Hanging My Worries on the Willow

A string of worries hanging from the willow.

One of my most common school anxiety dreams is that the semester has begun, and I don’t get there until a few days or weeks or months in to the semester. Things have already begun without me. Other teachers are running the class. I basically have no idea what is going on.

One of my most common recurring dreams about doing my inner work involves discovering rooms or places filled with things that I have somehow inherited.

Last night’s dream includes both elements:
I am a couple weeks late to begin a new teaching assignment in a middle school. When I get there, the substitute is a man, a college professor, who is teaching them as though they understand deep literary critique, referencing obscure writers and texts. There’s also an assistant in the classroom, and she is sitting in the desk at the front of the room while the professor teaches.

I don’t really introduce myself when I come in, but I put on an audio story for them to listen to. It’s engrossing, very literary, and sort of mysterious. The kids and the other two teachers are immediately into it. Meanwhile, I start to clean up the two desks at the front of the room. The previous teacher left all her stuff, and the surface of the desks are covered with knick knacks. I actually want to look at each one and decide which ones I will keep. It’s kind of an exciting process. Underneath the desk are little hidden drawers and doors, and dozens of keys!

The story ends just as the children are to be dismissed for the day. I thank the other teachers, and tell the children we will have formal introductions tomorrow. I’m eager to meet them, and they seem ready to take me on as their teacher.

I am not nearly where I want to be in terms of fall planning. I’ve let my anxiety keep me whirling in a tornado of what-ifs, and I’ve found myself unable to focus on plans. This year demands stronger plans with more options, so I need to get myself together, and not show up to the party late. If I am to really connect with my students in this season, I need to leave the professor at home, and keep reeling them in with captivating narrative.

At the same time that I have not been getting a handle on the actual nuts and bolts preparation for the semester, I have been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, the teen version of Kendi’s longer work Stamped from the Beginning. I think there are all sorts of inner doors and drawers that I am finding access to in the wake of these texts, new ways to frame how I can teach in antiracist ways, not self-consciously layering discussions of racism into literary discussion, but letting a deeper knowledge of US history infuse the ways I lead discussions about texts.

I’m not sure what the tchotchkes on the surface of the desk represent, unless it is simply that in the midst of my anxiety about opening school, I am looking forward to exploring all the little shining things that represent the everyday school experience.

A couple days ago, during a video-call, a cousin of mine exhorted me to be aware of how my worry affects me, to consider ways that I might proactively deal with the anxiety I am experiencing. He suggested giving myself one day a week to worry, making a list of the things my brain wants to worry about, and then checking in with the list on one day a week. Chances are, some of those worries might have evaporated week to week. Of course, the worry about school just gets bigger and bigger, but I am really moved and inspired by the encouragement to lay it down a bit. And yesterday, my pastor’s sermon was in a similar vein.

I need rituals to mark the inner work that I am doing, physical representations of the energies I am trying to shift. So today, I am going to meditate a little about the school worries, and then I am going to choose some ribbons to represent the things that most frighten me, and hang those on my willow tree. She is strong, and also not rigid. She flows. She listens well.

I can’t change the decisions that my school and my son’s school are making. I can be vocal about the safety issues that I see, asking for accountability to strong safety measures. In the end, unless I choose to strike or quit (which I just can’t do because I love my school and my administrators and teaching), I need to simply buckle down, do what I can to keep myself and my students safe, and find joy in the experience of reconnecting, of opening those little drawers and doors, of finding the right keys, of discovering the shiny things that will be part of everyday life back at school.

If you pray, if you do magic, if you work with energy, work prayers and magic and energy for our safety, please. For all the teachers and the students, for our families.


