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Beneath the Surface

This was in the grocery bags from Flinchbaugh’s, our local farmer’s market, this past weekend.

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s list of gratitude for trees missed my friend Willow, who is putting on her stunning yellow dancing gown for spring. . .
2. . . .and Walnut, whose shadow arms falling across the drive invite me to find the pathways to the sun.
3. The delight of a composer-boy in his birthday gift. He’s working on a long and complicated composition on Noteflite. He’s listening through the piece now, making notes about places where he wants to make changes.
4. Teaching school from my armchair, with a little ginger cat tucked beside me, purring.
5. All that this anxiety is teaching me about living in the moment, about treasuring each joy and delight as I live it.

Take care of each other!


“Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the Universe.” —Galileo


“The way that I understand it, dreaming is nature ‘naturing’ through us. Just as a tree bears fruit or a plant expresses itself in flowers, dreams are fruiting from us. The production of symbols and story is a biological necessity. Without dreams, we could not survive. And though it is possible to get by without remembering our dreams, a life guided and shaped by dreaming is a life that follows the innate knowing of the earth itself. As we learn to follow the instincts of our inner wilderness, respecting its agreements and disagreements, we are also developing our capacity for subtlety. This sensitivity is what makes us more porous and multilingual, bringing us into conversation with the many languages of the world around us.” —Toko-pa Turner



“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” ―Guy Gavriel Kay


“Even the simplest of rituals is a way of acknowledging the unseen, the unspoken-about, the holy, which feeds our lives with its inexhaustible generosity. Ritual restores us to one another and to that grander coherence to which we all belong. Devoting your time to a ritual is like tending to a living bridge between the seen and the unseen, keeping that reciprocity alive.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” —Nelson Mandela


“Beneath the surface, there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self.” —Cynthia Bourgeault

Among Trees

Yesterday, in her online sermon, my pastor used the Psalm 23 text, and emphasized the sheltering aspects of the psalm. At one point, she was discussing the sheltering canopies of trees, and she intimately described this weeping beech tree who lives on the campus of the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA. We cannot travel there now to sit beneath her branches, but here is a photo. I will meditate within her shelter today, through the images I have of her, but I will also physically sit on my porch under the sheltering canopy of my sycamore friend.

Do you have a tree friend? If you can do so without breaking your rules of sheltering in place, why not find a tree today, someone whose bark you can feel beneath your hands, whose branches filter light and air above you, whose presence can hold you steady in these unsteady times.

Below is a paraphrase of Psalm 23 that another of our pastors read during our online service yesterday. I love it.


Psalm 23
Nan Merrill | March 2010 (Vol. XXIII, No. 3)

O my Beloved, you are my shepherd,
I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures for rest
and lead me beside still waters
renewing my spirit,
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow Love’s way.

Even though I walk through the
valley of the shadow and of death,
I am not afraid;
For You are ever with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they guide me,
they give me strength and comfort.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of all my fears;
you bless me with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will
follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the heart
of the Beloved
forever.

~ from Psalms for Praying


Gratitude List:
1. The weeping beech at Wernersville. How she is present even at a distance.
2. The sycamore who holds our home in the hollow beneath her sheltering arms.
3. That little oak up the hill, who was a tiny sapling mere years ago, and now rises twenty or thirty feet at the top of the bluff.
4. Jacarandas and frangipanis, baobabs and acacias, the trees of my childhood.
5. The trees that you are. Together, we are a massive forest of shelter and presence. Thank you for your steady breathing, your strong presence.

Take care of each other.


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic. . .the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint


“My invitation to each of you—student, faculty, community member—is to find a story of someone who has made a change, small or large, whether the consequence was their life or their comfort, and I want you to share that story with at least one other person, something that inspires you to step beyond the boundaries of your courage into a new world beyond the measure you ever thought you could make.” —Kevin Ressler, in 2017 memorial for M. J. Sharp


“What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss.” ―Miguel Ruiz


“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” ―Alice Hoffman


“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer

Be Here

Shelter in Place: A nest made of grasses and vines, leaves, and plastic strips.

