Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Poetry Blogging

To Meditate

To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem.
To meditate means to observe.
Your smile proves it.
It proves that you are being gentle with yourself,
that the sun of awareness is shining in you,
that you have control of your situation.
You are yourself,
and you have acquired some peace.

- Thich Nhat Hahn

Picture found here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May the Goddess Guard Him; May He Find His Way to the Summerlands; May His Friends and Family Know Peace

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution WILL put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.
-- Gil Scott-Heron

Picture found here.

Poetry Is a Way of Celebrating the Actuality of a Nondual Universe in All Its Facets

I love what Gary Snyder says about poetry and meditation:
A year or so later, in Kyoto, I asked my teacher Oda Sesso Roshi, "Sometimes I write poetry. Is that all right?" He laughed and said, "It's all right as long as it comes out of your true self." He also said "You know, poets have to play a lot, asobi." That seemed an odd thing to say, because the word asobi has an implication of wandering the bars and pleasure quarters, the behavior of a decadent wastrel. I knew he didn't mean that. For many years while doing Zen practice around Kyoto, I virtually quit writing poetry. It didn't bother me. My thought was, Zen is serious, poetry is not serious. In any case, you have to be completely serious when you do Zen practice. So I tried to be serious and I didn't write many poems. I studied with him for six years.

IN 1966, JUST BEFORE ODA ROSHI DIED, I had a talk with him in the hospital. I said, "Roshi! So it's Zen is serious, poetry is not serious." He said "No, no—poetry is serious! Zen is not serious." I had it all wrong! I don't know if it was by accident or it was a gift he gave me, but I started writing more, and maybe I did a little less sitting, too. I think I had come to understand something about play: to be truly serious you have to play. That's on the side of poetry, and of meditation, too. In fact, play is essential to everything we do—working on cars, cooking, raising children, running corporations—and poetry is nothing special. Language is no big deal. Mind is no big deal. Meaning or no-meaning, it's perfectly okay. We take what's given us, with gratitude.

* * *

In Japanese art, demons are funny little guys, as solid as horses and cows, who gnash their fangs and cross their eyes. Poetry is a way of celebrating the actuality of a nondual universe in all its facets. Its risk is that it declines to exclude demons. Buddhism offers demons a hand and then tries to teach them to sit. But there are tricky little poetry/ego demons that do come along, tempting us with suffering or with insight, with success or failure. There are demons practicing meditation and writing poetry in the same room with the rest of us, and we are all indeed intimate.

Here's one of Snyder's poems that I think is about meditation. And reading (and writing, I suspect) poetry. And mystical experience. Oh, and not falling.
John Muir on Mt. Ritter:

After scanning its face again and again,
I began to scale it, picking my holds
With intense caution. About half-way
To the top, I was suddenly brought to
A dead stop, with arms outspread
Clinging close to the face of the rock
Unable to move hand or foot
Either up or down. My doom
Appeared fixed. I MUST fall.
There would be a moment of
Bewilderment, and then,
A lifeless rumble down the cliff
To the glacier below.
My mind seemed to fill with a
Stifling smoke. This terrible eclipse
Lasted only a moment, when life blazed
Forth again with preternatural clearness.
I seemed suddenly to become possessed
Of a new sense. My trembling muscles
Became firm again, every rift and flaw in
The rock was seen as through a microscope,
My limbs moved with a positiveness and precision
With which I seemed to have
Nothing at all to do.

Picture found here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Lady of White Sands

I (Heart) Elizabeth Warren

Energy Follows Attention

An interesting conversation with a dear friend has had me thinking for a few weeks about mystical experience. And one of the things that I've realized is that while it's generally not possible (absent LSD or other psychotropics) to have a mystical experience on demand, it is possible to do work that will lay the groundwork and help pave the way. (That's not to say, given the nature of such experiences, that they don't sometimes come to those who have done nothing to prepare for them, or that all the preparation in the world will ensure them. In this way, they're a bit like athletic performance. Some people are natural athletes and can achieve amazing performances without as much practice as it would take, oh, say, me. Others can practice and work out for a lifetime and still not break the record or perfectly execute the grand jete. It nearly drove Salieri crazy.) And I'm reminded of Adrienne Rich's admonition that:
No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

And yet, and yet, what I've observed is that daily spiritual practice and an openness to mystical experience, as well as a willingness to go with the experience when it happens (to not shut it down, discount it, run away to some distraction) are certainly helpful.

