This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
~ John Muir
it’s bare essential time, parsing my day’s responsibilities to the minimum
the descent into winter darkens my awareness of inconsequential matters
let me hibernate and rest in my inner landscape, know intimately its deep beauty first.
at my most productive, i will be, i do not do.
let go, let go. eventually there will be reconnection,
to watch the sky lighten and break open beribboned in yellows and pinks
winds to blow away my discontent
renewal is nigh
the poet watches
the branches shake the yellowed leaves
she watches the leaves scatter,
some rustle along the path
others snag in a ragged patch of grass.
she watches. this coming season of cold and decay
of the first snowfall, the winds, the frozen landscape
exposed, sharp silhouettes of branches.
frost-bitten garden sagging under the weight of
dead flower stalks and ice crusted snow.
she watches, and silence breaks open
so much change. yet. alive.
writing from the center
in the center of the temple, a labyrinth
in the center of the labyrinth, desertlands.
sun ablaze, high noon heat
anxiety dissipates in the arid breeze.
where is the safe space?
a perimeter protected by cacti tangled,
various structures and textures
occasional blooms, fuchsia-orange roses.
hummingbirds dart amidst bees.
safe. protected. alone, heart beat though erratic,
I find protection. from whom? from what?
cocoon, hide within the dark. they say.
if i do not speak, I cannot be heard, cannot be hurt
by words, or looks, or judgements.
i cannot be denied, cannot be touched.
no feelings exist for no one knows.
it is when i am not seen, when i am not heard,
the pain spreads like toxic fluids touched on fire by the sun
there is a place of safety within,
my words my protection.
my knowledge my salvation.
my awareness my life line.
step into the world,
ablaze. speak. act. be visible.
fire burns away old perceptions which pronounce
i am not enough. flames explode,
I step from the ashes, out of the charred remains,
step into the dawn, carrying the empty urn.
I had the great honor and privilege to attend Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp 2014 last week. There, a hundred wonderful people gathered for the second annual camp near Asheville, North Carolina.
We danced by the lake at the sun rose over the tree line and the fog hovered upon Lake Kanuga, crying and laughing and hugging and offering deep support and love.We struggled though yoga moves before coffee(!!!) and breakfast while the kindest of kind instructors gently, so gently, encouraged.
We sang, some of us off key but with great exuberance, as a group of 100 vivacious, expressive, loving campers sang songs ranging from In My Wildest Dreams to Stars to Amazing Grace. The musicians were out of this world.
I slept in a Kanuga Cabin built in 1909 and on the National Register of Historic Places (for architectural history geeks like me who love that sort of detail).
Cabin 13, by the way, was one of the luckiest cabins with the kindest of cabin mates and social hour visitors, my way of thinking! Love you guys!
I rocked on the porch with other happy campers as we took in the view of the autumn trees and the lake beyond, and felt so alive in the midst of campanionship and nature’s beauty.
I attended a pre-camp workshop presented By Patti Digh and Kim Joris on The Geography of Loss, based on Patti’s book by the same name. Oh what a day that was as a camp warm-up experience…self-awareness, discovery, opening to our stories, creating and sharing with the kindest of communities.
Tears and hugs and compassion, oh my!
I listened to the key note presentations of two of my poet heroes – Amy Shihab Nye and Ellen Bass. And decided I could call myself a poet again!
I was mesmerized by the stories of fellow campers during the morning Focus Sessions – and I even told my own story in a presentation on bullying called You Can Sit Here With Us. (I’ll post my speech in an upcoming blog post — our stories, especially on the issue of bullying, so deserve to be heard.)
I attended Creative Spark workshops, one on Creating my Own Adventure (by the above creative beings), another on Being Stabby (felt making) by Deb Reynolds.
I also presented my own workshop on Desert Wisdom and the Gifts of the Desert – what a thrill for this introvert. I pushed my anxiety aside and so loved sitting in our circle and connecting with each other through our precious gifts of self! (Though I find it almost impossible to comprehend that I did not remember to take a single photograph during either of my workshops. I’ll just have to hold them tightly in my memory — easily done!)
