Walking into the Story

I don’t know how you walked into this story:
The candles were lit, the doors were locked,
the windows closed, the pantry stocked.
The fire was stoked. No one had knocked.

I’d arranged a sealed circuit for this tale:
The plot was planned, the setting set,
characters drawn, expectations met.
The words were gathered. I had cast the net.

Yet somehow, when I turned around,
there you stood upon without a sound,
like you didn’t quite know what to do,
or you were waiting for my starting cue.

Your presence changes everything–
new characters will shift the telling
Now we must make a new decision,
and begin the tale with a revision.

Well–I was really excited about those first two stanzas. They raced themselves out the doorway of my brain and onto the paper. Then the whole train juddered to a halt, and I had to force the last two out with crowbars. I’ll let it stew a bit, and maybe I’ll come back to find them readier to be part of the conversation.

Gratitude List:
1. Goslings: Mama Goose had a hatching a couple days ago. Too hard to see through the long grass, but we think there were about four or five babies. Yesterday morning, Jon saw them all walking on the grass across the creek from the pond. By afternoon, they were gone. I hope they went down Cabin Creek toward the Susquehanna, and found a turtle-free place to grow strong and healthy.
2. Ducklings: This morning, we had to stop class and watch as Mama Duck paraded her eleven ducklings around on the roof outside my window. She had her nest outside the French Room window. We called the office and they called Herb, and Herb climbed a ladder to the roof. Mama flew away, and Herb gathered her babies into a bucket and climbed down the ladder. He’s got experience with this process–he says ducks are always building nests on the roofs, and then sometimes the little ones can’t get down. Presumably babies are all happily following Mama down the MillStream.
3. Community baseball. Ellis had a game tonight. Wrightsville was trounced, worse than we trounced Windsor last week. It’s fun to spend the evening outside with other folks, watching a game.
4. We got a little panicky when we got home and couldn’t find Fred. I hadn’t seen him since I left for school in the morning. Jon went out with a flashlight and checked every farm building. We can’t just call like we used to, because he can no longer hear us calling. Jon even walked along the road for a while, but couldn’t see any trace of him. When he came back, he did a loop up behind the house, and there was the old man, sitting quietly next to the basement window. So grateful that the cat came back.

May we walk in Beauty!

Beloveds and Starlight

When I wrote the Star prompt, I had just walked through a Facebook thread with three friends, creating an online sort of ritual/story together. This was a powerful Starlight experience.

And hours later, I could not know how deeply I would again be experiencing the Starlight in the presence of my Beloveds. Thirty years of deepening friendship.

Sit with your sisters in a circle,
and feel the truth of how your hearts
are woven together
every bit as real as that basket
under the hall table
where a fine cat is purring.

You will hear the echoes
of the towers that have fallen,
see the memory of rubble in the eyes.
Say out loud, “I see you.”
Say, “I witness.”
Weave the new strands together.
See how your stories
are one singular tale.

Feel the starlight
making a net around you,
a silver basket reflecting your own.

After she experiences the Star, the Fool finds the Moon. Oh, the Moon! Luna, lunacy. Tidal pull and woman’s guide. Well of creative expression. The Fool may find a tension between her feral and domesticated selves. Moonlight is a reflected light. It holds mystery and dreaming, fear and enchantment.

Gratitude List:
1. Seeing and being seen. Witnessing. Speaking and Listening.
2. Rituals of friendship and belonging
3. Lifelong friends. Keeping an empty chair for the one who could not be there with us.
4. Weaving stories together.
5. Time out of time.

May we walk in Beauty. In Friendship.

May All Beings Find Their Waters

May all beings find their Waters:
those who grind and punch,
those who crack and strike,
those who shout and crunch,
who scrape and gnash and chomp.
May Waters smooth and soothe them.

May all beings find their Waters:
those who fritter and dither,
those who flitter and twinkle,
those who flutter and pitter,
who skitter and wheedle and wheeze.
May Waters calm and caress them.

May all beings find their Waters:
those who boil and bubble,
those who smolder and steam,
those who stew and simmer
who pop and sizzle and seethe.
May Waters restore and refresh them.

May all beings find their Waters.

Today the Fool wandered through the realm of Water. Tomorrow, let’s take her into the realm of Earth. What will ground her? What will support and hold her? What will nourish and sustain? Earth is the realm of that which is manifest, which is made physical. Tomorrow the Fool learns about Earth.

Gratitude List:
1. This question from Chapel this morning: What is the narrative that shapes your life? So many stories to live by, to center on.
2. Water, how it refreshes and calms and soothes
3. How the words sometimes find their way, even through a brain full of fog
4. The angle of shine in the dawn
5. Universals

May we walk in Beauty!

