Wondering

Isobel canoeby Isobel Arthen

On this day when so many people are celebrating science, I wanted to share some reflections I’ve made over the past couple months. When I was young I really thought science was the antithesis of spirituality. I didn’t put any faith in something that I thought tried to explain the unsolvable mysteries of the world around us, and I resented it for defining natural phenomena when, to me, something like fire is so much more than just a chemical reaction. In 9th grade when I started learning about ecological concepts like interdependence, food webs and cycles, I realized that science may not be in contradiction with spirituality. In fact, I discovered that it compliments it in some very potent ways.

Many of you know that I have spent my adult life immersed in the study of science, and specifically ecology. I have found that the more I understand the world around me, the more I can appreciate it. Since starting work as an educator at the Franklin Institute, I have had many opportunities to learn about how to best communicate science to museum guests, including one session about how the brain actually interprets and stores information.

This training left me with a lot to think about, but one thing especially stuck out. At the beginning, we were asked what we had always wondered about the brain. The group answered with a popcorn of questions that piqued my curiosity about every question someone else had asked. We were told, later on, that the question was specifically intended to prime our minds for learning—that inspiring inquiry, or wonder, releases dopamine in the brain, thus improving attention and focus.

After that activity I have been thinking a lot about that word, “wonder.” What a word. It is used to describe a state of inquiry and curiosity, a way of seeking new information— “I wonder why those ants walk in a line?” But it also describes a state of amazement. To stare “with wonder” is to perceive something so astounding that it is almost unbelievable. I have come to believe that “wonder” is that place, that liminal space between science and magic, and as a scientist and an animist, that is where I want to live.

To gaze with wonder at the night sky is so much more if you know that there are about as many neurons in one brain as there are stars in our galaxy, and that there are about the same number of galaxies in the universe. To handle soil means so much more if you know that it took hundreds upon hundreds of years to develop, and that it is home to billions of living beings right in the palm of your hand. What do you miss if you look at fire and just see a combustion reaction? What do you lose if you don’t notice its ability to transform and destroy, or the way gazing into a flame can transport you to a whole other place?

I am disappointed not to be at the science march, but like every day at work, I have spent today bringing science into people’s lives. I have asked guests to wonder with me, to come up with questions, to try and notice and discover new things about the world we so often take for granted. I share this with you so that maybe you’ll make a point to come up with a new question today (if you do, let me know what it is!). It seems to me there is no better way to celebrate science than to take some time to wonder.

Confronting Racism, Yankee Pagan Style

by Cat Chapin-Bishop

I am a Yankee.  Right down to my Pagan soul.

My understanding of what it means to be a Pagan is to try to live in right relationship with the gods, the land, and the people, including the ancestors.  My gods are those that are comfortable in New England’s woods and hills.  My land is this rocky landscape of New England.  And my people and my ancestors–on Mom’s side, at least–are New Englanders: sea captains and dairy farmers, teachers and laborers.  Whatever granite is in this place or in my ancestors lives on in me and in my Pagan practice.

Old Man of the Mountain stamp

And that granite is why I am so driven to speak out against racism.

To help me explain what I mean, I’m going to go ahead and borrow an ancestor: my friend Kirk White‘s father.

A Yankee like a Rock

Kirk’s ancestors, like mine, were among the first Englishmen to arrive in North America.  Like mine, this landscape was where they found their home.  And like me, my friend Kirk and his family before him has loved New England–Vermont in his case, Maine and Massachusetts in mine.

Now, Kirk grew up on the farm his family had owned for over a hundred years.  Farming in New England, though, has never been an easy way to earn a living, and, like other families before and since, Kirk’s family found other ways to pay their bills.  So when Kirk was growing up, his dad Ron was a contractor.

During the real estate boom of the 1970s, Ron got hired by a big developer to build houses for vacationers in Vermont.  There was a lot of money changing hands.

Now, standard practice in construction, then and probably now, says that the people under you get paid when you get paid.  So the construction workers get paid when the contractor gets paid, and the contractor gets paid when the developer gets paid.  But sometimes, there are delays.  And on this job, there were lots of delays.

People have to eat.  Ron had a crew under him, filled with workers who needed to eat, and who couldn’t wait until next month or next year to do that.  So Ron took out loans, and did what he had to do so that all the people working under him got paid. Because he knew what it was like, to need to feed your kids today on money you won’t have until tomorrow, and he wasn’t going to make people deal with that.

