Bread and the Bird of Heaven

He’s back! I went out this morning to do Ten Breaths, and the moment I stepped out onto the porch, there was his whistle. One long, clear call in the dawn air. I listened longer, and he kept piping occasionally, one or two or three long notes at a time. I think I saw him, too, pulling apart a sycamore ball to get the nourishing seeds, but the rising sun was behind him so he was in silhouette. I waited, but he was busy, too busy to call more than a single whistle at a time. Then, just as the chill drove me to turn back indoors, there it was, the full trill: “O-ri-ole!” My shining bird friend is back in the hollow.

Yesterday I decided to make sun rolls to celebrate the May. I don’t have a recipe for sun rolls–I’m not sure there is one, really. It just seemed like the thing to do on a crisp May Day to welcome the turning of the season.

So when I went out for yesterday’s Ten Breaths and to wash my face in May Day dew (because that’s what you do), I picked dandelions. I couldn’t resist the violets that grow so thickly next to the locust grove, so I picked some of those as well. The poor dandies looked utterly brutalized by the previous day’s rain. I brought them in and washed them and laid them on a cloth to dry. Within an hour, they’d perked up, as if they were outside on their stalks. The Life Force is powerful in dandelions.

If I were to write a book about magic, I think the second chapter might be about dandelions. The first chapter would be about yeast. Yeast is primordial. Yeast is ylem. I’m pretty sure I am not using that word quite correctly, but I have commandeered it for my own purposes. Ylem, according to Dictionary.com, is “the primordial matter of the universe, originally conceived as composed of neutrons at high temperature and density.” I just stop at primordial matter of the universe, and take my meanings from there. Yeast is ylem.

I used my typical recipe for rolls, warming the milk, adding salt and a little flour and yeast. Because these were to be sun rolls, I exchanged the sugar for honey to celebrate the Little Sisters who have been busy in that dandelion patch. And I let the mix bubble for ten minutes. Really, is there any more magical moment in daily existence than coming to the bowl of yeast and flour after ten minutes to see the transformation that has occurred there? The scent of living, growing Life Force, the eager face of the bubbly risen mix. There’s a sound as well, or perhaps I have imagined it, of the bubbles. . .gurgling, plipping, popping, bubbling. . . Life Force.

I always start mixing bread in the stand mixer a friend of mine gave to me when she moved. It makes the process a little simpler, but I also love the feeling of connection it gives me. Even solitary bread-making is communal. I have my recipe mostly memorized, but I keep the cookbook handy on the counter, because that, too, was written by a friend, and it adds to the web of connections I am building as the gluten is aligning in the dough.

Yesterday, I added about a cup of yellow dandelion petals when I added the extra flour (flowers and flours), and used the mixer to bring the dough together, but I need to knead by hand: I love the feeling of kneading a good dough. Then it was rise and shape and rise and bake.

In the meantime was a bittersweetness. I haven’t seen my parents for seven weeks, and we had an exchange to make. They’re giving their old laptop to my boy, and they were out of whole wheat flour, and my mom needed some more crochet hooks and yarn. I had felt a little sheepish about buying two bags of whole wheat when I was out last week, and now it seems there was a reason. So we went to the trailer at the entrance to their retirement community to make the drop off–we’re not allowed to go on campus, and we’re grateful that they are so protected. There they were, and we got to see them and to say hello, from a distance, and through our masks. I didn’t realize how hard it would be not to hug. That was a challenge. The closeness emphasized the distance, but it was marvelous to see them.

They gave us another bag, too, with cookies and a couple pieces of chocolate cake, and a bottle of elderberry mead, perfect for a celebration of May Day. What a treat! So my May Day was sun rolls and mead and chocolate cake, the Life Force in flowers and yeast and honey, and a glimpse of my beloveds.

And now, this shining morning after, the call of the Bird of Heaven from the sycamore.

Gratitude List:
1. Oriole is back!
2. Elderberry mead
3. Yeasty sun rolls
4. Connections and community
5. Life Force evident everywhere

May we walk in Beauty!


“The only time incorrectly is not spelled incorrectly is when it is spelled incorrectly.”


“There is no such thing as one-sided generosity. Like one ecosystem, we are each at different times receiving or purging, growing or pruning. In those moments when you believe you aren’t receiving enough, consider what you most want to receive might be the thing you need to give away.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” —Henry David Thoreau


“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.” —Joanna Macy


“What if the Creator is like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s God: “like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence”?

What if the Source of All Life inhabits both the dark and the light, heals with strange splendor as much as with sweet insight, is hermaphroditic and omnisexual?

What if the Source loves to give you riddles that push you past the boundaries of your understanding, forcing you to change the ways you think about everything?

What if, as Rusty Morrison speculates in “Poetry Flash,” “the sublime can only be glimpsed by pressing through fear’s boundary, beyond one’s previous conceptions of the beautiful”?

Close your eyes and imagine you can sense the presence of this tender, marvelous, difficult, entertaining intelligence.” —Rob Brezsny

Turning Toward Spring

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


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

May we walk in Beauty!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


March
by James Wright

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


Spring Follows Winter Once More
by Tom Hennen

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

Let Your Poem Out to Breathe

IMG_2158
Artist at work.

Today we will do the revision,
the re-make, the whole re-creation.
Today, we bleed.
Read it, and read it again.
Does it say what it means to?
Then get out your scalpel,
excise and re-shape,
find the new form hidden
beneath the words.
Let your poem out to breathe.

Gratitude List:
1. Bruce’s spinach and feta scones
2. I got my copy of Valerie Baer’s Baking With Whole Grains
3. Pot luck
4. Revising.  The poem, the plan, the purpose, even.
5. Getting Ready for Spoken Word Play.  Memorizing.  Seeing Daina and Marie again.  Feeling the shape of the poems on the stage.

May we walk in Beauty!