Words Patched Together

Last week was very intense. I suppose there must have been “stress” involved as I tried to do more than I could, but what I felt was just the intensity. It was actually good. Amidst all the house things that had to be done by Monday and the garden work that called for a timely response, I was also aware of a strong need to complete & felt, at last, the fiber context that has been changing and co-creating itself with its two recent spirit masks. On Sunday, I greeted the fibers once again and, because of the limits on time to think & re-think & over-think, I just plunged in. My noisy control-seeking mind simply had to move out of the way and let heart, intuition, and hands carry on — without interruption — their conversation with the fibers of wool, silk, and llama. I felt thoroughly engaged with the fibers as we worked together — or sometimes wrestled with each other — and as we opened to each other’s ways. I would speak more about the experience, but in the end I can only say it was deep and very old.

This morning I was reassured by Mary Oliver‘s advice:

"..... just 
pay attention, then patch 
a few words together and don’t try 
to make them elaborate, this isn’t 
a contest but the doorway 
into thanks, and a silence in which 
another voice may speak." 
                                             

~~~~~

~~~~~

We came up to the Blue Ridge Mountains Tuesday afternoon. I am comforted to be held, like a tired & fussy child, in the embrace of these wise ancient stone Beings. Shortly after our arrival, a magnificent pileated woodpecker stopped by. I had not seen one since we moved into town. His presence was pure gift.

At this altitude, it is still early spring. I spend long stretches of time just being with leaves only recently broken out of their buds. Tiny oak leaves are a newborn red, waiting for sun to wake them so they can suckle on its light. The small leaves of many other trees are bright green but still crumpled, like the wings of newly emerged butterflies.

Today the clouds have been drifting lower & lower, their gray mysteries gradually muting the forest.

Enough words for now…..

