Bottle of Water, Bottle of Wind

reading

Gratitude List:
1. Feeling better. All day, I have been feeling a general malaise, achy and dull. By the time school was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, and I was sure I would call for a substitute for tomorrow. But I had no fever, and I didn’t want to call off if I could help it. Now, after rest and coffee and supper, I feel like a new person. It feels so good to feel good.
2. Light. Christmas lights, lamps, room lights. This is the season when the encroaching darkness makes me panicky. I could hardly bear it today, but there are plenty of lights about. I will bathe in the lights that I can get. Perhaps I’ll have to take my lunch breaks outside these days in order to gather a little more sunlight.
3. Boy and his dad playing chess here at the end of the table.
4. Boy reading with his cat under the Christmas tree.
5. Shining lights–you and you and you.

May we walk in Beauty!

A longish story today. I have been mulling it for several days now, writing a little here, a little there. I think it’s time to bring it into the light:

Bottle of Water, Bottle of Wind

Have you ever been to the Bottle Lady’s stand at Market? Oh, I can never remember exactly where she’s located. I always have to search a bit to find her. She wears a dress and a cardigan sweater like every Mennonite woman at every little vegetable stand in the building. Unlike them, her hair escapes her bun to fly in curls and wisps about her face like a halo.

The first time I saw her, she was nibbling a bit of baklava–that’s why I think her stand might be somewhere near the Greek Delights stand, and I definitely recall the delightfully eye-watering horseradish of the neighboring stand. She winked at me: “You should go over there and get some of this before it’s gone. It’s delicious!”

I paused in my meanderings to peruse her wares: row upon row of empty bottles, in stepped shelves cascading over a purple velvet cloth with golden trim. Each bottle wore a tag held in place with a colored ribbon. The labels looked to be mostly in languages I didn’t understand, some in strange scripts and pictograms. On the lowest shelf was a small dark-blue bottle with water inside. I could read its label clearly: Waters of the World.

The Bottle Lady watched me pick it up and hold it to the light. “That one’s three hundred dollars,” she told me, licking the sticky baklava filling from her fingers. I quickly replaced the bottle on the shelf, lest I break it. “The one you want is right next to it–see there? No, the one on the left, with the green ribbon. See the label? Dreams Come True. That one is only a dollar today.”

Before I’d even had a chance to register what was happening, she had wrapped the bottle in tissue paper, and placed it in a little paper bag gift bag with glitter all over it. I simply pulled out my wallet and handed her a dollar. I couldn’t help but smile. I rarely remember my dreams, but I still had flashes of the dream from the night before, in which I stumbled through a strange city, finding money in odd places.

As I stopped at the Greek Delights stand to buy some baklava, I spotted a five dollar bill on the ground at my feet. I asked all around, but no one seemed to have dropped it, and the owner of Greek Delights refused to hold it for someone who might or might not return. “You just keep it, Sweetie. You just keep it and spend it on a little something for yourself.”

Sure, I connected it to the little bottle. It was hard not to, especially when I found a quarter, two dimes, and a dollar bill on the sidewalk–all just on the walk to my car! It lasted for another week or so. Every time I walked down the street, I found at least a coin or two. I found bills tucked into my jeans, caught between the couch cushions, in the dryer hopper at the laundromat. I kept it all in a jar–over one hundred dollars by the time the luck dried up.

It was a couple weeks before I found myself at market again, and I just couldn’t find her stand. I could have sworn it was between the Greek Delights and the horseradish man–but when I went there, there was no stall between them: they’re direct neighbors. I couldn’t imagine what I had been thinking. I had almost given up, and I was standing in the really long line at the Sacred Grounds Coffee stand–my friend Zia works there, and I wanted a mocha to warm me up on a cold day–when I turned around, and there was the Bottle Lady’s stand. It must have been the baklava that made me think it was on the other side of Market. I wandered over, not paying attention to the fact that I was losing my place in line. There were fewer bottles on the stand this time. “I’ve had really good business today,” she told me, as she sipped her coffee. “How’d the Dream thing work for you?” she asked.

