The Mennonot article that kick-started a few things

Time to connect the dots. Here’s something I blogged elsewhere.

Vennonite Life

Back in the early 1990s, a great little ‘zine (remember those?) was published, called Mennonot. For someone recovering from the indignities of being raised female in an Anabaptist / historic peace church (Menno-Brethren, with an emphasis on the Brethren side, through no doing of my own), it was a breath of fresh air. It pinpointed a lot of the quirks and foibles and cultural “anomalies” that went hand-in-hand with living in a strict community devoted to living in dynamic, wary opposition to “the world”. It was also hilarious in ways that really only made sense if you were “from there”, which is always helpful when you’re processing a heritage of serious spiritual violence.

Fast-forward to a few years back, and Daniel Shank Cruz reached out to me about writing another piece for an anthology he was working on. I wrote the piece, processed the whole identity thing a bit…

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What is the Meaning of This? Lessons from the Hall of the Fisher King

Most people have no idea that I’ve spent a good deal of the last 20+ years contemplating the Western Mysteries around the Holy Grail. No, not the Grail sagas of Indiana Jones, Dan Brown and the conspiracy theories about Templars and Oak Island and all that. Rather, the symbolism of the Holy Grail Cycle.

To me, the Grail Cycle is the epitome of the Western Path. It’s been well-hidden beneath jokes and parodies, Monty Python sketches, and joking references that serve to minimize its power – perhaps to throw people off its path.

For protection. To make sure the people who really delve into it are serious, are sincere, and have a dedication that transcends the danger of looking like delusional fools.

Now, more than ever, it seems to me, the Western Mysteries embedded in the Grail Cycle need to be brought to light. Because we need them. They’re not better than others, or worse. They’re just quite Western. And in an age when a whole lot of folks of Western heritage are swooping in to help themselves to others’ Mysteries, I really think we need to reconnect with our own.

Reconnect with our DNA, our cellular truths. And live them. Just as our ancestors would have wanted us to.

It’s time to recount the tale.

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It’s not so much the things we do wrong… it’s the lessons we don’t learn

strange bedfellows cover

Strange Bedfellows – more pertinent now, than ever.

So, that book Strange Bedfellows… The one I wrote way back when, after having the whole story play out to me in a dream ’round about 1993… I think about it frequently. And especially recently, as we all go through this COVID-19 business, quarantine, social distance, work from home, shift our ways… and we watch what’s happening in the world as a result.

Less pollution. Apparently, you can see the Himalayas in India for the first time in 30 years, thanks to the lack of pollution. Overall pollution has dropped dramatically, based on the mappings of the globe. 70,000 endangered sea turtles were able to lay their eggs on deserted beaches. And goats have taken over a Welsh town.

Looking around, it would appear that some things, at least, are healing. Even as hundreds of people die each day from COVID-19, we’re seeing some positive effects of everyone just staying home.

And as I look around at the changes that are happening, and I think about the potential for things to really, really change in the future, I can’t help but think about Paul and Christina in Strange Bedfellows. They’re very emblematic of the kinds of people who are running around today, doing as they please, meeting all their own needs (even at the expense of others), and not giving a thought to the larger consequences for anyone other than themselves.

Hell, they don’t even think about the consequences to themselves, since as far as they’re concerned, they’re totally entitled to whatever they can get their hands on.

They remind me of, well, everyone these days.

And like all of us who are feeling the burn from this pandemic… pollution… environmental destruction… economic peril… social crises… you name it… at some point they get pushed to the brink of potential personal destruction. Everything they have is threatened — their status, their reputations, their hard-earned standard of living — and they have to act. For them, their choice is clear. They know what they have to do, and they do it.

Of course, it’s far simpler for them to act to get out of their tight spot, than it is for all of us to do something about ours. All they have to do is get that corpse out of their apartment. Well, yeah, maybe that’s not so simple, but you know what I mean. Getting a dead body out of your bedroom is a much more doable task, than completely altering the way you live your life, earn your money, participate in your community, etc. , in hopes of keeping the planet alive and sustainably viable. 

But we do share an awful lot in common with Paul and Christina. 

And a lot of us are feeling a huge burden of responsibility to do something to right our listing ship… while we still can.

Here’s the lesson, though: We can make all the changes we want in the short term, but unless we make the kinds of changes that we can keep going, and unless we put the proper supports in place for our changes to really stick, we’re just not going to have a lasting positive impact. We may think we can, but we won’t.

Paul and Christina succeeded in getting themselves out of that tight spot. They followed the instructions they were given. They did as they were told. They change their lives, they made different choices, they wore different clothes.

What they didn’t do, is build a life around themselves that could actually sustain their decisions. They still lived in the same place. They still worked the same jobs. They were still surrounded by the same people they’d been around before. None of their immediate or extended circle shared their newfound commitment to Doing Right. No one in their community was their to keep them on the straight and narrow. They went it alone. They did it all by their lonesome.

And what happened? Eventually, it all unraveled. Not immediately. Not dramatically. Just a little bit at a time. One choice at a time. One slip-up at a time. They gradually melted back into their old ways, as the nightmares faded and the shock and horror of finding that corpse in their bed wore off.

