More Dreams

Dream: I’m in Dreamtown. I don’t know what else to call it, but it’s a place I often go in dreams. Sometimes I even recognize streets or buildings from dream to dream, but not often. I just know its the same city. There are other dream towns, too.

My sister parks her van and puts the keys under the seat, says she’ll see me later. I am going to wander in town a bit and check out some of these yard sales. It’s a little surprising that people are having yard sales during this time, but they sort of seem to be social distancing. I don’t remember seeing them in masks, but masks have not really entered my dreams yet.

After a while, I go to get in the van to drive home, and in the few hours I have been there, a whole bunch of foxtails have grown up between the cab and the bed of the pick-up (it is now my old red F150 instead of Valerie’s Van). I’m kind of glad to be driving the old pick-up again. I back out of the parking lot onto the road, put it in first and accelerate, but the truck keeps going in reverse. The brakes don’t work. The gears won’t shift into forward. I am hurtling backwards down a steep city hill.

That’s where I woke up. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was a school dream, or a dream about the feelings I am experiencing right now.
It’s all so out of control.
Even the vehicle has changed.
The weeds grew up while I was away.
Everybody out there is going about their normal business as though nothing has changed.
I’m hurtling backward downhill.
I can’t focus enough to get any serious school planning done. I can’t get it in the right gear.

Breathe. Pray. Sit in the chair. Do the work. Be ready for plans to change. Steer the truck.

Yesterday, on my birthday, I made myself a set of prayer beads. It’s based on the 108 beads of the Tibetan mala, but I am not Buddhist, so I hesitate to call it anything that specific. I am very intentional about not buying new things for new projects, but using up what I have, so I scrounged stone beads from my collection, and used a turquoise skull bead for my main bead. I chose the skull bead intentionally, as the symbol often associated with Mary Magdalene, who perhaps had more reason than most of us to contemplate the mysteries of life and death. With the tassel on the end, the skull looks like La Calavera Catriona on her way to the dance, which adds a nice layer of meaning. I added a dangle-bead Hand of Fatima, which represents protection and safety.

Here are the things I am going to do to try to deal with these anxieties:
1. Sit at my desk and Do My Work.
2. Keep hanging my worries on the willow.
3. Carry my prayer beads with me. In these early days of wearing it, I want to let the prayers kind of form themselves as I notice the worries that arise. (The cording is nylon, so I can disinfect them when I wear it to school.)
4. Be as conscientious in the classroom about cleaning and disinfecting as possible. Be strict about masking and distancing.
5. Meditate on the web. So many wonderful people have reached out to say they are praying for teachers, and thinking about us as we prepare for the coming year. I feel like I am on a golden web of people’s prayers and energies, along with my colleagues and students.
6. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Really, I am still fairly grounded and centered. I am like a lion, I think, quick to rage or jump into action in response to attack or hunger, but mostly lying around, still and quiet, unbothered. Both. It takes a quirky dream or another announcement from the governor or scary numbers in the news to get me to jump up and take off. But the worries are always there, and in the meantime, I have to be as prepared as possible for school to begin.

Gratitude List:
1. Such an overflowing bowl of birthday greetings yesterday! I’m so grateful for all my beloveds, in both my physical and virtual worlds.
2. Goldfinches on the thistles.
3. Chocolate ice cream cake.
4. Making things.
5. Bright fingernail polish. I always feel a little like I’m in drag or something when I wear make-up or fingernail polish. They don’t feel quite like me. But I love shiny colors on my fingertips, and I will keeping painting my nails until I get bored or tired of touching up the chipped bits.

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

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” —Leonard Cohen

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” —Robin Williams

“One gives one’s life to be and to know, rather than to possess.” —Teilhard de Chardin

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” —Rumi

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
–William Stafford

“Perfectionism is a virus which keeps us running on the treadmill of never-enoughness. It is inherently deadening for how it strives and never arrives. Failure is embedded in its very pursuit, for our humanity can never be homogenised. The only antidote is to turn away from every whiff of plastic and gloss and follow our grief, pursue our imperfections, exaggerate our eccentricities until they, the things we once sought to hide, reveal themselves as our true majesty.” –Toko-pa Turner

How Do You Know?

