Tuesday, May 5, 2009

For My Niece Upon a Rainy Day

Just Rain

The clouds
did not say
soon, but who can tell
for sure, it wasn 't

the first time I had been
fooled; the sky-doors
opened and
the rain began

to fall upon all of us: the
grass, the leaves,
my face, my shoulders
and the flowered body

of the pond where
it made its soft
music on the pond's

springy surface, and then
the birds joined in and I too
felt called toward such
throat praise. Well,

the whole afternoon went on
that way until I thought
I could feel
the almost born things

in the earth rejoicing. As for myself,
I just kept walking, thinking:
once more I am grateful
to be present.

~ Mary Oliver

(Evidence - Beacon Press, 2009)

Friday, May 1, 2009

England's First Female Poet Laureate

Pope Joan

After I learned to transubstantiate
unleavened bread
into the sacred host

and swung the burning frankincense
till blue-green snakes of smoke
coiled round the hem of my robe

and swayed through those fervent crowds,
high up in a papal chair,
blessing and blessing the air,

nearer to heaven
than cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests,
being Vicar of Rome,

having made the Vatican my home,
like the best of men,
in nominee patris et filii et spiritus sancti amen,

but twice as virtuous as them,
I came to believe
that I did not believe a word,

so I tell you now,
daughters or brides of the Lord,
that the closest I felt

to the power of God
was the sense of a hand
lifting me, flinging me down,

lifting me, flinging me down,
as my baby pushed out
from between my legs

where I lay in the road
in my miracle,
not a man or a pope at all.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Uncanny is a rich word. My New Oxford American Dictionary shows it to mean: strange or mysterious, esp. in an unsettling way: an uncanny feeling that she was being watched. The dictionary informs us of its late 16th century Scots origin, having the sense of: related to the occult, malicious.

I'm not altogether convinced. I turn to "canny." "Having or showing shrewdness and good judgment." Here, however, is some additional flavor in a second meaning: "Scottish & N English pleasant; nice: she's a canny lass." With additional derivative information: from late 16th cent. (originally Scots): from CAN (in the obsolete sense 'know'.)

Now we have something going! It is apparent to me--perhaps to you as well--that that which is referred to as occult can sometimes be scary for some folks. We know, too, that fear, when projected outward, often results in a judgment of "strange" or "malicious." So if we back those terms out of the definition of uncanny, we are left with rich possibilities of the mysterious and occult.

And when we add those positive meanings to the root of canny -- "know" -- then we have a fuller understanding of the uncanny: to know the mystery. And, by extension, to be aware of being in the presence of the mysterious. This opens us to fear, yes, perhaps, but also to the possibility of awe.

It is in this fuller sense that I speak of the uncanniness of the awakening of birds in the morning.

During these days approaching six weeks past the Vernal Equinox, the length of daylight (sunrise to sunset, that is) has increased to nearly 14 hours at the latitude of Columbus, OH. It has been lengthening in a great rush of 2-3 minutes each day. As the Summer Solstice approaches, it will moderate to a calmer 1-2 minutes added daily, until the rate of increase comes to a virtual standstill in the four or five days on either side of the Solstice itself. You will recall that the term solstice refers to the sun (sol) standing still (stices). But I digress. Onward to my point.

During the last couple of weeks, the temperatures have gentled to where I can sit out on my front porch reading by the light of my neighbor's porch light, drinking my morning coffee. A splendid time of quiet, with the cleanest air of the day bringing fragrance of newly opening leaves. My body's day has me up shortly past 3:00 a.m. At that hour, the traffic is sparse, with a lone car passing by a block away on High St. about once every 20-30 minutes; a train passing by a mile across the Olentangy River about every 40 minutes, its nighttime-dampened horn signaling for no apparent real reason in these isolated hours.

Then comes the delicious moment of the first bird's song. At first, I simply dropped my reading and listened raptly, sipping coffee occasionally. But as the days went by, I became curious, wanting to note the time of day. Which led to my observation of the uncanny.

