Bread…and plums…for the journey ahead…

Summer has arrived, and I’ve been thinking of you, especially during this long, difficult week in the life of our nation. I want you to know that you are on my heart, and that I am thankful for the work you are doing every day to bring justice and joy to this nation and to the world.

As many of you know, Chris and I have just recently landed in our new hometown, so we’re still finding our way into the communities that will hold our dreams for a just world, and that will help us work to bring that world about.

So…I’ve been thinking a lot about hope, and about what kinds of communities help us to sustain it. I should say that by hope, I do not mean a feeling of hopefulness. That feeling may come and go, and waiting for it to arrive is a luxury we cannot afford. Rather, I believe that hope is a spiritual practice — an embodied discipline by which we act on our conviction that radical justice is our call and our responsibility, even (and especially) on days when we might be feeling hopeless. Here are a few thoughts on the discipline of embodied hope, and the practices that make it possible…

Connecting to that which is larger than ourselves. This won’t surprise you, but I believe that the work of justice requires spiritual practice: daily, embodied action that connects and aligns us with the Holy, the Divine Presence, Spirit, the Universe…any word that helps us to name an intelligence that is more than human, that offers guidance from a higher perspective than our own, and that always calls us to the work of radical healing and justice in the world. The events of this past week are a stark reminder that the arc of history takes the long road on its bend toward justice, and that we cannot trust those in power to  act justly on behalf of the most vulnerable. So I encourage you to find a spiritual practice that helps you to listen daily for guidance…about where you can make your own best contribution to the work of justice and about how you will sustain that work over the long haul. (If you need help to find the kind of spiritual practice that will work best for you, please feel free to reach out.)

Taking and supporting direct political action and policy change. Climate justice. Racial justice. Economic justice. Reproductive justice. Friends, thoughts and prayers alone are not going to get us there. We must take direct and continued political action anywhere we can. For starters, we can take to the streets, register new voters, and contribute as much as we are able to whatever work of justice most calls to our own souls (see above).  There are lots of ways to do this. In light of last week’s SCOTUS decision, I offer these two for your consideration:

OATH: a fund to support candidates in critical races across the country

National Network of Abortion Funds

Committing to beauty, abundance, healing, and joy…Every. Single.Day. This is radical practice, friends. And it’s crucial. Why? Here the best reasons I can think of for not neglecting the practice of beauty and joy:

1. Our souls need nourishment for the long and sometimes mucky path to real social change. We simply cannot sustain the work of political action, radical healing, and policy change if we are neglecting to nourish ourselves with beauty and joy. Period. Burnout is not an option, friends. We need you. We need you to bring your whole self and your creative joy to the work at hand. So I implore you to immerse yourself in the particular sources of beauty and nourishment that are offering, always, to fill and carry you into the world on streams of justice and joy.

2. As we say “Yes!” to the call of joy in our lives, we actually begin to embody and create a world that is worth fighting for.  When we follow the unique call of joy in our own lives, we create, right here and now, a world that embodies (in the words of Barbara Kingsolver) “…elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed.”

Friends, your deep joy will lead you to embody and build this world. I know this because I see your work, and I am cheering you on as you…

-break up concrete for a community garden
-write your poems
-create safe classrooms
-farm in ways that are sustaining and regenerative for the earth
-raise children who are courageous, creative, and kind
-feed and house the most vulnerable among us
-preserve vulnerable landscapes
-rescue animals wild and tame

This list goes on and on. And for this…for the gifts that you bring to the world every day…I am so grateful.

Yours in radical hope,

Yael

Comfort and Challenge

I was awake before dawn today, as I often am, holding still on the sacred threshold between day and night, listening for the world’s hope, for its beauty, for its pain. As I’m sure you well know, the world’s pain was enormous this morning, radiating out from an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas in excruciating waves. As I tried to sit with these waves of collective anguish, an image came to my mind. The image is an ancient icon of the Eastern Church: Christ Pantocrator of Sinai. This particular icon is thought to date from the 6th century CE and resides today at St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai desert:

Before I go any further, I want to say that for me, this image, like all icons, is a tool. It’s a way for our human minds to try and grapple with a profound mystery that we will never fully comprehend: our deep intuition that even (and especially) in the face of so much suffering, the Divine Presence is right here with us. The very Source of Life, right here among us, even in the midst of our most unbearable confusion and pain. This icon, like every icon, is an image of the Divine Presence made visible and tangible, so that our human minds might begin to comprehend and access an infinite, eternal, and healing love. Sometimes we call this Presence the Christ; sometimes we call it Emmanuel or God-with-Us. And some days, this is the one thing we most desperately need to know: that we are not alone. That the very Source of Life is available to help us find a way through the pain and into a new way of living. That the Divine Presence is offering, always, to help us imagine and then create a world in which all children are safe at school and assured of a future on this good, green Earth. Sometimes, we need an image to help us remember this.

As I sat with this ancient image this morning, I remembered that many years ago, a friend told me that this is her favorite icon of all. “It’s his eyes,” she said. Yes, those very eyes. Those unmatched eyes with their penetrating gaze. “One eye offers comfort,” she said. “The other eye offers challenge. And I am pretty sure the Divine Presence is always offering both.”

