No Chair for Despair

Digital Variation on a drawing of a bird figurine from Marija Gimbutas’ Language of the Goddess

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word “maladjusted”. Now we all should seek to live a well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


“.. One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. ..” —Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ―Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ―Alice Walker


“We were together. I forget the rest.” ―Walt Whitman


“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ―Henry James


“My continuing mantra: be gentle, be gentle, be gentle. Stand your ground, know your truth, but be kind.” ―Terri Windling (from her Myth & Moor blog)


“Reconciliation is like dressing a sore: You can’t bandage a sore without first cleaning it.” ―Leymah Gbowee


Gratitude List:
1. The eagle who flew above us as we were driving the bridge home across the Susquehanna last night.
2. My Speech class. In the past, I’ve struggled to set up safe classroom communities in Speech without it devolving into just play and goofiness. This class is so diverse in so many ways—seriousness and silliness, many nationalities, introverts and extraverts—and I was really worried. Yesterday in class, as they were doing simple introductory speeches, they started calling out, “You got this!” and “We’re with you!” as students walked up to give speeches. And it wasn’t snarky or patronizing, just supportive and sweet.
3. The light is returning. Every morning is a little brighter a little earlier. Every afternoon, the sun stays later.
4. Crows everywhere.
5. Rain in Australia.

May we walk in Beauty!

Beauty as Genius

May the seeds we sow today grow into strong and healthy plants.

Gratitude List:
1. How silence enters the body when you sit very still and watch it approach
2. Adaptability. The ability to adapt and change and transform.
3. That thing some cats do, where they roll over and pet their own faces. Sometimes a little face rub is just the thing to add a little stress reduction.
4. I stayed late at school after our staff development day on Monday to clean my unmanageable stacks. It’s much easier to actually work in my room now.
5. Today, all my classes are doing slightly longer personal introductions as community-building exercises. I love these moments of setting up the class connections. I need to remember how vital it is at the beginning of a semester to give a little serious time to helping them connect to each other and create a safe working group together.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotations for the Day:

Oneiric: of or relating to dreams


“I am dogmatic in one way: I really do see no alternative than the cultivation of crazy loving humility—a visceral sense of ever-renewing wonder in the face of the Great Mystery.” —Rob Brezsny


“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” ―John Dewey


“I’ve learned for a long time that, to heal my wounds, I had to have the courage to look at them. — Paulo Coelho


“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. Here we are moving toward the exit of the 20th century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”
~Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963)


“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not… the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than justice.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963


“Beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.” —Oscar Wilde


“Regardless of our beliefs, we all suffer from ignorance, and we all have projected our losses and fears onto each other in one way or another. This is my dream of the beloved community: that we can at least find a way to talk to each other, to talk past the fear, the separation, and find another way to live.”
—Sallie Jiko Tisdale, “Beloved Community”


“Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying.” —Terry Pratchett

Marching, Marching

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.


“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” —Elie Wiesel


The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” —Wangari Maathai


“Language helps develop life as surely as it reflects life. It is the most important part of the human condition.” —Jane Yolen


“It is through beauty, poetry and visionary power that the world will be renewed.” —Maria Tatar


“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
—William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”


As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing, bread and roses, bread and roses.

As we come marching, marching, we battle too, for men,
For they are in the struggle and together we shall win.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes,
Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread, but give us roses.

As we come marching, marching, un-numbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread,
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew
Yes, it is bread we. fight for, but we fight for roses, too.

As we go marching, marching, we’re standing proud and tall.
The rising of the women means the rising of us all.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories, bread and roses, bread and roses.
—James Oppenheim


Gratitude List:
1. Cornbread for breakfast
2. The process of re-balancing. There’s always a wobble or three. Sometimes abrasions and bruises. But the balance returns.
3. Blue sky through winter trees
4. The writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer
5. Planning. I love planning the shape of a class. The challenge for second semester classes is timeliness. I struggle to plan a class in July that I won’t teach until January, and when I do my planning so far in advance, the liveliness in it has died by January, and I have to rework and reassess again in the weeks before class begins. But this planning process is part of what brings the energy for the new thing emerging.

May we walk in Beauty!

Empathy and Resolve

Gratitude List:
1. The way that rages and shocks and personal affronts can burn up and burn out, leaving crystal clear resolve–and a little bit of empathy–in their wake.
2. Watching my children become ever more themselves.
3. Sunrise: Magenta and indigo clouds, and a tiny peep of aquamarine sky.
4. Beauty all around.
5. Resolve.

May we walk in Empathy.

Whatever the Day Means to You

First of all: If this day when everyone speaks of mothers is a day unbearable to you, I wish you the spiraling green of a damp spring day, cool breezes which bring your skin alive, and birdsong which calls your spirit to adventure. If you just cannot do this day, I hope that you can make it your own. Call it the Day of the Lost and Venturesome Soul. Go forth and ride the winds with the joy of your own being in this place.

And also, I must mark this day for myself: First, for the mother who mothered me, who has shown me so much of beauty and goodness in the world, who reminds me to put on the brakes when I start sliding downhill into emotional pits. She taught me to look outside, and to look inside, to marvel, to wonder, to look at the crunchy emotions with as much curiosity as the soaring ones. She reminds me to trust my voice.

