3 Old Women

A spider has been building orb webs in the upper corner of our porch. (She reminds me of another spider who companioned me at an important juncture — but that’s another story for another time.) I am happy to have her company, for I have been thinking about the Old Woman who, in myth, weaves the world into being and, in times of change, takes out the threads and weaves anew.

This isn’t just because I now am an old woman. I have long been drawn to the Old Weaver & to other manifestations of the Wise Old Woman who appears so often in Story & Myth — fierce, independent, on the edges of society, close to both the natural & the other worlds…

Of course, I knew Her from many of the folk tales of my childhood — not always a wicked witch but sometimes a helper & healer. She truly took root in my imaginal realm when I was an 18-year old freshman in college. Several years ago, I wrote of that memorable encounter, trying to puzzle out why a teenager might have been so permanently imprinted with a positive image of old age & death:

	ANTHRO 101

December, and late afternoon sun
edges wearily through half-basement windows,
into chalk-dusty air redolent of
camphor, ancient leather, and bone in the museum above.
Students scribble in spiral notebooks while
the professor drones on about Arctic cultures.

“Conditions were harsh,” he notes, "but if a woman did grow old,
she might spend her final years commandeering young men 
to take her visiting village to village --- until,
no longer able to sew a seam or spin a tale, 
she walked out onto the sea ice alone.”

As he speaks, an unseen door opens,
caribou-hide covering sweeps aside, and
an old woman enters the room --
hood of her sealskin parka thrown back
to reveal braids gray as late winter ice.
“Who has called me?” she asks.

The professor lectures on without lifting his eyes;
students write, doodle, or doze in their seats.
“Who calls?” she repeats.

	Did I turn a little to the half-heard voice,
	lifting my eyes to meet hers, bright
	and merry amid the wrinkled terrain of age?

For sixty years I have carried her 
-- silent and light as eagle down --
along the northern margins of my mind;
I have pulled her forward as steadily as 
a team of huskies heading for home;
I have nourished her in equal share with everything 
I have hunted for myself.

Of late, we have begun to converse more freely,
to sit and sew and spin stories together.

The ice is melting.
When it is time, where will we go?
                                                          --- MCK

*****

Then, in 1973, in Yugoslavia, I met an old woman as she walked, spinning yarn, along a country road. We talked — with no language in common but lots of gestures & laughter. She couldn’t believe that neither my friend nor I knew how to spin — grown women though we were! Several years later, I found that she, too, had entered my imaginal realm — becoming stronger within me as I learned to spin and weave.

*****

As my 50th birthday approached, the Old Woman moved to the forefront of my imagination. I read myths & stories, getting to now her many ways of being in many different cultures. I looked forward to growing “older & wiser” and began searching diligently for my first gray hairs (which, alas, still haven’t appeared).

About that time, I discovered that the word “Crone” was derived from a older word meaning “a carcass” or “an old & worthless ewe.” I responded by writing a triumphal Crone poem:

CRONE

is my favorite word these days.
Wonderful sound of 

crow:	  old shape-shifter, one-eyed seer into future, or
	          verb of exultation.

drone:	  the steady throb of dulcimer or bagpipe—not melody but
	         the tone that holds it all together.
	
bone:	  the hard, the lasting.

CRONE —	you beautiful word, you have been mistreated,
		manhandled by makers of linguistic lists,

		linked to “carrion: putrefying flesh” or
		“old ewe with broken teeth to be culled from the flock.”

		Why not tied to “chronios: long-lasting” like CRONY?
		Why, old long-time woman—ancient buddy— why not?

You, CRONE, are a feisty fiddle upon which life has been playing
in all tempos, all weathers, for a long long time.
No shiny new penny whistle can sing with such depth.

CRONE, you are ragged and straggled
with elf-locks in the wind
and a belly laugh that sends
muscle-proud lads scurrying for cover.
Old Baubo, you raise your skirts and
show them what they fear.

CRONE, you are as beautiful as the last apple
on the tree in November, the final apple 
in the barrel come March:  No young face holds
such terrible beauty as the face of one who
knows that she knows the truth of her days.

CRONE:	I chant you as mantra,
		I chase your whirlwind,
		I dream hooked beak and vulture wings.

I’m coming, I’m coming—not far behind you.
Save me a place at the old crones’ feast.

*****

The 3rd old woman to take root in my imaginal realm was Jouška, who arrived during a delightful & insightful experimental workshop on “Art & Character” led by the artist Roz Casey . We engaged not only with art-making and writing, but also with some imaginative experiential prompts — for example, walk down a familiar path sensing it in the ways that your character would. As I took my favorite walk through the wooded acres across the road, sensing my surroundings as Jouška might have done, I was amazed how deeply the place and its beings came alive for me. I have always been aware of the natural world, learning from it and sending my love in return for its many gifts — but my habitual awareness felt superficial compared the awareness revealed through Jouška — an old woman living about 1,500 years ago in the depths of the boreal forest of Karelia (home of the Kalevala mythology & now straddling the Finnish/Russian border). This Old Woman continues to walk within and beside me.

Lately I have realized that as I converse now with the Shaman figure, trying to learn who she is & who she wants to be, it is Jouška‘s voice that I hear guiding me. I dug deeper into my stash last week & found more leather and the remnants of a old, old fox-fur hood. I used my old walnut dye to color the wooden base & the leather that covers it. Here is the Shaman in one of her possible be-comings — for she is still and always coming more & more into Being, just as we all are.

As I age, I realize that I have apprenticed myself to these 3 Old Women. They have taught and continue to teach me in so many ways. Learning from them, stepping with them into the Unknown, what shall I discover next?

******

” …. ‘Tell me one thing,’ said the eldest Princess to the Old Woman…, ‘Tell me one thing. Was that you ahead of me on the road, in such a hurry?’

‘There is always an old woman ahead of you on a journey, and there is always an old woman behind you too, and they are not always the same, and may be fearful or kindly, dangerous or delightful, as the road shifts, and you speed along it. Certainly I was ahead of you, and behind you too, but not only I, and not only as I am now.’ ….”

[A.S. Byatt, “The Story of the Eldest Princess,” in The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye]

Mostly Just Being

Here it is Thursday evening & I am suddenly aware that all week I have been taking a kind of vacation — not “from” the everyday world but in it. Not trying to decipher or explain anything, but simply living where I am.

