Back to School

Kittens don’t worry. They look for the game in everything.

Today is the first day of school. I don’t think I have ever begun a year with such a roiling sense of uncertainty, even my first year. My room looks ready. My slideshows look ready. I seem to have lesson plans in place. I have practiced Zooming and recording and publishing the Zoom.

I just have to trust that it’s all there, all in place, because something inside me feels like I am trying to stand on water. Or, as someone posted in a meme this week, building the plane while it’s in the air. Yeah, that.

One thing that I am certain of is this: The support and prayers and good energy I feel from my beloveds is so strong, it is almost palpable. Without that, without the good humored and earnest colleagues and administration and custodial staff, without the knowledge that I will be back among my students today, I don’t think i could do this. But these human circles make it possible, and even delightful, to step in and see what happens. This is my entire gratitude list for today.

If you’re looking for some concrete ways to be energetic support in these anxious times:
First and foremost, pray for the safety of students and teachers and staff at the schools in your area, that we and our families will be able to mitigate with enough intention and care that we will not make each other sick.

Then, perhaps just as important, pray that we will FEEL safe, that we will be able to re-establish school as a place of belonging and wellbeing. That we will be able to establish strong and healthy community. We’ll never be able to make it through the twisting pathways of the brain past the protection centers toward the higher level critical thinking skills if we can’t first feel safe.

Then pray that we will learn together, that we will be able to engage each one, especially those who are remote.

Thank you for being part of the village that raises the children of your community. In a year when it seems that every answer is the wrong one, we need to step in and BE the answers.

Blessed Be.


“All the wonders of life are already here. They’re calling you. If you can listen to them, you will be able to stop running. What you need, what we all need, is silence. Stop the noise in your mind in order for the wondrous sounds of life to be heard. Then you can begin to live your life authentically and deeply.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“When you have to make a choice, and you don’t make it, that is itself a choice.” —William James


“What do you promise your distant ancestors you will bring back into the world? What do you promise our cultural descendants you will bequeath them? Amid the ruins of a dying civilization, let us be clear and intentional in what we plant.” —Sean Donohue (FB post)


“Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.” ―Melanie Joy


“I hold the most archaic values on earth. . .the fertility of the soul, the magic of the animals, the power-vision in solitude. . . .the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe.” ―Gary Snyder


“The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.” ―Markus Zusak, The Book Thief


“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh


“The study of silence has long engrossed me. The matrix of a poet’s work consists not only of what is there to be absorbed and worked on, but also of what is missing, desaparecido, rendered unspeakable, thus unthinkable.” ―Adrienne Rich


“Be ready to be surprised by the crazy, wonderful events that will come dancing out of your past when you stir the pot of memory. Embrace those long-lost visitors.” ―William Zinsser


“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” ―Bob Marley


“Bare your soul of all mind, and stay there without mind.” ―Meister Eckhart

Lughnassad Eve

The last day of July is Lughnasadh Eve, one of the four cross-quarter points between the Solstices and Equinoxes, along with Halloween (Samhain), Groundhog’s Day (Imbolc), and May Day (Beltane)–their traditional Celtic names are in parentheses. Unlike the others, which have found their way through webs of lore and story to more modern and playful traditions, Lughnasadh (sometimes also called Lammas) no longer lingers in the modern psyche.

Lughnasadh is the celebration of the time of the sun’s heat, the mid-harvest, when the summer crops are plentiful and abundant, when berries and corn, tomatoes and zucchini, fill our bellies and our dreams, offering us coolness and nourishment. What we longed for in the stinging winds of February now surrounds us, almost numbing us into a cloying sense of enoughness.

I haven’t preserved much food for several years now, because the beginning of August is always the race to prepare for the beginning of school. But on social media, I am enjoying photos of friends canning applesauce, freezing corn, making pickle relishes, living into the traditions of their ancestors and creating a hopeful future from the abundance of the present. If you use your imagination, you can feel that sense of deep anticipation in the frigid dark of December when you go to the freezer and pull out a bag of golden kernels of corn, how you will bring the sunshine of this moment into the cold of the future.