Comfort and challenge. Comfort to our aching hearts this day. Comfort to all those who are walking through unbearable grief. Comfort to parents and children and teachers whose hearts are broken and whose lives will never be the same. To all these, the Divine Presence extends the promise of comfort beyond our human comprehension as it gathers every shattered heart into its wordless and healing love.

But that’s not all. The other eye, always, issues a most urgent challenge to us: Make a change. For the sake of all that is holy, make. a. change.

What we are challenged to remember this day is that we must not accept mass shootings in schools or grocery stores or anywhere else as inevitable. We must not continue to live in a country where parents are afraid to send their children to school, where teachers are asked to bear arms, where 18-year-old boys fall so far through the gaping holes in our social safety nets that they reach for weapons and easily find firearms within reach. Do not accept this, says eye of challenge. Find a new way.

I wish I could tell you that I know the precise contours of that way. All I know is that we are called to both comfort the grieving in the face of unspeakable pain and also to challenge ourselves, our leaders, and our communities to find a new way. To put a stop to this insanity. Because it need not continue.

Here’s are a couple of resources I can offer:

Tips for talking with children about difficult events. If you have children in your life, I offer you these ideas about how to talk with them regarding painful events in our own lives and in the world. I offered this resource a few months ago, but I think it’s worth linking it again here, on the blog, so that you can more easily find it again when you need it.

Healing with the World: A Guided Meditation. This, too, is a resource I offered a few months ago. I include it again here, in hopes that it will support you as you listen for what work of healing and policy change you yourself might be called to undertake in the weeks and months ahead.

May the Source of Peace send comfort to all who mourn.

And may we rise to the great challenge of a fierce and transformative love,

Yael

Coming Home

So, this happened. Three weeks ago today, we loaded up two cars, three cats, uncountable boxes, and a lot of tissue…and bid a tearful farewell to the piney forests and snowy peaks of Central Oregon. We’d been planning for months. We’d been packing for weeks. We’d been shedding tears daily as we anticipated this moment: driving away from our forest home and saying goodbye to so many beloved friends. And yet, we felt so sure that we were being called home. Home to the land that holds both Chris’ family and mine. Home to the rolling California hills and valleys where we grew up. Home to the sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins and parents, elders and littles, and so many friends we have missed so much, especially during these past two years of pandemic-limited travel.

So we’re settling in and catching our breath, enormously grateful to have landed right here in beautiful Davis, California. Every morning, I head out the door to marvel at the early parade: kids riding their bikes to school; puppies learning to heel; wild turkeys poking along the trails; Western bluebirds zipping around, nesting in the ample shade of valley oaks.

I will admit that our own nest is still pretty full of boxes. But we’re finding time to visit with loved ones and wander through the farmers’ market before heading home to assemble an other IKEA bookcase. I’ll be back with regular blog posts soon, with news and photos from the studio (almost unpacked!) But today, just a note to say I’ve missed you all, and that I’m sending wishes for peace, and joy, from our nest to yours.

Yael

For all the earth

Dear ones,

I find myself praying as I walk through forest and field these days. Praying with my mind as it sifts through the news of the day; praying with my feet as I send peace into the body of Earth. With every muddy, snowy footstep, I am sending healing love to all beings, even (and especially) those whose minds have been hijacked by the  hunger for war.

As always, I’m thinking a lot about the kids among us, wondering how best to offer the kind of honest courage and comfort that will help them to navigate a world that needs their wholeness and healing love.

For those of you who have children in your life, I want to offer you some strategies that I have found helpful over the years when talking with kids about painful or difficult events.  If you have friends and family members who may be able to use this resource, please feel free to forward this email using the “forward” buttons at the top and bottom of this message.

As I write to you, news of the world, and of the conflict in Ukraine, continues to arrive, to change, and to call for our discerning attention. I hope that as each day’s events unfold, you will take gentle care of yourself and the ones you love, even as you listen very closely for the particular gifts you are called offer to your community and to a world in need. As always, if you would like some support to deepen your own spiritual practice, or to help the kids in your life, I’m here. Please do reach out if you feel that some one-on-one spiritual mentoring with me would be helpful to you or to your family this season: yael.lachman@wildgoosearts.com

Wherever you are, whatever hopes and fears are arising for you, please know that you are not alone. You are on my heart. And I am giving thanks for all the many ways you offer healing and hope to the world each day.

Deep peace to you, and to all on Earth,

Yael

Dumpling Moon

Hello!

Lunar New Year celebrations have begun this week, and I have a new story for you. The story is called “Dumpling Moon,” and it is lovingly dedicated to the families (past, present, and future!) of Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz, California. If you’d like to listen, you’ll find the story here, on the Gathering podcast.

In the months ahead, I will be creating a monthly email almanac of earth and spirit: a place where you can find out about online gatherings, celebrations, and sacred stories for all ages, all through the year. My hope is that the offerings in this newsletter, along with the online community we are creating, will renew your sense of deep connection…to your soul’s wisdom, to one another, to the community of Earth, and to all the sacred lands and seasons we share.

If you’d like to subscribe to the email newsletter, please feel free to click here. You can also stay tuned here on the blog for news about New Moon gatherings, weekly meditation circles, prayer services, and online gatherings for kids and families. As always, I’d love to hear from you! If there are particular types of offerings that would support you and your loved ones as we travel through the seasons of the year, please do let me know.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you soon…

Yael

Seeds of Joy

The garden looks pretty much like this these days. But inside the house, there’s a growing stack of seed catalogs. Can I admit that I love reading seed catalogs at least as much as I love actually ordering and planting the seeds? I love the watercolor illustrations, the effusive descriptions of yields and colors, and of course the names of new varieties and old favorites. 

This week, I’m eyeing “Raspberry Sorbet” zinnias, “Chocolate Cherry” sunflowers,  “Camp Joy” cherry tomatoes, and a new variety of snap pea (“Little Crunch”) that will grow in a container if you’re short on space (or just want to keep your peas on the back deck, away from marauding deer…)

In case you’re in need of a little winter color, here are a few of my favorite seed sources…

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Territorial Seed Company 

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

Here’s to all the joy we’ll sow…this season and beyond…

“Unuttered Buds of New Life…”

“Let me only be still, and know we can force nothing, and compel nothing, can only nourish in the darkness the unuttered buds of new life that shall be.”

-D.H. Lawrence

Oh, January. You call to me. You call with new weekly planners and freshly sharpened pencils. You call to me with a hundred ideas about things to make and do and offer the world, with a hundred more on the way . And yet…you offer a deeper call as well. The call of long, dark nights and the stories they tell. The call of snow-laden branches that will not be moved, even by the wind. The call of slow-moving rivers making their steady way beneath the ice. This is the call I want to answer. Your call to simply listen, and discern. The call to simply wait while the multitude of projects and possibilities sort themselves into piles: here is the old way, attractive because it is familiar, reassuring, and redolent of past joys; here, on the other hand, is a call to new life. An “unuttered bud” of new life that will only unfurl if we hold still and listen long enough to watch, and wait.

I hope you are finding the time you need to answer whatever is calling to your soul this season! As always, I’d love to hear from you.

If you missed it in last week’s email newsletter, here’s a little gift for your listening this season…

Made for Joy

Made for Joy

Allow me to introduce you to a beloved member of our household: the Carrot of Joy. I wish I could claim credit for the fabulous moniker, but this particular carrot was named by its maker, a crafter here in Oregon who combines soft fleece, cotton batting, and a pinch or two of catnip to create toys that bring real joy – not only to cats, but also to humans who crave a bit of beauty in the toys that end up scattered all over the house. The Carrot of Joy came to live with us just a week after I arrived in Salem. One rainy afternoon, I pulled on my boots and walked over to the fairgrounds, where a huge crafters’ market was taking place. To be sure, I was shopping for holiday gifts and wanted to support the local economy. But I also wanted to meet the other makers in my new town – folks who had spent the past year sewing and painting, cooking and carving. Folks who had been slipping off to potting sheds and unheated garages and attic art studios to create things that make their own hearts sing. I wanted to thank all these neighbors who had hauled their creations to a frigid exhibit hall on a December Saturday in hopes of sharing beauty and joy with the community they loved. I’m pretty sure Blue would want me to tell you that this particular carrot has more than lived up to its name. I am also pleased to report that the Carrot of Joy still looks new, after three years of pummeling (which is more than I can say for many other toys that have come and gone!) 

I will be shopping at craft fairs and small online shops this year, supporting as many artists and crafters as I can, and I hope you will, too. May your holiday gifting bring joy to your heart, to your community, and to all the ones you love.

Holiday week…

Gotta love a town whose holiday parade features rodeo queens and a corgi cart! Thanksgiving week has been lovely here, despite the lack of snow. I’m so grateful for the friends who gathered with us around the fireplace, around a beautiful Thanksgiving table, around multiple festive leftover tables, and of course downtown, where the streets are filled with friends and neighbors looking to share light, and hope, as the winter holidays begin.

Out in the forest this morning, there was evidence of another feast. Main course: pine cones. Table: a huge tree stump worn smooth by decades of rain and snow and the footsteps of small, furry dinner guests.

This season, and far beyond, may every body, and every hungering soul, find a seat at the welcome table.

Over the river and through the woods…

The woods have been quiet this week. Except for a few early dog walkers, I’ve been alone on the trails, watching as ice forms along the banks of the creeks, listening to the deep, hollow sound of winter streams. Tomorrow, there will be the joyful noise of holiday gatherings — so welcome after last year’s strange silence. But today, I am giving thanks for the deep silence of the autumn woods, where flickers leave feathery calling cards, tiny mushrooms appear overnight, and deer carve hoof-shaped runes in the nearly frozen ground.

If you have a chance to leave a comment, I would love to hear what beloved places are calling to your soul here at the turning of the year. And, if you’d like to join me for a bit of sacred silence this season, there’s still time to sign up for our Advent retreat, which starts this coming Monday morning (click here to learn more).

This week, and always, I am thankful for you. May deep joy nourish your heart as you name, and give thanks for, all that you love, and for the world that loves you back.