That, to me, is the lesson of Strange Bedfellows. It’s Not that we shouldn’t take advantage of other people (although we really shouldn’t). It’s Not that we shouldn’t work for companies that place profits before people (although it would be nice if we didn’t feel like we had to). It’s Not that we should be respectful to indigenous elders and follow their guidance (though I recommend it). It’s that if you intend to make a permanent change, you have to make it possible for that change to be permanent

If you don’t… well, what’s the point in changing at all?

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Ode to a Clepsydra – #poetry

Ode to a Clepsydra

Ode to a Clepsydra

To the alchemist’s eye, water = emotion, and so it is
that our moments can be marked by the rise and fall of
feeling, a steady stream of anger-eager-joy-hope-faith
devotion to emotion.

Days that pass without touching the interior of
our mortal casings are deadlier
than disasters. Moments that come and
go unremembered, unmarked by impact
on our souls, are the ones we most
regret, when we consciously number our final breaths.

So let’s trade the customary tiny grains of rock, sifting
  down
   a
 narrow
   hole
     to peak beneath their ingress, for a steady liquid
stream — drain
     water,
   drip
  drops. Let the pool beneath rise and w i d e n.

>Plop<

should be the sound of living life.

And

>>Splash<<,

the sound of life lived well.

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Watch that WHCD clip with Michelle Wolf – #poetry

Watch that WHCD clip with Michelle Wolf – #poetryWatch that WHCD clip with Michelle Wolf

You will feel better.

It doesn’t matter
whether or not you agree with her, or you
think everything she said
is in good taste.

She told the truth
in a series of extended thoughts you actually
have to follow
past a second or two.

Just figuring out if you’re offended by what she said
is a worthy exercise. As is
googling it, or searching YouTube to find
the full 19-minute-plus version
without commentary
from the damage-controlling peanut gallery.

Everybody’s got something to say about what
she said.
Said / we said / they said.

Make up your own mind.
You will think better.

 

~ Kay Lorraine

May 2, 2018

 

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Winter Showers – #poetry

When the rain starts again, comes the relief. The relief of being loosed
from months of being careful-so-careful about how long
you let the water run at the tap
or linger in the shower.
When the rain starts at last in November,
you can forgive the desertlike stinginess of September,
thumb your nose at the fiery threats
of October.
You can smile at the sight of reclaimed waste
water spraying its broad horizontal arcs
through vertical winter showers.
And the cows look, well…
happier.
When the frogs start their horny chirping,
you all are.

Written sometime in the early 1990s

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World of Flesh – #poetry

I. Through the day, you are in it, whether
sucking down piping hot coffee
at seven a.m., or moving
your bowels at 7:30, or
craving some-
thing — anything at all that’s sweet and filling —
in the midmorning hours.
In the walk of the woman
in front of you
in the hall, whose heavy hips
still sway with onetime
accomplished, perhaps-now-forgotten
seductive swish
it reminds you.
You are in it.
You are
Here.

II. Don’t run and hide. Don’t
bury your fingertips in a keyboard and
glue your eyes to the screen, groping
at the mouse to flick the screen saver out
of sight again. Don’t
pretend to work. You can’t, so long as
your lively mind wanders back to last night —
You are not
here.
We’ll find you
where life cascades through
a gorge cut deep into the bedrock
of daily subsistence. We’ll find you
tumbling through memories
of her —
Don’t pretend to be here.

Lick your lips.

Written sometime in the early 1990s

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You live close to my bones, you… – #poetry

You live close to my bones, you
with your soft eyes that can
snap
hard in a turn,
your solid arms with their sure
embrace around my heart,
every bit of you, from ten solid
toes to strong-wide shoulders
forging through life
with your iron will — you
inhabit me in the nearest,
dearest of places, shedding light
on my most secret marrow,
counting out,
in red cells and white, the flow
with every beat of my heart
for you.

Written sometime in the early 19902

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On Remembering An Almost-Overdue Deadline For Work That Was My Idea, In The First Place – #poetry

glowing coalsWhat must be done,
Must Be Done.
I can procrastinate all I like, plumb
the depths of my lazy rationalizations
all I care to, excuse
my inaction with a chock-full
calendar…
But what must be done,
Must Be Done.

It’s not like I didn’t know
it needed doing.
It’s not like
I could have gotten out of the commit-
ment I
myself
signed up for.
Duty calls — but I called first.

 

2006

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Aftermath – #poetry

Aftermath

leaning birches

I.

Now, walk up the road, to see what’s what.

And yes,
Everything does look like it’s had the shit torn out of it.

Because it has.

Five major winter storms in four weeks.
Two of them coming
after the official start of spring…

I remind myself, this is New England.
These things can happen.
Especially in the so-called, alleged spring.

There are plenty of pictures and stories
to prove it.
A whole forest leveled overnight is nothing
to take as a harbinger of
The End.
It happens more often than you’d think.
More often than we
remember, short
memories
that
we

have.