My house is ancient, and we have a single air conditioner in the living room that keeps us cool on the hottest days. This summer, we put a second free-standing air conditioner on the second floor to make sleeping more bearable. Still, this pre-menopausal body is struggling against the heat, not letting me sleep. I sneak downstairs, open the door to the balcony, and try to sleep in the recliner with the cool night breezes that seem to pass by the upstairs windows. Funny how my February dreams of summer never seem to include the sense of overwhelming heat, the burden of humidity. Conversely, my summer self seems to forget the beauty of shadow, the silence of snowfall, the twinkling of winter starlight, in my memories of the unbearable cold. I’m so human.

Perhaps that is the main lesson of living by seasons, of making internal notes to carry us from point to point on the compass rose of the year: Remembering that we’re humans in a big, big world. These shifts may be semi-arbitrary in the ways that we mark them, but they remind us that we’re here in these human bodies to experience what matters. We are en-mattered, living by sensation, of cold and heat, of bellies full and empty, of muscle and sinew, breath and bone. Of sight and hearing, touch and taste and smell. Of pleasure and pain, ache and longing, desire and love.

Lughnasadh in particular was once a celebration of the bread. The first wheat had been harvested. People made elaborate designs with wheat to bring good luck and mark the year–the original corn dollies. Bread was made to celebrate, loaves fashioned, butter churned, and berries made into jam. The seeds were planted, the harvest was ready, and the work of saving the harvest began.

What will you make of the harvest in this coming season? How will you shape the loaves of your year? This year, we’ve hunkered down, masked up, read and learned about antiracist work. We’ve called Congresspeople, expressed our desires for justice, stood up, marched, learned some more. How do we make this real, save this harvest for the future, that it may feed those who come after us? We must not leave it in the fields to rot and die. The truth this season tells us is that there is abundance, enough for everyone. We must participate in its harvest and preservation, and make sure that everyone gets their share.

Yesterday, I caught bits and pieces of the funeral of John Lewis, and I plan to go back in the coming days and listen again, to plant the seeds of his words and deeds into my own psyche as deeply as I can, to take the yeast he has offered, and to work to shape loaves that are just and hopeful. Let us work to preserve the harvest of his work and legacy, so that his golden light may shine far into the future.

As he said in his final words: “Walk with the wind.”
Walk with the wind, soulkin, sun on your shoulders.


Gratitude:
The life and work and legacy of John Lewis. Perhaps we have been called to these times, to follow his legacy, to take his work into the future, to make the United States what we dream it can be, a nation where all people–no matter their race or creed, their sexuality or physical or mental ability, their gender or national origin, their class or status or education–can be free and equal.


“Morning prayer: “Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.” —John Lewis


Instead of trying to practice nonviolence,
let us try to practice the connections
that make violence both inappropriate
and impossible.
—Sharif M. Abdullah


“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
—Marcel Proust


Naomi Shihab Nye: “You are living in a poem.”


“Every woman must own her story; otherwise we are all part of the silence.” —Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International


“Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.”
—Joss Whedon


“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”
—Abraham H. Maslow


“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.

But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
—Margery Williams -The Velveteen Rabbit


I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night. —Tony Campolo


“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.” —John Lewis


“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.” —John Lewis


“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” —John Lewis

White Fragility Dream

I think that was a white fragility dream. Weird. I occasionally dream dreams where I am more of an observer than a character, like watching a movie. This was one of those.

The character in this dream was a man driving a car. In my dream-mind, I called him The White Man. He was trying to get to a place where he could get rid of the body in the back of his car. It was important to note, in the dream, that he was “innocent.” He believed he was not responsible for the death of the body, but there it was in the trunk of his car, and he had to deal with it. He knew that if anyone saw the body, or if he was stopped by police, he would be culpable, even though he had nothing to do with the body being in his car.