Then it turned out that that particular developer wasn’t going to pay anybody; his deals had gone sour. He declared bankruptcy, and Ron and his crew were way too far down on the food chain to ever get a share.

Ron had paid his workers.  They were fine.  But Ron’s debts were all in his own name, and he had no way to pay them.  Worse: that was the year his house burned down.  One of Ron’s sons died.  His wife had a heart attack.  It was just that kind of year.

The sensible thing to do would have been to follow the developer into bankruptcy, but Ron couldn’t make himself do that.  He felt himself honor-bound to repay all those loans, all that money.  No court would have held him to it–but his own integrity did.  So he busted a gut doing every kind of work he could lay hands on.  His wife went back to work, despite her heart. They couldn’t rebuild the house, so they moved into a trailer… and Kirk grew up in something very near poverty.

Ron scrimped and saved and drove himself for years and years… and in the end, he paid it all back.  Every last dime.

Well, almost.

In the end, it was Kirk himself who paid that last $40,000, when he took possession of the farm–and the integrity–that came down in the family to him.

When I began working on this essay, I called him on the phone.  I’d only heard the story once, though obviously it had left me with a strong impression.  Then, after some basic fact-checking, I asked Kirk the question that had been on my mind.  I asked if, growing up, he’d ever resented it–making do with so little when, if his Dad had been a little less unyielding, he might have had so much more.

“To be honest,” he said, “I never thought of it until just now, when you asked.”

He paused, thinking.  “It always just seemed to me that it was the right thing to do–the honorable thing.  I guess I just… admired him for it.”

And that, to me, is integrity.  Integrity like bedrock, like the land itself.

When I say that “I’m a Yankee,” what I mean is, I consider myself to be walking in the footsteps of men and women like Ron White.  Granite integrity may be hard to live up to, but like Kirk, that’s the kind of person I aspire to be.

That is what I’m proud of.  But–and if you are a black or brown reader of this blog, you’re probably here way ahead of me–I don’t get to hold onto the pride of my heritage unless I’m willing to own the shame.

Receiving Stolen Goods

Our Yankee forebears were not innocent of the stain of racism.  Neither, for that matter, am I.

I’m not just talking about slavery–though all the New England states had slavery; they just ended it a little sooner than other parts of the country.  (Should we make a virtue out of having ended the theft of lives sooner–through a gradual emancipation–than other parts of the country?  “We Stole a Little Less Than Some White People!” what a ringing endorsement of our integrity!)

Rugged Coastline near Pemaquid Point.  Jacklee, 2015.

I do not stand apart from these injustices.  My ancestors profited from a system that marginalized and robbed people of color.  Those sea captains I’m so proud to claim in my family tree?  The New England shipping industry was built on the Triangular Slave Trade.  Whether my direct ancestors ever participated is almost beside the point: the industry was created by it.  Likewise Maine farmers owed their prosperity, in part, to supplying that same industry, before as well as after the abolition of the slave trade.

It would be one thing if the injustice had stopped when the Age of Sail had ended.  Then I could at least hold my father’s side of the family innocent bystanders to the crimes of racism!  But it’s not so.

Did you know, for instance, that Maine wouldn’t allow Native Americans to vote until 1953? And not only was the land I love so much stolen from its original owners, but Indian children, growing up in Maine,  were stolen from their families in order to “kill the Indian” in them right up through the 1990s.

Then there are the ways that, during my lifetime and my parents’ lifetimes, my prosperity, as a white woman, was assured in part by denying people of color equal access to government help.  From the benefits of the GI Bill to FHA loans, my government colluded with banks, realtors, and colleges to be sure that my (white) ancestors would prosper through programs deliberately designed to discourage access by people of color.

I never asked for this.  My parents never asked for this.  Nevertheless, the fact remains: my family’s prosperity was paid for in part by the marginalization of people of color, in New England and elsewhere.

Honoring my Ancestors; Honoring my Debts

Here’s what I conclude from all this: I owe a debt.  If you are a white American, until and unless we stop getting preferential treatment in hiring, education, housing, and law enforcement, you owe a debt.  Whether our specific ancestors ever intended to cheat anyone really is not the question–at least, not to me.

Ron didn’t set out to steal from anyone, after all.  He didn’t sit back and say, “That was so long ago,” or “It wasn’t my fault,” or “It’s not my problem.”  Knowing he had a debt, he worked until he managed to pay it back.

If I am to claim that bedrock as my own, can I do less?  As Ta-Nehisi Coates has observed,

One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte.

