Springtime Conversation with Confederate Jasmine


FullSizeRender (3)What if you’re also watching me, making yourself flexible to peer around every corner observing the world and being observed.  What if the way you look expresses who you are, strong and flexible with powerful perfumed flowers like words arranged in sentences held in a diagram of green stem with conversations, messages and hallelujahs from tiny bugle flowers.  What if you are an experiment of light and air and earth and water and my blood vessels are fashioned like your vine, long and flexible and beautiful with hallelujah messages for every stop along this many faceted marvel that is my body.  I am grateful for your prototype of vine to vessel;  Spring to the body that is listening…

I am strong, quiet and flexible

I am from Kentucky

I am from a dysfunctional civil war family

My great, great-grandmother loves me dearly and prays for me daily

I am made of blood vessels that sing hallelujah along every stop inside my body

I am made of gratitude in the moment

I am made of my mother’s gaze and my children’s love

I am made of the breath of the women who sit in circle with me

I am truly hilarious but I sometimes forget to laugh

I am made of jasmine vine and flowers and perfume

I am made of poetry and imagination and standing hand in hand.

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Writing Life


Beth Inglish Guitar Garden Painting

Not every morning, but most, I sit down and write three pages, as Julia Cameron recommended in the The Artist’s Way.  I can begin with a dream or even my “To Do” list and by page three a new awareness comes or a relaxation.  It is like a spring cleaning and the freshness afterward.

I’ve been through some big changes lately and I sense more are on the way.  As Stanley Kunitz, said in this poem, Layers, “I am not done with my changes.”   The page is where I sort through the layers of my life and find what’s essential and evolutionary.  I am ready for a revolution rather than a reaction.

Winter found me by a new fire with an old friend, my guitar.    I learned to play guitar as a teenager with a “how to” book over a string of snow days.  All this winter long I have been writing songs and even performed one at Song Writers’ Night in Atlantic Beach.  The songs begin like seeds in the morning pages that sprout with the music.  Its been a long time, but the fourteen-year-old is back with the audacity to play and write songs!

Spring is almost here along with the urge to dig in the soil again.  New spring writing groups are on the calendar, check it out.  Who knows what will blossom when we get together to write with poetic license!

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz

A Day Of Remembering


As I continue my day-to-day writing, I find that every day is a day of remembering.  The words of family and friends, who are no longer in this world, surprise me on the page.  Their wit and wisdom help me to lighten up and actually, to feel more alive.  

It seems that my ancestors and departed friends are still interested in my life –  we are still in relationship in some way.  Perhaps, writing helps to bridge the gap between the visible and invisible worlds, insuring that our awareness of love never dies and that forgiveness can happen at any point in time.   

The following is a poem I wrote one afternoon after a tap class with my friends.  On the joy of the class and openness of my imagination, words came from my maternal grandmother who died when my mother was a child.  I felt connected to the accepting, forgiving, “life goes on” wisdom of my grandmother.

 

I feel myself

seventeen again

before the night that stole my youthful dreams

the ones that ricocheted off everyone’s expectations and my own

stubborn self-reliance.

The night took away my light I thought

Did my soul choose to trudge the path worn by my Magdalene sisters?

Hidden beneath mismatched dreams folded in on one another?

The grandmother I never knew

was called Lena

short for Magdalene, a name too large to speak in the every day

I’ve called to her for wisdom, for love and she answered,

She rises now in my sleep, in my garden and in the silence.

As the sun slants golden in the afternoon, she says,

See, it’s not too late to enjoy the light.”

Here’s a Writing Exercise to Help with Remembering:  Write a letter to a departed friend or ancestor – put the letter away and later write a letter back to you, from them.   This act of imagination has the power to connect us to the capacities of being human, self-reflection, memory, intuition, forgiveness and humor.

 

 

The Beauty We Love


A beautiful writing invitation:  Begin and end a piece of your own writing with lines from A Great Wagon, by Rumi. For the one below, I used the lines, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” and “There are hundreds of ways to knell and kiss the ground.”   For further inspiration, listen to On Being with Krista Tippet as she interviews Fatemeh  Keshavarz, a professor of Persian & Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis and the author of several books, including Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal aI-Din Rumi.   I have included the full Rumi poem at the end of the post.

 

Let the Beauty We Love Be What We Do

What is the beauty I love?

Caring, nurturing, supporting

living – breathing

feeling the love that dances between us, the light we move in.

Nature, in greenery and sunlight, blossoming and offering

A child, in motion and at rest

An adult, in relaxation and creativity.

