Faithing

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anitamathias.com

I wasn’t supposed to preach this until next week, but with the Rocky Fire burning and Highway 20 closed, our priest, Mother Delia, could not make it to church

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

I spent some time as I prepared today’s homily deciding whether or not to talk about our Old Testament reading. If this story could stand on its own along with the story that immediately follows it, in which Elijah experiences God on in sheer silence after the wind, the earthquake, and the fire have passed, I wouldn’t hesitate to weave them into the greater story of our collective lessons for today.

We should all have a ministering angel. There have been times in all of our lives when we could identify with the burned-out Elijah. Wouldn’t it be grand to have an angel to tell us to take care, to offer us sustenance, to kick us in the butt when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, and urge us to go on a retreat to restore our physical and emotional well-being? But, the back story to all of this is about retribution and revenge, and the commandments of a martial God that orders Elijah to kill his enemies.

Right before Elijah collapses, King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and their god Baal have just duked it out with Elijah and Jehovah. Jezebel has murdered a huge number of Jehovah’s prophets, and eye-for-an-eye, Elijah has just murdered 450 prophets of Baal in return. Ahab says he’s going to seek revenge on Elijah and kill him, so Elijah runs away. When we meet him today, he’s sorely afraid. So, the angel comes, offers Elijah nourishment, and he has a transcendent experience of the nature of God.

I wish the story ended here, but it doesn’t. God now wants Elijah to go back and slaughter most of Samaria, the stronghold of Ahab, leaving only the 7,000 Israelites who have not bowed down to Baal. The story continues and gets bloodier and bloodier. The worshipers of Baal sacrificed children, and a practiced a whole bunch of other nasty, horrible things. Many people today would say that Elijah’s war was just, and perhaps this is where the relevancy for our times, a lesson to meditate on, comes in. Reading this as history, tribal people appear pulled asunder by their differing visions of macho gods, and doesn’t so much of the conflict in the world still feel this way? Reading the story as religion, though, is, at least to me, disturbing.

Surely God wants us discern when we read the Bible. The only choice I can make is to go back to the two small threads that we can gleam that may point toward the cosmic vision Jesus gives us into the nature of God. God as compassion, offering sustenance to our souls, and God who inhabits not the storms and battles, but in the silence spaces we go to recover.

In our gospel lesson, Jesus mentions God’s provision of manna to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness after the tumult of the Exodus. After the high they must have felt from leaving Egypt and slavery, they begin to doubt that this really is a good thing after all and murmured about their hunger and dissatisfaction. God answers them with the miraculous manifestation of manna, food that sustains them until their generation passes, the space God requires of the Israelites to make a complete separation between their past and their future.

The word manna may have originated from “man hu” which means, “What is it?” The Book of Numbers compares it to bdelium, a gummy resin related to myrrh. There are also speculations that manna was actually secretions called “honeydew” from certain insects that feed on tamarack trees, which to this day seem like frost in the morning and disappear by mid-day, just as manna was described to do. People, in fact, still eat honeydew and consider it a delicacy.

Whatever manna was, a supernatural miracle that God created on a daily basis, or a more natural one in which the Israelites, with God’s guidance, discovered something already in the wilderness that could sustain them, these people were provided for; but for all of its wonder and the good it did, Jesus points out that these people were long dead. Manna did not provide Eternal life.

The “Jews” whom Jesus speaks to, ask not what is it, but who is he? Before we go on, I want to share something I’ve learned that has helped me find peace with the Gospel of John. As beautiful written as it is, as foundational as it to the Christian faith, this gospel has been misused for generations to fuel hatred. The word “Jew” in the Gospel of John has been used to justify antisemitism throughout the history of Christianity, spurning hatred through vilification in passion plays, justifying Jews being forced into medieval ghettos, expulsions from Spain during the early Renaissance, culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust, and lingering resentments and prejudice that still haunt the world today.

But the word used in John was not translated as “Jew” until the 4th century, well after the gospel was written. The original word was closer in meaning to the word Judeans. John’s gospel was written by Jews, and the author contrasts those who challenged Christ as Judeans with the many people from Galilee who may have had a more intuitive understanding of who Jesus really was.

However, to make things a tad more complicated, in this particular scene the word Judean isn’t being literally associated with people from the geographical location; rather it refers to an over-arching world view, one that cast doubt on the fact that Jesus was indeed the incarnation of God. The author cleverly interweaves an allusion to the Jews in the wilderness. These Judeans are “murmuring,” casting doubts and aspersions. They ask, “Isn’t this man the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his mother? How could he claim he came down from Heaven?” These Judean-minded, skeptical, doubting Galileans have a certain intimacy with Jesus’ background.