And I think that all of this is relevant to the notion of developing and being in deep relationship with your landbase, with your own Bit of Earth. Which is, for me, where mystical experiences come from. Few of us living in this technology-studded culture are able, without some work, to connect easily and deeply to our landbase. Like most important relationships, it can take work. And, yet, that "work" -- once we decide to make time for it -- is really quite easy.

1. Pick a place. Better if it's quite accessible and won't take time and effort to get to. It can be your yard, a nearby park, a strip of weeds between your apartment building and the dry cleaners. It can be a potted plant in your window-sealed office if that's your most likely option.

2. Spend time there. That's all. Don't expect to have a conversation or receive insights. Just go there and spend time. Fifteen minutes, if that's what you've got. An afternoon, or a sunrise, or a long lunch break if that works.

3. Repeat Step Two daily, if possible, or as close to daily as you can. Keep doing this.

4. Begin to notice how things change. What new animal did you see? Is the plant that you sit by blooming, losing its leaves, sending out runners? Keep doing this for months and months, years and years. Maybe you'll feel, at some point, like getting a field guide and trying to learn more about that bird who sings to you from an invisible place in the tree or about that weed that seems invasive. Maybe you'll want to look something up on the internet or ask a local gardener who's been working for years in your area.

5. One day, maybe early on or maybe after a long time, you may get a notion to do something: leave a crust of your sandwich for the ants, bring some water in a bottle to pour on the thirsty little plant you've been watching, pick up the trash, plant a vegetable garden or a tree. Maybe this is the land telling you what it needs, maybe it's just your wild whim. An' it harm none, do as ye will.

I pay a lot of attention (and we all know that magic, like energy, follows attention) to the strip of land alongside the Potomac River that I travel through every day on the way to my office. After years of this work, I can recognize subtle changes and I welcome so many manifestations of the landbase's energy as my old friends.

Today, I noticed that the chicory is now in bloom. Chicory's flowers always remind me of the color Alice-Blue, derived from a dress worn by Alice Roosevelt Longworth and they're happy and dancey, the way you'd feel if you wore that dress to a party. I didn't used to know chicory's name; to me it was just that pretty blue flower that grows by the roadside. But eventually, maybe it was chicory and the landbase talking to me, or maybe it was just a whim of my own (and the real lesson is that there's honestly not much distinction), I wanted to know its name and that's led to me learn more and more about it.

Like Miss Alice, (her father is reported to have said that he could "be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.") it's got a mind of it's own and spreads where it will. The chicory growing along the Potomac River in Virginia likely came from some that Thomas Jefferson imported and grew at Monticello. Like a dear old friend who shows up at the first sign of trouble or hardship, without waiting for an invitation, chicory grows in abandoned fields, along roadsides, in places where the land needs to begin to recover itself. Its leaves can be eaten and its roots provide the flavoring in chicory coffee. It is reputed to have medicinal uses and is sometimes encouraged as fodder for livestock.

And it's pretty and happy and sways in the early-morning sunshine as if it were skipping home late from a dance.

What's blooming just now in your landbase? What might you notice if you committed to spend some time paying attention for the next week, or Moon, or turn of The Wheel?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bob

Wow. That was a long time ago.

In My Bones, I Am a Witch

Maybe it won't be helpful at all, but on the off chance that someone who has to talk to the press ever needs to actually explain "what Witchcraft is," here's (a bit of) what it is, to me.

It's a religion that honors that part of women that is also divine, that helped me to finally heal the wound caused by Catholicism's solitary emphasis on male images and versions of divinity and priesthood. Finally, in one blinding moment, I too, was (really) created in the image and likeness of the divine. I, too, was a priest(ess). And, as the poet said, that has made all the difference. Catholicism denied me the word: Priestess. That was the word that I needed all of my life to explain to myself who I am. Witchcraft gave that word to me. It has touched me; I have grown. That one word was the most important key to unlocking for myself who I really am.

Witchcraft is a history that explained to me why female power was always shown as evil and problematic, why all that the nuns could offer me was sacrifice, why the men in the church/medical profession/government were so terrified of my raw power.

Witchcraft centers me within the Wheel of the Year, teaches me how to live in deep connection with the cycles of the Earth, Moon, constellations. It gifts me with a relationship with Hecate, Columbia, Baba Yaga, Quan Yin. It grants my own life a place at the harvest, the winter freeze, the Imbolc shift, the warming of the Spring. It centers me within a history of old women stretching all the way back to a frozen old crone in a cave in Sweden, holding off the wolves from the scent of warm afterbirth near the fire, inside the cave, between her body and her power.