Being in loving relationship

with plants, animals, stones and people

creating art, writing poetry, telling stories

inventing new technologies, growing vegetables,

caring for children, dancing, singing and playing musical instruments.

Imagine – is that all there is, living and loving till you die?

Then you become the light that your descendants move in, the love that dances between.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

 

A Great Wagon by Rumi

When I see your face, the stones start spinning! You appear; all studying wanders. I lose my place.

Water turns pearly. Fire dies down and doesn’t destroy.

In your presence I don’t want what I thought I wanted, those three little hanging lamps.

Inside your face the ancient manuscripts Seem like rusty mirrors.

You breathe; new shapes appear, and the music of a desire as widespread as Spring begins to move like a great wagon. Drive slowly. Some of us walking alongside are lame!

~

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

~

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.

~

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.

I would love to kiss you. The price of kissing is your life.

Now my loving is running toward my life shouting, What a bargain, let’s buy it.

~

Daylight, full of small dancing particles and the one great turning, our souls are dancing with you, without feet, they dance. Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?

~

They try to say what you are, spiritual or sexual? They wonder about Solomon and all his wives.

In the body of the world, they say, there is a soul and you are that.

But we have ways within each other that will never be said by anyone.

~

Come to the orchard in Spring. There is light and wine, and sweethearts in the pomegranate flowers.

If you do not come, these do not matter. If you do come, these do not matter.

Choose Ease


I woke up this morning with this phrase, “choose ease over strain”.  I love the lines in the movie, The Family Stone where Luke Wilson’s character tells Sarah Jessica Parker’s character to “stop trying”.  It is a similar message.

Choosing ease doesn’t mean you just sit around.  Your actions come from an inner, cleaner response not from “shoulds” or “trying”.   You feel yourself within a centered, middle, heart space where the physical is imbued with the spiritual.  It is a doing and being that is difficult to put into words – so of course I wrote the words that came and share some of them here.

Choose ease over strain
be fueled, not drained

Life’s not a set of things

It’s a path to walk on a space to move in listen in and respond from–

Relax, don’t tax your mind or your heart you have a part within the whole – let the focus go

You have eyes in your hands and your feet who knows who you’ll meet in this space, grace walks in.

Quiet Entry to a New Year


flickr-3833721848-original[1]I am feeling the quiet space of the Holy Nights, also known as the twelve days of Christmas or in Pre-Christian times as the days when the sun’s light is dimmest and one is encouraged to nourish an inner light.  This poem I wrote a few weeks ago might be the right one for 2013.  It seems to sum it all up for me as 2012 is ending and 2013 is beginning.  Happy New Year! 

Maybe, I’m mutating.  Maybe, something’s gestating,

making a nap seem so sublime taking all my time

in quiet repose. 

Do you suppose that something new is waiting to be born?

Is a caterpillar forlorn

when it hangs in the “j” and then is covered in green?

How does it feel to be a melted being?

Do you know you’re waiting, not just hesitating and feeling ashamed,

instead of the quiet before taking aim – – before hitting the mark?

Maybe, 

the future’s not stark

Maybe

in the dark

there’s nothing wrong

maybe a new kind of strong

is incubating, updating, resonating.

Maybe I’m

m    u     t     a     t     i     n     g

photo by Ernst Vikne on Flickr

Winter Spiral


The Goddess of Love and Beauty, Aphrodite, is known for her golden aura.  In autumn, the golden light slants, sending sunbeams into the corners of our homes, it moves in leafy patterns on the page as I write outdoors and I feel held in love and beauty.  I watch as the squirrel takes the large orange seeds from the sago palm, one by one, to his winter hideaway.

 

I too, want to prepare.  I feel myself spiraling inward to the place where all the golden nuggets have been stashed – to reflect and renew.  A blue heron flies directly overhead and I remember the words of Jamie Sams in his book, Medicine Cards, “Heron asks that you examine yourself with a cold eye…and see the truth of [your] motives, actions, feelings, dreams, goals, inner strengths, and inner weaknesses.  In balancing those truths, Heron’s medicine shows you how to meet the challenges of your personal weaknesses and how to continue developing the skills that lead to inner strength and certainty of purpose.”  Winter, with nature’s cold and quiet is a natural time for inner reflection, a time to kindle the fires of an inner sun.  I know that with this inner quiet and warmth and light, what I have to give and what I can allow myself to receive is expanded.