Simply Gratitude


Gratitude List:
1. It’s not Lyme Disease. I asked for the blood test because I did pull a little tick off my neck last week. But the test was negative.
2. Sore throat is going away
3. Friday nights mean long sleeps
4. Reminders that I am in charge of my own story
5. Amazing student musicians. The choral concert this weekend is going to be incredible.

May we walk in Beauty!

That Moon!

Gratitude List:
1. That Moon!
2. Starting to get the energy back
3. Those Thai ads about kindness. Ellis has to find a video about random kindness for class, so we were looking at the Thai ads. I had to make myself stop, I was getting too weepy.
4. Music. Today’s soundtrack is Mindy Nolt and Siobhan Miller.
5. This marvelous recliner.

May we walk in Beauty!


They knew instinctively that the scrolls must be kept secret and safe. Gormlek cleared away the rubble of the fallen wall, patched and repaired it, leaving a little doorway that even his granddaughter had to stoop to get through, and covered the door with a wooden cabinet that could be rolled aside for entry, but looked solid and immovable enough to a scanning eye.

In the evenings, when the day’s baking and sales were finished and Gormlek had returned from his day’s work in the Houses of the Dead, the little family would take a scroll from the hidden annex, and read the ancient hi’Stories of the Queens of Zammarqand.

“These sound like the fairy tales that Granny tells me when I visit her in the village!” Leeta told her mother. “There’s the one about the Prince of Karadzu, who came to Zammarqand to seek for the hand of Princess Jinna in marriage, but Jinna did not want to marry him, so she challenged him to a game of chess. If he won, she would marry him, but if she did, he would give her his proud stallion and walk home. That stallion made Princess Jinna the winner of every horse race in the city for years afterward.”

Bilhah’s eyes were bright. “I’ve been thinking that, too, how Granny seems to know these hi’Stories, how her tales are little mirrors of the stories in these parchments. Do you think they’re true, Abba? Or are they just someone’s written-down version of the fairy tales?”

Gormlek carefully studied the parchment at hand, the candle-light flickering over his face. Finally, he said, “Our hi’Story does not begin with the Wolf Kings–I am certain of it–although that is what we boys were taught in school, that the city began when Chinngis Djin settled the river valley. But those hi’Stories always say he conquered the people of the city, so there must have been a city before the Wolf King’s reign. All my life, I have heard the stories of Granny and the others, of a different life, a different city, a different hi’Story. Even the grannies say that their stories are nonsense, little ditties to be told to the children and ignored by everyone else. But now I think that they have been keeping the oldest hi’Stories alive in their tellings.

<More on this part of the story tomorrow>

How Bilhah Found the Baby


Gratitude List:
1. Giving in–just taking the day off work. Sometimes you just can’t muscle through, and you have to ask for help.
2. Sleep
3. Ibuprofen–this version of the bug has every nerve and muscle aching
4. Featherbed
5. The way stories reach out and grab you

May we walk in Beauty!

This is what happens after a night and a day of flu-fueled half-sleeping/dreaming:

How Bilhah Found the Baby

Bilhah, the daughter of Gormlek the Mourner, found the baby one evening after she’d been working in the almond orchards outside of the city walls. She only told the story to her father, and then to the child herself, as she grew.

In preparation for the celebration of the Wolf-King’s birthday the following week, many of the regular harvesters had been conscripted to work in the palace kitchens and sculleries, so there were only about eight young women in Bilhah’s group that day, and none of them would work the far ends of the rows because of the rumors that a great and vicious she-wolf had been seen prowling along the river, down beyond the orchards. Bilhah, seeking solitude, found herself working alone in the fringe of trees where the others refused to go.

Keeping her ears peeled for the sound of the bells that signaled the end of the work day, Bilhah had a found a rhythm to the picking that kept her moving at a quick pace. She loved the skittering sound of the almonds clattering into her basket, and reveled in the scent of the nuts warming in the afternoon sun. At the very end of the row of trees, she paused, sighed, and lifted her eyes to the river. A thrill of terror mingled with excitement filled her: there in the shadows of the big rocks by the river, she could clearly discern the form of a large wolf. It was sitting quietly, as though it were simply one of the city dogs, patiently waiting for its human to finish working and come home. Had she imagined its tail thumping twice against the ground?

She slipped back into the orchard to the next row, three trees back, and began picking her way once more toward the end of the row. She could see Zoha and the others working the other way down the row, close to the safety of the city walls. As she reached the river end of the next row, she looked again for the wolf. This time, she clearly saw the tail thump, and the creature stood, took two steps toward her, remaining in the deep shadows by the rocks.