 "Observe the wonders as they occur around you. 
Don't claim them. 
Feel the artistry moving through 
and be silent." 

~~~ Rumi

Coyote Speaks

Coyote (and all Trickster energy) speaks to us in so many ways, at so many moments. Sometimes, Coyote speaks with words, sometimes with actions, sometimes through pure synchronicity.

I am a participant in the Mythic Imagination Community convened by Dr. Sharon Blackie, sharonblackie.net/ . It is a lively group & I have thoroughly enjoyed the many opportunities to hear, consider, and discuss stories from many sources. Last week I wrote to you about my falling out of right relationship with the materials, tools, and process with which I was engaged in weaving a new mask. Imagine my delight when, in an on-line gathering, the storyteller Audrey di Mola told a story that totally explained the dilemma into which I’d stumbled. Audrey does not pre-plan the stories she will tell, but listens & listens to hear which ones want to be told in that particular moment, to the particular ones who have gathered. So I found it stunning that she began with this Coyote tale. Like all stories, this one has traveled, but it probably originated [if stories really ever have a point of origin….?] among the Paiute who have traditionally lived in the Great Basin area of what is now the western U.S.

As always, I give gratitude to the first tellers and to all the tellers who have gone before me, keeping this story alive with their heart-felt breath. This is my telling for this moment, recognizing that writing is not the same as speaking but is still an act of homage to the story itself. And I don’t know if this is exactly how it happened, but I know it is true!

*******

In that time that is before time and outside of time and right now, there was a village. And the people of that village gathered together in ceremonies where everyone offered their own gift of song to weave the community together. There were long songs, short songs, fast and slow songs — and each was beautiful and each was offered as a gift to all.

But in that village, there was one man who had no song to offer to the gatherings. He hung around the edges of the village, silent at the time of ceremony & offering, and the villagers named him No Song.

As time passed, No Song spent more hours, then days, then weeks away from the village, wandering in the great forest beyond. As he wandered, he began to learn the plants in all their kinds & the animals in all their different kinds. With respect for all the plant people, No Song wove a basket & began to gather herbs. With respect for all the animal people, he took up a bow and began to hunt. And his skills grew.

One day, No Song decided to make a stew of all the abundance he had gathered. He stirred and stirred, adding herbs and grains and meat to the pot in a skillful way, so that soon a wonderful aroma began to arise from this cooking and floated off through the forest.

After awhile, No Song looked up from his stirring. And who should he see leaning against a nearby tree, but that Old Man Coyote — and Coyote’s nose was twitching as he inhaled that delicious aroma.

“Oh,” said Coyote,”oh, that stew smells so good & I am so hungry. Please, will you give me the stew?”

No Song thought & Coyote watched him thinking. Finally, No Song said, “Yes, I can give you a bowl of stew.”

“Not enough!” replied Coyote. “I am so hungry & that stew smells so delicious — I want the whole thing!”

No Song thought & once again Coyote watched him thinking, and Coyote thought too. “I know,” said Coyote, “we will make a bargain. You give me all your stew & I will give you your heart’s desire.”

No Song’s eyes grew large. He felt hope swell in his heart. “Can you give me a beautiful song? a song I can offer in the village ceremonies? the most beautiful song?”

Coyote nodded. “No problem. I can give you the most beautiful song in the world. But,” he added as No Song began to jump for joy, “there is a 2nd part to the bargain. You must sing your song only at the right times, in the right places, in the right way — or I will take it away.”

No Song was so excited, he didn’t even need to stop & think. “Of course,” he said. “Of course, I would never ever think of singing my song at the wrong time, in the wrong place, in a wrong way! Never ever! I’m sure! Now the stew is all yours & you give me my Song!”

Coyote stepped forward and, with a huge slurp, he swallowed all the stew. Then Coyote stuck his head right into that pot and licked round & round. And as soon as that pot was was really and truly empty, Coyote vanished.

It all happened so fast, before No Song could say a word. No Song opened his mouth to call after Coyote — and out came a Song, an amazing song, a song that was as enchanting as the birds’ chorus on a spring dawn, that was a radiant as the rising sun & as lustrous as a full moon, that contained all the sounds of the forest on a gentle day, and even the roar of a stormy wind. It was, indeed, a beautiful song. And No Song started back toward the village.

When he arrived at last, No Song found that a ceremony had begun in the center of the village, a ceremony in which all the villagers were singing their songs for the weaving of community & the healing of the world. At first, No Song hung back at the edges as was his way. But as he listened to the songs rising and falling to bless the gathering & to bless all the Earth, his heart filled & he stepped forward and opened his mouth to sing.

Everyone turned. They could scarcely believe what they heard & saw — there was No Song singing a Song & not just any song, but a Song that seemed to gather together the hearts of all the villagers and of all the animal & plant & rock people in the surrounding forest. No Song sang & sang. “Again,” cried the villagers, and No Song sang again. And again.

And when the ceremony was completed, everyone gathered around No Song — talking all at once, telling him what a wonderful Song he had, asking him if he could sing it here, there, everywhere. They renamed him Sings Wonderfully. Overwhelmed by their attention, he promised to sing for them whenever they were having a family celebration or a feast or just to pass the hours of a long dark winter’s night. And so he did. He traveled around singing the Song, smiling at the praise.

Then, one night — when Sings Wonderfully was getting ready to sing for a rather rowdy party — he looked out at the crowd and saw, leaning against a tree just outside the circle of firelight, Old Man Coyote. “Hello,” cried Sings Wonderfully, “I’m so glad you came to hear me sing!” Coyote just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. “Well, I see you have forgotten…” Then Coyote melted away into the crowd, and when Sings Wonderfully opened his mouth to begin ….. the Song was gone.

*******

Make of this telling what you will...
Could it be that stories may not have either beginnings or endings?
How does this story speak to you as you hear it now?  
And even more,
as the storyteller Martin Shaw often asks his listeners, what will you do with it?

In the meantime, my dance with fiber & with Trickster continues. More than once I’ve wanted to make a dash to the yarn store to see if I could find a “perfect solution” to whatever issue of color or texture has arisen. But I decided at the start to use only the fibers & yarns I had on hand. That’s how Trickster works, incorporating whatever comes to hand in some marvelous feat of bricolage as he makes the world. And isn’t that how cosmological, geological, and biological evolution work, too — just trying out might be done with whatever is around in the circumstance of that moment?

The mask whose I showed you last week is now off the loom — still in need of some final shaping and the sewing in of yarn ends, etc., but already very much itself.

When I first began putting that warp on the loom, I was obsessed with hair, about the way the warp should provide lovely flowing hair to integrate the completed mask/being into the environment. Well, as soon as I took this mask off the loom and placed it on the still-evolving background/context, I saw right away that he was a masculine spirit with no interest at all in long hair. Instead, what he requested — politely but firmly — was a consort.

She is beginning to emerge.

And who knows what will happen to the environment/context once the 2 spirit beings begin to settle in…?!

I wanted to include a photo, but everything is in flux — both in this making & in my life in general as we prepare to sell the house. [The first showings are May 11, next Wednesday. I hope Cris will get back from his week-long bicycle ride on Saturday to help with last minute stuff, but the weather where he is in Maryland isn’t looking good…. He’s riding the C&O Canal trail with a guy he met on his ride to the Midwest a couple years ago. They’re having great fun.]

And so this story goes on….. Always evolving — weaving & un-weaving & re-weaving — each thing changing in response to changes in its companions, as the fibers & I continue to dance together. I am curious about where our dance, our story, will lead us — both in this individual making and, even more, in the larger, troubling story that engulfs us all in its movements today.

I find hope in Pádraig Ó Tuama’s poem Narrative theology #1 which concludes:

"The answer is in a story
and the story isn't finished."

“What we are creating is creating us.”

(today’s title is a quote from Adah Parris)