I’ve spent long stretches of time watching the birds at the two feeders — seeing the individual quirks and always interesting interactions of the many seed eaters, watching the flock of mourning doves who come to pick up spilled kernels from the ground, and noticing that the two female hummingbirds have been coming less often to their feeder. Perhaps now it is just one. I wonder if the hummingbirds are heading south already — but I feel no overwhelming need to “know.” They are doing what they do, and I am privileged to get even such brief glimpses of their lives. One evening, a large red-shouldered hawk roosted for awhile in one of the trees near the bridge before flying off in all his magnificence. Most evenings, we see a small herd of does & fawns grazing on the grassy berm beyond the bridge. This evening a group of deer came up from the woods to graze just outside our window. Several of the fawns were still spotted (younger than I’d expect at this time of year) and still full of mischief, chasing each other and making exploratory forays away from their mothers.

Mary Oliver says it most beautifully:

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 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 the 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.

Besides the animals, I have had 2 great Teachers this week.

As always, The Tree — the old one behind our house — continues to encourage me to grow my roots more deeply into this soil and also to grow upwards, becoming (perhaps, some day) strong and firm enough to put forth more generous branches. I am in awe of the gifts of food & sanctuary The Tree offers to squirrels, to birds, to myriad other unseen creatures, to the soil that supports her, and to me — every day.

My other Teacher has been the Shaman figure — the Lady of the Forest — to whom I introduced you last week. When I started her so many years ago, I was fascinated by a knobbly piece of wood with two antlers projecting from one end — fallen from some never-identified tree. Without any plans about where this might go, I made her a head to hold the branching bits & covered it with paper from an old wasps’ nest. I’d gathered several more twigs that could serve as hands. I began to collect shells & other small objects she might like. I vaguely supposed I could make her a body of felt & stuff it with wool. I tried. It didn’t work. I realized she needed some bones, an armature to support her firmly, but — not knowing where to begin — I stuck her safely in the back of my closet. Every so often I took her out to spend time with her ….. but I was never ready to undertake the work required. Easier to stay with the soft fibers that were familiar beneath my fingers. And back into the closet she went.

After our move, she caught my attention in a new way. Somehow one of her antlers had failed to survive the short journey. No problem, I thought. I glued it back together so that the break could be noticed only if one studied it intently. Perfect! ….But…. the glue didn’t hold for more than a day or so. I thought of leaving her with only one antler and one stub [surely there would be a story in that] but she looked back at me fiercely & her will was stronger than mine. This past week I spent day after day, trying to mend the break. At last, I succeeded. The failed attempts had left their marks on the wood. There is now a noticeable scar. But then, if one is alive, there will be marks & scars from various encounters. I certainly have many — visible and invisible — and, after a time, I have become stronger for the encounters — the woundings and the healings. In the Old Way, a shaman’s powers were achieved or deepened by the survival of life-threatening encounters — so it is fitting that the Lady of the Forest bear scars of her encounters with life, including my clumsy fingers. Somehow, the scarring has made her seem more approachable….. I’ve continued our conversation eagerly, with new understanding.

The Lady has made me leave my comfort zone — forcing me to get over my hesitations & just figure out how to work with wire and how to engage short stubby branches — how to help her become the strong and firmly rooted Being that I’ve seen in her all along. Now I must stretch myself again to make clothes for her — not out of my preferred felt or cloth, but out of what she demands.

In keeping with my sense of who she is, I am — except for the purchase of wire — using only the materials I already have on hand. I found two scraps of leather in a drawer. One seemed to be a perfect grey-brown, matching the tones of her head and body (wrapped with yak roving), but it is too small for a dress. The larger piece is too yellow. Fortunately I’d saved a couple of bottles of my walnut dye from last winter. This morning I tried a small bit of the yellowy leather in the dye — and was doubly delighted. Not only did the dye subdue the yellow, but the process let slight variations in the leather’s surface absorb the dye in different ways. Random and subtle and just what I think she would wear — much more appropriate than the unvarying commercially-produced “perfect” color I’d thought was my first choice. A wonderful affirmation of Process — and the source of many smiles & a good reminder of the fun of just playing with what is at hand. [I’m sorry I couldn’t capture the three true colors in a photo. They really are quite different from each other.]

So…….now I have to figure out how to sew the leather. It is soft & pliable, but still thick enough to challenge a needle. Again, the puzzle — and the joy — of working with What Is.

I’ve always tended to fight “limits.” In my writing, I’ve stubbed my toe on and lashed out at the inherent limits of my language. In my weaving days, I spent hours threading a multiharness floor loom in a way that could establish complex patterns…..only to spend most of my weaving time trying to subvert the structure — the limits — of the warp I’d created. [In this, am I a rebel against or a child of the current MonoCulture that insists “Anything” should be possible…?]

In any case I am learning again and again that without form, structure, and limits, there would only be a dreary mishmash of nothing-in-particular. Even Trickster tales — as liberating and paradigm-shattering as they can be — acknowledge the presence of constraints. Oh, I guess I’m ready to explore this knowing again — ready, at last, to accept what this Shaman, the Lady of the Forest, has been waiting so many years to teach me.

Wildness: Both Turbulent & Still

This week I have been living in two very different but equally Wild places.

Two books I’ve been reading concurrently have tossed me into turbulent cascades of Wild energy:

In The Eye of the Wild, the French anthropologist Nastassja Martin recounts her interaction with a bear — violent on both sides — in the Siberian wilderness of Kamchatka & her struggles to recover and to come to terms with what had happened. Her journey is slow and painful — physically and mentally. Martin has lived with both the Gwich’in people of Alaska & the Even people of Kamchatka — peoples who dwell in areas where climate and culture are undergoing rapid changes. She has been particularly on Animism. Now she must learn for herself what that intimate near-death encounter with a bear meant, how it is to be — as the Even say — medka, half-human/half-bear.

The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir was written by a woman who grew up, amid the violence of Colombia in the 1980s and 90s, in a Mestizo family — a people who experience daily a life of inbetween, being neither fully Indigenous nor fully white. Having a grandfather who was a well-known curandero — a healer knowing the old secrets — Ingrid Rojas Contreras found her family to be set apart in still other ways. As an adult in the U.S., an accident leaves her with an extended bout of amnesia — a condition that, she learns, was experienced by her mother as a child. As she tells of her own experience of amnesia and as she digs deeper into the stories of her family’s past, Rojas Contreras reveals the complex cultural & personal legacies that shape her sense of reality.

Both books are true stories of metamorphosis and becoming, shape-shifting and transformation, stories in which Wild energies are freed & allowed to have their say in the unfolding narratives.

