Last week when I wrote about transformation, I think I forgot to point out that Salmon themselves are great Transformers. As their life circles around, they start as eggs which become freshwater fish in rivers, then transform themselves into travelers journeying downriver to the vast ocean, and next into adult saltwater fish. These are not trivial changes. And when the time comes, they change again as they journey back upriver to the place of their birth, where they breed and lay their eggs. There they die and begin their transformation in many different forms — human, bear, eagle, young plants, the Forest that protects their river. In their journeying, salmon carry bountiful gifts in their bodies. They bring themselves as food for the ocean’s web of life and then, in their return, food for life on land. And to the land it is not only the obvious gift of their own flesh that they bring, but also the ocean’s gifts of missing salts and minerals needed to sustain the living forest community. The salmon’s many changes are special glistening threads woven in & out through the warp of Earth’s community, helping connect and thus create the boundless tapestry of life.
No wonder Salmon are celebrated in myth & story wherever they are found — beloved & admired not only for their beauty, their strength & their generosity, but for so much more. The ancient Celts, for example, told of the salmon who dwelt in the Well of Wisdom and acquired all knowledge of the worlds when he ate nine hazelnuts that fell from the surrounding hazel trees. Whoever should eat the first taste of the Salmon of Knowledge would receive that knowledge and wisdom……..which, of course, led on to more wonderful, expansive myths and tales of adventure and change.
I was so happy, this week, to come across a salmon tale still being formed in our present time, written down by Marc Dadigan .
The first paragraph begins “Thousands of relatives of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe arrived at the McCloud River floating inside a little orange cooler earlier this week.” And those relatives were the “20,000 fertilized endangered winter-run Chinook salmon eggs which were about to return to an old home on the McCloud River, the Tribe’s ancestral watershed.” The preceding chapter of this story, leading up to the salmon’s return, includes both years & years of difficult negotiations and the steadfast spirit of the Winnemem Wintu people. “According to the Tribe’s genesis story, salmon gave its voice so human could speak and in return Winnemem Wintu people promised to always speak for them.” As the Tribe’s song captain Helene Sisk, “We’re always going to stand up for salmon, because they stood up for us.”
Salmon lives, unable to find appropriate breeding grounds below the dam that cut short their journey 80 years ago are returning to the upper river that had been barren and lonely for too long. The salmon were greeted & celebrated by strong ceremony, just as it should be. “We’re praying,” the people said, “that they remember these waters.”
The people native to this place refused to let the building of the dam be the end of the salmon’s story. The event described in the article is just the beginning of a new story with much more to unfold as the Winnenmem Wintu people continue to speak out for their relatives, the salmon.
I’ve been spending time — full of learning & not without frustration — trying to discern a context for The Keeper of Rivers. Just in the contemplation of colors & forms, I have deepened my empathy for rivers and for the many ways of their being & the many different spirits they gather.
Thinking of rivers reminded me of the message that came from the Hopi people after 9/11/2001. It uses the River as it speaks about the flow of changes we are all experiencing:
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.
And there are things to be considered...
Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation?
Where is your water? Know your garden.
It is time for you to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.”
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said,
“This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore,
push off into the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate!
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do,
our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done
in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!’”
I finally felted this this piece yesterday & found (as I always do) that the wools & silks have been transformed by the process. A few surprises….
This still doesn’t feel finished, so I haven’t sewn on the mask yet. There may — or may not — still be some flowing and changing needed. I’ll pause and listen to the rivers’ songs.
P.S. Since I was late posting this blog — running slowly & wobbly this past week — I shared this beautiful & wise poem at the regular 5 a.m. time for any first-day readers. I include it here so you all can enjoy it.
The Way It Is by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
"Over and over we break
open, we break and
we break and we open.
For a while, we try to fix
the vessel--as if
to be broken is bad.
As if with glue and tape
and a steady hand we
might bring things to perfect
again. As if they were ever
perfect. As if to be broken is not
also perfect. As if to be open
is not the path toward joy.
The vase that's been shattered
and cracked will never
hold water. Eventually
it will leak. And at some
point, perhaps, we decide
that we're done with picking
our flowers anyway, and no
longer need a place to contain them.
We watch them grow just
as wildflowers do--unfenced,
unmanaged, blossoming only
when they're ready-- and mygod,
how beautiful they are amidst
the mounting pile of shards."
Sending you all love as we float or swim in the rivers of change —-
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.
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.
~~~ 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.
"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
I’ve been thinking about Water these last weeks. But this past Tuesday was the Solstice. In Celtic traditions, the Summer Solstice is — like Samhain (our Halloween) in late autumn — a Fire festival associated with the lighting of great bonfires and the opening of thin places between worlds. Still I kept musing & wondering about Water. Then I found a story of the relationship between these two Elements as told by mythologist Michael Meade and quoted in Terri Windling’s blog https://www.terriwindling.com/blog/2021/08/water-wild-and-sacred.html:
“Of the elements (which some people count as four, and others count as five), water is the element for reconciliation. Water is the element of flow. When water goes missing, flow goes missing. The ancient Irish used to say that there are two suns in the world. One you see rise in the morning. The other is very deep in the earth, and it’s called the black sun or inner sun. It’s a hot fire in there; no one knows how hot. The earth is roughly seventy per cent water because of that hidden sun inside. When the water goes down, the earth heats up too much – part of the global warming that’s happening everywhere. It happens inside people also, because people are like the earth. People are seventy per cent water like the earth, and people have a hidden sun – or else we wouldn’t be ninety-six degrees when its forty degrees outside. Everyone in the world is burning, and the water in the body keeps that burning from becoming a fever. What happens literally also happens emotionally and spiritually, so when people forget how to carry water and how to use water to reconcile, you get an increasing amount of heated conflict, as we’re seeing around the world today.”
