I welcome the lengthening dark

This season I find myself welcoming, even craving, the blue hour deepening to black. My moods shift frequently and want more space, and quiet, than daylight and activity allow. It’s a bit odd, since I almost entirely missed the summer sun and garden, pre-occupied with endless sorting and winnowing and boxing and giving-away and shredding and discarding STUFF. That is done. So is the painting and the refinishing of floors.

Only in the past few days have I been able to get outside for a few hours to cut down the dead blackberry canes, the brown, dried stalks of Joe Pye, echinacea, and mullein. According to my garden log, in other years I have finished shutting down the garden as late as December 27.  Still, that work seems unseasonal this week.

The lengthening dark somehow offers a balm to my disrupted seasonal rhythms that involves curviness and word-play, a different flavor of sitting in the dark.

 

this lengthening dark

by Sara Eisenberg

 

this lengthening dark

this early dark

draws

me

in

 

twenty-one more nights

geminated

resolve

me

on-

 

ward

mood-

blue slopes

clarify space

 

trewe as any bonde

true as innocence

true as magnet

to iron true

and

pauseless

as the pulses

as true as Tristram

and Isolde were true

as stars true as I live

 

wildly irreverent

 


 

For my poet-loving readers: can you match the “true-ism” to the author?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning                       “true as magnet to iron”

Geoffrey Chaucer                                          “true as innocence”

John Dryden                                                  “true as stars”

John Keats                                                     “true as I live”

Walter Savage Landor                                 “trewe as any bonde”

Thomas Moore                                              “true and pauseless as the pulses”

William Shakespeare                                    “as true as Tristram and Isolde were”

 

 

 

 

Four hymns to Thanksgiving practice

Hymn to a room of my own

The room where I sit to write is a room of my own, the first I have had since I was a child. It is filled with images of strong women on whose shoulders I stand: family, healers, spiritual masters, goddesses. Filled with books overflowing with both knowledge and questions. Decades of journals. Artwork of family, friends, my own. Lilah is stretched out on the healing table for her extended morning nap.

Here I exhale. Here I feel myself. Here I meet with other women who are in pain. Here I plug into Zoom and meet with colleagues across the country and across the ocean. Here I watch a strong wind speed clouds towards the southeast. Solitude and connection.

 

Hymn to writing 

I have been blogging weekly now for fifteen months. As with any practice, sometimes I am inspired, and other times it’s a slog. Always, the practice demands honesty, the most impeccable discernment I can muster. And it hews me to conventions of language and grammar and a willingness to break with them for good reason. Drop the subject from a sentence. Run on like a Proustian paragraph. Give up on narrative altogether and turn to poetry.

Poetry – here too I exhale. I trust sound and line length and white space. A period: ●  Or its absence. When a Hebrew word לְדַבֵּר speaks or detracts. This is my brief hymn of Thanksgiving to punctuation.

 

Hymn to gifts received

A life that is more stable than most. A body with some growing limitations that still allows me to move around the world in the ways I treasure. A mind that is wedded to one passionate inquiry after another. Currently: bringing the wisdom of nondual practice to working with social identities; and the Hebrew letter Gimel, which is said to personify Giving and also has a numerical value of 3. A husband who silently recites his wedding vows to me every Friday evening at the Shabbos table as he slips the wedding band on my finger. Daughters who continue to teach and inspire me through shring books, moveies, and their own  life lessons. Friends who loaned us their condo for a month while we had work done on our house. A colleague who takes so much responsibility for her opinions and actions that I am actually learning as we work together how to be in conflict, even disconnection, and stay in relationship. A richness of communities and colleagues – of healing, of inquiry, of writing, of practice, of vision and action, of readers.

 

Hymn to the Thanksgiving Table

This year I come to the table as a guest, in a tradition-breaking and welcome change, the table….

….. as a gathering of aromas and flavors and recipes to be exchanged

….. as a an invitation to listening and sharing and rewriting stories

….. as a privileged place of safety in a world where legions of humanity are without roof, walls, table and food

….. as an altar and a focal point of ceremony and ritual

….. as a place of healing, where each guest may take in nourishment she needs to come  home  to  herself

May we each be inspired to work in our own way

to bring about food, table, walls, roof, a place to exhale,

for every human being.

We cannot “#metoo” and leave our weeping behind

Which comes first, the weeping or the story?

#metoo has me asking: where do we bring our stories of misogyny into the daylight?  On social media? by filing legal charges? testifying in a court of law or a legislative hearing? sitting with a therapist, a friend over coffee, strangers (but not) in a support group? via text message, Facebook post, letter to the editor?

And how do we bring our stories out, pull the words up from our guts and out of our mouths? dry-eyed and reportorially? in a whisper? with weeping and railing? with what combination of anger and anguish?

I have thought a lot about modesty over the years – what gets exposed where, whether it’s a woman’s skin, a woman’s heart, a woman’s pain. Truths are being exposed. Must they also be an exposé?

Women are blowing the lid off generations of stories of suffering at the hands of a certain class of abusers of power. Frat boys. Good ‘ol boys. Locker-room buddies. Rich guys. Formerly adulated “stars” of screen and turf. A friend and I concluded ruefully that the US economy would tank if every guy who had sexually harassed, stalked, cornered, or violated women were fired from their jobs.

The public naming/shaming of these men is a lurid shadow of the shame that reinforced women’s silence. Condemnation by other men – the public distancing from the contaminated, is a lurid shadow of the isolation of every woman who bears her story, told or untold.

