now, because I do not like the look of Christianity in this country. I now openly walk away from the name. I continue to be a Follower of Jesus, in an Anabaptist and Universalist sort of way, with an emphasis on the feminine nature of the Great Mystery, and a belief that the Great Mystery is within everything and everyone. But I can no longer categorize myself as a Christian. I do not belong in any way, shape, or form to the same group as this man. No, we clearly are not following the same Jesus. Yes, this is judgemental. Yes, it is not being accepting of differences. There are differences I will not accept. Racism and xenophobia have absolutely no role in the realm of Jesus. If that is Christian, I am not that. I will have no part of that. Rather than trying to claim the term as something that embraces me as well, I walk away from it.

I will not check myself in as a Christian on polls and forms. If you ask my religion, I will no longer tell you that I am “a Christian, just not one of those.” Public Christianity in the United States is nothing I recognize as having anything to do with Jesus.

There are many people I know who continue to claim and reclaim the word, and I do not judge them. I, however, feel that at this point in time, I need to make a clear distinction between what I believe and what seems to be the path of U.S. Christianity.
***
This is no shock. We knew he was racist. Still, putting it into the public discourse so baldly demands that public figures, especially ones who follow Jesus, repudiate the language. One can say that this is not surprising, that he’s been doing this all along. That is true. But this is a level of unstatesmanlike public discourse that needs to be addressed right now. Robert Jeffries certainly did. His counterparts need to speak up. Now.
***
I believe in the path of Love, but this is one of the biggest challenges to that, even more than Dick Cheney. It was easier when it was abstract, but having an actual person to work it out with is really hard. I should probably take a FB break and read more Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron and Richard Rohr. Still, I feel a need to be part of the conversation. Somehow, I think these things need to happen in tandem: the inner work and the outer work.

Let’s keep talking about how to manage this. If not to Love, if not even to stop hating, at least to manage it all, to not be drowned, ourselves, in the hatred.

This I can say: I love You. I love my family, my students, my colleagues, my Beloved Friends, the sun and the earth and the animals. The moon. Those who are downtrodden and beaten and excluded. And because of that Love, I must fight the Wrong that these men are unleashing.

I have a sense that my hatred will not be an effective tool in that, though I have not managed to quell it. My anger can go either way, to push me to toward effective Work, or to enmire me in the bogs.

I cast a line from me to you, a line of Love for all that we love in common.
***
“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” –Elie Wiesel
***
I have been neglecting the grounding work of my gratitude lists during a couple of days when I desperately needed the grounding.


Gratitude List:
1. The fine musicians and singers at my school. They are really given the opportunity to learn and to shine.
2. A long weekend
3. Bright souls, all around
4. A warm hat and slippers
5. Being surrounded by stories

May we walk in Beauty!

Which One to Grow

Today’s Prompt is to write a love and/or anti-love poem.

To Love the Monsters
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I have been going on the assumption
that it is the calling of my soul
to love the ones I want to hate,
to find a way to live with heart so open
that I cannot help but part the veils
of rage and fury that encompass me
to see the tender shoots of something
human that lives within the monsters.

I have begun to doubt the truth of the call,
uncertain whether I possess the character
to turn calling to possibility.

Yet something deep within me knows
that this is the deeper truth:
that hate breeds hate and love breeds love,
and I get to choose which one to grow.


Gratitude List:
1. Putting together a chapbook
2. Making little booklets with the staff of Silhouette today
3. The monsters do not define us
4. Compassion
5. Reading The Phantom Tollbooth with Joss

May we walk in Beauty!

“To Keep the Spark of Life Inside Me Ablaze”

Today’s Prompt is to write a poem to the world:

Beauty Was There
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the beginning, she hovered there,
above the waters, molding the land,
holding the world in her hands,
crafting a world of fire, earth, water, air.

In the beginning, she brooded,
her face obscured by shadows,
her thoughts filling the hollows,
her watchful eyes hooded.

She sent her dreaming forth,
streaming through the cosmos,
building like song to a crescendo,
filling newborn skies with morning.

In the beginning, she listened
for colors that flew in the wind,
singing that blew through her mind,
waves of color and sound risen

from deep within her breast.
Her thoughts became matter, feeling
mattered, materialized into being,
unbeing fled as her moon rose in the west.

And today we un-matter her being,
un-materialize the thoughts she formed,
de-stabilize the dances she performed
to set it all in motion. We’ve set it reeling,

ripping the fabric she wove.
It cannot be too late to change our ways,
to seek again the rhythm of her days,
to turn to her again and call her Love.


“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
–Frida Kahlo
***
A little story by Amrita Nadi:
At the end of a talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”
The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”
Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he added, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back. . .but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”
***
“There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.”
–Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life
***
“Always there is something worth saying
about glory, about gratitude.”
–Mary Oliver, What Do We Know
***
*Do your little bit of good where you are;
its those little bits of good put together,
that overwhelm the world.
–Desmond Tutu
****
“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” –Jeannette Rankin


Gratitude List:
1. Strings of geese like beads across the sky. Fly well, Bright Ones!
2. This microwaveable bag of lavender and beans. It makes me warm and it eases the residual aches.
3. Wise friends
4. Tenderness. Basic kindness.
5. Stories of miracles and wonder.

May we walk in Beauty!