In my 4/15 post, I lamented the “problems” I was having with my current project. Later, re-reading what I had written, I began to recognize that the situations I encountered & named “problems” weren’t problems with the fibers but problems with me! I had forgotten to maintain respect for all the partners in this co-evolution/co-creation — fibers, loom, and self. I had apparently forgotten that respect means respect not only for the gifts but also for the limits of each participant. In my mind, I can easily conjure up all sorts of exquisite possibilities — and I was spending too much time in my mind. Feeling some sort of need to hurry, I seem to have forgotten that only with relaxed awareness and respect can loom & fibers & self be woven together in the dialog through which the mask emerges. I’d forgotten the words of my teacher Luisa Teish: “Before you begin a new venture — especially before beginning a ritual — be sure to set a clear Intention. Every beginning is a crossroads where Trickster waits. If you have no clear Intention, Trickster will be happy to choose a path for you…. You may find you’re not happy with his choice.”

For me, work with fiber is a kind of ritual to bring blessings into the world. But, when I began this project, I had an idea rather than an Intention. And, sure enough, Trickster sent me down a path where I found myself seeking control, trying to force the fibers to comply with my grand idea. The further I went, the more muddled I became. Finally, I was completely immobilized by the knots into which I’d twisted both the fibers & myself. I was forced to pause and catch my breath — and as I began to breathe, I began to remember. I remembered and renewed my Intention of blessing through making. I remembered to respect all participants in the process & the process itself. I remembered to offer common courtesy both to the fibers & to myself. The tangles & snarls & knots fell away and a new path opened.

As I pondered this more deeply, I realized that I’d been unwittingly replicating some of the current cultural norms that I despise: I was effectively treating the fibers not as respected individuals but as “resources” that I could force to conform to the grandiose picture in my mind, to do what I wanted. Somehow feeling hurried & trying to push myself beyond my inherent limits, I was sliding into an arrogance akin to that of the culture that is currently engaged in the destruction of Earth community (including both human and more-than-human).

It is no coincidence that “Trickster” was the name used by more than one indigenous tribe to refer to the invading colonists, who — like the Tricksters of story & myth — ignored or willfully violated the limits/boundaries of the world as it existed (and who continue to do so today). I had refused to respect limits and had approached this particular act of making as Trickster might have done, so — just like Trickster — I got thoroughly entangled in the mess I’d made.

And yet, as Lewis Hyde says, “Trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox.” For all his trouble-making ways, “Trickster the culture hero is always present … to keep our world lively and to give it the flexibility to endure.” As the title of Hyde’s book says, “Trickster Makes This World.”

Having once more found a balanced relationship among materials, process, and self — having set out at last on my Intended path — I am now thoroughly enjoying the few hours I’ve found this week for making. It is once again not work but play. And the games the fibers & I are now playing with each other and the dances we’re inventing — while Trickster plays his flute! — are, for me, joyful times of growing, learning, and (dare I hope?) serving. Life just doesn’t get much better than that! And I can’t help but laugh with Trickster at the rough path he slyly pointed out as I began my current journey, because it — with all its aggravations — eventually lead me to deeper understandings & to possibilities I wouldn’t have imagined for myself. That old trickster!

In Beauty
the world is begun.

It is woven on the loom
of the Cosmos,
while Trickster
plays a song upon the warp,
tangles weft threads into
new configurations,
ties unexpected knots,
enlivens the simple surface 
with his rowdy dance.

In Beauty
it is begun.

In Beauty
it is woven.

In Beauty
it shall be finished.

“In and out, up and down, over and over, she wove her strands of life together, patching hole after hole. Eventually she saw it was much more than the threads that gave her strength; it was in the very act of weaving itself that she became strong.”

~ author unknown ~

For Earth Day — and every day

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement—get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible. Never treat life casually. …[B]e amazed.”  ~~~ Abraham Heschel

mck

Another World is Possible

by Rose Flint

We can dream it in, with our eyes
Open to this Beauty, to all
That Earth gives each of us, each day
Those miracles of dark and light–
Rainlight, dawn, sun, moon, snow, storm grey
And the wide fields of night always
Somewhere opening their flower
stars – this, this! Another world is

possible. With river and bird
Sweet and free without fear, without
minds blind to harmony, to how
We can hold. We have been too long
Spoiled greedy children of Earth, life of rocks and creatures
Slipping out of our careless hands.
We must stand now and learn to love
As a Mother loves her child, each
cell of her, each grain of her, each
precious heartbeat of her that is
Ourselves, our path and our journey
Into our dream of future, where
another world is possible
cradling this one its arms.

From Questions for a Resilient Future
HumansandNature.org

Co-Evolving: World, Life, Story, Mask, Self

The chaos of preparing to put our house on the market has dominated my last couple weeks — especially the endless sorting through boxes of papers & photos that have, over the course of 3 generations, simply been shifted from attic to attic, always increasing in number. Thoughts and feelings and memories have left me exhausted as I meander through so many lives, including my own.

Still, I did find a little time to play with fiber. As I said earlier, I usually work with the mask first, asking it to suggest the context in which it will dwell. One time I did weave the background/context first & was then quite surprised when the mask I wove couldn’t seem to settle there and a different set of inhabitants emerged. This time I’d planned to repeat the latter process, felting the background before I had to relinquish the lovely clutter of my workspace to the no doubt critical gaze of prospective house-buyers. I could then weave the mask on my portable Journey Loom TM after I’d cleared the tabletops and hidden away the fiber stash & multiple works in process.

That seemed to be a logical plan, but you know how things go…. I did lay out fiber in a possible configuration but, before I started the actual felting process, I began to feel strongly that “landscape” & “creature/spirit” could emerge together in a more organic way. Each could shape the other as they developed in relationship — much as Earth and her creatures shape each other’s emerging forms; much as the Earth & her community create and shape our human stories, which in turn shape Earth & her community as we humans tell and enact them. A sort of reciprocity in the interaction.

And so, after several precious hours spent sorting through my stash of yarns & fibers, I warped the loom. Common sense & past experience cautioned me that a fuzzy warp would be very difficult to weave — Still, when a mask is woven, the warp becomes the hair, and this warp would make such beautiful hair to work into the background swirls. I was sure I could figure out a way to bring my all-too-enticing idea to birth.

Seduced by this vision of ethereal beauty, I followed the sweet siren call of the composite warp….. into a shipwreck on the rocks [or, in this case, into a snarl of the threads]. Well, in the evolution of creative projects, just as in the evolution of plants & animals, there are not only possibilities for continuing and enhanced existence but also for dead ends and other dire consequences….. The warp was, as the intuition I’d decided to ignore had foretold, too thick & too fuzzy to work with the yarns I’d spun for the mask. I tried other yarns, but no…. Then I tried removing the variegated mohair from the warp — only to discover that, without the mohair halo & its predominately sandy color, the new warp (left) became too hard, too shiny. It lost its magic.

The fibers & I each have our own limitations and I seem to keep bouncing from one to the other & sometimes off both at once. I’m really curious not only about what woven form will emerge from this puzzle of fibers, but also about what new way of seeing/being might emerge within me as I tangle, untangle, and get own myself thoroughly entangled in all the colors and textures.

An unknown sage once said:

"The question is not what is wrong and how do we fix it,
but rather, what is possible and how do we create it."  

I guess I need to stop trying to “fix” what I’ve done, take a couple deep breaths, and, approaching the fibers without expectation, once again ask them & myself “What can be created?”

In the meantime, the downsizing work of sorting and re-homing treasures before our move continues. I echo, with a smile & a wink at Trickster, something Thomas King [a Canadian American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry] wrote in All My Relations:

"And I can't talk anymore
because I got to watch the sky.
Got to watch out for
falling things that land in piles.
When that Coyote's wandering around
looking to fix things,
nobody in this world is safe." 

The Glorious Trespass of Simply Loving the Earth

Ryan Serito