What will honoring this debt entail? Will it involve reparations, a financial recognition of hardships imposed?  Perhaps.  At the very least, it will involve breaking the silence, listening to an honoring the experiences of people of color, and confronting the complicity of white Americans.

Racism exists.  It hasn’t gone away, and in fact, it’s still killing people, still destroying lives.

I am a white American.  I didn’t ask to have anyone cheated out of anything.  I never signed up for it; I never wanted it.  But I am also a Pagan and I honor my ancestors.  Here is the lesson I choose to take from them: It doesn’t matter if it’s “not our fault.” Before there can be Reconciliation, there must be Truth.

We need to be like Ron. Pay our debts.

Speak the truth, work like hell, and pay that goddamn debt.


Cat Chapin-Bishop is a longtime member of the EarthSpirit Community and a regular presenter a A Feast of Lights.  To hear more from her, check out her blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections, on the Patheos Pagan Channel, where this post was originally published in March of 2015.  Special thanks to Cat and to Pagan Channel editor Jason Mankey for their assistance in allowing us to repost this.  

A Year of Drops

by Katie LaFond

I celebrate the Earth as Sacred, and it started me down a path many years ago that has borne some surprising fruit. Below is a collection of simple things you can do to help live more lightly on the Earth. I consider each of these an act of prayer.

The tips are organized into 12 sections. [Editor’s note: we’ll be posting them once a week here for the next little while!] A lot of these cross over, but this will get you started. Focus on one section at a time.

This is one of the rings made in the visioning ritual at Twilight Covening.  It reminds us that we can create new ways of being in the world.

This is one of the rings made in the visioning ritual at Twilight Covening. It reminds us that we can create new ways of being in the world.time. Really incorporating these habits into your life will take time. Be patient with the process and with yourself. It has taken my family many years to incorporate these changes into our lives.

Do these at your own pace. With 12 sections, you can choose to focus on one area for the amount of time that feels right to you. If you find the pacing too fast/slow, you can always modify your habits. The point here is to see how easy it can be to weave some of these into your life. Remember that this blog post is only the beginning. This can be a lifestyle change, and will take you on interesting adventures along the way. Every drop in the bucket makes a difference.

  1. Get serious about Recycling
  2. Get serious about Reusing
  3. Get serious about Reducing
  4. Start Composting
  5. Use your car less
  6. Locate your local food options
  7. Where do your things come from? Try to source as many of the things you use within a 100 mile radius of your home
  8. Start a garden
  9. Look into buying “Environmentally Friendly” products.
  10. Energy consumption
  11. Get Crafty
  12. Educate yourself

This post is the first in a series of thirteen posts by Katie on ways you can walk more lightly on the Earth.  Stay tuned for the rest!  

Report on Religions for the Earth and the People’s Climate March, Part II

Moira Ashleigh and other EarthSpirit members in the crowd before the Climate March

Moira Ashleigh and other EarthSpirit members in the crowd before the Climate March

by Andras Corban-Arthen

This is an end-of-the-year report (in two parts) on my participation in some interfaith activities this past fall. Brief commentaries about these events were previously published on EarthSpirit’s Facebook page, and a version of this report appears in the latest issue (#119) of Circle Magazine. I’d like to thank all the members and friends of EarthSpirit, whose generous donations to our community support our participation in events such as the ones I describe here.

The Climate March on Sunday was doubtlessly the best-organized demonstration I have ever been a part of. The organizers had anticipated at least 100,000 people, so they had staggered the marchers by dividing us into several different contingents, “penning” each one in a different city block adjacent to the March route. The contingents were defined by “themes” which identified different ways in which people related to climate change: science, for instance, or politics, or religion/spirituality, etc. That way, you could identify whichever theme you were most drawn to, go to that particular city block, and wait with like-minded people until it was your contingent’s turn to start marching.

EarthSpirit members during the March

EarthSpirit members during the March

The Pagan Environmental Coalition of NY led by Courtney Weber, which took on the job of organizing the pagan marchers, wisely had us join the interfaith contingent, and we shared the street with Buddhists, Muslims, Quakers, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Unitarians, Bahá’ís, Sikhs – it was like a mini Parliament of the World’s Religions in the guise of a block party. A Muslim group brought along an inflatable mosque. A Christian group built a Noah’s Ark float to focus attention on how animals are imperiled by global warming. About twenty EarthSpirit members showed up – not only from New York, but from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey as well – bringing drums and rattles, and getting all kinds of people to join in singing many of our community’s chants.

