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Fire and Shadow

Look. I know you probably wouldn’t gas and burn
your city’s police precinct station.
I know you’re not a fan of the flaming
and looting of private property,
first and most sacred commandment
of our common capitalist religion.
But if cities inside you are not burning,
perhaps you haven’t been paying attention.
If it’s easier to condemn the people
who make their rage into a massive
public art demonstration, setting their symbols
of oppression raging through the streets,
than it is to condemn the smug and public
murder of a man in those same streets,
perhaps you need to get an education.
Perhaps you need to study the whole cloth
of an ethic of respect for human life.
Listen to the rage. It has a reason.


Gratitude List:
1. Snuggling my shadows (I wrote this one last year, and while I forget the context, it feels right for right now).
2. Grades aren’t done, but I can rest for a day or two now.
3. Oh dear. I’m just copying and pasting bits of last year’s list. Call me lazy, but this fits right now, too: Curiosity. When people get curious about each other. Curiosity is a fine engineer, building bridges of gossamer web and light across chasms. But stronger bridges than you can imagine.
4. Living in layers of memory.
5. Even this one, slightly re-tooled from last year: Cool breezes. This means exactly what it says, because our house can get hot as a sauna. But then it means more than that because your poems and your wisdom and your presence in the world are cool breezes to me, my friends.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Jesus often said, ‘It’s very hard here. Have you eaten? Look―you all stick together, go to the beach and have some fish. Share what you have. We’ll talk later.'” ―Anne Lamott


Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap them around
You like a shawl
—Alice Walker


“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.


“A [person] should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a beautiful picture everyday in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of Beauty which God has implanted in the human soul.” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ―Walt Whitman


“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it.
It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of
‘you’re not alone.’” ―Brene Brown


“Don’t die with your music still inside of you.” —Wayne Dyer


“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” —Colette


“Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is not stasis but the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually, but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to become present in a different way than through action, and especially to give up on the will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals.” —David Whyte


“Soul is not a thing, but a perspective. It’s the slow courtship of an event which turns it into a meaningful experience. It’s the practice of trusting that if one sits silently and long enough with the absence of magic, the miraculous will reveal itself. Nothing is sacred until we make it so with the eloquence of our attention, the poetry of our patience, the parenting warmth of our admiration.” —Toko-Pa Turner


“It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, – is already in our bloodstream. And we don’t know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can’t say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

Last Day of School

A peony with her attendant priestess.

Gratitude List:
1. Last Day of School, and I think I am going to get everything done on time. Saturday is graduation, so I will get to see and say goodbye to so many students I love, so that’s some closure, even if this online business feels like leaving an open wound. (Hmmm. That seems to decrease the import of the gratitude, doesn’t it? It’s just that the yuckiness of ending this way is the reality I cannot escape, so I am grateful for an alternative method of closure that’s more real while still being safe.)
2. The smells! Yesterday I was walking and suddenly I was hit by a wall of scent. I know that they’re terrible for the trees, but one of the climbing multiflora roses whacked me in the nose with its scent as I passed. So beautiful. And then when I got home, I spent some time communing with the opening peonies. Their scent reminds me of the grandmothers.
3. The Faerie Grove. That little grove of trees down by Skunk Hollow Lane where the wild rose is exploding into bloom is where I have seen the cedar waxwings twice. At the base of the trees is the rooty log of another tree that fell years ago, with plenty of nooks and crannies for a hundred apartments for small living things. I often see goldfinches congregating there. And the vultures tend to kettle over that field.
4. Rain. It feels just right to have rain on the last day of school. Change, movement, shift.
5. The coming days are full. There’s so much writing to do, knitting and bookmaking, reading (so MUCH to read!), house projects, walking, hanging out with Jon and the kids.

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Today:
(and Maya Angelou reaches through the veils of time to hold us in the way that only she could)


“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” —Sinclair Lewis


“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” —attr. to Richard Feynman


”The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world—we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.” —Joanna Macy


“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
―Maya Angelou


“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re All Coopers

As an English teacher, one of the disciplines I try to teach my students is analysis. Take a situation, a piece of art, a novel, a political view, a fight you had with your friend. Lay it out in front of you and examine it from every angle. Check out its component parts, and start asking yourself questions. How does this cog fit into that cog and make this crankshaft turn? How does this word combined with this biblical or pop culture allusion develop this tone that creates in the reader a sense of satisfaction or humor or existential dread? How does the painter use indigo to create a sense of depth perception in this painting?

