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

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

Whales in the Village

Dreaming in the Exile:
There are whales in a large pool/ pond at little town where I am staying. I remember watching a video of a woman who could talk to whales, so I try making those sounds, and they come to where I am. One of them, a little orca with a toothy grin, keeps finding colored dice on the bottom of the pool and spitting them out of the water at me. When I throw them back, the little orca chases them–like a dog–and brings them back.

Later, I take a dawn walk from my bungalow through the village. I stop to check on friends, and hear beautiful piano music from the front of the house (my friends rent the back). I realize that the man who lives there knows I make this walk every day, and plays his piano every morning just for me. Later, someone in the village is hurting, and one of my students stands up and takes charge, without any panic, and calmly takes the person to the hospital. I am proud or her.

Thinking: I have dreamed of whales before, and it always seems to signal some big thing in my deeper layers of self, something wanting to make itself known. Usually I encounter dream-whales in pools and ponds. This one was in a village, and so I think it may be connected to something in my Deep Self connecting to the importance of my village right now, of the ways we check up on each other, the ways we play, the ways we make music and poetry and art to delight each other, the way we rise to the needs of the occasion. I am proud of us. Of you.

( My family does not like dice games as much as I do, but today, I think I am going to do the mama-beg, and get them to play some Tenzi with me.)


Gratitude List:
1. Phoebe and red-winged blackbird have added their voices to the chorus.
2. Redbuds and cherry trees are blooming. Forsythia is blooming. Welcome, Spring!
3. In the midst of chaos and anxiety, I love the strong voice and careful speech of PA’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine. She exudes competence.
4. The Village of All of You.
5. Jon Weaver-Kreider

Take care of each other!

Kite Strings

Greetings from Narnia! In these days, I remember that even in Narnia, things have often been unstable, have often felt dangerous and frightening. Remember the first time we went there, how we had to draw on all our ingenuity and courage to find our way through? How we needed help from others along the way, how we had to keep going even when we knew we were only children, and clearly not up to the task of saving the realm from an autocratic and capricious leader? That was a plague of winter rather than virus, but people were dying then, too, and people stayed in their houses, fearful of going out.

Here is this realm, we stay indoors in order to try to save more of us in the end, and we have these magical boxes that help us build communities even while we’re far apart. The fear is here, and sometimes I think I can smell it, as if I were one of our animal friends from Narnia. We have to figure out how to survive.

Right now, it’s really hard in Pennsylvania, as it might be where you live. We’ve been out of school for a week, learning through computers and figuring out the best ways to connect. Yesterday, Governor Wolf announced that all non-life-supporting businesses MUST close, which was sort of in effect already, but the clarifications mean that businesses that had closed to the public but still brought their employees in to work behind the scenes will need to keep their employees home. It makes sense, and I respect Governor Wolf’s decision. And yes, and yes, and yes. But it brings the hurt home to the hollow here because Jon won’t get any more hours at work until this is over. The shoe has dropped. We’ve got social and community safety nets, and all sorts of possible strategies to manage, so we’ll be okay. It just brings the harshness of it home, and makes the uncertainty more real, more looming. But we’ll be okay.

I hope you will be, too. It feels pretty dire at times, and every day brings something a little more dire. Searching for the little things that bring light and delight into the day becomes more important to me at times like this. Five things that make me grateful don’t cancel out the gnawing anxiety, and they don’t change the harsh reality. Still, they bring me balance. They help me to remember that my feet touch the ground, that I live in this body in this space. Despite the wild uncertainty of these days, some beautiful things are certain. Some wonders and delights go on. I choose to ground myself in those. I might catch the kite o my anxiety and go zooming off in tears and conjectures, but that string of connection to you, and to the Earth, and to all my Beloved Community–that’s real, and that’s strong, and that will bring me back to solid ground, safe.

Please, if you are finding yourself close to the edge of the panic or despair, reach out. Make a connection with someone out in the wide world. Find your kite strings–who and what holds you to the Earth?