And then, yesterday, Audrey di Mola’s energetic & enlivening retelling of the story of King Arthur, Sir Gawain, and Dame Ragnelle (aka “The Loathly Lady”). Here we meet Ragnelle not merely as some unimaginably ugly hag, but as the feminine embodiment of the Wild & Shape-Shifting natural (more-than-human) world — an energy that demands sovereignty, agency, its own right to choose.

So….. books & story — written and spoken words dancing with and through overwhelming waves of primal energy, swirling movements, volcanic encounters between humans and the Wild.

But also this week, I’ve known many moment of deep Stillness. As T.S. Eliot has written:

"At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
 Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
 But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
 Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
 Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
 There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
 I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
 And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
 The inner freedom from the practical desire,
 The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
 And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
 By a grace of sense...."                      

This Stillness, too, is a doorway to the Wild — Becoming so still that the birds at the feeder ignore my gradual approach. And with the evening deer by the bridge, becoming so still that even my rather excitable & frequently vocal little dog, after one low growl, sat quietly my side while the deer noted our presence but did not startle, cautiously returning to their grazing, then slowly gliding into the band of trees by the creek. This Stillness is a good place — less flamboyant & exuberant than the worlds I glimpsed this week through language & Story, but just as Wild, just as far from the constricting and life-sapping beliefs of the prevailing colonial-consumerist-capitalist-technocratic culture that now dominates more & more of the human world.

My making this week has followed two similar, seemingly divergent paths. On the one hand, the quiet contemplation of various ways to felt a leaf; on the other, a return to a wild making I began and abandoned nearly a dozen years ago:

I’m curious about what energies I will encounter or bring into being next week, about how I will live more & more into the Wildness of this life.

P.S. When my son read my mention of Stillness in the blog this morning, he said it reminded him of something that happened when he was about 10 years old. And oh yes! It is a perfect example of Stillness! He and I were on a rafting trip in southern Utah. The other passengers were a family with two children about his age. When we stopped to camp, the other children spotted small lizards & began trying to catch them. My son just stood still and watched. He was very, very Still…. and soon a little lizard ran up his leg and sat quietly on his shoulder. I remember the lizard staying there for a long long time … but who can discern time in the midst of such Stillness? It was a timeless moment filled with Beauty. My son named the lizard Turquoise. And Turquoise has remained with us.

LIFE IN AN EXPANDING UNIVERSE by Pattiann Rogers.

"It's not only all those cosmic
 pinwheels with their charging solar
 luminosities, the way they spin around
 like the paper kind tacked to a tree trunk,
 the way they expel matter and light
 like fields of dandelions throwing off
 waves of summer sparks in the wind,
 the way they speed outward,
 receding, creating new distances
 simply by soaring into them.

 But it's also how the noisy
 crow enlarges the territory
 above the landscape at dawn, making
 new multiple canyon spires in the sky
 by the sharp towers and ledges
 of its calling; and how the bighorn
 expand the alpine meadow by repeating
 inside their watching eyes every foil
 of columbine and bell rue, all
 the stretches of sedges, the candescences
 of jagged slopes and crevices existing there.

 And though there isn't a method
 to measure it yet, by finding
 a golden-banded skipper on a buttonbush,
 by seeing a blue whiptail streak
 through desert scrub, by looking up
 one night and imagining the fleeing
 motions of stars themselves, I know
 my presence must swell one flutter-width
 wider, accelerate one lizard-slip farther,
 descend many stellar-fathoms deeper
 than it ever was before."

Beyond Adventure

Again and again I am amazed by the world’s beauty — this week, this day — and every week, every day.

Since I last wrote to you — Deer. Once 2 does & 3 fawns grazing just outside our backdoor. Another time, 7 or 8 deer grazing on a nearby hill. Wary of our presence, they moved back towards the woods — the does hurrying a bit with an air of concern but their fawns leaping & leaping, obviously delighting in the recently discovered magic of muscles, sinew and bones. And I, too, enchanted, delighted by their delight.

I put up 2 bird feeders behind the house & soon the birds began to come. First, one female hummingbird and then at least one other have become frequent visitors to the nectar. Then other feeder — chickadees, goldfinches, titmice, and some sort of sparrow-like bird with a lovely rusty-rose breast. More magic as they perch on the feeder & then flit off into the trees and out of my sight.

On Tuesday we had just begun to eat dinner in the communal courtyard when a welcome rainstorm sent us back inside. Just as we got up to go out afterwards, I saw sunlight slanting through from the west, washing the tops of the buildings with gold. Stepping through the door, we were astonished by a beautiful double rainbow. What a gift! The 4 of us just came to a standstill. Colors so strong & vibrant [unlike those in these photos]! We gawked and marveled at the magic. I felt drenched through and through by the liquid colors & light. I didn’t even think of putting a lens between my eye & such glory. Cris did take a picture, so I can share it with you. Let your imagination fill in the colors & light that the lens could not capture. When we’d walked home, I did want to take an image of the rainbow with The Tree, but by then the inner rainbow was fading & the outer one dimmed to a glimmer so faint that I would have missed it if I hadn’t known it was there.

But isn’t its very evanescence part of the magical beauty of a rainbow? Its appearance and disappearance as light & moisture & our perspectives change…

I love the way something can flicker in & out of the range of my senses — rainbows, leaping deer, birds alighting then gone in a moment. None of this beauty can be captured or contained. Like the big spiderweb that appeared one morning in the corner of our back porch: I was standing there, just loving The Tree and the woods (full of their own invisible-to-me treasures), when something flickered in the corner of my vision. I turned to see, but there was nothing…….until…..it came again….and again…and I finally spotted a big spiderweb billowing in & out as the morning air currents moved it. Invisible, visible, then gone again, then back in a different configuration of glints. I tried to take a picture but was defeated by the ephemeral nature of the interaction — which was exactly what had taken my breath away & held me immobile for a long time. Not just the web but the dance….

Hummingbird wings, dancing deer, a brief flash of silk, colors across the sky — Elusive but not illusory, something moving that cannot be captured — or, if captured, would become something else entirely — no longer wild, a bird in a cage. Who knows? Maybe that’s one of the characteristics that draws me towards Trickster.

So much to love….