I know that not all of us have such women who raised us. In that case, I wish you nurturers in other guises, way-show-ers, path-markers, wise wells and founts of deep inner knowledge, who will mother and mentor you, no matter their gender or parental status. In my life, I have had many mothers who have been guides on this pathway, Hecates to my Persephone. Great gratitude to all of you, beloveds.

And my own mothering space is complicated, as yours might be, too. I began to lose my first pregnancy on Mother’s Day, and birthed my second in this season. I treasure these young souls in my care, and I love being their mother. And, befitting one of the besetting troubles of my own psyche, I feel inadequate to the task. I beat myself up for the many unmotherly things I have done. Still, I am grateful for this chance to grow more fully into myself with them.

On this day, I commit myself to finding my own mothering/mentoring role in the world, to point out the beauty, to encourage the inward look, to nurture, to guide, to mentor, to engage, to See.

No matter your relationship to this day, I wish you a sense of yourself as belonging in this world. Much love.

Into the Dark, December 9

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.

The word I will wear in my spirit today is synchronicity, that joyful coincidence which feels like more of a tug from the Mystery than a simple overlay of two events or ideas that randomly touch each other. When the moment feels like a message. When meaning bubbles out between that moment and this one like steam rising through the crack between the pot and the lid. When a word or an image brings gooseflesh and chills.

Yes, I believe in science. I believe that random events happen in coincidental ways according to predictable, mathematically-verifiable patterns and rhythms. And I know, too, that my life would be stripped of much of the winsome delight and sense of wonder that fills it were I not to accept the gifts of those coincidences with gratitude and awe. Meaning is so often what we make it. You get to form and focus the meaning of the things that happen to you. Why not choose to live with a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, even the seemingly random events? Yes to math and yes to magic.


Gratitude List:
1. Synchronicity
2. The Wingpeople: herons and eagles and wrens, mockingbirds and gulls, vultures and crows
3. Twinkling eyes
4. Gingerbread
5. Candlelight

May we walk in Beauty!


“Once upon a time,
When women were birds,
There was the simple understanding
That to sing at dawn
And to sing at dusk
Was to heal the world through joy.
The birds still remember what we have forgotten,
That the world is meant to be celebrated.”
—Terry Tempest Williams


“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!”
―Edwin Markham, From the poem “Outwitted”


“To the degree that each of us is dedicated to wanting there to be peace in the world, then we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and play with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.” —Pema Chodron


“HIDING

is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.

We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.” —David Whyte

Trees Afire with Autumn

Gratitude of Resistance Eight:
The Maples, the Maples, the Maples! The Oaks, the Beeches, the trees–all gone golden, gone shining. All afire. Something has happened in the last week that has brought the colors here to a fever pitch. This month of November, I have an informal daily check-in in classes, asking students to call out the things they are grateful for. Yesterday, my contribution was the red maple across the building from my room, and in every class there was a chorus of awed Yes! when I said it. I love how we’re all caught in the beauty, captured by the same awe and wonder.

Finding the Thread

flowers11

Gratitude List:
1. Reading poetry with friends
2. Mama goose on a nest by the pond
3. The Middle School exhibition at my school tonight.
4. We found Sachs the cat, after he spent the night locked in the back part of the basement.
5. Finding the thread of the story.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hope and Zen

The young folk have developed some lovely intricate stacks of wood and stone in the zen garden.

Gratitude List:
1. The Black History Month chapel today. The students lead and teach us.
2. Chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips.
3. The slow blink of cat’s eyes.
4. Sickness seems to be abating.
5. Hope and zen.

May we walk in Beauty!

Speak Your Story

This is the poem I presented at the education conference I attended this weekend. I came away from the conference inspired and energized. The answer, behind all the pedagogical strategies and theories and techniques, is always Love.

And the Third Circle is the Heart
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

“The eye is the first circle, the horizon which it forms is the second: and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The heart, too, is a circle,
the horizon expanding to infinity
or contracting into a small black hole.

The round bud of the heart
opens, the radius expanding.

The work, you say, is to keep opening,
casting that radius wider
at every turn of the wheel,
to hold everything within its protective arc,
the bright flowers and the white-hot stones.

When I begin to say
that I am you and you are I
then the pain that you wear
must wound me too.

This is the work,
to widen that horizon that lies within
to hold the world, if we must.

This is the burden
we choose
to carry:

To be watchers,
weight-bearers,
to inwardly transmute
these stones we are given to bear
into gems of great value.

To keep soft,
to let the ego
slip down
into a weightless place.

Speak your story.
Let it fall like a stone
into the quiet pool of my heart.
The circles expand out and outward,
not matter but pure energy,
more doors opening.

I see you.
I feel you.
I know you.
I recognize myself in you.

These are the doors we step into.
These are the circles we enter.

Namaste.


Gratitude List:
1. Collegiality
2. Stepping out of my comfort zone
3. Wise mentors
4. Listening
5. Being heard

May we walk in Beauty!