I told her it had been lots of fun, sort of a thrill really. I wondered if she might have a bottle with a love potion in it or something. She gave a musical laugh, then got really serious, studying me as if I were an object under a microscope. “No. No love potions for you right now,” she said. She started to sort through the bottles on the shelves, humming tunelessly to herself. At intervals, she would look up at me with a keen and studying glance, then start clinking and shifting the bottles again. Her hand brushed against the little cobalt bottle of Waters of the World, sending it tipping dangerously toward me. I had instinctively reached out to steady it, and caught it as it fell.

“Whew. That’s fortunate,” she breathed. “I have been saving that for someone. Ah, here’s the one for you.” And she reached out and scooped the tiny bottle of water from my hand, and replaced it with a larger bottle, ornately etched with a tiny dragon. It appeared as empty as most of the others, but as I looked closer, I could see that it was filled with a cloudiness, like smoke. I could make nothing of the letters on the tag. “What is this?” I asked.

“You can see it right there on the label,” she said. “Gumption. That will be two dollars.” And as I looked again, the letters resolved themselves in my brain, and I could read the word in its elaborate script.

Yes, I certainly had more energy, more get-up-and-go, in the coming days. She told me to keep my door closed that night in my room, and to take the cork out of the bottle just before I drifted off to sleep. The next morning, I felt more rested and ready for the day than I had in years.

And that’s how it went. Every few weeks, I’d find my way to Market, search around for the Bottle Lady’s stand, and only find her when I had given up and decided to do something else. I don’t have a good sense of direction, and Market can be confusing. I can never remember whether that bakery with the German-style bread is in the third or fourth row down from the entrance, and there are always a few little stands that are empty, and then there’s just something about the way all the women who work there look sort of the same. Still, I always seemed to find her just when I had decided to give up the search.

She always seemed to choose for me. Oh, I asked for something specific each time I went, but she always had some suggestion or idea that seemed right for me, so I just went along, paying one or two dollars each time. Once I bought a plain little Mason jelly jar with a screw-top lid labeled Common Sense. Paid five dollars for that one. Oy, did that one ever get me through a week of weirdness.

The bottles and jars began to accumulate on my bedside stand. Sometimes I would try to re-use them, and there were often some minor effects, but nothing like the pure moment when I first opened the bottles themselves.

Each time I saw her, I asked about the lovely blue bottle of Waters of the World. Had the buyer come for it already? Why was it still there? What were Waters of the World? I could never quite get an answer out of her about it, but she always gave me a good tip for what treats to buy myself:

“The samosas over at the Middle Eastern stand are really spicy today! You should get two for your supper.”

“You have to try one of these fresh fruit smoothies from the smoothie stand–it’ll be good for what ails you.” She was right, of course.

“Mrs. Stoltzfus over at the bakery has some really nice whoopie pies today. Just the regular traditional kind without any funky flavors in the fillings. They’re so much better that way, don’t you think?” And I agreed, and bought one for my dessert. It was so big, I had some left over for the next day’s breakfast.

One Saturday last month, I met Zia when she got off work at the Sacred Grounds. Zia had been feeling sort of depressed, like she was spinning her wheels, stuck like molasses in her job at the Grounds, and not sure how to take the next step to anywhere. “Let’s go see this Bottle Lady you’re always talking about,” she said.

It was sort of embarrassing–I couldn’t really say where the stand was exactly, but we wandered around, bought some German chocolate from the German stand, and I bought Zia a little potted narcissus from the Plant Man. We had given up searching for the Bottle Lady, and were making our way toward the exit next to the fishmonger, when I spotted her purple cloth, tucked between the celery folks and the woman who sells gourmet dog biscuits.

She was nibbling on a cookie shaped like a dog bone. “Oh yes,” she said when she saw my wide eyes. “I can see that it would be confusing. No, the cookie stand on the other side of the aisle is celebrating Adopt-a-Dog week at the Humane League by selling these incredible dog-bone cookies. They have chocolate centers. You should try some.”