Gratitude List:
1. Social media posts about people’s food preservation. I haven’t done any of that this year, and I don’t plan to, but I can look at the beautiful rows of my friends’ canned beans and pickles and relish. I can see the binsful of corn transformed into baggies of golden sunshine that will wait in their freezers for winter. This makes me happy.
2. Kittens
3. Learning to push my body past its initial inertia, to get on the bike, to pedal even when its hard going.
4. Beloveds who remind me to deal with my worry and not just leave it lying around where it can keep pouncing on me.
5. Messages from dreams.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“We should ask ourselves: Do we know what enough is inside of our lives? Once I know that, it’s much harder for capitalism to catch me, right? Because I’m not susceptible to this constant sale of myself or my soul to any other force.” —adrienne maree brown


“I hold the line, the line of strength that pulls me through the fear.” —Peter Gabriel


“Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” —Lev Vygotsky


“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” —James Baldwin


“Three things cannot be hidden: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.” —Gautama Buddha


“Those doing soul work, who want the searing truth more than solace or applause, know each other right away. Those who want something else turn and take a seat in another room. Soul-makers find each other’s company.” —Rumi


“Going within is the only way out.” —Toko-pa Turner


“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.” —Thomas Merton


“Let me fall, if I must. The one I will become will catch me.” —Baal Shem Tov


“The sky itself
Reels with love.”
—Rumi


“That’s a tough spirituality. That’s not any kind of sweet-by-and-by spirituality. That’s a spirituality that takes on the world as it is and says, ‘I’m gonna figure this out one way or another.’ The mystic and the Moses.” —Vincent Harding (On Being interview)


“May you know the fearlessness of an open heart. May you never meet anyone you consider a stranger, and know that no matter what, you are not alone. May you have compassion for others’ suffering and joy in their delights. May you be free to give and receive love.” —Sharon Salzberg


“In our culture, we use the word ‘dreamy’ derogatively to describe someone who is unrealistic or without ambition. But what thrills and amazes me about dreamwork is how truly grounding it is. One of the reasons this is true, is because dreams are expressions of that larger ecosystem in which we are embedded, and which has a design for our lives within that greater context! So rather than taking our cues from consensus culture, instead we are listening to the mystery which combines us. As Jungian analyst Ann Bedford Ulanov puts it, “the Self is that within us that knows about God.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa

Good Trouble

John Lewis, who is a sterling example of thoughtful and compassionate and fierce and determined political leadership in this country, called repeatedly for the people to stir up Good Trouble. What Good Trouble will you make in his honor today?


Gratitude List:
1. All the people who are making Good Trouble. Keep it up, soulkin! You are making a difference.
2. Exercise. This has never been a priority of mine, but as I notice the current effects of aging on my body, and think about where I want to be in ten, twenty years, I have chosen this mantra: limber, healthy, strong. I’m trying to get a long walk or a long bike ride in every day, sometimes both. I definitely feel stronger.
3. Wise friends.
4. Smoothies with lots of fresh fruit.
5. My tiny tribe of succulents. I repotted everyone a couple days ago, and they’re looking so much happier now. I am trying to start a few new ones with leaves that I culled as I was repotting.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Some say you’re lucky
If nothing shatters it.

But then you wouldn’t
Understand poems or songs.
You’d never know
Beauty comes from loss.

It’s deep inside every person:
A tear tinier
Than a pearl or thorn.

It’s one of the places
Where the beloved is born.”
―Gregory Orr


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


“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” ―Joseph Campbell


“Friendship … is born at the moment when one says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
― C.S. Lewis


“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
―Thomas Merton


“To say ‘I don’t know’ is an unparalleled source of power, a declaration of independence from the pressure to have an opinion about every single subject.
It’s fun to say. Try it: ‘I don’t know.’
Let go of the drive to have it all figured out: ‘I don’t know.’
Proclaim the only truth you can be totally sure of: ‘I don’t know.’
Empty your mind and lift your heart: ‘I don’t know.’
Use it as a battle cry, a joyous affirmation of your oneness with the Great Mystery: ‘I don’t know.’
(To revel in this reverie can be a respite, a vacation. Any time you feel ready, you can return to the more familiar state of ‘I know! I know! I know!’)” ―Rob Brezsny


“Declare amnesty for the part of you that you don’t love very well. Forgive that poor sucker. Hold its hand and take it out to dinner and a movie. Tactfully offer it a chance to make amends for the dumb things it has done.