This Is Your Birth


I was reading the other day about the Scottish term caim, the circle of magic protection that you draw about yourself. I got to thinking about how I could use the idea as a drawing meditation, incorporating the protection prayer/spell into a mandala drawing. In a mandala, I always begin in the center, and then work outward, often referencing the energy points that I make note of in meditation. Here are a couple mandalas I drew today with the purpose of drawing a circle of protection about myself. The first was very enclosed, safe. Perhaps because the first established such secure boundaries, I was freer to whirl outward in the second.

Today’s Poetry prompt is to write a transformation poem. I am over-tired myself today, and am putting this tiny tanka here as something of a place-holder.

Begin in silence.
Draw your attention inward.
Feel the power grow
within your bones, your spirit.
Hold the image in your mind.


“If the Rhine, the Yellow, the Mississippi rivers are changed to poison, so too are the rivers in the trees, in the birds, and in the humans changed to poison, almost simultaneously. There is only one river on the planet Earth and it has multiple tributaries, many of which flow through the veins of sentient creatures.”
—Thomas Berry
*
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” —Kurt Vonnegut
*
“For a Star to be born,
there is one thing that must happen;
a nebula must collapse.
So collapse.
Crumble.
This is not your Destruction.
This is your birth.” —attributed to Noor Tagouri
*
“After the owl booms in the sycamore at dawn,
after your eyes adjust to the darkness,
after you stumble through the washing and dressing,
after the flicker of lights,
after the coffee,
after the tree pose,
after the quiet reading of O’Donohue’s poem,
you arrive with your heart at the blank page.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


Gratitude List:
1. Sunday Evening Hymn Sing at Freiman Stoltzfus’s gallery. Words and music and poetry and art all intermingle. Sound reverberates through the room, and you can almost feel the intensity with which people are concentrating on the sound. You’re held in a web of sacred sounds.
2. The stories of the morning. Welcoming new members of the tribe.
3. Autumn is stripping down to the essentials. Bare branches frame the sky. Clouds bustle across the blue. Leave skitter through the hollow.
4. Red beet eggs
5. Circles of protection

May we walk in Beauty!

Dial Up the Magic


Today’s prompt is to write a ______ if ______ poem. His examples all filled the blanks with longish phrases, but this came to me:

If I sleep I will speak
Speak if I sing
Sing if I breathe
Breathe if I wait
Wait if I weep
Weep if I dream
Dream if I sleep.

 


(For some reason, the quotations from last year on this day all seem to be intended to comfort myself from some great sorrow)

” ‘They kept going, because they were holding onto something.’
‘What are we holding onto, Sam?’
‘There’s still good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.’ ”
—J. R. R. Tolkien
*
“Somewhere deep in the forest of grief
there is a waterfall where all your tears may flow
over mossy rocks, under watchful pines.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“But this moment, you’re alive. So you can just dial up the magic of that at any time.” —Joanna Macy
*
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” —E. B. White
*
“Love imperfectly. Be a love idiot. Let yourself forget any love ideal.” —Sark
*
“Everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything exists, only because I love.” —Leo Tolstoy
*
“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong
*
“Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don’t stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even galaxies.” —Frederic and Mary Ann Brussa
*
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
—Carl Sagan
*
“There are certain things, often very little things, like the little peanut, the little piece of clay, the little flower that cause you to look WITHIN – and then it is that you see the soul of things.”
—George Washington Carver


Gratitude List:
1. The way the large flocks of little birds line the electric lines when the pause to take a rest in their migrations, making the lines look furry
2. The way the color just keeps coming, keeps deepening, keeps astounding
3. The way the year has turned, from despair and rage to a kind of hope
4. The way the Open Secrets of Hollywood and Political Power are being blasted open so that powerful men can no longer hide their predations
5. Kale with dried tomatoes for supper

May we walk in Beauty!

Love is the Bridge


I am obsessed lately with what happens to the little tree when I photograph it with a kaleidoscope camera app and then run it through my usual filters. I want to spend more time thinking about threes and sixes. I suppose this is two and six: the reflection of the original view, and then that combination shifting into a triple reflection. It’s so satisfying.

Today’s prompt is to write a thing poem. Write a poem about an object.

All the poems are about bridges,
all the words, all the books, the letters.
Sometimes the bridge is so fragile,
and we walk across a word on air:
“Gentle,” we breathe,
and step across that chasm
between the solid dj
onto the swaying eh,
before we find our feet
on the rolling nn in the center,
and onward we skip to t, to l,
each word a bridge, a web
we cast between us
across the airy distance.


“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”
―Brian Jacques
*
“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” ―Winston Churchill (Did he really say that? I like the point, so I am still putting it here.)
*
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” ―Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
*
“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ―Rumi
*
What do you do
when the gods of the dreamings
offer you maps for the journey?

How will you answer
when the night-folk cry out:
“Give us the hope of our meanings!”
―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
―Bob Dylan


Gratitude List:
1. Sachs’ subtly striped tail. He’s a basic elegant charcoal and white cat, with no other markings except for the hint of striping at the end of his tail. A little bit of wildness underneath his staid and stoical veneer.
2. Turning back the tides of helplessness and hopelessness
3. Studying geography. I love geography. I am obsessed with learning the countries of the world. And my youngest has to know his continents and oceans for a quiz this week, so we’re having lots of fun doing geography games right now.
4. A warm shower on a chilly evening.
5. Soup. Before he went to work this morning, Jon Weaver-Kreider put some veggies and sausage in a crock pot, and when we got home we had a fine and tasty stew.

May we walk in Beauty!