Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Category: From Rachel

Oracle cards, Wolves, the Work In Front of Me

animal cold color fog

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Somebody gave me a deck of Earth Magic oracle cards, and I only kept them because I liked the art a lot. It was created by an assortment of artists, expressing a healthy variety of cultures and styles. Later I saw that Hay House was offering a free class in card reading, so I started watching that, and playing with the cards a bit more.

Thursday I did a lot of running around doing errands and things, and I got really down about how difficult they were. There were some things that went well, or without difficulty, but others just couldn’t happen, and they seemed to throw the whole day off. Later I was at home looking at Facebook and saw a picture of an emaciated polar bear struggling to stand. I’d seen the photo before, but this day it felt like a punch to the gut. I didn’t let it go.

I respectfully request that if you’re going to put distressing pictures in my feed, you give me (at least) one solid action I can take to change the situation.

Otherwise, you’re just asking me to suffer to no end, I replied.

Did I tell you I was lobbing this complaint at one of my favorite astrologers, Rob Brezsny? I’ve been reading his astrology reports since the 90s, and he has 116,000 followers. I may have slightly annoyed him, and he actually posted several replies. One of his replies included a quote from Julia Butterfly Hill: So often activism is based on what we are against, what we don’t like, what we don’t want. And yet we manifest what we focus on. And so we are manifesting yet ever more of what we don’t want, what we don’t like, what we want to change.

“So for me, activism is about a spiritual practice as a way of life. And I realized I didn’t climb the tree because I was angry at the corporations and the government; I climbed the tree because when I fell in love with the redwoods, I fell in love with the world. So it is my feeling of ‘connection’ that drives me, instead of my anger and feelings of being disconnected.

Wonderful idea, but, I thought, my hikes on the prairie and nature poetry are apparently doing fuckall for the polar bears.

Later he came back with this: How can we influence people to stop their extermination of nature? How can we motivate people to stop committing genocide against animal species?

Express smart love for the interconnected web of life.

Celebrate the fact that there are other forms of consciousness and intelligence besides just the human kind.

Embody the hypothesis that spending time in wild places enhances one’s mental hygiene and physical health.

Value the feminine as much as the masculine.

Cultivate the art of empathy, and demonstrate how to make it work in everything you do.

Show what it means to think with your heart and feel with your head.

Stay in close touch with the Mysterium, the other real world that is the root of the material world.

Vow to bring the I-Thou dynamic to bear on all your relationships.

Be as curious about intimacy as you are about power.

I’d been working on my attitude in the meantime, trying to remember how I deal with these kinds of things. It was something about supporting wholeness among the people and community around me, and having faith that the Divine is in control of the rest . . . and I heard a similar message in Brezsny’s advice. But still, if that makes a difference, why are bears still dying?

Finally it occurred to me to pull a card from the Earth Magic deck. What to do, how to live in this world. The card that came up was Wolf, keyword Instinct. When I looked at the card, I immediately thought of a story I’d seen in the news a couple days ago, about red wolves.

Some scientists were studying the DNA of coyotes in the southeast, and they found, to their astonishment, that the coyotes were carrying red wolf DNA, some forty years after the species had been declared extinct in the wild. We thought they were gone, but they were still here, in an unexpected way, transformed into a different kind of animal.

The second story I thought of when I saw the card was about how wolves had been reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park. They were exterminated in the 1930s and brought back some sixty years later. With their presence, the elk began behaving differently, not hanging around the water and meadows all the time, but moving around more, going into the forest for cover. Then the trees by the water grew back, which attracted beavers, which created habitat for fish. The trees also provided habitat for birds. The wolves reined in the coyote population, which made more space for rabbits, rodents, and foxes. Twenty years after wolves returned to Yellowstone, the park had greater diversity of plants, animals, and insects than it had seen in decades.

What I saw in the card, for me this day, was that the wolves didn’t do anything special to bring about this change. They didn’t see a problem and set out to fix it. They didn’t fly up to the North Pole with a thousand pounds of meat to feed the bears. They didn’t organize all the other species and try to get them to change. They didn’t write letters or protest or install solar panels. They didn’t fret over the fact that they left Oregon two years too early to sit in that tree with Julia Butterfly Hill. All they did was be wolves, following their instincts, behaving in the ways that wolves do. Their presence changed everything.

So this is my task, then: to be what I am, to be as honest and present as I am able. To follow my instincts in doing the work that is here for me to do now. To participate in my community. To hold faith that this is enough, that my presence is changing the world in ways that I will probably never know.

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Flight of Unknown Birds

Flight of Unknown BirdsI’m very pleased to announce that my new book of poetry, Flight of Unknown Birds, is available on Amazon. Some of the poems in it you’ve seen here at Veronica’s Garden, some have never been shared publicly, and some that had been published here have been revised.

I am very appreciative of you readers here at the blog, especially those who have commented. Dialog and critique are essential for developing writing skills, and several of you are named in the acknowledgements in the book. Much gratitude to you.

It’s currently only electronic, but if you prefer a print book, watch for a print run early in 2019.

