The Little Drummer Boy

I was born a Christian. My parents, deep believers in a life of service to the divine, we called this God when I was young. But it was the heart of love of the divine that was the bedrock of my childhood. I longed to be a nun, as my stop over on the way to sainthood. I loved the stories of the female saints, rebellious and generous, willing to risk it all to love God, casting off the role’s society assigned to them to heed a higher call. I gathered flowers from the park and left them in front of Mother Mary’s icon in the church, gazing at her so long that I would well with tears. I am devotional by nature, and by nurture.

Also, I am no longer a Christian, neither are my parents. Yet I can say with most confidence that we all still carry a deep love of Christ, and the Christ story that we know. And we carry, each one of us, wounds from the false ideals, condemnation and shame woven deeply into most Christian traditions. I call it my “religious shrapnel” I keep pulling pieces out that I didn’t even know were there.

It is a strange thing to navigate no longer identifying as a Christian, while still carrying a tenderness and love for the traditions and beliefs that I was surrounded by in my childhood. I am moved deeply by hymns and prayers, I speak aloud words of blessing to God the Father, I hang images of the Divine Mother, in the form of Mary on my walls and light candles to her, sing her songs and kiss her well-loved face. I know that I can claim her as my own and not have to attach to a set of thoughts and structures that are not congruent to what I hold Holy.

I am in love with God, wildly and madly, and in all forms. But I am not in love with religions laws, the path of carnage wrought on the world in the name of God, the terrible tyranny that plagued our ancestors and continues now across the world in the name of religious colonialism, this now tends to wear the face of “missionary work.” Before anyone gets up in arms, I am not saying that all mission work is based in ulterior motives of conversion or control, but it seems to me that an awful lot of it is. If food, medicine or education is given at the cost of giving up ancestral beliefs and practices, that is a terrible tyranny indeed. How many cultures have been lost this way? “Christianized” away from the voices of their old ones, severed from the threads that held them together, the ancient ways of praising life. Is this what is called “being saved?”

Even with all that in my consciousness, when this time of year comes around and the air is filled with songs of Christmas. As soon as I hear the strums of a well-loved carol, my heart fills past brimming, and my eyes frequently do as well. Some of that emotion is linked to the oldness of the thing, the knowing of how many humans have sung these same words across time, we, all linked in timeless union through these words. And then there is the longing present…the hunger to call the sacred to the earth, to wed it, to have it live in us.

I can see my Mother in my minds eye, face lit by the light of the advent candles, eyes closed and uplifted as we sang together , Oh come Oh come Emmanuel, and Silent Night, and so many of the oldest carols, the ones still tasting of the hunt, and the rising of the sun. Her devotion, the pure love of praise in her face and her voice, this image alone could feed me for 100 days in the dark and keep despair at bay. I will be, all my life grateful for this ritual of advent my parents gave to me. I am in awe that after long days with children and work and the immensities of family life, that they carved out those precious moments every night( or nearly every night) of advent to bring us all together and offer prayers and songs to welcome the Christ child and bless his mother. What an act of love.

One of my favorite songs as a wee one was The little Drummer Boy. I loved the pa rum pum pum pum, how we would roll it off our tongues, the somewhat staccato rhythm. My body has always loved a beat.

The images of the song were strong for me. I was a young one too, I was a poor one too, not boy but girl, and not drummer, but I did have a recorder and that was something I could play. I longed to play for that baby, that child to be born in the manger, with all my heart.

Last week I was leading a song circle for the elders at the retirement community where I work. We sang The Little Drummer Boy, and as I looked around that circle, seeing the love in each one’s face, the tenderness, the same I carry, a new layer of meaning began to unfold.

The deep ache to have something to offer to life “ I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a King” We long, I long, to give something precious of myself to life, to the king in this story. Of course we are poor, we are so hungry for a taste of something real, something true that we can sink our teeth into, plant our hearts into, breathe life into. In some ways, we all feel inadequate and unworthy, as if we have so little to offer of value. In fact, I will go ahead and say that I have never met a human that has not felt this way at times and for many of us this belief is absolutely running the show.