That was important in the dream–The White Man was totally innocent, himself. He just needed to get rid of this body in his trunk before he was caught with it, because he would not be held guiltless if caught. (sounds familiar, right? “But my ancestors didn’t own slaves!” “But I believe that everyone is equal!” “But. . .”)

I am working on doing my inner work, trying to be open and transparent with myself and others about my biases and unaddressed prejudices. My psyche had to throw up a movie-style story to get me to notice that I must be trying to hide my own biases, my own vulnerabilities, while I am trying to fix myself and my problem. I’m insisting on my own innocence, even while I am driving around with a body in the trunk of my car.

There was one significant clue in the dream, a clue that insisted that The White Man is me: He wore a little bag around his neck with his wallet and keys in it, just like I wear when my clothes don’t have pockets.

Time to work more seriously on vulnerability, on not hiding my ugly truths, on accepting that there really is no such thing as the innocence I insist upon as long as I am hiding a body in the trunk.


Gratitudes:
1. Rest
2. Work
3. Exercise
4. Cool water and nourishing food
5. Dreams that keep me unsettled enough to keep moving

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


“To be brave is to behave bravely
when your heart is faint.
So you can be really brave
only when you really ain’t.”
—Piet Hein


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair


“You can never go down the drain.” —Mr. Rogers


“Good People,
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


“Just living is not enough said the butterfly, one needs sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” ―Hans Christian Anderson


“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.”
―Dalai Lama


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


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
―Leymah Gbowee


“I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, “I take care of my own.”

“I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours—I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.”
―Anne Lamott


“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf

Strength

Strength,” a two-part redacted poem. I’ve really been enjoying working with Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. In fact, if I publish these, I think I might have to use that as the name of the collection. I wonder if that would be a problem.

Today’s Gratitude:
1. Getting back to a project I was dreading. I think two or three more days of work might get me finished with the scraping of the paint. Then we have to decide on the new color.
2. Kittens! We’re pretty dogmatic about not letting cats reproduce for the good of the whole cat-tribe, so the children have never had the experience of raising kittens. Since a local stray had kittens in the barn, we have had the pleasure of gently taming her, and now watching kittens grow.
3. All the local places to hike and bike.

Walk in Beauty!


“…Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
—William Butler Yeats, 1926


“The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.” —Dorothy Day


“Silence is the beginning of God purifying the soul.” —St. Basil the Great


“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” —Cesar Chavez


“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity—the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.” —Parker Palmer


“I am afraid to drive the demons from my life lest the angels also flee.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“What’s the greatest lesson a woman can learn? That since day one, she’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that’s convinced her she did not.” —Rupi Kaur


“Choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people, including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time.” ―Brene Brown


“Sacred activism is the fusion of the mystic’s passion for God with the activist’s passion for justice―creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing. ” ―Andrew Harvey


“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” ―Frederick Buechner


“Listen to the night as it makes itself hollow.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke


Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.” ―The Talmud


“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” ―Joseph Campbell


“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ―Elie Wiesel


“The seduction in the wake of betrayal is to take up a thicker armour, to practice at expecting less of others, or to punish one’s own naïveté. But these are the same refusals from which our world is dying. Never should a judgement be made against one’s willingness to open the heart.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“I’m so lucky we lived through who we were to become who we are.” ―Neil Hillborn


“Grace bats last.” ―Anne Lamott

Self-Deception

Found a Poem

Gratitude:
It turns out that the feral tortoiseshell bobtail cat in the neighborhood is a female. Yesterday, we watched her in the front drive and yard. When we opened the door and called to her, she startled and moved off toward the barn, but then stopped and looked back. I suppose I am reading too much into it, but it sure did seem that she was asking us to follow. Josiah did, and discovered the box in the barn where she’d gone to nurse her three ginger bobtail babies.