Zia was poring over the labels on the bottles, trying to read the cryptic writing. “Can my friend buy one of your bottles of Dreams Come True?” I asked.

The Bottle Lady gave Zia her studying look, over the tops of her glasses. “No-o-o-o,” she said slowly. “I think this one has not been having such good dreams lately.” Zia crinkled her forehead and nodded.

“How about. . .this one!” Her hand paused above a little green bottle with swirls and spirals embossing its surface. “Yes, I think you could use a Bottle of Wind.” Of course she was right, as right as she’d been about samosas and smoothies and whoopie pies and every bottle she’d ever sold me.

We paid and were putting the little package carefully into Zia’s bag, when the Bottle Lady turned to me: “It’s high time you took your Waters of the World, don’t you think? I’ve got that one on Special today for three dollars.” I barely had time to gasp before she had it wrapped in tissue paper and was plopping it into my hand.

She told me how I needed to keep replenishing the waters: a tear here, a raindrop there, a drop of water from the River I crossed each day on my way into town. How I was to give it a gentle shake when I had added a new water. How I needed to keep releasing the waters, too: water a plant with one drop, put a drop behind my ears or on my forehead, offer a drop to the palm of a weeping friend, give a drop to the River. How it all balanced out when I was careful and thoughtful and full of gratitude. “I know you are ready for this,” she said with a wink. “I don’t think I will be seeing much of either of you again here for a little while. Don’t forget to buy yourselves some cookies on the way out.”

The Bottle of Wind blew through Zia’s life with a beautiful chaos, and now she’s off to New Hampshire for a three-month writing residency at some kind of artists’ camp. I’ve never seen her so happy. And my Waters of the World? I am tending the waters carefully, replenishing them regularly, releasing them with gratitude. And tomorrow I am catching a flight to Iceland–I want to see glaciers. And then to wherever the waters seem to take me. I’ve packed up all my empty bottles in a padded box. Who knows what I may find to put in them?

Market opens at six o’clock tomorrow. You should go see if you can find the Bottle Lady. I can’t honestly tell you where her stand is, but if you look around a while, I am sure she’ll appear somewhere.

Invisible as Wind

sweetfred-edited

Today’s Tiny Tale:

There once was a boy who could become invisible as the wind. He would vanish without a word, without leaving a trail, and slip through the cracks in the walls, underneath doors, between lines of lazy type across a page.

Gratitude List:
1. Sundogs
2. The robust and muscular figure of a hawk in a skeletal winter tree
3. Stories
4. Snuggly cat
5. Sleeping and dreaming. This is the season.

May we walk in Beauty!

My Autumn Visitor

door
Doorways beckon.

Today’s prompt is to write an imitation poem. I am going to imitate Robert Frost’s “My November Guest.” I will work loosely with the theme, and try to copy the abaab rhyme scheme and the Frostian rhythm.

My November Guest
by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

My Autumn Visitor
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

My Melancholy, visiting
this bitter cold November day,
thinks that the hours of autumn bring
an apt and honest offering
of chilly winds and shades of grey.

Routine demeanor laid aside,
the autumn brings her full awake.
Her silence shed, her arms thrown wide,
she talks about the ebbing tide,
the dismal field, the frozen lake.

Her strength returns as cold winds blow.
She revels in the shorter days,
how the shadows build and grow,
a crippling frost, a blinding snow,
how all will pass, how nothing stays.

She may not be the kindest friend,
but she is winter’s company,
returning every autumn’s end
and my spirit will attend
her joyful, aching misery.

*Wow. There is something really satisfying about imitating Frost. I love to feel the rhythm of it, to catch the almost jazzy (because of the abaab) end rhyme, to feel the sense of the piece fill itself out within the structure.