And then do a dramatic reading of this proclamation by the playwright Theodore Rubin: ‘I must learn to love the fool in me—the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool.'” ―Rob Brezsny


“We all receive water from her, we receive food from her, we receive air from her, anything that is received as a gift from the Earth and from nature has to be a commons, it cannot be privatised, that is why privatisation of life forms through patents or water through privatisation schemes driven by the World Bank, or the privatisation of the atmosphere and the air through carbon trading and emissions trading are all illegal and illegitimate in a legal framework based on the Earth’s rights.” ―Vandana Shiva


“The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him; they crush those beneath them.” ―Emily Bronte


“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” ―Susan B. Anthony


“To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take real interest in the world.” ―Rudolf Steiner

Anxious Days and Gratitude

Gull on a bad hair day.

I am suffering from some serious internal whiplash these days.

Within the past week, I have experienced some incredibly healing times safely social distanced with some of my best beloveds, looking into twinkling eyes, hearing laughter and wisdom and articulate questions. I have had some deeply reviving time in nature despite the heat.

And at the same time, one thought can set my nerves jangling, twanging the wires of anxiety, clashing and clanging waves of worry. School.

While teaching students to read and write–to communicate, to learn to express emotion and articulate new ideas–is clearly my vocational mission, I have an underlying agenda which is just as important as English Language Arts: To create a safe space for young people to explore who they are and learn how to be comfortable and confident in the world. In the spring, when we were sent home to do our learning, we lost that safe space together. I lost the opportunity to make eye contact in the halls with someone who worried that nobody would ever notice them, lost the chance to listen to a student come into my room ranting about some injustice they wanted to remove from the world, lost the chance to watch laughter displace worry or sadness or fear, lost the chance to tell someone that they are stronger than they think.

And now, we’re planning to meet again in the fall, and I will get some of that back on a limited basis, but I don’t feel safe, for me or for them, for our families and beloveds. This virus has stripped us of our safety. I want so desperately to return to classes, but something in me feels like it isn’t yet time, like my Safe Place is still unsafe. I find myself hoping that the governor calls off school again, so we won’t have to navigate these waters, so I won’t have to add to my duties the policing of students’ spacing and masking in the halls, so I won’t have to worry that every sneeze or cough could result in someone’s grandmother fighting for her life, so every day won’t feel like a risk.

I know that we need to open schools again when it is safe to do so. I know that many students’ mental health depends upon it. But it feels like a dangerous experiment with our physical health, and the health of our families to do it now, when my state can’t seem to get its numbers under control, when adults who should know better are refusing to do the simple things to keep us all safe.

I breathe a lot to ground myself, during these days when I struggle through allergies to catch the deepest breaths and yawns. I go to my beloveds, online and in safe circles. I anchor myself in the green and the blue, in earth and air and water. I search for Beauty, and find my grateful center. It helps me a little, a least to ride the top of the anxiety waves. It’s harder than usual to hold onto a calm center, when grief and rage and worry knot themselves into a little ball inside my spirit.

Some Things to Be Grateful For:
1. The twinkling eyes of my beloveds
2. Blue and green, and golden sun
3. Birdfolk
4. Water
5. Laughter.

May we walk in Beauty!


“May hope rise within you. May peace wash over you.” —Charlene Costanzo


“You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.”
—Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony


“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson


“A poem is not a puzzle, even if it’s puzzling at first. Instead, it’s a highly selected parcel or capsule of language meant to burst into your psyche and change you in some way. Poetry is the life blood of our language, and it’s meant for everyone, not just academics or young people in school. Poetry is in a word: consciousness.” —Cathryn Hankla


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen


Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath:
I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…

As long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.

Two Fields

On the corner of the block where my parents live, the retirement community has placed this sign (one of many around the campus). Love, Peace, Protection. May it be so.

It’s exhausting to be always repudiating.
And it’s distracting to need to.

Whenever the president comes out with another of his racist rants, like he did yesterday, derailing a conversation about police brutality against Black people by ranting that more white people are killed by police than Black people, and then repeating it over and over again, it feels like he’s pulling out the smoke and mirrors. There’s a fire somewhere, and he wants to focus your attention on this one instead, because he knows this will dog whistle his base, and he can gaslight the rest of us later. Now, you’ve got to get out the fact sheet, explain that yes, more white people are killed by police each year, but that per capita, the number of Black people is higher, and percentage-wise, a vastly greater number of those white people were armed, compared to the Black people killed by police. But he does not feel obligated to listen to the entirety of such a sentence. Perhaps he is unable to make sense of more than a simple clause at a time.