Since they mention knowing both Joseph and Mary, these may have been some of the same people, maybe relatives and home town people, who tried to throw him off the cliff after he announced his ministry in the synagogue. At best, they are simply not listening, or, more perhaps more duplicity, they are deliberately twisting his words. Jesus actually says that the bread of God comes down from heaven and that he was the bread of life. He says the Father will draw people unto him.

From the cross, Jesus will have the same sort of attractive force, but Jesus threatened the religious establishment, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and many common people who simply could not see past their own preconceived notions. “Anyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me, not that anyone has seen the Father except the one being from God. This one has seen God.” The Greek word for “see” used here is all about impressions of the observer. The word has far more connotations than the simple English word “to see;” it implies “a new heightened perception of reality.” What the author of this gospel implies is that whoever is seeing Jesus, is seeing God. J

esus emphasizes this by saying “Amen, Amen,” translated as “Verily, verily.” This new reality is far beyond a simple acceptance with the mind of doctrine or even an affirmation we may tell ourselves of what we think is true of Jesus, what we believe or don’t believe of the Gospel stories. The original word was actually a verb, best described as “faithing”, a trust beyond words, an whole-hearted embodiment of following Jesus, belief in the life-eternal…in the present tense…life eternal beginning now and going on forever.

The bread that Elijah received from the angel, provided one man the nourishment to change the course of history of the Kingdom of Israel; but after Elijah ate it, it was gone. Manna was likewise a transitory thing. Jesus, though, speaks of his Christ nature that has been a part of Reality from the beginning of time. And how does this Reality change us?

In our short passage today from Ephesians, Paul tells us. We put away our resentments, the duality of our thinking, the separation that occurs because we think there must only be one way, the way our own little Judean ego wants to order the world. We listen and don’t go to war with each other. We bear with each other when we have differences of opinions and ways of seeing; we listen and encourage each other’s “faithings”. We share bread and wine and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what is eternal and true, in the light of Christ that burns in each of us.

I relied extensively on information about our Gospel reading today from (John 6:35, 41-51) John Petty through his blog PR0GRESSIVE INVOLVEMENT. Alethea Eason is a licensed lay minister at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Lakeport, CA To be commercial crass…my young-adult fantasy novel Heron’s Path is free through August 5 on Amazon Kindle.

The Scent of Violets

Posting this in hopes the woman from Berkeley I met last night at The Journey Center finds it!

peace

The Scent of Violets

My palms form a tent

over distant cities as I pray

and I want violets to rain down,

and to smell healing oils

instead of sulfur,

and see angels pour the waters of peace

from their place of mythic origin,

no angels on backs of apocalyptic horses,

no plagues, nor rumors of war,

no masquerades of death,

and to hear that myths of sacrifice

are no longer allowed by the laws of Heaven,

the testing of Abraham eased from human memory,

of Isaac in peaceful slumber, no vengeful Lord

waiting to see how far a father will go,

no knife raised above any altar.

no offering of children to slaughter,

no cruel jokes of a jealous god,

not even a scapegoat desired,

and for prayers to rise to Heaven

on the scent of violets and answers given

as rain falls silently to a quiet Earth.

From my chapbook Threshold, Meeting of the Minds Publications

My novel Heron’s Path is free today through August 5th through Amazon Kindle.

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Heron’s Path, Day 1, Free August 1-5, Amazon Kindle

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Realizing too late my “countdown” is probably confusing.  But anyway, tomorrow the free promotion for HERON’S PATH begins for five days.   If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries.  You can get an app on your smart phone, your tablet, your iPad, your laptop.  There is a plethora of free Kindle books available, many VERY good.

As a writer, I’ve become more concerned with connecting with individuals rather than worrying about “success”.  It’s liberating.  One woman that I know of has read HERON’S PATH in the last year and her encouragement and enthusiasm for the story is the reason why I write, a personal response, giving someone else a few hours in a different reality and, hopefully, a place where he is or she is uplifted in spirit.

To get your copy, click here…but you might want to wait until tomorrow!

Review of In the Land of the Grasshopper Song: Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country 1908-1909

Alethea Eason:

This book was a major inspiration for my writing Heron’s Path. This is a review I wrote in 2013.