Gratitude List:
1. Napping, resting, sleeping, dreaming:Is it possible to live a fully creative life when you don’t get quite enough sleep, when you don’t get deeply into dream-life? I love the restful time of a break, so I can find my way deeper in the the realm of dream.
2. Making a little headway on the poetry editing. How did I let myself get this far behind? I do love the editing bit.
3. Daily disciplines. I know that’s such a loaded word, but it also feels right to me–practical rhythms that I strive to be accountable to each day.
4. Pumpkin pie. Of course, right?
5. Layers. Layers of clothes on a chilly day. Layers of color and texture and line in a good work of art. Layers of relationships. Layers of meaning in a poem or a story.

May we walk in Beauty!

Wing and Prayer

cropped-vulture1.jpeg
Bringing my vulture back to symbolize the wing and the prayer.

Today’s Prompt is to take a common phrase and make it the title and the theme of the poem.

On a Wing and a Prayer
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

What does this day ask of us?
What do the spirits of the time require?

To find that inner sight that will not settle us to sleep
nor keep us in the constant throes of rage and riot.
To be creatures of the air, wing-powered momentum,
lifted by prayer, held aloft by the voices from within.
A life of contemplation, inner knowingness,
fueling outward action, emboldening our activism.

To throw ourselves, like crows, bellyfirst into the gale,
and beat our wings against the wind,
aloft upon both wing and prayer.

Gratitude List:
1. Winds of change
2. A crow sitting in the top of a windy tree. Crows in the sky buffeted by wind.
3. How the leaves came suddenly walking down the wind yesterday afternoon. The moment the wind came. And all is wind-scoured, wind-shriven, wind-blasted.
4. All those people on Facebook yesterday who spoke about the wind, how the shift to windy autumn was a sudden awakening, how the wind brought them alive. So many friends went outside and embraced the wind. I will, too.
5. That cloud on the way home from church this afternoon, full of blue. Not the Prussian Blue or Indigo of shadow, but an otherworldly, pregnant Maryblue. Like the corner of the Mother’s robe pushing through from beyond this world.

May we walk in Beauty!

Adventuring

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Gratitude List:
1. The little zen sandgarden that my mother gave me years ago. I keep it on the desk in the front of my room and students often come up and rake it and talk to me. Some are incredibly careful and thoughtful, making order. Others come up and scrape and scratch with the little rake until I want to grind my teeth, but they’re working something out, too, as much as the order-makers.
2. Yesterday’s restorative circle work. It was painful and hopeful. There’s individual work to be done yet, but they’re moving toward healing. I now feel that this story is linked to my own, and I have a responsibility to keep my eye out for these particular students.
3. Being at a school where the work of restoration is taken so seriously. There was at least one other restorative conference yesterday, and I know that others occur regularly throughout the week. This is a community where I know that all students will be taken seriously and cared for, even when they mess up. Especially when they mess up.
4. I got home yesterday from school to see two pages of comic sketches that Joss had done after we left for school in the morning. I was really hoping that the graphic novels we have been eating up would inspire him, and they did.
5. Windy weather. Adventure weather. We’re going to my friend Marie’s sale today–that will be our adventure.

May we walk in Beauty!

“The Women, United, Will Never Be Defeated”

bird

Two nights ago, my sleep was broken up by an anxious child who couldn’t get back to sleep, so I slept on the floor of his room with him. The broken sleep led me to remember my dreams much more clearly.

The one about the car accident was so real that, on the way to church in the morning, I showed my family an intersection similar to the one where the accident occurred, and when I walked out to the car after church, I experienced a momentary but real dread because I didn’t want to see the scraped-up side of the car. I was relieved when the split second passed and I realized it had been only a dream.

In the other dream, someone had brought a large cardboard box full of  writhing snakes into some sort of social gathering–I think we were going to have a dance. The snakes immediately crawled out and covered the floor. I was really worried that someone was going to step on them, but they took care of themselves. I held a couple, loving their intent and watchful eyes, their flickering tongues. Snakes are symbolic of regeneration, of the cycles of life. I have personally associated them with rising feminine power, particularly in their association with the Minoan snake dancers.  After a day of processing the magnified disgust, I was feeling at the shameless misogyny of one of our political candidates, I think I needed a reminder of the collective power of women. And I needn’t worry about them getting stepped on. We will take care of ourselves.