There are many possible outcomes of the above strategies. A woman might garner some mix of relief, validation, the protection of other women, closure, shaming, revenge.

 

But how do we heal?

How do we consecrate these stories, these bodies and psyches, these women, our sisters, holy each and every one?

For me it starts with weeping, weeping together as we women encircle one another with kindness and every bruise-healing balm we can muster.

 

And here lies a brutal challenge to my full humanity.

Can I –  who was raised to consider men irrelevant at best and fools at worst – loosen the bonds of my own identity just a bit?

Can I lay down my sword and shield for a sacrosanct second or two?

Can I weep for the offending men too, my brothers, who are so lost to themselves?

I think I could get there if the men in my life were ready to ready to weep with me.

And that is my human imperfection, not theirs.

Election Day and the Color Line, One Year Later

I have found myself jittery and anxious the past few days – and concluded it was anniversary jitters, as we approached Election Day 2017, a one-year marker of sorts. Not unlike the anniversary of more personal traumas – say the death of many loved ones during the month of March. Related feelings of grief that wash over me in the spring sometimes take me unawares. There was no way to be unaware Election Day was immanent and the color line accentuated.

 

I have also been dreaming, vividly.

For which I am grateful: these dreams have been instructing me about shifts in how I perceive and make meaning. It is during sleep that our neurons are pruned and our learning is consolidated.

To all appearances we were eight white women of various generations seated around a table in a well-appointed middle-class livingroom. The table had been set for lunch with a starchy cloth and full place settings. We had just finished lunch. Our mostly-empty plates sat in front of us.

My mother was sitting not directly next to me, a woman between her age and mine sitting between us. Mom was quiet, though it was a setting in which she could be at home.

Greg C., pastor and executive director at a local spiritual wellness center, came into the room, greeted each of us as he went around the table, and then left. I knew Greg lived a life of practice, although different from mine. He had his own deep and truthful way of listening to text and life.

Then the youngish woman sitting across from me told her story. Of how, at a young age, she was separated from her family at the auction block. How she  was sold with her mom, “but of course the sons went with their fathers when they were lucky.” She filled in  details. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Around the table every woman, including my mom, was crying.

 

Abruptly I woke up.

It is the day after Election Day. I have not yet seen the results of the campaign for governor of Virginia that, after some months of focus on local bread and butter issues – transportation gridlock, affordable housing – had turned acrimonious with an influx of campaign bucks from all quarters of the nation, and inflammatory rhetoric about confederate monuments and laws regulating women’s wombs.

 

Step up to the color line and listen.

I look at how my mother grew up on one side of the color line. How I grew up on one side of the color line – during both our generations the line reinforced by Jim Crow. How my kids grew up on one side of a color line just barely fractured by the civil rights movement. How my grandchildren are growing up on one side of a color line stretched but not breached by Obama’s eight years as President and Commander in Chief.

Whichever side of the color line we grew up on, it’s long past time for each of us to listen prayerfully to generations of stories of the color line. To live inside one another’s stories, as the women in this dream. To weep together. To guard these stories as treasured truthfulness. To take in what it means “to pass” – as a woman of color, as a human being, as a democracy. To wrestle what it could mean to rebuild a democracy founded on knowledge of our shared and deeply flawed history.

 

One story at a time.

When we don’t recognize our own stories, they are powerful unthought knowns that steer our perceptions – and our votes.

It takes courage to risk the telling, humility to risk the listening. As we allow one another’s stories to live, to take up a square in our quilt, we birth one another into our full sorrowing humanity. That’s when we stop “passing” as humans.

Who knows what we might create together out of such broken-heartedness, how we might bend, bend with the long arc of the moral universe.

 

AN INVITATION TO PRACTICE…if you are ready have your heart broken open

This week, whose story are you prepared to invite – without burdening the teller with your desire to understand?

This week, whose story are you prepared to receive?


Banner photo taken at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, October, 2016

 

 

Changes of season, changes of state: they matter

We humans, as all life on our planet, are made to shift with the seasons,  change our state,  our activities, our being.

Changes of state fascinate me.   The roles of temperature, pressure, motion, scale. Vapor to water to ice.  Relaxation to anxiety.  Mystery to revelation. A sudden change of mood, perception, mind, heart. Uncountable changes of all these types fly past us unnoticed every day.  These moments matter, and so do the properties they exhibit.

Venetian Glass i was inspired by the following curated description:

Although glass … acts like a solid, it is actually most like a super-cooled liquid. When glass is cooled, it cools too fast for the atoms to form a crystalline structure. This means the atoms are still able to vibrate slightly but not rotate or translate the way they are able to do in a liquid or gas phase.
Quote and banner photo above: Dale Chihuly Venetian Glass exhibit
Alamance Arts, Graham, North Carolina
August, 2016

 

Venetian Glass i

by Sara Eisenberg

gone, the season of

august heat,

air heavy with with-

held rains,

sun-loving plants thrusting straight,

straight up into the open furnace-door of sky,

shade plants and me

on our knees,

hugging the ground then

 

cooled down,

I’ve been cooled down,

swung, sassed miles riding on

blue notes wailed by some

saxophonic wind-force

 

vacillating still between

demon and angel.

 

You can still trace my shape with your fingers,

follow the gold strands embellishing my surface,

feel how I vibrate slightly.

 

I occupy the same space,

act like a solid, yet

I can no longer

pour myself into the shape of my life

nor diffuse through it.


For more poetry: