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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
To be watchers,
to inwardly transmute
these stones we are given to bear
into gems of great value.
To keep soft,
to let the ego
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.
2. Stepping out of my comfort zone
3. Wise mentors
5. Being heard
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” —Coretta Scott King
“If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.” —Gospel of Thomas
“If a child is to keep alive [her] inborn sense of wonder, [she] needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with [her] the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
“The ultimate measure of a person is not where [he/she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [she/he] stands at times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The weight of the world is love.
Under the burden of solitude,
under the burden of dissatisfaction
the weight, the weight we carry is love.”
“What have you done for color?”
“Beauty is whatever gives joy.”
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” —Rachel Carson
with tender ferocity
and ingenious empathy
and wild compassion”
Have you caught the rustle of wings
as the train rushes through,
hardly slowly to stop at the station?
Have you felt the breath in your ear
as the quiet sun leaps from the ridge
and touches your face like a lover?
Have you noticed the shadow that darts
just at the edge of your vision
as the river flows with purpose
under your ancient bridge?
And suddenly, before you–
before you can take another breath,
the madness is upon you,
the craving has taken you,
the pen is in your hand,
the words glow and bleed
beneath your fingers.
“Dreams make the inner life substantial, giving it dimensionality, colour and form. Ritual is the further enfleshment of the unseen; a way of feeding that which is nourishing you so that your living conversation with the holy in nature grows in strength and vocabulary.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
Gratitude List: 1. Snow sure is pretty
2. By hook or by crook, I am ready for the new semester to start today. Now if only I can find a few hours to finish up last semester’s grading. . .
3. I’m getting a whiteboard in my room, which will be nice and easy. I will, however, miss the beauty of chalk work. I’m a secret chalk artist, and I do love to leave little drawings on my board. But the surface was really rapidly wearing away. The other sad thing is that one of my own high school memories of this room is of walking into the classroom and seeing the same green chalkboard filled with Mrs. Banks’s neat and beautiful cursive notes. There were some of us who sought to emulate her handwriting. The more notes, the better–we got more practice copying the beauty.
4. The way you can’t keep a group of English Teachers on a focused conversation because everything comes back to grammar and pedagogy.
5. Chocolate. You know how it helps Harry Potter recover from the dementor attacks? Yeah.
I will notice beauty
all around me.
I will bless
the passage of a bird across the sky.
I will create one thing of Beauty.
I will elevate my speech.
I will be the one in the room
who speaks up
when men of power
turn the conversation
from the human course.
I will do battle with the big lie.
Doing battle with the big lie is a phrase that came to me in a dream a few weeks ago. Somehow it has been trailing me these past few days, knocking on my consciousness. What is the Big Lie? How do we battle it? Certainly in these days, the Big Lie is about white supremacy, about cultural and national superiority/inferiority.
May we all, on this MLK Day, commit to acts that strengthen our communities, that speak Truth to the lies. May we all increase our own work in our own circles to dismantle the system of white supremacy that continues to cripple our nation.
Quotations for MLK Monday:
“Beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.” —Oscar Wilde (thanks to Ranita Hurst)
“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”
Variation on a Theme by Rilke (from Denise Levertov)
A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me—a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
(thanks to Karen Salyer McElmurray)
“Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying.” —Terry Pratchett (thanks to Craig Sottolano)
Gratitude List: 1. The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and all those who fought with him. We clearly have much work to do.
2. Beloved Community, in all its forms and variations. May we become ever more conscious of our connections.
3. This day. This hour. This moment.
4. This silence. My brain needs this silence.
5. Magic/prayer/intention: whatever it is that we place into the hands of the Great Mystery. Right now on my plate, it is an all-out call to stop the harm, to halt the destruction, to protect the vulnerable.
Today’s Prompt is to write a love and/or anti-love poem.
To Love the Monsters
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
I have been going on the assumption
that it is the calling of my soul
to love the ones I want to hate,
to find a way to live with heart so open
that I cannot help but part the veils
of rage and fury that encompass me
to see the tender shoots of something
human that lives within the monsters.
I have begun to doubt the truth of the call,
uncertain whether I possess the character
to turn calling to possibility.
Yet something deep within me knows
that this is the deeper truth:
that hate breeds hate and love breeds love,
and I get to choose which one to grow.
Gratitude List: 1. Putting together a chapbook
2. Making little booklets with the staff of Silhouette today
3. The monsters do not define us
5. Reading The Phantom Tollbooth with Joss