And then, the last day or so, some fibers and my hands beginning to converse… For several weeks I’ve been dwelling with green wools & silks — looking, touching, knowing them to be perfect just as they are. My hands wanted to interact with them, but…. The loose swoops of green in so many shades seemed to call for the open-ended possibilities of felting. At the same time I knew that, after the chaos of the last month, my spirit longed for a safe container in which to rest, a form, a focus. I finally found a sort of compromise. I’ve submitted myself to the gentle limits imposed by loom and warp, but left the weft fibers free, combed but unspun, unbound fibers sliding deliciously through my fingers and through the warp. I’m enjoying both the lively give & take of the conversation and the comforting over/under rhythm, both a sense of freedom and the focus I’ve craved. After a long pause, stepping over the threshold into the Unknown…. It just makes me happy!

And last, but by no means least, I’d like to thank you all for reading these posts — for just being there and for so often enriching them with comments & reflections of your own. It is one thing to toss words off into the Unknown and yet another to hear that some have landed, have been heard. It seems that the true creativity resides neither in the making nor in the seeing/reading/listening, but in that indefinable interaction where the two meet.

As water flows in when a well is dug,
as breath becomes song when the flute is carved,
I lay my words in the nests you have made
of your patiently listening hearts.

Do you feel it?
Love is pecking from the inside out.
Shells are cracking open.
Look!  We all
are growing wings.  

                                                ~~~~ With gratitude, Margery

Pondering the Imponderable

I hope you’ve all taken time to read the beautiful Comments that were sent in response to last week’s post — all of us moving together, groping towards new understandings. Much to ponder…..

When I try to address the Imponderable, I inevitably call forth too many words. Perhaps this is a hangover from too much academic writing. Perhaps I am just trying to dodge the truth, to fill the sacred Silence that the Imponderable demands. You can, if you like, read on to hear my current ramblings — my turning round & round and flailing about like a person lost in the woods at night — or you can stop here with this simple poem by David Whyte, which says it all so beautifully:

"Enough. These few words are enough.
 If not these words, this breath.
 If not this breath, this sitting here.

 This opening to the life
 we have refused
 again and again until now.

 Until now."

*******

For a long time — no doubt because of situations both global & personal — I’ve been thinking about action, about how I might choose to step into the Unknown of any particular moment. First, by waking up & looking at where I am — where we are — actually standing at this particular moment, noticing both the amazing details and the larger patterns that sometimes seem to shift & change like a kaleidoscope…. Then, by taking that next step and once again pausing, noticing….

It’s all about Movement — the condition of the Cosmos, of Life.

The Unknown, like Life, should really be verb, not a noun. Modern English seems to act as a noun-based language — focusing on the separation of things rather than relationship, movement, interaction. Sometimes we need a new kind of language….

The Cosmos and all it encompasses are Emergent Processes — unfolding, interacting, evolving. The idea of an established “normal” — whether macro or micro — is a human illusion. We are part of continuous & multifaceted movements, whether we notice or not. When we try to grasp & cling to what has always seemed “normal” to us — with our limited, human-shaped sense of time — we are trying to fight the inevitable. If there is no change, there is no life.

I love the metaphor of the butterfly whose flapping wings create a hurricane on the other side of the world. Certainly, every time we move (and that includes just sitting & breathing), we change the world around us and — because we are inextricably woven into the whole — the world changes us too. For example, I am sitting by a campfire…I shift my position slightly…I inhale a lungful of dense smoke, and I begin to cough loudly which frightens a deer who runs onto the highway and …. We can spin out that story of the deer’s fright (as storytellers love to do) in directions which could lead to many different consequences — perhaps to owl’s failure to catch the rabbit he’d spotted, to the feeding of a hungry human family, or to a car crash that changes in the course of human civilization, or perhaps to nothing so directly noticeable. Whatever the case, there will be changes, spreading out through space & time in ways we’ll never fully know.

When I was young, I didn’t think a lot about “Adventure” or the Unknown;” I simply plunged in & thrived on them. I was privileged to spend high school summer volunteering on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana where I was introduced to both sharp poverty & rich cultural inheritance. A few years later, I was lucky to get a grant that let me spend a college summer studying baboons & simply learning to be present with the animals of the vast West African savanna, dwelling for awhile in a place beyond language. Then, after a heartbreaking rift of relationship (which I certainly did not experience as an “adventure”!), I took a trip — which coincided exactly with both my bank account & my vacation time — to the Central Sahara where I encountered for the first time many landscapes, peoples, ways of being, and the magical ancient galleries of rock painting high on the Tassili plateau. Having rediscovered the larger world, I looked for a job in Africa & ended teaching in Libya — arriving just before the revolution/coup that set up Gaddafi as dictator — and staying for 5 years. Many Adventures …. always changing, growing, learning — sometimes quickly, sometimes painfully, sometimes only in retrospect — through trial & error & often “dumb luck.”

In recent years I have been trying to approach personal changes in that same spirit of active curiosity. My mantras have been “It’s all an Adventure!” & a rather wry “All shall be revealed!” — meaning only that we’ll know what will happen next when the next thing happens. Our move to the farm & life with llamas was obviously an Adventure. I was sorry in many ways to have that come to a close so, when it was time to move to Greensboro & closer to hospitals and other help “just in case,” I told myself we were starting our “Urban Adventure.” Then, quick on the heels of that move, the 5-minute trip to a hospital ceased to be a hypothetical convenience & became central when I had cardiac surgery to repair a valve — a “Medical Adventure.” Now our move into a Quaker continuing care situation, about which I’ve been at times very conflicted, is proving to be a new kind of “Community Adventure” — filled with both “Not Knowing” (as described by Marti in her comment), which requires my focused research & specific learning AND also with “Unknowing,” which can only be known by plunging in. It is an Adventure!

But not all Adventures are — like most of those I’ve described — chosen. I’m thinking of hungry folks who walk through drought-stricken fields, of the streams of refugees around the world, of Ukrainians & Syrians & Palestinians & the many others whose lives are encompassed and upended by war…. How can they possibly view their daily scramble for existence as an “adventure”?

I know I am thinking of “Adventure” from a very privileged place.

Global climate change and other human actions are destroying and shifting the nature of beloved landscapes & species. Extreme authoritarian forces are threatening the democratic movements towards freedom and equality which I’ve witnessed — little by little — throughout my life & which I had expected would always keep moving — however slowly — more and more towards true justice. We find ourselves in the midst of dangerous changes on all fronts, deeply grieving the mayhem and destruction and fearing what may come.

I wonder if it is simply arrogant to try to view all this & what is still to come as “Adventure”?

