Poems for the Very Beginning of Spring, 2022

Skunk Cabbage 

[The very first “flowers” to appear in the woods, in wet places]

What fun to be a skunk cabbage!

Smells are one of Life’s delights.

Out in the bog

I could be a tiny center

unfolding into a huge grand leaf

reeking through with greenness,

  ever richer,

     ever smellier.

Life makes many dainty whispers through the woods.

But bursting through decay,

I’d chase the winter doldrums

  with my sensual call.  I’d shout around

   “Wake up!  Wake up, you sleeping woods.

Come alive again

   and feel and

     smell

       and play.

It’s time to start all over once again!

Spring Beauty  

[tiny early white flowers with pink stripes from the middle; esp. found around trees]

Spring Beauty,

most delicate of all spring flowers,

early to appear,

how lovely to be her!

Small and sweet and dear,

my five-petalled face with pink mint stripes

   will smile up like a shy girl-child

      at the awesome world around.

Simple and friendly,

I will open to the sun.

My thin stem will dance with the smallest breeze.

Never alone, I’ll live in a world of gentle friends

   like me,

all of us playing

in the sweet spring sun and wind and rain.

O beauty protected,

O tenderness extreme,

I will speak to all the world

of the great sensitivity

of The Source of all Life.

The First Fly of Spingtime   

  [I have another poem: The last Fly of Summer]

The first fly of springtime,

I welcome you!

My adversary through the heat,

you bode of sunshine now,

   warmth

     and fun for all.

Right now, my housebound

    winter heart says

Yay!

We’ve come awake again,

the both of us.

Buttercup 

Oh I want to be a buttercup!  A buttercup!  A buttercup!

O warm richness!

O passionate color!

O enthusiasm for Life!

I’ll plant myself by a watery place

  and laugh for joy.

I’ll glory in the singing birds,

the humming bees,

  the pesky flies,

    the tickling breeze.

And the sun’s salvation,

“Relish in the warmth of sun!”

my shining saffron face will sing.

“And don’t forget enthusiasm, passion.

Dance, swim, listen, sing, love,

  feel and sense.

    celebrate like me,”  I’ll laugh,

I, the cheerful buttercup!

Breaking and Entering in my Own House

April 2021

   I was “irritated” with someone and so decided to do some errands to let this go and get into a better mood.  I went out to Trader Joe’s (always fun) and Staples, had enjoyable interactions, came home.  I pulled up to the garage in the dark, reached for the garage door opener on the visor – it wasn’t there.  Felt all over, turned the inside car lights on, couldn’t find it.  Got out and went to all car doors (in the dark) but from no angle could I find where that darn thing might have fallen. I usually try to keep a flashlight in the car but, of course, not now. I always enter my house through the garage, so now I had to find plan B To get in.  Found my back door housekey in the dark, in my purse, went up to the back door, but -oh no-I’d locked the thin storm door from the inside.  Weather had turned nice, I had pulled the screen open on the top, left the heavy door open for awhile and locked the outside from the inside.  Could not get to the lock through the locked screen door.

Walked around to the front door, trying to be optimistic that this key might open the front door.  In the dark, gave it a try.  No luck.

How to get into my house?  I guessed, must try a window! Nice weather had brought window-opening: which one might be easiest to get into?  I decided on the corner dining room windows -low and often loose.   I clamored through the vines, aware that I saw poison ivy there last fall. Usually people are out on the street jogging, walking dogs etc. But all was dark and quiet now.  This was good and bad:  No one would see me try to get through a window, but I was on my own. 

  I tried the first window: no budge.  Went around the corner: this was probably my last hope!  The window was open far enough to push on the screen and the bottom of the screen pushed in.  But no further; the screen did not want to just gently fall inward for me, no.  It did not want to give at all and this, of course is good news for me, if there were someone else trying to enter my house!  But for me here now, bad news.  Well, I would have to bend the screen, maybe damage it.  I had been carrying my cane with me so I gave that screen a good shove with hand and cane and somehow it fell forward.