You can respond to him in several ways:
You can agree with him and defend his position, in which case you declare your own racism.
You can agree with him and remain silent and hope no one asks you for you opinion, so no one knows your racist tendencies.
You can disagree, and repudiate his racist speech, and offer the deeper explanation, and risk giving him the negative attention which to him is better than no attention, and probably distracts from something else he doesn’t want you to focus on.
You can disagree and keep quiet because you don’t want to offer him any kind of attention or risk drawing the focus away from other issues, but that risks leaving the racism hanging in the air, unchallenged.

I can’t let these things hang in the air. When people say in conversations, as they actually do, “He’s really not racist,” I want these things to be there in the conversation, too. The thing is, a lot of white people WANT to absolve the president of his white supremacy and racism because the things he says are not so different from what white people living in a white supremacist system have thought and said for centuries here. This president and his handlers (read: Stephen Miller) have been on a campaign (beneath his constant cult-of-personality campaign which lies beneath his never-ending presidential campaign) to normalize racist speech, this sort which makes you sort of double-take, makes you have to explain it. It’s not subtle enough to be under the radar, but it begs you to explain and educate about why it is racist. And by then they’re off on a new thing.

So perhaps it’s important that we don’t all pile on the social media outrage pile at every racist statement he makes, as long as we’re keeping our eyes open for the real issues his handlers are trying to distract us from, but the pieces do need to be stitched together. Sometimes we need to stand up in the crowd and shout that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. This Emperor is so very, very naked. He thinks his lies and bluster will clothe him, or at least convince enough people in the crowd to get him crowned.

I know that some of the people in the crowd will not see, no matter how you shout or startle them, but there are others, here and there in the milling crowd, who are beginning to question, to wonder, to ask themselves if what he’s telling him to see is really there.

Keep standing up, Friends, in whatever way you are called to stand up.
Speak out. You’ll know your moment.
Look at the institutions and groups and clubs to which you belong. How are they using their funds and their power and their social capital in ways which either include or exclude others?
Tear down the broken structures.
Build new and just systems.
Keep your eyes and ears open and aware of the whole field, not just the outrage of the moment. Focus on the thing that is yours to do, and use your outrage, but don’t let outrage distract you from the whole picture.
Remember that overlaying this field of wrongness and brokenness on which the president and his minions play, there is also a field of goodness, and bravery. It’s a field of rightness, of possibility and justice and hopeful living. Play on both fields–Stand up to the evil on the one field wherever you have it in your power to do so, and walk in the sunshine with your beloveds on the other. Talk with others about what you want the world to be. Envision. Create. Give yourself to Goodness.


Grateful:
For time with beloveds (with safety precautions), to laugh and look into each other’s eyes, to hear the weaving of beloved voices, to feel the threads of connected hearts.
For those who step up and call out the truth on the field of lies.
For the sweet playfulness of kittens that melts my heart.
For the lulling rhythms of insect-song and frog-song, and bird-song.
For shade and breezes.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“The measure of your greatness is the measure of your magnanimity, your willingness to carry people in your heart. If we are encapsulated in our self-image, we are puny. A great being has stature, something cosmic comes through. Think of people who have really dedicated themselves to service. If we’re great enough, then we have room in our heart even for a person who has hurt us. So we can counter resentment, which can degenerate into hate, then to cruelty and even to war. As a dervish would say: “Shake yourself awake! You have been invited to the divine banquet! Don’t you realize that the divine being is present in you?” In fact, the whole of creation is an act of magnanimity. Rumi certainly put it right when he said, “Would the gardener have planted the seed if it were not for the love of the flower?” —Vilayat Inayat Khan


“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
—Mary Oliver


“Arm yourself with love and knowledge, and let’s work together for justice.” —Regina Shands Stoltzfus


“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God.” —Abraham Joshua Heschel


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ―James Baldwin


“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible—and achieve it, generation after generation.” —Pearl S Buck

Emptying Myself

I am emptying myself, a little at a time,
settling in to the laze and the loaf,
stretching my spine like an elastic band
and letting it ease back into a loose curl.