How I wish there were a clearly marked path forward from Here to a truly better There! But as Antonio Machado cannot remind me often enough:

"Traveler, your footprints
 Are the path and nothing more;
 Traveler, there is no path,
 The path is made by walking.
 By walking the path is made
 And when you look back
 You’ll see a road
 Never to be trodden again.
 Traveler, there is no path,
 Only trails across the sea...."

If I am making my path — which is mine to choose — I’d better get started walking with more conscious awareness of each step & more openness to the Unknown, no matter how scary. How many times in the past have I let fears or ambivalence or sorrow bring me to a screaming halt?! In stepping out into the role of workshop & retreat leader and especially in starting this blog, I’ve become aware of how much growth can be found & how very much stifled and bound energy can be liberated with just another step into the Unknown.

*******

I’ve just started reading Estelle Frankel’s book The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty. In the Introduction, she says:

“Without what I call the ‘wisdom of not knowing,’ it is difficult to leave the safe harbor of the known for the vast, unpredictable sea of growth and change. Certainty may calm our anxious spirits, but it closes the door on possibility. Moreover, when the known overshadows the unknown, we forsake our infinite life for a counterfeit, finite existence.

(emphasis added)

*******

So what kind of existence do I choose? What might happen if, when contemplating global situations, I spent less energy on fear & lamentation and more on living/participating fully in the world as it is in its actual becomings, however painful? If I name what is happening not as Doom but as Adventure, can I free up more energy to heal wounds & mitigate the damage inflicted by myself & others? Can I learn how to be a blessing that enlivens the situations & beings I meet rather than a force that destroys?

What if, rather than hoping for a magic silver bullet to “fix” things, more of us found our Hope in the possibilities that reside within the Unknown? In any case, my Curiosity keeps me plodding ahead, asking questions, looking around to find out what might be. The Changes we’ve feared have already begun. How then shall we live in a good way?

*******

I believe I’ve shared this poem with you before, but it speaks to much of what I’ve been struggling to say:

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.

*******

And, in my studio, I’m still hanging out with Green, and more Green — pausing to see where I am and what is here before taking that next great step into the Unknown. I am grateful for the Green & Healing Spirits of Willow who companion me.

The Coming of the Salmon

We have heard the stories of how trickster Raven stole Light from Old Man Undersea [3/19/2021] and stole Fresh Water from the Beaver People [10/15/2021]. Greedy Raven was planning to keep the Light and the Water all for himself but, in his haste, spilled them, accidentally making Light and Fresh Water available for all the People. In the story of The Coming of the Salmon, Raven seems to manifest a more benevolent approach to the sharing of resources.

I give thanks to the Haida people whose wisdom gave birth to this story. I give thanks to all the storytellers before me — from the long ago days when it happened until now — who opened their hearts and offered their voices to keep this story alive. This is my telling for this day. I don’t know if this is exactly how it happened but I know that it is true.

*******

It began, as so many things begin, with a dream. It began when the Chief’s young daughter lay dreaming of a great and beautiful fish. He was almost as long as she was tall and his scales glistened brightly. He was silver as moonlight and his back was speckled with tiny black dots as black as the night sky above her as she slept. Oh, this fish was strong! He leapt over rocks and up the rapids that churned the river. Oh, how the Chief’s little daughter loved that fish!

When morning came, the little girl ran to her father and told him of the great fish she had seen in her dream. “Father,” she said, “please bring me this fish.” But the Chief shook his head. “I am sorry, my dear daughter, but I have never seen such a fish.” And the Chief’s daughter began to cry.

The Chief asked in the Village, but no one had ever seen such a fish. And his daughter cried, and she cried, and she cried, for she longed to see that beautiful fish once more. Oh, how she cried!

At last, the Chief gathered all the elders, the wisest ones in the Village, but they all shook their heads. No one had ever seen such a great silvery fish who could leap and leap over the rocky rapids on his way upstream.

At last, the Oldest Man in the Village spoke up. “Raven lives in the cedars just over the hill. Often I bring him tidbits to eat and he speaks to me in a friendly way. Raven flies over all the world. Let me go ask Raven if he has seen such a fish on his journeys.”

The Chief and all the elders looked each other and nodded their heads. At last the Chief said, “It is agreed. Each of us will send with you a fish or a meaty bone as a gift to wise Raven.”

Soon the basket of the Oldest Man was filled, and he set off through the forest and up the hill, carrying that heavy basket. At last he approached the tall cedar trees where Raven liked to sit and look at the world. Raven smelled the beautiful fragrance of fish & meat. He flew down to sit beside the Oldest Man and croaked his greeting.

“Wise Raven,” said the Oldest Man. “I come to you bringing gifts from all the Villagers.” He set down the basket, and Raven began to feast. Raven ate & ate and when he raised his head from the basket, that basket was as empty and clean as if it had just come fresh from the basket-maker’s hands.

Raven cocked his head & looked at the Oldest Man and — since Raven is always curious — there was a question in Raven’s bright eye. “Why have you come?” he croaked.

Then the Oldest Man told Raven of the Chief’s little daughter & how she had dreamed a great silvery fish that leapt upstream like a dancer. He told of how she longed for that fish. “But none of us have ever seen such a fish,” he said. “And so she cries & cries. She cannot eat. She cannot sleep.”

Raven nodded his shining black head & spoke. “I know such a fish,” he croaked. “I will come with you & speak to the Council.” And so he did.

When all the Council had gathered in the Village, Raven spoke. “I know the tribe of whom the little girl dreamed. They travel far, but just now they have gathered to enter a river on the other side of this inlet. You have been generous to me, but I shall bring an even greater gift to you.” And off Raven flew.

Raven flew fast, and soon he returned, carrying a huge silvery fish. He gave it ceremoniously to the Chief’s daughter. “This,” Raven croaked, “is the fish you long for.” And the Chief’s daughter opened her eyes, red with weeping, and beheld the fish. She smiled. She laughed. She reached out her hand to stroked the gleaming silver scales. She offered her thanks to wise Raven.

Then Raven explained, “I have brought you the son of the Chief of the Salmon People. They saw me take him & watched to see which way I flew. The Salmon will come here to get back the Chief’s son. If you treat him with honor, they will enter a pact with you & return every year to hear your drumming & your songs of praise for them.”

Quickly the Villagers filled the biggest cedar canoe with seawater & put the great salmon in to swim freely. And as he swam, the Chief’s daughter sang to him — songs of love & praise, honoring his strength & beauty.