~~~~~~~~~~~

“Our most urgent need at the present time is for a reorientation of the human venture toward an intimate experience of the world around us. If we would go back to our primary experience of any natural phenomena – on seeing the stars scattered across the heavens at night, on looking out over the ocean at dawn, on seeing the colors of the oaks and maples and poplars in autumn, on hearing a mockingbird sing in the evening, or breathing the fragrance of the honeysuckle while journeying through a southern lowland – we would recognize that our immediate response to any of these experiences is a moment akin to ecstasy. There is wonder and reverence and inner fulfillment in some overwhelming mystery. We experience a vast new dimension to our own existence.” ~ Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe
(from the April 2022 Reflection of The Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World) http://www.beholdnature.org

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those of us who are part of an industrialized-capitalist-consumption culture are immersed every day in a multitude of situations that program us to consider ourselves Separate — separate from Earth & all her beings, including others who also call themselves “human.” For example, as I was scrolling through free photos of “person in nature,” I immediately noticed that most of the shots centered on humans atop some kind of peak or pinnacle or other. Many of them were hikers with all sorts of expensive equipment. This is a small example of how our “modern” culture places humans (mostly, in the photos, of European ancestry) & their technology (gorgeous backpacks, etc.) at the top of everything. It conjures up (visually & metaphorically) the cultural belief that Earth’s community is a pyramid, rather than the interconnected web that we know it to be — a pyramid where the humans are always at the top.

What joy to jump over those seemingly impregnable walls of separation and to once more find ourselves where we have always been — in a world of possibilities both ancient and new, embedded in Earth’s community!

As I’m sure others have said before me, perhaps the best possible form of resistance and revolution is simply to love Earth and all her beings & to act from love, kindness and (not transitory “happiness” but) indestructible joy!

As we're  surrounded by the symphonic bursts of Life in the Spring, 
it's an easy time to join in the celebration 
and to explore this active resistance further.  
The best time is always now - 
The best place is always here -
for we are always in the midst of this precious Earth community.

Sheshagiri KM — India

As so often, Mary Oliver says it best:

            WILD GEESE

"You do not have to be good.
 You do not have to walk on your knees
 for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
 You only have to let the soft animal of your body
     love what it loves.
 Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
 Meanwhile the world goes on.
 Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain
 are moving across the landscapes,
 over the prairies and the deep trees,
 the mountains and rivers.
 Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
 are heading home again.
 Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
 the world offers itself to your imagination,
 calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
 over and over announcing your place
 in the family of things."

Transgression, Possibility, and New Beginnings

April 1st — Happy April Fool’s Day!

I thought of just leaving this post blank as my April Fool’s prank, but I can’t think of April Fool’s Day without a deep (even reverent?) bow to Trickster. Although Trickster is, as I’ve no doubt said too many times already, much much more than a mere April-prankster or con-artist, the three do have one thing in common: Transgression. Whether it is the Haida Raven trying to hoard Water & Light, or a 10-year old surreptitiously taping a “Kick Me” sign on a classmate’s back, or a phone scammer asking for your social security number — all are transgressing cultural norms, all of them shaking things up. The difference, of course, is the intended result. The scammer is no doubt greedy for money & doesn’t care about how that may shake things up for the victims. Who knows what the school-age prankster wants? It depends on the kids involved & the context — but the aim is probably some sort of perceived personal enhancement. The teller of Raven’s tale is — among many other things, including entertainment — demonstrating the futility of hoarding & strengthening the case for sharing as a culturally-defined necessity. Is the trick for the good of one or for the good of many…..?