This kid is loving the idea of taming a cat and kittens this summer. We’ll be looking for homes, of course. Oddly, a friend of mine has been asking me to help her find a kitten or kittens, and here they suddenly are. We’re hoping to be able to catch Mathilda (Joss has named her) by the time the kittens are old enough for families of their own, so she can at least be fixed.

May we walk in Tenderness and Beauty!


“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” ―Pema Chödrön


“Morning is the best of all times in the garden. The sun is not yet hot. Sweet vapors rise from the earth. Night dew clings to the soil and makes plants glisten. Birds call to one another. Bees are already at work.” —William Longgood


“Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn—and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb. So, let us drink a cup of tea.” —Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”


“There is ecstasy in paying attention.”
—Anne Lamott


“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

A Day of Mourning and Reflection

Here is an Interdependence Day piece I wrote a few years ago. For years, I felt uncomfortable on July 4th because I believed we had broken our ideals and our pact of humanity and equality, but now I realize that we never truly lived up to them. Some days, I still hope that we can become the Good Force that we have sort of thought we were. I recognize that this is a painful conversation for some of my beloveds, that to question the root truth of the nation that you have given your lives and your families to feels like a terrible betrayal. I only ask that you consider that the whole idea of the nation has been a terrible betrayal for those we enslaved since before we even became a nation, and for those who lived here in the Before, who were decimated and tortured, whose land we stole in order to make a nation at all.
***
I recognize that today is the United States independence day. It’s always crunchy for me.

I don’t celebrate war and war “victories.”
I don’t celebrate a freedom that was borne on the backs of slaves.
I don’t celebrate the genocide that wiped out, marginalized and impoverished the people of the first nations.
I don’t celebrate a freedom that ignores our slave-owning and genocidal history to proclaim us all-good and all-powerful, evidence to the contrary.
I don’t celebrate the increasing calls to close us off, to keep out those who seek sanctuary in our borders.
I don’t celebrate throwing candy to the rich while grabbing bread from the poor.
I don’t celebrate the rush to destroy this beautiful part of the Earth, to call her gifts “resources” that must be maximized and used until she is played out.
I don’t celebrate the fear-mongering that I see, the use of fear to keep people in their places, afraid of each other, afraid of their own freedom.
I don’t celebrate “America First.”
I struggle to celebrate when the country itself is in crisis, when those who were chosen to administer our ship of state have instead chosen to rule like the king we thought we had freed ourselves from those centuries ago.

I can celebrate human community.
I can celebrate the spirit that longs to break the bonds of tyranny for all peoples.
I can celebrate the spirit of that statue that stands in our harbor, her lamp held high in welcome for all who seek refuge.
I can celebrate the strong spirit of resistance to tyranny that continues to pull people to demand rights for ALL of us.
I can celebrate the beautiful diversity of us, and the way we find connecting points, the way we so willingly wear each others’ stories.
I can celebrate the music, the foodways, the arts, the dialects, the histories, of us in all our many colors and shades and tones and temperaments.
I can celebrate inTERdependence.
I can celebrate the hope that we will stand up to the greed-mongers and the fear-mongers and the hate-mongers, that we will work to create a nation where all can be free, where all can expect justice.


Gratitude, today,
for the awakeners,
for the story-sharers,
for the truth-speakers,
for the one who walk into the fire,
for the ones willing to change and to make change.