Bilhah had lived with dogs all her life, and something in the demeanor of this fearsome wild creature kept reminding her of her own beloved Tigo and Amona. Underneath her fear, she felt an undeniable sense that this wild thing was trying to communicate something. She took a few steps out from under the trees toward the large rocks. The wolf shrank back into shadow. Another step. The wolf bolted to the left, down the rocky trail toward the river, but stopped suddenly in the shadow of a large fig tree and looked back toward Bilhah. She wants me to follow her!

At that moment, the bells began to ring in the city, letting the harvesters know that the work-day had ended. She heard Zoha and the others calling her name down the row. She had made the decision before she realized it had been made. Making momentary eye contact with the wolf, she turned and headed back into the trees. “Coming!” she called to the others, slipping down the row toward them.

Breathless, she caught up with Zoha. “Can you take my basket back for me? I want to see if I can find some figs for Abba on those trees by the river.”

“Oh, please don’t, Bilhah,” Zoha pled. “You know they’ve been seeing that wolf down by the river.”

“I’ll be fine, Silly. I worked down there by the river all day, and no wolf has eaten me yet.” She managed not to lie, exactly.

Zoha took her basket begrudgingly: “If you aren’t back by nightfall, I’ll send Uncle Drago out to find you.”

“Thank you, Zoha. You don’t need to worry about me. You know Granny goes out to the river all the time, and she’s never been attacked by the wolves.”

She watched the colorful flock of her friends melt into the shadows by the city gates, and turned to walk down the row of trees. There at the end of the row, almost hidden in shadow underneath the last tree, was the she-wolf! She followed me! Another thrill of fearful horror overcame her, and she almost turned and ran back to join her friends, but again something in the expectancy of the wolf’s posture made her pause, take a breath, and walk toward the waiting creature.

As she approached, the animal whirled and dashed into the shadow of the rocks by the river trail. She followed steadily, the wolf retreating in short bursts, waiting in shadows for her to approach. Down the long path along the river they went, and Bilhah even managed to pick several figs from the low branches of trees to tuck in her skirts in order to give truth to her words to Zoha.

The sun settled lower and lower in the sky, and Bilhah began to worry that she would not make it back to the city before nightfall and the closing of the gates. This wolf might be friendly, but what about the packs that roamed the steppes at night? She had seen the green glow of their eyes in the dark when she had stood on the city walls with her father to look at the stars.

And suddenly the wolf disappeared. She had dashed into shadow by an outcropping of rock up a little hill away from the path, and Bilhah lost sight of her. She waited, uncertain, considering whether she ought to just start back down the path to the city and safety.

A wolfy whine startled her, and she could hear distinctly the sounds of tiny cub whimpers. She has led me to her den. The realization filled her with a new mixture of fear and awe. She stood frozen, wondering what her guide intended. Am I supposed to climb up and see her babies?

That was when she heard the human baby, a whimpering sound, not of distress but of demand.

Without thinking further, she began to scramble up the hillside toward the rocky outcrop. Shadows impeded her view as she peered into the space between the rocks, and her eyes took moments to adjust before she could make out the distinct shapes of mother wolf and cubs deep in the den. A lighter shadow moved among them. A human child, nursing with the wolf cubs. The baby looked to be only weeks old, but well-fed and carefully tended. The mother wolf’s eyes were glowing green in the shadows. Bilhah watched her tenderly licking her cubs, wolf and human alike. As the squirmy bunch settled down to milk-dazed satisfaction, the she-wolf raised her head to Bilhah, gave a little whine, and again licked the head of the child. She is offering me the child. That’s why she led me here!

Slowly, hardly daring to breathe or even to think, Bilhah eased forward into the tight doorway of the den until her body blocked the light, until she could touch the smooth skin of the child. Her nose was assaulted by the musky odor of wolf, and the she-wolf gave another doggy whine. As Bilhah reached to take the child, she felt the tender tongue of the mother wolf slide over her fingers as it gave its tiny charge one last kiss.

Bilhah backed slowly from the den. “Thank you,” she breathed, catching the green glow of the mother wolf’s eyes one last time as she turned to slide as carefully as she could down the rocky hillside to the path, holding her sleeping charge carefully in her arms.

She hurried as quickly as she could up the rocky river path in the growing dusk, filled with the wonder of her encounter and of the child she carried in her arms. How had she come to be there in the wolf’s den? Had the mother wolf stolen the child? Had a desperate mother, unable to care for one more child, left her baby girl there at the wolf’s den? Bilhah stumbled in the near dark and almost lost her footing, but managed not to fall. Panting, she stopped and held the baby tightly, fearing to fall and harm the child, but fearing to be left outside the city gates when the wolves began to prowl.

As she began to step more carefully along the path toward the orchards, she became aware of a light ahead, bobbing up and down on the pathway, and then she heard her father’s voice calling her name.

“I’m here, Abba!” she called, waking the babe, who gave a tiny squawk.