Kite Strings of Gratitude:
1. You. Yesterday, a friend of mine asked to see her friends’ face on FB, and I cried, seeing all her lovely community, so I did the same, and all throughout the day, my friends posted their photos, sometimes with their children or their four-legged companions, and my day was so bright, despite the harsher news, despite the uncertainty.
2. Yesterday after lunch, I did the two-mile walk up and down the hill. The world was still misty, and it felt as though the the hollow itself was an empty bowl with a curtain of mist all around. The bowl was all that existed for a little while. Silence and birdsong. Distant traffic.
3. Yoga. It’s one of my coping strategies right now, both for grounding and for chasing the anxieties out of my lower back.
4. Yesterday during my Office Hour, a couple students from the dorm checked in and then walked the laptop around the dorm so I could say hello to everyone there. It made me sort of giddy. I really miss my students.
5. Yesterday morning, a great blue heron flew through the mist above the hollow. Even though my other blue friend is gone, others are still here.

Take care of each other.


“Although I am a woman of strong faith, I admit that my spirit sometimes struggled to overcome the heaviness of the tragedies around me. When heartbreak knocked on my door, I learned to let faith answer.” —Coretta Scott King


“On this day, the Vernal Equinox, we are in perfect balance between light and dark. Let us pray loving attention to the fragile sprouts of inner beauty which have survived the long dark of hibernation, despite all odds, to push up through the soil into the light. Let us honour the faith it has taken to believe in the invisible, upper world, where soon we will blossom into sprawling gardens overflowing with fruit. Let us hold our painful hearts with gentle hands today. Let us express our gratitude to the light that can only be found in the dark. Let us ask our vulnerability to shine radiantly with knowing that we are unfolding right on time.” —Toko-pa Turner


“The happiest people I’ve ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. They are the people who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or will speak up about an injustice when they see it.” ―Wilma Mankiller


“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien? Or was this from the movie?


“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” —Margaret Atwood


“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
—Fred Rogers, born on this day in 1928

Turning Toward Spring

A Random Catalog of Thoughts During Exile:
1. The rhythm of my days is much gentler and more self-paced, but it’s not really less busy. The work is still there, and perhaps there’s even more work. Instead of relying on a well-sketched idea and my own charisma to carry a class, I have to communicate my lesson plans extremely carefully and clearly for my students. I love this, too, but it’s a lot of determined work.
2. There are different kinds of tired. The tired feeling after one of those days of charismatic engagement with students is different from the tiredness of spending most of the day attached to my computer, communicating with people through a screen.
3. I miss my students. I didn’t think that would happen so soon, but I think the worry about everything has me thinking more about them, too, wondering how they are, missing the daily jokes in second period AP Comp, the earnestness of first period, the wild creativity, the sleepy good humor of others. Yesterday, I had Office Hours via Google Meet for my AP Comp classes, and I loved checking in with those who showed up. I don’t know how long this will go, but I am going to start having one or two periods of time every school day in which I have Office Hours, and anyone may stop in to talk.
4. I think I am doing pretty well at handling the anxiety, at being Rumi’s “Guest House,” and welcoming in all the challenging feelings. But I think I have let my anxiety lodge in my lower back. I rarely have back pain for more than a few hours. This week, it’s been a lot more prolonged. It may be partly the longer walks up hill and down, and the increased time sitting at a computer, but if I am honest, I think it’s also connected to the anxiety. Yoga has been incredibly helpful.
5. One of those goldfinches has a white forehead. I wonder if it’s a mutation, or just a bit of molting weirdness?
6. Here in the eastern US, where I live, Spring will arrive today, just before the turning of the day into tomorrow: 11:49. For the past six years, I have not had the chance to observe the shift into spring so closely. Happy Equinox, Friends!
7. That cardinal out in the grey wet morning is shining out like a glowing coal.
8. I need to work even harder to establish daily rhythms. I am a work-on-it-until-it’s-done person. I don’t take enough breaks. I need to work on chunking my activities a little more intentionally.
9. There needs to be more baking in this house during the Exile.
10. One son has a Flexible Instructional Day Plan. If I didn’t interrupt him occasionally, he would work from the moment he gets up (late morning) until midnight, with a few breaks to play Minecraft. This kid was built for cyber-schooling. I don’t think his teachers are assigning him too much work. I think he just likes to go down his own rabbit trails. Now I need to make sure he is keeping up with the reading and writing, too.
11. The other son has no FID plan. He re-arranges his room. He plays online games. He asks me to play games with him. He rejects all my suggestions for projects and activities. “I might do that later.” I haven’t been able to help him out much because I have been focused on my own school work. Tomorrow is a day off, so I will spend some time helping him to develop a plan.
12. I love that some people are calling these Jammy Days and living in their pajamas. On the other hand, I find that dressing in the morning gives me a certain energy and wakefulness. This is not true for everyone, of course, but I don’t feel fully ready for the day until I am dressed.