So often, when we see a painting, or read a poem, or experience a national moment, we rush into our conclusions, and that’s not necessarily bad or un-intellectual. I think first impressions are really important in analysis. How did it make you feel? The first reactions lead the analyst into deeper questions, beginning questions: Why did she do that, I wonder? What caused him to react that way? How would I have acted in that situation?

Here’s why I am ranting about analysis today: Amy Cooper woke me up really early this morning. She’s the most recent national “Karen,” a white woman calling the police on a black person for being in a public space. Yesterday, I had First Reactions. Remember, first conclusions are not invalid. They’re the spark that takes us deeper into analysis. Why am I so angry? What was she thinking? Yesterday, Amy Cooper stepped out of her individual story and into the boat of an archetype. She’s a “Karen.” She’s a morality lesson. She’s an example of implicit bias and unquestioned entitlement and white supremacy. And when she floated into my mind at 4:30 this morning, I wasn’t getting back to sleep.

I do not know Amy Cooper, and any guesses I make about her motivations and choices are a complete disservice to her as an individual. I’m pretty sure she had no intention of stepping onto the stage and becoming a player in a National Morality Play. But she did do so. And now her part in this story has become the setting for necessary cultural analysis.

There are a lot of possible points of analysis here. The most obvious, of course, is race. The setting, however, has to do with civic duty and entitlement. Again, I do not know Ms. Cooper or why she would walk through a sensitive wildlife habitat, past signs that read Dogs Must Be Leashed At All Times, and let her dog run free of the leash. (Just this week, a friend of mine was injured while walking her own leashed dog, by a rambunctious unleashed dog in a park with Leash Your Dog Signs. “Oh, he’s friendly!” called the scofflaw owners of the leash-free pup just moments before the dog barreled exuberantly into my friend and her dog.) What is this entitlement that causes people to assume that basic laws and guidelines of civic and community co-existence don’t apply to me? There’s fodder for a whole article here. I would guess that we could all find some of these rules that we would scoff at personally. My favorites are the Homeowners’ Associations that forbid gardens in front lawns or washlines or wildflower patches. This piece of the analysis gets to the root of who we are as a society: Where does your freedom end and mine begin? Are there necessary “rules” for how we behave together in shared spaces? Don’t we need rules that protect the Earth and animals, which cannot speak for themselves? Should we regulate industries that pollute the air and earth and water that we all share? Can we ask each other to wear masks in public in order to protect each other from a pandemic? American individualism versus community health and well-being. Anarchy, individualism, authoritarianism, communitarianism, civic-mindedness all crunch together. There are whole articles to be written on this one.

Obviously, the main issue in this story, however, is the race issue. A white woman calling the police on a black man. Birding while black. Upholding community standards while black (he was simply asking her to leash her dog). In the context of the murder of a Minneapolis man by the police this week, the possible danger she placed him in cannot be discounted or minimized. Amy Cooper said later that she saw the police as protectors. As a black man in America, Christian Cooper (no relation) has every historical reason to fear the police when a white woman says, “I am afraid!” There are historical echoes in Amy Cooper’s phone call, echoes of Carolyn Bryant Donham calling down white wrath on Emmett Till, echoes of white slave-holding women maintaining cultural supremacy by placing black men in the role of dangerous savage from whom they needed protection.

And the moment I get into that territory, I need to recognize the gender story here. While this is a Morality Play about Race, we can’t ignore the gender question, the fact that women fear public spaces. I’m not sure how to parse the general fears of women from the racialized use of that fear that Amy Cooper played upon. A woman alone hiking in the woods has to contend with fear of male violence. Women grow up knowing we’re prey in some men’s minds. It doesn’t matter that most men would not harm us. We learn to be watchful and vigilant, to feel unsafe. We who look through Christian Cooper’s camera feel no sense of threat toward Amy Cooper. Yet we don’t know what traumas she may have experienced in her life that might have sent her into her reptilian brain for responses. We do hear her name race in her call, repeatedly. (Echo. Echo.) Still, simple gendered fear has to be taken into account not as an excuse, but as a factor.