The PECNY also helped to put together an interreligious service to kick off the March, and they were very kind to invite me to offer the pagan blessing in the ceremony. These are the words I spoke:

Andras speaking at the Climate March

Andras speaking at the Climate March

“In the Spirit of the Earth, we are coming together;
in the Spirit of the Earth, we are one…” *

We come from the north, and we come from the south;
we come from the west, and we come from the east.
We gather from all directions
to march for this living planet
who is our home, who is what we are.
But we do not march only for ourselves,
we march for all beings of the Earth.
And so we call to sun, to wind and rain;
we call to mountains and glaciers;
we call to all who walk and crawl, who fly and swim;
we call to our ancestors, both seen and unseen;
we call to oceans and streams,
to trees, and grasses and stones
to guide and bless every step we take,
that we may once again live in harmony
with our Mother the Earth.
As it was, as it is, as it ever shall be;
with the flow and the ebb, as it ever shall be.

(© 2014, Andras Corban-Arthen; *© 2000, Deirdre Pulgram-Arthen)

By the time my turn came, the crowd had grown to approximately 10,000 people packed like sardines in our block; there was barely enough room to move but a few inches. From my vantage point up on the stage, I was suddenly able to see what those below me couldn’t: just one street away, an unending river of people was flowing along the March route – a surprising and breathtaking sight. I certainly hadn’t expected anything quite that massive; it was quite obvious that there were substantially more than 100,000 people marching.

Just before we finally started to move, I got into a conversation with one of the police officers patrolling our street. He told me that, in his thirty years on the force, this was the first time that the event organizers had more than delivered on what they’d promised. According to him, demonstration organizers tend to grossly exaggerate beforehand the number of people they expect at their events, in the hope of generating enough excitement to actually draw something close to that number. This time, when the organizers had first predicted around 100,000 marchers, there had been a great deal of skepticism among the authorities and the media; except that he had just heard over the police scanner that the line of marchers was over four miles long, and that the current estimate was around 400,000 people. But what really impressed him the most, he told me, was that there had not been a single arrest or similar incident of any kind reported, and that, amazingly, the marchers were not leaving any trash at all in their wake. “Tell you what,” he said, “if what I’m seeing here is what this movement is really about, then I gotta think that maybe there’s still hope for the world.”

ESC Climate March

Report on Religions for the Earth and the People’s Climate March, Part I

Participants at the Multifaith Service, Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Participants at the Multifaith Service, Cathedral of St. John the Divine

by Andras Corban-Arthen

This is an end-of-the-year report (in two parts) on my participation in some interfaith activities this past fall. Brief commentaries about these events were previously published on EarthSpirit’s Facebook page, and a version of this report appears in the latest issue (#119) of Circle Magazine. I’d like to thank all the members and friends of EarthSpirit, whose generous donations to our community support our participation in events such as the ones I describe here.

Two important and related events were held in New York City over the weekend of the autumnal equinox, 19-21 September: the People’s Climate March, a 3-mile long demonstration through the streets of Manhattan as a call for awareness and action regarding environmental deterioration; and the Religions for the Earth Conference, held at Union Theological Seminary to bring together some 200 leaders from diverse spiritual traditions, to discuss how teachings of the various religions can address the climate change crisis. I attended both events, which were timed to coincide with the Climate Summit scheduled to take place a few days later at the United Nations, at the behest of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Religions for the Earth Conference was organized by the Union Forum, a platform within Union Theological Seminary which promotes dialogue about religion and social ethics in order to bring about positive civic engagement. In her message of welcome to the conference participants, Karenna Gore, director of the Union Forum, had this to say about the purpose of the event:

“Spiritual and religious leaders have a place in this conversation precisely because it is their vocation to call for sacrifice and reverence to something larger than oneself. Religious leadership is at its best when challenging the status quo, including the powerful, wealthy institutions and individuals who will resist being moved. Our religions are organized differently, but each has the potential for exponential effect throughout our interconnected world. Those of you gathering at Union this weekend hold extraordinary strength within you and also the kindness and love to bring out the best in each other.”

I attended Religions for the Earth representing the three main organizations with which I am affiliated: my community, EarthSpirit; the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which was one of the co-sponsors of the conference; and the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, of which I am president. The Parliament’s delegation also included our Chair, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, our Executive Director, Dr. Mary Nelson, and several other trustees, among them Phyllis Curott, the other pagan who serves with me on the Parliament’s Board.