The place in the song where the tears always come for me, if they have not begun already is when the little drummer boy see’s that he can play, that his gift, his only gift, is the right one, the perfect chosen one. “And I played for him pa rump pump um, on my drum”

The exquisite beauty of being received. Would that we all find this great mercy.
Then the image of the wee babe, new to life and breathing it all in. I don’t think of him much in a manger, although the image is idyllic. I prefer to see him at the breast, suckling and sleeping, baby milk smiles on his face. Mary in the exhausted and exalted place of new motherhood, holding life in her very arms. You do not have to give birth to Jesus to know this wonder. And you do not have to born as Jesus to be born holy. This is the gift of incarnation, we are born, whole and holy. Trouble is that we seem to forget along the way, amnesia clouding our vision of who we were born to be and from who we have come.

I think it is us we are singing to. I think I am that baby at the breast, new to the world and filled with light. And you are that baby too.

Could we welcome again into our hearts our own divine place in the order of things? Could we learn to offer freely the gifts we have been given, in love and service to the holy? Could we see the sacred, that we could call Christ, alive in each one of us, and midwife that to grow and thrive through all our days? I offer up a prayer for this becoming. I offer up a prayer for us all, knowing that this prayer, and these words are the gift I am meant to be giving.
And I played for him pa rum pump pum..on my drum…

Much Love to you all, may you find space and quite in this fertile darkness.
Marianna

What is Disaster?

I wrote this short, unedited piece in my kitchen last week. In a flurry of madness to close the oven, wipe my hands, find a pen and give the words life before they abandon this host and move on to one more ready to receive them. The “bite” of a poem is a fast and fleeting as a fish on the line, if you are not ready, and your hands not fast, you may miss out all together. I have learned to drop everything and write, a charming first line beckoning in my mind seems to stale and sour if kept trapped for later in the notes section of my iPhone.

This poem is a response the fires burning in the amazon, and in my own life. I too, just as the Earth herself am in a massive die off, much of what I have held solid now melting away before my very eyes. I think of Joanna Macy’s language frequently, it seems business as usual has broken in my own life, and this is a great mercy. Could it be the great turning has come? Both within and without?

Disaster

They say on the news that the Earth is burning
the Amazon is on fire – Earths lungs scorched and charred
in a wicked rain of dust and ash.

I still have to get up and go to work tomorrow
and most likely- you do too
If the Earth is burning up – shouldn’t we stop and pay attention?

My heart longs for reckoning – meaning – action
but my body is so exhausted that I cannot even turn my face away
from that dreadful smoke filled screen.

What is it like to be a woman at the end of the world?
let me get some rest and I will tell you
just now- I am too bone-weary to even begin to think…

The world is burning up – but here it rains in August
my garden could actually use a little more sun
the weather is strange – but is it really a catastrophe?

Or is my own decimated heart
that old woman at work who never knows where she is
my daughter who may never know breath without fear again

These- are these catastrophes?

I don’t know
somehow from where I sit it seems
that both everything – and nothing means disaster

what becomes of meaning when there is no future?
It grows– oh god- it Grows

A woman at the end of the world
learns to love fiercely (she must)
or she has no chance at all.

Marianna  – August 2019 

 

Morning Practice

I am going to start sharing more of my daily writing practice here. I am engaged in the practice of daily poetry writing, each morning before the world can rob me of my time to create and connect. These poems are not very worked, free form and unfiltered.
I have found it so interesting to be doing this morning writing through poetry, my morning writing used to be in the form of journaling. This poetry practice in some ways is more honest, more sincere, simpler and radically raw, than my journaling was. This form of writing allows me to express feeling more directly. I am enjoying the discipline of this daily practice and happy to share some of the writing that comes to being through this commitment to a daily honoring of the muse.

 

How long will it take to heal
The shattered pieces of my broken heart?
I sweep the rubble clean away – then low and behold
once again – disaster.
The roof is caving in and hurricane warnings tell me that
a storm’s coming, always is, on nights like this.
I plant seeds on the good days
days when warmth blooms in my chest
and I can see vision of summer evening – soft tides – soft smiles
I bury the seeds deep , to keep them safe until the grow
after the flood waters have receded
after the strong words have died down.
I place my hand on my chest
a shelter of a sort
to hold close this heart of mine
the temple of my love.
You are not forsaken – I tell her
Life leaves rubble in us all
we sweep and sweep again
we plant seeds and wait
it’s like the garden love-
give time – take time
one day a mighty Oak will grow
just don’t stop planting acorns.
These words are scattered seeds
this page a love letter to my own sweet heart
Take root now- grow.

photo- coast range, near burnt woods Oregon, baby big leaf maple.