 The window was just a little high off the ground for me, short as I am.  I leaned in, pushed the big floor plants out of the way.  Tried to get one 76-year-old leg up over the sill but this was definitely a no go. Leaned in.  The window seemed just a smidgeon tight.  Was I going to have to just fall on my face inside, butt in air, pull myself in?  Looked around, still no one anywhere, either to see or to help.  At this point, independent as I am, yes I would have asked for help. 

   I finally realized what I had to do.  It’s what soldiers do as they charge forward in war – one has to get your energy up for the job – anger is the best.  I turned my problem-solving mind off, and from my  pocket of past skills I pulled my swear words; then mustering together anger and energy and determination and not even knowing how I did it, I just – “did it!”  I have no idea how,  but I got through the window and was kind of stumbling forward on the floor.  

    Actually, I felt pretty calm.  I rearranged the plants and then went to the garage and pulled the car in.

    From there, I went to my computer, emailed the person I’d felt “irritated” with that I did not want to feel angry and argumentative – they could feel free to do X as they chose;  I don’t want to be an angry argumentative person, I do not want to be that kind of person.  I felt at peace and went to bed.

Next day I went to the car and looked around for the missing garage door opener. Where could that darn thing have jumped to?  And lo, there it was, on the visor where it was supposed to be but facing the wrong way!

What to make of this?! It was hysterically funny, and yet – puzzling.  The ending turned a funny experience into a puzzling one.  Kind of like a Zen koan or a parable that leaves something unfinished in your mind.  Something about the irony made it all seem “set up.”  Had some “teacher” set this up for me to learn something here? “Grasshopper, think on this!”

Ultimately this is what I see:  While being angry is not a healthy state to permanently be in, there may be times when only anger will get you through.  There are times when one actually needs to get MORE angry in order to get oneself to do what needs to be done. Or life needs to make you more angry!

I always remember both the feeling of embarrassment and of freedom that I felt when I first let myself “swear.”  My children were little, the work was more than I felt up to, and I just let it out.  It did feel – wonderful!  Nothing quite matches that counter-cultural release.

   As toddlers we learn to speak by listening to the adults around us.  As I grew up, I did hear both my dad and his dad swear.  My mother worked endlessly to get my dad to stop – “Don, don’t say that in front of the girls!” Eventually he did stop swearing – out loud, at least.  But then he’d go huffing and puffing around the house when he was mad and no one knew who he was mad at!  And Grandpa – it seems in my memory that gruff old grandpa never opened his mouth without something foul coming out with whatever he said.  He’d endured a lot of misfortune, and maybe it was part of his French Canadian backwoods character, I don’t know.  But I did know those words when I needed them!

  And I did know that I could get through that window!  I could feel myself on the other side, it would not be impossible, it would just take much more than my ordinary determination.  I stepped into an alter ego, allowed myself to be different, and wow!  What I could do in my different self!  Something in me feels freer now and glad to have felt all my power; I will remember what I am truly able to do – when I want to!

Christmas December 2020

“Do the work of a spider, strengthening the web of relationships around us, and throwing out threads to enlarge it and pull ever more people in.”                               -Pamela Haines, in Befriending Creation, fall 2020

What could be more of the essence of this holiday season at its best than strengthening bonds of love and light in our world?  And most especially this year as we all – all over the world – face perhaps the hardest time in our lives.  We must hang on just a little bit longer! Not only for ourselves, but let us see if we can rise to our very biggest selves and reach out a hand and light to everyone possible.  We see like never before that we are all in this together and that how we each handle it affects many others.This month’s Snippet will be my Christmas letter.  I share here in a one page letter some of what the experience of this year has been for me.  I’d love to hear what it’s been for you!  We each have a little light to offer, a view, some experiences – Let us not belittle the gifts our life has given us.  Thankfulness for our life could be expressed by sharing what love and enlightenment we’ve received.  Even the unanswered questions that come to us can lift others to see they’re not alone in their own questions.   What can heal our wounded ailing world?   All the love possible.  Throw out lifelines of connection and affirmation wherever you can.  


