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Beauty as Genius

May the seeds we sow today grow into strong and healthy plants.

Gratitude List:
1. How silence enters the body when you sit very still and watch it approach
2. Adaptability. The ability to adapt and change and transform.
3. That thing some cats do, where they roll over and pet their own faces. Sometimes a little face rub is just the thing to add a little stress reduction.
4. I stayed late at school after our staff development day on Monday to clean my unmanageable stacks. It’s much easier to actually work in my room now.
5. Today, all my classes are doing slightly longer personal introductions as community-building exercises. I love these moments of setting up the class connections. I need to remember how vital it is at the beginning of a semester to give a little serious time to helping them connect to each other and create a safe working group together.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotations for the Day:

Oneiric: of or relating to dreams


“I am dogmatic in one way: I really do see no alternative than the cultivation of crazy loving humility—a visceral sense of ever-renewing wonder in the face of the Great Mystery.” —Rob Brezsny


“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” ―John Dewey


“I’ve learned for a long time that, to heal my wounds, I had to have the courage to look at them. — Paulo Coelho


“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. Here we are moving toward the exit of the 20th century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”
~Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963)


“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not… the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than justice.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963


“Beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.” —Oscar Wilde


“Regardless of our beliefs, we all suffer from ignorance, and we all have projected our losses and fears onto each other in one way or another. This is my dream of the beloved community: that we can at least find a way to talk to each other, to talk past the fear, the separation, and find another way to live.”
—Sallie Jiko Tisdale, “Beloved Community”


“Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying.” —Terry Pratchett

Snow Geese

I’m not sure whether to be delighted or alarmed at the processional flights of snow geese across the sky. I cannot stifle delight. That feels like a sin. So I will feel it, as I always do, with my whole being, when I see them. It’s akin to the joy of a flock of Canada geese, but sweeter somehow. The Canadas are year-round residents, and although they’re rather a mess in the places they choose to reside, I love them. Perhaps that’s why the snow geese bring on a frisson of wild thrill when I notice the longer wings, the different colors and shapes against the sky, the wilder cry: the Canadas are so habituated to humans that they’re almost something between wild and domestic. I love them for that, but I love the feral flight of the snow geese, the mystical quality of the white bodies/black wings against the blue.

The alarm, of course, is because they’re here now. When I started marking their travels, early March was the date to watch for. Then February. Now early January. Perhaps it’s a fluke of the year. Perhaps it’s a sign of changes to come. May they thrive in whatever future they face.


Tuesday’s Thoughts
“The mystic sits inside the burning.” —Rumi
*****
“Writing is the painting of the voice; the closer the resemblance, the better it is.”
—Voltaire
*****
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” —Dalai Lama
*****
“Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth.” —Diane Ackerman


Gratitude List:
1. Snow geese
2. Tabula rasa
3. New habits
4. Tidying up
5. Learning about learning

May we walk in Beauty!

Doing What I Cannot in Order to Learn

Monday’s Muses:
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost


“I am always doing what I cannot do yet
in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney


“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman


“‎The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou


“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)


“This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .

Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)


“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
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.”
—Walt Whitman


“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.

“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich


Gratitude List:
1. This Jungian Life podcast. The one on Shame, in particular. Reminder that finding delight in each other combats shame. Reminder to examine the ways I live by shame instead of by belonging.
2. I think I am ready for the new classes to start. I love the three classes I am teaching this semester: Speech, AP Composition (College Composition I), and Creative Writing.
3. Yesterday’s lovely weather–practicing archery with the kid.
4. Remembering: I don’t have to be perfect. Just good enough. And me–just me.
5. Church fellowship meals.

May we walk in Beauty!

Marching, Marching

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.


“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” —Elie Wiesel


The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” —Wangari Maathai


“Language helps develop life as surely as it reflects life. It is the most important part of the human condition.” —Jane Yolen


“It is through beauty, poetry and visionary power that the world will be renewed.” —Maria Tatar


“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
—William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”


As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing, bread and roses, bread and roses.

As we come marching, marching, we battle too, for men,
For they are in the struggle and together we shall win.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes,
Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread, but give us roses.

As we come marching, marching, un-numbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread,
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew
Yes, it is bread we. fight for, but we fight for roses, too.

As we go marching, marching, we’re standing proud and tall.
The rising of the women means the rising of us all.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories, bread and roses, bread and roses.
—James Oppenheim


Gratitude List:
1. Cornbread for breakfast
2. The process of re-balancing. There’s always a wobble or three. Sometimes abrasions and bruises. But the balance returns.
3. Blue sky through winter trees
4. The writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer
5. Planning. I love planning the shape of a class. The challenge for second semester classes is timeliness. I struggle to plan a class in July that I won’t teach until January, and when I do my planning so far in advance, the liveliness in it has died by January, and I have to rework and reassess again in the weeks before class begins. But this planning process is part of what brings the energy for the new thing emerging.

May we walk in Beauty!

Set Your Life on Fire

Some Thoughts to Ponder for Saturday:
“Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn.” —Gustav Klimt


“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” —Rumi


“Your life is not about you; you are about Life. You are an instance of a universal, eternal pattern.” —Richard Rohr


“It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.” —Leymah Gbowee


“Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really really long poem about everything.” —David Bowie


“We can never be born enough.” —e. e. cummings


“. . .to cry out like Cassandra, but be listened to this time.” —Grace Paley


Aldo Leopold: “Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish [her] right hand and chop off [her] left.”


“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” —John Muir


“Our time is hungry in spirit. In some unnoticed way we have managed to inflict severe surgery on ourselves. We have separated soul from experience, become utterly taken up with the outside world and allowed the interior life to shrink. Like a stream disappears underground, there remains on the surface only the slightest trickle. When we devote no time to the inner life, we lose the habit of soul. We become accustomed to keeping things at surface level. The deeper questions about who we are and what we are here for visit us less and less. If we allow time for soul, we will come to sense its dark and luminous depth. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives.” —John O’Donohue


“Justice is not negotiable.” —Dr. Denis Mukwege


Gratitude List:
1. Endings and Beginnings
2. Changing up the rhythms
3. Sifting and shifting
4. Word play
5. Sharp cheddar cheese on a bagel.

May we walk in Beauty!

She Is On Her Way

This is Erebus the Carpet Otter. He looks like he is wearing the Fool’s Cap. He has fangs and a soul patch.

Some Thoughtful Quotations for Today:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.

And wait without love. For love would be love,
of the wrong thing.

Yet there is faith.
But the faith and the hope and the love, are all in the waiting.

And the darkness shall be the light
and the stillness the dancing.

—T.S. Elliot


“One’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes.”
—Andrew Wyeth


“There were as many truths—overlapping, stewed together—as there were tellers. The truth mattered less than the story’s life. A story forgotten died. A story remembered not only lived, but grew.” —Patrick Ness (from The Crane Wife), via Terri Windling


“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
“Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
―Arundhati Roy (War Talk)


“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”
―Vandana Shiva


“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.” — Barack Obama


Gratitude List:
1. Chanteuses. Women who can sing from a stage and make it sound that they are singing from your own heart.
2. Last day of the semester.
3. The music and poetry of Joy Harjo. A student mentioned today that I can get Joy Harjo albums on my apps!
4. The color gold–deeper and wiser, perhaps, than sun or butter yellow. Perhaps a little less fun-loving than those others, but a perfect color for the day.
5. Complexity.

May we live in Beauty!

War Is Not the Answer

Wage Peace, spelled out in vegetables.

While the saber-rattlers practice their stern faces in mirrors,
we gather our children and see the reflections
of the eyes of mothers on the other side of endless wars,
holding their children to their own hearts.

While the war profiteers add up their numbers,
we count too, numbering our young people,
knowing that somewhere, in that distant land,
other mothers pull sons and daughters
away from that red line in the sand,
other teachers are doing the math
of the beloved scholars ripening
to the age of soldier.

We know, as those others know,
that collateral damage means someone’s child,
someone’s empty arms, someone’s heart torn apart.
We know that the men who make war,
the maestros who orchestrate the grand drama,
are not the ones who do the war,
are not the ones who live it.

We know, as the women of Iran know,
as the war-makers can never seem to understand,
that every casualty has a mother.


Gratitude List:
1. That quiet doe who slipped across the road in yesterday’s headlights, reminding me of shy tenderness, of the need to take great care in all things, to pay attention.
2. The people of Lancaster, standing in the freezing cold, holding up the hope of peace between nations. Young and old, and everyone’s toes like ice, but hearts warm and determined.
3. Doing the last-minute hopeful tweaks on second-semester classes. I love jumping in to second semester, despite the stress of the overlay of first semester’s finish on second semester’s start. Tabula rasa. Anything can be.
4. Last night I heard a story of a former student (before my time here) whose family has recently been reaching out to the school to share how much the school helped to shape–in often quiet and seemingly small respects–the life of their son. I’m grateful for all the ways in which the little things we do for each other open us to deeper connection–in ways we might not always be able to express.
5. The shine of snow-covered landscapes. Winter is not simply dark and drear. Some days, it dazzles!

May we walk in Beauty!

Getting Lost/Being Found

If you look closely, you will see two faces looking at you.

What Happens When You Get Lost
by William Stafford

Out in the mountains nobody gives you anything.
And you learn what the rules were after the game is over.
By then it is already night and it doesn’t make any difference
What anyone else is thinking or doing because now you have to
Turn into an Indian.
You remember stories and now you know that the tellers were
Part of all they told.
And everyone else was, and even you.
They’re all around you now, but if you’re afraid you will never find them.
And those questions that people always ask―
“What would you do if…”
They have their own answer right now―nothing.
Some things cannot be redeemed in a hurry no matter what the intentions are.
What could be done had to have been done a long time ago.
Because mistakes have consequences that do not just disappear.
If evil could be canceled easily it would not be very evil.
And so, the stars see you.
While you drift away they have their own courses and they watch you.
And listen, they already know your name.


In last night’s dream, I am lost again. Only this time, the people who rescued me in the previous dream are the ones I am trying to find. I can’t find everything I need to pack and take with me to see these friends. It’s almost time to meet them, and I haven’t even left the motel, and it’s at least an hour’s drive.

Finally, I am on my way, but I haven’t found the destination on Google Maps, and I can’t seem to figure out how to text my friends to get the address or to tell them I am late. I have four different devices, and I just can’t seem to figure out which one is the phone. I stop a woman and ask if she can help me. She gets out a stylus and starts doing some elaborate calligraphy on one device that looks like an iPad, only it makes actual marks on the surface of the glass. Now she’s just playing a game on the device. I take it from her in disgust, and move on.

I finally pull out my phone and start to text my friend, but the whole systems goes glitchy and starts to blink. The glass of the phone shatters.

I don’t know how I eventually get there, but eventually (it feels like I’m dreaming this hours and many stories after the first) I am sitting with my friends, and it’s actually earlier than the time I was trying to leave in the first dream. I have made it, and I have time. One of my friends remarks that time sometimes seems to stand still when you’re with people you love.


Gratitude List:
1. A Two-Hour Delay. I am going to go back to sleep for a little while.
2. A warm cat stretched out next to me and purring.
3. The quiet beauty of snow, how snow blankets, how it veils.
4. Finding the breathing spaces
5. Getting lost in stories. I love when all three kids are along on the way to and/or from school, because then we listen to story together.

May we walk in Beauty!


Some Things to Think About:

I see her walking
on a path through a pathless forest
or a maze, a labyrinth.
As she walks, she spins
and the fine threads fall behind her
following her way,
telling
where she is going,
telling
where she has gone.
Telling the story.
The line, the thread of voice,
the sentences saying the way.
—Ursula K. Le Guin (from “The Writer On, and At, Her Work”)


“Young people, don’t be afraid.” —Michelle Obama in her final speech as First Lady


“You loose your grip
and then you slip
into the Masterpiece…”
—Leonard Cohen


“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality-not as we expect it to be but as it is-is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” ―Frederick Buechner


Toko-pa, quoting and reflecting on Marion Woodman:
“Marion Woodman—Jungian, author, teacher, crone—taught me that what is most missing from our culture is the Mature Feminine. Mature Feminine, she says, is the ability to ‘hold presence.’ It is not divided attention, like the sort you feel when someone is psychically composing their grocery instead of listening to you. ‘I don’t have time for that,’ she says. Holding Presence ‘is to love the other exactly as they are, not as you want them to be.’ It is love without judging, without getting the other tangled up in your own unconscious, unlived life. ‘Holding presence is to create room so the other can grow into their destiny. They can feel that.'”


“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” ―Charlotte Gray

Balance

Some quotations for the day:

“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” —President Franklin Roosevelt


“A condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything…” —T.S. Elliot


“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
—Zora Neale Hurston


I see her walking
on a path through a pathless forest
or a maze, a labyrinth.
As she walks, she spins
and the fine threads fall behind her
following her way,
telling
where she is going,
telling
where she has gone.
Telling the story.
The line, the thread of voice,
the sentences saying the way.
—Ursula K. Le Guin (from “The Writer On, and At, Her Work)


Gratitude List:
1. Renewing and resetting. Re-starting and re-creating.
2. Tides turn and shift. People pause and look up, rub their eyes and shake their heads, and wonder if they’ve been dreaming. Then they wake up and get to work. This is the vision I am holding right now for the people of my country.
3. Synchronicity. Last night, I decided to try to make some shifts in my daily habits, in order to create a new balance for myself. Later, I pulled a random card from one of my meditative decks, and it was Balance. Of course it was.
4. Bread and soup for supper. Jon stopped on the way home and bought a sourdough baguette and a creamy shrimp chowder. Simple and yummy.
5. The Susquehanna River. I get to cross it twice a day, to note its moods and colors and shine.

May we walk in Beauty!

Epiphany: The Holy Aha!

Aha! The light is here. We have found our way by star and by dream, by following the song inside us.

Now we face a terrible choice. A new dream asks us to stand against a great evil that threatens to destroy this promise, that will destroy the lives of many children and their families until all is said and done. But we are used to following the paths where our dreams take us, and so we must see the child on his way, pack up our things, and head out another way, tricking the old king of his quarry.

Legends say that the astrologers and seers who followed the star in search of the child of promise came from Persia. At least some of them probably came from Iran. Rumi’s beloved Shams was from the city of Tabriz, in Iran, and my own beloved Hafez was from the city of Shiraz, Iran, where the Nasir Ol-Mulk–the Rainbow Mosque–is located today.

As my own country is crouched on the brink of a war with Iran, a rogue president at the helm and all semblance of Congressional checks and balances seemingly in tatters, we must consider our own response to despotic and ruthless leadership. How will we find a different way out of the murderous city? How will we protect the small ones? Perhaps today calls not for a quiet exit through the back door, but a conscious and public standing up and speaking out.

The people of Iran are not our enemy. We have, perhaps, more in common with them than with the angry old men who plot war between our countries.

What do your dreams tell you? Where will this star lead us today?


La Befana: The Epiphany Witch

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.
Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to. I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and besom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies on my broom,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitude List:
1. Dreams and visions
2. Watching a boy and his grandparents yesterday, putting together a giant Lego jet. Hearing him hum and whistle as he concentrated.
3. All the people who are standing up and speaking out.
4. All those crows! On the way home last night, as we were driving beneath a sunset sky full of crows, a boy began to sing, “Magical, magical, magical.” (Of course, when he noticed me appreciating it, he switched and sang, “Unmagical, unmagical, unmagical,” but it was too late. I had noticed.)
5. The holy Aha! Finding the way by starlight and dream. Choosing to disobey, if that what is called for.

May we walk in Beauty!