Be Softer With You

“Be softer with you.
You are a breathing thing.
A memory to someone.
A home to a life.”  ―Nayyirah Waheed
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Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.  ―Raymond Carver
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Powerful words from Rob Brezsny:
“The real secret of magic is that the world is made of words,” said Terence McKenna in “Alien Dreamtime,” “and that if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”

Here’s my version of that hypothesis: What world you end up living in depends at least in part on your use of language.

Do you want to move and breathe amidst infertile chaos where nothing makes sense and no one really loves anyone? Then speak with unconscious carelessness, expressing yourself lazily. Constantly materialize and entertain angry thoughts in the privacy of your own imagination, beaming silent curses out into eternity.

Or would you prefer to live in a realm that’s rich with fluid epiphanies and intriguing coincidences and mysterious harmonies? Then be discerning and inventive in how you speak, primed to name the unexpected codes that are always being born right in front of your eyes. Turn your imagination into an ebullient laboratory where the somethings you create out of nothings are tinctured with the secret light you see in your dreams of invisible fire.
*
“The power of love is stronger than the power to destroy.”  ―Vandana Shiva
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“And then–
and then your eyes will open
as if waking from a dream
or waking into a dream
and the dew-drenched grasses
will sparkle before you
like gold in the morning
and you will know.

You will know what it is
you have come for.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.”  ―Fatema Mernissi
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“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” ―Robin Williams as Mr. John Keating in Dead Poets Society
*
“Well, I don’t only think that the biosphere is in trouble, I know it is. I just have to look around in the environment, in which I live.
In my own part of the part of the world, I keep telling people, let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation. Now the problem is, people don’t make those linkages.”
—Wangari Maathai
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“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
—Robin Williams


Gratitude List:
1. Holy Ground: The Earth we walk on, our callings, our destinies
2. Sacred Flame: The burning bush, the kindling of compassion, energy, the spark of life
3. Hallowed Water: Cleansing, purifying, nurturing life (May the waters all run free!)
4. Sublime Air: The breath of life, inspiration, drawing us out, pushing us onward
5. The Indwelling spirit: Vivifying, transforming

May we walk in Beauty!

Poetry as Breathing


“[Ginsburg] was right about the poem being a mind-breath. Each word depends on how your mind breathes.” —Juan Felipe Herrera
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“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” —Sue Monk Kidd
*
“Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
your ancestors wandered.
It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.
It will not offer you answers
to the why of war.
Still, the waters may offer
questions, instead. Questions
will create the riddles
that will draw you on
despite the darkness.”

—Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“May your day be bright with sunlight shimmering through the trees. May magic grab your sleeves at every turn you take. May you feel the web that connects you to so many–to oh, so many–loving hearts.” —BW-K
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This one is long, but I think it really needs to be here:
Guidelines for Despair and Empowerment Work by Joanna Macy
“These are not steps in a prescribed order, but guidelines to our process wherever we may find ourselves entering it.
1. Acknowledge our pain for the world. If it is present, we cannot deny its reality. We cannot make it go away by arguing it out of existence, or burying it inside of ourselves. We can acknowledge our pain for the world to ourselves through journal writing or prayer, and if we choose, by communicating our awareness to those around us.
2. Validate our pain for the world. Let us honor it in ourselves and others, by listening carefully and accepting it as healthy and normal in the present situation. To hurry in with words of cheer can trivialize its meaning and foster repression.
3. Experience the pain. Let us not fear its impact on ourselves and others. We will not shatter, for we are not objects that can break. Nor will we get stuck in this pain, for it is dynamic, it flows through us. Drop our defenses, let us stay present to its flow, express it—in words, movement and sounds.
4. Move through the pain to its source. As we experience this pain, we learn that it is rooted in caring, not just for ourselves and our children, but for all of humanity. We rediscover our interconnectedness with all beings. Allow this sense of mutual belonging to surface in whatever words and images are meaningful and share them.
5. Experience the power of interconnectedness. Let us dare to translate our caring into a sense of belonging to all humanity and the web of life. Observe the trust level rise when we expose our vulnerability to pain for the world. Recognize how the realization of interconnectedness results in personal security and economy of effort.”
From Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1983.)