The birds know, to the minute!, what time Sun will be rising. Day by day, they are up 2-3 minutes earlier. Three days ago, at 4:05. Day before yesterday, at 4:03. Yesterday, at 4:00. This morning, at 3:58. Mind you, there is not the slightest hint of any change in the sky's light. Realize, of course, that the city's lights mask any subtle sky changes. And that on some days, thick, dark cloud covering further masks any gathering light. But I am imagining this is true for the birds as well as for me.

What could possibly explain the birds' awareness of dawn's unhinted approach?

Uncanny. Awe.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


What Rumi was to the 13th century, Hafiz was to the 14th century--ecstatic Persian poets.


What is laughter? What is laughter?
It is God waking up! O it is God waking up!
It is the sun poking its sweet head out
From behind a cloud
You have been carrying too long,
Veiling your eyes and heart.

It is Light breaking ground for a great Structure
That is your Real body - called Truth.

It is happiness applauding itself and then taking flight
To embrace everyone and everything in this world.

Laughter is the polestar
Held in the sky by our Beloved,
Who eternally says,

"Yes, dear ones, come this way,
Come this way towards Me and Love!

Come with your tender mouths moving
And your beautiful tongues conducting songs
And with your movements - your magic movements
Of hands and feet and glands and cells - Dancing!

Know that to God's Eye,
All movement is a Wondrous Language,
And Music - such exquisite, wild Music!"

O what is laughter, Hafiz?
What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?

It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!

~ Hafiz ~

(I Heard God Laughing - Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)

Thanks to Joe Riley at www.panhala.net/Archive/Laughter.html

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vernal Equinox

I spent the early pre-dawn hours yesterday completely alone (in the conventional understanding of that word...no other person within miles) at Serpent Mound, seeding the entire Mound with organic blue corn raised by the Maya in Chiapas, charged with crystal energy like you wouldn't believe! Moon--the last crescent vestige of her current cycle--had risen soon after I left for my trip there, and had drawn me onward over the two hour drive down, gradually changing from dark blood, to deep orange, to cream, to brightest white. Standing on the Serpent hilltop high above a stream--which, itself, loops broadly around the foot of the hill, a doppelganger Serpent--and in the darkness lit only by the slender Moon, I listen as, off somewhere in the far distance, first the roosters announce the approaching dawn, then a few lone birds in the leafless trees, an occasional wolf or coyote lament, a farm dog here and there.

After a full circuit of the quarter-mile-long Serpent, the largest such effige mound in the world, I sit on the bottom step of the viewing tower and await the initial vestige of early light. A scurry in the forest thirty yards to my left ends as a dog comes bounding up the path followed by two smaller companions. They dash past on their way to the empty trash bins at the museum building a few hundred yards away, pretty obviously enjoying a hopeful daily ritual. Less than a minute later, a fourth one comes scrambling up the hillside path, catching up, passing me by as the others had. A moment later, the large one, the leader, standing just visible near the corner of the museum, turns and begins barking at the air between us, but definitely addressing my still-sitting form. I grin a bit, since it is clear that the first three of them had dashed past without sensing me at all, and, not until the runner-up arrives with her privileged message, is the leader informed of this living presence sitting there in the dim dawn. Soon enough, he senses that his message has been received and respected, so the four of them turn, returning to their morning adventure.

One of the unfolding coils of the serpent faces directly to the true East of the rising sun of the Vernal Equinox. So I stand opposite that coil while the sky ever-so-slightly lightens. Soon, soon enough, the Equinox moment arrives and passes. It is now the New Year. For the Persians, and for so many others on Earth.

