Amie lives in Oregon OH, where she owns a dog grooming salon, and is also studying to become a minister in the United Methodist tradition. She works at an Agrarian-based faith community called The Farmhouse. She and her husband have a bluegrass/Americana band called Wolf Creek Risin’, and she sings and plays fiddle. Amie loves reading, writing, music, dogs, and talking about ideas. This is by necessity a partial list. She hopes to live in such a way that her obituary will take up an entire page.
I no longer find solace
In that which used to comfort me.
It's not their fault;
It’s me that's changed.
Spring daffodils still stab the grass,
Moon still rises.
The people in my favorite books
Still say the same things
On the same pages,
But I don't know them anymore
And they don't know me;
Like looking through the windows
Of my childhood home,
Now that strangers live there
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
“War,” says Peter Rollins, “is not conflict, but the inability to deal with conflict.”
This sums up a basic human problem, I think, from nations on down to the playground.
We all live in a unique internal space, created by our upbringing and experiences, and even though we know theoretically that other people are different and have their own internal worlds, we can’t really imagine just how different until two (or more) internal spaces crash into each other.
Suddenly the doors fly open and all this stuff spills out and gets mixed up. The stuff is the qualities we have; our gifts and talents, our dust and chaos, the scary memories we keep hidden in mental closets under basement stairs. There’s all this stuff, yours and mine, and we look at each other and ask; why are you even KEEPING that?? And we start to fight about it, or hate someone over it, or become afraid of them, because their stuff just looks so weird.
It's been a tough year. I know everything isn’t going to magically change. I know there is still much that is wrong, and as Amy-Jill Levine, one of my favorite theologians says, “Justice without mercy is intolerable, but so is mercy without justice.”
We want peace, but healing requires both justice and mercy.
And yet, being a maker means being a creator, and to create something means to take raw materials and turn them into something new. To create peace, then, means to find ways to take your stuff and my stuff and everybody’s stuff: the weirdness and the grief, the shyness, the anxiety over the bad in the world, the empathy, and the heart burned clean, and bring them together to make a new space where we can all live.
These words, attributed to Jesus, point toward that space; not some literal heaven over our heads, or distant state we have to be good enough or enlightened enough to reach, but a place where we are already children of the divine. We are all creators. And right now, we have a fresh chance to move a little closer to peace.
Maybe we are finally ready to make it so.
The darkness of my Advent is from my own eyes closed;
From angels I don’t want at my door;
Bringing the curse of their blessings.
The world would wait a long time on my halting feet;
I don’t want to go to Bethlehem.
A lousy mother I’d be to some squalling spark
Of divine light, laid in dungy straw.
I’d have to reach out,
Hold that wobbly-headed hope in my stiff arms.
If I don’t look, then I can’t see
All the shadowed corners of the barn,
Illuminated by that glowing child.
Where homeless shepherds gather with gaunt cheeks,
and tear-gassed orphans cringe,
and animals suffer, crushed in rows of stanchions.
“Don’t kneel before this manger,”
His little cry would pierce me;
Fall Waits too Long
It happened again this year,
That the trees were late in their appointed tasks,
And the snow came before the leaves fell,
While their minds were on other things.
Even trees, it seems, procrastinate;
Thinking they have time
To do all that they want to do
Before the winter comes,
Making their bones show through.
Pumpkin Farm Economics
My husband, Bruce, and I went out to the pumpkin farm near our house. They were busier than they've ever been, and it was good to see a local business flourishing, especially since the family brings their dog to me for grooming. This is free enterprise, I say, different from capitalism, although I'm sure people who know more than me will argue with my definitions.
I'm just trying to distinguish the idea of a community of people offering a circle of goods and services to each other, keeping a balanced system quietly going, from the frenetic, cancer-like stretching for constant growth that seems to be the noisy gong of economists.
I probably shouldn't stray there. I know nothing of economics. I make my living simply with my hands, dog by dog, neighbor by neighbor. I just think growth for its own sake ruptures eventually whatever entity it was trying to become.