“The women, united, will never be defeated.” –Ubaka Hill

Gratitude List:
1. Dreams that wander into the daylight
2. Images that empower and strengthen the will
3. Clouds: I never get tired of clouds
4. Voices of reason amidst the craziness
5. Wild wind. It can be almost unbearable, the way it calls to be followed, the way it makes me long to go journeying, rambling, adventuring.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Number Four

flower

Instead of my typical 4:44, I woke up this morning at 5:34, fell asleep again, and woke up at 7:04. My friend Anna tells me that 4 is associated both with the Metal element and with Autumn in Chinese Medicine. Fall is a time of letting go. I think that I am being asked right now to let go of some of my expectations of myself, to realize that I can’t systematize and organize the stress away.

I have to step into the river and start moving the rocks around. Get my feet wet, get my hands muddy.

The number four seems to be my wake-up number. What shall I wake up to in these days when the winds are pulling me to make and create something new, in these days when the weight of work is heavy on me?

Four is also about stability. The square is more static than the triangle. I can rest in the comfort of the four corners of the square, but eventually, I am going to let my balance shift and move into the more dynamic space of the five, which pulses like a star, disrupts the patterns and flow that have been set in the cozy household of the four, and brings a new awareness.

Every step is about waking up, eh?

Gratitude List:
Have you ever noticed
1. How sometimes three or four different leaves will be floating downward through the air, far from the trees, as though they have materialized from some other dimension?
2. How the autumn wind calls, begs for attention, wants you to wander, to go adventuring?
3. How understanding dawns somewhere behind the eyes, how it shifts the eyebrows and the temples upward, how it straightens the spine?
4. How heavier blankets often bring deeper sleep?
5. How new thoughts and ideas flow like streams, little tributaries meandering toward the Big Thought, the new concept, the river of knowing?

May we walk in Beauty!

St. John’s Eve

Tea
And here is the tea I made using the three roots I harvested, along with a few others I had in my cupboard, and some slices of ginger root as well.  Roots teas are simmered rather than steeped, and my kitchen smelled earthy and wholesome during the process.

I am going to slip out of poetry-writing mode for a little while now, as I begin the summer process of compiling and editing, sorting and weeding the writings that I have now.  Today is St. John’s Eve, the day before the feast day of St. John the Baptist.  Throughout time and cultural spaces, this celebration has changed and shifted, collected some of the meanings of the Solstice which has passed only days ago.

Midsummer marks the moment in the northern hemisphere when the sun begins to lose its power (though we don’t feel it for many months yet).  St. John’s Day carries with it the transformative weight of the symbolic gift of baptism that St. John created, so the dying light is also representative of our own dying lights and our own transformative resurrections throughout our lives.  The cycles continue.  Change is not only possible, not only inevitable, but welcome.

Paradoxically, while the Sun-king is overthrown as the days begin to shorten, his power continues strong, and flares up for the next season.  I think this is the time for me to take the words that I have written and subject them to a baptism, watch them transform.  I have read that in some celebrations of St. John’s Day, a snake is one of the primary symbols, the creature who sheds its skin, leaving its dead self behind, while the living part continues on, sleek and shining, transformed.  That is what I seek for my words in this season.  I will continue to write gratitude lists for daily practice, and occasional poems and ramblings as the Muse speaks.

I found this traditional St. John’s Day poem:
Green is gold
Fire is wet
Future’s told
Dragon’s met.

May you meet your dragon with courage and aplomb in this season as you step into your future.