Gratitude List:
1. Silence
2. This breath
3. And this one
4. This moment
5. You

Take care of each other. Breathe.


“When you teach your daughter, explicitly or by passive rejection, that she must ignore her outrage, that she must be kind and accepting to the point of not defending herself or other people, that she must not rock the boat for any reason, you are not strengthening her prosocial sense; you are damaging it—and the first person she will stop protecting is herself.” —Martha Stout

*****

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
―Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
―Isaac Asimov


“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” ―Henri J.M. Nouwen

*****

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
―Adrienne Rich


“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” ―Natalie Goldberg


“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke

*****

“That story you writin’ just might save the world. That poem you throwin’ down, could end wars.” ―York Poet and Shining Woman Christine Lincoln


“Be here. Let your wild self fly free.” ―The Crows

Shelter in Place

We live in a pocket of a hollow between two arms of Mt. Pisgah, the ridge that runs behind Wrightsville and up to the Susquehanna River. The Hollow is aptly names Skunk Hollow, and down the road from us a quarter of a mile is a farm lane by the name of Skunk Hollow Lane. We are in York County, but some of us used to travel down the ridge and over the River into Lancaster County for work and school.

For two weeks, the schoolfolk among us have been sheltering in place, and all of us have been here for the past week, making errands only to buy groceries or to make panicky trips back to the classroom to get things we thought we had forgotten. (Yes, that last was me, and it was only once, and it turns out that the papers I thought I had left in my room were actually slide shows my students had shared with me online.)

Yesterday our two counties were added to Pennsylvania’s list of counties under mandatory Shelter in Place rules. While there’s a direness to stricter restrictions, it also feels comforting, in a way, because we think people should have been voluntarily sheltering in place already, and this makes it mandatory. We’re all safer in the end for this new order.

On the other hand, we have an ideal place to shelter in, so I shouldn’t be too hard on the people who kept going out, who ignored the distance guidelines. Today we shelter in the house and watch the rain, coffee in one hand and a cat or two on the lap. Were it not for the plaguing anxiety about the spread of this virus, this would be my ideal day. I know it is not so for everyone.

What does shelter mean to you?


Gratitude List:
1. Warm cat,
2. and blanket,
3. and recliner,
4. and windows with a view
5. to the rain in the woods.

Take care of each other.


“Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.” —Jeanette Winterson


“Writing is a very emotional experience for me. Once, when I was writing the film adaptation of Charlotte’s Web, the phone rang and the caller said, ‘You sound all choked up.’ I said, ‘A spider just died.'” —Earl Hamner


“But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we’ll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we’ll have missed the point
That’s where I need to go” —Indigo Girls


Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Real change will only happen when we fall in love with our planet. Only love can show us how to live in harmony with nature and with each other and save us from the devastating effects of environmental destruction and climate change.”


“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” —Rachel Carson


“The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.” —CS Lewis


“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” —Jack Kerouac


“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” —John Lennon


“Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage.” —Adrienne Rich

Invitation

I get to choose from three possible thumbnails. What it they’re ALL goofy?

Mary Oliver quotes the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in her poem “Invitation.”

“You must change your life,” says Rilke.

And here is our invitation, in the middle of this muddle of Exile and Isolation and Distancing: Change Your Life. To a very large degree, it has been wrenched out of our own hands. My life has changed, whether I wanted it to or not. Out of my control.

So how can I take up this invitation, and take the pen in my own hands, the yarn, the paintbrush? How can I pick up the reins of my story and change my own life in this time?

In the two weeks since I have been home, I keep saying, every day, that I am going to get control of this wild horse of school work that will take up every inch of space in my day if I let it. And it’s been a comfort to know that I have something to do that is contributing, in some way, to the continuing work of the world in a time of shut-down. Still, I need to make my balance.

This is the first way that I will change my life. I will figure this out–that spaces between Work and Not-work.