Gratitude List:
1. That big branch that fell last night seems to have avoided even scratching the car. We have been really conscientious about not parking our car under the poplar tree for just this reason, and the branches rarely fall. Last night, we left the car in the driveway overnight, and that’s the night the poplar chose to drop a limb. It woke me up. I thought someone was upending furniture downstairs.
2. I got a LOT of work done yesterday, and I plan to get a lot more done this morning. Here’s to long uninterrupted hours.
3. The way the mind attaches itself to pattern. There’s a perfect circle out in the bushes and greenery on the wild hillside out my window. No camera could capture it because it’s how my eye sees the arc of a bush, fills out the next bit of arc, attaches a curved shadow beneath the vines, fills in a little more and finds another bit of curve, until the circle is complete. It may be that only my eyes can see it, but it is there, as truly as grass or tree or vine. And our minds do this all the time, all day long. I see faces everywhere I turn, in the plaster on the ceiling, in the neighbors’ walnut tree, in a towel tossed on the floor. Our minds are made to seek patterns, calling us to an awareness of greater patterns.
4. There was a moment there when all the machines and appliances seemed to cease their electrical humming, and the house was filled with a profound silence. Nothing, until the wren again took up his incessant holler.
5. Lights at ends of tunnels.

May we walk in Beauty!

Morning Examen


Under the bridge.

“In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.” —Howard Thurman
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“Teach your children poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary.” —Walter Scott
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“No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused it.” —attributed to Albert Einstein
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“I feel we have to begin standing our ground in the places we love. I think that we have to demand that concern for the land, concern for the Earth, and this extension of community that we’ve been speaking of, is not marginal – in the same way that women’s rights are not marginal, in the same way that rights for children are not marginal. There is no separation between the health of human beings and the health of the land. It is all part of a compassionate view of the world.”
—Terry Tempest Williams
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“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
—Mary Oliver
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“All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed in the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythm of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.”
—Layne Redmond


Gratitude List/Examen:
1. (How is the Mystery Present to You?) Sunlight sparkling on dew. A silent flock of crows winging over the hollow. The way people reach out to each other.
2. (What visions brought your spirit awake?) A doe and her fawn came to me in a dream last night. Dreams full of wanderings and portents, cautions and protection.
3. (What does your heart say?) I can keep laying down the need to be better, the desire for perfection, the wish to be other than I am at the moment.
4. (What goes deeper?) The silence. The solitude. The giving of myself to the quiet.
5. (Where do you take this?) Today, I will just do the next thing.

May we walk in Beauty!

Death and Temperance, and the Wall

 

I have hit the poetry wall tonight. I’ve been feeling it coming for a couple days now, the slowing, the resistance in my brain as I approach it. And here, tonight, with Death as the prompt, I don’t know where to go. I want to make it light and fluffy, toss it off without thinking. I don’t have the brain cells for much work tonight, and my will to work is shallow and listless. Then I remind myself that some of the shiniest poems happen at the moment of the wall. Of course, that’s when some of the worst ones happen, too. Sigh.

 

 

No, I think she’s a woman in a red cloak
with gentle brown eyes and midnight skin.
Unlike the ferryman, she asks no token,
no proof of passage or confession of sin.

She carries a sickle instead of a scythe,
appearing in fevered delusions and dreams,
and though you may dread to see her arrive,
you will cherish her presence on the journey.

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There now. I’ve written something. I honestly can’t tell whether I like it or not. That’s part of the wall, too, the loss of a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Best to just get it down there, and come back to it with a clear head when April is over.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
So much of it is about Balance, isn’t it? Justice, a few days ago. Even Death–there’s always a balance between death and life, between the fear of it and the hope for it. The Lovers–they’re all about balance between the opposite parts of our inner nature. Tomorrow, again, is another sort of balance: Temperance. We’re not talking about periods of US history here, but about the concept. Passion and zeal are important drivers, and they can be great when you need to get the chariot moving, but fokeeping it going straight and steady, you’ve got to find the temperate balance. Can the Fool, in her naive and wandering heart, find the deep meaning of Temperance?