Still, it is the shaking up & cracking open caused by Trickster’s exploits that intrigues me — the Trickster’s jumping over boundaries which (whether he lands on his feet or on his head) makes new things Possible. As Barre Toelken’s Navaho informant [and brother-in-law through Navaho adoption] Yellowman explained, Coyote, “unlike all others, experiences everything; he is, in brief, the exponent of all possibilities.” That’s the kind of “transgressing” I’d like to do — to make other ways of living possible in our confused human world. What boundaries might we need to leap these days? How can we do it gracefully enough to make positive new things possible without landing us all, as Trickster sometimes does, in some dire new predicament?

This year, April 1 is also a New Moon — a time that is traditionally associated with new beginnings, the response to new possibilities. I seem to be experiencing quite a few “new beginnings” right now.

Here where I live, Spring has truly taken hold. Migrating birds began arriving in earnest a week or so ago and are now establishing territories in earnest, many looking for mates, and all singing & singing. It’s planting time in the garden. This weekend I’ll have the fun of scattering a chaos of wildflower seeds to grow for the pollinators. This assortment of flowers was a big hit last year with hummingbirds, butterflies, and others. Such a delight visually & ecologically! Although I was late planting, lettuce & kale are starting up & now it’s time to plant the beans. Outside — in garden and woodland — new possibilities of nurture & beauty are emerging every moment.

And then, there’s the onset of really serious downsizing in preparation for a move. I am reluctant to leave this quirky old house, this garden, this friendly old neighborhood with its big oaks. Still, it’s probably a wise step and I see it as an adventure, an opening of possibilities as yet unglimpsed.

We’re not actually moving until early August but, since the real estate market here is hot at the moment, our realtor wants to put our house on the market by the beginning of May. Yikes! I am suffering from decision-making overload. An inability to choose has been a theme of my life….

Letting go of some of my books and memory-packed possessions is painful, although I do love to picture them flying out into the hands of others who will enjoy and perhaps treasure them as I have. I’m still looking for the perfect place to donate the big tub of supplies left over from my workshop-teaching days. And then, as I go through my stash of natural objects [most collected originally for teaching] and all my yarn & fiber, I can think of nothing but exciting Possibilities. Can I finally accept that, though I haven’t run out of ideas, I am running out of years in which to embody those great ideas? Biggest question: How will I keep working on my beloved fiber projects & still make my workroom look like it could be a perfect bedroom for potential buyers? Hmmm… Wish me luck!

In the meantime, Trickster has apparently been playing in my fiber stash. I had so much fun making the little scarf for the Spirit of the Betwixt and Between that I thought it would be fun to make a bunch of human-sized, almost sheer, “cobweb” felted scarves, something I haven’t done for years.

I got out this gorgeous soft fleece of merino and silk (hand-dyed by MyButterflyGreen in Ireland) and looked. It would make a lovely scarf or two.

But then, I turned it over to check the colors on the other side and encountered something more chaotic, something more compelling — Wilder!

I immediately saw not scarves but possibilities for a land where the wind might blow freely…. I remembered the turquoise Mediterranean Sea meeting the ancient sands of the Sahara on the Libyan coast. I remembered the desert wind, sometimes gently sculpting the dunes and sometimes whipping up clouds of sand and dust that could travel as far north as Europe. So — beautifully shaken up by the amazing fibers and by the winds of my imagination — I began to wonder. What spirit mask might want to dwell in such a place?

Who knows? Maybe I’ll have enough of the fleece to do both a felt “painting” and a scarf too. I’m so curious….

“Always we begin again….”

Benedict of Nursia

Spring Equinox, Emerging into the Light

Postscript to last week’s blog:

All week I’ve been wondering — How would the Dragon have told the tale?

*******

We in the northern hemisphere celebrated 
the Spring Equinox last weekend -- 
a time associated with Emergence, Fecundity, Birth, & Rebirth

I started Sharing Trickster’s Hoard in 2021, just before the Spring Equinox. A few weeks later I came across the two stories that had emerged from my participation in Luisah Teish’s Art-As-Meditation gathering. It oocurred to me then that, in starting the blog, I was finally beginning to live into my New Story. What a delight just now to suddenly realize that the Spring Equinox has come round once again and that [without any planning or forethought!] I find myself emerging even more fully with the posting of these stories. I really feel these days that I am at last coming fully into my own life, writing my own Story.


“A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.” 

― Carlos Ruiz Zafón,  The Shadow of the Wind

“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, to rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. ”

— Salman Rushdie

   

And now: Chapter 2

THE STORY OF SHE-WHO-FEATHERS-HER-WINGS-WITH-STARS
			TOLD BY HERSELF

Once upon a time, there was a woman who had neglected her wings.
Oh, when she’d been young, they’d been just like anybody’s wings
—strong and sleek
and able to carry her wherever she wanted to go to find 
the news that was needed and
bring it home.