Soon the Salmon tribe swam into sight, lashing their strong tails & leaping up to show off their silvery beauty. The Chief of the Salmon spoke. “Give me my son.” And the Villagers placed his son back in the sea with his own people.

After the Salmon Chief’s son had told his father of how he was cared for and honored, after he had told his father how the little girl had shown her love for him with her songs, the Salmon Chief spoke to the village people saying, “Because you have cared for & honored my son, our people will return each year to feed you. But you must remember to honor us as well with your songs & prayers. And when we have given you good food to eat, you must place our bones back in the river so we can return again.”

And so it has been since that day. Each year the people of the Village welcome the Salmons’ return with songs & prayers. And — after they have feasted & have dried just enough fish to feed themselves during the hard times of the year — the people must gather the bones of the Salmon and, with words of thanksgiving, return them to their home in the river. And so the Salmon & the Villagers have cared for each other as the seasons & the years turn and turn.

*******

With gratitude to the Salmon and to Raven and to all the Rivers of the world, I have been weaving. The Keeper of Rivers is beginning to reveal her shape & I have been gathering fibers to begin dreaming the River.

Strange colors in this photo! The “black” fibers are deep teal & it’s laid out on a pale gray worktable, not an orange one!

SONG FOR THE SALMON
                                                     ~~~ by David Whyte

For too many days now I have not written of the sea,

nor the rivers, nor the shifting currents
we find between the islands.

For too many nights now I have not imagined the salmon
threading the dark streams of reflected stars,
nor have I dreamt of his longing
nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn.

I have not given myself to the depth to which he goes,
to the cargoes of crystal water, cold with salt,
nor the enormous plains of ocean swaying beneath the moon.

I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
opening its white hands on the seashore,
nor the salted wind, whole and healthy
filling the chest with living air.

I have not heard those waves
fallen out of heaven onto earth,
nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
of a thousand miles of ocean
giving up its strength on the sand.

But now I have spoken of that great sea,
the ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
moves in the dark sky above
and I am ready like the young salmon
to leave his river, blessed with hunger
for a great journey on the drawing tide.