Writing Inspiration:  Take a few moments in the morning to write down your dream or even just a list of the people or animals in your dreams.  As part of your winter reflection, write a letter to one of those people or animals – you might begin with a question.  Later, write a letter to yourself back from them.  Finally, you can incorporate words from the letter in a verse, poem or affirmation. According to Carl Jung, every dream image represents a part of your self AND as Thomas Moore reflects, there are a 1000 ways to interpret a dream.  With this writing practice, you don’t have to interpret the dream to glean some of the wisdom offered.

For support in our winter reflection my friend, Christine Lester and I are co-creating observances of the Holy Nights (otherwise known as the twelve days of Christmas or in Pre-Christian times as the twelve days when the forces of the Sun are renewed in each of us). For more information go to the Events and Calendar page at sharonelliott.com

Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: P. Knezek (WIYN)

Arch Bridges


For a few days, I have been thinking about arch bridges, remembering how the bridge is made strong as the two sides lean into each other.  I consider it a metaphor for how the masculine and feminine can lean toward each other, how the head and the heart can find a place in the middle.

On an arch bridge, the last piece that goes in to fill the gap is called the keystone.  When things get too emotional and the head with its logic can find ways to “prove” either side, I live with the question, “What is the keystone?”  An answer came – respect for the dignity of the individual and the honor of living in community.   So as I drove past the political signs in my neighborhood, I remembered the keystone and went to vote.

And when I wake worried in the night, I re-visit this poem by Wendell Berry.

The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Writing inspiration:  When worry or concern edges in, spend some time in nature, slow your breath and your pace.  Notice what captures your attention outwardy (perhaps a bird, a squirrel, a dog) and notice how you feel inwardly – Can you allow a feeling of spaciousness and freedom to surround you and the animal?  Write from within this space – word associations, random impressions or whatever flows – it might be that from within this space your heart can enter a needed conversation.  (for more on arch bridges, visit this site science.howstuffworks.com)

 

Illuminate


This poem was written in the circle tonight as each person offered one line from their own writing within the landscape of a feminine archetype.  Thanks to Donna, MaryAnne, Lynne and Terese–

I am not wanting for permission,

I know

I am come to illuminate all that is

I am the light and the darkness in balance

I am entering the universe

to co-create as the light descends and illuminates the darkness

I am at the right home for my heart

Sister, Sister, You Got My Attention


On August 15, 2012, Barbara Marx Hubbard addressed 900 nuns at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  For Barbara, the invitation was a culmination of her life’s work as a voice for what she calls evolutionary consciousness.  She received a standing ovation.

The phrase that includes the root word “evolution” might be of concern for some catholics.  I am not a bible scholar, but as a person who was baptised in the Catholic Church around August 15, 1954 and educated by nuns, “evolutionary consciousness” is akin to the parable of the talents.

As I remember being told the story, a master was going on a trip and he gave each of three servants a sum of money (talent).  To the first he gave five talents, to the second two talents and to the third he gave one talent.  The first used the five talents to make five more and the second used the two talents to make two more.  The third servant was afraid of losing the talent he was given and buried it in the ground.  When the master returned he was pleased with the first two servants and displeased with the actions of the third.

Our consciousness is a gift that includes the intellect of our hearts and minds and how we connect with the divine.  It is our God-given talent.  We can move beyond our current consciousness of scarcity and fear.  We can change (other than two maternal aunts who were nuns – one of them a “laugh a minute” and the other very devout – I used to be scared of nuns)!  We can move into joy and sharing with others.  We are all in this together – this is the message I hear from Barbara and the nuns.  We are here not to judge each other.  We are here to love each other and to experience that Love as an ever-growing way of being.

Here are the words that came as sat down to write after being so inspired by these powerful, courageous, and vulnerable women:

Sister, Sister

Can I have your attention?

Waving my hand in the air–

eager to answer the question you’ve given.

Sister, Sister, in your black boots and long dress

an oversized rosary hanging from your waist

a white bonnet pinned to your hidden hair.

I’m told your outfit was originally intended

so as not to draw attention

to yourself     an outward tradition

that no longer had meaning.

Sister, Sister, there were so many

inner and outer disconnections

a virgin honored, a woman discarded

I walked away from your gilded cathedral

like a loyal housekeeper, you quietly stayed.

We ran to the mountains to find refuge

to seek the spirit to reconnect our bodies and souls.

And now, your voice I hear again

Amazed you look like every woman

I hear you calling for an open dialog

transparency

equality

humanity

Sister, Sister, I am returning a prodigal daughter

I stand by your side to re-hear the story

a woman valued, a woman sovereign

a consciousness evolving.

photo:  www.flickr.com/photos/mamnaimie