Our theme for February was about the Privilege of Witnessing. We talked about things we witness today . . . how some come to us shyly, surprisingly, taking our breath away with their beauty. While others are brazen and jolt us awake even when we prefer to stay asleep. They happen deep within the self, family, in nature, among communities and the world at large. What we witness become companions on our journey, helping us to find our place in the order of things.
We begin this collection with the writings that inspired our circle as we came together that Saturday morning. We are so grateful to these writers: Maya Angelou, Rachel Carson, Pablo, Neruda, May Sarton and Lynn Ungar. Our writings follow theirs. We hope you enjoy them all.
Our next circle will be Saturday morning, March 4th and our theme will be “Waiting in Wisdom: Answering the call from deeper self.” The inspiration for this theme comes from “Keeping Quiet” by Neruda, one of the poems below. His words are especially prescient at a time when we are bombarded by noise.
Please join us – whether in person or writing from home. Put pen to paper and see what happens! Everyone is welcome.
Lorri and the Writing Circle
Part One ~ Works that Inspired Our Writing
Shared by Susan Maitner:
By Lynn Ungar
Celebrate this unlikely oracle,
this ball of fat and fur,
whom we so mysteriously endow
with the power to predict spring.
Let’s hear it for the improbable heroes who,
frightened at their own shadows,
nonetheless unwittingly work miracles.
Why shouldn’t we believe
this peculiar rodent holds power
over sun and seasons in his stubby paw?
Who says that God is all grandeur and glory?
Unnoticed in the earth, worms
are busily, brainlessly, tilling the soil.
Field mice, all unthinking, have scattered
seeds that will take root and grow.
Grape hyacinths, against all reason,
have been holding up green shoots beneath the snow.
How do you think spring arrives?
There is nothing quieter, nothing
more secret, miraculous, mundane.
Do you want to play your part
in bringing it to birth? Nothing simpler.
Find a spot not too far from the ground
(Blessing the Bread; Meditations by Lynn Ungar; Skinner House Books,
Copyright © 1966 by Lynn Ungar)
2 Poems Shared by Marge Dukes:
The Work of Happiness
By May Sarton
I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.
So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.
For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.
(May Sarton, “The Work of Happiness” from Collected Poems 1930-1993.
Copyright © 1993 by May Sarton)
By Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
(From Extravagaria; translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)
Shared by Lorri Lizza:
The Sense of Wonder
By Rachel Carson
“The night is a time, too, to listen for other voices, the calls of bird migrants hurrying northward in spring and southward in autumn . . . stand very still and listen, projecting your consciousness up into the dark arch of the sky above you. Presently your ears will detect tiny wisps of sound – sharp chirps, sibilant lisps and call notes. They are the voices of the bird migrants, apparently keeping in touch by their calls with others of their kind scattered through the sky. I never hear these calls without a wave of feeling that is compounded of many emotions – a sense of lonely distances, a compassionate awareness of small lives controlled and directed by forces beyond volition or denial, a surging wonder at the sure instinct for route and direction that so far has baffled human efforts to explain it . . .”
“ . . .You must learn patience, for unless you are on a well-traveled highway of migration you may have to wait many minutes before you are rewarded. . . But sooner or later you should begin to see the birds, lonely travelers in space glimpsed as they pass from darkness into darkness.”
(Excerpt from The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, Photography by Charles Pratt and others; Text Copyright © 1956 by Rachel Carson; Harper & Row, Publishers; page 81)
Shared by Eileen Gerety:
Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.
Part Two ~ Our Writings
By Margaret A. Dukes
Keeping quiet isn’t easy-
except perhaps in Buddhist Monasteries –
But here in this writing room
we attempt to start that way-
We begin with a poem or two
Then beyond our volition,
the silent sun
in the long window
after so many gray days
Our February meeting
we’re here again
in the silence
Privilege of Being
By Sue Edmondson
So many things race through my mind . . . So hard to put down what to write.
Yet being here in a circle of friends, with their smiles and the warmth of hearing their stories, warms my heart.
Oh yes, I am privileged to be included here in a warm inviting environment . . . in a circle of writers and poets.
How I have grown to be what I am today. Yet, I still have many miles to travel to be what I truly want and should be in myself.
Being here in Summit some 20 years ago . . . and yes, a new lease on life, new friends, new adventures that had never been with me before, now felt it in the life of me. This is one stage of many wonderful privileges that has come to me.