This was one of my goals for the year, and it was more difficult than I expected, but I did it! What did you achieve this year?

Soon, very soon now . . .

Flight of Unknown BirdsAfter I completed NaPoWriMo, I had enough material for a chapbook, and I decided not to waste any time on it. I printed up some of my best in order to shuffle them around and decide on the order, but I misplaced the file a few days later. Eventually I gave up on finding it, so I started over. Made some revisions and additions and removed some because I didn’t think they were thematically consistent, so it’s a better book for my having lost it (which still rankles, anyway).

Some months later I was ready to take it to the bookstore that has a printing system, only to find out that their machine won’t be in working order until sometime after the new year. So I had the choice, wait some more, or epublish now. I decided not to wait, but still publish in print as soon as I can.

There were technical delays, and now the year is in its final days, like an old cat who’s moved into the bathroom to die. Nobody will get my book for Christmas. But the good news is, it’s been submitted! So maybe your friend who’s getting a reader for Christmas will download it the day after, or during those in-between days before the New Year.

So Merry Christmas, Wondrous Solstice, Joyous whatever holiday you like! I am not a total deadbeat, I have produced something for the world, which I think has some value. It can be yours very soon.

Keeping You Posted

Regular readers (all three of you) may have noticed I haven’t been adding posts much for a few months. There are a few reasons for that. After my NaPoWriMo sprint in April, the way I write changed. I write a lot more junk now, and revise a lot more, so the final result is that I have more poems coming out, but I’m not always sure when they’re done, and I don’t feel as much urgency to share them with the world.

At the same time, I decided to start submitting poems to magazines regularly, and publishers don’t like poems that have previously been published elsewhere (they don’t know it’s just for the three of you), so I have been holding back the better poems, and removing a few from the blog.

Most importantly, I am in the final stages of self-publishing a chapbook of poems. I’ve made revisions to some of the ones posted here at Veronica’s Garden, and some haven’t been posted at all. So if you have read poetry here, the book will have some material that’s new to you.

For now, the book will be only in electronic format. I still hope to publish in print early in ┬áthis coming year, through Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore, but there have been technical delays and I don’t want to wait any longer. But you just might be able to get an ebook in time to gift it to your friends who do their reading on screens.

I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading Veronica’s Garden.

NaNo Rebel

blank book pages desk green

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m not NaNoing* this year, still haven’t finished the last NaNo novel I wrote, and I have several other projects I need to finish up before I start a new novel. But my daughter informed me that I can be a NaNo rebel, and do whatever I want, so I decided to commit myself to cleaning up some things and getting them out. I’ve been working on a poetry book. I’d thought I would publish a print version, but that seems to be stalling out, so as a last-ditch effort, I’m going to publish it electronically and maybe put it into print early next year. In any case, it will have a lot of the poems you’ve seen here at Veronica’s Garden, some revised and improved; and there will also be poems I haven’t ever published.

After that I have a couple short stories in the works, and maybe I’ll work on that other novel this month, too. It will be better for my having taken a break from it, but only if I actually do finish it.

As for the notorious NaNo word count, I’m arbitrarily assigning word counts to the formatting and revising work I’m doing, based loosely on how I feel I’ve done in a day. Yesterday I gave myself 800, for a good effort but only about an hour of work. Today I spent more time and felt like I moved forward well, even to the point of designing a cover! So I gave myself 1600. That’s almost the NaNo daily goal to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month. Look at me! I can be so successful when I make up my own goals and arbitrarily decide whether I’ve met them or not.

What are you doing for NaNoWriMo?

*NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.

The Crazy Spectrum

I told a friend today that she is awesome, and her reply was, “Awesome is a great euphemism for crazy!” I didn’t have a succinct answer for that. In fact, my response required a whole chart.

crazy spectrum

It’s easy to see that crazy is part of what makes most of us who we are. We are living in three dimensions, after all, under the illusion of limitation and linear time. If that doesn’t make you at least a little bit crazy, then . . . you’re to the left end of the spectrum. In any case, let us embrace our crazy (unless you’re on the far right end) and that of those around us.

And Happy Halloween!

Triggered

Everyone is triggered these days.
It started with that man, liar,
gaslighter, fraud. He brags of
touching women’s bodies
with those greasy little hands.
My whole body reviles at the thought.
Now his nominee, and the excuses.
He was a teen. Everyone was doing
such things. We women have heard
them all. But it really wasn’t that bad,
compared to some things that happen
to other people. She was drunk,
she should have known better.
Also, he didn’t do it.
Everyone is triggered. We are
triggered. We ride the flow of memories
rising up from the black swamp.
This time we have the tools to heal
ourselves. We heal each other. We
stand together, arms linked. We
are coming. We are an army.
We are an ocean, a tsunami
that will wash you all out to the depths
and all the debris that comes along
will threaten to choke the ocean itself.
There is no safety from the undoing,
once the trigger is tripped.
The ancient feral Goddess has been unearthed.
She will not go back into the coffin.