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


“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” ―Lao Tzu


“The heart is the house of empathy whose door opens when we receive the pain of others. This is where bravery lives, where we’ll find our mettle to give and receive, to love and be loved, to stand in the center of uncertainty with strength, not fear, understanding this is all there is. The heart is the path to wisdom because it dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power.”
—Terry Tempest Williams


“You are something that the Whole Universe is doing, in the same way that a wave is something that the Whole Ocean is doing…” ―Alan Watts


“You are beautiful, and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell.”
—Roger Whittaker


“It’s a matter of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend to your planet.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery in “The Little Prince”


“To cope with losing our world requires us to descend through the anger into mourning and sadness, not speedily bypass them to jump onto the optimism bandwagon or escape into
indifference. And with this deepening, an extended caring and gratitude may open us to what is still here, and finally, to acting accordingly.” —Per Espen Stoknes


. . .if truth is to be taught, then teaching and learning must take the shape of truth itself–a community of faithful relationships. Education in truth must bring teacher and student into troth with each other, into the very image of the truth it hopes to convey.” —Parker J. Palmer


“No matter what they ever do to us, we must always act for the love of our people and the earth. We must not react out of hatred against those who have no sense.” ― John Trudell


“I celebrate independence anywhere it happens. The question here is how. When a diversity of peoples is destroyed or diminished in a holocaust of outrageous proportions for independence, does this truly result in liberty, justice and freedom for all? In a few generations indigenous peoples of America have been reduced to one-half of one percent. Imagine Africa with one-half of one percent Africans. We have been essentially disappeared in the story of America. Our
massive libraries of knowledge, rich cultural and intellectual gifts have been disparaged, destroyed and broken by interloper religions and a hierarchical system of thought in which indigenous people exist only as savages. What then does this say about liberty and justice in this country?

“For healing the wound needs to be opened, purged and cleansed. Our stories need to be allowed. Our traditional ways and languages need to be honored. This country needs to
apologize and reparations must be made. We all need to come together, every one of us to make a true plan for liberty and justice for all. As long as indigenous peoples are disappeared and disparaged, or surface only in Hollywood movies like The Lone Ranger, this country will remain as a child without parents, who has no sense of earth, history or spirituality.” —Joy Harjo

Always Becoming

Every day is a new opportunity to begin again.
Was yesterday harsh or difficult?
Did you find yourself (like I did) complaining and grousing and expecting the worst of people?
Did you miss the chance to get outdoors and breathe fresh air?
Did you put more time into stuff and money than into people and ideas?
Did you forget to notice the green, the birdsong, the summer cast of sunlight?
Did you write or say something you wish you hadn’t?
Today is a new day, a fresh slate, a blank sheet of paper.
Choose your pathway with determination and lightness of heart.
Begin, begin, begin again, beloved.

Grateful for the always freshness of beginnings.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Always we begin again.” —St. Benedict


Thomas Merton: “There are only three stages to this work: to be a beginner, to be more of a beginner, and to be only a beginner.”


“If the Angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“One does not ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion? One merely says: You suffer, that is enough for me.” —Louis Pasteur


“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” —James Bovard


“We must ask ourselves as Americans, ‘Can we really survive the worship of our own destructiveness? We do not exist in isolation. Our sense of community and compassionate intelligence must be extended to all life-forms, plants, animals, rocks, rivers, and human beings.” —Terry Tempest Williams


Jan Richardson:
did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?


“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” —William Stafford


“There are years that ask the question and years that answer.” —Zora Neale Hurston


“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” —Hafiz


“One puts down the first line. . .in trust that life and language are abundant enough to complete it.” —Wendell Berry


“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.” —Job 12:8


“Sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” —Wallace Stevens


“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” —Emily Dickinson


“The contemplative stance is the third way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from another power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the dark side of reality and the pain of the world until it transforms us, knowing that we are both complicit in the evil and can participate in wholeness and holiness.” —Richard Rohr


Clarissa Pinkola Estes on the Curanderisma healing tradition: “In this tradition a story is ‘holy,’ and it is used as medicine. The story is not told to lift you up, to make you feel better, or to entertain you, although all those things can be true. The story is meant to take the spirit into a descent to find something that is lost or missing and to bring it back to consciousness again.”

Finished!

Early in the summer, I agreed to create a Camp-in-a-Box for my school. I decided to do a camp on Zine-Making, which is something I love, and I got into the project with gusto.