You could analyze the surreality of their names. Were you to write this as a short story about race and gender and social entitlement in the US today, surely you wouldn’t name them the same thing. And yet, there’s something that awes me about this detail, some universal synchronicity that says: In the midst of it all, you’re the same. You’re related. You may think you’re the opposite on every imaginable scale–race, gender, age, civic engagement–but you’re really the same. You’re coopers, barrel-makers. You take the different elements of wood and metal and put the pieces together with such skill that the water and the wine stay safely within.

You could analyze their age difference. You could do a psychological exploration of the role of fear in this encounter. You could look at her treatment of the dog. You could look at the subculture of birders, and wonder about the warblers that Christian Cooper was most likely watching that day. You could explore their religious and political leanings (she appears to fall on the liberal side of the spectrum, if you’re making assumptions).

To do this justice, I would parse each piece in much greater detail, examine every element, but this is a blog-journal and not a professional article. It’s personal ramblings and not an English essay. Instead of trying to wrap it up neatly, I want to take it back to what I wrote yesterday, about curiosity. After all this muddling through today, I’m still angry. I still think Amy Cooper needs to be held accountable for calling the police on a black man who just wanted her to follow the rules and leash her dog, despite that fact that the story may have human complexity that extends beyond the symbolic and archetypal significance we place upon it.

But now I am curious. I wonder how this story would play out as deliberate fiction, what it might tell us about ourselves and how we live in the world. I’m curious about how Amy Cooper will find her way into life again as herself after living as an archetype. I wonder what would happen if Mr. Cooper and Ms. Cooper could be brought together in a mediation situation where they could tell each other their stories. I wonder what would happen if we would all begin to tell each other our stories, if we would all explore our internal biases, if we could maintain curiosity as a constant, if we would choose to encounter each other–with all our differences in age and race and gender and social awareness and civic-mindedness–as somehow inherently the same. This really is a morality play in which each character holds layers of symbolism. It’s a Jungian dream, in which each of us is equally each of the characters, bringing with us the distinct elements of race and gender and age and experience that make us distinct. We’re all Coopers.


Gratitude List:
1. We’re all different. We’re all the same. Being human is messy, but it’s so beautiful.
2. Wonder and curiosity
3. The way dawn came this morning on an aural wave, first the night insects and the early twittering of birds, along with an occasional rumble of a bullfrog in the pond, then louder, more voices joining, echoes resonating in the bowl of the hollow.
4. Finding closure
5. Blackberry blossoms covering the bluff like snow.

May we walk in Beauty!


“What does it mean to be pro-life if you defend the life of a child in the womb, but not the life of a child on the border?” —James Martin SJ


“It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” —Sarah Ban Breathnach


“Forests will always hold your secrets,
as that’s what forests are for.
To envelop things.
They’re the blankets
of the earth,
grown to protect,
to comfort, to hide,
to carry, to seep
into our chests,
and to teach.
Your sharpest aches
and bygone dreams
will be scattered across
these knowing trees
while the ancient contrasts
of shadow and light
whisper once again
that we are built to seek.
It is here in this space
where we’ll rediscover
the rhythms of roots
and what it fully means
to renew.
To revive.
To breathe.” —by Victoria Erickson


“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.”
—Ralph Waldo


“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ―Rachel Carson


“In nature’s economy, the currency is not money. It is life.” —Vandana Shiva

Open-Hearted Curiosity

Yesterday, I watched that new Mark Rober video that everyone has been passing around the internet, in which he completely overengineers an anti-squirrel bird feeder, creating a ninja-warrior course and making friends with his team of squirrel subjects in the process. He learned things. The squirrels learned things. Everybody evolved.

I’m a fan of Mark Rober. I think he models open-hearted curiosity. He began the process in frustration: The squirrels, no matter what little modifications he made to his bird feeder, always won. He played the next step in the process as an attempt to outwit the squirrels, but by that point, his curiosity had already taken over. He was no longer really concerned about beating the squirrels. He realized that he had an opportunity on his hands here to explore something. Already his vision and his attention and his perspective had evolved.