Most of the presentations at the conference took the form of panel discussions, in which participants from several different religious traditions addressed topics such as “Climate Change, Gender & Human Rights”; “Integrating the Earth into Worship, Liturgy and Devotion”; “Environmental Racism and Climate Justice Initiatives”; “Engaging Ecological Despair and Grief”; and “Race, Class & Hemisphere: Regional Identity and Climate”, among others.

Panel on Indigenous Traditions, (l-r): François Paulette, Mindahi Bastida-Muñoz, Tonya Frichner, Andras Corban-Arthen, Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

Panel on Indigenous Traditions, (l-r): François Paulette, Mindahi Bastida-Muñoz, Tonya Frichner, Andras Corban-Arthen, Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

I was asked to be one of the members of a panel entitled “What Moves Us: Values, Narratives & the Climate Crisis – the Indigenous Traditions”, moderated by Tonya Gonnella Frichner of the Onondaga Nation, and founder of the American Indian

Law Alliance. The other panelists were François Paulette of the Dene people from northwest Canada, Mindahi Bastida-Muñoz of the pueblo Otomí from México, and Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota Nation. My role on the panel was to represent the indigenous European traditions. I had met most of the other panelists at previous interreligious events, so I was very glad to be in their company once again.

One of the most important points made by everyone in our panel was that the environmental crisis has grown out of a prevailing sense in Western culture that we are separate from the Earth, which fosters in people the entitled delusion that we can treat the natural world any way we want to. In my own remarks, I pointed out that, in Western culture, this sense of separation has specifically been fostered and transmitted by the dominant religion. The notion that Nature is fundamentally base, and eventually destined to be replaced by an otherworldly paradise (or its opposite) has been a deeply-ingrained Christian paradigm for many centuries. The same is true for the notion of a divinely-appointed human

Mesoamerican indigenous ceremony at Union Theological Seminary

Mesoamerican indigenous ceremony at Union Theological Seminary

supremacy over all other beings of the Earth: the human arrogance and greed, and the objectification and devaluing of Nature that are such predictable corollaries of that notion, lie at the very core of the environmental disasters we are now facing.

Our discussion also underscored the fact that, for many decades, indigenous peoples have been issuing warnings about growing changes which are affecting climate and, therefore, everything that exists upon the Earth; but Westerners have not listened, because they are in the habit of dismissing anything which indigenous people might say.

This point was likewise made, in eloquent fashion, by the Onondaga faithkeeper Oren Lyons during one of the plenary sessions. Chief Lyons told about a meeting he once had with an Inuit elder from Greenland, who informed him that “the ice is melting in the North” – trickles of water had begun to appear on the surface of the glaciers some years before, and those trickles had now grown into permanent rivers. Throughout the rest of his speech, Chief Lyons ended every new paragraph by repeating the warning that “the ice is melting in the North”; the more he said those words, the more that he powerfully drove home the sense of urgency, and even of inevitability, surrounding climate change. Some people in the audience were visibly flinching. As he was about to finish, Chief Lyons revealed an alarming detail he had been saving for the very end. That speech we had just heard, he told us, was not new; it was, in fact, the exact same speech he had delivered at the United Nations fourteen years before. But no one had listened then, he admonished us, and it had taken the U.N. almost a decade and a half to finally organize a Climate Summit.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse at the Multifaith Service

Chief Arvol Looking Horse at the Multifaith Service

Former Vice-President Al Gore speaking at the Multifaith Service

Former Vice-President Al Gore speaking at the Multifaith Service

Because participation in the conference was by invitation only, and limited to just a couple of hundred attendees, it fostered a sense of intimacy which I have rarely found at other interfaith events, and provided the opportunity for rich, in-depth dialogue. I think that many of the conversations and initiatives that emerged from Religions for the Earth will prove to be very fruitful over the next several years. The conference ended with a deeply meaningful multifaith service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, with former Vice-President Al Gore as one of the main speakers.

(l-r): Phyllis Curott, Andras & Deirdre Arthen at Multifaith Service

(l-r): Phyllis Curott, Andras & Deirdre Arthen at Multifaith Service

Performers from the Metawee Theatre Company

Performers from the Metawee Theatre Company

Journey at Twilight

journey at twilight72dpi

“Journey at Twilight, 29” – Acrylic, Ash on Masonite Panel – 24” x 48”

 

by Martin Bridge

This piece was painted in its entirety during the 29th annual Twilight Covening held by the EarthSpirit Community. Twilight Covening is an intensive weekend-long ritual experience during which individuals spend a large portion of the event in their “clans,” each of which has an individual focus to deepen some aspect of one’s spiritual practice. Clans focus on anything from astrology and divination to yoga, drumming, breath-work and other esoteric practices.