So — it is, as always, a matter of Balance. I was able to celebrate both Fire & Water at the Summer Solstice.
I was born in the U.S. Midwest & have visited but never lived on the NW coast of North America. My brother and two women I have known since our earliest childhoods in Iowa have long lived there. My niece & nephew were born there and stayed. My sister has lived in Oregon & is now a short ways south, near majestic (and perhaps mythical) Mount Shasta. And I often find my heart drawn to the great forests, beautiful island-studded coastline, and native arts & myths of British Columbia — the home of Raven and Salmon, who people my dreams.
Somehow, Raven and Salmon have both lodged more and more firmly in my heart over the years. I have, hanging in my studio, a set of prayer flags I made many years ago in a workshop with the eco-activist Julia Butterfly Hill. We were given 3 prompts for the flags:
The first is the picture of my inner self, who I really am.
The second is that which hinders me from manifesting my true self.
The third is a symbol of what it would feel like to come home to my self — and it surprised me by being a Salmon.
I recently came across a poem, written even further back, that intertwined Salmon & Language (and is used to close today’s post). While looking for that poem today, I came across another old poem of mine that I’d quite forgotten:
SALMON SINGS OF HER RETURN
Suddenly I felt a change, a shift
in the wide dark salt,
narrowing my world from
flash of chase and feast to
strict path clenched
by desire more ravenous for
movement than for flesh.
No longer consuming but
consumed by some austere
pulse, my every sense alert to
the pulling and tugging steering me
through vast and briny plain until
at last — familiar somehow —
the faintest of traces in the tide, then
a new sweetness surging,
A beautiful current presses my snout
and I answer with thrust and
plunge of tail, spine against
the spate, channeled, bound,
devoured now from within as
my skin reddens, flesh flames.
Let me swim higher up, deeper in.
Let me leap past rock, talon, teeth.
Let me dig nests in gravelly birthing bed.
Let me pour out from my belly
ten thousand fiery suns.
Let my body be given to raven, bear, river silt.
Let ocean feed mountain.
Let my next body be in this place
a tree --
rising, rooted, and green.
Let my roots inhale water to
once more into this
circling and radiant world.
This week I’ve been weaving the doll I mentioned last time — curious to see what she would teach me about the colors I’d gathered and about myself. For such a small piece of weaving, I’ve been amazed and amused by how many missteps, lessons, and stories she contains!
When I took her off the loom, I saw not only the long warp ends but also the many many weft ends streaming off her body.
As I sewed in the ends, I found myself collecting even the smallest pieces of yarn I cut off, thinking “Not a drop should be wasted!” She is now filled, along with a water-worn stone & 5 seashells, with these bits of yarn — “drops of Water” from the weaving of her body.
As soon as I saw her, I knew what offering her arms would hold. Two or three years ago, I wove an amulet bag & placed inside it a long-treasured ceramic salmon button to which I had added her golden roe being laid in the river. Now, that salmon has swum into the arms of my prayer.
She is a Prayer for Earth's Waters & for the Salmon,
messengers between sea and stream, saltwater and fresh
What is prayer but the
unbarring of the heart,
the freeing of its rivers for return to the sea.
Sometimes it is not enough to depend on seepage through the old hidden cracks.
Sometimes it is not enough to let the concrete spillways do their job.
Sometimes it is not enough to open the floodgates.
Sometimes you must turn off turbines, abandon irrigation ditches, just
dismantle the whole damned thing.
Let the rivers run free:
rainfall, snowmelt, even the ancient glacial ice from distant peaks.
Flood, drought, the ups and downs of season upon season, heading
And after a long, long time, the sweet water may
call back the salmon to spawn again in the furthest pools.
Let them come in silvery leadings, insistently struggling
upriver against all odds to the place they know is their own.
Words are salmon, prayers returning.
And if they are as certain to die in the safe pool of your page
As salmon are to die in the riverine shallows, remember the
fertile eggs they leave—minute, perhaps unnoticed, yet desiring life.
Then, too, their flesh is
in any case
- - - MCK
Having been battered this past month by chronic cardiac conditions — resulting in deep fatigue & a fair amount of brain fog — I don’t have much to offer today. But the green and growing world outside does!
Life wants to live! The kale that was munched by the big old groundhog has, in spite of the unseasonable heat, grown again & the Hopi sunflowers, denuded and broken by some neighborhood critter, have valiantly sprouted new leaves and grown some more — a few are even trying to bloom!
The bumblebees are feasting in the salvia.
And the canna lilies in which hummingbirds delight are just beginning to offer their bounty.
MORE THAN ENOUGH by Marge Piercy
"The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.
The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly
new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand."
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,
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,"SaysMathematician 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. Tryto escape now, it reads, just try."
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:
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."
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!
the world is begun.
It is woven on the loom
of the Cosmos,
plays a song upon the warp,
tangles weft threads into
ties unexpected knots,
enlivens the simple surface
with his rowdy dance.
it is begun.
it is woven.
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.”
“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
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.