My Christmas letter, December 2020

Dearest friends,         What a year! Hard in similar ways for all of us and yet each has had our own unique challenges.  I apologize for not reaching out more.  I’ve often thought with love and concern toward different friends and family; you’ve probably done the same.  Something in us has sunk inwards into a quiet place, like winter on a long scale.

   Some highlights for me have been:  With the help of my daughter Anne Marie, we created a website for sharing my writings!  I’m writing one blog (a “Salty Snippet”) per month now, more writing than I’ve done in awhile.  I hope in the quietness of January- February you might check it out:  www.martimatthews.com

  Summer was scaled-down:  I never once got to my beloved Lake Michigan dunes and waves.  But I did stroll around a good deal on my three wheeled bike, pausing to chat with neighbors, greet the many old trees, watch the clouds.  As all beaches were closed, I got into water only once, pretending with the grandkids to fall off our paddleboat.

   The Unitarian Writers Group I lead, “Writing for Spiritual Growth,” met outdoors under the wide sheltering boughs of my great Maple.  I’ve participated in online book discussions:  With the Progressive Spiritualists we discussed Dr. Brian Weiss’ Many Lives, Many Masters on past life regression, then Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell The Power of Myth, and finally the true Scrooge story by Dickens.  With First Friends I read Elaine Pagels’ personal story Why Religion. Am reading Heidegger and Jungians on Nietzsche, who fascinates me, and loving the poetry of David Whyte and Mary Oliver.  Fall Creek Friends Meeting is so small we meet once a month in person, with windows open into the quiet cemetery around and much space indoors. I make the rounds online with various churches I love, each feeding me in different ways.

   John started high school and Adele sixth grade completely online.  They did pretty well, but got a bit behind so grandma took up tutoring.  I finally got to read Homer’s Odyssey – what an adventure!  Then learned about the Ming Dynasty (I’ll bet you don’t know that info), the details of the bloody French Revolution, and -again- the famous “fall of Rome”.  While also watching our own country sink low and split apart in hate, mudslinging, and dishonesty.  And now our lives are threatened as Covid shows our unwillingness to obey Nature or to concede personal freedoms to care for each other. The best potentials of this nation have yet to be discovered. 

Anne Marie is trying to do her part by developing online courses, meditations, and activities in earth-centered spirituality.  “Intuition Immersion” is her platform, emerging as a viable course to help people grow healthier and wiser. On Facebook, she is under “Moon Mysteries.”  

I submitted and then unsubmitted my children’s book Cakes for Mistakes, which will be my first January project. In a week I’ll turn 76!  The horizon looks different from here:  I’m missing so many loved ones./  I’m feeling more comfortable with all of us as imperfect, always growing.  As Jewish people do at their New Years, I ask forgiveness of anyone I have hurt, and I give complete forgiveness to anyone who has hurt me.   My heart sends a big imaginary hug to each of you; I would love to hear from you.        God bless us, every one! 