Xenotopia: – “an uncanny or unsettling landscape; an ‘out-of-place place’

~~~ as defined by Robert Macfarlane, with an illustration ~~~

I’d planned this week to share some of the salmon myths from around the world, a perfect follow-up to last week’s post. But this has been a turbulent week & I find myself distracted.

…The continuing wars & crises all around the world & the rips in the very fabric of Life on Earth….. Here in the U.S. I am still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decisions to expand so-called gun “rights,” to overturn Roe v. Wade, and now to limit environmental protections. I was shaken this week to hear Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) proclaim that “The church is supposed to direct the government.” Although it confirmed what I’d expected, I was still stunned by Tuesday’s Jan. 6 hearing in which Cassidy Hutchinson bravely & explicitly described how the explosive, tantrum-prone former-president and his collaborators plotted to overthrow our government & destroy any attempts at democracy — a plot that is still alive and well in many state legislatures and in the extremist views of many of our citizens. And I am grieving the deaths of people seeking a safe life — this week more than 50 human beings killed, left locked in the over-heated back of a semi in Texas.

Add a couple of slightly stressful appointments this week and I have ended up feeling like Dorothy dropped into Oz, like Alice stepping through the looking glass & falling down the rabbit hole. I wonder where I have landed.

I am taking off a couple days to ground myself and to try to figure out where I am. I am spending time and finding solace with animals and garden and trees.

                      LOST

"Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
 Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
 And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
 Must ask permission to know it and be known.
 The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
 I have made this place around you.
 If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
 No two trees are the same to Raven.
 No two branches are the same to Wren.
 If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
 You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
 Where you are. You must let it find you."

                                                                 ~~~ David Wagoner

Seeking Sanctuary

Living Into the Mystery

These days, we seem to have been set adrift by all the violence of the environmental, political, cultural turmoil in which we are living. Even the regular circling of the seasons — which has always been a way for me to ground myself — has been changing. Last year, here in central North Carolina, the weather at Winter Solstice was still so mild it felt like late October. Some daffodils and even a few cherry trees bloomed in January and February. This spring, even before the end of May, we have experienced high temperatures that I would normally associate with late July or August. And if I find this disorienting, it can only be more so for the plants and the animals.

In the midst of all this, It is easy to despair, to self-isolate, to hide from the chaos. “What next?” seems to be the lament of the day.

Yesterday, by delightful serendipity, I discovered an excellent article in Emergence Magazine, by the writer, wilderness teacher, mythologist & storyteller Martin Shaw.

It is filled with the reminders I needed just then to help me out of the all-too-easy swamp of dismay and gloom & back onto the path, into the play of Life.

This very rich and, for me, nourishing essay is filled with examples from folktale and myth & concludes by offering four areas in which we may, if we choose, begin the Work of navigating Mystery. You can read — or listen to Shaw read — his full essay at https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/navigating-the-mysteries/ . Here I offer a some excerpts [lengthier than I’d expected] that speak, I think, to the heart of his message.

Illustration by moonassi

Excerpts from “Navigating the Mysteries”

by Martin Shaw

The correct response to uncertainty is mythmaking. It always was. Not punditry, allegory, or mandate, but mythmaking. The creation of stories. We are tuned to do so, right down to our bones. The bewilderment, vivacity, and downright slog of life requires it. And such emerging art forms are not to cure or even resolve uncertainty but to deepen into it. There’s no solving uncertainty. Mythmaking is an imaginative labor not a frantic attempt to shift the mood to steadier ground. There isn’t any.

But—a major but—maybe there’s useful and un-useful uncertainty. The un-useful is the skittish, fatiguing dimension. The surface of the condition. The useful is the invitation to depth that myth always offers. Because if there’s uncertainty, then we are no longer sure quite what’s the right way to behave. And there’s potential in that, an openness to new forms. We are susceptible to what I call sacred transgression. Not straight-up theft but a recalibrating of taboo to further the making of culture. [sounds to me like the Trickster spirit!]

…..

What if we reframed “living with uncertainty” to “navigating mystery”? There’s more energy in that phrase. The hum of imaginative voltage. And is our life not a mystery school, a seat of earthy instruction?

There are few tales worth remembering that don’t have uncertainty woven into them. Without uncertainty we have mission statements not myth. We have polemic not poetry, sign not symbol. There’s no depth when we are already floating above true human experience. And true human experience has always involved ambiguity, paradox, and eventually the need for sheer pluck. Uncertainty doesn’t feel sexy, I admit. It can derail confidence, make us neurotic, doubt ourselves. But mythic intelligence suggests we have to negotiate such terrain for a story of worth to surround us. I don’t say this lightly; it has real testing attached.

…..

But to navigate mystery is not the same thing as living with uncertainty. It doesn’t contain the hallmarks of manic overconfidence or gnawing anxiety. It’s the blue feather in the magpie’s tale [sic]. Hard to glimpse without attention. There’s no franchise or hashtag attached. Navigating mystery humbles us, reminds us with every step that we don’t know everything, are not, in fact, the masters of all.

As humans we’ve long been forged on the anvil of the mysteries: Why are we here? Why do we die? What is love? We are tuned like a cello to vibrate with such questions. What is entirely new is the amount of information we are receiving from all over the planet. So we don’t just receive stress on a localized, human level, we mainline it from a huge, abstract, conceptual perspective. Perpetual availability to both creates a nervous wreck.

The old stories say, enough; that one day we have to walk our questions, our yearnings, our longings. We have to set out into those mysteries, even with the uncertainty. Especially with the uncertainty. Make it magnificent. We take the adventure. Not naively but knowing this is what a grown-up does. We embark. Let your children see you do it. Set sail, take the wing, commit to the stomp. Evoke a playful boldness that makes even angels swoon. There’s likely something tremendous waiting.

…..

I haven’t got a damn thing to say about living on Mars with Elon Musk. The essential ingredients of mythmaking are down here on our tangly planet, species whispering and muttering about each other. Really good gossip across species becomes a story and eventually a myth. So what are the stories that will come from the mysteries of our present moment?

[Two years ago, Martin Shaw spent 101 days visiting a local forest — “primarily to listen.”] I have become more eccentric since my time in the forest, clearer and occasionally kinder. Life doesn’t feel certain, but it feels succulent. Life doesn’t feel assured, but it feels vivacious.

It doesn’t feel safe, but it feels pregnant with possibility. And, like every human before me, I’m going to have to make my peace with that arrangement. To repeat, it was always like this.

*******

The creative act of making something new always brings us face to face with uncertainty: What will happen if I plant these seeds in this part of my garden? What will happen if I change all the herbs and spices in this recipe? What will happen if I add a diagonal line to this design? Or –for fussbudgets like me — What will happen to the meaning and clarity of this sentence if I take out the comma?

A month or so ago, while I was just starting to grapple with the weaving and felting of “Transitions” [documented in earlier posts & shown in last week’s blog], I assembled this assortment of fibers & yarns from my stash and — having a clear idea, I thought, of how I would work with them — I put them in a bag to be considered after I’d finished my current project.

The “finishing” of Transitions turned into a longer — and more interesting — story than I’d first imagined. But finally, earlier this week, I opened the bag. I am still interested in the colors, but they seem darker than I’d remembered. In most lights, much darker than this photo! In particular, the deep teal fiber [center] I’d fallen in love with & planned to use as a major part of the felted context seemed almost black in ordinary room lighting. Fortunately, the making of “Transitions” gifted me with an ever-needed reminder that plans may (sometimes must) change, that we dwell in uncertainty & becoming. Suddenly seeing these fibers with surprised eyes was no different.

After days of staring at & occasionally rearranging the pile, I still had no idea where I would go with it. I was stuck in and disempowered by my uncertainty. The answer to this situation, I have learned, is to take action. But always there follows the potentially paralyzing question: How to begin?

I realized I could keep butting my head against my “problem” or I could enter it slantwise. As Shaw says, “Set sail, take the wing, commit to the stomp. Evoke a playful boldness that makes even angels swoon.

So — I decided to weave a doll using some of these colors to discover what they would say to each other & what they could teach me about themselves and about myself.

I am using the doll pattern taught by my teacher & mentor Susan Barrett Merrill. In her book Weaving a Life, Susan says “The doll is the symbol of the soul. It is a small spark of the greater Self. …. The doll is an imaginal form realized, and carries with it insight into the meaning and nature of our journey.

For example, my “3 Muses for the New Year” (posted 12/31/2021)