It might be wise to stop now and then, and think about cycles. Which ones are you in? Are they good for you and your friends, both human and otherwise?
Happy fall, all my friends. Bruce commented that it seemed like we had just been buying pumpkins last week, rather than a year ago...
As Joni Mitchell said, "Drag your feet, to slow the circles down
How are you wise?
Do you do what is expected,
Get good grades, make good decisions,
Do you listen for the speech of stones,
allow the clover to rally on your lawn,
Startle a profane stretch of grass
With a holy fire of sunflowers,
Know how to
Step outside your gate
Into the dark,
And pass the stop sign
Of a spider's web,
To add to your collection
Of secret old moons
A powerful being is dying and I've got to let it go.
The ancient willow behind my house has finally fallen, and the tree guys have been called. What’s left must be cut down and hauled away, ignominiously chopped and stacked, with nothing but a stump to mark the spot where it stood for so long. Its huge and hoary head has dominated this piece of land for decades; it was at least a hundred years old, and likely has been here before this present house was built. It has sheltered countless generations of birds and animals, drawing its life out of the wormy wet ground, and giving it back again in an endless reincarnational cycle.
Now it will be gone, and I’m afraid. It has stood as an anchor to this property, a vast, deep energy holding the center. What will rush in to fill the void? I’m already at a rootless place in my life, so much changing, and I spin gyroscopically at times, unable to right myself. Sometimes all I’ve had to steady me is that first morning pause as I step out my back door to stop and breathe, and search its branches for the frequent owl visitor, or to watch squirrels race up and down its trunks. In spring it is full of warblers, and an oriole nested in it every year.
Now what? Superstitiously, I’m worried that somehow I’ll become untethered from this home I love and float away on currents of circumstance beyond my control.
My husband tries to reassure me. He’s relieved that the tree came down with minimal damage, and it’s true we won’t have to stress anymore about it crashing down some stormy night on the garage or the neighbor’s yard. Of course he’s right, Rationally, I know this.
So I plan to hold a ceremony to honor my tree. I cut a shoot, and will root it and plant it to continue its life. If the tree guys can cut the stump off smoothly, I might set up an altar or meditation space on it. Maybe I’ll take a chunk of wood and carve myself a little Buddha.
Lot of fuss over an old tree. You’d have had to know it. It has been a steadfast presence on this place, a solemn guardian of so many lives that have come and gone. Its life was as worthwhile as any could be. Nobody can say whether that life should matter more or less than any other. I know it mattered to me.
A New Hive
Two days ago, we put new packages of bees in our hives.
It may not have ever occurred to you that you can buy bees, or that anyone might want to, but this is the way new beekeepers will acquire bees; by ordering them from people who raise bees for that purpose.
They come in a wooden or plastic box with screen on the sides called a ‘package’.
There is a metal can with sugar water suspended in the box to feed the bees, and stapled to the top on the inside is a smaller box with the queen in it, separate from the workers. This is so you can find her and see that she is healthy and alive.
I'm so glad to have bees again. They bring a life to my property that's hard to explain.
On a sunny day, I'll slip unnoticed close to the hive; there's a deep, sweet smell that I can almost taste, and a fizzy, humming energy rising off the boxes as bees dance and reel, telling each other stories of warm fields and waving flowers.
I see them working alongside me in the garden or in the grass, to bring in the summer light and store it up against January's cold darkness.
In the evening they come home to settle in, each one close by her sisters and friends.
Do they talk together about the day?
I wonder; do they love?
Why should she wait to go to his tomb?
The Sabbath was broken anyway,
Like a clay vessel, now profane;
For what greater work is there than grief?
What harder task could be given her
than to bear down on his death?
Three Marys they sat,
Clasped together, hand and eye,
Circle of sisters.
Bound together by Rahab’s cord,
Covered by Ruth’s blanket,
And here by Tamar’s sleight of hand.
“I gave him birth”, said Mary.
“I kissed his feet with my hair,” said Mary.
“I was his disciple,” said Mary.
Together they bent, gasping, on their pain,
For what do the men who write the Law
Know about women’s labors?