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Solstice Prayer

The sky is dark- clear and cold,
dawn did not come until 8 oclock this morn.
Frozen ground firm beneath my feet
the first sun of this shortest day
reflects off diamond dusted boughs of cedar
leafy holly, hardy grasses
All ablaze with light.

In days gone by when winter crept into our homes
and cold claimed penance of the skins of those like you and I.
When darkness came at dusk and lasted all night long – all long night,
with only glow of candles flame to keep the dark away and cold away
in those days, this day, this shortest day- had meaning
had power.

The longest night- rabbit, underground
lies buried deep, warm bodies of her kin beside her.
Goose has flown south by now, warmer climes await
Squirrel, now nested, acorns stored in plenty,
even worm is tucked away, slumbering.
Until soil warms and springs good work begins again.

Human builds a fire- to drive the dark away
to welcome visions of spring
call warm days back
recall the smell of sweet grasses
the taste of May’s first strawberry
remembering the living world will bloom again….

the dance now calls our feet to dance, our bones to move, our voices chant
to pound our feet upon the earth- voices raised in sacred laughter
faces ruddy in the firelight
Call back the sun! Sing back the sun!
Pound hard on frozen earth with joy!
We have survived this longest night, to see
a new years morn arise again.

The sky brightens with the dawn
we greet the day, alive and well and grateful
For all that has come before
and all that will come after
the magic of surviving
of belonging – here- on this land and in this time
New years sun above us once again
and kinships bonds to keep us warm.

 

 

Solstice Blessings to Your Home and Hearth.
Marianna

 

 

 

We’re going to die one day….

I might not wake up tomorrow morning. Yes I am 37, and in apparent good health, but this is not a guarantee of another day breathing, not for me, nor for you dear reader. No matter your age. Life is precarious. Unlikely in fact, and the fortune that finds us here, me behind my screen typing away, and you reading me on yours is almost to much to bare.
This fact that we are alive, alive! and breathing is enough to make me draw that same breath in sharply with wonder, the awe of it all….but only when I am paying attention. Which I do confess I am not always doing, and more likely than not, even though today I am writing of the incredible power, fortune and beauty of being alive, by tomorrow morning I will most likely be griping about going to work and feeling less than charmed by my circumstances. This seems to be the way of it for me, at least for now.

And yet even in that, the remembering and forgetting, the high and the low, is life.  In the words of Mary Oliver- my one wild and precious life. Which is not guaranteed, it has no warranty, no insurance, no claim, only presence. The only claim is the one I stake, the stake I put in my own fertile ground. How alive am I willing to be while I am still alive? How much can I love being here in this body? Today, it is enough to make me kneel and kiss the ground.

There is so much unlikely fortune at play in my life, small wonders that I so often take for granted, the spices and salt I use with such abandon, the foods in my fridge, my fridge itself! Water that runs clean, well reasonably so anyway, from the tap – warm or cold. I know my ancestors would have been in disbelief at these luxuries. My aim, my prayer is that my life be a living testament to the gratitude I feel for all this I am blessed with. For all this abundance and ease and wealth beyond what most women living in this world will ever see or know. These wealth’s I reference here are only a drop, a small one at that, of all that I am grateful for…truly. And sometimes I am still a shitty whiney human being. Sometimes I am pissed off cause I have to plan and cook my own dinner, and I am tired and worn down and so so lonely.

When I try to write about this I feel lost, spiraling around in my mind, the absolute wonder I have at being alive, the knowing that it will end. I will die, all this, all this beauty and wonder and love and aliveness will be gone…. I know it. I know it, deep in my bones kind of knowing, feel it in my belly kind of knowing. Its not a theory or an inkling, or an idea. I am going to die one day. Wouldn’t it seem, that in knowing this I would stay present to the magic that is my life? That I would each moment of each day be singing praise for all that has been given by this great blue planet and my ancestors that dreamed me into being here? If I am going to die, why in Gods name would I ever watch  a TV show?!

But I do, in fact Outlanders upcoming new season is being eagerly anticipated by me right now. I can’t wait for more Jamie Frazier in my life, or on my screen anyway.
So what gives with this dichotomy? Am I missing something, does my lack of vigilance with how I use my time mean that I am less than stunned by the beauty of this human beingness? I am not sure. I seem today to only have many, many questions. Perhaps there are more question marks in this post than any prior one I have written. I say perhaps because I have not counted and I will not, I have more important things to do! Like sit and type and wonder at the apparent insanity of my own existence.