Originally posted on The Heron's Path:

in the landIn the Land of the Grasshopper Song is, hands down, my favorite book, and I have often wished the authors had written more. I found it in a bookstore in Eureka over twenty years ago on a trip that took me through the Klamath River area. At that time I was beginning work on a novel. The power, quiet wisdom, and tolerance of In the Land of the Grasshopper Song inspired my manuscript and, I believe, it became a richer book for reading this fascinating tale.

Two women from the east coast venture in the wilderness of northern California riding on rugged trails to the heart of Karuk culture. Their job was “Indian Field Matrons” and to “educate” the tribe. What happens, though, is that their world opens and they are the ones who receive the education. The writing, taken from journals they wrote during their tenure in the woods, is…

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When Old Woman Got Tired

I wrote several “myths” from the Nanchuti culture in HERON’S PATH.  I wrote this one at a later date, after HERON’S PATH had been published.

A long time ago, Old Woman of the River got very tired. She was tired of always rushing her children down the river, all the fish and all the silt, tree branches and pieces of gold. She decided to stop. Her water froze, the froth of the rapids became little white stars hanging in the air, sun sparks stopped twinkling, and there was only quiet in the forest. The birds stopped flying because they thought the sound of the pounding river was what held their wings in the air. Bear sat heavily on the ground confused. All the weeds and bushes leaned over straining to listen for the mother’s voice. Never had such silence fell upon the forest. Old Woman of the River fell asleep in the quiet day. One by one the fish vanished. Each spark held by the air and water snapped out. Bear’s body slowly dissolved into sunlight. Birds put their heads under their wings because even the sun began to dim. Hanla’chu sat on her hill and watched the world disappearing. She cupped her hands and made a huge cry over the land. “Wake up, Old Woman of the River!” A startled woodpecker cried out, flew from her tree, and vanished. Hanla’chu saw this happen. She stomped on the ground and caused an earthquake. The mountains rumbled. Panther, who still prowled the forest, growled. “Wake up, Old Woman of the River!” Hanla-chu yelled. Old Woman kept sleeping, but she turned over and the water of the river rolled with her. One by one the stars where beginning to shine in the sky. Night was coming forever. A wind rushed over the sleeping body of Old Woman. “Wake up, Old Woman of the River!” Hanla-chu yelled. Hanla-chu took in a deep breath of dark night. She filled her lungs and blew it out with as much force as she could. Deep in her dreams, Old Woman felt cold and began to shiver. One eye opened and she saw it was night. She called for the birds to make the morning but there were no birds to hear her. Old Woman slowly rose and saw what her sleeping had done. “But I was so tired,” she said, and waved her hand. The river began to move again, but there were no fish or pieces of gold or life of any sort within its banks. Panther let out a loud angry growl for he saw that the Earth was dying, and he knew that he too must die. Hanla’chu also cried and her body began to break apart. It became fish and bird and the sparkle of the sun on water. Her head began to burn and slowly lifted to the sky. Her skin became plants and deer and from her breasts all the birds of the forest were reborn. Old Woman of the River thanked Hanla-chu. She flowed on and on forever after this. And no matter how tired she gets, she keeps flowing to the ocean.