By Susan Abbott Maitner
My vision obscured
what do I see?
the suffering of others
a chance to learn patience
a path to grace
the magnificence of sunshine
through the southeast window
By Eileen Gerety
What does it mean to witness?
What does it mean to RISE?
Whatever happened to graciousness?
I can hardly believe my eyes.
What does it mean to hate?
What does it mean to RISK?
How can we let this era skate??
Integrity says: “change the disc”
By speaking boldly and rising loudly
Women’s voices heard throughout D.C.
The world over, we are justly proud
Of our lives, our love, our divine right to be!
We’re called to advocate, not pontificate
As others are now prone to do
We’ll “tweet” with voices at the gate
For everyone, our message will be true.
For those still known as “other”
For those who don’t accept Liberty’s torch
We’ll march, witness as sisters and brothers
Absolutely everyone belongs on our porch!
The task not easy, the effort immense
It’ll take everything we’ve got…
Each day, each moment, seems so tense
Yes! We’re called to change our lot.
So join us today as we all RISE
To find a break towards a greater day
With Sophia, we are ever more wise
Our light – and love – will surely find a way!
Privilege of Witnessing
By Nancy Burgas
Spectacular tangerine sunsets
pink snow storm over the mountains
turbulent cloud formations roiling forth
rippled ice on the fish pond
glorious sculptures wrought by nature
are all magnificent in their own right
But what I felt the most privileged at witnessing
was seeing and being among the 15,000 women
men and children who marched through
a Santa Fe snowstorm to proclaim women’s
and all humanity’s equal rights and to protest
the gradual strangling of our great democracy
And that was before the banning of Muslims
from our shores
and the firing of the acting Attorney General
and the firing of the head of Immigration
and God knows what else before this poem is read
Let your voices be heard
become an engaged/enraged public
speak truth to power
and participate in the privilege of witnessing
a protest against arrogance and ignorance and yes tyranny
Being Gently Wrapped into Emergence
By Stella Humphries
This witnessing of the sharing
Of living moments of natural beauty
Has sent gossamer tendrils of connection
Into the space between us
First one, then another … and then another…
As each offering built upon the next almost imperceptibly
Until a tangible Presence of Reverence awoke within me.
I am moved to reach out – back to each of you
Whether you wrote or just listened quietly or held open the space of receptivity.
I reach out to say – thank you; thank you for sharing
Not only the beauty of what you saw, but more deeply
The ineffable essence within you
That draws forth this impulse to see and to share
What is beautiful and natural and free.
Know that your are received in this little corner of the world
With a bow and your life-giving gestures are returned in gratitude.
By Margaret A. Dukes
The squirrel ran in
through the open door
of my kitchen.
Horrified I was.
I thought only of its
its tendency to steal
not just the seed I put out
But its plucking the stuffing
from my favorite outdoor chair pads
It ran over to the cat’s perch
in my living room
jumped upon it
curled into a ball
closed its eyes
Still I was afraid
I had to figure out
how to get rid of this
I put my finger
in the peanut butter jar
pulled out a plump piece
walked over and enticed
the squirrel to follow me
out the sliding door
to the deck.
back into the house
A Feather that Loved a Tree
By Linda Howe
I have left the wings
That with once I flew
And slipped downward
On a gentle breeze
That tucked me
My soul’s sweet
Gaia finds me
In the crevices
Of her side
Let’s me listen
To her heart
And cradles me
Thin unwritten pages
Not to rock
But to wood
The strength of
By Linda Howe
It’s a vast network of innumerable,
Transparent, elastic, threads,
More remote than the other side of the moon.
It is stretching, and pulsing, from galaxy to galaxy.
There are no straight poles holding it up!
It is suspended by a familiar sense of groundlessness
Obliterating any literal way to stand up out there.
The threads are subtly, energetically, electronically
Anchored inside each of us, it’s a miraculous system!
Watch, tonight, at dusk, how the Earth gently
Turns away and rolls slowly into the starry hammock.
Gaia, my sweet, massive, migrant, boulder
Weighs the entire fabric down in the middle!
Some of us feel a pulling down to a deeper place
Inside our sternums, our soft hearts, down our legs,
Towards our soft bellies, hauling us out of over-active minds,
Its sound hums along our spines,
We have only to close our eyes and listen!
Our throats, yes, would want to speak about all this,
Even as our mouths may be hanging open wide,
But the words, and stories, simply won’t jump out!