The Light Bulb is ON


    “You can’t take it with you”; we’ve heard this many times. These words are so old they fly past with little power,  just a small shove to sort and toss a little more and try again to get organized.
     At age 72, I suddenly realize – THESE WORDS ARE TRUE!    I’m realizing that I’m now somewhere on my finish line; maybe it’s still a long way off, or not.  But I’m peering down a path where I can see it in the mist – the cliff’s edge!  And I REALLY, TRULY, CANNOT TAKE ANYTHING WITH ME OVER THE EDGE!
NOTHING!  Not even one outfit of clothes!!  Not even my body itself!
Now I see more clearly.  The only thing I’ll be able to bring with me with is:
   1) Anything I’ve learned,
   2) Any growth in my personhood, like, power from inside myself,
   3) All my memories:   loves, hates, mistakes, successes, joys, heartbreaks; disappointments and
   4) the people who live in my heart will be there still, forever.
      This is what I can carry with me when I drop my body and return to being pure consciousness. 
This certainly makes it easier to sort and toss!  All I have to do now is check with those who I’ll (probably) have to leave behind about what THEY WANT of all the “precious” junk I’ve accumulated. 
   They have their own junk; excuse me, “treasures/mementos” , to stash and enjoy again in their later years. How many of my treasures are treasures to them?  Would they even know the people I think of when I pick up this little chotcky or that?  Even if I write on each object what it is,  it won’t carry for them the heart-touch it carries for me.  And they will have all my boxes to stash away somewhere and move from place to place.
Think, me.
  How many belongings of my parents’, grandparents’, great grandparents’ have I chosen to keep, or been able to keep?  I do have a very few precious things that belonged to one great-grandparent and these I treasure.  A black friend was surprised when I brought something out of my great-grandmother’s:  he has nothing from his ancestors at all. But most of us don’t even know the names of our great grandparents; not even their names endure over time! At some point,  all traces of us disappear from the earth!
    I do have a few stories that have been past to me.  What I would treasure most would be traces of the thoughts of my ancestors: any writings, journals, letters, precious books make me feel like they were real people and give me clues about their struggles and strengths, what they learned and tried to do while they here before me.   I hope I can leave as much as possible of these kinds of treasures from my life to endure for as long as they’re helpful to those who follow me. 
     But what to do with my many, many “things” which probably no one else wants to hang onto indefinitely?  I first check with my progeny about any possible “family treasures.”  Failing that test, I take my treasures and some I bury in the back yard, some I burn in the fireplace, doing all with proper last respect for whomever or whatever they symbolize to me.
  And then I feel lighter.
Of course, if there’s any useful value left for others, I give them to my favorite resale shop.  Letters from my old friends I give to their children. Pictures – some I toss and others I mark;  digital pictures I’m developing and sending to those who are in them. Printed pictures endure; digital pictures seem to float off into folders on a computer that become overloaded and unmarked and get lost in cyberspace.
    This is a unloading is a strange process.  But even should I live a long life yet, being able to live in smaller quarters will lighten my burdens, too.  In Hinduism, the third stage of life is called something like “the forest dweller”, when one goes off to ponder and become wise and live with neither responsibilities nor many needs.  I think women have not traditionally done this as we never stop feeling responsible and caring toward family and friends, but we too, move toward simple living and gleaning some wisdom from our lives.  My friend Joyce told about the brother of her Indian friend, Maya.  He was giving away everything to move to the United States.  He brought nothing but one suitcase with him and everyone thought it strange.  While traveling here to his destination, he was caught in a train accident and his life was finished!  It seemed to his family that he had known this was coming.
   For me I don’t feel that my end is close, but I simply know I own way too much and I can’t just junk it without looking at each thing once more, enjoying it as a treasure of my living, and then remembering that I’m responsible to clean up after myself.  I’ve spent many years of my life cleaning up after other loved one’s who died unexpectedly; I don’t want to leave a burden for my loved ones while they’re trying to live their own lives.
   Item by item I am lightening my load.  Trying not to add much, subtracting more.   If there’s anything I have that my friends might want, I invite them to speak up!  I’m happy to find a new home for all the treasures of my interesting life, which has been so full of surprises and riches.  I must empty my trunks…