FREE ON AMAZON KINDLE SELECT AUGUST 1-5, 2015  HERON’S PATH

Heron’s Path, Day 3, Free August 1st-5th, Amazon Kindle Select

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HERON’S PATH is the kind of fiction entire generations once grew up on when young people simply read wonderful, immortal literature that spoke to their hearts, and it wasn’t labeled YA, MG or adult. HERON’S PATH is for the soul in us all–regardless of age–that needs to be reminded regularly that the universe is full of mystery, meaning, courage and love. –Bruce McAllister, The Village Sang to the Sea, A Memoir of Magic One of the questions I am often asked about Heron’s Path is how the Nanchuti, the indigenous tribal group I created for the novel, evolved. As I mentioned in my last post, a trip to the Klamath River while I read In the Land of the Grasshopper Song hit me at such a sensory level that it compelled me to write. My husband Bill and I camped on a sandy bank of the Klamath in one of those weeks in July where the temperatures hovered around 100 degrees. I remember listening to the river, feeling the consciousness of the forest around us, and felt so removed from the modern world. This experience is about as visionary as I get, and I had to make something out of how the river was affecting my body, imagination, and emotions. I naïvely went about reading about the Karuk tribe. I purchased a couple of books I don’t remember now and read as much as I could find by Alfred Kroeber on the Karuk and Yurok ethnic groups. So, a few years passed, and I finally finished a draft of the novel that I thought worth sharing. (For such a short book, it took almost two decades to write, tucking it away for years in between until I worked out various problems. I learned to write with the novel, and I needed a long apprenticeship.) I contacted a professor at Humboldt State, whose name I apologize for not remembering (this was in the 90s!). She was Yurok and invited me to her house to discuss the novel where she very kindly let me know I had no business writing about her culture, telling me that I really could not understand it. So, another year or two passed with fretting about what to do. I wrestled with the idea of creating my own people, how could I meld it with the historical aspects that I did want to portray? Would an alternative California work? The elements I did keep from my original manuscript were the ideas of the doctors, medicine people, and sacred dancing that, to the best of my understanding, the Karuk did to create balance with nature. Again, apologies if this is not correct. I confess I stole the idea of the Baby Growl straight from In the Land of the Grasshopper Song. Last spring I read from Heron’s Path on a public radio station. The only response I got was from an angry woman (who said she was not Native American) upset that I would dare to write about Native Americans. I had already hung up and couldn’t respond that the point of my creating a mythic tribe was because I did not want to do any washee (Nanchuti for “white people”) misguided writing about aspects of a culture I do not belong to. All I can say is that I fell in love with the stories and information I read about the Yurok, and though their culture is the seed from which the Nanchuti grew, they are MY creation. One last thought: Kroeber’s daughter, Ursula Le Guin, was a very strong influence on me as a young writer. I devoured her work long before I ever heard of her famous parents. Her mother, Theodora Kroeber wrote Ishi: the Last of His Tribe, which chronicled the life of the last member of the Yahi tribe. So, a large part of the spirit of Heron’s Path is in debt to her, especially the book Always Coming Home. It gave me the courage to create a language for the tribe, a process that I really enjoyed.

Heron’s Path Day 4 Free August 1st – August 5th, Amazon Kindle Select

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HERON’S PATH is a beautiful read. I was swept away by Alethea Eason’s rich and beautiful evocations of the natural world.               

-Bruce Coville, author of MY TEACHER IS AN ALIEN and ALWAYS OCTOBER

A post from February 2012:

I would walk on the dock at Innisfree and look out at the great bowl of Clear Lake. The water would slap at the dock, the tules would sway between the pillars, a wind ruffle small waves. I would hear life everywhere. Bullfrogs in the rushes, ducks chattering as they bobbed up and down, grebes farther, their miniature necks shaped like the Loch Ness Monster until they would dive down and shake their butts like cartoon birds. And once in a blue moon, I would see a heron wading in the tules near the boathouse, a small rickety apartment made from a wooden fishing boat. The birds looking like sorcerers in gray and coal blue feathers. My Pomo friends have told me stories of beings that live in and near the lake. The Squishy, a creature they could hear rise from the lake when they were children, the Bird Man that appeared to their nephews outside their bedroom when they lived in Clearlake. When the boys described him, the family knew who they were talking about. My herons would always surprise me, and sometimes, I’d see them more than once while they were hanging out for a week or two. And what a joy to see them cast off from the ground, a different creature even then, more pterodactyl than bird. At times, I have seen them fly low near Rodman’s Slew as I drove along the cutoff. I have decided I haven’t had enough mornings like this. So much of life gets stuck in the day-to-day of work and of “reality,” Amazon rainforest producing more carbon than oxygen, quagmires around the world, the moral sickness of so many politicians. We all need healing, from trauma, from traumas generations past, from the grinding down of our souls with media and the white noise of the 21st century. A glimpse of a heron is a miracle to me.

Heron’s Path Day 5, Free August 1st-5th, Amazon Kindle Select

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Reading HERON’S PATH brought me close to my own source of spirituality. The writing feels true, mythic, and connected to the eternal. Katy’s discovery of her power and connection to the divine makes the reader yearn for the same.

-Lesley Downie, Chaos Cave and Tunnels

Celeste, the ethereal sister,  deluded by the evil wei-ni-la, encounters these dark spirits who do not want the Old Ones to return to their home because it will be the end of their existence.

We found her huddled like a small rabbit next to a fallen tree, her clothes flung over branches and ferns, her pale body shimmering in the moonlight.  Before we could step closer, though, a howl tore through the woods; its tone felt like acid on my skin.  Then a blast of air hit us hard, and the moon was suddenly eclipsed.  The roar drowned Celeste’s song.