(You have to watch the video. Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this video. Further note: You just may come away with a deeper appreciation of the animal life in your neighborhood.)

Watching the video brought into sharper focus for me something I believe, but haven’t explored very thoroughly in words, that open-hearted curiosity is at the heart of learning, and is a primary step in evolutionary processes. Lately, I’ve been hyper-focused on the way disruptions and challenges sprk evolution and transformation and change. We get pushed out of our easy status quo and we must adapt or flounder. So we adapt, sometimes kicking and screaming and lashing out at our neighbors who are having BBQs or our neighbors who urge everyone to be cautious and wear a mask.

How can I approach the frustrations and inconveniences, and even deep anxieties, of this experience with a more open-hearted and curious frame of mind? People aren’t squirrels, of course, but are there ways that we can engage each other more playfully that might bring about learning and evolution for all of us? I think we’re in a place–nationally and globally–where we have to evolve, and evolve quickly. If we can begin to approach the challenges with a greater sense of curiosity, hearts open to whatever possibilities the future holds, perhaps we can find our way through.


Gratitude List:
1. Sometimes my gratitude list becomes a little like a bird-watcher’s log, but here is a Big Joy from yesterday: On our walk yesterday morning, Jon and I saw a flock of cedar waxwings. Later, we saw them again, in the walnut tree by the barn. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen them in the hollow, but it’s been a long time. They’re so dapper and elegant, both in their coloring and their way of flying. It made me wish we had more early-fruiting berries.
2. Taking stock, and finding my way through a couple thorny things. I need to listen carefully to my own advice about curiosity and approach a couple of my current personal challenges less like a slog, and more like an interesting challenge. Can she do it? Can she make her way through the obstacle course of Issue X without falling? When she falls, can she get up again? It’s just good to have a plan.
3. Curiosity
4. Adapting, changing, evolving, transforming
5. The little joys that people share. It keeps everyone’s hearts softer and more open.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Let this be a voice for the mountains
Let this be a voice for the river
Let this be a voice for the forest
Let this be a voice for the flowers
Let this be a voice for the ocean
Let this be a voice for the desert
Let this be a voice for the children
Let this be a voice for the dreamers
Let this be a voice of no regret” —John Denver


“Just as we are taught that our universe is constantly expanding out into space at enormous speeds, so too our imagination must expand as we search for the knowledge that will in its turn expand into wisdom, and from wisdom into truth.” —Madeline L’Engle

Naming the Colors

A golden person peeked in my window this morning while I was writing about colors.

Here’s a little Noticing Exercise for today:
Go outside, or stand at your window, and look around. Take a few deep breaths, of course. Feel your feet on the ground. Now, start naming the colors you see. Maybe start with the spectrum. Hang out with old Roy G. Biv for a few moments.

Find something red (it can be something human-wrought, but it’s especially satisfying to do this only with naturally-occurring colors). Breathe in red.

Orange might be harder, unless you have a family of resident orioles chasing each other across your view, but look really closely at the turnings of color at the tips of a patch of weeds, or the hidden shades of turned earth in the flowerbed. See if you can find it. Breathe in orange.

Yellow is pretty easy if you’ve got a dandelion patch, or goldfinches. Breathe yellow.

Green–it’s everywhere, but don’t forget to breathe it in.

Blue. Also easy, perhaps, particularly if the sky is cloudless. Breathe blue.

Indigo: We’re not really trained to notice indigo. If you have a bunting or a bluebird handy, the indigo is really the deep well of blue that pools beneath the flash and shine. Or look at a cloud–what we call the silver lining of a cloud is actually indigo. Really look at it. Then look into it. Without a cloud, you can do this with shadows. Indigo is the deepest layer of shadow. If you think you’re really only imagining it, you’re probably in the presence of indigo. Indigo is mysterious, almost elusive. Breathe in indigo.

Violet is in the gill-on-the-grass, the edges of asters, the pulsing life force in the newest branches. Find violet. Breath in violet.

Now you’ve breathed a rainbow. Won’t it just be a glorious day from here on out?


