Dancing hope defiant…..

I need to dance with a barefoot heart,
to twirl in the darkness of the wee hours
and wriggle free,
unloading heavy things
into hands so warm and available and open
that they tug the sun up through the woods
while the birds prattle joy
and the candle burns slow,
flickering sandalwood and spruce
and I take it in hungry
and peer into the face of light.

so there is somewhere for the torment
to tumble out and go,
all this anger over unjust things
that hurt the ones I love
while my stomach screams hard for help and change
and my small hands burn to take hold of everything cruel
and make it stop,
to make this big world well
until it goes kind and peaceable and just.

I want to rest deep and also live awake.

So when I need to lay my mind down
on something soft and tender-strong,
and remember deep the shepherd psalm,
and take in the love that speaks truth into storm
so that the fog and the cold doesn’t take me,

I can dance on it,
can paint and sing and write and move and shout and love out loud
in stuff that speaks like prayer
until my vision climbs up higher
and my heart holds firm to peace
and I breathe into hope that is defiant
against the dark.

This is a little re-write I shared a few years back
and it moves me that it’s stirring fresh again inside
and I share with a fresh sprig of new-grown herb
and serve it up with love:)

“The belief is that enough hope and tenderness will lead to world peace,
one mind at a time.    All nations will come together in kindness and justice,
swords will be beaten into plowshares,  spears into pruning hooks.
This is a little hard to buy with a world stage occupied by so many madmen,
and so much suffering.  But setting aside one’s tiny tendency toward cynicism,
in the meantime – in Advent – we wait;  and hope appears if we truly desire to see it.”
–  Anne Lamott

Prickles and portals and play it again….

Sometimes into life’s overwhelm come soft days
so thick with grace
that the volume gets turned up
on your dreams
so loud that it drowns out some fear,
shaking dance back into your feet
until your heart starts taking on hope
like a ship sinking fast in a sea of fresh mercy
as heaven storms down light so fierce
that it swallows up the dark.

When you’re not there right now,
when all you can feel is the cave you crawled in
bone tired and seeking shelter
and the gloom works it’s way on your soul
and you’re hungry for good air and tall sky
but you feel as weak and small as the yelp
that gets stuck in the dry of your voice
( I’ve known this place)

Can I remind you,  friend,  that it’s there still,
that place where darkness got sliced until the light spilled in;
still there waiting with the warm buttery peace of something realer
than what you can see,
waiting to wrap you again in that firm strong love
that breathes courage
back into all your despairing places.

It’s there now waiting and you can go there still
along the backroads of your mind;
where maybe even as a child
you felt it sweet in someplace truthful and gentle
and it’s there still like a portal
where you feel free and profoundly okay.

You are brave enough to lean on in;
Open wide and go again
to that door that is uniquely gift to you,
where you step into the undriven purpose
of being welcome and known and affirmed with great affection.

Go stand in that place and let love sing down her songs over you again.
You belong,
the starry heavens whisper.
You belong.

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living in better conditions.”
– Hafiz

Tender goodbye mornings…..

It’s been twelve days since my mother left this earth
and I’ve lived each one of them,
lived them full and awake and as tenderly open as I know how.
The days just before were some of the most intense that I’ve known and I’m not ready
to unpack those and make words for them yet.
But I’m up before the sun to remember the gifts that found me these days
in the exquisite pain of love.

For the heave of relief that her considerable suffering is no more,
that her body and being were able to rest back peaceful into those everlasting arms
that she trusted to carry her home.
And for the memory of her smile as she leaned into the turn.

For the fog that wrapped the next morning as I made my way to work,
as if the clouds understood my need to disappear for just awhile
and so came down to offer cover those first gritty hours.
And the chores that let my hard tangle of feelings get dirty and sweaty
and walk hard and long until they drained off soft again.
For the fatigue that came from work instead of waiting.

For the black and blue swallowtail that fluttered around me slow,
and then around again and again in soft circles around my face
while Hope watched and cried because she said she saw it happen to another
the day after she too lost her mother
and my heart felt it like a massage
and my breath went deep.

For the kindness of friends who
loved me in it all
and let me say my pain.
And the song that came alongside to walk me through
* Let it Fall* by Over the Rhine

For the goldfinches who flew alongside my window.

For a table thick with laughter and family and Mexican Train
and the soul food of being there loved.

For time on the deck with my sister while the stars bent low to kiss the ridge tops
and how we felt it thin the line between here and there
and got to say our things and listen and understand;
For the butter and balm of that starry night share.

For the project that wouldn’t wait and was lightning strike to my tired places,
a jolt into a focus that gave my grief a shelf for keeping until.
For the way it challenged my art making expansive and stretchy
when I wanted to curl up and just not.
For the deep breath of yes between my bones when we finished.

For the kindness of words written on little bites of art – the magic
of cards that travel through the mail to rest in my box.
And for the gift of needed provision that arrived just exactly when,
like care packages from heaven.

That the food poisoning didn’t kill me
though, Lord,  felt like it tried:)

For the kindness of hands that tugged the sadness from my feet
and rubbed the weight from my shoulders with a sigh.

It feels a primal sort of pain to lose a mama
and I fling thanks for the goodness of mine
and for every drop of comfort and challenge  along the way.
Today I will tug free the words I’ll share at her service on Friday
and God it feels daunting to pick up the pen.