Oh, I have Lots of Things to Do.
But here I am, and that goldfinch
out there is shining
like a liquid drop of pure sunlight,
and a cat needs a human hand
in just that spot between his ears
and I am happy to oblige.

I’ll practice breathing.
How does it go?
In. And out.
In. And out.
In.
And out.


Grateful:
For the summer stretch before school begins, in whatever form it will begin.
For that golden finch, and the fierce pink of the wild peas on the hillside behind him.
For making things. Right now my obsession is the sewing machine.
For my bike, which I have sorely neglected for years, but which I ride 2-3 times/week now.
For anticipation of time with beloveds, masked and distanced, of course.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Choose to be in touch with what is wonderful, refreshing, and healing within yourself and around you.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh


“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” ―Meister Eckhart


“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh


“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”
―Mary Harris Jones

Dreamy Days

Gratitudes:
* Birdsounds: Thursday, bob white, whom I haven’t heard call in years, called out three times as I was starting my evening walk. This morning, I have been hearing the peewee sliding the blue notes up and down his little scale.
* Yesterday, I took my walk in the morning in a gentle sprinkle of rain, instead of in the evening. All the blue-eyed chicory were open and sparkling, and the stars of St. John’s Wort were shining out between the chicory and the lacy asters. And a flock of shining golden finches kept twittering and bouncing through the chicory ahead of me.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty.


“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” —Frida Kahlo


Rob Brezsny ft. Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“Devote yourself to your heart’s desire with unflagging shrewdness. Make it your top priority. Let no lesser wishes distract you. But consider this, too. You may sabotage even your worthiest yearning if you’re maniacal in your pursuit of it.

Bear in mind the attitude described by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”: “All that you are seeking is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.”

Speculate on what exactly that would look like in your own life. Describe how your heart’s desire has been waiting for you, seeking you.”


“Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.”
―Robert Hass, Field Guide


“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ―Albert Einstein


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ―Terry Pratchett


“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.”
―Walt Whitman


“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche

Hollyhocks and Gratitude

Gratitudes:
1. Grateful for wonderful neighbors, who invited me to sit (at a safe distance) and chat as I was returning from yesterday’s walk. Lovely folks, with fascinating life experiences.
2. The black snake who slithered across the trail in front of my bike yesterday.
3. The doe and fawn who bounded off the path in front of my bike yesterday.
4. Every day, I feel more healthy, limber, and strong. It is requiring a certain level of obsession with my fitness and good health, but I hope that it will become habit and regular rhythm.
5. Always more to learn. This can be painful because I sometimes just want to BE woke, to BE knowledgeable, to BE enlightened. Getting to a new stage of awareness always feels so good, but it’s dangerous to stop and call it done. And really, it’s always good to learn a new thing, to evolve, to transform. (Which brings me around to the first point again, because this is part of the conversation I had with my amazing neighbors yesterday.)

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Without understanding yourself, what is the use of trying to understand the world?” —Ramana Maharshi


“There is peaceful. There is wild. I am both of them.” —Nayyirah Waheed


“This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known.” —Marion Woodman


“It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and to fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated….” —JK Rowling


“Help one another. It is the only way to survive.” —Elie Wiesel


“Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you

for everything.”
—Mary Oliver


“I believe that without some inner experience of powerlessness, and the wisdom that potentially comes with it, most individuals will misunderstand and abuse power.” —Richard Rohr


“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” —Anais Nin


“Let us not become the evil that we deplore.” —Rep. Barbara Lee, 9/14/01


From Terry Tempest Williams:
“We are creatures of paradox, women and bears, two animals that are enormously unpredictable, hence our mystery. Perhaps the fear of bears and the fear of women lies in our refusal to be tamed, the impulses we arouse and the forces we represent….As women connected to the earth, we are nurturing and we are fierce, we are wicked and we are sublime. The full range is ours. We hold the moon in our bellies and fire in our hearts. We bleed. We give milk. We are the mothers of first words. These words grow. They are our children. They are our stories and our poems.”

