Snow Geese

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

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


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


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

May we walk in Beauty!

Getting Lost/Being Found

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

What Happens When You Get Lost
by William Stafford

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


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

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

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

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


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

May we walk in Beauty!


Some Things to Think About:

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


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


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


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


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


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

Balance

Some quotations for the day:

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


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


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


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


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

May we walk in Beauty!

On the Eve of Equinox

We have arrived at the Turning of the Wheel into another season of Autumnal Equinox. Here in the eastern United States, the turning occurs at 3:50 tomorrow morning. In honor of the moment, I have gathered fragments of things I have written over the years.


“The word “equinox” derives from the Latin, meaning “equal night.” As we enter the Fall here in the Northern Hemisphere, we reflect on the seeds we planted in Spring and prepare for the dark months ahead. We remember to bring our interior world into balance now, paying attention to dreams, honouring creativity and deepening relationship. Let us consider what wants to fall away & what still needs nurturing, and CELEBRATE the bounty of our yields.”


“We have arrived at Autumn Equinox, one of those exquisite balance points of the year cycle, the moment of shift in the whirl around our star. The light has been shifting, coming in at a slant that sets everything atwinkle. Every dusk, hundreds of robins sail into the hollow and set up a clatter and cacophony in the bamboo grove. The geese are going, cormorants winging their way, thousands of feet above us, or angling down to the River for a rest. Seeds burst forth.

Say a blessing for the seeds, those packets of potential that burst from the ripened fruits of the flower buds and fall to earth, some to be trampled by passing feet, some to be eaten—fuel for the journeys of the little birds or stocked up by small animals as fat for the coming cold. And some to fall into the rich soil to wait through the winter until it is time to Become.

How has your own ripening been? What is the seed within you at this moment? What is the hopeful little bundle of potential that is waiting to fall, to be carried by the winds and the waves and the creatures that pass, to tumble into the soil of your future self? What has ripened within you, and what will you release, knowing it may grow and bear its own fruit, or may become food for others? What of yourself do you give to this season? Say a blessing for the seeds.”

Pennsylvania Remix

Today’s prompt is one the Robert Brewer often does near the end of a month of poetry: Take a poem from earlier in the month and remix it, revise it, recreate it. I sort of pooped out on my Pennsylvania poem half way through the month, so I am going to re-work that one today.

Our bones are made of ice and fire:
quartzite and anthracite,
and deep within our limestone soul
are vast and silent caverns.

Our ridges are furred with forests
of oak and locust, sycamore,
beech and hornbeam.

Our blood is borne in the waters
of the mighty Monongahela,
Allegheny, Susquehanna, the Ohio,
the Delaware, the Juniata.

We make our myths in the kiln and the forge,
steel and mining and the quiet industry of farms.
We honor and forget the ones who came before,
writing history as if it began
when our European ancestors
arrived to turn wilderness to profit.

This is the land of the Iroquois,
the Susquehannock, the Seneca,
the Shawnee, and the Lenape.

This is the land of Penn’s Great Experiment,
religious freedom and a rule of law
based on the councils of those whose land we stole.

We have much to atone for,
much to celebrate, much to grieve,
and much to redeem.

Pennsylvania

Waiting for the tornado warning to pass, fooling around in the basement stairwell. The boys thought the shine through my glasses gave me laser eye.

The Prompt today is to title a poem the name of a state or territory or province. I’m not sure how much I have to say about my state.

Pennsylvania

I think of quartzite. Lots of it.
Winking in the sun as if it has a message
to send in Morse code. And limestone,
the bubbled rock, prone to give way
in sudden sinkholes. And schist and mica
and the nuggets of limonite, compelling in their squareness.
South of here, the serpentine,
a stone that holds within itself
maps of Earth’s geologic history.

The woods are no longer Penn’s,
and really, they weren’t his to divide in the first place,
cutting and marking the places
where Manifest Destiny would make spaces
for colonists to conquer. Even my gentle Mennonites
were not blameless.

On this side of the Alleghenies,
everything runs to the Susquehanna,
and thence to the Bay, and then to the ocean.
Cabin creek begins as a spring somewhere
above us on the ridge, and flows right to the river.

(I can’t figure out where this is going, and I need to go to bed. So it’s a fragment tonight.)

Scenarios

Brewer’s prompt for the second day of National Poetry Month is a two-fer: Write a best case/worst case scenario poem. I can’t get Dickens out of my head on this one. I want to do a best of times/worst of times sort of thing. It’s only the second day, and I have left my poem until it’s almost too late to think.

Scenarios

There could be snow. There could be sun.
We could all live to a ripe old age,
or be mowed down by disease or accident
in our youth, or our prime, or our golden years.

There could be an extra cup of coffee tomorrow,
or no time for the necessary drug of the second cup.
We could change our ways and turn it all around,
or keep racing pell mell toward certain destruction.

We could save each other from our worst impulses
or we could drive each other into bad decisions.
We could choose at least the process of our fate
instead of letting it rule us and wreck us.