Thanks for letting me  prime the pump and share with you here,  my treasured friends.
I appreciate your kind listen.

“‘Cause rain and leaves and snow and tears and stars,
and that’s not all my friend,
they all fall with confidence and grace,
So let it fall,  let it fall.”
– Jerome Detweiler
Over the Rhine

Riverly resting along…..

I lay awake and watch the stars dip low and call me out onto the porch
where I lay down my resolve to sleep
so early that the moon hides still behind the house,
the bright quiet of her shine
crisping the only edges of the yard and dusting the treetops with silver.
I wish for poetry but feel only dull;
the tired of me can’t rise to dance in the beauty rolled out here.

Until I lean the tiniest lean – just a slight nod of spirit
into the hush-away from all my questions humming.
Shhhhhhh – rest here now for just this breath.
Rest.  here.  now.
And as I breathe and then breathe again,
click goes my heart and open it swings
to this ordinary moment,
showing up like a weary traveler
to the unremarkable slice of time happening just exactly now.
The present.

I wonder how many friendly welcomes I’ve rushed on by,
feeling like a stranger in an even stranger place
just because I’m clinging stubborn to the season passed,
the one I’ve known and loved.

Breathing here,  now,  feels truer.
I can feel the changes work the rough edges of me over until I smooth
to the road that I’m on
and so the travel goes lighter.

And if I go quiet enough I can hear her,
river flowing~flowing~flowing
singing love that rolls over fallen things
and quick around stones that won’t be moved
and when they clash she sounds like music
and it lifts me,  too,
above my broken down ways
until I’m riding a new rhythm
into the living I’ve yet to do.

“I think there ought to be a little music here:
hum,  hum.”
– Mary Oliver

The making and the medicine…..

I’m coming back from a hard prune,
grateful to see little tenderlings shooting up fresh from the cuts.
It’s tricky to celebrate the shears and their scars and I’m not there yet
so I won’t pretend to hurl thanks for those slices;
instead I’ll say quick the pain
and then share the medicine
because we all need the balm when life cuts like a knife.

Doing the big-girl-panties work of grieving the loss
of my old jalopy laptop and it’s hard drive crash
which swept away every picture and bit of writing I’ve made for the past 15 years.
Every last word and image
(except what I’ve shared here on my blog or in journals and notes to loved ones).
I’d let my backup lapse for the last weeks of Summer struggle
when our cash flow dried up with the rivers,
waiting for the Autumn rains which would hopeful stir the flow.
The back-up backup I thought was in place was not.
The loss has felt crushing.

Also, the “miracle” shot I’ve been taking for my asthma
stirred a full blown rheumatoid flare which has my body red hot with swollen pain
and feverish for weeks after each injection.
Pressing through to do my daily work in the hot Summer sun
has felt like a Survivor challenge
and sometimes the frustration runs down my cheeks without my permission.
But grace has swarmed in – even sometimes as bee stings (!)
Who knew?  I work among honey bees and they seem to know when I need another shot
of their anti-inflammatory wonder:)

Then I got my heart broken in a double-you-over kind of way
and so the pile of hard clippings grew
until the bare of me felt barer still.
I know – this sounds dismal – but please read on;
I won’t tell you a forest fire without the rain

Because when losses start to pile like branches tossed to flame
it can feel like un-love and here the story can get spun
because we’re meaning-makers – we need to make sense of suffering
and when it comes storming we get busy writing our narrative
because it makes us feel a little control.
“It’s all my fault” even feels a balm because then we can know.
And knowing,  even if it’s false,  feels better than uncertainty.
(this is what the great teachers say)

So while I was making up my story I remembered (thank you dear friends who remind)
to lean into the heart of wisdom
where I’ve learned to find my rest
and do the messy, often awkward stutter-step of going open again,
of unfolding my angry hurt where I clamped down tight
to seal myself off from feeling it all too hard.
Courage to let go,  to open the fist of me and breathe instead into the waves as they wash in
– it came as I prayed help…me….trust,
help…me…open,
help me

and in ways I couldn’t manage or imagine
I began to feel again the river flowing,
to sense the whisper of buttery quiet truth in it’s unassuming way,
“how do you feel when you prune something you love?”
Prune something that I love – I know this feeling well,
have spent years there in my work.
I feel hurt for the hurt but hope for the next…..like “please feel the love”
because this is temporary ache and your roots know what to do.

 Good Lord,  how perspective paints the pain a healthy shade of true.

And so I’m landing bumpy but safe
in a place with no despair.
Ache,  yes.  But without the burden of hating the cuts
there’s this energy enough to draw from these roots and pull life on up
into every space left barren and bleeding,
to draw deep from the river that keeps flowing
and to hope and yes and open and rest
and flourish untethered into the flow.

So I will celebrate it,  this creativity that we share
with the fountain that never runs dry.
Will celebrate both the making and the medicine,
and lean, open wide,  into the next try.

Thanks for reading along while I process.
My words here sound way smoother than the wrestling it took to get me to them:)
Forgive anything that sounds trite or oversimplified – still finding the wordsand spilling them slow.
I appreciate you,  dear reader friend,
and can’t wait to share what may grow in this freshly pruned place:)

“But grace can be the experience of a second wind,
even though what you want is clarity and resolution,
what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”
– Anne Lamott