How will you accept Rilke’s invitation?


Gratitude List:
1. Mary Oliver and Rainer Maria Rilke and the invitation to change my life.
2. Fridays are catch-up days. In school, there are Study Halls, and classes are sometimes work periods. There are spaces in the days for catch-up. Somehow, at home, it all runs together, and students and teachers can get a little breathless. Many students are being called in to work extra hours at their essential jobs, and these jobs are helping to support families in a time of uncertainty. Others are struggling with the fear and anxiety and overwhelm of the new normal. So Fridays, while still school days, are days to take a little breath, to have meetings with non-class groups, to regroup in preparation for the coming week. Breathe in. Breathe out.
3. The phoebe perched on the birdfeeder station for a moment, then flitted off.
4. I’m going to bake rolls today. Grateful for yeast and flour and work that teaches me patience.
5. Wild purple hyacinths. We always called them bluebells, and that’s how I think of them.

Take care of each other!


“We get over things. It is the most amazing faculty that we possess. War or pestilence; drought or famine; fire or flood; it does not matter. However devastating the catastrophe, however frightful the slaughter, however total the eclipse, we surmount our sorrows and find ourselves still smiling when the storm is overpast. . . . Nature heals her wounds with loveliness. She gets over things.” —Frank W. Boreham


“I believe a huge part of our collective feeling of emptiness comes from living in this self-centred phase of our evolution as a species, where everything begins with I. I want this object, I want to succeed. I want to improve myself. Even: I want to belong.

But true happiness depends upon our reciprocity with the environment in which we are embedded, and unto which we are indebted. In the same way that mitochondria work to break down nutrients and turn it into energy for our bodies, we too are but a single component of a greater biosphere that sees no hierarchy between ferns and redwoods, worms and eagles.

If we imagine an invisible mycelial network under the visible surface of things, of which we are but fruiting bodies, then we see how our lives should be in service to feeding the whole forest together. Our negligence of that reciprocity is, more than any other factor, what fosters unbelonging.” —Toko-pa Turner


“We are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“We must learn to respond not to this or that syllable, but to the whole song.” —Thomas Merton


“For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green” —J.R.R.Tolkien


“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Das


“I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.”
—Adrienne Rich


Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
—Rainer Maria Rilke

Wish You Were Here!

When this is all over, I wonder how it will have affected my teaching? I try to create a student-centered classroom, and I think my normal (non-Exile) classroom is very student-focused, but I still found myself spending a lot of time as the sage on the stage. But now, in the past week and a half, I have probably erred on the side of not enough teaching, and more on project-style instruction. I am working toward finding a balance. I hope that as I travel this new pedagogical pathway I can integrate old and new aspects of my teaching self. Maybe, hopefully, I will come out of this a better teacher.

How are you faring in your new rhythms? Are you able to consider that the new ways of doing things in this time-out-of-time might actually improve your understanding of yourself? It’s okay if you feel like you are in a holding pattern, or like you’re losing ground. Or if you’re back and forth (truth be told, that’s a more accurate picture of my status–it’s just that morning brings a clarity that is not always completely present for me all day).

My heart is with you, who must still go out daily to do essential jobs for the good of the community. May your immune system be as strong as your good heart.

My heart is with you, who have been laid off, or who will be laid off. May you find a settled place within, to face the uncertainty of these days. May help come soon.

My heart is with you, who live alone in Exile. May you find alternate ways to do community, from a safe distance.

My heart is with you, who suddenly have two or more overwhelming jobs: working from home or out in the community, and still supervising your children’s schooling, or caring for the emotional needs of family members and beloveds. May you find rest and may you settle into the new rhythms with grace. You are doing enough. You are enough.