In the Dreamtime, Day 2

Last night’s dreams were like a spy novel. I am part of a resistance group trying to sabotage some sort of organization. I have been able to find my way into the neighborhood grid of the group we are targeting, but can’t seem to find my way out again. No surprise that I am dreaming of the Resistance in these days.

Several years ago, my word for the year was Bridge. It was a compelling image that stuck very closely with me for the year. This year, I think Bridge needs to again slip into the swirling mix of images and ideas that I am gleaning in this Dreamtime. As I experienced rather acutely on Friday night, a bridge is not only a symbol connection, for some people it is also a symbol of the way out.


Gratitude List:
1. Watching Nouka’s Pho revive a feverish young person, like a miracle, bowl by bowl. That was a glorious meal.
2. Cat under the Christmas tree
3. Singing as Resistance: Yesterday’s theme in church was Mary’s Canticle. How can we, too, tap into the power of poetry and song to give power and momentum to our current resistance to cruelty and injustice?
4. Making music with my siblings
5. The wisdom of my beloveds

May we walk in Beauty!


Christmas Eve Thoughts:
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
—Omar Khayyám


“In our heart and soul we are each like Mary, holding the possibility for a birth that can change the world.” —Llewellyn Vaughan Lee,
Quote from A Prayer at the Winter Solstice (2012)


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
but let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune but do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
—Max Ehrmann 1927

Into the Dark, December 16

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

During the years between teaching jobs, when I spent winter in my house, I came to terms with December. I felt the way the quiet entered me, the way the darkness wrapped itself around the hollow, filling the spaces with gentle pools of shadow. I never completely overcame the sense of the loss of the sun, but I settled. I breathed. I cherished the inward call.

Now, it takes an act of will, a commitment to daily writing, reading, breathing, to get through to the Solstice and back out again. Every year, it’s a test. I have to keep up all the outer life while honoring the call to go inward. I have to keep juggling while finding that still space inside. And it’s possible. And it’s not a terrible thing–it’s a good challenge. But it’s hard, and it feels unnatural.

I’m imagining myself standing on one leg in the tree pose, with all the stillness and focus that offers, but also juggling six or seven balls at the same time. So today’s word, as jarring as it feels in the stillness of this season, is juggling. A few more days. Just a few more days. Then I can set some of those balls down and BE here in the space of winter.


Gratitude List:
1. My school’s choral program. I hope these kids have some sort of inkling about the treasure that they have in their choral director and the work she does. You should send your kids to my school just so they can be part of our choral groups.
2. The way those branches in the walnut tree, and the spaces between the branches, look like the face of a British badger. I used to be sad that we don’t have such badgers here, but this morning I noticed the one formed by the branches of the tree, protecting the farm, I suppose.
3. Injera. Our friend bought us a packet of nice sour injera yesterday. I suppose that means we’ll be cooking lentils and peas this afternoon.
4. Diversions
5. Good people who make good decisions to make the world better. There are still such people, despite the ruffians and scoundrels. There may be greedmongers, but there are goodnessmongers, too. Justicemongers. Purveyors of hopefulness. You are among them, I know. Thank you.

May we walk through the dark days in Beauty!


I’ll just leave you with this.
I don’t care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It’s
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.
-—Mary Oliver, from “Angels,” Blue Horses


“We owe our children–the most vulnerable citizens in any society–a life free from violence and fear.” ―Nelson Mandela


“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
―Margaret Mead


“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
―Pema Chödrön


The Swan
by Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?


Stepping Toward the Solstice
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

We stand in the shadows.
Hold my hand.
The darkness suffocates.
Look this way,
to where the sun shines briefly
through a curtain of ice.
This. This one moment
will sustain us for the next steps.

Into the Dark, December 6

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

Break it up. Break it down.
Break the news. Break a heart.
Break into. Breakdown. 
Make a break. Take a break.
Fast break. Brake slow.
Brakes and brambles and briars.
Break out. Break up.
Break into.
Break a barrier.
Break a bad habit.
Them’s the breaks.

Break through.
Take a break.
Give yourself a break.
Day is breaking.

Today’s word is break. One little word can connote a wide spectrum of meanings. It shifts and shades and slips from one to the other with ease that confounds and startles. But boldly and baldly baldly defined, a break is a distinct moment, a sudden shift, leaving a line or a chasm between Point A and Point B. Today, I will Take a break, at least once, leaving Point A entirely behind for at least a short moment before I step onto Point B.


Gratitude List:
1. Mandalas
2. Doodling
3. Focus
4. Vast flocks of crows
5. Sunrise

May we walk in Beauty!


Thursday’s Word-Break:

“It is that holy poetry and singing we are after. We want powerful words and songs that can be heard Underwater and over land. It is the wild singing we are after, our chance to use the wild language we are learning by heart under the sea. To live this way is a cycle in itself, one meant to go on, go on, go on.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you?” —Jalaluddin Rumi


“If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in
the world and following the wrong god
home, we may miss our star.”
—William Stafford


“Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”
—Octavia E. Butler


“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
―Philip Pullman


“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
―Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind


Clearing
by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.