Don’t Hesitate

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Mary Oliver, Devotions (2017)

“There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.”
Posted by a friend mere days before Russia invaded Ukraine, I saved this gem for its reminder, and the abundance of joy described, never imagining the mind-numbing poignancy of its prescience.

My writing here has been episodic, due in part to Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine, for which I am at a loss for words. So as you may have read, I have relied on those from others (again, my plug for Mark Gonzales’ In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty – please consider buying and sharing it far and wide.)

Too, I’m quite full of my own words, preparing a manuscript of poetry for publication, riding the slipstream created at the start of the new year, when I submitted 22 pages for a chapbook contest. Both longshots. Both labors of my love. Both my ways of fighting back. Both my ways of saying,

Beauty made from love matters
makes a difference
during days of such madness.

In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty

Buds in Spain

Look up. Look around. Listen. See and hear the
echoes of your wounds and dreams all around you.
Know that you are never as alone as you think. We may
even be in the majority. Each point of connection
with another transforms them from stranger into ally
in the healing process.

If you read this and still feel abandoned, walk with
head high knowing there are generations of ancestors
inside of you. We will survive this era as we did the
eras before: using the skills we have, inventing the
ones we need.

On those days when the spine or soul become tired,
imagine all of humanity whispering a twelve word
prayer inside your ear: “we are not the children nor
the descendants of a weak people.”

Mark Gonzales
In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty
2014



Several years ago, I “met” Mark Gonzales via this remarkable collection of piercing, pithy poem essays. Last week, as war in Ukraine grabbed hold of our world by its throat, a friend reminded me that I had introduced her to his work.
Any page would have been perfect today. I expect I’ll turn to Mark’s words for my Monday blog. In the meantime, if this sampling touches you, buy his book, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty. There is no better time.

Let Yourself Rest

LET YOURSELF REST

If you’re exhausted, rest.

If you don’t feel like starting a new project, don’t.

If you don’t feel the urge to make something new,

just rest in the beauty of the old, the familiar, the known.

If you don’t feel like talking, stay silent.

If you’re fed up with the news, turn it off.

If you want to postpone something until tomorrow, do it.

If you want to do nothing, let yourself do nothing today.

Feel the fullness of the emptiness, the vastness of the silence, the sheer life in your unproductive moments.

Time does not always need to be filled.

You are enough, simply in your being.

– Jeff Foster –

Reflecting on my current involvement in another online offering from The Abbey of the Arts – an 8 week exploration of the archetypes of Visionary, Healer, Sage and Warrior – this recent Facebook post spoke to me. Over the past two weeks, we’ve considered the Healer. I shared with the group The Nap Ministry, the creation of Tricia Hersey to uplift and give legitmacy to the radical act of napping and resting, as embodied resistance.

I’m thinking about how our now noticeably longer days engage our energies and invite more activity. I’m thinking about how easy it is to be seduced by that outward pull and upward rising, when the body-mind-spirit might still need the deep rest encouraged by winter. I’m thinking within the archetypal energy of Healer, that I need to remember “time does not always need to be filled” and that I am enough, simply in my being. And I’m thinking, so are you.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

The Angels and the Furies

1

Have you not wounded yourself
And battered those you love
By sudden motions of evil,
Black rage in the blood
When the soul, premier danseur,
Springs toward a murderous fall?
The furies possess you.

2

Have you not surprised yourself
Sometimes by sudden motions
Or intimations of goodness,
When the soul, premier danseur,
Perfectly poised,
Could shower blessings
With a graceful turn of the head?
The angels are there.

3

The angels, the furies
Are never far away
While we dance, we dance,
Trying to keep a balance
To be perfectly human
(Not perfect, never perfect,
Never an end to growth and peril),
Able to bless and forgive
Ourselves.
This is what is asked of us.

4

It is light that matters,
The light of understanding.
Who has ever reached it
Who has not met the furies again and again?
Who has reached it without
Those sudden acts of grace?

– May Sarton –

I’ve had this poem in my “draft” file since last November. I think the wise Parker J. Palmer included it back then in the monthly newsletter he co-authors with songwriter-musician Carrie Newcomer.
Given my musings of late, shared in this week’s blog, coupled with current news, it feels like the right time to bring it into the light. To remind me of my own angels and furies. To help me see the light in darkness.

Darkness

darkness descends on the Sahara

You Darkness

You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world,
for the fire makes a circle
for everyone
so that no one sees you anymore.
But darkness holds it all:
the shape and the flame,
the animal and myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight —
and it is possible: its great strength
is breaking into my body.
I have faith in the night. 

Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by David Whyte

This gem came within an email this week where, in the Northern Hemisphere, various divinations by animals foretold of six more weeks of winter. Despite daylight hours growing, this pronouncement still means many more hours of darkness.
I imagine that to “have faith in the night” that we will awaken come dawn, might have been one of those experiences that filled with awe our earliest ancestors.
This photo, taken my first night on Morocco’s Sahara, could be the sun rising. Life’s circles and cycles, as too this week, Imbolc, the Celtic celebration of the first glimmering of spring, falling midway between Winter’s Solstice and Spring’s Equinox. Also, the feast day of Brigid, the patron saint of, among many things, poetry.

Speaking of which, Whyte’s translation of this piece from Rilke evokes his own much loved poem, Sweet Darkness, read here by him.