Gormlek the Mourner told his neighbors the story of his cousin’s daughter, out in the Seven Villages, who had become involved in an unfortunate relationship with a passing merchant. The child of their union would have been taken to the orphanage in the Market District of the city. Wanting to save the child from such a fate, he and his daughter had decided to take her into their home and raise her as their own. They named her after his late wife and Bilhah’s mother: Leeta.

The Healing Power of Story


I am overwhelmed by too much to do, but if I can find a spare twenty minutes today, I am going to write a letter to the president to ask him to intervene on behalf of the civil rights of the nonviolent protesters who are trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline. In early September, the Obama Administration did step in with a temporary injunction which seems to have been completely ignored. Will you join me?


You know how sometimes when you wake up in the morning, there’s a fragment of something from your dreamworld swimming around in your brain? A piece of a song, an image of a snake with wise eyes, a voice calling your name. . .  A couple days ago, I woke up with a voice that seemed to be calling me: “Sister!” That was all.  Still, it sits in my consciousness days later. Who is calling, and why?

Gratitude List:
1. The color orange. Spring time is about all the shades of greens and violets. Autumn is the whole range of gold through orange to red.
2. The words of Rumi. This one: “Let yourself become living poetry.”
3. Sleep. I don’t get enough of it, and I don’t want to jinx this long insomnia-free run, but I have been sleeping deeply and well in recent weeks. One of my great pleasures is the moment I can let myself fall into sleep each evening.
4. Circles of friendship and support. The way love flows across invisible lines, holding those who watch and hold the space.
5. The healing and integrating power of stories.

May we walk in Beauty!

Walking in the Big Story

Another dancing fire picture from last week.  This one is a little dragony. 

Gratitude List:
1. Homemade pizza.  With onions and fresh basil on top.
2. Inner exploration.  I am finishing this semester with my Creative Writers with an autobiographical piece, using lots and lots of writing prompts to explore their identity, to really look at what makes them who they are.  I think that self-reflection can help us to develop into more mature and healthy people.
3. Good Ethiopian Coffee to start my morning
4. Waking up, and then waking up, and then waking up.  There are always new rooms to awaken within.
5. How the stories that we read and listen to intertwine themselves with our own.  Sometimes this process is more intense than others.  I can remember the beautiful language and imagery of certain books with pleasure, but it’s when I am working a book–not just reading it–that I really thoroughly absorb it and take it in.  It happened to me at a young age with the Narnia books, and much later with the Lord of the Rings.  The Odyssey.  Perhaps it’s epics and journey stories that do it mostly.  We ourselves become part of the meta-myth.

May we walk in Beauty!

Live in the Sunshine


Not exactly a poem, perhaps, but I will write it like one:

Just for today,
let all the stories be happy ones,
full of surprise and laughter,
the gifts of the unexpected.

we’ll get back to the business
of saving the world,
of figuring out how
to love away the meanness,
how to create a shining space
in the dim and dingy rooms.

But today,
let all the stories be happy ones.

Gratitude List:
1. I really didn’t want to give up a day off for an IU13 conference, but I am incredibly glad I went, inspired to engage students in the written word, full of helpful ideas for sparking interest in the text, and eager to keep learning myself.
2. Back to school.  Back to rhythm.  I admit, it’s hard to get back to the work after a wonderful break, but I do miss it when I am away.  I love having a job I love.
3. Small graces.  A little extra time to do something.  A moment of sunshine on a gray day.  A smile from someone in a distracted moment.
4. Tiger eye–such a shiny stone.
5. The great wisdom of my friends.  I am fortunate to have many wise and compassionate and hopeful people in my life.

May we walk in Beauty.

Speak Out!


Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday morning’s moon, hanging above the ridge behind the River.  I know that it is always the same size, but am always caught by wonder at the way it grows as it settles close to the horizon, how intimacy with the Earth makes it seem more itself.
2. Blue bells.  I know they’re called grape hyacinths, but we always called them bluebells.  Five of them along with a few spiky leaves, in a little pitcher of Grandma Messner’s–just the thing for a tiny spot of beauty.
3. Bumblebee!  Droning drunkenly past my head two or three times.  I felt inspected.  I don’t know whether or not I passed the inspection.
4. Your voice.  Even when it’s been quiet, even when it’s been silenced, you know it’s been there all along.  It will serve you.  Of course it might be rusty at first, a little creaky around the hinges, but it is a voice of beauty and power, and it has something to say.  Wail, holler, whisper, sing, moan, cajole, laugh, stutter, kvetch.  I will listen.
5. How our stories inform each other’s stories.  May the release of each story release the shame of its secret-keeping.  May the telling of each tale offer new insight and determination to the hearer.  May the weaving of our stories together give each of us more power to enrich and enliven the telling of the stories around us.

May we walk in Beauty!