Roadside Profusion

This is the season when chicory and day lilies bloom together, and the lace of Queen Anne, and the stars of St. John, and the tall hag’s tapers of the mullein, and the profusion of dogbane, and the tidy self-contained heads of red and sweet clover, and the yellow sparkles of sweet melilot, and the nodding pink balls of milkweed that catch you with their wisps of scent when you’ve already walked on five paces. Our roadside is rife with the buzzing and humming of pollinators.

Yesterday, I worked in the herb room at Radiance, the little shop where I work one day a week in the summertime. It’s one of my favorite places. In the evening, Jon and I walked down the road. As we walked, I began to see the same beings I had been smelling and measuring during the day: St. John’s wort, plantain, mullein, red clover, chicory, raspberry leaves, thistle. Wendell Berry’s words flash into my heart: “What we need is here.” And a fragment of Mary Oliver: “The world offers itself. . .”
*****
I often dream that I am wandering down the hallways of a large and rambly and labyrinthine hotel. Sometimes it’s a school, sometimes city streets, but mostly a hotel. I go down hallways and through doors that sometimes lock behind me, into dark passages, up stairways, back into well-lit hallways with a thousand doors. Sometimes I am completely alone, and sometimes there’s a bustle of people.

The anxiety dreams are usually set here, and I have a deadline, somewhere I have to be, and I can’t find my way. Usually, for me, I’m trying to find a class I am supposed to have been teaching, and I’m probably late, and I may have actually missed teaching the class for a couple of days, and my students are completely unsupervised, and I should have had the schedule and directions with me, but I don’t, and I can’t seem to pull it up on my phone. Sometimes, like last night, I ask a helpful receptionist. Last night, I was told brightly to please take a seat and I would be helped in fifteen minutes or so. But I was already five minutes late for a forty minute class. So I set off again to try to find my way on my own.

At one point last night, I did manage to meet up with friends and colleagues for lunch in an incredibly busy dining hall (no Covid in this dream), which was nice, except I was terribly afraid they would discover that I had not taught a single class yet that day and that I had even forgotten how to get from class to class. I was so ashamed. But Ellis was in the dining hall, too, even though he was with his friends, and it was nice to see him there, and happy, and the cooks had made a huge pot of ugali, so he and I kept going back for more of that.

I had kicked off my pointy red high-heeled shoes in my own classroom, but I was supposed to go to a different classroom for every class, and I was supposed to be teaching Math and Foods as well as English, and I suddenly realized as I was rushing down the hall that I was barefoot (thank heavens I wasn’t naked this time), and I was further ashamed that people would see me barefoot because it’s against dress code not to wear shoes.

So it was a long and tiring night, and I kept waking up, and every time I went back to sleep I was back in the dream. At one point, I did manage to find a schedule, but I was already so far behind in the day that it was sort of pointless, and I couldn’t find my way anyway, so I went back and got my painful shoes and sat in on someone else’s French class.

Glad to be awake now.


Gratitudes:
For plant medicine all around, for wise women, for catfolk, for time to make and create, for the mirror of dreams, for giving up shame–anxious bit by anxious bit, for the ones who are committed to transforming themselves and society.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world’s night utters the holy.” ―Martin Heidegger


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


“You have to learn to get up from the table when LOVE is no longer being served.” —Nina Simone


“I like sitting at the piano. I like the idea that there are things coming in through the window and through you and then down to the piano and out the window on the other side. If you want to catch songs you gotta start thinking like one, and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects. Once you get two or three tunes together, wherever three or more are gathered, then others come.” —Tom Waits


“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” —Rafael Campo


“Which came first, the fear or the gun? The broken heart or the bleeding one? The impulse toward death or the desperate reach for love?” —Mark Morford


“A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.”
—John O’Donohue


“There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. To say nothing is to say something: The status quo—even if it is massively unjust and deceitful—is apparently okay. The silence of many Christians is used to legitimize the United States’ obsession with weapons, its war against the poor, Israel’s clear abuse of Palestine, politicians who are “pro-life” on the issue of abortion but almost nothing else, the de facto slavery of mass incarceration, and on and on.” —Richard Rohr

Daily Feather and Gratitude

Your Daily Feather

I didn’t have time to write this morning before I left for work.
Gratitudes:
1. Last night, we saw a bat flying between the barn and the sycamore tree. Bats are some of my favorite people.
2. Tonight on our walk, we saw a frog on the road. When I reached to try to move it from the road, it suddenly zig-zagged between my legs and off toward the creek.
3. Working in the Herb Room today. I might be an airy-fairy sanguine personality and a fiery Leo birth sign, and have a special affinity for Mama Ocean, but when it comes to herbs, the things that gets me most excited is the roots. Earth seems to be my medicine: roots and stones.
4. Kittens! Have I mentioned the kittens? I love little kittens. And their mama.
5. Cucumbers. They’re refreshing.