Since I have limited left-over amounts of most of the yarns I might use for the still-hypothetical mask, it took me a long time to decide which I could spare for the doll’s warp — but, finally, decide I did & warped my loom. Marking the center of a warp helps with the execution of the pattern. But it can do much more. Susan teaches us to use a red thread in the center of our warp:

Red is the color of life. The center thread is your core truth alongside which all other values lie. …. This is your own center thread.”

Because the warp becomes the hair of a mask, I have tended to mark the center in other ways. But for the doll, red feels essential. This is, after all, an exploration of myself as well as of the colors. I knew I wanted to remember — with every pass of the weft — to find my center.

The main color of the doll is the same as the deep teal in the center of the earlier photo — showing its darker side here.

As always, I’m curious about what will happen next. For me (as for Trickster), curiosity is a fundamental way of being. And — it suddenly occurs to me — without uncertainty, curiosity is meaningless. Hmmmm……

    "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 a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

                                                                                        — Rumi

Thinking of Edges

I’ve been having trouble placing the 2 masks on the context I showed last week. Finally I’ve realized that the problem is that the masks didn’t want to be placed on the land, but wanted to emerge from the land.

I did a couple small samples to figure out how that could happen. The best way is to place, before felting, a resist under the top layer in the area where the mask will emerge. After felting, the area above the resist can be opened so the mask can go beneath the surface to rest on the separately-felted space below. Then parts of the separated surface layer can be needle-felted onto the mask so that it is an integral part of its context. In the case of my current making, the context has already been thoroughly felted — too late for that solution!

It is possible to simply cut out a mask-shaped hole, put in the mask, and needle-felt some more fibers like those in the surface layer to join the mask to its context. But that cutting of a hole seemed to violate the idea of “emergence” — and besides, in the current case, I don’t have enough of the context fiber left to do a good job of hiding the separation between mask & context.

So — for now — a pause on this piece……….

And — for future explorations/makings — some exciting new possibilities!

All this work has set me to thinking once again about “edges” and “boundaries,” about how things can be separate but also part of a whole, about Trickster the boundary-crosser, and about permeability & liminality.

I’ve thought about what the living world teaches us about Edges. The amazing diversity that exists at Edges — for example, the teeming life of intertidal zones or the cultural richness and cross-fertilization found at gatherings such as those along the Silk Road.

Fungi, lichen, and moss are all wonderful creatures of edges and transitional zones. Mosses fascinate me both with their beauty and with their special adaptions to the boundary layer between air & land. [Do read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s lovely book Gathering Moss for much, much more!]

I see this, and several similar areas, every day on one of my walks — a wonderful meditation on Edges & Emergence & the power of Community.

Tree roots pushing aside the asphalt. Lichens & mosses making homes both on the bark of that tree and on the asphalt it has broken. Together, the mosses begin to create new humus with nutrition for more forms of life. If there is no interference, the arbitrary asphalt will once again join the larger, living land.

In the Coyote story I told May 6, No Song lived at the extreme edges of his village. It was there that he met Coyote — the primordial Edge dweller, transformer, holder of liminal space — who gave him a Song. But when the newly-named Sings Wonderfully was pulled too much away from the Edges (where, for example, rituals dwell) and back into the center of cultural hustle-bustle and self-aggrandizement, Coyote took his Song away.

Edges & transitional zones can places of nourishment, growth, and inspiration.

“I think we could make a case that most of the world’s great religions, philosophies, artforms, even political systems and ideologies were initiated by marginal figures. There is a reason for that: sometimes you have to go to the edges to get some perspective on the turmoil at the heart of things. Doing so is not an abnegation of public responsibility: it is a form of it. In the old stories, people from the edges of things brought ideas and understandings from the forest back in to the kingdom which the kingdom could not generate by itself.”

— Martin Shaw, storyteller

I’ve been thinking about what Shaw’s words mean in terms of the stories and art and imagining we need now in these times of political/cultural & environmental upheaval……

…. Also wondering how often I really listen deeply to what the Earth is saying…

*******

If you’d like an exuberant reminder of how we can listen to Earth, here’s a joyful, rollicking song/chant & affirmation:

Put Your Roots Down — Thrive Choir

Weaving, Stitching, Felting, Dreaming — Loving the Connections

I spent our days in the mountains enjoying the in-gathering of place & soul and letting my old body recover from the activity, stress, and excitement of the previous weeks. Our house is under contract, but we are allowed to stay in it until we move into the Friends [Quaker] Homes continuing-care community on August 9. An odd in-between space….

Oh, and when we got home from the Blue Ridge, I found that my healthy, thriving, tall Hopi sunflower plants had been decimated — almost every leaf eaten & some of the tall stalks broken. The upper leaves were definitely too high for our resident groundhog so, at first, I thought “birds.” It may be so, but last night I dreamed it was a raccoon enjoying them, just as the raccoons on our farm enjoyed attacking the stalks & taking the corn on the day before it was just ripe enough to pick. Alas for my dreams of purple dye from the seeds…… But I do know there are raccoons in the neighborhood & I can’t help but admire their wild ways of surviving in an urban environment. Several years ago, when our previous dog kept eating all the new sunflower shoots, I learned that sunflower leaves are especially nutritious. No dye for me, but healthy raccoons! I end up smiling….. and remembering Linda Hogan‘s poem:

 The Way In

"Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
 Sometimes the way in is a song.
 But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
 and beauty.
 To enter stone, be water.
 To rise through hard earth, be plant
 desiring sunlight, believing in water.
 To enter fire, be dry.
 To enter life, be food."

*******

The engagement with my current fiber endeavor continues to be a fascinating adventure. As I have been struggling to understand how the 3 pieces (a female spirit/mask + a male spirit/mask + the land of which they are a part) could co-create/co-evolve with each other, I have had a lot of time to think about how these processes actually have happened and are still happening at all levels within Earth Community as a whole and within each of her individual elements/beings/selves. The beautiful on-going flows of energy and matter in & out & between & among….The growing, blooming, ripening, being eaten, & sprouting again in a wholly new form…. So much to contemplate. So much to love.

When I finished felting this home/context for the masks just before going to the Blue Ridge, I fell in love with it & didn’t want to put anything on it. I thought maybe I should make a different setting for the masks.

But, of course, the felted piece is not a mere “setting” and the spirit masks cry out, “We, too, are a part of this one whole — neither the felted piece nor either of the us would have come into being as we are without the other two. We are all one thing evolving together.” And I, too, am a part of this evolution — also changing and growing in many ways. I’m curious about what will happen next.

In preparation for their placement, I have finally been sewing in the loose yarn ends on the backs of the two masks. Usually sewing or weaving-in any loose ends is a straight-forward, simple activity. But because I was working only with yarns & fibers I had on hand, I found myself mixing a variety of mismatched yarns — two or three being worked together in different combinations to form the weft. So — so many ends!

I wish I’d thought to take a photo before I started. At least I can give you a glimpse of the final unfinished corner of the second mask. Imagine the whole inside of the mask as a snarl of yarns with no interest in being tidied up…. As an introvert, the dense & wild interior was very familiar — but occasionally, as with my own inner tangle, rather annoying.

I think it must have been these days of finicky work that suddenly brought to mind a wonderful poem by Pattiann Rogers that I hadn’t thought of for years. I am delighted to share it here.

By Pattiann Rogers, from her collection of poems 
Song of the World Becoming
"God Is In The Details," Says Mathematician Freeman Dyson

"This is why grandmother takes such tiny
stitches, one stitch for each dust mote
of moon on the Serengeti at night, and one half
one stitch for each salt-fetch fog
following the geometries of eelgrasses
in fields along the beach.

And this is why she changes the brief threads
in her glass needle to often--metallic bronze
for the halo around the thrasher's eye,
ruby diaphanous for the antenna tips
of the May beetle, transparent silk
for dry-rain fragrances blowing
through burr sages before rain.

She inserts her needle
through the center of each elementary
particle, as if it were a circling sequin
of blue, loops it to its orbit, sewing thus,
again and again, the reckless sapphire sea,
a whipping flag of tall summer sky.

Sometimes she takes in her hands
two slight breaths of needles at once,
needles so thin they almost burn
her fingers like splinters of light.
She crochets with them around each microscopic
void, invents, thereby, an ice tapestry
of winter on the window, creates a lace
of peeper shrillings through flooded
sweet gale, secures a blank jot of sight
in the knitting of each red flea
of zooplankton skittering mid-lake.

God's most minute exuberance is founded
in the way she sews with needles
as assertive as the sun-sharp loblolly
that she sees with her eyes closed:
in the way she knots stitches
as interlocked as the cries of veery,
peewee, black-capped chickadee and jay
that she hears with her ears stopped;
in the way she whispers to her work,
recites to her work, spooling every least
spider and air trifid, every hue
and rising act of her own hands. Try
to escape now, it reads, just try."