But the louder the wailing became, the less scared Celeste seemed to be.  Her head came up, as though she were watching for something.  The trees moaned as though they were being pulled out of the ground, and yellow shadows merged from them, poisonous clouds surrounding Celeste.

“You’re here,” she said, in a high voice.  “I didn’t like being alone.”

She’s talking to us, I thought, and started to answer, but Matai shushed me.

“The wei-ni-la,” he said in my ear.  I tried to run over, but he caught hold of me.  “If we go any closer, they’ll take us,too.”

Celeste reached out.  A shadow floated toward her.  She touched it like it was a priceless piece of cloth she wanted to adorn herself with.

HERON’S PATH Countdown Day 6, Free August 1st-5th, Amazon Kindle Select

Heron Reversed Image

A new imagining of native myths offers a heartwarming tale of two sisters with different destinies.

-Michael Jung, Suite101

On a hot day in September I found Celeste’s clothes scattered all over the barn, one shoe upside down next to Papa’s forge and the other inside a milking pail. Her yellow dress hung from a ladder like a bird suspended in midair. I pulled the dress down by its hem and three tiny blue feathers, nearly the same shade as my sister’s eyes, drifted down to the dusty floor.

I caught one of them in my hand; I stood there puzzling over what might have happened that morning to make her run off again. I felt alone, as though a wind had come up and peeled Celeste from the earth. I told myself that she was playing the same old game she’d scared us with so many other times, but this loneliness—so odd and new—followed me like a ghost as I ran outside and shouted for Papa. I was afraid he wouldn’t come; I’d find our cabin gone, and I’d be without any family at all.

Papa searched the woods. I took our dog, Rufus, and ran up and down the river bank. When I found no trace of her I followed Papa into the trees where there were more shadows than seemed right. I didn’t dare go in very far and kept circling the places Celeste and I knew well.

I heard Olena’s voice in my head telling me stories. Her words dripping slowly the way honey falls from a spoon. Her stories always made me uneasy. She believed in ghosts, the last traces of the Old Ones, who were a part of the breath and spirit of the rocks and trees, of the river Talum, and the surrounding woods. But the wei-ni-la, the darker ones, were the shadows to really fear. They were ancient too, and lived in the empty spaces of the woods, filling them with whispering.

All afternoon Celeste’s name echoed through the trees as Papa and I called for her. Finally, his shouting changed and Rufus started to bark furiously. I was so tired my legs were shaking. I was running on legs that wouldn’t work.

When I finally found them, Papa was half way up a steep gully with Celeste draped over his shoulder. Her hair, a skein of golden thread unraveling almost to the ground, was the only thing that covered her. I thought she looked newly born or newly dead.

“Is she all right?” I asked. My lips were dry and hurt when I spoke, and my words felt like spittle as they came out of my mouth.

All Papa could do was to keep climbing. A couple of times he lost his footing. I was afraid he’d slide all the way back down, but he finally got close enough for me to offer my hand, not that a twelve year old girl was much of an anchor for all that weight. He took my hand anyway and with a last push hauled Celeste over the rim of the gully, collapsing next to me.

He took a moment to catch his breath and then said, “Katy, take your sister.”

I pulled her off of him and held as much of her in my lap as I could. She breathed in the shallow way she did every night, as though she were dreaming peacefully, oblivious to all the fretting she’d caused. Rufus, his red coat full of stickers, licked her face. I shooed him away. A couple of small blue feathers stuck to his fur.

“Papa, if Celeste fell all the way down the gully, how come she doesn’t look it?”

There wasn’t a scratch or bruise anywhere on her body. Papa didn’t answer; he was still catching his breath. He finally stood up and carried her to Gruff, our mule, who was tethered to the branch of an old madrone tree. He got the quilt that was tied behind the saddle and wrapped her in it.

“You run home. Tell Mama we found her, that I think she’ll be fine.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“Never mind. Just go,” he said. He wet his handkerchief with water from his canteen, bathed her face, and then tried to get some into her mouth.

I wanted a drink, too. My tongue was like a piece of felt, but I didn’t want to ask for the water. Celeste had always been the favorite—a fragile lamb in my parents’ eyes. She was also beautiful, everyone said so; even now with her face burned red from the sun she was beautiful.

But I knew differently. Celeste was anything but frail. I took one last look, and I thought I saw her eyes flutter for a second, then close again.

Closer to the Spirit

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