Oh, when she’d been young, she’d brought news of the river’s thawing to oaks 
still snowbound on the prairie;
she’d sung boughs of ripe apples to the deer;
and she’d rhymed shining open roads 
for her bored deskmate in geometry class.

But my!  As she got older, how that woman neglected her  wings!
Misplacing them among library shelves,
Hiding them under a sweater she’d been given,
Staining them with dribbles of cheap wine,
Hanging them on a hook behind her office door,
Sending them as unaccompanied baggage on a transatlantic flight,
Leaving them lying—once or twice—too long beside some bed where they didn’t fit….

Oh!  She neglected her wings!

Now the world went on, and the woman went on in that world,
but she went on without her wings.
When she saw something beautiful and important—
and there were many Beautiful and Important things—
she had no way to fly home with the news.  And by the time she’d trudged
along to wherever it was, she’d forgotten so much:
If she tried to sing the news, the tune sounded out of kilter.
If she tried to tell the news, the words tasted stale on her tongue.
People still liked to hear her news, but she found no more joy in the telling —
And she shut her mouth.

What news? called the oak people.
What news? called the deer people.
What news? called the children bored in school.

But that woman who had neglected her wings just shook her head in silence,
and one hot tear rolled down her cheek.


And the rains fell,
And the winds blew,
And the years passed by.

Then, one day, that woman was rummaging amongst her things when she came across 
a book—an old dusty book— 
and in that book was a bookmark—an old dusty bookmark.
And it was— a— Feather!

If you held it up and shook it out and sleeked it down,
you could see that once it had been azure blue.
“Oh!” cried that woman.  “I remember!  Mother was calling us to dinner, so I just
plucked this feather to mark my place.  Just one feather 
— At the time, I didn’t think it would matter to my wings 
— I didn’t think about it at all.”
She rocked herself from side to side and began to cry.
“My wings.  My beautiful wings.  Oh, where have you gone?”

And she began to look.  Furtively at first, like a mouse looking for cheese in a roomful of cats.  Bolder then, like the first leaves of a seed seeking the sun.  And bolder still —
calling aloud (when no one could hear), “Wings!  Wings!  Come back to me!  Come!”

And come wings did — leastways, somebody’s wings:
One day on the lake, a hummingbird paused to look at her—nose to nose
—long and long— before buzzing away.
In the park, a turkey vulture tipped its wise head, put its hands on its hips, 
and told her in no certain terms, 
“You are in the midst of it!”
Hawks circled above the mountain.
And in the river, a heron stood—long and tall and patient.

And finally, somewhere in her house, that woman heard— a tiny rustling,
faint as the air under an owl’s wing.
And she began to search.

On her shelves, hidden among other people’s books?  — No.
In her closet, hung among coats from far countries and academic gowns? — No.
On the desk?  In the kitchen?  Under the bathroom sink? — No.

Under 
her pillow?

Ah —Yes!
That’s where the dreams had been dreaming her — all along.

She unfolded those wings and shook them out.
She tried to smooth the feathers - - - - - 
but there weren’t many left to smooth.

“What now?” she asked herself.
“I’m well past my feather-growing days. 
How shall I feather my wings enough to fly?”

She thought…and she thought…and she thought…but
she couldn’t think of an answer.
“Poor, poor old wings,” she said.  “I am so sorry.”

And without even thinking at all, she gathered them up onto her lap.
And without even thinking at all, she began to do what humans have always done - - -

She began to rock those poor pitiful wings,
And she began to sing to those lonely wings,
And she sang them everything— all the news:

	the coyote who’d held her in his gaze;
	the earthworms on the rainy sidewalk;
	warm, welcoming shoulder of mountain;
	moon through winter branches;
	comet coursing across  the sky.

And as she sang, each word fell from her lips and stuck to those wings—

And each word was a star.

And so she feathered her wings with stars.
And so she flew.

“It is Story that heals us, that shape-shifts us, that saves us.”

— Sylvia V. Linsteadt 

“The thing people don’t always want to realize is that stories have great power whether they get told or not.” …. “The question is what story do you need to tell, in order to give notice to that thing with fangs that keeps chewing through your insides.”

— Will Willingham, Adjustments

I’m still writing & rewriting my Story. Are you, too?

“Step Across the Boundary…”

“Step from the ordinary noise of the tilled fields or the busy streets into the quiet of the woods. Step across the boundary and the trespass of story will begin. The forest takes a deep breath and through its whispering leaves an incipient adventure unfurls. The quest. In the lull — not the drowsy lull of a lullaby but the sotto voce of a woodland clearing, scented with story as it is with wild garlic — this is the moment of beginning, the pause on the threshold before the journey.”

— Jay Griffiths

CHAPTER 1

Last week I wrote about changing our stories so, of course, I’ve thought more about how mine have changed — far too many & too long & perhaps too tedious to share here. But I can tell you about an explicit and fundamental change that began almost 20 years ago (April 2003) when I participated in my first week-long Intensive at Matthew Fox’s University of Creation Spirituality. I saved the records.