To The LARPers

The 13-year-old wanted to LARP, and she found out about a group in Kansas that plays monthly. Their location happens to be the Girl Scout camp where I took Outdoor Leadership training, which made the whole thing seem more inviting. It’s not aimed particularly at kids, so I thought a parent ought to take her, and if you go as a non-player character and let them put you in their costumes and tell you what to do, they give you food and a cot at no cost. They didn’t blink when we asked for vegan food. So the two of us went, and we had a great time. It was a great group of people, terrifically creative, welcoming, and wonderful storytellers. I had oh so many thoughts, and here’s just one. In poem form.

To The LARPers

There are so many kinds of magic.
You are adept at the magic of costume,
disguise, image, imagination, vision.
You invoke the sacred magic of theater,
of the creative act in community
in consecrated space. Do you know
that you are working with dream magic,
manifestation, moving energy
between the physical and spiritual
realms: true alchemy? Can you see
the magic that is already here, now,
in the wildflowers around us,
in the naming of birds and studying
their flight? These millipedes congregating
in our midst have a message for us,
if we can divine it. You practice the magic
of words. Have you yet found the magic
of devotional chanting in the sacred
ancient languages, whose origins
are unknown? Do you long to live
in a world that cannot be? It is
here now. You have prepared yourself well.
It is much bigger than you know.

Theology, the Long Conversation

Photo Aug 21, 8 05 38 AM

We have an abundance of bibles around here.

I’ve been slowly making my way through Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. I usually only read a few pages at a time, so it’s taken me months to get past the 100-page mark. There are two very significant insights that I am slowly gleaning from this history. One is that there has been a very long conversation taking place between countless learned philosophers and theologians over thousands of years. To study theology is to join in this conversation, and to presume to speak authoritatively without awareness of this age-old conversation is to make an ass of oneself.

The other is that the idea that the Bible ought to be read and interpreted in the most literal, simplistic way, as a rule book for living, is a modern idea, and wasn’t the intention of those who wrote it, nor of most of the above-referenced learned philosophers and theologians, nor of most of the people who have studied it throughout its very long history.

This week this quote struck me:

“The Trinity must not be interpreted in a literal manner; it was not an abstruse “theory” but the result of theoria, contemplation. When Christians in the West became embarrassed by this dogma [“the deeper meaning of biblical truth, which could only be apprehended through religious experience and expressed in symbolic form”] during the eighteenth century and tried to jettison it, they were trying to make God rational and comprehensible to the Age of Reason. This was one of the factors that would lead to the so-called Death of God in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries . . . . One of the reasons why the Cappadocians evolved this imaginative paradigm was to prevent God from becoming as rational as he was in Greek philosophy . . . . The Trinity reminded Christians that the reality that we called “God” could not be grasped by the human intellect. The doctrine of the Incarnation, as expressed at Nicaea, was important but could lead to a simplistic idolatry. People might start thinking about God himself in too human a way: it might even be possible to imagine “him” thinking, acting and planning like us. From there, it was only a very short step to attributing all kinds of prejudiced opinions to God and thus making them absolute. The Trinity was an attempt to correct this tendency. Instead of seeing it as a statement of fact about God, it should, perhaps, be seen as a poem or a theological dance between what is believed and accepted by mere mortals about “God” and the tacit realization that any such statement or kerygma [public teaching of the church] could only be provisional.”

Photo Aug 21, 8 09 51 AM

Wildfire didn’t want Willow to get all the attention.

I’ve sometimes heard people discuss the Trinity in depth, and wondered what the big deal was. This idea that it is part of expressing and trying to grasp the enormity of The Divine is helpful to me. I think most of us can use regular reminders that The Divine is far bigger than we can hope to comprehend.

 

Rings of Saturn

Om shram shreem shroom Shanaichiraya namaha.
-Hindu chant to Saturn

The day I saw the rings of Saturn,
gas giant, Slow-Mover, earth star,
reaper, a whale in the Pacific
was carrying her dead baby
for the 16th day. That day
we gave a trunkload of stuff
to the thrift store, and bought
other stuff to take home. A woman
with lots of tattoos saved two kittens
abandoned at birth by their mother.
One died, the other lived.
The old patriarch was retrograde,
a trick of perspective making him appear
to move backwards from day to day.
I woke up and saw gray mist
clinging to the walls, and knew
it was time to smudge the house,
this day the sun and moon and earth were aligned.
The President told lots of lies, which
he did every day. My husband
wrote a sermon about Elijah killing
worshippers of Baal, which was really
about prophetic Christianity.
A doctor okayed my children to play sports.
I got high on chiropractic.
That night we took a bus to the location where
the telescopes were erected.
My daughter knew the nighthawks
circling and swerving in the deepening dusk.
It was August and the sky was hazy,
but as we stood and waited, our faces ghostly
in the moondark, more stars appeared.
And more, faint specks of dust
in the indigo sky.
An expert talked about
constellations vs. asterisms,
and about light pollution. I waited in line.
Then there he was:
746 million miles away, bright disc
wrapped round by a frisbee of light.
51 years he was my neighbor, my father,
Saturn, gas giant, slow-mover,
reaper, his weight pulling me even
here on Earth, as we orbit our star,
our source, together, and I never saw him
until this night.

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