Summer Solstice 2017

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After the long winter of seed-soaking rains
when the driest taproots drank their fill,
the privet and the bougainvillea
revel in inebriation,
besotted roses plaster their vines with blooms,
and even the stately redwood indulges
in tipsy explosions of baby green at every needle tip.
Now comes a feast of light
for the leafy exuberant ones.
Deep in their cells they remember
the way they thirsted in the drought,
but this memory is just a gilt edge
on the solstice invitation to summer.

The prodigal stretched-out days ask,
how big is your we?
Does it include
this velvet yellow petal,
an extraterrestrial guava blossom,
the courtly redwood?
Oh come, my darling,
it’s the summer solstice –
lift your glass to the light,
and dance with the whole shimmering forest!

Prayer for the Water

I wrote this prayer after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but thinking of the Standing Rock water protectors and remembering the importance Pope Francis placed on water in his encyclical Laudato Si, I offer this again today on behalf of the earth, our common home, wherever there is water pollution.

tuolomne river

O holy, mighty One,

open our hearts to compassion.

O Light of the world,

show us the way.

Mother of sorrows,

mingle your tears with ours.

Mother of mercy,

we are sorry.

Our Life, our Sweetness,

sweeten the poisoned waters.

Star of the Sea,

shine your brightness there.

You fishermen, Peter, James, and Andrew,

join our prayer:

may the waters give life once more.

St. Brendan the navigator,

guide the energy of our prayers

to the water that wants healing.

O sacred energy that hallows

the Ganges and Brigid’s well,

permeate the wounded water with your pure love.

All you whales and creatures of the sea,

forgive us,

pray with us.

Thanks be to the water,

our life, our sweetness,

hear our prayer.

We the People

On the day a bully takes office,

the rivers roar out a lamentation,

and the sky sheds frozen tears.

Even the marble statues weep.

In graves that the earth

had finally folded into healing arms,

the ghosts of slaves stir

from too short a rest.

 

But on the day the women march,

parchment rustles in glass cases.

us-constitution

We the people

Are created equal

Molecules vibrate faded ink into quivering.

Life

Liberty

The pursuit of happiness

On the day the women put on the armor of light

and march into the streets across the land,

on the day we claim our right

peaceably to assemble

and remind the bully

Congress shall make no law respecting

an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

or abridging the freedom of speech,

or of the press,

the lady in the harbor will lift her torch.

On the day the women resist hate

because we are all created equal,

no matter our

gender,

age,

color,

creed,

or sexual orientation,

the earth will answer our stomping feet with jubilation.

On the day the women demand

care for the planet,

health and safety for our brothers and sisters,

we will wake the country from its Trump-induced trance

and across this hazy land the wind will blow;

on that day the words in the National Archives will dance.

We the people do ordain it so.

 

 

Words in italics from our Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Image of United States Constitution courtesy of Jonathan Thorne through a Creative Commons non-commercial license.

Winter Solstice 2016

labyrinth by the ocean

One hundred steps to the center of the labyrinth,

and light enters the world as gently

as the pilgrim making her way to the center.

Can you tell the moment when the foxtail

takes shape out of the night

and the pine needles assume their points?

In the pause between

breathing out

and breathing in,

the last star fades into the brightening sky,

gone to the place you journey in your sleep.

 

I watch my thoughts dart off

like a startled flock of sparrows

in twenty directions.

I have written ten thousand words

that don’t mean a thing.

Now the solstice calls me to the labyrinth,

and my feet long for the one hundred steps.

November New Moon

crescent moon

Tonight my mind feels like the new moon,
present in all her integrity,
but turning a blank face to herself.
She blends softly into the dark night,
pleased to hide among the stars,
and rest.
Tonight she doesn’t have to reflect light,
shine on dreamy lovers,
or inspire a single poem.
She wraps all her secrets up in the cloak
her grandmother wove for her
and tucks herself in,
knows that tomorrow she will begin
another waltz with the sun, and
sliver by sliver
the words to describe
the autumn light and the blue sky of November
will begin spilling onto the page
in a golden tumble.

From the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods

Library House at Wellstone

I’m at a writing retreat, staying in a rustic cabin with no electricity or running water called the Library House. Perched on a deck among oak trees, it felt like home as soon as I walked into its book-lined walls. I set my suitcase down and perused the titles before I unpacked, saw how thoughtfully they had been chosen and approved too of how they had been organized: travel, biography, poetry, entire shelves for favorite authors like Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, and a whole section just for fun. I had arrived for a weeklong writer’s residency, but was tempted to spend the next seven days devouring as much of this eclectic, enticing library as I could.

Instead, I settled at the desk with my laptop and a fat binder containing the rough draft of my novel. When darkness folded my little cabin into the night, I lit candles and at some point, despite my thick wool socks, noticed that my feet on the stone tiles were cold. Out came the sheepskin rug from under the rocking chair to lie under the desk instead. I have learned to move it around to wherever my feet are.

desk in library house at Wellstone

Home is a place you’ve made your own, usually by moving in with all your worldly goods, but sometimes just by rearranging what you find in your temporary abode. I know a monk who has traveled the world and feels at home wherever he lays down his yoga mat. Even a room in a Motel 6 can become a sanctuary.

I came here to write in solitude, away from the delights and distractions of my daily life, and found a tribe of writers with a place for me, a communal life that leads to contemplation and a contemplative life that nourishes community. We all have questions here. What is the very best word to write down next? What will I do when I leave this place? I want an agent or editor to tell me definitively whether I should start my novel at chapter 15 instead of chapter 1, but instead I sink into the ground made fertile by this balance of contemplative and communal. This is my home ground, this is where I can dig deep to find the answer.

The House of Truth Telling

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A woman who lives in a house built on sand

tells time with a clock

though time doesn’t matter

because she isn’t at now;

she’s paying bills next Saturday

and buying sleeping pills at the drugstore

on her way home from work.

She thrives on the swarming bees of her appetites

because they’re the only thing that makes her feel alive.

 

I want to live in a house built on rock

where poems and prayers echo down the halls

and the undulations of my private rhythms

tell time in consultation with the sun.

I am neither nice nor mean here –

in this house generosity is measured

by how much truth you tell.

The rooms hold all you have to give;

the smoke of it wafts out the chimney

and blossoms into shapes as if the house itself

were blowing smoke rings into the fine cold sky

for everyone to see.

In the desk drawer of this house

the account book tallies silence,

its value when the heart yearns for it

and its cost when one with truth to tell

is hushed or drowned out.

In this house I am a servant with no master

and a queen with no subjects.

This house will weather storm and flood,

and an earthquake will rock it

like a babe in her mother’s arms.