Yet still another magick awaits me. Within a few minutes following the arrival of Equinox, Sun begins his ascent, rising to his blinding fullness. I become aware of the privilege of this moment. For I realize that nowhere else on Earth, nowhere but for this narrow piece-of-the-pie of Earth's surface, do these moments arrive so close to one another on this day, this particular day: Equinox and Sunrise together. In Persia, for instance, this Equinox arrived when Sun was already beginning its late afternoon descent. So I remain, soaking up this blessing, opening my arms wide, bringing hands together above my crown, at forehead, at lips, at heart, offering the honor due Earth and Sun.

And now, after I finish these remembrances, I open today's Elder Wisdom, finding this not-simply-coincidental posting awaiting me:

Elder's Meditation of the Day - March 21

"The manner with which we walk through life is each man's most important responsibility, and we should remember this with every new sunrise."
~Thomas Yellowtail, CROW

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gemini Spring Celebration

I've been reading a book by Luisah Teish titled "Jump Up: Good Times Throughout the Seasons with Celebrations from Around the World." Jump Up, she writes, is a term used as an expression of great joy. Most often it refers to an event that includes joyous music, laughter, food, and dance.

Luisah Teish is a priestess of Oshun (the West African Goddess of Love, Art, and Sensuality), and a designer of ritual. She teaches about women's rites of passage and about ritual in general at the University of Creation Spirituality (founded by Matthew Fox). She performs mythplays and does folk storytelling around the world.

What I share with you, especially my Gemini friends, is her vision of the pairing of the twins, Sun and Moon, in a celebration of Spring. The following material quotes from her book, Jump Up.

Please join me, joyously embracing and mingling in the Dance!

Spring, the Daughter of Promise

"Children will not be wanting at the hand of mother;
young children will not be wanting at the foot of the banana tree."
~ The Holy Odu Ogbe Meji

There in the garden stood a creature made from the desire of Moon, composed in the likeness of Sun. There in the garden stood a creature made from the desire of Sun, made in the image of Moon. They stood looking at each other, uncertain of who they were and how they came into Being.

Sensing their dilemma, the Serpent opened its mouth and spat forth a rain of knowledge followed by a shower of love. The two creatures gazed at each other, their hearts pounding in their chests. Slowly the Sun and Moon within them began to stir until they could only embrace and mingle their substances in a dance of delight.

As they danced, the banana tree rumbled and produced long yellow fruit. As they danced, the Earth shook and produced millet. They danced and all existence multiplied itself. The Divine Twins felt the fertility of the Earth pulse through them and spread from them to the land an back again. And they laughed because it was Spring.

~ Luisah Teish, original tale, 1988

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Labyrinth Wisdom

Elder's Meditation of the Day - January 14
"It is a native tradition to sit in a circle and talk--to share what is in your heart."
--John Peters (Slow Turtle), WAMPANOAG
The talking circle is also a listening circle. The talking circle allows one person to talk at a time for as long as they need to talk. So much can be gained by listening. Is it a coincidence that the Creator gave us one mouth and two ears? The power of the circle allows the heart to be shared with each other. What we share with each other also heals each other. When we talk about our pain in the circle, it is distributed to the circle, and we are free of the pain. The talking circle works because when the people form a circle, the Great Mystery is in the center.
(from the website: www.whitebison.org)

I especially like today's Elder Wisdom. One reason is the concept that a talking circle is, as well, a listening circle. There's also the reminder that Great Spirit is always at the center.

It reminds me that, while we typically refer to the formation as a circle, this is an illusion, or at least an inadequate description.

For in a fuller, truer image, the circle is an ascending spiral, formed as the Talking Stick is handed from speaker to speaker.

Each person, in responding to those who have come before her, creates a heightening of the conversation, raising the two-dimensional line of the circle to a new, higher level. Each speaker in turn--whether going from oneself to ones immediate neighbor, or skipping across to the neighbor on the far side of the circle--raises the consciousness of the gathering to ever-ascending new levels, forming a vertical vortex of conversation, an arising spiral, a living labyrinth with Great Spirit at its Center.

And the seven-fold ascending paths are created by the heart-messages, -thoughts and -intentions of those sitting around the circle.