In the mornings, I was part of a group of fellow-explorers, facilitated by the scientist Dr. Larry Edwards, studying the New Cosmology — i.e., the outline of the Universe Story as it was being uncovered by astronomers & physicists and then Earth’s Story as it, too, was currently being uncovered by geologists, biologists, & archaeologists. We began, on that first morning, by re-telling foundational Creation Myths. We spent time with the Miwok story of how, in the Beginning, there was neither land nor water. Silver Fox was lonely, so she sang a prayer-song — and Coyote appeared. [Yes, that trickster Coyote!] Then Silver Fox suggested that the two of them together sing a world into being. And so they did…….. We thought about similarities & differences among the Origin Stories and about how they so deeply color an individual’s or a whole culture’s approach to Earth and her community. As one example, we compared how the Story of Silver Fox & Coyote might lead to a perspective different than, for example, the Judeo-Christian Telling. We pondered… we considered the perspectives given by our own Creation Myths, whatever they might be…. And then, we began to explore the Cosmos…. The next day we started with the Fecund Void, then the Tiny-Compressed-We-Know-Not-What that appeared, and then the great Flaring Forth that occurred — the beginnings of this Universe. We talked about the difference between naming the first moment as Fecund Void rather than Empty Nothingness or naming the moment of Cosmic Birth as a Flaring Forth rather than a Big Bang (with its connotations of violence, noise & shattering). And on we went….

My afternoons were spent in an Art-As-Meditation workshop on Storytelling, facilitated by Yeye Luisah Teish — a teacher, an author, and an Iyanifa and Oshun chief in Yoruba tradition. When I signed up for this topic, I had no idea that the stories we would be telling were our own!

The initial gathering of Teish’s group was exactly that — a gathering, a ritual bringing together of all our individual selves to weave something greater — a safe Community. We were then asked to imagine the Names that had grown out of the stories of our lives so far. I can’t remember what I said — probably Lame Deer. Most of our self-namings were something like that….

Our “homework” for the first night was to write the Old Story we had spun of our lives, the story that had brought us those Old Names. Thanks to my upbringing, I am a very conscientious & diligent student. After supper, I set right to work — trying to include everything. I am fortunate to have grown up in family where many stories (fairy tales, myths, stories set in other cultures) were read to me regularly & often, though my parents did not share many stories of their own earlier lives. I was allowed to roam freely and we went on camping trips to different parts of the country. From earliest childhood I felt a primary bond with the More-Than-Human world. And yet… And yet…. In most childhoods, I think, there has been some sort of And-Yet, whether overt or subtle. As I struggled with the assignment, I finally realized that the only way to capture some of the feelings of my childhood was through fairy tale.

The next afternoon, we told our stories. As always, I held back til last. The stories told by my fellow storytellers were straightforward autobiography — each different, each including many things with which one or more of us could identify. It was a beautiful time of heart-feeling & compassion. And then, after everyone else had spoken, there was no escaping — It was my turn to tell my story to the circle.

MY OLD STORY by Margy Knott  [the name I was called as a child]

	Once upon a time, a little girl lived with her family in a big old house.  It was a wonderful house in most ways — with sturdy roof and walls, and plenty of stairs & bookshelves & hidey-holes, and a big yard with a garden & cherry, apple, and oak trees & vines.  
But --
in the basement, there slept a big old dragon 
       Very big!  Very old!
And he was a wonderful dragon in most ways, covered with iridescent green scales and two bony wings that tucked neatly along his sides.
When she was small, the girl would play — in the heat of summer — amongst the cool green coils of his tail.  And in the cold of winter, she would lean up against his belly and feel the warmth of the fire within.
But --
there was one big problem with this resident dragon.  

Every time anyone in the house got angry, the dragon would feel it — 

and he would open his two slitty eyes that shone like golden mirrors,
and he would lift his heavy ancient head just so high,
and he would open the dark daggered cavern of his mouth,
and he would blow out a great burst of fiery breath through the house

	— before subsiding into slumber once more.

At first, this odd habit didn’t matter much to the little girl for, when she was tiny, the dragon’s fiery breath simply swirled above her head.
But she was growing. 
And as she grew taller, she began to feel the hot blast tangling her hair.  
And she stopped snuggling against the dragon’s warm belly in winter.
And as she grew taller still, his fiery outbursts blistered her forehead and dried out her eyes.
And she stopped sliding down his cool tail in summer, and she learned to duck her head when anger was in the air.

Then, one day, someone in the house got angry. 
And the dragon woke as always.
And he lifted his heavy head
and he opened his scaly mouth
and he blew out his fiery breath --

 — full into the face of the little girl.

She opened her small sweet mouth to protest — but the flames leaped in
— shriveling her tongue, searing her lungs.

Quickly she clamped her lips together and flung herself down to the floor. Curling into a ball in the furthest corner, 
she stayed very quiet,
for a very long time.

********************

If I had ever had doubts about the power of Story, they all flew away when I told this story out loud. Hearing my own words, I felt a great change within myself. And I saw changes in the beautiful listening faces of the people in the circle. Many came to speak to me after class. One threw his arms around me and said, with tears, “Thank you. Now I understand my relationship with my father better. It wasn’t all bad!”