 

fallen snapped off trees

II.

Winter was kind to us
Until March.

Then came the surprise fury, the dumping of meters of snow.
Refreshing our memories of an Earth we ignore, till
she demands our full attention
for a day or two.
The takedown of trees and lines and power, phone and cable television,
essentially
all the ballast of our modern lives.

The chain snapped free of the anchor, just as the wind picked up.

Any chance of us getting off easy this year
Was gone by the third storm.

The only consolation being that the snow covered up the damage it had done.

No more.

No, here we all are
in our dead, twisted, contortions of devastation lite,

Tired,
so
tired, what with everything
that’s going
on.

But still knowing full well that we got off easy,
considering
that a lot of those trees could’ve fallen the other way, and hurt us
much worse than they did.

I, for one, have a hard time saying “snow storm” without preceding the noun with an expletive adjective.

Fucking snow.
Fucking storms.
Wrecking our recollections of that vibrant autumn that got a late start,
but still rewarded us with so
much
color…
Canceling out the promise of Spring – right around the corner, we’d
hoped – after such
a bitter
cold
snappy
couple of months…
Dragging our thoughts from anticipation
to immediate exigency,
our cabin-fevered minds kicking
and screaming like kids who can’t get on
the ride they love most
because they got there 10 minutes after the gate closed.

True, clearing fallen limbs and filling out insurance forms
is a far cry from not getting to ride the teacups,
but still.
Bruises, lacerations, pulled muscles, and a monster
burn pile stacked on the far side of the yard
have a way of affecting the mind
as well.

Eh, never mind.

We all know this is the price we pay for such beauty, as we reckon
with nature’s less welcome interruptions.

We’re all adults here.

Still,

I’m glad that shit’s over.

Road-killed frog

III.

And up the road I go. No heavy jacket needed today. But then again,
not a light windbreaker, either.
We’re at that point where the roads are wide enough to comfortably walk again
without getting run over,
which means you warm up quickly — long strides, pumping arms — and then
half a mile later, you’re stripping off
layers.

Chill wind on my neck — Should I have worn a scarf?
Hot gusts rising from my torso as I move, mixing with the cold.
No.
I should not have. I’ll be fine.

But never mind me.
Look around.

The forest… the woods… Oh…

Splintered, frayed, stripped, bent, flayed, snapped, crushed, battered, lost, dwarfed, amputated, ugly.

Gone.

Amid this musty, dusty stack of kindling we used to call the woods, the sound of spring peepers echoes,
their guttural chirps filling the enlargened air that used to be crowded by
living, growing
tree trunks.

Frayed, snapped-off toothpicks of once-towering Ash, Hickory, Maple, Pine.
The frogsong rings free, where it used to bounce off all those hard spaces.
They seem now both
fewer
and more
than I remember in past years.

And in the vernal pools, growing trees look all the more precarious,
their days numbered
knowing what we know about trees rooted in soggy ground
when the winds pick up.
Vulnerable as the road-killed peeping frogs who just wanted to cross
the asphalt ribbon of death
to do what they do in the spring season.

The warning signs for drivers to slow down seem no more effective
than our expectations
of what should happen, weather-wise, in March.

Against the backdrop of pattern-defying weather,
I turn the corner of the road.

Past the burned-out shell of a house that once stood here.
Car coming….
Step off the road and in
to what used to be the widemouthed entry of their driveway. Look around – look around.

Someone
has been here with the mower.

It wasn’t this clear last fall.

Maybe the original owner finally wants to sell the place.
Or
the town has complained about the mess.
Or
something new will be built on that spot before long.

I should see piles of deer droppings.
But no.

broken-down garage

IV.

A rustle behind me.
I turn and wave to the neighbors across the way
watching me
from their darkened screened-in back porch.
If they wave back, I can’t tell.
Too dark on the inside.

Seems they’re keeping an eye on this place, perhaps to buy it.
Perhaps
to figure out what the heck is going on over there with all the brush and small trees disappearing from the lot between
when they leave for work and when they return home in the evening.

Each day, a little bit more is gone, as though
the shoemaker’s elves got bored
making shoes
and decided to clear underbrush instead.

Now step off
the road and onto a path leading back into the conservation lands. Through woods blasted lower than
they were last time I was here.
Falling branches,
felled trunks,
logs blocking the path,
some of them sawed off,
others broken.

Someone has put in a yurt on their field, with a small shed beside…
it looks like maybe a chicken coop on wheels…?

Amid the storms’ devastation, new construction is like a stable armistice, bounding
the arboreal battlefield
just beyond the rock walls,
spelling out how we still go on, no matter what.

A yurt’s easier to put up than a house.
Quicker, cheaper, in some ways
just as good.

And you can do it.
So, some do.

fallen trees

V.

Clouds are coming in.

I’ll have no shelter till I get back home.

Turn, put the path beneath my feet
and the deadfall
behind me.

Return to the road.

Turn back towards my house.

Whatever has happened here in the last month has happened many times before, and it will keep on happening.

Keep walking.

Accept what comes next.

 

April 8, 14, 15 2018

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