Showing posts with label Grace Cathedral. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Cathedral. Show all posts

Saturday, December 17, 2011

News from the Muse: The Muse of the Dark

The Muse of the Dark

For Behold, Darkness Shall cover the Earth
(Handel's Messiah)

We are approaching the winter solstice. I always fight the dark—resisting its dark embrace. I don’t like getting up in the morning when it’s still dark. I don’t like going home from work in the evening when it’s already dark.

And yet, if I slow down and listen more deeply to myself, there is a yearning to descend into the dark—to crawl into a cave and ruminate, to vegetate. After all, I love the night. I love sleeping, dreaming. I wrote a poem about longing for sleep.


I am crawling around the edges of you
longing for you
sweet sleep
that my grandson fell into this evening
as I walked him and sang
and his head hung heavy
on my arm

why do you hold yourself back from me
you were my first love
you wrapped me up in my mother’s dark
knew me before I knew light
filled me with all I’ve become

my oldest familiar
open your doors to the streaming stars
let lions loose to dance in the sky
and those who are gone
let them return
to speak my name

for everything that’s lost
is found in you
and everything changes
its shape

rock becomes a giant lizard
flame leaps from the rock
becomes word
becomes snake
becomes backbone

only you can wash away
the day’s bile
this one I’m arguing with
that one who rubbed me
the wrong way

lead me down into your secret pools
rub oils into my body
take my muscles in hand
and smooth them out

O sleep
lay your big blue weight
upon me

(first published in crimes of the dreamer)

Sleep is a god, a healer, a magical realm. Then why is the dark time of the year so difficult?

We are a culture addicted to light—the sun’s daily cycle no longer controls us. We live in electrical light, fluorescent light, virtual reality, on Facebook and Twitter, we work, shop, answer e-mail 24/7. We are lost to the wisdom of cycles—the cycle of the day, the cycle of the year, what Bear knows when she crawls into her cave. Of course, I’m no more interested than you are in giving up my illuminated nights. I love watching “Mad Men;” I love reading in bed.

However we pay a heavy price for all this light. How do we get our down time—time for our thoughts to meander, time to play, to pray, to muse, to remember, to forget, to re-create ourselves? How do we nourish the cave dweller in our souls, the moony dreamy eyed poet? Here’s a poem about that.


You can’t trick gold
out of the Black Sun

Nor diamonds
out of virtual space

Your wild ride
from coast to coast—

over dayglo towers
that know no night
that see no dreams
that limit you to what
can be found
on a laptop—

has screeched
to a halt:

Snake on the trail!
Is it a rattler?

You must shed old skin
Rub your irritation
all over some big rock

Sit in the dark
not knowing
your next life

When she comes around that mountain
Will you sing?

It is so hard for us to sit in the dark, not seeing, not knowing our next life. It is, however essential. When Jung built his tower at Bollingen he wanted no electrical light. And at Tassajara, the Buddhist retreat, there is no electrical light. I was at Tassajara once. I remember the dark pull of the night—so grounding, so profound. I felt attached to the earth and to myself. Daybreak was an epiphany. Trees, flowers, our cabins, the river, emerged into being as if for the first time. The world was reborn.

In Grace Cathedral to hear the Messiah I am pulled into the dark of that deep cavernous vault, pulled by the music I’ve known since childhood and its magical evocation of the Christian mystery.

The Cathedral is filled with people. They’ve added rows and rows of metal folding chairs behind the pews to accommodate us all. We’ve turned off our cell phones, disconnected ourselves from hectic brick and mortar shopping, from manic on-line shopping. We sit together in that dark cave, yearning for something ancient and sacred. Human voices call out to the divine for comfort, for meaning, for illumination as they have since the Shaman chanted.

Behold, I tell you a Mystery....we shall all be chang'd...
(Handel's Messiah)

Approaching the winter solstice I am glad to be among others engaged in this ancient ritual of the dark time.Below the Judeo-Christian strata we find the Old Religion—call it Pagan or Goddess religion—we find the myths that honor the natural cycles of sun, moon and earth, the myths of descent. Persephone went down into the underworld. So did the Innana. Betty Meador, a Jungian analyst who has devoted herself to Innana titled one of her books Uncursing the Dark.
In it she writes:
The myth discloses an archetypal pattern of opposites. On the one hand, the woman descendant is the highly civilized culture bearer; on the other hand, at the bottom of the underworld, she is the single human animal, separate and alone...

I hope in this season you'll take time to tend your soul and your animal nature, that you'll burrow down below the noise, the endless demands for activity and consumption, the addiction to light of our culture. I hope you'll find your own way to pay homage to the cycles of the natural world—the power of the night, the cave, the dream, the moon. Do so and you'll glimpse that mystery of transformation; perhaps you'll feel changed, reborn. Here’s a poem about that.


Long ago when night was your familiar
You knew the moon and the moon knew you
I mean carnally
Those stories about sex with the devil are about this

You knew the moon and the moon knew you
Joy from the sky made a music in your body
Those stories about sex with the devil are about this
Moon penetration stars awakening

Joy from the sky made a music in your body
Lion arose horse flew
Moon penetration stars awakening
Something from forever loved you for a night

Lion rising horse flying
Roots of the tree reach up into the sky
Something from forever loves you for a night
And the moon sings

Roots of the tree reach up into the sky
Branches touch down into earth
The moon sings
Naked you are and flying

Branches touch down into earth
I mean carnally
Naked you are and flying
Rooted in the night your familiar
(first published in The Pagan's Muse)