Dream Healing and my Trip to Greece


      “Nothing can guarantee a miracle.  Nothing stops us, however, from seeking one,” wrote Dr. Ed Tick in his book, The Practice of Dream Healing.  For a thousand years, sanctuaries from Asia Minor to Rome called upon the Greek god Asklepios for improved health.  Though the services were free to all, seekers were required to be active in their healing.  First came ten days of centering and purifying:  massage, hot baths, herbs, meditation, counseling, nutrition, exercise, rest, plus music and drama, which the Greeks saw as therapeutic. When a dream or natural event showed that the god saw them as ready, the seeker went into the abaton, an underground chamber.  There they fasted and
lay still until Asklepios came in a healing dream and showed the underlying cause of the problem.
    I read Dr.Tick’s book with fascination as I have a curvature in my lower back for which I’m always seeking help, and also because dreams have become a reliable source of guidance for me.   Occasionally I’ve been given explicit instructions in dreams.  I often awaken in the morning with a songline in my head which seems to summarize my dreams, as if some Power-behind-my-dreaming wants to be sure I get the point.
   Dr. Tick says that whenever six people are ready to go to Greece to do their healing work, he’ll guide them.  “Am I ready to be healed?” I asked myself. “Yes!” answered my heart.   I contacted him to make this trip.   
     In March 2005 a group formed.  I worked furiously to prepare.   When April arrived, I experienced puzzling dreams. On Easter Sunday I awoke with an alarming songline:
”Beat the drum slowly
Play the fife lowly,
Play the death march as they carry me along.
Take me to green valleys
And lay the sod o’er me
For I’m a young cowboy and know I’ve done wrong.”
     Startling!  Especially the lines “I know I’ve done wrong” as I don’t see death or suffering as punishments but as moments of change.    Perhaps “I’ve done wrong” referred to a wrong decision.
   Three days before departure, I awoke with this songline:
“Um ummm …freight train.
I’m leaving today,
going away.
I’m going and I’m not coming back.”
Tuesday morning, April 11th, departure-for-Greece day.
   4:26 a.m. Again:
 “Um ummm …freight train.
I’m leaving today,
going away.
I’m going and I’m not coming back.”
   4:35 a.m.  Dream:  I’m trying to kill an intelligent, mystical Byzantine priest.  Unable to do so, I contain him in an egg.  Eventually I discover he has listened to music on a radio inside the egg, which relaxed him and enabled him to survive.
   7:39 a.m. again, the songline:  “I’m leaving today, I’m going away, I’m going and I’m not coming back.”  
    I arose with a dilemma:  leave for Greece?  Or not?  The time pressure was intense.  These messages could have just been about transformation, which can seem like death, but their explicitness affected me.  I began to think about not going. 
   I asked myself, “Why would dreams of warning come to a person?”  These seemed to give an option, as if I might die but I didn’t have to.  I felt clear that I did want to live.
     Then, “What do I truly believe about the purpose and power of dreams? If I don’t take my dreams here seriously, why go to Greece to pretend that dreams can be powerful and significant?”
     I remember one thing I’ve learned from Quakers about discernment of leadings from God:  clarity is possible.  I kept trying for clarity. Many people try various forms of logic for decisions, but logic had often led me into regrets.  What about “fatalism?”  The Greeks believed in destiny.  If it’s time for me to die, perhaps I should just let it happen. After thinking and feeling, I decided if I was going to err, I’d err in favor of staying alive.
     The dream about the Byzantine priest in the egg was still mysterious.  Was it some part of me that I’ve tried to kill and not succeeded?  Maybe the intuitive part that can act without understanding?  The Byzantine tradition loves symbolism, does not analyze it but honors it as contact with the sacred.  In that tradition, rational analysis does not interfere with faith that we are upheld by Something.  And dreams and songlines, i.e. “the radio,” had kept this intuitive part of me alive!
     I called Dr. Tick.  He said he’d respect whatever I decided; he knew that dreams may bring messages from our Higher Guidance.  I asked how to reach him should I change my mind, but even as I spoke the choice was made: there’d be no trip to Greece. I’d have felt worse to go than I felt bad to not go.  Peace came.
     The effort and stress left me exhausted. I napped deeply with no idea of what should come next.  
                                                  ** 
    Wednesday 4:01 a.m. songline, and again upon arising:
”I saw the Light,  I saw the Light!
No more darkness, No more night.
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord! I saw the Light!”
    I began days of centering and purification.   Friends thought I was in Greece, so the phone was quiet.  I built a fire in the fireplace, rested, journalled.  I got a massage, went to the Japanese spa, avoided coffee and sugar, spent time in prayer and meditation.  By the fire each day I did whatever I felt led to do. I allowed myself to be bored, to see what might be in that space I call boredom.
     Saturday  2:16 a.m.   I scribbled in the dark: “Hawaii, the place of healing.”  In the morning I recorded, “All night I dreamt about Hawaii and heard its music.”  I tried to keep myself in obedience, even while I felt enthusiasm for this place of natural beauty that I love.  (“Enthusiasm:” Greek, meaning “to be possessed by a god”.)
   Sunday 12:11 a.m. Dream: “I see a road going up to a beautiful outlook over the ocean, but at the top the road curves around and comes back.”   Quite a contrast with the songlines about Greece and not coming back.
   Monday p.m. April 23rd    Falling asleep, it occurred to me that tonight I might have my Asklepion healing dream.  By the ancient tradition, the god would come to me in the form of a snake or dog or cock.  If I were in Greece at Epidauros, Dr. Tick would wrap me in blankets and stay beside me all night till I’d had a dream of healing significance.  Here I made myself as still and cocoon-like as possible.
   2:48 a.m.  I see a caricature of a snake telling me to “pay attention now.”
   4:47 a.m.  The dream ends with “Go to the ocean, but first…”  Then long scenes about continuing this work. Then a marriage scene with a big party:  maybe opposite characteristics in myself coming into balance?
   And finally, Thursday, 6:58 a.m.  “I am dreaming plans for Hawaii.” Usually I awaken and make plans resulting from a dream, but now I had made plans within the dreaming. The comic snake had smiled on me.  I accepted that Hawaii was a natural healing place for me and began arrangements for a wonderful trip to that place of health. 
     

