Reflections on Hearing Mary Oliver Read

I go down to the shore in the morning

and depending on the hour the waves

are rolling in or moving out, 

and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall–

what should I do: And the sea says 

in its lovely voice:

Excuse me, I have work to do.

Mary Oliver

Yeah, I love this little poem, titled I Go Down to the Shore in the Morning.  It’s not unlike William Carlos Williams classic, The Red Wheelbarrow:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Both of these poems are easy to travel in–you can put yourself in that place, anywhere,anytime.  You can instantly imagine the sea, the sea’s voice, the white chickens, the rain.  You remember them always.
Mary Oliver read her poem last month in an ark-shaped church on Sanibel Island.  Dressed in black, she appeared unassuming, a friend you might like to talk to as your dogs play. Her new book of poetry is titled A Thousand Mornings. I recommend it.  She read several poems from it and her other books and confided, with humor,  about the trials of traveling, organizing papers and books to take to readings, and forgetting the order she wanted to read them in.  She answered questions at the end honestly and carefully. At one point she congratulated the huge crowd, some outside watching on a big screen, on not coughing. (Everyone was coughing where she came from, she disclosed.) She also took the time to sign “Mary Oliver” on our books.  I would think it would be difficult for anyone to keep signing and signing, all for strangers, but she did, and graciously.

Mary Oliver doesn’t give many readings, and I could almost feel her unspoken pain, her unwillingness to break her routine, which is getting up at dawn and walking, observing and reveling in the natural world, writing and taking joy in her close friends, her dog and the wonder of  what’s outside and inside us all.
She reminded the assembly that the  world doesn’t have to be beautiful to work, but it is.
And the sea has work to do.

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Bread this morning…

IMG_0187This morning’s bread is wavy. I decided to make it yesterday and put in the refrigerator for both rises so I wouldn’t be up until the wee hours baking, and I had a meeting last night. I don’t think it likes it in the cold, dark white box. At least not twice. And, it didn’t make any bread song. No pinging when you put your ear to it, taking care not to touch your ear to the bread. Hot, hot,hot when it comes out of the oven.
I ate some. It’s dense, not so many holes for the butter to drip into.
Good news, the new pope spoke of tenderness and I made a beautiful scoring patern on the top of the crust.

Skimmers rule

Skimmers at Bunche Beach this morning. They were up and down about 20 times. Counted at least 200. Once, when I first moved here I saw one laid out head and beak on the sand and I thought it was sick. Ran back to the car to get my blanket, and when I approached, it woke up, looked at me and flew off. Nap interrupted. Maybe it was tired out after all the adjusting the flock has to do on the beach. I love the way they all face the same way. And which one gives the order to readjust? I love watching birds. We have so much to learn about all fellow creatures.

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My Reflection in church today

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When  our minister mentioned Judeo-Christian religion’s history and “redemptive violence.”   I must admit I was flummoxed.  Stumped–as what on earth that might mean.  I let my fancy go, and imagined it was something to do with Jesus’ terrible and  violent death and then the good news after it, at least if you were a believing Christian.  For our family, it generally meant chocolate bunnies and hidden Easter eggs.
Moving on in my imagination about redemptive violence, I came to the Genesis story.  Frankly, that didn’t seem too bloody, but the part about god kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden seemed pretty mean of god, violent even. I had never really understood why eating an apple, that most delicious of fruits was such a bad thing.  And furthermore, I  thought knowledge was a GOOD thing.  However, as a child, I accepted the story, and understood that sometimes adults told you NOT to do a certain thing and that made it all the more tempting, and it could result in a spanking.  And, as I got older, I wondered why Eve was to blame.
Then our pastor, who is a woman, gave me a paper presented by a theologian, Walter Wink, titled “Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence.” (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/cpt/article_060823wink.shtml )I don’t pretend to understand it all but in it, he draws parallels between modern life and the Babylonian Creation Myth.  The myth dates to around 1250 BCE and is called the Enuma Elis.  It was recorded in cuneiform on clay tablets found in Mosel, Iraq in 1849. I’m going to attempt to re-tell the myth in my own words, and in a simplified version.  It’s R rated and not a story for the faint of heart.

In the beginning, there were two gods, a male and a female.  Apsu and Tiamat.  He was fresh water and she was salt water.  They had many children and their children had children.  According to the myth, the younger gods got very rowdy and made so much noise that the older gods had trouble sleeping.  The older gods decided that the way to get some sleep was to kill the younger gods. Soon, however,  the younger gods got wind of the plot and killed Apsu.  His wife, Tiamat, also called the Dragon of Chaos who sometimes appeared as a snake–think Genesis–vowed revenge for her husband’s death, and mounted a fearsome army.  The rowdy gods turned to a young and very powerful male god called Marduk.  Marduk said he’d face Tiamat, but his price was to become the supreme leader of all the gods.  They agreed. And so, Marduk caught Tiamat in a net, drove a hurricane down her throat, shot an arrow that pierced her heart, split her head open and scatterd her body parts in out-of-the-way places.  To top it all off, he splits her in two, and arranges what’s left of her body end to end, sort of like a giant clamshell, and that ends up being the world. One part of her body became the sky, the other the earth.  But there’s more…Marduk then took over the world and made the remaining gods work the fields and keep the ditches clear and other tasks which they found distasteful,  And so, even though things were nice and orderly, they objected.  In response, Marduk and his father executed one of the gods and from his blood they created– wait-for-it–humans, whose job on earth was to become servants to the gods.  
That is redemptive violence.  Murder and mayhem–of a female deity– beget creation.  Humans are created from the blood of a murdered god.

In Walter Wink’s words this myth “is the story of victory of order over chaos by means of violence….”Order,” he says,  “requires the violent suppression of the feminine and is mirrored in the social order by the subjection of women to men and people to ruler.”
As a Unitarian Universalist, what was I to make of this?   Why, I might ask, did Tiamat and Eve cause all the trouble in these myths? Why, in today’s world are we seeing a rise in violence against women and children? Why did our Florida  Representative Trey Radel and our Senator Marco Rubio vote against the Violence Against Women Act?     Many, many complex questions arise because of and as a result of violence, and once again I am thankful for being here, now, in in my Unitarian Universalist community where such questions can even be considered. Redemptive violence,  May it not be so. But may we at least consider its history.

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Anhinga at Ding Darling 3-2-13

The anhinga has to be one of my favorite birds.  It spears fish, and at Ding they dive in brackish water,  capturing a fish, unspearing it from their beak and then flipping the fish so it goes down their long throat head first.  Females have a beautiful camel-colored neck and they both have long, long tails. During mating season they both appear with  breath-taking blue eyes.

Anhingas need to dry out after they dive.  As they dry in the bright sun, a  checkerboard pattern appears on their backs.  Slowly, delicate white feather-lines become visible.  Like some sort of reappearing magic ink.  When every white line is visible, they fly–a graceful cross in sky.Image