A few things about me: I am a Leo, and I am a Seven, so when I get excited about a project, I can tend to go a little teensy bit overboard. Roar. But I can also get snagged on the tail end of a deadline. Sigh. The materials are due tomorrow at 9 am, and I just finished packing them up.

I thought it would be really fun to have all the instructions for every day in little Zines! And every day should have a sample Zine! And more instructional Zines! In the end, I wound up folding nearly two hundred Zines for this project.

But it’s finished now. On to the next thing!


Gratitude List:
1. We’re trying to get one long walk or bike ride in every day. I’m loving making a habit of going to the local trails for a daily walk. There is so much beauty here!
2. Yesterday at High Point, we saw and heard several grasshopper sparrows, and two meadowlarks!
3. I’m done with that L-O-N-G project!
4. So many generous people.
5. Art and poetry.

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


Hold onto your hearts. Take Courage.
Here are some Thoughts for Friday:
Mother Teresa: “So often the problem is simply this—that we make the circle we put around our family too small.”


Chimamanda Adichie: “Stereotypes are not wrong; they are just incomplete.”


“We must ask ourselves as Americans, ‘Can we really survive the worship of our own destructiveness? We do not exist in isolation. Our sense of community and compassionate intelligence must be extended to all life-forms, plants, animals, rocks, rivers, and human beings.”
—Terry Tempest Williams


“It’s hardest to love the ordinary things, she said, but you get lots of opportunities to practice.” —Brian Andreas


“To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.” —Manly P. Hall


Be softer with you.
You are a breathing thing.
A memory to someone.
A home to a life.”
—Nayyirah Waheed


“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
―Howard Zinn


“Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” —Representative John Lewis


Antonio Machado:

“Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.

Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.”


“I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me; they are about questions.” ―Lucille Clifton, who was born on this day in 1936


“Everyone is born with a set of sacred agreements to a higher authority than those of this world. Like a pole star, there is a divine Self which directs and shapes our lives into what we’re meant to become. Sooner or later, we must navigate by our star’s light, or risk being lost in the dark night of the soul.” —Toko-pa Turner


“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” —CS Lewis


“. . .without a sense of the sacred, all knowledge remains abstract.” —Rosebrough and Leverett, Transformational Teaching


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” —William Butler Yeats


“We live in a world of theophanies. Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.” —Macrina Wiederkehr


“The storm walked around the hills on legs of lightning, shouting and grumbling.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


“most people don’t set foot outside their own heads much.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites

Cherry Cobbler

Here’s to good neighbors! A couple days ago as we were walking, our neighbor down the road invited us to his Solstice drumming circle. I would have taken him up on it, but we were going to see my parents the next day, and I wanted to limit my exposure to other people. I do hope he asks again!

And a couple days ago, another neighbor texted me that she had a bunch of extra sour cherries from her cherry tree–Could we use them? Um. Yes, please, and thank you! Supper last night was a sweet summer fruits meal: cherry cobbler with ice cream.

Gratitude for kind neighbors.

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


“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.” ―Granny Weatherwax, Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


‪”Nature is real and vital. Wealth is neither. How is it we grant imaginary dragons the power to breathe real fire?‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don’t, it may drench itself out in sorrow. You special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person. It’s up to you.” —Joan Baez


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
―Leymah Gbowee


“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” —Dr. Seuss


“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” —Nelson Mandela


“Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.” —Wess Stafford


“Children are one third of our population and all of our future.” —Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981


“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” —Fred Rogers


“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” —Nelson Mandela


“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” —Frederick Douglass


“Do not be afraid to include other people in your story, to ask others to hold the light for you in times of darkness and pain. This is a grace and a gift you offer them, to allow another the honor of walking beside you on the path, in silence or in song, no matter how treacherous the journey.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2012


“When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” —Rachel Carson

We’re All Coopers

As an English teacher, one of the disciplines I try to teach my students is analysis. Take a situation, a piece of art, a novel, a political view, a fight you had with your friend. Lay it out in front of you and examine it from every angle. Check out its component parts, and start asking yourself questions. How does this cog fit into that cog and make this crankshaft turn? How does this word combined with this biblical or pop culture allusion develop this tone that creates in the reader a sense of satisfaction or humor or existential dread? How does the painter use indigo to create a sense of depth perception in this painting?