Our assignment for the next day was to find a New Name into which we might grow. Again, I went to work conscientiously, seriously …… but I could not come up with a Name. I slunk into the circle the next afternoon and, when all the others had spoken their glorious New Names, I whispered apologetically, “I couldn’t find my Name…. But,” I added with a sudden burst of courage & determination, “I’ll have one by the end of this class.” I had no idea how that might happen!

The rest of the afternoon was spent in movement. At one point, as she drummed a steady beat, Teish spoke simple story prompts such as “Once upon a time, there was ….. One day….. And then……….” And as I danced, something began to coalesce inside me and, when we sat in our closing circle, I was able to say, with some confidence, “I don’t understand what it means, but my new name is She Who Feathers Her Wings With Stars.” My movements had told me so.

Of course, our assignment for that night was to find our New Story, the one that would lead to our New Name. And as I began to write, I began to understand the Name that had come to me.

The next afternoon, we were asked to tell our New Stories — to TELL our stories, no reading allowed! (a few moans & groans in response) But this time, I did not hesitate to volunteer.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

@modcam

What Story Do You Choose?

Lukas Nelson & Family have a lovely song entitled “Turn Off the News and Build a Garden”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPrPtDoaB3s&list=RDMPrPtDoaB3s&index=1 I am working as I can to build a variety of gardens — with seeds, with fiber, with words, with love for Earth & all she includes. However, I can’t just turn off the news. I have learned to restrict my intake, reading just enough to stay abreast of the news but, of course, I am still saddened and distracted by all the violence & destruction & pain. I think a lot about all the different stories & myths being enacted and encountering each other — sometimes finding ways to cooperate with or even to enrich each other, sometimes locked in the kind of vicious clashes we are now seeing in Russia and the Ukraine. I wonder about the stories to which nations, cultures, & peoples have given over their lives and souls. What, for instance, are the stories which men like Putin have created and absorbed so completely that the stories themselves have taken charge of their thoughts and actions? In her book The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit asks the same question of us all:

“What’s your story? It’s all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice…. [….] We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well within which we drown…. [….] Sometimes the story collapses, and it demands that we recognize we’ve been lost, or terrible, or ridiculous, or just stuck; sometimes change arrives like an ambulance or a supply drop.”

“We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.

Because we are humans, we are all saddled as we grow by the family and cultural stories that surround us and by other stories that we encounter along our life journey. If, as Solnit suggests, we become aware of our stories and how they steer us, we are more and more able choose which stories we keep or change or discard — though we must be vigilant because even the stories we thought we’d discarded may occasionally rise as echos or ghosts that try to slip under the radar and affect our perceptions. It’s interesting to look back at the ways our individual stories about ourselves and the world have come, gone, or morphed over the years. For instance, I grew up in a culture in which the human was seen as naturally dominant & in a subculture where the rational mind was venerated, often to the exclusion of physical or emotional or heart-centered ways of knowing and doing. It was a story in which the players believed they could also be uninvolved & unbiased observers and narrators. These are no longer the stories by which I live. It’s easy to say this, but changing these and other personal stories has been an on-going, life-long work

A guiding story for me is the one recent research has suggested on the origin and evolution of the Universe — this expanding, diversifying, and complexifying Universe in which all that exists is interrelated, is kin tracing back to a single beginning. As John Muir famously said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” That includes each of us. We may never see the consequences but we can be sure that the stories we tell ourselves and others are — through thoughts, words, and actions — radiating outward like the rippling rings of water when a pebble is thrown in, having some tiny or even some larger consequences as they move through the Cosmos.

For now I am focusing on making, working with fiber and words and my love of the Earth and all her community — never sure of the consequences for me or for the fibers & words themselves or for the larger world — but trying to think and act in ways that will bring life rather than death. And hoping…

Several weeks ago, I thought I had finished with the Dreaming Towards Dawn mask, but she continued to seem unsettled, to want more. I tried this; I tried that…. Then last week I dreamed of her wearing a crown or headband of coral beads. When I woke up, I remembered the simple little necklace of coral beads I’d gotten in Mobasa, Kenya, in 1964. Its thread had broken many years ago and I always meant to restring it, but…. the beads ended up in a little box somewhere. And when I dug out that box, I found it under another little box containing small earrings I’d purchased in 1968 from a Tuareg woman near Tamanrasset in the Algerian central Sahara. They were enameled, with tiny coral beads set in the pattern. So — still not “done” (whatever that means) but getting to what will be the stopping point.

And after the Spirit of The Betwixt and Between asked to live in a twilight forest (see last week), I set out to make one for her. Then it seemed she needed some sort of wrap, so — after much experimenting — I made her a scarf. I still need to decide whether to use it and if so how. I almost see it as taking her to a whole new context (though that may be a thought for another mask & another time). In any case, she herself needs some further shaping. Oh, I discover so much as I go along with the flow! Great fun — and this is a good (though rather sobering) time to contemplate the meaning of Between-ness as I work.

In the meantime, I continue my primary work, which has been so beautifully described by Mary Oliver:

       Messenger

My work is loving the world. 
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — 
equal seekers of sweetness. 
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. 
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? 
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me 
keep my mind on what matters, 
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be 
astonished. 
The phoebe, the delphinium. 
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. 
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart 
and these body-clothes, 
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy 
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, 
telling them all, over and over, how it is 
that we live forever.
 
~ Mary Oliver ~