I had a poem composed for me by the talented typewriter poet duo of Maya Stein and Amy Tingle. (Such wise, wise poems, delivered on the spot, nine lines on an index card.) I now cherish my two poem cards. Amazing! Thank you, Maya and Amy.
We collected camp badges for doing things like showing up (which can be amazingly hard), speaking out, being ourselves, making strong offers (another way of showing up, big time), for claiming our birthright as poets.
Of course, Camp is a Verb would not exist if it were not for Patti Digh, who had a dream, and worked incredibly to make it come true. Every time Patti appeared on stage she offered… Hugs. Hope. Happiness. Honesty. Honor. Humor. Love. Love. Love.
Patti Digh – camp director, friend, confidante, mama, organizer, creative, courageous, promoter of social justice, and human being extra-ordinaire. Patti and her troupe of volunteers turned Camp Kanuga into the brilliant Camp is a Verb 2014 with magic, synchronicity, and damn hard work.
Life is a Verb Camp 2015 will be held in California at Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula. Serving up loaded scoops of…Community. Courage. Creativity. and (self) Compassion. Wouldn’t it be a fine thing if you were there?
A poem is . . . an act of devotion and holy rebellion; a source of healing and a journey of risk. ~ Edveeje Fairchild
I enter here, emboldened.
I come in holy rebellion.
Enough groveling at the feet of stone struck statues
incapable of emotions, or a welcoming nod,
refusing to utter soothing words as balm to my aching heart,
or offer an angelic flutter of celestial embrace.
Safe behind barred doors,
chain link fences,
security-guards on watch.
Guarded from whom?
The penitent, the silenced one, the hesitant seeker.
I come in holy rebellion.
I will not be demure. I will not bow, cover my face
with a black mantilla and your rules.
Wait. I do not come in holy rebellion.
I am Holy Rebellion!
“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused…
If I did surrender to the earth’s intelligence?
Surrender to the earth itself, like a seed dispersed in autumns’ winds.
And drop upon the earth – dark, dank, ripe. Drop upon the earth
and settle in, as layers of leaves and autumn litter cover me, intact, protected.
So like children, we begin again…
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
This seed of me, it embraces the darkness
and in the waning light, holding my stories of decay and decline,
enters a period where the only light source is that of inner reflection.
Embraces shadow as darkness makes ready the parts hungering for new life.
in anticipation of unlimited possibilities.
In the midst of the wilderness, in the presence of the divine.
Perhaps there is nothing astonishing about this meadow with its spattering of seeded sumac
Or a dense tree line that separates the land from the cloudy skies.
Meandering on a country road in the middle of this northern county,
two miles west of Lake Michigan, an endless expanse of water to my eyes
and two miles east of Green Bay, again, with no distant shore in sight,
only a few bay islands splashed by frothing waves, inhabited by seagulls.
Who thought, many decades ago, to say no to billboards, to shopping malls,
to franchises of any kind – no hotel or restaurants, fast food or not,
that represent giant corporations instead of families and local businesses.
Some one did.
You can’t recognize this part of America by familiarity. Only by its neighborliness
and small town pride and heritage.
In the midst of wilderness, in the presence of the divine.
“Ritual practice is the activity of cultivating extraordinary ordinariness.” ~ Ronald L. Grimes
This is the bench where I sat while I contemplated the day, the seasons, nature, my life, the world, even the boundlessness of the universe. I was restless. Untethered. Once again I was facing changes – changing seasons, changes in responsibilities, changes in my business.
It was a time of fruition and celebration, and it also was a time of saying goodbye, letting go, even a bit of grieving.
Realizing this is a common reaction to change — joy coupled with letting go — I sat in solitude and let my mind wander. I decided to create a ritual to recognize both celebration and closure.
I paid close attention to my surroundings.