Gratitude List:
1. The birthday bush (I thought tree, but I have been corrected by the soon-to-be-birthday-boy) survived the night. Before we went to bed, I repeatedly reminded the cats that it was their responsibility to protect the tree from goblins in the night. They’re less likely to destroy something (like sleep or a birthday bush) if they have been charged with its protection.
2. I realized yesterday that I will likely be home this year when Oriole returns. My heart rises in anticipation. To sit on the porch all day and listen to him calling in his beloved is one of my great joys.
3. Yesterday, I managed to keep up with the minute-by-minute work as well as catch up significantly on pre-Friday-the-13th work. I am feeling more on top of things, school-wise, than I have felt since the beginning of the semester. Now if only I can try to end my school day at 5 today, then I will be golden.
4. The way humans rise to a crisis. And I know not all humans are rising. But the regular people, often those with the most to lose, have been settling in and creating community, reaching out, looking after each other. I really do love humans.
5. The bird feeders. If I go back to teaching in my physical school building this spring, I am going to have to figure out how to set up some bird feeders on the roof outside my windows. It brings me such great joy to watch the birds.

Take care of each other!

This morning my grandmother is teaching me
that the easiest (and most elegant) way to defeat an army of hatred,
is to sing it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees and surrenders.

It will do this, she says, because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found heaven.
It has found HOZHO.
—Lyla Johnston


“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…” —Aldous Huxley


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” —Anaïs Nin


“What a miracle to be awake inside your breathing!” —Hildegard of Bingen


Definition of Weald: wild, forested lands, uncultivated regions


“Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” —Archibald Macleish


“This poem is not housebroken.” —Anne Haines


*I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” —Joan Didion


“Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.” —John O’Donohue

If you have never read Toko-pa Turner’s work, begin by buying her book Belonging. It will be a comforting and enlightening companion for your Exile.

Cats in the Classroom

My classroom has cats. I think Sachs would approve of the look this filter gave him.
Because this is how we live now.

Gratitude List:
1. Slowly, but surely, I am catching up on some of my pre-Friday-the-13th work. It has been really difficult to adjust schedules and plans to fit online learning. I’m beginning to carve out spaces for big grading in the midst of the daily tasks.
2. Maybe it’s the fat coffee (cream and butter, coconut oil and protein powder), or maybe it’s the new schedule, but I realized yesterday that I don’t feel run down and exhausted anymore. Even though I am working almost all the time, I feel charged and up to the tasks of my day.
3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Josiah and I finished that one yesterday, and I love the reminder that the real adventure is the one that takes you inside yourself. That adventure is always available.
4. Goldfinches. They’re going to show up a lot on here because they’re my constant visual companions right now, and getting shinier by the day. I live on Goldfinch Farm, and we named it that for a reason, and in these challenging days, that reason has become one of my grounding delights.
5. Yesterday I saw the phoebe! Sitting on a branch above the bluff, dipping her tail. I have been hearing them, but there’s something about catching that glimpse. . .

Take care of each other!


“Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle. And let us not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” —Albus Dumbledore


Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone 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 or families,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.
—Walt Whitman, from the Preface to Leaves of Grass


THE OLD WISDOM

When the night wind makes the pine trees creak
And the pale clouds glide across the dark sky,
Go out my child, go out and seek
Your soul: The Eternal I.
For all the grasses rustling at your feet
And every flaming star that glitters high
Above you, close up and meet
In you: The Eternal I.
Yes, my child, go out into the world; walk slow
And silent, comprehending all, and by and by
Your soul, the Universe, will know
Itself: the Eternal I.
—Jane Goodall


“If you believe peace is the absence of war, you’ve missed the mark. There will never be full peace until we treat each other the way we want to be treated. Peace is allowing an individual or group of people to command their space in the way they know how without the violent intervention from another.” —Leymah Gbowee

Because This is How We Live Now

Because This is How We Live Now
by ElizaBeth Weaver-Kreider

(with thanks to Lillian Faith,
who puts out crumbs for the robins
when it snows during the Exile)

Because
this is how
we live now.

Because this is how we mitigate.
(From the Latin: mītis, soft
and agere, to act.)
We make things soft
until the harm has passed:
hearts and bellies,
breath and eyes.
Soften everything.
Mitigate.