I just don’t want to miss a thing. When I get to the end of this run, this life of mine, I want to leave knowing I drank every drop. Be it next year or 70 years from now, I want to leave this earth exhausted by the beauty of it all. So I wrestle with myself, with my choices, my done and undone deeds. I suppose it is human to do so, to take a tally every now and then. Thing is, I don’t think there is a score per say, only a knowing, a felt sense of purpose, fulfillment or lack there of, connection or disassociation. All in all I think I am pretty damn present to my life. And yet, there is learning to happen there as well.

As I go to sleep each night, I do take time to reflect on the beauty of my days and ways. As I rise I rejoice to feel breath moving in my body once again. I bless my food and know that it is not a given to be well fed and housed. I know I am here by the grace of those who came before me, my kin, human, animal, plant, stone…. the truth is, if I was truly present each moment to the majesty this all is, I would be weeping on the ground. It is to beautiful to ever fully grasp it. This life. To precious for words.

May I wake up tomorrow, another day to learn and love, and maybe even watch a little Outlander.  May you wake up as well. And if the Gods are willing, someday perhaps our paths will cross, and we can speak of such things as life and death, beauty and sorrow, the meaning of it all, the majesty of this life. Until then, may you be known by your old ones, and may you in turn teach your young ones well.

Marianna

 

Daughter of Earth

Earth-
I am your daughter
Born of the darkness
Bathed in the light
Earth dweller
Sky gazer
Guardian
I walk upon your firm brown skin
Run my fingers through your grassy hair
Taste the sweet ripe fruit of your lips
You leave treasures everywhere
Simple gifts
And magical tokens
Of your love
Roots, shoots and berries
Smooth stones and feathers
The light on the field at dawn
A gleaming spiral shell
You speak to me in sunsets,
Moonrises, shooting stars
A thousand ways you say
I love you
I am listening
I hold out my hands in gratitude
And you fill them
Wherever I am
I am with you
A daughter of mystery
Born of the darkness
Bathed in the light

Marianna Louise Jones-May 2017

A Mournful Beauty

I spent last week in Ontario, another session of Orphan Wisdom School complete. I am left with the richness of love and heartbreak that this endeavor of learning has filled me with. I would not want it any other way. Before I stepped onto this path all I had was an aching, painful, grey sense that life was not supposed to be this way. I am now learning to articulate in some small and humble way, why it came to be this way and what we are collectively longing for and grieving. Perhaps I should not say articulating, since as I sit here at this keyboard I feel at a loss to even begin to convey the majesty and wonder of what transpired in Golden Lake last week. I am not yet a master of this mother tongue I wield. So I will simply offer here a poem, some of that which comes from the place in me that is digesting, composting, fermenting the learnings that took place. More will be shared when the gods of time deem it right, for now, just this…

Where do the brokenhearted go?
Carrying on their shoulders the weight
of ten thousand years of sorrow
still tall under the burden
eyes open, there is no place to hide.
Let us walk together now.
Lean your troubles on my troubles
Rest your weight against my shoulder
dark times have come for sure.
As we stand to face,
what was behind us, and before us
all along.
The only place I know to go
calls to me so sweetly,
and then howls in the voice of a wolf.
Turn to the river that flows
mound the troubles deep and wide,
this canoe can hold plenty of weight
push of the shores that are no more
let us trust ourselves now to the river
eddies flow around us,
time and abundance carry us on.
Here is my hand…come-come
I will carry the weight with you.

© Marianna Louise Jones 2017

Morning has Broken

Morning comes
sorrow and praise live in my heart together
strange bedfellows it may seem
but no…
All that we love will go
All that we claim will be lost
All hearts that love will be broken
and yet…
The sky pours generous rains
through oak branches
nearly naked now
leaves lie on the soft earth
and are claimed again by her
birdsongs erupt in the still dawn
and I am here
my feet wet on that same soft soil
a heart full of wonder
and eyes to see this beauty
eyes that pour their own generous rain
down the soft curves of my cheeks
Sorrow and praise
resting together in the
dark chambers of my
Heart.

© Marianna Louise Jones 2017

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A golden heart leaf- photo by yours truly. Taken one cool morning on a trail at Elk Rock.