So often, when we see a painting, or read a poem, or experience a national moment, we rush into our conclusions, and that’s not necessarily bad or un-intellectual. I think first impressions are really important in analysis. How did it make you feel? The first reactions lead the analyst into deeper questions, beginning questions: Why did she do that, I wonder? What caused him to react that way? How would I have acted in that situation?

Here’s why I am ranting about analysis today: Amy Cooper woke me up really early this morning. She’s the most recent national “Karen,” a white woman calling the police on a black person for being in a public space. Yesterday, I had First Reactions. Remember, first conclusions are not invalid. They’re the spark that takes us deeper into analysis. Why am I so angry? What was she thinking? Yesterday, Amy Cooper stepped out of her individual story and into the boat of an archetype. She’s a “Karen.” She’s a morality lesson. She’s an example of implicit bias and unquestioned entitlement and white supremacy. And when she floated into my mind at 4:30 this morning, I wasn’t getting back to sleep.

I do not know Amy Cooper, and any guesses I make about her motivations and choices are a complete disservice to her as an individual. I’m pretty sure she had no intention of stepping onto the stage and becoming a player in a National Morality Play. But she did do so. And now her part in this story has become the setting for necessary cultural analysis.

There are a lot of possible points of analysis here. The most obvious, of course, is race. The setting, however, has to do with civic duty and entitlement. Again, I do not know Ms. Cooper or why she would walk through a sensitive wildlife habitat, past signs that read Dogs Must Be Leashed At All Times, and let her dog run free of the leash. (Just this week, a friend of mine was injured while walking her own leashed dog, by a rambunctious unleashed dog in a park with Leash Your Dog Signs. “Oh, he’s friendly!” called the scofflaw owners of the leash-free pup just moments before the dog barreled exuberantly into my friend and her dog.) What is this entitlement that causes people to assume that basic laws and guidelines of civic and community co-existence don’t apply to me? There’s fodder for a whole article here. I would guess that we could all find some of these rules that we would scoff at personally. My favorites are the Homeowners’ Associations that forbid gardens in front lawns or washlines or wildflower patches. This piece of the analysis gets to the root of who we are as a society: Where does your freedom end and mine begin? Are there necessary “rules” for how we behave together in shared spaces? Don’t we need rules that protect the Earth and animals, which cannot speak for themselves? Should we regulate industries that pollute the air and earth and water that we all share? Can we ask each other to wear masks in public in order to protect each other from a pandemic? American individualism versus community health and well-being. Anarchy, individualism, authoritarianism, communitarianism, civic-mindedness all crunch together. There are whole articles to be written on this one.

Obviously, the main issue in this story, however, is the race issue. A white woman calling the police on a black man. Birding while black. Upholding community standards while black (he was simply asking her to leash her dog). In the context of the murder of a Minneapolis man by the police this week, the possible danger she placed him in cannot be discounted or minimized. Amy Cooper said later that she saw the police as protectors. As a black man in America, Christian Cooper (no relation) has every historical reason to fear the police when a white woman says, “I am afraid!” There are historical echoes in Amy Cooper’s phone call, echoes of Carolyn Bryant Donham calling down white wrath on Emmett Till, echoes of white slave-holding women maintaining cultural supremacy by placing black men in the role of dangerous savage from whom they needed protection.