Because this is how we Exile.
We weep. We rage.
We dance in separate living rooms,
apart.
And together.
We look into a screen,
into each other’s eyes,
and we name each other Beloved.

Because this is how we find our edges.
We sway and shift,
feeling the edge of the pose
deep in the muscle,
and then we pause,
and breathe.

Because this is how we learn
we are not invincible,
unconquerable, alone.
Because we are together
in our isolation.

Because this is how we flatten the curve of sadness,
one small thing at a time,
one little loss,
and then another,
not all at once
taking the time to feel each one
together. Alone together.

Because this is how spring comes:
one day the sweat rolls down
between shoulder blades,
and on the next day it snows.
One day you spend in ashes,
the next within the golden branches
of the forsythia bush.

Because.
This is how
we live now.
–3/23/20


Gratitude List:
1. Foolery
2. Remembering to ask a question rather than to ignore what feels like a put-down. Deeper understandings come.
3. The feisty wren. I know, they are the terrors of the bird world in the holler, but they are also delightful to watch.
4. I’m so glad we had a good supply of thistle seed–the goldfinches are transforming, and its been years since I could sit here at this window for hours, working and watching the birds in spring.
5. Pluto. Have you seen Pluto? I know it’s a product of our silly internet culture, but it’s artful and playful, and she meets some common human need. If you haven’t seen the videos by Pluto the Dog, go Googling.

Take care of each other!


“Fear’s contagious, but so is courage.” —Betty Williams, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate, 1943-2020


I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write
—W. S. Merwin


“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.” —Muhammad


“How do I prepare a child for a future that doesn’t yet exist?” —Prince Ea


“I can feel the suffering of millions
and yet, if I look up into the heavens,
I think it will all come right,
and that this cruelty too will end,
and that peace and tranquility will return again.
In the meantime,
I must uphold my ideals,
for perhaps the time will come
when I shall be able to carry them out.” —from The Diary of Anne Frank


Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
—Langston Hughes, “The Dream Keeper”


“.. I had that wonderful feeling writers get sometimes, not very often, of being ‘with’ a great many people, ancient spirits, all very happy to see me consulting and acknowledging them, and eager to let me know, through the joy of their presence, that, indeed, I am not alone.” —Alice Walker

Mitigation

I don’t usually do selfies on here, but purple hair is making me very happy today.

Last Thursday, I made a little PSA video for my students, to try to encourage them to stay home, to heed the cautions so they can be part of this great effort to Flatten the Curve. I told them that even if they feel invincible, they should be invincible at home.

Yesterday, I acted like I was invincible at home. I thought I would take a break from walking as my exercise, and do something for the good of the farm, so I went out with a big clipper and a string trimmer, and I attacked a bramble patch up on the top of the bluff. I felt a few twinges in my back, but did I stop? No! I was in-vinc-ible!

But evening, I was in pain. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t lie down, couldn’t walk. I usually try to avoid pain-killers for muscle-type pains because I think pain is a messenger, and if I don’t feel it, I might further damage whatever body part if aching. But I figured I wouldn’t do any damage in my sleep, so I took some ibuprofen, and after trying three different surfaces, I fell asleep on the futon–the fam opened that up for me.

So I am learning something about invincibility. The Old French vincere means “to overcome.” My lower back muscles were overcome, but my sense of sturdy physical dependability has been seriously overcome. I am not invincible, and I need to know my limits. When she leads us in morning yoga online, my friend Yasmin reminds us to find our edges, but not to go past them.

Living life in Exile is about finding our edges. Some edges have been imposed upon us, and bless you for keeping those edges–you are protecting the more vulnerable, and helping to ease the decisions that our health care workers are going to need to face in the coming weeks. But other edges exist for us to find: How much clearing of brush will damage a 52-year-old back. How much time we can spend in a house with small people needing our attention. How much binge-watching of The Office we can do before we start talking like Dwight Shrute. What is the edge of loneliness? What is the edge of anxiety about the future?