Sometimes when I see something beautiful, like high-soaring birds, or the exultant colors of autumn trees, I know why DNA are like strings, because they harmonize deep within me, making a point of resonance in my being. I can almost hear the sound….
It only lasts a minute because it gets interrupted by mundane noise or distraction.
How long would I have to be alone to learn to sing the tune?
Or do we need other people to create the melody? Love can’t exist on its own. And that’s what it feels like; love. And, apparently there’s the desire to share it, since I’m telling you. When they say the Divine is Love, I think this is what they mean. Not that there’s a personal being who feels warm fuzzies toward us, but a deep, ever-heightening direction of connection and expansion and growth. And it’s Good, even as it seems like the world is stretched beyond our capacity, and there is deep suffering as we struggle to get out of our own way, to quit blocking that good with fear.
Maybe if we could silence the banging clang of anxiety and insecurity that makes us, as Paul said, “A clashing cymbal or an annoying noise” we’d be able to join our voices to the thin thread of music interweaving creation. We can never learn it perfectly, but that is why spirituality is called a practice; it can’t be completed, it is and yet keeps becoming, so we sing and keep singing, together, lest the universe end.
Friday, March 27, 2020
I like to watch the moonset better than moonrise,
She slips so serenely on her downward arc;
White-haired, already waning,
Yet sure in her own fullness.
She holds her head high,
Knowing her horizon waits,
but there is still a space of sky to shine in.
It does not keep her;
She is light in her sinking,
Fading with a soap bubble softness,
She lingers only a moment,
To see what the sun will do.
I saw a cardinal today, while I was out walking at the park, a pompous mark of red in the drab and leafless branches along the path. He let me get pretty close, and I thought about if he were a rare bird, how excited I would be to spot him.
I’d try to get a picture and post it on my Facebook page, maybe post on some birding pages too. But cardinals are so common. We like to see them but we’re not impressed. Nobody grabs their binoculars and says, “I’m going out to look for cardinals!”
What else don’t we notice? What grace do we miss in the everyday? “What good can come out of Nazareth?” asked Nathaniel. It was just a dusty little backwater town. I sometimes think that the story of Jesus was more about his ordinariness than some grand sacrificial act.
Somehow humans got the idea that we were separated in exile from God, Paradise personified, and we had to get back right somehow. The Jesus story was to show us that no, we were all still friends. We’re integral to the creation, woven in, Divine and human alike; plain folk eating and going to weddings, talking and healing, and dying and resurrecting.
The belief in that exile goes back a long, long way, before Jesus, before the first Bible writers. Maybe the very earliest religions were not born out of fear, but out of the first stirring of wonder and reverence at the beauty of nature humans saw all around them.
But then we lost it somewhere, forgot how we fit in, and began to try to change it all, humanlike; our busy hands and brains unable to leave well enough alone.
I tried to look at that cardinal as if seeing one for the first time. He looked back at me and then flew off, not impressed.
Humans are so common.
I have a pair of what I think are phoebes nesting under the back door eaves. Every time we come and go, the female flies off and then sits on the fencepost looking upset. They've been there longer than it seems to me it should take to hatch a clutch of babies, so I wonder if they haven't been able to be successful.
They aren't where they should be. Phoebes like to nest in open woodlands, although they will sometimes live on human structures. This isn't their natural habitat, but will they still manage to thrive? Can they learn to cope with the strangeness of human activity, and raise a family here?
It can be difficult to be in spaces that aren't yours. We all want to hang with our own kind, but if we do, can we ever become more? How will we deal with what might be foreign to us, accept a world that isn't always done our way? How do we stretch our mouths around words that don't fit, or names we have to practice to say well?
Sometimes a new language is still our native tongue, but we have to figure out how to use it in ways that are better and more healing. Sometimes learning new ways to do things makes us awkward, but it also shows us how other people have had to be awkward, and we find ourselves understanding, and being able to see through other-centered eyes. I wish for you all the opportunity to do this. I hope you never miss a chance. You will feel uncomfortable. That's good. It means you're doing it right.