And the moment I get into that territory, I need to recognize the gender story here. While this is a Morality Play about Race, we can’t ignore the gender question, the fact that women fear public spaces. I’m not sure how to parse the general fears of women from the racialized use of that fear that Amy Cooper played upon. A woman alone hiking in the woods has to contend with fear of male violence. Women grow up knowing we’re prey in some men’s minds. It doesn’t matter that most men would not harm us. We learn to be watchful and vigilant, to feel unsafe. We who look through Christian Cooper’s camera feel no sense of threat toward Amy Cooper. Yet we don’t know what traumas she may have experienced in her life that might have sent her into her reptilian brain for responses. We do hear her name race in her call, repeatedly. (Echo. Echo.) Still, simple gendered fear has to be taken into account not as an excuse, but as a factor.

You could analyze the surreality of their names. Were you to write this as a short story about race and gender and social entitlement in the US today, surely you wouldn’t name them the same thing. And yet, there’s something that awes me about this detail, some universal synchronicity that says: In the midst of it all, you’re the same. You’re related. You may think you’re the opposite on every imaginable scale–race, gender, age, civic engagement–but you’re really the same. You’re coopers, barrel-makers. You take the different elements of wood and metal and put the pieces together with such skill that the water and the wine stay safely within.

You could analyze their age difference. You could do a psychological exploration of the role of fear in this encounter. You could look at her treatment of the dog. You could look at the subculture of birders, and wonder about the warblers that Christian Cooper was most likely watching that day. You could explore their religious and political leanings (she appears to fall on the liberal side of the spectrum, if you’re making assumptions).

To do this justice, I would parse each piece in much greater detail, examine every element, but this is a blog-journal and not a professional article. It’s personal ramblings and not an English essay. Instead of trying to wrap it up neatly, I want to take it back to what I wrote yesterday, about curiosity. After all this muddling through today, I’m still angry. I still think Amy Cooper needs to be held accountable for calling the police on a black man who just wanted her to follow the rules and leash her dog, despite that fact that the story may have human complexity that extends beyond the symbolic and archetypal significance we place upon it.

But now I am curious. I wonder how this story would play out as deliberate fiction, what it might tell us about ourselves and how we live in the world. I’m curious about how Amy Cooper will find her way into life again as herself after living as an archetype. I wonder what would happen if Mr. Cooper and Ms. Cooper could be brought together in a mediation situation where they could tell each other their stories. I wonder what would happen if we would all begin to tell each other our stories, if we would all explore our internal biases, if we could maintain curiosity as a constant, if we would choose to encounter each other–with all our differences in age and race and gender and social awareness and civic-mindedness–as somehow inherently the same. This really is a morality play in which each character holds layers of symbolism. It’s a Jungian dream, in which each of us is equally each of the characters, bringing with us the distinct elements of race and gender and age and experience that make us distinct. We’re all Coopers.


Gratitude List:
1. We’re all different. We’re all the same. Being human is messy, but it’s so beautiful.
2. Wonder and curiosity
3. The way dawn came this morning on an aural wave, first the night insects and the early twittering of birds, along with an occasional rumble of a bullfrog in the pond, then louder, more voices joining, echoes resonating in the bowl of the hollow.
4. Finding closure
5. Blackberry blossoms covering the bluff like snow.

May we walk in Beauty!


“What does it mean to be pro-life if you defend the life of a child in the womb, but not the life of a child on the border?” —James Martin SJ


“It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” —Sarah Ban Breathnach


“Forests will always hold your secrets,
as that’s what forests are for.
To envelop things.
They’re the blankets
of the earth,
grown to protect,
to comfort, to hide,
to carry, to seep
into our chests,
and to teach.
Your sharpest aches
and bygone dreams
will be scattered across
these knowing trees
while the ancient contrasts
of shadow and light
whisper once again
that we are built to seek.
It is here in this space
where we’ll rediscover
the rhythms of roots
and what it fully means
to renew.
To revive.
To breathe.” —by Victoria Erickson


“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.”
—Ralph Waldo


“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ―Rachel Carson


“In nature’s economy, the currency is not money. It is life.” —Vandana Shiva