Gratitude List:
1. Things are zoomy and bright out there in birdland. In all the years we’ve been here, I really don’t know when I have seen such a healthy flock of local goldfinches.
2. Last night’s weekly Birding Club (I mean Family) Zoom call. If you think I talk a lot about birds, you need to meet my family. In the Before, I might sometimes go a couple months without seeing or talking to my siblings. Now, I talk to them Every Week. I just got a little teary writing that. Even when I am raging at the losses, here is a gift. Such a gift.
3. This is the last week of school. I am so terribly torn. There really is a part of me that dreads this. The lack of closure is extremely painful. It feels wrong. I think I have been keeping myself from anticipating the end of the semester because I don’t know how to close this out. But I so desperately need this break, the chance to re-group, to make art without feeling like I should be doing something else, the opportunity to write what I want when I want, and the movement out of this incredibly sedentary life.
4. Sunshine and cool breezes. Thermal Delight.
5. Color!

May we walk in Beauty!


“Perfectionism is a virus which keeps us running on the treadmill of never-enoughness. It is inherently deadening for how it strives and never arrives. Failure is embedded in its very pursuit, for our humanity can never be homogenised. The only antidote is to turn away from every whiff of plastic and gloss and follow our grief, pursue our imperfections, exaggerate our eccentricities until they, the things we once sought to hide, reveal themselves as our true majesty.” —Toko-pa Turner


“The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.” —Douglas Adams


“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” —Carl Sagan


“UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.”
—The Onceler, Dr. Seuss

Stories Will Save Us

“Don’t build walls around your passions. Don’t be a gatekeeper to enthusiasm. Don’t scorn the uninitiated or treasure exclusivity. Instead, cultivate your loves into a vast forest. Build many paths there and, when you encounter a stranger beneath the trees, greet her as a friend.” —Jared Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


I live on Earth at present,
and I don’t know what I am.
I know that I am not a category.
I am not a thing—a noun.
I seem to be a verb,
an evolutionary process—
an integral function of the universe.”
—R. Buckminster Fuller


Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie


“A good half of the art of living is resilience.” ―Alain de Botton


“Everyone needs a practice which polishes them, to wear away at the obscuring mindstuff which settles like debris on one’s way of seeing. In our hearts, we know there is meaning to it all, an ordering nature to the chaos, but like a dream which slips away into forgetting, we have to practice at coming into its coherency. Without such a practice, we fall prey to the belief that the toxic fog of consensus culture is the real reality. When in fact, it is only the ‘not-beauty’ behind which beauty is hiding.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa

Sleepy Saturday Morning

I did something this morning that I haven’t done for a very long time: I slept in until almost 9 a.m. I did move from the bed to the recliner at about 5:30, but then I slept straight through until 8:50. I feel a little sleep-dopey this morning, but also well-rested. I am going to spend some time outside this morning before kneading some dough and cracking down on myself to get some grading done. Blessings on your day! (I suppose this is my official gratitude for the day. Blessed sleep.)


“Wherever there is injustice, there is also resistance against it.” —Zehra Doğan, Turkish activist jailed for her artwork


“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. of the ancient law of life.” —Hermann Hesse


“There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over.” —John O’Donohue


“What is needed to bring about the new life you yearn for, but devotion to its course? The calling is in your blood, like a vow that was made for you. Everything it requires is within the provisions of your being. The far-seeing of your eye, the stretch of your capacity, the willingness of your heart’s sacrifice – exhaustion and despair notwithstanding. All it asks is for your vow to be made back, through every small contraction and expansion, renewed in a continuous tendering of devotion.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” ―Nathaniel Hawthorne


Julian of Norwich: “All will be well, and all will be well. All manner of things shall be well.”


“Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle.” ―Anna Quindlen


“The beginning is the word. And the end is silence. In between are all the stories.” ―Kate Atkinson


“Deciding we won’t drive to that chain grocery store and buy that imported pineapple is a path of liberation. Deciding to walk to the farmers’ market and buy those fresh local peas is like spitting the eye of the industries that would control us. Every act of refusal is also an act of assent. Every time we say no to consumer culture, we say yes to something more beautiful and sustaining. Life is not something we go through or that happens to us; it’s something we create by our decisions.” ―Kathleen Dean Moore, from “If Your House Is On Fire”


“What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness.” —Barbara Kingsolver

Being a Good Citizen

The CDC seems to be recommending mask-wearing if/when we open schools again in the fall. I will wear a mask if that is the recommendation by scientists and health care workers. I will do whatever I can to keep my students and their families a little safer. I’m exploring scarf-mask fashion. I have a couple elastic headbands, and I can fold a scarf around my neck, pull the headband down around that, fold the scarf down over that again, and I have six or eight layers of cotton fabric that I can pull up over my nose. I just need to get it tucked in around my neck. I’ll make some fitted masks in different patterns, too, just to make it fun. Maybe I’ll try to make some with funny faces.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate wearing masks. I’m a claustrophobe, and that extends to extended mask-wearing. I don’t like the suffocating feel of a mask. I also hate that we can’t see each other’s full expressions when we’re wearing masks. I actually can’t quite imagine how I am going to teach a full day of classes through one of these things. I might have to start trying out hijab styles and see if I can make that work more comfortably. But if mask-wearing to teach is the recommendation for safety and mitigation, I will do it.

I don’t wear my mask when I am walking on our road. That’s a privilege I don’t take for granted. If I lived in a busy urban area where I couldn’t move at least six feet away from passers by, I would wear it. Maybe I would want even more distance, since I pant when I walk fast, and so do the joggers on city streets, and that spreads more droplets. If I was walking down a quiet city street, I might carry my mask with me in case I met an unavoidable situation, but I wouldn’t wear it unless I felt it was necessary to normalize mask-wearing in that context.

Any time I enter a building that is not my home, no matter how few people are there, I think I will wear a mask. When I was cleaning out my classroom last month, I wore my mask in the building, but I was so overheated while I was packing up books in my classroom that I took it off while it was only me or my family in the room. It was probably okay to do that, but really–I should have worn it. It sounds like there’s much less chance of contracting the virus from touching something that’s been breathed on by an infected person; still, it would have been respectful of me to try harder.

So no. I am not suggesting we be unreasonable. I just think that mask-wearing shouldn’t be a source of tantrums and uncivilized behavior. Perhaps the media is latching onto a few isolated cases of immature tantrum-throwers and most people are being mature and community-minded. However, I see people out in close public situations without masks when I make one of my rare forays off the farm. I see people minimizing and scorning mask-wearing on social media. I hear friends’ stories of walking out of places where they went for essentials because so few people were wearing masks and they didn’t feel safe.

Have you heard of the Shopping Cart Test? There is no law that says you must return your shopping cart to a designated place. You can leave your cart in the middle of the driving lane of a parking lot with little likelihood of a consequence. But the vast majority of people know the system and work within it to make it go more smoothly for everyone. Most people are Good Shopping Cart Citizens. Some people suggest that one’s shopping cart etiquette might be a good indicator of their sense of citizenship and civic-mindedness.

Even though it is a governor’s mandate to wear a mask in public places, it appears that there’s not real consequence if you don’t. Most of the stories I have heard suggest that people are not throwing non-mask-wearers out of stores. You can probably get away with it. It’s kind of like choosing to leave your shopping cart behind someone’s car.

If you are resisting the public mask-wearing guidelines, I encourage you to carefully read some CDC literature about how face masks slow the transmission of the disease. I encourage you to look at your motivations for wearing/not wearing. Think about the kind of community you want to live in. Imagine that you might possibly be an asymptomatic carrier and that elderly woman you whose space you’re encroaching on in the line at Lowe’s is your grandmother. Slip a little “do-unto-others” into your pocket. And put on your mask when you go into public places. Let’s be good citizens.

(If you refuse a mask because you just want to “stick it to the Man,” I think you’re woefully misdirecting your rebellion. If you really want to start a Revolution, let’s talk. I’ve got some good ideas. But I’ll only meet you if we can do it outdoors, and we both wear masks.)


