Saturday, September 22, 2018

It Begins With a Call: The Season Turns (Part 16)

Right now it is Autumn Equinox.  The following post was written 6 months ago at the last equinox.

Tomorrow is another equinox, and something is stirring inside.  I haven’t written here yet about the importance of the oral tradition in my life.  I blogged a poem yesterday that arose out of a dream:

By Heart

The poem is not your friend.
The poem is a pest. 
It gets under your skin and
nestles down inside you.

You would like it to go to sleep,
give you a break,
but the poem tosses and turns,
throwing off its blankets to expose
this line or that.

The poem does not care about you.
It is looking for a home,
and when it finds one in you,
it will move in for good, or at least
for a long stay.
If you ignore it, the poem will pout
and keep tapping you on the shoulder.
The poem will tell you,
“Here.  I belong to you.”

The poem doesn’t care who wrote it,
only who gives it residence.  
The poem will 
pick at your scabs, 
make you cry,

yell in your face.
Then it will pat your back and say,
“There, there.”

As long as the poem includes
one line of mystery, it will continue to
niggle at your thoughts,
tug at your heart,
poke you in the gut.

But although it isn’t your friend,
the poem will be
your companion.
It will move you,
agree with your deepest thoughts,
tell you if you are on track.
Even if you forget one of its lines,
the poem will reveal the lesson
in that omission.
The poem will be 
your teacher.
And you will love it.

What is it about the oral tradition that feels so important, especially in these perilous times?  Part of me thinks it is too insignificant to have much impact on the world, but, really, how do we know what impact something will have?  Re-storying/re-storing the world isn’t a small thing, so I need to stop discounting it.  It feels right.  It nourishes my soul and, at the minimum, helps me feel more oriented to what is real and important.  Our big idea is this: We are attempting to restore the soul of the world.

We learn poems by heart because we love them.  Because they become a part of us, and can, in fact, work on us from the inside.  Here’s an example.  I had heard Theodore Roethke’s In a Dark Time a number of times, found it intriguing and deep, but was never moved to learn it.  Then, when at the teacher’s two years ago, it came into my head, and I absolutely had to learn it. Here it is:

In a dark time, the eye begins to see, 
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade; 
I hear my echo in the echoing wood-- 
A lord of nature weeping to a tree. 
I live between the heron and the wren, 
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den. 
What's madness but nobility of soul 
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire! 
I know the purity of pure despair, 
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall. 
That place among the rocks--is it a cave, 
Or a winding path? The edge is what I have. 

A steady storm of correspondences! 
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon, 
And in broad day the midnight come again! 
A man goes far to find out what he is-- 
Death of the self in a long, tearless night, 
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light. 

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire. 
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly, 
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I? 
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear. 
The mind enters itself, and God the mind, 
And one is One, free in the tearing wind. 

If this isn’t a dark time, if I haven’t myself been in a dark time, then dark times don’t exist.  I needed that poem, and right away.  It’s a mystery.  And I have to say, the poem hasn’t let me go all of this time.  I’ve recited it at salons and at Rumi’s Caravan.  I’ve repeated it to myself over and over.  The fact that some lines are mysterious and not totally apparent only makes it more intriguing, and I wrestle with it.  Also, it has one of the best lines of all time – “What’s madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance.”  Brilliant.

My SoulCollage® card for Eleusis - 
Persephone's entrance to the underworld

I have been in the underworld for quite a while.  Years, really.  The world itself feels underworldly and full of mortal demons.  But it is Spring equinox tomorrow, and I feel – maybe, just maybe – a hint of rising.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It Begins with a Call: Carrying Fire (Part 15)

Left, right,
One click, two.
It rises, it settles,
it shudders like wind
through the channels
of my body –
gut, throat,
esophagus, bowel,
right breast, left occiput.

I went out into some sort of wood
because a fire was in my head.
(Yeats understood.)

It is a fearful thing to carry fire.
If it has made a home inside me
(it has made a home inside me)
I must begin to recognize and honor it,
whether or not I understand
what it wants of me.

Maybe it will incinerate me
like a half-starved Terezin corpse,
like a house in the Tubb’s fire,
like Kalapana in Pele’s wake.
Maybe it will warm me and set me to glowing,
if I can honor it, carry it, lay down offerings
and see who the old woman on the road really is.
The fear, the beauty, the magic.
The necessary.
The elemental.

The Story As Told By Fire

Burning in the Santa Barbara mountains, the sky over L.A. thick with smoke. Heat.  Days of 100 degrees plus, even with the sun obscured by our burning.

Here and there we spark, ignite, causing helicopters to rise up over Topanga.  We permeate all, send animals scurrying, dirty the lungs of mammals, spread here, spark there.

Cars parked, nose out, keys resting on the drivers' seats for a potential quick get-away on the single narrow road threading downhill towards the highway.

Solstice arrives at 3:00 PM.  There is a ceremony outside on a patio covered with many umbrellas that block direct sun but make no dent in the 112 degree heat.

What do you divest, divest, divest yourself of, from?

We pervade, we seep into an unwilling home.  She sees us as a curse, not a gift.  She is deeply afraid, of herself, of us.  We don’t care about that.  We are, we are, we look to rise, we need to burn, we will find homes, invited or not.  We are glorious.

There is an occipital opening in which we take refuge.  Cool air, wet towels, salt in the drinking water, Ibuprofen, do not stop us, or even have much impact.  There is not enough water to balance us.

She knows, doesn’t want to know us.  From early childhood, she knew her fires weren’t to be trusted.  Her mother told her so.  She was too temperamental, too angry.  “Damp the fire down, girl.  No man will want you.” 

She knows us.  Born under a fire sign, how could she not?  She damped us down.  But we are stoked again.  How can she be authentic without us?