Gratitude List:
1. Pink trees
2. Cool breeze
3. Bees
4. (Ack! Now I need to keep going with this.) Poetries (Don’t judge me.)
5. Cheese (Hey now, I do love it, and we had some mighty fine Pepper Jack for supper.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Meeting the Mage

Into the Woods

Sometimes you can’t see the trees for the forest.
You miss the sweep of oak, the broad arms of maple,
the proud rise of locust and poplar and pine,
because the understory closes in around you.
The briars catch and grab, the poison twists
and wanders everywhere into your pathway.

Sometimes you miss the healing tang of rose hips
there in the green tangle before you
because you’re fretting about the thorns,
licking the blood from torn and tattered fingers.
You miss the berries swelling in the brambles
as you reach to free yourself from their grasp.

But some days, when the path is muddy
and you’ve slipped for the thousandth time
back down the slippery hill trail,
your eyes will catch the bright blue
of a feather in wet leaves,
or the sparkle of a shining stone
there where your hand has reached
to push you back to your feet.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Little Red had her Wolf, Snow White had her Dwarfs, and Goldilocks had her family of Bears. When the Fool enters the Wood, the first person she encounters is the Magician (the Mage, the Shaman, the Adept, the Witch). This is someone with a great deal of skill in the manipulation of the elements, someone who can make you see what you think you want to see, a creator of illusion. The Fool encounters Magic in tomorrow’s poem. My poem will be about Magic or the Magician, or the Elements, or changing consciousness at will. Will you join me?

Gratitude List:
1. Getting it done. Plugging. Deciding what I can do and can’t do, and making it work.
2. The haven of my parents’ house for grading in silence, distraction-free.
3. Music and words. Reflection and contemplation.
4. Black-out poetry–my sixth-grader is doing some for homework, and it’s lovely.
5. All the elements.

May we walk in Beauty!

A Pleasant Day


It’s a pleasant day for an old man cat, when the sun shines and the catnip is rising through the myrtle.  (Photo by Farmer Jon.)

UNESCO has named March 21 World Poetry Day.  Someone on my Facebook page suggested we mark the day by quoting Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” I read that part of that one to my classes today.

See if you can catch
a wriggling poem from air
to mark the new day.

Gratitude List:
1. Happy cat
2. Clear fresh water
3. Poetry and Poets
4. Wise women
5. A good book

May we walk in Beauty!

Snugglesome

snugglesome

Gratitude List:
1. Bald Eagles. Twice in the last two days, I have seen a bald eagle (perhaps the same one) near the Wrightsville exit off 30. Once in the air, and once in a tree. Every time I see one, I bless the memory of Rachel Carson, and remember that one person can make a difference in the world. Were it not for Rachel Carson, we very well might not have bald eagles to be grateful for.
2. This snugglesome cat. I knew him when he was a kitten, and now he is an old man, and I have only slipped from young adult into middle age. I feel as though I have gone from being his Mama to being his granddaughter. And so time is fleeting, and I am grateful for the time he has with us.
3. Poetry–putting it out into the world in a more intentional way.
4. I think that the sick-folk are getting better. I haven’t heard anyone cough for a good half-hour now.
5. En-visioning. I began a little Vision Booklet today. It came together very easily because I used collage bits that I have been saving. Probably just for this. I think that I have sorted out my heart’s desire a little more explicitly this year than I have before. That is satisfying.

May we walk in Beauty!

If I’d Only

fire-and-water
Fire and water–A photo I took of fire, melded with the Japanese wave painting. I feel like there’s a human portrait in there. . .

Today’s prompt is to write an “If I’d Only _________” poem.

