On Writing

Sometimes I get anxious because I will die with the poetry in me. I know it’s there. I think the “One Who Wants it Perfect” gets her way.
She blocks the light in the doorway, her hands on her hips, moist – she’s rubbed them on her damp apron. She looks at me: “you’ll never get it right,” she says. Having done her work, she turns and walks away, one thick leg ahead of the other. I hear her call from the kitchen: “Come and clean the sink!” she says, loudly. “I hear you!,” I should say, loud enough for her to hear (I never said it to Mom, but I should have, grunted, at least).

I trudge off to the kitchen, join her in the narrow space, where she rattles everything she touches and moves her hefty body in my way, every time. Her legs bump against me, as if I need a reminder of her girth, the space she takes. I sullenly do the work – fast! “Get me out of here!” I think. Then, there are more mugs in the sink and I see the dust on the shelf under the window, right at eye level. “That needs cleaning, too,” I think, and wipe it down. I arrange bright things on the shelf, beauty, for a moment.



I called you Holy when you stared into the room. Your bushy tail unrolled behind you and your small, dark eyes darted as you watched me through the glass. You’re a scrapper: when I moved, you climbed up the wall and onto the roof next door, where you surveyed your land. I am Holy, too: I named you, and I saw my own reflection in the glass.
–Mary Elyn Bahlert, 2/12/2017

IMG_0667    The longest night of darkness has passed, and we begin again the cycle of new light that begins at winter solstice.  The seasons pass quickly: leaves falling in autumn, cold and rainy days, and then the spring will come, quickly, also.  When summer, that season of the longest days, is here, I love the light and I love to sit on the green grass, to feel my body part of the earth, to smell the fresh green of my carpet and the blossoms encircling.  Each season is beautiful in its own way.

Now that I have entered the wisdom years, I remember other times of my life.  I remember those days and months, and even years, of young uncertainty.  I remember those beloved ones who have been gone, a long, long time.  I remember the dark years of midlife, when the uncertainty returned.  I remember, and still, I have the foolish mind to long for times that are gone, that have gone, a long, long – long – time ago.  I remember events that have shaped my life.  Sometimes I choose to look into those events and times again, looking more carefully, from a distance, a distance in time.  I can see my life as seasons, also.

Life passes like the clouds that drift across the sky.  One summer afternoon when I was 20, my boyfriend and I lay on the grass on a hill in a city park, and we watched the cumulus clouds of the Midwest move across the sky.  We named the creatures we saw in the clouds.  We laughed.  We imagined.  Still, the clouds moved across the sky, driven by winds that could not be seen, yet creating the images we were graced with seeing, then disappearing as new images appeared on our sky-screen.

Our consciousness is the sky – never ending, without end.  Events, people, even the clouds drift across our consciousness.  Sometimes, we stick to an event or a person, or they stick to us, and we are not as free as we drift across consciousness.  We know ourselves to be dragged down by the weight – the weight of old emotions, the weight of tears that have not yet been cried, the weight of anger that will not go away.  Still, consciousness stands as a backdrop to these passing emotions, the tears, anger.  Consciousness holds it all.

My hope for you, in this season of darkness that is already, in this moment, giving way to longer days, warmer days, is that you will see the sky.  My hope is that, as heavy and as grief-stricken as this moment may be for you, you know its passing quality.  See the space between one thought and another, listen for the silence.

the winds

img_0692Dutch Harbor, 12/29/15, meb

The great sea, this life, creates and is creating us, and we are moved, also, “like the weed on a river-stone.”  Please take this rendering deep into your hearts, my friends.  We are entering the season of darkness, that richest of all places.  May our hearts be open in these days, these tumultuous times.

The great sea stirs me.
The great sea sets me adrift,
it sways me like the weed
on a river-stone.

The sky’s height stirs me.
The strong wind blows through my mind.
It carries me with it,
and moves my inner parts with joy.

Uvanuk (a shaman of the Igloolik Inuit)
Source: Recorded by Knud Rasmussen

Traveling through time…


We are all traveling through time, indeed. But what is time? Can we touch it? No. Can we hold it in our hands, keep it from unraveling? No. Can we go back? No. Breathe in, this moment, breathe out, this moment. Indeed, we are time-travelers.

I watch the moon, which is shifting, changing, every moment, from moment to moment, through time, also. The moon, our companion, when it is shining, full, in the October sky, and when it is hidden, behind deep clouds. I watch the moon, crescent, as if it is a dish, holding the stars. I watch the moon, full, red, traveling through time.

Each autumn seems to be sadder than the last, as I grow older. How many more autumn days will I know, the air filled with nostalgia? How many more sweet, late blooming flowers, roses, more precious in autumn? Autumn, too, is traveling through time. The plants are resting now, taking a break, which sustains them. We, too, are sustained by these moments of rest, although we take these times grudgingly.

My beloved companion, the tree outside my front window, still carries most of its leaves, but they, too, will drop to the earth. I pray for rain to feed my tree, to nurture this parched land. I suppose the tree prays, too. Prayer is so much more than words. Prayer is intention, and we humans may know intention less than the creatures and the trees.

I miss those autumn days in the Midwest, those days when the nostalgia in my body was so strong, it felt as if my heart would burst with pain and ecstasy. Does the tree know this, too? Do its branches, does its pulse tremble with pain?

Here in the West, autumn is slow, a different pace than in the Midwest, when every autumn moment is precious. Here, the light shifts, to be sure, and the air we breathe shifts, also. If I have a moment of privilege, I stop to know these gentle shifts, these moments, which dance, dance from one season to the next.

I miss all those who I love who live in another dimension, outside of time. Do they linger here in the autumn, also, missing me, missing this place? I don’t know. No scripture, no theological text, no spiritual teacher seems to have an answer that satisfies me, really. All Saints’ Day arrives in the fall, carefully chosen remembrance of all who are gone now, from this place. The days grow darker, and my grief – your grief – is enfolded in the embrace of the longer nights.