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earthweal open link weekend #157


Greetings, and welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #157. Share a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST.  We’re now doing bi-weekly challenges, so the next challenge will roll out Feb. 27.

Happy linking!

— Brendan


Entrance to the Findhorn garden


Greetings all, hope the new year is unfolding with fresh poems and germinating work.

Recently I’ve been delving back into some classic New Age literature as part of a book project about my father’s work founding what he called the “megalithic park” of Columcille. Back in the mid-70s our talk was fertile with the idea that a New Age of cooperation between human and non-human entities would result in florid communities — gardens growing in the snow and good things made manifest by great thought.

I lost track of most of it decades ago but as I summon my father from his grave, I have been able to use history as a litmus for some of his mysteries. (As I heard someone in AA say once, “God’s will is what happened.”) It’s an ongoing assessment — just beginning, really — but it has warbled into in my dreamscape and returns my thought here to earthweal and what it is we are trying to offer through our daily lives and work here to the time.

Most poignantly for me, the New Age (rather dated after 50 years) put forth the idea that the natural commons is one of humans and non-humans like, be they animal, vegetal, mineral or stellar. A cosmos of We. Poetry for me is the angelic language of that communion, ours to channel and reflect back to the world.

When I read of the Findhorn community still growing today, it is faithful to its New Age origins yet is ever growing and evolving. It’s three guiding practices — inner listening, work as love in action and co-creation with the intelligence in nature —attune to manifest creation and the inner world alike, alive in and through each other, the way the Celtic Otherworld was the spectral reality for pagan and early Christian Celt.

Findhorn Ecovillage is a thriving experiment in sustainable community and has been designated as a UN-Habitat model of best practice in such living arrangements. My father’s community struggles far short of the successes at Findhorn, but there is a deep and resonant love of the land there which deeply affects all who visit there — a vibe of living eternity. It’s rare and precious and must find means to survive and thrive in this century. (No small challenge.) I’m hoping the book, if its greenlit, will keep my father’s better angels at work in that.

Anyway, this week let’s  shine a light on the universal commons we live in, as human, animal, vegetable, mineral or stellar co-participants. My father took to stone; I favor wood; others love the wind or the sea, cats or fireflies, wheat or whales, hummingbird hearts and sprawling constellations in the night sky.

For this challenge Honor an element and invite it to our poetry commons.

Here’s to the dance!

— Brendan



William Wordsworth

The stars are mansions built by Nature’s hand,
And, haply, there the spirits of the blest
Dwell, clothed in radiance, their immortal vest;
Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand,
A habitation marvelously planned,
For life to occupy in love and rest;
All that we see – is dome, or vault, or nest,
Or fortress, reared at Nature’s sage command.
Glad thought for every season! but the Spring
Gave it while cares were weighing on my heart,
’Mid song of birds, and insects murmuring;
And while the youthful year’s prolific art –
Of bud, leaf, blade, and flower – was fashioning
Abodes where self-disturbance hath no part.



Diane Seuss

The danger of memory is going
to it for respite. Respite risks
entrapment. Don’t debauch
yourself by living
in some former version of yourself
that was more or less naked. Maybe
it felt better then, but you were
not better. You were smaller, as the rain
gauge must fill to the brim
with its full portion of suffering.

What can memory be in these terrible times?
Only instruction. Not a dwelling.

Or if you must dwell:
The sweet smell of weeds then.
The sweet smell of weeds now.
An endurance. A standoff. A rest.



Robinson Jeffers

We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, up the east fork.
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest above our heads, maple and redwood,
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian firs that stare up the cataracts
Of slide-rock to the star-color precipices.

We lay on gravel and kept a little camp-fire for warmth.
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay-leaves
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay down again. The revived flame
Lighted my sleeping son’s face and his companion’s, and the vertical face of the great gorge-wall
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire’s breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange: light-gray diorite with two or three slanting seams in it,
Smooth-polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no fern nor lichen, pure naked rock…as if I were
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the flame-lit surface into the real and bodily
And living rock. Nothing strange…I cannot
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and childlike loveliness: this fate going on
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave smiling child. I shall die, and my boys
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid agonies of change and discovery; this age will die,
And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem: this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies
That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain above: and I, many packed centuries ago,
Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock.



Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.



Emily Dickinson

As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea—
And that—a further—and the Three
But a presumption be—

Of Periods of Seas—
Unvisited of Shores—
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be—
Eternity—is Those—



Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?



William Stafford

A sky so blue it hurts frames
all else, and in silence this oldest thing
alive clenches on edges if found
long ago and began to grow.