Gratitude List:
1. Date night was wonderful last night.  Friends gave us a gift certificate to the Accomac.  I don’t know that I have ever sat down in a restaurant and said to myself that I could order whatever I wanted, with no limits, but this is precisely what we did last night.  Jon had a Wild Boar Bibimbap with kimchi for appetizer, and a Petit Mignon with herbed potatoes and scorched asparagus with preserved lemon.  I had Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with lotus pods (like Odysseus’s crew members I might have chosen to stay in that land of the lotus forever) and Blackened Swordfish with summer squash and herb sauce, along with the asparagus.  For dessert, he had an Accomac version of a hot fudge sundae and I had Bananas Foster (though they don’t flambee it tableside on the wooden porch).  We shared a cosmopolitan made with cranberry juice and jalapeno-infused vodka.  I think I will be infusing some jalapenos this summer–it seems like such a medicinal thing to use for a fancy drink, but I love that heat.
2. All the adults who care for and offer attention to my children.  I grew up in such a nest as well, with wise and friendly and funny adults who took time for me, and I am incredibly grateful for the adults who create the same protected space for my own children.  I am thinking right now of Sandra, in particular, who has been their summertime companion for years now.  Now when they are probably old enough to be required to entertain themselves on farm days, they cannot do without her, and this is as it should be.
3. Cool winds announcing rain.  The plink of raindrops on leaves.
4. Cycles and changes. Transformation.  Leaving the old skin behind to live in the new and tender and shining skin.
5. Layers of sound in the distance and nearby in the morning.  Birdsong mingled with the human sounds of the day’s beginning.

May we walk in Beauty!

Trying for a Thomas Poem

Rusinga
My father took this photo of me on Rusinga Island when I was five. A couple years ago, I wanted to take a picture of it for a project I was working on, but I couldn’t get past the crazy reflections that kept occurring. Then I realized I could use the reflections and put myself, 41 years later, into the photo.  (This is the same trip where my brother found an interesting stone on the beach and took it for his collection.  Forty-some years later, as he was reading about the tools of early hominids, a photo of a particular stone caught his eye and he remembered his Rusinga stone, which he had, still stashed away.  He knew how to make the right contacts, and his stone now resides in the Smithsonian Museum, a verified example of one of the earliest hominid tools to be found.)

Today is Easter 2, the day when we look at Thomas, who has come to us down the centuries as Doubter.  Something in me admires his pragmatism, his weighing of the truth and facts, his declaration that he needs to see the evidence.  He had a scientific mind.

Make space in this house
for all of the people you are.
Make room for the schemer,
the doubter, the cynic,
but open some space
for the credulous child
and the mystic, the dreamer,
the wild one, the quiet one.

Open a space within
for the glass-half-full to dance
with the glass-half-empty,
for the monk to sing songs
of revolution with the fury.

There in those rooms,
the One may enter
and speak your many names,
saying, Peace be yours.

Gratitude List:
1. Wild wind.  May I be wind-shriven, too.  There’s that song by the Medical Mission Sisters: “Blow, blow, blow till I be but breath of the Spirit blowing in me.”
2. Pink trees
3. Communities and circles of caring.  Knowing that other people get it, this work of holding our places in the web.  Knowing that you’re out there, doing your work while I am trying my best to do mine here.
4. The hope and promise of the seed.
5. How the answers we seek can sometimes enter through the locked doors and closed rooms of our fearful hearts.

May we walk in Beauty and Blossoms!

Learning to Fly

2012 October 053

Never fight a cloud.
Never grasp the wind
in your fists.  Wind is
meant to be ridden
like a rough colt.
Give yourself to it
as you give yourself
to the salt waves.
Let it buffet you,
twist and batter you.
Rise.  Breathe deeply.
Learn the pathways
of currents and drafts.

(First line found on an online “poetry generator.”  This is a very drafty draft, but I do want to write something about riding the wind, so I will let it be a place-holder.)

Gratitude List:
1. Watching a high school crew create a dramatic performance.  The students at my school and their directors did an amazing job putting together “The Sound of Music” last night.
2. Sleep.  This is a placeholder.  I am running on very little sleep at the moment, and will likely run a little low for the next couple of nights.  But I am grateful for sleep, for the little I can get now, and for the good rest I will get in a few days.
3. That lovely, lovely snow.  Simple frosting.
4. The sense of taste.  Isn’t flavor a marvelous thing?
5. Weaving the threads together.  People.  Meanings.  Ideas.

May we walk in Beauty!