It's a theology and a philosophy that honors all of life, that honors the connection between the light and the dark, between my bloody, messy, life-giving, milk-spurting, orgasming, food-tasting, flower-smelling, cancer-getting, strong, out-of-control, fantastic female body and my quick mind, my ability to produce prose, my ability to think in thea-ology, my urge to win, and my deep longing for the poetic.

It's a way of living that allows me to exist in the natural world, that provides me with lessons in how to exercise my power, that respects the deep intuition that has guided and undergirded (when I ignored the guidance) most of what I have done for most of my life.

Witchcraft has made me whole, taught me who I am, gotten me through some insurmountable odds.

Witchcraft is how I wake up in the morning, connect my dreams to the "real" world, travel to work, and connect to the plants, animals, waterways, and humans that I meet on that journey. Witchcraft is how I move myself into the Druidic dancer of the law, the Priestess who uses power with skill, the woman who can play the glass bead game to help her clients and friends.

Witchcraft is how I cast a web of protection across a street that Obama's motorcade is about to cross, how I light incense for a friend's beloved dead, how I pluck strands of the web to influence an election, to protect an activist, and to bless Elizabeth Warren or revolutionaries across the globe.

Witchcraft is how I garden on THIS bit of Earth, how I drive every morning along the Potomac River, how I knit warm sweaters for G/Son, or cowls for all the men in my family, or caps for DiL and her mom. Witchcraft is how I buy vegetables at the farmers' market, pick and dry herbs in my garden, pull the levers when I vote at my local community arts center, and deal with the guy behind the counter at the place that services my hybrid car or the guy behind the counter at the place where I buy my morning coffee.

Witchcraft is me, living and growing within a circle of women, bumping up against them, adoring them, living my own life within a circle that includes them. Witchcraft is a blue new Moon painted on my forehead, me calling a direction surrounded by my Sisters, the cone of power we raise to protect activists, the magic we do to turn retrograde Mercury against those who would harm us, the delightful ability to help a Sister achieve her own magical goals as we stand, skyclad, inside a circle of power.

Witchcraft is how I teach G/Son who the Goddess is, allow him to use my athame, do Reiki on his bones that grow so fast that he has growing pains. It was how I did the same for Son's growing pains, drew pentagrams on the door to my DiL's labor room, circled protection around their home, and how I cast Tarot to see the best solution to a legal knot.

What Witchcraft Is, is a pretty big topic. It's way too big to waste time explaining that it's not about [insert noxious practice here].

What is it about for you?

Once More, Into the Breach

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, but apparently there's still a need to discuss framing when Pagans deal with the outside world. Here's an article about a group of Salem Witches who want to improve relations with their town and educate people about Paganism.

U R Doing It Wrong.
"We're not eating babies or drinking blood," said Teri Kalgren, W.E.L.'s vice president. "[We promote] a better understanding of what witch craft is." [And that would be??? Apparently, what Witchcraft is -- is going around assuring people that you don't eat babies. Because there's NO discussion of "what witch craft is." Just the already-hackneyed assertion that we don't eat babies.]

No, Teri, not if that's how you go about it, you're not going to promote a better understanding of what Witchcraft is. What you're doing is reinforcing a negative frame.

Think of Christine O'Donnell announcing, "I'm not a Witch." What does everyone remember about her? Her statement that she "dabbled into witchcraft."

Think of Richard Nixon telling Americans that their president "is not a crook." He's not remembered for signing the EPA into existence; he's remembered as a crook, who was forced to resign in disgrace.

Think of your guilty kid snatching his hand out of the cookie jar and telling you, before you get a word out, "I wasn't taking cookies."

What I really don't get is that not only have I never heard of any Witches who do actually eat babies or drink blood, but I can't remember an even vaguely mainstream publication saying anytime in recent years that Witches eat babies or drink blood (isn't that Vampires?). The only people who seem to be discussing those subjects are -- Witches. Stop it. Just stop it.

Yeah, I get that in Hansel and Gretel there's a (nominal) Witch who wants to eat the children. In Cinderella, there's a prince who runs around trying to put a glass slipper on women's feet. You didn't see Prince William giving interviews announcing that he doesn't have a shoe fetish, though, did you? Catholic priests demonstrably do sexually abuse little boys. You don't see Father Flannigan beginning his press release about the St. Xavier's Day Festival by announcing that he won't be sexually abusing little boys at the bingo tent or funnel cake stand, either, do you?

If you want to start a Witches Education League and ingrain yourself into your community, issue a press release and explain that the WEL will:
continue with community services such as the annual W.E.B.-founded "ask a witch, make a wand," where children are invited to make magic wands with area witches near Halloween. [Great idea, by the way. G/Son would love it. More like this.]

Say that you'll be running seminars on the proud history of Pagans, from Babylonia, to Egypt (every kid in America has to do a school report on Egypt), to Greece, to Rome, to Ireland, to America. Say that you're:
planning a number of events coming up including a [P]agan family day tentatively set for August.

But don't, for the love of the Goddess, go on and on about how Witches don't eat babies.

You do need to be prepared for the (very rare) reporter who may ask, "Well, I've read in almost every other article in recent memory that Witches always say they don't eat babies. It makes me wonder why you're so defensive. Do you now, or have you ever, eaten babies?" Practice with a friend how you'll return the interview to YOUR (positive) message. "Of course, that's a ridiculous and false accusation. In fact, Witches honor all of life and our recent program to help pets stranded during tornadoes in the American South and West shows our commitment to all forms of life. Incidentally, our Pagan family day in August will include a number of activities for children, including face painting, a petting zoo, and a story hour. Those are being coordinated by X and Y, both of whom are parents with children of their own and degrees in early childhood education and . . . ."

This isn't rocket science. I'm begging Pagans to stop shooting all of us in the foot. What if we tried for a year NOT mentioning what we don't do and focusing on what it is that we do? We could reconvene at that point and see if we're any worse off for not having reinforced negative frames.

My pipple. I worry about you. Stop doing stupid stuff.

Picture found here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Let's Make Sure that Grandkids Can Visit

So, lawyerly disqualifiers first, I don't know Liona Rowan, but this survey was passed to me by a local Wiccan I know well. Rowan is conducting a survey concerning the need for a low-cost retirement community for people s/he calls "Pagan Elders." It's my impression from reading the survey that, by "Pagan Elders," Rowan means "old Pagans," rather than "old Pagans who have, for example, published books or made a big mark," but I may be wrong. And I could wish that the grammar were, well, better.

However, many Christian and Jewish groups provide nursing homes and retirement communities, either for their members or for older people of any religion who need care. So the concept of Pagan elder care is not surprising, especially as we move into an era where many of the people who came to Paganism in the decades between the 1960s and today are getting older and in need of care.

I can't help but imagine life in a Pagan nursing home. Tarot readings at lunch. Vegan meals. Of course, the Beltane circles might have to conclude before 4:30, when we old folks begin to flag. Endless discussions about whether it's appropriate to call only Goddesses at the Full Moon. Skyclad rituals with walkers. Meds dispensed along with Reiki. Weekly smudging with sage in the dining hall and crafts center. (OK, that was totally not PC and completely inappropriate, not to mention ageist, and I'm sorry. Still giggling, but sorry.)

I will say that I can see the benefits of a Pagan retirement community. And we now have our own burial grounds, so why not a place to retire? One question that's missing is whether or not Pagans need to bring pets with them. I imagine that many would want to.

Here's Rowan's survey, in case you are interested in taking it. Responses should be emailed to :


Dear Pagan, Goddess spirituality and Polytheist Community,

My name is Liona Rowan. I am a Witch and priestess assessing the need for a retirement community for our low income Pagan Elders. In my research I have found zero retirement communities for our Elders. It is my hope that I can help that become a reality by assessing the needs and desires of our Elders. Because many of our trailblazing Elders have been spending their time and energy building community, sharing their knowledge and generally care taking. Many of our Elders live in poverty or near poverty. I believe this is unacceptable.

By assessing the need for such a retirement community with a Temple on site I hope to be able to acquire grant monies and donations to build a retirement community in a country setting but near a major city. I am in the process of setting up a 501c3 for the Temple and retirement community to be called 10K Sanctuary.

In my vision there will be initially eight homes that will be around 700-800 square feet. Enough room for a single person or a couple to live comfortably. At the moment the rent will be set at $600. a month all utilities included. I hope to have an orchard and large herbal and vegetable garden in addition it is my dream to have bees. The vegetables and fruits would be available (at no cost) in season to the residents of the retirement community along with honey.

This is still in the exploratory phase. Please answer the questions and add any suggestions or improvements that you feel are important to create a harmonious place to grow old in the company of other Elder Pagans.

Thank you,

Liona Rowan

10K Sanctuary Pagan Retirement Community Survey

Please return all surveys to:

On a scale of 1-10 1 being the least important and 10 being the most important please answer the following questions

To choose your answer, simply highlight your choice and type an "x" in the place of the number you chose. Thank you in advance for your input!