This year I led the Orb Weaver clan along with Kaye Kittredge. Our clan’s work was focused for individuals to deepen their artistic and creative practices in relationship with their spiritual lives, as well as creating as a part of a ritual practice.

We set to work as the event began Friday night, observing and translating the events, energies and landscape into symbolic form. Continuing through the next day, we also translated and distilled some key elements of Sunday’s Visioning ritual into symbols that many of us wove into our paintings, which later graced the space where the community waited inside before leaving for the journey into the night.

For, me the second I arrived on the beautiful mountaintop, graced by peak New England autumn color, I was flooded with imagery that all could have been translated into a piece. I fed my attachment to any resulting outcome to Friday night’s releasing fires, so that I could focus on pulling in the imagery and energies that I encountered over the subsequent days into the piece as it evolved. The releasing fires themselves, the hillsides casting their shadowy reflections on the lake as one moon looming above and another on the water, raindrops on the water’s surface, branches, faces, Agility, Strength, Patience, Love, Courage, and Wisdom all wove themselves into this work over the weekend.

For those of you not familiar with the Earthspirit Community, it was founded in the 1970’s and is centered in the hills of Western Mass. where I live, but also extends far from here. It is an organization whose purpose is the preservation and development of Earth-centered spirituality, culture and community – especially regarding the indigenous pre-Christian traditions of Europe – through education, practice and by organizing public rituals and events. The largest of these events are “Twilight Covening” each October, “Rites of Spring” every May and “A Feast of Lights” at the very end of January, where the Faery Seership “Vision Keys” that I have shared here will be on display. [A Feast of Lights will be held Jan.30 – Feb. 1, 2015 in Northampton, Massachusetts. For further information, please go to http://www.earthspirit.org]

For more information about Martin Bridge’s art, please go to: www.thebridgebrothers.com and www.facebook.com/martinbridgeart

Afterglow

ROS Fire Circle 2014aby Lyra Hilliard

Return with me, for a sweet moment
onto the top of the mountain
that holy place where we remember who we are.

What is your favorite spot?
Where on that expansive site do you stand firmly
on the ground, feeling the pulse of the earth shoot
through your body, realigning your bones and the muscles that bind them,
reawakening your sense of connection and trust?

Where do you remember the wind
kissing your skin,
dancing through trees’ leaves, gently
dipping branches to bow to you?

Where does the water speak to you–and how?
Is it the lake shrines, beach times, streams winding
softly over rocks or roaring near sun-flecked cliffs?

Where does the fire invite your
soul to dance, your
blood to rise, your
armor to melt?

Where does your body remember its power?
Where do you breathe deeply, love freely,
raise your neck, stand tall, feel your
shoulders straighten as your hips and heart reopen?

Everywhere?
Me, too.

Go there. Return with me, for a sweet moment.

Return to the place teeming with renewal
Each being sloughing off its winter sheath
to gently reveal the sweet skin beneath
each birth, bud, and blade a radiant jewel

on the crown of that mountain that
pulls us, molds us,
holds up a mirror to remind us
how stunning we are.

I see you, too.

I see smiles of relief and release at the gate
I see sparks in your eyes of knowing and becoming
I see open palms and outstretched arms
I see you kneeling to kiss the ground.

I hear hushed excitement broken
by djembe slaps and throbbing djuns,
by a chorus of voices rising up through the night
pierced
by inimitable shrieks of delight.

I feel the vibrations of your feet underneath my own,
my breath quicken as shadows yield to painted faces
my heart pound as I stand between two sisters to
sing you and welcome you home to the fire.

Here, in this temple, I see beauty Everywhere.
I see you shine and risk, rise and kiss
the flames with your voices and drumbeats, your
flying limbs and whirling feet, your tending and
serving and burning through layers
that no longer fit to reveal
the you we’ve all been waiting for.

I see you, and I bow before your sovereignty.

Return with me, for this sweet moment.
Come home with me, to this fire,
to this temple, to this mountain, to this
community
of beloveds.

And say yes
if you will return again, for
many, many more moments
in the flesh
So that we may play and pray and remember ourselves for
many, many more fires
to come.

© Lyra Hilliard 2014

Photo by Rowan Oakthorn