If I’d Only Had More Time
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

If I’d only had more time
had more rhythm
had more passion
had more energy
more focus, more rhyme

If I’d only had more zeal
had more wisdom
had more hope
had more tenderness
more compassion, more appeal

If I’d only had more sass
had more impertinence
had more whoop
had more in-your-face
more fierce, more brass

If I’d only had more only
had more mostly
had more often
had more will
more do
less lonely

Gratitude List:
1. The moment when I crawl into bed in the evenings. The delicious feeling of being just about to fall asleep
2. The messages in dreams
3. Poetry prompts
4. The mix of leaves in the yard: poplar, oak, maple, sycamore, walnut, locust
5. Always beginning again

May we walk in Beauty!

Opportunities for Practice

special

Sometimes it seems as though the Wildest One (you might call her God, or the Universe, or Love) is actively meddling in the affairs of mortals, like I am given a thing to learn, and then immediately after am handed the situations necessary for practice and integration.

Last weekend, I took part in a training with the Center for Community Peacemaking on Restorative Circles with Kay Pranis, a thoughtful wise woman who gave us many tools for using the idea of a circle to bring restoration to broken relationships when harm has been done in a community.

In the two days since I have been back to school, I have encountered several situations in using a circle tool in the classroom helps to facilitate the discussion or to ensure that a student expressing a feeling or opinion feels safe. Yesterday at the beginning of class, one student began sharing her concerns about the political process. Other students began to jump in and talk over her, encouraging her and debating her points. She is very soft-spoken, and I was afraid that her moment of vulnerability would disappear into the fray, so I took a stone to her desk, said that while she had the stone, the rest of us were empowered to listen, and she continued. When she was finished, she just naturally handed the stone off to the next person, and a relatively respectful circle ensued.

In another class, the sharing of papers can get tedious, and some of the students tend to be anxious about sharing their writing. I handed a talking piece to one of the boys who seems to take a quiet leadership role in the class, and said that we’d send the talking piece around the circle a couple times. People could share parts of their papers or pass. In the first round, the girls (it’s a very small class) both passed, and I thought that maybe it was a bad choice to do it this way, but in the second round they both shared, and a boy who strongly dislikes English class also shared, making up an answer to one of the writing prompts on the spot–it allowed him to use his verbal strengths in community, so his sense of inadequacy about the writing was suddenly moot. Again, the students seemed to have a natural understanding of the process of the talking piece and turn-taking.

Along with those delightful examples is situation of harm that needs to be addressed. I need to work through with the student in my class who was at the receiving end of a very harmful comment whether a circle might be the place to address the harm that occurred.

So. Along with the learning comes the opportunity to practice. May I be open and ready to use the tools I have been offered.

Gratitude List:
1. The way the mists and fogs hang about the fields in the mornings
2. Practice. Opportunity to practice
3. The shining eyes of my students
4. Poetry. Yes, again. Yesterday after I had read the Dawna Markova poem I had chosen for my opening poem, a boy asked if I had ever heard of Langston Hughes. I told him that yes, I had even posted a Langston Hughes poem to my Facebook page the day before. I will have to bring a Hughes poem to class this week.
5. The hope of restoration

May we walk in Beauty!

Re-Integrating

tattoo

Quiet, thoughtful, tired today. So much to absorb from my three days of learning to keep circles. Now the work is to learn to apply and integrate the practice into my work, into my Work. And after three days of circling with twenty-five others, that specific circle itself must settle in like a seed and germinate within. And now, somehow, I must now reintegrate into the world outside the circle.

I think it would be good for me, sometime in the next two months, to sit in circle with people who are planning to vote for Trump, people who are planning to vote for Clinton, and people who are voting for Stein or Johnson. Perhaps some non-voters should be in there, too. I could not be the Circle Keeper, but I think I would come out of such an experience a much healthier person, hopefully less anxious, less furious.

Gratitude List:
1. Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit
2. Autumn is in the air
3. The circles expand out and outward
4. Poetry, how it says things that cannot articulated in didactic words
5. We are more alike than we are different

May we walk in Beauty!