Gratitude List:
1. Cardinal shining through the rain. Birdlife at the feeder.
2. Establishing new rhythms. The first few days were hard. Keep your head down and slog through. Make it work. Now, I am seeing my way to establishing the home rhythm.
3. Baking. Yesterday it was scones. Today it might be scones again: I have to practice, don’t I?
4. Online connections. I give myself limits and parameters to social media use during the day, and I will be creating even more careful structure in the future. Still, outside connections are keeping me sane and grounded.
5. The way crises open up spaces for new paradigms. How Mutual Aid is rising as an important social construct. I love people.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.” —Martha Graham


“What in your life is calling you,
When all the noise is silenced,
The meetings adjourned. . .
The lists laid aside,
And the Wild Iris blooms
By itself
In the dark forest. . .
What still pulls on your soul?”
—Rumi


“For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love
And to both, bee and flower,
the giving and the receiving is a need and an ecstasy.” —Khalil Gibran


“Find the sweetness in your own heart,
then you may find the sweetness in every heart.”
—Rumi


“There is in Celtic mythology the notion of ‘thin places’ in the universe where the visible and the invisible world come into their closest proximity. To seek such places is the vocation of the wise and the good—and for those that find them, the clearest communication between the temporal and eternal. Mountains and rivers are particularly favored as thin places marking invariably as they do, the horizontal and perpendicular frontiers. But perhaps the ultimate of these thin places in the human condition are the experiences people are likely to have as they encounter suffering, joy, and mystery.” —Peter Gomes


“You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.” —Eliezer Yudkowsky


“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” —Dr. Seuss


March
by James Wright

A bear under the snow
Turns over to yawn.
It’s been a long, hard rest.
Once, as she lay asleep, her cubs fell
Out of her hair,
And she did not know them.
It’s hard to breathe
In a tight grave:
So she roars,
And the roof breaks.
Dark rivers and leaves
Pour down.
When the wind opens its doors
In its own good time,
The cubs follow that relaxed and beautiful woman
Outside to the unfamiliar cities
Of moss.


Spring Follows Winter Once More
by Tom Hennen

Lying here in the tall grass
Where it’s so soft
Is this what it is to go home?
Into the earth
Of worms and black smells
With a larch tree gathering sunlight
In the spring afternoon
And the gates of Paradise open just enough
To let out
A flock of geese.

Meeting Up

Waiting. The new emerges around the old.

One of my colleagues organized Faculty Devotions this morning on Google Meet, and it was satisfying to see people and hear them talk, and to see families and pets in the frames.

I opened up a Google Meet room this morning for one of my classes for students to stop in and ask questions. I think next week I will have several hour-long periods of Office Hours, where students can stop in and say hello and ask questions they may have. Only five or six students stopped in today, but it was really exciting to see them and to connect. It makes it more real.

I would not want to be a cyber-school educator. I am finding that despite my deep longing for solitude, I also have deep longing for human connection beyond simply being here at home with the family. I miss the extraverted part of me. (That was a little personally startling to write, true as it is.) But for now, I am something of a cyber-school educator, and it’s essential that I do what I can to keep a connection with my students as much as I am able. Our day are altered, so we alter our plans. We adapt and make do. When we get frustrated, we yell, and believe it or not, someone comes to our rescue! When something works, we share it so others who are struggling can find help.


Today’s poem is Theodore Roethke’s “In a Dark Time.”

Gratitude List:
1. My younger son is in public school, and his teachers are not allowed to assign required work. Yesterday we got an email to have them check their Google classroom anyway. His teachers had all created fun and chatty videos with their families and housepets. Just for fun. Just for the connection. What priceless people. A little extra reaching out means so much.
2. Also, his school is handing out free meals to kids, to try to ensure that no one falls through the cracks during these altered days. Staff from the high school came down the hill to help with the distribution. Good people keep doing good things.
3. The gold on those finches is really shining through the winter olive. Shine, birdies, shine!
4. My back is hurting again today. I am so glad I have Yasmin’s yoga video to help me.
5. Google Meet. The possibility of continuing connections.

May we walk in Beauty!


“We must always trust in the difficult, then what appears to us as the most frightening will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient 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.”

