Random Associations

Ugh. Insomnia. And it’s the fuzzy-headed kind. Trying to head off a cold, I took a tablet before bed that has zinc and valerian in it. I slept soundly for about five hours, and then that was it. Sometimes I can starting listing the countries of the world, and I’ll fall back to sleep before I can fill a continent, but tonight I got through all of them, and here I am, still awake. By the time I got through South America and was working my way through Africa, I knew I was done for. And now, it’s only half an hour until my alarm goes off, so I might as well start the process of waking up.

Today in Creative Writing, we’ll look at the pictures and poems that people put together with their random words. I showed several of my own on Friday as examples, so I don’t know if I’ll put up pictures like this one. I just pulled fifteen random cards from my word tickets and arranged them together. I’m not sure I like the line “dance wanderer combust.” The flow feels wrong, like I’m packing too many syllables into it. I like the word wanderer on its own, but in some contexts, that “-erer” can sound like a car with an engine that won’t turn over.

I hope my students are feeling the sense of freedom from prescribed meaning that I am feeling from working with word pools. We’ll get into intentional meanings soon enough, but it’s a nice breath to begin the semester with nonsense and random associations. It’s been an odd experience for me, a little risky. I feel sort of vulnerable, like I am letting my students in to my own personal crazy. I keep worrying that they’ll start rolling their eyes, that they won’t get it. And this is so deeply connected to the way my brain works that I feel like I might feel a greater sense of personal rejection if they can’t get into it. Enough of them have sent me fantastic random word projects, however, that I am feeling less anxious about it.


Gratitude List:
1. The shadows that swoop through the woods behind the house when vultures are flying in front of the sun.
2. Random meanings plucked from odd associations
3. Even though sleep was short, I did get some good solid hours of deep sleep
4. The ones who work for justice
5. Warm blankets

May we walk in Beauty!

Muzzy

On the way to and from school, on the days when we’re all in the carpool, we listen to audio books. Lately, we’ve been listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle. Her writing is clever and witty without being chummy or manipulative, her stories are compelling, and she can introduce characters who make you wince and cringe, and then make you love them with a deep and unswerving loyalty. It’s narrated by Will Patton, who can create a character with the smallest shift of tone in his voice.

Yesterday, just as we got to school, we came to a little phrase, “the muzzy mist.” I don’t think I have ever heard the word muzzy, but it grabbed me. It means indistinct, befuddled, unclear. In Creative Writing, we are creating Word Pools, collecting words that interest us, and then doing interesting things with them, like taking pictures of things that we label with them, or making poems and short stories with them. So “muzzy” went right into my word pool.

Here’s a little poem I wrote with using “muzzy” and several other words in my word pool. The idea is to push ourselves to use words in different ways than we normally do. I found myself breaking up the sense of sentences with greater ease than normal.

Muzzy

Today I am
a muzzy fuzzle,
brain a-muddle,
all verhoodled.

Yesterday I
was eagle-eyed,
a green rogue,
and wild divine.

Sharp I was, sharp as dash
but now I am dangerous blood,
with an elephant on my chest.

Last week, we introduced ourselves to the class with Acrostic Poems about our names. Some students simply chose a different adjective for every letter of their name, and these were beautiful and tender. Others wrote poems with longer lines and phrases beginning with the letters of their names, and these were elegant and flowing. Some even allowed themselves to practice a little enjambment, breaking up the flow of a phrase across a line. In one of my classes, the first four of us to read ours used the word Anxious for our A. I wonder what the implications of that are. Here’s mine. I used my whole name:

Every time I
Look in the mirror
I see someone different:
Zealous
Anxious
Bold
Eager
Timid.
How can I be all these things
And one person at the same time?
Names and rhythms,
New and intricate rhymes
Work within me.
Each one of us is
An ocean, a
Veritable
Ecology of Adjectives,
Revealing layers of human attributes.
Kindness and
Revolution can
Exist in tandem.
Individual truths are
Defined by complex webs
Experiences within me.
Reality is many-faceted.


Gratitude List:
1. Weekend!
2. Clear moments that remind me that I am where I should be. Teaching can be rough, especially in the fall and winter, especially when the grading piles up, especially when I am feeling inadequate. Sometimes I wonder if I am where I should be. And then there are weeks where it all aligns, where I can see how even the really challenging bits have led up to a particular moment. How I am changed and transformed by this work. How I actually have some internal characteristics and skills that make this a good fit. (So synchronous: my sister just sent me a text at this moment that added one more little golden thread to this sense of rightness.)
3. A little bit of snow
4. Getting it done
5. Words. Word pools. Word hoards. Word spews.

May we walk 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!

May Your Table Be Wide

I wrote this a year or two ago, not realizing how extremely similar the title was to Jan Richardson’s World Communion Sunday poem. Clearly, her phrase sank deeply into my psyche. So I added a little dedication to the title to recognize her original.

The Table is Wide
(with gratitude to Jan Richardson)

May your table be wide,
may your arms be laden
with the bounty of harvest,
may your heart be willing.

May your feast be filling,
may your beloved’s eyes
be filled with laughter,
may your table be wide.

May your doors be open,
may strangers be welcome
to sit at your table,
may your feast be filling.

May your heart be willing,
may stories flow like wine
poured into glasses,
may your doors be open.
May your table be wide.


Gratitude List:
1. Poets and poetry, especially Jan Richardson’s blessings
2. Anticipating time with my parents and my siblings and my niblings
3. Wind: scouring, releasing, revealing, energizing
4. Pie
5. Open hearts, open arms, open tables

May we walk in Beauty!

Mist, Moon, Mist

Poem from a year or so ago:
Prayers and Rage
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

What can we give besides our prayers and rage?
And what will that avail?
Send out the story on October winds.
Fling it high, where crows are flying.
Send the message echoing into earth
with every pounding step you take.

Listen.
Let the shells of your ears gather the story.
Reel in the gossamer strands of the tale
and weave them into the veil you wear.
Listen for the stories of those who weep,
those who rage, those who only speak
with the shrug of a shoulder,
with a sigh, with a shudder.

Listen, too, to those who walk right in,
who step into your circle without invitation.
Listen to the voices that are hard to hear.
Offer only the bread that is yours to give.
Be like the old gods, with the raven Wisdom
on one shoulder and Memory on the other,
and Reason perched upon your hat.

Offer what is yours:
your rage,
your prayer,
your watchful quiet heart.


And another, more thematically whimsical:
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
October.


Gratitude List:
1. Finding my way again to deep breath.
2. Chilly autumn rain. Yes, really. The melancholy of a rainy fall day can be satisfying even for sanguine personalities.
3. While I have never been a big fan of the cold season, I love wearing layers and leggings, and that season has returned, and so I feel much more comfortable in clothing.
4. This full-spectrum lamp that Jon bought to help boost us through the coming winter. Light-bathing.
5. The distinctly autumn sounds of the calls of geese and jays and crows. I feel my animal self more distinctly in these days, pulling between the longing to migrate and the longing to hunker down and burrow in.

Much love. Blessings on your Day!

The Cherry Tree

Rainbow Reflections on a bench at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Historic Park.

I need to sit quietly and spend some time understanding all that I have learned and experienced in the last three days as we’ve explored the Harriet Tubman Byway near Cambridge, Maryland. Words like inspiring and life-changing don’t quite do it justice.

Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in 2015 after a church meal at the house of friends. I had plans then to revise it, and never did. Perhaps that might be the task of the week ahead.

The Cherry Tree

After we had eaten, the adults shared stories
in a circle underneath the trees.

The children rode the tractor wagon down the hill
to splash and wander up the creek almost out of hearing
or gather sweet black raspberries to pass around in paper cups,
each set of fingers smashing down the fruit below
until all was sludge scooped out and licked from purple hands:
a sacrament.

Back from the creek and the fields and the barn they came,
dripping water, straw in their hair, trailing jewelweed,
clothes and fingers and smiles stained purple from berries.

We gathered beneath the cherry tree with buckets and bags.
We all were children then, in the kingdom of the cherry tree,
laughing, leaping high to catch her boughs
to draw the clusters down within our reach.
We could not hope to get them all,
even when the children scampered 
up into her branches.

We laughed and were amazed at the wild abundance of the tree.
And this was church as ever church can be,
all of us filled, dazzled, alit.

May your mouth be filled with sweetness.
May your ears be filled with the laughter of children.
May your heart be as wide and open as the blue sky.
And may your stories blend with the stories of others,
reaching out and upward like the branches of a tree.

Holy Goose

The Advent of the Holy Goose
Pentecost 2019

I could have sworn there were teeth on that bird,
how She came roaring into the room,
wings wide, neck cast toward us like an arrow,
hissing, engulfing us with feathers and fire.

No gentle dove, She.
No quiet candle flame
setting the saintly halos aglow.

We were herded by holiness,
dented by Her divinity,
shaken, awakened–that beak
breaking us open.
We shattered, pieces
scattering the floor,
the fire pouring through us
as the wind spilled in the door.

Things That Make Me Happy

Things That Made Me Happy Today
(Another way to say Gratitude):
1. The chenille bedspread. It’s so comforting to snuggle up under it.
2. My Best Bird, the Oriole, flitting in and out of the honeysuckle vines all morning.
3. The holler is filled with the scent of honeysuckle.
4. Reading Bud, Not Buddy with the kid before he headed off to school this morning.
5. Completing the grading for four of my six classes. Only two more to go!
6. Talking on the phone with Sarah this morning.
7. The way the sun dapples the pathway the deer have made in the bosque across the stream.
8. How Ellis hums to himself wherever he is, like his dad.

What brings you joy?

Disgruntled: Found Poem in the News

The shooter was disgruntled. An employee.
The shooter died after a gunfight with police.
The gunman was a worker.

The day was most devastating.
The most devastating in history.

The people involved were our neighbors.
The shooter was confronted shortly after opening fire.
There was an exchange of gunfire.
The police officer’s vest stopped a bullet.
The police officer was injured.

People heard someone falling.
People went to investigate.
There was a woman.
There was blood all over.
Get out of the building!
The guy’s got a gun!

Unsure how to react.
In a way you want to stay.
In a way you don’t want to stay.

The shooting occurred when people were conducting business.
People were hiding under their desks.

Police found a pistol and a rifle.
The suspect is thought to have purchased the firearms legally.
People can take guns into public buildings.
The mass shooting took place.
The FBI is responding.
The president has been briefed.

Six people were hospitalized.
Deadliest mass shooting.
Since November.
Twelve people were killed.
Senator devastated by the news.
My heart is with everyone.
Praying for a swift recovery.
Praying for all involved as we learn more.
Praying for our city.
We are resilient.
We will get through this.
Stronger than before.
We always do.

Voices Made of Fire

If you could trust your voice completely,
if you didn’t have to consider how how others would respond,
if you didn’t have to be safe, to be tame, to be docile and
humble, acceptable and charming and quiet,
if you had not been trained to make your words
into an easy chair, to turn your voice to honey:
What would you say?