Gratitude:
Blue. Blue is always on my intrinsic gratitude list. Yesterday, a blue grosbeak sat on the feeder for a few minutes, his deep indigo drawing all surrounding color into himself. Then a bunting flashed by, and his feathers both absorbed and reflected the surrounding light. Moments later, a blue jay rowed through, showing off the lighter blue at the base of his tail feathers, and the way the black accents on his wings accentuate the deeper blue there. Bluebirds on the wire really do, as Thoreau said, “carry the sky” on their backs. Even on a grey and rainy day, the sky holds the blue that is behind the veil of rain.

If you ask me my favorite color, I would be quick to tell you that it is orange. Orange wakes me up and makes me happy. It encourages my fire and fierceness. But blue is always there. Always behind it all. With sudden flashings out when the birds fly by.

May we walk in Beauty!


“If you are planning for 1 year, plant rice.
If you are planning for 10 years, plant trees.
If you are planning for 100 years, teach your children.” —Proverb


“Life is wonderful and strange, and it’s also absolutely mundane and tiresome. It’s hilarious and it’s deadening. It’s a big, screwed-up morass of beauty and change and fear and all our lives we oscillate between awe and tedium. I think stories are the place to explore that inherent weirdness; that movement from the fantastic to the prosaic that is life.” —Anthony Doerr


“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ―Marcel Proust


Audre Lorde: “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”


“Want what you already have.” —My mother says that my Great-Aunt Mary Ann used to say this.


“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ―Paulo Coelho


“In a time of destruction, create something.” ―Maxine Hong Kingston

Just Wear It

Just wear it.

At first, the scientists and healthcare folks were saying they didn’t know how much good it did. They suggested that it might not matter. But as more people began to study this thing, it became clear that, yes, wearing masks–while not providing absolute protection–can actually provide a medically significant barrier to the droplets which are the main point of infection. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, singing, talking, breathing–these activities spread the droplets that carry the virus. Wear a cloth mask, and you reduce the chances that you are infecting someone else. If you’re both wearing them, the chances are doubly reduced.

Health care workers have been wearing masks to work for decades. Even with asthma. Even with respiratory issues. Cloth masks don’t filter out the fresh oxygen. They don’t hold in the carbon dioxide. They’re not meant to do that. They’re meant to filter droplets. They don’t always do that in a 100% foolproof way, but they reduce the transmission of droplets. They do that enough that the country’s top medical professionals and scientists seem to agree that we should all be wearing them in public places these days.

I’m not a scientist or a healthcare professional. But I would rather listen to their wisdom on this issue than the politicos and the screamers in the agora.

Look. If you call yourself pro-life, you have to wear the mask. It’s the real choice for protecting life. If you call yourself pro-justice, you have to wear the mask. It helps to equalize our chances of survival. If you call yourself a reasonable person, just wear it. Wear it like you wear your seatbelt. Wear it like you wear your bike helmet. Wear it like you wear a jacket to protect yourself from the cold.

This isn’t a conspiracy meant to take away your freedom. It’s not an illuminati cabal meant to mark you as belonging to the beast. It’s not a liberal hoax meant to take down the president and destroy the power of white men. It’s not a fear tactic meant to take away your faith in a God who will protect you.

It’s just a piece of cloth that will help to hinder the droplets that could cause one person to infect another. It’s just basic good citizenship.

Just wear it. Please.


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird is back. Yesterday she spent a long time drinking from the mini-petunias, then gazed in the window at me.
2. My bridges. My anchors-with-wings. My voices in the storm. My clear-eyed gazers. I am blessed in friends who keep me from flying off in the gales–unless flying is what is best for me, of course. Friends who remind me who I am. Friends who keep me woven within the narrative.
3. The yellow iris. I know they’re invasive and weedy. I know we have to cut them back or they’ll choke the pond. I also now that they’re beautiful and resilient. You cut one stalk, bring it inside, put it in water, and one flower blooms. That one dies and another blooms below it. Then another and another. This one is on its fifth or sixth bloom. And they’re the fiercest sort of yellow.

May we walk in Beauty!