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if sadness or anxiety casts a shadow over your life. Something is happening within you. Remember that life has not forgotten you. It holds you in its hand and will not let you go. And after all, why would you want to live without pain and unease? You don’t yet know what mysterious work these feelings are accomplishing inside you.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” —Anais Nin


“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” —Anais Nin


“If you take two steps toward God,” he used to tell me, “God runs to you!”
—Satish Kumar in Life of Pi by Yann Martel


“Russian scientists have discovered gold deposits in the dust of decayed tree stumps. The phenomenon occurs in forests growing in ground where there is gold ore. Over the course of centuries, the trees’ roots suck in minute quantities of the precious metal, eventually accumulating nuggets. Describe a metaphorically comparable process you could carry out in your own life over the course of the next 20 years. What invisible part of you is like a tree’s roots? What’s the gold you’d like to suck up?” —Rob Brezsny in PRONOIA is the Antidote to Paranoia.


May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
—John O’Donohue


“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” —Carl Sagan

Grieve and Adapt

Here is a picture of Erebus. He is the most beautiful person in the house. Everyone else is beautiful, too, of course, but Erebus is a rock-star of beautifulness. Even when he is being a goofball.

Self isolation.
Social distancing. No, physical distancing with social connection.
Exile for the Good of the Realm.
Altered days.
Strange times.

I’ve noticed my friends posting on social media all the things they can offer for the good of their communities during the time of Exile: help with educational questions, coffee conversations, spiritual direction, free online yoga sessions. . .

What a marvelous trend! I jumped on that one. I can sit here in my holler with my family feeling sorry that I can’t do anything, or I can offer what I am able by internet. Let’s do that!

Here are some of the things I can offer. If you need my help with any of these things, comment here, and we’ll figure out how to get in touch by email, or find me on Facebook, and we can connect there.
1. I am an English teacher, so if your kids are struggling with grammar or writing, or the deep meaning of an assigned piece of literature, I am delighted to help. In other disciplines, I can help you find resources. I have taught grades 3-8, so I have a fairly well-rounded knowledge base.

2. If you need a poem, let me know. I love to search for poems. If the one you need hasn’t been written yet, I will try to write one for you.

3. I am going to post my daily quotations here every day in case you need some grounding inspiration.

4. I am posting a poem a day (at least during weekdays) on my Youtube channel. I am not professional, and I can’t seem to get rid of the glare on my glasses, but if you need to listen to poetry, you can check that out. I’m doing it for my students, so I figured I might as well offer it here.

What can you offer for the good of the community? Can you afford to send some extra dollars to the local organizations that are caring for our most vulnerable neighbors in these times? If you have friends who are out of work, are there ways you can help them through this time?


“I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.” —Greta Thunberg


“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” —Fred Rogers


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” —Friedrich Nietzsche


“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


“If you will, you can become all flame.” ―Abba Joseph


“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” ―Maya Angelou


“Rage—whether in reaction to social injustice, or to our leaders’ insanity, or to those who threaten or harm us—is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice, can be transformed into fierce compassion.” ―Bonnie Myotai Treace


“It looked as if a night of dark intent was coming, and not only a night, an age. Someone had better be prepared for rage.” ―Robert Frost


“There’s something in us that knows we came here to give. The notion is the opposite of a consumer society. The consumer society says we came here to get, and we’re going to consume everything there is. But the old idea is that we came into the world gifted, and culture is our way of giving. That’s our way of being natural and participating in the natural world.” ―Michael Meade


Gratitude List:
1. My back doesn’t hurt this morning. There were a few moments yesterday when I wondered whether this might be something that would be chronic. I have rarely had back pain, and it usually goes away in a few hours. This was two days of some pretty serious pain. I think I overdid the steps, and strained it on the fast uphill walks I have been taking.
2. Online yoga. So many thanks to my friend Yasmin for her FB yoga yesterday. I didn’t make it through the whole thing because my back hurt, but I think it’s what set me on the path to healing those muscles.
3. All the caring souls. All the care-mongers (apparently that’s a word now, and the Canadians made it so–look it up).
4. That particular shade of light brown (burnt beige?) of last year’s leaves on the purple Japanese maple. They have dried, over winter, to this lovely tender shade. Actually, many shades.
5. Adaptability. There’s nothing for it, but to adapt, day by day and sometimes minute by minute. Don’t forget to acknowledge the feelings of loss as they come. And then adapt as necessary to the new normal. And remember, this is not forever.

May we walk in Beauty!