Sunday, April 8, 2018

The winter of our discontent

Not much to say except that I wish I could curl up small like a cat into my armchair and dream away the snowy hours until spring.

(Cats are eminently sensible beings, knowing what cannot be mended must be endured. Naps? A way of life.)

For it still snows, still it snows—such a long, grey dream of winter it seems timeless, mythic.

Not a winter but The Winter, whom the migrating birds battle for survival while we look on, numbed, through our dreary windows.

I feel like a child in the back seat of the car during a long drive (five months, heading into six) asking, when will we be there? We passed the signpost for spring weeks ago without seeming to arrive.

As flakes fall, the crows tear past the windows on their crow missions. Unlike some, they waste no time moping.

I am not sleepy, though very dull. I shall make a bowl of popcorn and crawl under a cozy blanket.

A proper if not very imaginative response to realities such as snow in April.


Then this morning, this fairy frosting as the sun took mercy and showed his shining face:

Goodbye, beautiful borealis, I believe your day is done for now.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Seedbed of dreams

Two nights ago I saw a moon like a half-filled chalice, cupping silver light poured by an invisible sun. 

I drank from that cup. As the moonlight slid down my throat, how I wished that radiance would water the ground of my being. Stir long-forgotten seeds to life. Show me whether I have fallen by the wayside, or if this path is true. 

Have you an inner wisdom, and what does she look like? Do you speak to her often, ask her questions nearest your secret heart? And does she answer in words you understand? 

Maybe she speaks in mind pictures, like animals glimpsed in the darkness on the side of the road you're traveling. Maybe in the sound of wind rushing past your face, or the jeweled dragonfly who lands on your hand, blessing you with its clawed feet?

Mine speaks like the young-old moon: a grandmother, a sister, a mother and a daughter. 

Her voice is like a silver-linked bracelet hanging with stars, and like a deep, damp seedbed of earth. 

She is within and without, which is a mystery. 

As moon without, she knits with long silver needles a waterfall of light between herself and the earth, her beloved; most beautiful of all the sky's children. She spills her light over me, which falls down my face like tears. 

As moon within, she whispers like rain. She stirs her cauldron of dreams, and waits for me to remember what I always forget: That I am she. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love in the undying lands

Long ago it was that I learned the story of Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel, in a book I've read many times since, The Fellowship of the Ring.

In the tale, the mortal man Beren comes upon the elf-maiden Lúthien dancing in the forest, and is struck by enchantment:

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

So powerful to Tolkien was this image that he wrote many versions of the tale, all of them inspired by his own Lúthien—Edith, his beloved, who once entranced him as she danced for him among the hemlocks.

I first read The Song of Wandering Aengus in my twenties, and its sorrowful beauty struck my heart like an elf bolt that quivers there still:

But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

But I was led to the poem, hearing it sung as the lyric of the most beautiful song I know, another tale of enchantment about a pursuit of love that inspires many years of wandering "through hollow lands and hilly lands":

Out of all the beginnings of our lives, one beginning is that thunderbolt of enchantment; the moment when we see deeply the beauty of another.

And entwined with that, we see the beauty of ourselves reflected back to us, through the language of our deepest needs, dreams and longings.

In that still moment, when you catch sight of your beloved, it feels like someone is calling you by your true name. At last you are recognized for who you are—as both human and an aspect of the divine.

You have entered into the great sea of myth, on a journey into the unknown, a long journey of beauty and grief.

Maybe for love to last, that image stamped on our hearts must be as powerful as a dream; powerful enough to live on over many years, as you wander together the hollow lands and hilly lands.

We hold that image so close to our hearts our whole lives through, as our most precious treasure, our deepest truth.

Outwardly we change but in the heart of the beloved, our essential selves still dance in that woodland among the wildflowers...there we dwell until time and times are done, like the sacred apple ever blossoming.

Under Sun and under Moon. By leaf, water and stone. Under the auspices of this song did we speak our vows on the greengrass all those years ago, within reach of the singing river, and I have not forgotten, nor will I forget ever.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A sense of calling

Over and over I notice middle-aged and older people acting with a sense of urgency to do the things important to them now, while they can.

A coworker travels to Peru and China, leaving less-adventurous Europe for when she's older.

Friends venturing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on their own, where you paddle and portage your gear through wild lakes haunted by the calls of northern loons under a sea of stars.

Traveling off the beaten path to Cuba and Cusco, before health concerns make such travel difficult.

Picking up and moving to a new house or city. Daring to quit a traditional job — to give up wage servitude and lose health insurance and a measure of security — in order to gain greater control of one's own life through self-employment.

One who retired and went to the Dominican Republic to build houses through Habitat for Humanity. Another who retired and wants to leave the country to teach English as a second language. One a master naturalist who began a nonprofit on environmental education and stewardship in one's own neighborhood.

As for me, I always thought travel was my dream. I am fortunate to have pursued that dream, to the extent that time and money have allowed.

(My other dream was to be a writer of novels. And I did write two unpublished novels, whom I love very much. But ultimately I loved the idea of being a novel writer more than the reality of how much time it took away from being outside with the sky and wind and trees....)

As a young woman I expected to always be excited by the thought of traveling to new cities and lands. Now I've changed, and travel doesn't hold the rewards it used to. Travel (or maybe it's more fairly called tourism) often leaves me with the overall uneasy feeling of consuming rather than learning.

Maybe I'll figure out a more satisfying way to travel, maybe I won't, but the point is I feel in transition with it. Neither here nor there.

Today I'm taking stock. If that's not the dream around which to arrange my priorities anymore, then what is? What is the thing I feel I must do before it is too late?

Small acts of devotion to the earth, repeated over time.