Almost freed of life, this tree
weathers nobly, yielding back nine thousand
growth rings to the bracing air that
hums with sunlight even when it freezes.

A raven shadow touches us;
we get stronger, just by being
here, almost freed by the sun.



Pablo Neruda

This salt
in the salt cellar
I once saw in the salt mines.
I know
you won’t
believe me
it sings
salt sings, the skin
of the salt mines
with a mouth smothered
by the earth.
I shivered in those
when I heard
the voice
the salt
in the desert.
Near Antofagasta
the nitrous
v oice,
a mournful

In its caves
the salt moans, mountain
of buried light,
translucent cathedral,
crystal of the sea, oblivion
of the waves.
And then on every table
in the world,
we see your piquant
vital light
our food.
of the ancient
holds of ships,
the high seas,
of the unknown, shifting
byways of the foam.
Dust of the sea, in you
the tongue receives a kiss
from ocean night:
taste imparts to every seasoned
dish your ocean essence;
the smallest,
wave from the saltcellar
reveals to us
more than domestic whiteness;
in it, we taste infinitude.



Seamus Heaney


Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint’s kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters’
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.


I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.


Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,

Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.

earthweal open link weekend #155


Greetings, and welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #155. Share a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST.  We’re now doing bi-weekly challenges, so the next challenge will roll out Feb. 13.

Happy linking!

— Brendan



The festival of Candlemas or Imbolc is Feb. 2, and for this challenge let’s all light a candle to fructify and brighten our work for the coming year.

As Sarah Connor wrote in her earthweal prompt on Imbolc back in 2021, “The energy of Imbolc … is about new life and renewed life. It’s about creating light and the return of light. It’s about inspiration appearing and implanting. It’s about the start of new ideas, new projects, new creativity.”

Candlemas is a festival of light returning from winter darkness. Its patron is the goddess Brigit, a deity so powerful that the Christian church could only saint her Brighid, a pillar of light on the magnitude of Michael (croziered from the sea-god Manannan) and the early Irish church founders Patrick and Columba.

The ancient rites of Imbolc were centered around fertility, the growth of crops and the birth of sheep and cattle and human children for the sustenance of the community. Fertility rituals carried over into Christendom with the brídeóg (“young Brighid”), effigies of the goddess or saint that fostered fertility — woven crosses and dolls adorned with shells and flowers. — carried by troops of women.

A folk-tale widely told about Brighid locates her prominence next to the Virgin Mary and the light of divine birth. (It also links pagan and Christian deities in a way the one makes way for the next.) Wade MacMorrighan retells it this way in “Rekindling the Rites of Imbolg”:

As Mary was about to be “churched”—or, some say, to bring the Christ child to the Temple—she was journeying to a Church where she met St. Brighid to whom she confessed how shy she was about stepping up to the altar rails before the whole congregation.  St. Brighid told her not to worry, and she took a nearby harrow (a sharp forked agricultural tool intended to till the soil in preparation for spring sowing) and placed it on her head, turning the points upward.  No sooner had Brighid entered the Church than the points of the harrow miraculously transformed into a glittering crown of glowing candles!  Not one eye turned from the Saint as the meek Virgin stepped up to the altar rails until the commencement of the ceremony.  The Virgin Mary was so pleased that the saint had preserved her modesty that she decreed that from this time forward 1 February should be held in honor of Brighid the day before the Virgin’s own festival of Purification.  It is likely on account of Brighid’s association with midwifery—casting her in the role of a “Light Mother”—as well as the kindling of candles that Alexander Carmichael sought to identify her, not without good cause, as “the Juno of the Gaels.” Brighid may be further identified with a variety of traditional epithets that underscore her association with the soft glow of candlelight, such as Bríde boillsge (“Brighid of brightness”), Lasair dhealrach oir, muime chorr Chriosda (“Radiant flame of gold, most noble foster mother of Christ”), and Bríde non Coinnle (“Brighid of the Candles”).

MacMorrighan also points to rites of purification celebrated in the festival. An early modern translation of Imbolg was “the time that sheep’s-milk comes,” but the Indo-European root Hmelǵ also signifies “purification,” occasionally with the implication of wiping or cleansing ritual tools. Milk was believed a purifier: the Book of Lecan states that milk was the antidote for injuries suffered by poisoned darts, and Brighid, famously unable to eat impure food, got all her sustenance from the milk of a red-eared Otherworld cow. MacMorrighan writes,

The question of the necessity for cleansing rites at the onset of spring celebrated by the convergence of Indo-European cultures … ultimately seem to have their antecedent in the desire to purge oneself after contact or communication with the dead—a procedure that was not uncommon in the ancient world—considering that this more dreadful period of ill omen was generally signified by the previous winter quarter that commenced on November Eve and was officially abrogated by 1 February.