How do you know,

when the River has told you
the stories of the ancestors,

that you will remember the tale
to tell to the wind,
after the snow has fallen,
after the grey fog has settled
deep into the valleys,

that you will remember the cadence
when the the small animals gather
to listen to you sing the River’s song,

that you will recall the bright watery threads
that weave through every story the River has told
since the beginning of time,
since the dawn of remembering?

Gratitude List:
1. The mist/fog yesterday morning that settled over the valley below Mt. Pisgah and above the River.  The highway skirted the edges of it for a time, and I would travel through patches of sunshine, with open space to one side and dense fog on the other.  At times the fog hovered above the road and pink shone through the layer of mist, so it looked like pink was caught on the underbelly of the fog, and it was difficult to determine the source of its illumination.
2. It happened again yesterday: I don’t often spend much thought on worrying about how I look, but occasionally the old voices pipe up: “Look at the frumpy teacher!”  On the very day that I have had such a thought (and I am very careful not to let personal things like that show in the classroom), there is always some girl who comes up and tells me she loves something about what I am wearing.  I used to think that teenage girls were like sharks–they could smell your discomfort with yourself a mile away, and they would circle in for the kill.  I now think that this was only my personal teenage self projecting my own anxiety onto others.  Still, I now think that they DO have radar.  They sense how and in what way you might need a boost, and they circle in and offer help.
3. I had an anxiety dream last night, and I managed to manipulate it to solve my problem.  So often I wake up from those feeling like I am at the mercy of the fates, but this morning, I feel like I have the tools to make my way through the things I was worried about.
4. The women who fought and protested to make it possible for women to vote.  “As we go marching, marching. . .”
5. I know I go on about this, but GOLDEN.  Everything is golden.

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Hall of the Old School

Yesterday I visited the school where I will be teaching, the school I graduated from 29 years ago.  So much is new and different.  So much is the same.  The mural of the hand holding the rainbow still brightens the stairwell (may it always be there).  The old wing still looks much like it did in my day, and it smells exactly the same as it did when I was there.  We opened the door to the classroom where I will be teaching, and one of my own teachers walked out and hugged me.  Did I dream this?  I can hardly believe this is happening.  I used to imagine it, twenty years or so ago, and here it is.

I do have recurring anxiety dreams that take place in a school.  I am trying to find the classes where I am supposed to be either studying or teaching.  I’ll spend the entire dream trying to find where I am supposed to go, going up stairs and through labyrinthine hallways.  I’m always late, sometimes at the end of a semester and realizing that I have forgotten to go to class.  Or I’ll be going to teach the first day of a class and realize that I have forgotten to get a schedule to know when and where it is.  Once, when I was teaching at Butler County Community College, I dreamed that I rushed in late to class only to see my dean teaching the class.  She said since I was always late, she’d decided to take over my schedule.  The thing I realized yesterday about it all was that the setting of the dream is always very similar to my high school alma mater.

In the past ten years, since I have taken a break from teaching, the frequency of those particular anxiety dreams has lessened.  Now that I am teaching again, I wonder if they will increase in frequency again.  And how will it be if the real setting is now overlaid on the dream setting?  And now that the reality has begun to feel so intensely like a happy dream?

Here is little poem that has nothing to do with high school or anxiety dreams:

You must have heard me prescribe hens
for a low self-opinion.
There is nothing like a little chicken worship
to make a body feel like a rock star.

But here’s the thing–
my chickens think that you
are a capital rock star, too.
“Look!” they told me this morning
when I looked in on them.
And I knew exactly
what they meant.


Gratitude List:
1. Love is the Answer.  Love is the Answer.  Love is the Answer.
2. That moment when we opened the door to my new classroom, and my own teacher walked out and hugged me.
3. Creating and envisioning new spaces
4. I am going to a book sale today!  I love book sales.
5. Going to vote with the kids.  As cynical as I get about whether this democratic ideal actually has any value in the oligarchy, I want my children to learn and experience the ideal with the hope that one day we will have a truer democracy, disentangled from wealth and corporate influence.  And we stopped at Turkey Hill and bought ice cream on the way home.

May we walk in Love!