Applied dreams, inspired by a desire to help, heal, restore.

Actions that are radical, because taking positive action is radical.

Tending actions that begin small, in partnership with earth, and that then build on themselves through a positive feedback loop, as the land begins to flourish, repaying many times the care lavished on her.

Actions that do not consume, but rather feed, give, nourish.

I am so particularly moved by instances where one individual took upon themselves a momentous task to restore a forest, or a jungle, or abandoned ranchland or farmland, or a prairie — and then did this work faithfully and often alone, for many years. This to me is love in action.

I am not a mother. Where are my children, my small legacy to the earth?

It is the trees I planted with the earth, the gardens I made with the earth.

I feel a sense of calling. I believe that if it feels like a calling, then one should listen.

In spring, I begin once again in my own back yard, planting, with the help of the earth, in this new place.

But I will keep my ear to the ground, trusting it will tell me what comes next.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Tearing black-cloaked along the wind's leading edges, the crows stir the storm.

They magic forth a fine but purposeful snow—driving flakes from the northern reaches of the world.

Already the snow shapes small constellations of winter on my rooftop.

And the crows, swirling in restless spirals, catch the air under their wings and dance in the timeless space between tree, snow and sky, loving the wind above all else.

Photographer unknown.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Of murder and magic

All day long I stirred pebbles with my toe, looking for signs of life. 

I turned over every little stone. Memory. Poetry and song. Borrowed wisdom. Small caretakings of home and comfort. 

I watched this glorious time-lapse film of the sky, filled with tempests of clouds and thunderstorms. 

But still, no inspiration crept up from this dark moon ground. 

(The dark moon is the banishing time. Not the time to plant seeds, or grow, or harvest. 

But I did not think of that until later.)

Dissatisfied, I sent a bucket down into the well, seeking evidence that all was not empty. 

When I drew it up, all I found was the merest trickle of water, too little to drink. 

Just enough to remind me of the river, the sea that was not flowing through me—just enough to remind me of my thirst.

I didn't know what to do, but felt I must do something. So I moved my desk in front of the windows. 

For a while, I watched the northwest wind razor the new snow from the roof, flinging it in stinging white sheets against the frigid air.

Cold dark earth, surely this ground is not completely barren? Am I just quiet now, or have I nothing to say? And isn't that all right, if so. It doesn't feel all right.

Perhaps my "shoulds" have been silencing my "coulds"? 

That happens sometimes. 

Long I sat, feeling downcast, no whisper stirring from within or without. 

After a while, I became aware of a silent river of crows. 

Their dark shapes were flowing past the windows my desk now faces, winging to the northeast in beautiful, undulating motion. 

They flew in unknowable formations, in fronts and dozens, each following the other yet making his own path upon the sky. 

Blessing this woman's eyes with their grace. Bearing myth on their wings, magic in each darkling feather, kin stories millennias long in their shining black eyes. 

As the sun westered from mid-afternoon to dusk they streamed past, off and on, as if my house were an island in their sky-river. Juni (perched on the desk) and I watched in wonder. My own eyes began to shine; thrilled, delighted, enchanted. 

Maybe the crows, known as the mega murder, were flying to a roost along the Mississippi where they gather in thousands in winter?

It is a lovely discovery, to find my new home is in the middle of a Great Crow Flyway.

This magic belongs to this place and this day. Called to me or not, I am taking it as a message from the sky and the crows, that magic is there. Even when you can't see or feel it, it is there—right on the other side of your barriers, walls, shoulds. 

It is there, and it shows itself to you, wanting you to see it, calling you to see it. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Stories for strugglesome times

Sleet falls from a quiet silver sky, frosting the edges of bare branches with a sifting of tiny crystalline stars.

Now the air numbs the skin like the slash of an ice knife, in that frozen moment between the slicing and the bleeding. 

Later I will go outside for a quick chilling of the bones. I have spent many days inside and cabin fever is setting in, which is what I like least about winter.

I wish I could say I was spending this inside time journaling, dreaming and creating; but it's useless as I am distracted by all the ways my house needs to be set in order. Plus, it's not really mine until I clean it. There is a lot to clean, and I'm not a fast cleaner, I'm the inefficient, meticulous sort. It takes a long time.

I'm slow at almost, cooking, baking, grocery shopping, writing, processing things, getting ready for work in the morning, making decisions...I could go on. Hurrying goes against my nature, my preference for order and exactness.

I'm particularly slow at doing things involving lots of details, which trigger my compulsive tendencies.

Like cleaning a house full of paint-spattered woodwork and radiators with frustratingly unreachable dust crevices.

Sometimes I ask myself, does this behavior serve me...or do I instead serve it? Am I actually being unkind to myself? It's a fine line, and sometimes I observe myself crossing into warning territory.

That's when I need to make myself stop. Go outside. Break the pattern of whatever spell I'm binding about myself, which somehow transforms in the midst of its working from a beneficial magic to a malignant one. This much is good...that much is not.

On winter's bare white stage, one's dramas and dysfunctions play out starkly, in high relief. Maybe that's why we need good stories to escape into more than ever in wintertime. We can't always be brave, strong, and stoic—humans seek comfort in strugglesome times. Stories help get us through.

Do you have particular stories you read during difficult times? We have been rewatching the Harry Potter movies—but I suspect rereading the books would be more magical and more powerful. It's not as if they tell particularly comforting stories (in fact they're rather discomforting and discomfitting), it's more that they encourage us to believe that each of us is stronger than we realize, and that we can make a difference in the lives of others, and that we have a choice as to how to live so let's choose to be courageous and loyal and adventurous. Those ideas comfort and encourage me.

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