Weaving

WEAVING

First set the warp,
the plain, stable threads
that hold the pattern in place –
the infrastructure of joy,
the girders that hold up all we build
of meaning, or justice, or peace.
Use strong threads left
by those who have gone before.
Only then pick up the weft,
the colored thread that you will use
to weave accordingly to your plan.
Choose carefully – this is what
the world will see, each tiny act
that builds the bright pattern
of your life. Yes, the threads
will tangle or knot or fray,
and the flaws will show.
Oh well. Tuck in the ends
as best you can and start again.
This is not the time to stop your weaving.
So much is pulling at the great design.

– Lynn Ungar –
Breathe, 2020

Call it synchronicity or coincidence, I quickly picked up one of two poetry chapbooks I had just received from Lynn Ungar and the page opened to this poem, the perfect companion to Monday’s blog post, Spinning the Sacred Feminine. I’d been inspired to feature a poem on weaving today, thinking back to one I had “composed” as the conversation harvest from an activity designed in collaboration with a textile artist-community developer eleven years ago for our professional community of practice. I don’t recall the specifics, but we provided strips of fabric for the group of facilitators to weave together as a way to consider our work grounded in conversation and story. This was the result:

WARP and WEFT
An engaged community inspired by the virtues of beauty, hope and simplicity.
Texture foretells of mystery and transformation.
Beauty, the loom for creativity.
Inspiration, the weft.
We, the warp.
Beginning.

Berber Carpets, Chefchaouen, Morocco



January

JANUARY

Of course it’s to be expected:
the dim light and early dark
and the endless days of rain.
And if the week of brutal cold
wasn’t what you signed up for,
well, it’s what you got,
so might as well make the best of it.
Other people got blizzards,
and friends have flooded basements
or days without power
or lost everything to wind-whipped
wildfire. Of course, there’s nothing
less comforting than the notion
that others have it worse.
Misery doesn’t love company,
it just spreads like an oil slick
across the dull land, and we
have moved on from terror
to a cranky ennui. But one day
last week, the clouds lifted,
and there was the mountain, shining
in all its snow-clad glory.
My breath caught to remember
that what I see is not
the sum of what is there.

– Lynn Ungar –

So this is January, 2022.
Today, a Facebook cartoon meme showed Lucy complaining to Charlie Brown of the new year, suggesting we had, in fact, been stuck with a used one. Last year, or even the one before that. Where I live, we’ve had weeks of “brutal cold” suddenly broken overnight by above freezing temperatures and rain, making for treacherous travelling, by car or foot. House fires with fatalities. Inflation rates the highest in 30 years. Unprecedented numbers of Covid cases with friends suddenly succumbing.

And yet the beauty of snow laden trees and brilliant blue skies. Wolf Moon an incandescent marvel illuminating the night. My parents’ 68th anniversary. The birthdays of my husband and niece. Poetry books in the today’s mail. Stories shared and books reviewed on Zoom. Tonight’s easeful meanderings in my women’s circle. An abundance of goodness and gratitude, more than named here. This is my January, 2022.

Morning Song

MORNING SONG

The red dawn now is rearranging the earth

Thought by thought
Beauty by beauty

Each sunrise a link in the ladder

Thought by thought
Beauty by beauty

The ladder the backbone
Of shimmering deity

Thought by thought
Beauty by beauty

Child stirring in the web of your mother
Do not be afraid
Old man turning to walk through the door
Do not be afraid

– Joy Harjo –
How We Became Human

Every day I receive and read several poems from various sources, including social media. Not too long ago I read a brief musing on poetry by philosopher, author, activist Bayo Akomolafe:
“Poetry is the language of the apocalypse. When cracks appear, when tensions materialize and split the familiar open, the least thing you need is precision. The least thing you want is to simply get to the point. Well, the poet casts his eyes beside the point, beneath the surfaces, where the exquisite sprouts.”


As we step into this new year, one where cracks and tensions continue to be evident, continue to split open the familiar, this poem felt right as an offering and evocation of the exquisite. A prayer of sorts to greet the day, to remember the power of thoughts and beauty, to not be afraid.

Blessing of Hope

Blessing of Hope

So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day –
here, now
in this moment
that opens to us:

hope not made
of wishes
but of substance,

hope made of sinew
and muscle
and bone,

hope that has breath
and a beating heart,

hope that will not
keep quiet
and be polite,

hope that know
how to holler
when it is called for,

hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
little cause,

hope that raises us
from the dead –

not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and
again and
again.

– Jan Richardson –
The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

I received this poem from a dear friend a week ago, her gift to me in return for the words of Wendell Berry I’d sent in my Winter Solstice greeting. I’d been thinking of the right piece to post today for the coming of a new year. This feels right. To think of hope that is of substance – singing, hollering, impolite. Raising us from the dead, again and again.

May we step into this new year with such hope as our companion.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends. And thank you for being so.



Only Five Things

He said, “I want only five things, five chosen roots.
One is an endless love.
Two is to see the autumn. I cannot exist without leaves flying and falling to the earth.
The third is the solemn winter, the rain I loved, the caress of fire in the rough cold.
Fourth, the summer, plump as a watermelon.
And fifthly, your eyes.

– Pablo Neruda –

Ahhhh…Neruda and what his words evoke.
As winter, solemn and bitterly cold, descends here on the northern prairies, I think of the gifts of living within the cycle of seasons. A radical simplicity in the noticing, naming and appreciating.
The now foreshortened sun appears still in the Solstice sky, an offering I accept to sink into rest and reflection.

Wishing you, dear friends, simple gifts of the season, kindest regards, and an endless love.

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