Is Gaia taking a little siesta, a little rest,
From spinning around the sun?
Is She zipping our lips?
Could this be why we feel so disoriented?
As we awkwardly tilt to lay beside Her,
She whispers, “Have a seat upon a cloud!”
We don’t even need to buckle our seat belts
As she banks curves, day and night,
At how many thousands of miles per hour?
Maybe we could notice the tilt of our own axis,
And the speed we travel, and all the threads
We strive to weave across a lifetime that seem at times
Utterly tangled, knotted, misdirected or torn,
They are all resolved by those inaudible mantras
And Her night work on Her gigantic, starry, sky loom.
Maybe we are being invited to stretch out,
Touch down more often inside ourselves,
Lay back, get very still, and alert to what’s inside
Or go outside in the dark, watch patiently,
Listen for songs of migrant birds flying across a full moon.
Perhaps we could risk wondering about it all more often
With the fresh, curious, eyes, and ears, of a child.
We might open a new dialogue within our hearts
Cherish our elders, and spend time with them
Resisting nothing, just holding out an open hand of trust.
We could take a closer look to understand both people
And species that cannot speak for themselves.
Every 24 hours Gaia offers us a gift, she says,
“Surrender my sweet soul, to sleep, renewal and rest.
You are lovingly supported by this broad hammock,
An Ancient Mystery, older than my own.
By Margaret A. Dukes
The eagle in the window
the red tailed hawk on the fence
the feather in the bark
Silent cues, signals
of life after life.
By Lorri Lizza
The night Donna died I lay awake thinking about her, wondering where she was now. I asked Mary and Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be with her. I asked her for a sign or a message that she was ok. Allowing myself to enter into the incredulous belief that we really DO exist after we die, I was worried about how was she doing wherever she was. I guess the praying helped because I fell asleep quite easily.
That night I dreamt I was together with a group of friends in someone’s living room. I went into a bathroom to wash my hands. Standing at the sink I looked to my right. There was a window not very large but large enough to frame an eagle. The eagle rested in a seated position. Smooth head, strong beak, steady gaze. There was nothing threatening about it; but it was very intent. I was stunned and confused. Returning its gaze for just a few seconds I ran out of the bathroom and told my friends. Oh, you better use a different bathroom, they said. But when I went into another bathroom the eagle was there too! This time I looked more closely. It seemed calm and kind; its eyes never left me. Simultaneously friendly and powerful, as if to say, “See what’s possible.”
When I woke up the next morning I didn’t think about the dream at all. I made no connection to my request for a message. It didn’t hit me till late afternoon: could it be Donna was letting me know she was ok? Better than ok? The thought that was given me then was just that. She was the calm and the strength I felt. She was able to fly. She was perfect. But then I figured it was only my own wishful thinking.
A few days later I remembered an interview I’d done with Donna back in December of 2009. Maybe there would be something in her own words that her family and friends would find comforting now. I was able to find it – a miracle in and of itself. It’s important to note here that Donna and I never met in person. We were phone buddies, studying A Course in Miracles and calling into my brother’s course classes every Monday morning. At that time I was collecting stories from our classmates about their experiences with the course. It was difficult for Donna to type; she didn’t have the manual dexterity to do so. So I typed as she spoke. Her opening was startling.
“To begin, I’d like to tell you a little about myself,” she said. “I am in a wheelchair and everything is perfect. My story is about living the miracle that comes through my spiritual practice, through practicing a change in perception. I believe I have been given more than I’ve lost. And I understand that we are given everything we can conceive of.” She told me how she’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the impact of its progression. She spoke of the down times, but more about how joyful her life was and the happiness she found in all the little things. She loved watching the birds at the feeders outside her bedroom window and the stag that would come to feed with them. We talked for a long time that day and as we were saying good-bye she told me, “Thank you for listening to my story. I feel wonderful now. I always feel wonderful. God is my health. I cannot be sick.”
by Janet Aulet Maulbeck
Wherever I go
I am surrounded
by the complexity, multiplicity and elusiveness
I cannot know everything or be everywhere
But it is clear we are standing where we have never stood before
Yet in the long arch of history
There are lessons
Calling to us in the windows of our consciousness
Reminding us that the walk to freedom and the way of love were never easy
These shadow wars
require more of us
There is a cost for freedom, that must be paid
Courage my friends
Here the dusk and dawn can look the same