1. It is important for me to live in a retirement community with other Pagans, Goddess or polytheistic spirituality people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. It is important to me to have personal outside space for a garden or leisure.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. It is important to me to have an indoors or protected community Temple/worship space when the weather does not permit outside ritual.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. It is important to me to have access to a priestess on site as needed.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. It is important for me to have an office/study/ritual space in my dwelling.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. It is important for me to have a washer/dryer in my dwelling.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7. Wheelchair accessibility to temple, personal dwelling and outside spaces.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8. It is important to me to have the opportunity to share my knowledge with the community.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

9. It is important to have access to activities in the larger community (YMCA, library, local restaurants, bars, supermarkets, farmers markets, etc. )

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

On a different note:

using the same scale 1 being the least important and 10 being the most important.

1. I would like to have access to fresh organic fruits and vegetables in season.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. I would like to have access to a community resource person.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. I would like to have the option of group transportation to access the larger community.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Please take as much space as you need to answer the following question:

As an Elder in the Pagan community my ideal retirement community (not assisted living or nursing care facility: Just start typing your responses after the colon, save and send the completed survey to

would include:

would look like:

would provide:

please include anything else you feel is important in a retirement community for Pagan Elders:


Picture found here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Ballet Blogging: Don't Muddy the Waters

You have to click here to see today's Sunday Ballet Blogging (embedding has been "disabled"), but you should definitely go ahead and click. Even if you don't like ballet, you should see this short video. Really.

My usual practice is to not comment about Sunday Ballet Blogging. Watching dance, like dance itself, is a mostly physical experience and I'm not sure that, for most people, discussion really helps.

Dance, especially ballet, in my humble experience, is a bit like poetry. Some people have decided that they don't like it, that they don't get it, that it isn't relevant to their experience, and that they aren't going to waste their time on it. And, like poetry, what I've found is that education about forms of poetry, rhyme schemes, influences -- as much as people trying to comment on and describe dance moves, the history of ballet, lighting, historical influences -- not only doesn't help but is, in fact, what has turned a lot of people off. (It's too much like trying to figure out whether you'd like a wine by reading that it has "fruity, citrus undertones with a hint of oak and tobacco." Can I try a sample? Because that discussion doesn't do anything for me and could almost make me think that wine is boring. When it certainly isn't. It's not that the discussion isn't helpful for people who are really, really into wine and "get" the vocabulary. But it's unlikely to turn anyone into an oenophile, at least until after they've learned to like different wines enough (by tasting them) to want to learn a way to describe them.) Too many of us had high school teachers who wanted to teach us iambic pentameter and the structure of a sonnet long before we'd ever found poems that literally moved us to a different place, that got into our gut, that changed our lives. Too many of us spent a damp-wool, overheated Sunday afternoon with our aunt in a smelly theatre watching some badly-done and stilted ballet and wrote that off (although the banana split afterwards at Giffords was almost worth the wait) as boring, bourgeois stuff that didn't have anything to do with our own attempts to live in our bodies, cope with love, have sex, express ancient truths. And until we do or see some dance that moves us, reading a discussion about it isn't going to help.

And I completely get that. One thing I've never figured out how to get interested in is sports. To me, sports are what kept my dad on the couch, yelling at us to shut up, every Saturday and Sunday. It's all about capitalism and Patriarchy. It's bad tribalism and a prostitution of what were once genuine community experiences. (Plus, not to mention, the maths.) If there is anything that will almost instantly put a polite, interested look on my face -- while sending my mind off to that space where I'm thinking, "And then, after I stop at the dry cleaners, I need to pick up milk and curry powder and potting soil, and then I need to be sure to pull the recycling out to the curb and maybe if I move that last section of the legal argument up to the front and then play off that in the following sections . . . " Yes, how about those Nats? -- it's sports. (And I've sat through a lot of business lunches w/ that look on my face.) And the more that some of the people I love most, Son and some dear friends, try to educate me about sports, to get me to spend, say, an Autumn learning enough about sports to have some appreciation, the more I think that I'd rather go home and read poetry.

I tried once, I did, to make myself get into tennis. I took tennis for two semesters in college to fulfill a PE requirement and I sucked less at it than at most other sports, and I figured it would be a good thing for me to to "be into" at least one sport. So I read the sports page every day for an entire year about tennis, bought some videos, read some books, went to some professional matches (in the July heat in DC. OK, not brilliant.) Epic fail. Although I do like the clothing.