May we walk in Beauty!


“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“You say you care about the poor? Then tell me, what are their names?” —Gustavo Gutierrez


Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” —Roald Dahl


History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
—Maya Angelou


“Doors closing, doors opening. Doors closing, doors I’m opening. I am safe. It’s only change. I am safe. It’s only change.” —chant (I don’t know the author)


Vine and branch we’re connected in this world
of sound and echo, figure and shadow, the leaves
contingent, roots pushing against earth. An apple
belongs to itself, to stem and tree, to air
that claims it, then ground. Connections
balance, each motion changes another. Precarious,
hanging together, we don’t know what our lives
support, and we touch in the least shift of breathing.
Each holy thing is borrowed. Everything depends.
—Jeanne Lohmann, ‘Shaking the Tree’


Parker Palmer: “The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we’ve shown ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, “I am all of the above.” If we can’t embrace the whole of who we are—embrace it with transformative love—we’ll imprison the creative energies hidden in our own shadows and flee from the world’s complex mix of shadow and light.”


“It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” —Mae Jemison

The [redacted] Secret

By the time I got to the end of the second sentence, and saw the words “friend” and “Nazi” in successive lines, it suddenly became impossible for me to search out any other phrase than “Nazi friend” to end the poem, but the order was transposed. Sometimes people use arrows to make such a puzzle work. I decided to get out my little knife.

I woke up this morning with this phrase in my head: “Hymns to The Unknown Civilization.” I might have to create some sort of poetry/art project with that title.

You know that feeling when you wake up, and the cobweb of a dream is still clinging to your consciousness? I always try to maintain that dreamlike consciousness while I stumble downstairs so it stays fresh enough to write down. The dream flotsam offers myriad gifts. Sometimes it’s a stark image floating in my mind’s eye, asking me to look and consider and contemplate. I especially love when it’s word or a song. Sometimes the phrase is so surreal that I can’t weave it into the meaning of daytime reality and I just enjoy its oddness, its quirky presence in my day. Other times, I feel like there are distinct and specific messages in the words and images and stories that appear at the ends of dreamtime.


Gratitude:
The sounds of my walk yesterday: Greetings with friendly neighbors, the horses making that blustery horsey sigh, Barb’s goats calling greetings from up the hillside, bird twitterings in the trees, the deep glugging of the bullfrogs in the pond. Earlier, as I was riding my bike on the rail trail, I heard the wood thrushes calling across the path to each other.

May we walk in Beauty!


“If only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“A woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it is that she truly loves.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi


“I can’t offer justice so I offer just trees.” —Kilian Schoenberger (who photographs trees and woods)


Dalai Lama: “There are only two days of the year in which nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. That means today is the ideal day to love, to believe, to create and to live.”


“We cannot assume the sacredness nor spiritual livingness of the earth or accept it as a new ideology or as a sentimentally pleasing idea. We must experience that life and sacredness, if it is there, in relationship to our own and to that ultimate mystery we call God. We must experience it in our lives, in our practice, in the flesh of our cultural creativity. We must allow it to shape us, as great spiritual ideas have always shaped those who entertain them, and not expect that we can simply use the image of Gaia to meet emotional, religious, political, or even commercial needs without allowing it to transform us in unexpected and radical ways. The spirituality of the earth is more than a slogan. It is an invitation to initiation, to the death of what we have been and the birth of something new.” —David Spangler


Rob Brezsny reflects on Fuller and Socrates:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality,” wrote Buckminster Fuller. “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Socrates said something similar: “The secret of change is to focus your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Are they right? Or should we instead focus on unleashing our apocalyptic rage at the corruption and decay of the dying order?