Some of my friends have been dealing with the edges in really creative ways. Loneliness and disappointment can’t, perhaps, be cured by walking in the park, keeping a safe distance from others, but it can be mitigated. Anxiety can be mitigated by yoga and meditation, by phoning a friend. The demands of children can be somewhat mitigated by a slight lessening of screen time rules in order to give oneself a break. A sense of inefficacy can be mitigated by reaching out to others through the available technology, by baking bread, by planting a garden.

After all, this whole Exile is about mitigation. Vocabulary.com says this about the word mitigate: “Choose the verb mitigate when something lessens the unpleasantness of a situation. . . . The somewhat formal verb mitigate comes from the Latin roots mitis ‘soft’ and agere ‘todo/act,’ which add to to ‘to soften.’ It is often used with words that indicate an outcome or something harmful.”

Let’s soften. Let’s act. Let’s not pretend we are invincible. This is a time to act upon our softness. Hang in there, Friends. There will be an ending. We just have to live through the middle first. Let’s find our edges–and accept them–and mitigate as much of the trouble as we can.


Gratitude List:
1. My back feels SO MUCH better this morning!
2. Exile is a good time to make the whole hairdo purple. I might never go back to non-purple hair.
3. All the people who are working in all the ways to mitigate the harmfulness of this pandemic.
4. The world of the woods and the hollow, the creek and the pond, the fields and the sky–all goes on out there as normal. The world turns to spring.
5. Yellow and gold. All those shades: goldfinches turning, Golda the gold-orange koifish, blooming forsythia so yellow they seem to be on fire.

Take care of each other!


Today’s Poem for the Exile

“To oppose something is to maintain it.
They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” —Estraven, in The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin


“The Messenger of Allah [Muhammed], peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.’” —Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir


Once or twice in a lifetime
A man or woman may choose
A radical leaving, having heard
Lech l’cha — Go forth.

God disturbs us toward our destiny
By hard events
And by freedom’s now urgent voice
Which explode and confirm who we are.

We don’t like leaving,
But God loves becoming.

by Rabbi Norman Hirsh


“Only those who attempt the absurd
will achieve the impossible.”
—M. C. Escher


“Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.” ―Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces


“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.”

“The earth is at the same time mother, she is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all. The earth of humankind contains all moisture, all verdancy, all germinating power. It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it. Yet it forms not only the basic raw materials for humankind, but also the substance of Incarnation.” —Hildegard of Bingen


“. . .life is so lifey, but that is going too easy on it.” —Anne Lamott


“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke

Angel Over the Hollow

Sky over Skunk Hollow: Dove, or angel, or ashy wisps of phoenix after the egg is laid and the transformation is set in motion?

Gratitude List:
1. Community
2. Cats
3. Morning coffee
4. There is always another poem
5. Puzzles

Take care of each other.


Friday’s Finds:
“We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life, and the unnaturalness and injustice of all special favoritisms, whether of sex, race, country or condition. If one link of the chain be broken, the chain is broken. A bridge is no stronger than its weakest part, and a cause is not worthier than its weakest element.” —Anna Julia Cooper


“…now is all there ever is…”
—Eckhart Tolle


The moon is most happy
When it is full.
And the sun always looks
Like a perfectly minted gold coin
That was just polished
And placed in flight
By God’s playful kiss.
And so many varieties of fruit
Hang plump and round
From branches that seem like a sculptor’s hands.
I see the beautiful curve of a pregnant belly
Shaped by a soul within,
And the Earth itself,
And the planets and the Spheres–
I have gotten the hint:
There is something about circles
The Beloved likes.
Hafiz, within the Circle of a Perfect One
There is an Infinite Community
Of Light.
—Hafiz


“The church says: The body is a sin.
Science says: The body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The body says: I am a fiesta.”
—Eduardo Galeano


“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.

“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.

“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.”
—Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”


If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present. . .gratefully.
—Maya Angelou