All of which is a long way of saying that I do grok how some people just don't get, for example, ballet and why talking about ballet is just a good way to send them to that place where they're making lists about drycleaning and recycling.

What does, once in a while, entrance me is watching some (almost balletic) great tennis or seeing fencers work in a way that looks to me like poetry, like the kind of verbal back-and-forth that makes my Gemini Ascending soul feel all the way alive. And what I imagine/hope may entrance some of my readers is reading a really good poem that just transports them or watching some dance that in-a-moment solidifies for them what they, themselves have felt, or wanted to feel, in their own bodies.

But today's ballet, especially with its spoken poem in both English and (?) some Arabic tongue, about why it is important to be careful not to muddy the waters, just seemed to call to me to comment on it. We are muddying all of Gaia's waters, even the oceans, without which almost no life will survive on this lovely planet. Gaia, who is doing Her own ballet around the Sun, within the Milky Way, across the stage of the Universe. And this ballet, with its spoken and embodied explanation of why muddying the waters harms, for example, the Sufi who wants to wet hir dried bread in the river, is, I think, an important ballet for our time.

There's a great use of props (mostly gauze and wind) in this ballet. Ballet has long used fabric to invoke Water, Air, the way that Spirit enfolds and expands all of our bodies. Watch, for example, what Alvin Ailey does with gauze in Revelations. See, especially, what happens at about 6:30, when the gauze stops being about a hot Wind and becomes all about the cooling, invigorating Waters of Spirit. Are those flags about Air or Water, Wind or Rain? What is the relationship between the two? Is that umbrella about avoiding Fire/South/Sun or about avoiding Water/West/Emotion? And why does it show up to help the audience at both the beginning and the end?

When G/Son's about 3 years older, the 1st ballet that I'm going to take him to see is Revelations (not, Sweet Mother, the Nutcracker, which is, indeed, a passing ballet, but not the right way to enchant a Pisces grandson, nor, IMHO, most children, with the possibilities of dance), because I think that it's so accessible, archetype/Element-infused, and emotionally-rich. Son, DiL, and I once saw a performance of it at the Kennedy Center at the end of which a little girl from DC, maybe 6 or 7, ran to the front of the stage to give flowers to the performers who had so embodied so many archetypes. The lead dancer gracefully bent down to take them, telling the little girl that she mattered. That moment can still reduce/elevate me to tears, all these years later.

DiL and I once went to a ballet danced to My Sweet Lord by George Harrison, where the pastel costumes (among many other things) were a huge part of the dance. I've searched in vain for a YouTube of that performance, but it still provides sustenance for me at my altar. I've seen the Kirov when they 1st returned to America, Nuryev, and several transcendent ballets. The ballet set to Harrison may, in fact, be the one most likely to show up at my altar, in my dreams, when I am sitting zazen at a tributary in West Virginia.

And that's why I think that ballet and dance matter. They matter because they are a way of expressing important truths (the white swan and the black swan must be one, otherwise, women experience death and suffering and men wander around confused; there is something magic about the Winter Solstice and the gifts that we give our children at that time; Appalachia matters to the American story; we shouldn't muddy our waters; harvests and hunting parties all present real dangers) with out own bodies. Sans doute, ballet dancers' bodies are worked and, in Patriarchy, tortured into forms that can express our tortured society. And yet, and yet.

Several of my dear friends are student of belly dance, which, unlike ballet, welcomes women of various body types. I was recently talking w/ my brilliant friend E. about her experience backstage before a major DC belly dance performance -- women in various stages of dishabille, makeup all over, women doing each others' hair, women moving backstage to the music playing for the women onstage, the deep feeling of community.

The story that Patriarchy tells us, that we tell ourselves under the enchantment of forgetfullness worked by Patriarchy, is that women all compete with each others. We're terrified to get naked in front of each other; to pull off our Spanx, our push-up wire bras, our designer purses and shoes. And, yet, what E. finds in the belly dance community and what I've found in every skyclad ritual that I've ever done, is a huge relief and sense of community among women when we finally decide to take off our wrapping, to expose our masectomied, stretch-marked, beautiful female bodies to each other. It creates almost instant boding; it unites us; it makes us free.

And I see that in today's Ballet Blogging, in the women working together to show how Water reveals us while even Wind (supposedly the medium of communication) keeps us separate. I see, in short, enough in this brief ballet to keep me thinking for weeks and weeks.

And that's what good ballet, poetry, sport does for us.

What does it for you?

Picture found here.