“In ancient Africa, in the Celtic lands, storytellers were magicians. They were initiates. They understood the underlying nature of reality, its hidden forces. The old Celtic bards could bring out welts on the body with a string of syllables. They could heal sickness with a tale. They could breathe life into a dying civilization with the magic of a story.” —Ben Okri


“I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply inside.” —Rosa Parks


“The historian deals with the past, but the true storyteller works with the future. You can tell the strength of an age by the imaginative truth-grasping vigour of its storytellers. Stories are matrices of thought. They are patterns formed in the mind. They weave their effect on the future. To be a storyteller is to work with, to weave with, the material of time itself.” —Ben Okri


“Storytellers are the singing conscious of the land, the unacknowledged guides. Reclaim your power to help our age become wise again.” —Ben Okri


“If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.” —Rev. Michael Curry


“I just want to celebrate you as you are, instead of waiting for you to become what the world expects you to be.” ―Rachel Macy Stafford


“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories. . .water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” ―Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“Do you have an unconscious belief that the forces of evil are loud, vigorous, and strong, while good is quiet, gentle, and passive? Gather evidence that contradicts this irrational prejudice.

“Are you secretly suspicious of joy because you think it’s inevitably rooted in wishful thinking and a willful ignorance about the true nature of reality? Expose these suspicions as superstitions that aren’t grounded in any objective data you can actually prove.

“Do you fear that when you’re in the presence of love and beauty you tend to become softheaded, whereas you’re likely to feel smart and powerful when you’re sneering at the ugliness around you? As an antidote, for a given amount of time, say a week or a month or a year, act as if the following hypothesis were true: that you’re more likely to grow smarter when you’re in the presence of love and beauty.” ―Rob Brezsny


“The words you speak become the house you live in.” ―Hafiz


Mary Oliver:
“I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.”


“If someone asks, ‘What does perfect beauty look like?’
Show him your own face and say, like this.” —Rumi

Grace for What Will Be

Interesting patterns of lichen and rust on the old iron bridge at school. I am holding the image of this bridge in my heart as I think about how we make a safe and purposeful bridge for our students and community into the fall and beyond. What Will Be is going to look different from What Was. And that will be okay. We get to choose, now, to construct the beautiful and thoughtful and creative future that we want.

I have no doubt that there may be pieces of the future plan that will push me out of my comfort zone–continued elements of online learning, strange new schedules–but leaving my comfort zone is how I grow.

And, despite the changes, we carry important elements of the old way forward, into the new times, traditions that support and identify us as who we are, deep down. Some of the Beauty of What Was will permeate and inform What Will Be, not just at school, but everywhere. Let’s be deliberate, gracious, and filled with compassion as we create a future that is safe and humane and comfortable for everyone.


Gratitude List:
1. The hope of hummingbirds
2. How the children educate themselves, given half a chance. One is researching, in great depth, how to create and develop a Youtube channel, along with exploring how to create artful imagery and videos. The other is learning things about computers that I have no name for, but which I know are important to the world somehow.
3. Integrating some Qigong suggestions from a dear friend into my daily stretching and breathing practice. Sometimes, and especially at times like this, intangible gifts are special treasures. Every day, when I stretch and breathe, this will be like opening–once again–a little gift package from someone I love.
4. Getting kicked out of my comfort zone. I am not always grateful for this, and usually I am actually sort of kicking and screaming, but hindsight, baby, is full of grace.
5. Pathways through the woods. Yes, and I mean those, too. . .

May we walk in Beauty!


“Alas, the webs are torn down, the spinners stomped out.
But the forest smiles. Deep in her nooks and crevices she feels the spinners and the harmony of their web. We will dream our way to them.
[….]
Carefully, we feel our way through the folds of darkness. Since our right and left eyes are virtually useless, other senses become our eyes. The roll of a pebble, the breath of dew-cooled pines, a startled flutter in a nearby bush magnify the vast silence of the forest. Wind and stream are the murmering current of time, taking us back to where poetry is sung and danced and lived. In the distance a fire flickers—not running wild, but contained, like a candle. The spinners.” —Marylou Awiakta


“I don’t know if y’all heard, but women are the same as humans.” —Leslie Jones


“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
―Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
―Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


“I know that when I pray something wonderful happens, not only for the person that I am praying for, but also for me. I am being heard.” —Maya Angelou


“My pen is my harp and my lyre; my library is my garden and my orchard.” —Judah Ha-Levi (Spanish Poet, Physician)