Let us remember we have been chilling recently with the Calleach Bheare, witch of winter. It is now time to rise from her frozen bed.

Eves are important in Celtic reckoning with days beginning on the night before. St. Brigit’s feast day of Feb. 1 is the eve of Candlemas, the holiday which the Church called The Purification of the Virgin Mary. According to Mosaic Law, a mother who had given birth to a son remained unclean for 40 days after birth, in which time she completed her purification in blood.  After the 40 days, the new mother was to “bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin” (Leviticus 12), where a priest prayed for her and she was cleansed. Forty days after Christmas, that time now arrives. Brigit’s crown of candles, made from a harrow used for spring planting, provided the cleansing light of Candlemas and purifies the Savior’s life to come, the annual round of growth, ebbing, death and resurrection.

There is a divinity for all seasons — a festival for each — and at Imbolc we cleanse winter darkness in the milky glow of candlelit spaces, readying our tools for Spring.

In the environmental movement that have returned many to an earth-centered spirituality. I like to think a third deity now grows out of Christendom, as it once arose from paganism; or a  a polarity returning the other way, as the earth’s magnetic poles reverse (183 times in the past 83 million years, by one reckoning). We can now see Mary’s fire purifying Brigit’s grandmother for the deep old work we so desperately now, providing tools for returning to first principals and primary relations with the Earth. Wildest tools are now needed, to break the bonds of petro-capitalism and neoliberalism and get to work saving our planet.

It is a fire we must tend. At the church at Kildare, dedicated to St. Brigit and probably founded over the pagan sanctuary of Brighid, a sacred fire was kept burning continually, tended by a series of 19 nuns and by the saint herself every 20th day. It survived into the 16th century with the suppression of monesteries and re-lit in 1993 in the Market Square, Kildare, by Sr. Mary Teresa Cullen, then congregational leader of the Brigidine Sisters. It burns on today as a beacon of hope in a grieving ecosphere.

That work can be ours, too. The pagan Brighid was also the goddess of crafts, prophecy, divination and poetry; it is by her fires we are inspired and create. We can envision this challenge as singing in her sanctum, each of us holding a candle and singing something pure back to the world.

For myself, the festival is auspicious as I am embarking on a book project about my father’s work founding the community of Columcille in eastern Pennsylvania. Personal relations with my father aside (which had light and dark aspects, as all sons do with fathers), the deepr tale I’m trying to excavate and weave is of how an earth-centered spirituality blossomed there from constant work with the land and a devotion to its mysteries. Rites of purification and prayers for fertile work are essential for me right now as I try to get the story down right. (Ironically, Imbolc has rarely been celebrated at Columcille.)

For this challenge, then, light a candle (or two or three) for the Candlemas or Imbolc of your imagining, to purify and fructify your work and the world’s.

A few poems of that sort I’ve posted below as starter candles.

Happy harrowing!

— Brendan





By Doireann Ní Ghríofa

When rain fell on a path of stone,
one by one, we appeared alone.

Each of us wore a different face,
but we were all the same –

drawn by ache to lift green latches,
drawn by want to walk the dark

passage. Past paper stares, we knelt
and wept, we who fed the well in rivulets,

whose plunged wrists trembled
with vessels of blue violets.

We each spoke a spell of stone
and in her gloom heard prayers turn poems.

Ask her, Bríd, what will be
come of us?

Listen. Liquid, the syllables;
the echo, luminous.



Seamus Heaney

Last time I wrote I wrote from a rustic table
Under magnolias in South Carolina
As blossoms fell on me, and a white gable
As clean-lined as the prow of a white liner

Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard.
I was glad of the early heat and the first quiet
I’d had for weeks. I heard the mocking bird
And a delicious, articulate

Flight of small plinkings from a dulcimer
Like feminine rhymes migrating to the north
Where you faced the music and the ache of summer
And earth’s foreknowledge gathered in the earth.

Now it’s St Brigid’s Day and the first snowdrop
In County Wicklow, and this a Brigid’s Girdle
I’m plaiting for you, an airy fairy hoop
(Like one of those old crinolines they’d trindle),

Twisted straw that’s lifted in a circle
To handsel and to heal, a rite of spring
As strange and lightsome and traditional
As the motions you go through going through the thing.

—from The Spirit Level)



John O’Donohue

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of God.

— from  To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Invocations and Blessings (2008)