The prairie grasses were browning, flowers had set seed. The apple trees were over laden with ripened fruit, and many of the apples had dropped onto the earth and begun to rot. Cracked walnuts were along the paths. And still there was evidence of bustling life all around me. Geese were flying in formation, back and forth from their feeding grounds, the harvested cornfields. The late autumn flowers of the prairie spared from the last frost — showy goldenrod, purple asters, daisy fleabane — still blossomed in protected areas,
I searched for a ritual, one that offered a feeling of comfort and acceptance, one that said goodbye while also looking forward.
What could I use as a guide? What would be in a transitioning ritual, in a healing place?
- the night sky, dark, abundant with stars
- open spaces, open minds
- spiritual spaces, resting spaces, thinking places
- a container that contained my curiosities, my questions, my collections
- quiet, slow, peaceful
- folk art, expressive art, art that tells a story, art that has heart
- kindnesses and little gifts (When traveling it is customary to bring tiny gifts in exchange for kindnesses received along the path and to those who share their stories.)
- a place in nature, ecological, in balance
- a place my great-grandmother would have loved
The last thought — a place my great-grandmother would have loved — helped provide the answer to my longings.
I thought of the many things I’d learned from my great-grandmother when I was a child, of the many things she’d loved. I thought of the changing seasons, of the routines we had made extraordinary in their repetition, chores we did with love and respect and companionship.
We gathered the last of the harvest from the vegetable garden, cleaned and cut the vegetables, and made huge pots of vegetable soup with my grandfather’s help.
We made dough, rolled it out, and cut the dough into long noodles. We dried herbs on racks in the pantry. We raked the garden and added to our compost pile. We pulled the quilts and blankets out of storage, and draped them over several back yard clothes lines to air in the breeze.
We adapted our evening rituals to the sun’s earlier setting.
Instead of sitting on the porch after supper and chatting with passing neighbors, we set up a table in the kitchen for puzzles and games. We fell into a simple routine of cleaning the kitchen, then playing games of Parcheesi or Pokeno. We took an evening walk around the outside of the house just before bedtime, making sure all was tidy while admiring the starlit skies.
So much love and care and honor went into these simple actions. Home and hearth. Routines and rituals – all good for the soul.
Do you long for a way to honor the changing seasons, for the ordinary turned extraordinary by the practice of ritual?
Today I jotted down a few reminders – ways to prepare for the changing season, routines to ease the change from busy day to rejuvenating evening, rituals to remind me of the sacredness in the ordinary. Simple actions – gardening, cooking, preparation for winter.
What might you add or subtract from your day in honor of the ordinary, the sacred?
This post was adapted from one published on another autumn day just over a year ago.
The mid-October day was mercurial – one moment skies were blue, the next a wave of gray clouds pushed in from nearby Lake Michigan. Blustery winds buffeted me, causing me to lose my balance more than once. Then calm would descend for a brief respite for the wind and chill.
October in Door County, for sure, Wisconsin’s northeastern most point, a peninsula sticking out into tempestuous Lake Michigan.
Kangaroo Lake is one of the more protected places on the peninsula in fresh water lake in the center of Door County, and a wonderful place to go during the autumn festival days. Most of the crowd who comes to enjoy the views hug the shore of Door County, bay side and lake side. But there is much to be said for the wild beauty of the interior, too.
I loved studying the autumn changes of Kangaroo lake, standing on a narrow bridge of road that crosses the northern most bay. Fallen leaves were bobbing on the surface, the reeds were stripped of there green finery and their fuzzy seeds, and stood knee deep in the cold, stunningly blue water. Beyond, fir trees lined one side of the lake, and deciduous trees in this year’s last blaze of glory hugged the opposite side.
Then the sun disappeared in the scattered clouds.
Once I had taken in the scene with all my senses, as is my habit, I turn around to see what is behind me.
And the sun slid from the cloud cover, causing the lake ripples to shimmer in a sheet of dancing light.
A solitary island caught my attention. Birds were darting from the trees to the water and back again. Creatures were slipping in and out of the shadows and the shoreline brush.
Kangaroo Lake — its two faces. Both to be explored and adored.