How I learned that dreams are helpful.


     Many years back, I felt the impulse to learn French.  I didn’t have time to take a class. I also knew that pronunciation is the big challenge in French so it would be best to wait till I could study under someone. Then for two nights in a row, I dreamt whole dreams in French!  I didn’t know what I was saying, as my conscious mind doesn’t know French, but I knew I was talking in French all night as my dream adventures moved on.
     So, I figured that perhaps it was safe for me to try to teach myself as I seemed to already know French at some level.  I had a little tourist book that had common French phrases with a phonetic description of how to pronounce words and I began to work with that.  I should say “play” as I promised myself this would be a hobby and not something I make myself stress over.  The French phrase book became my bathroom study.  My grandfather had kept his Bible by the toilet so I figured anything was fair game for quick reading there.  And this was supposed to be “play.”
     I was enjoying this diversion for a couple weeks when I came upon something I couldn’t figure out:  the pronunciation of the simple common words leand la; these both mean the article the in its masculine and feminine forms.  The description in the phrase book of how to pronounce these came out the same for me.
     Then one night I had this dream:  I saw a little boy.  Then I saw the inside of a mouth.  The tongue was touching the roof of the mouth towards the back of the mouth.  Thus the sound would come out more in the throat, like luh.  Then I saw a little girl and then the inside of a mouth.   The tip of the tongue was now touching the top of the mouth toward the front of the mouth.  The sound would thus come out more like lah.
     To this day I do not know from who or where this information came to me,  but it greatly encouraged me to ask for help and advice before I go to sleep. Many more times I’ve received responses like this, where a dream has clarified something for me.
     Perhaps I should add that I often wondered “Why does it feel so important for me to learn French?”  There was no practical reason.  But I noticed that one has to hold one’s face and even body in a slightly different way when speaking French than one does when speaking English.  There’s a demeanor required in order to speak French properly. I think there’s a demeanor to every language. This demeanor felt like “not me,” very foreign.  It felt more self confident than I usually felt!  It was an assertive stance.  I began to think something in me was trying to strengthen my personality a bit!  To this day, that’s my interpretation of this phenomena in my life.  And, incidentally, I taught myself French well enough to pass out of first semester college French!