“The Dwarfs Are for the Dwarfs”

Re-reading Lewis’s Narnia series is a struggle for me today. There are thealogical implications and structures that make me cringe, and racist and xenophobic stereotypes that offend me deeply. Still, often when I am trying to sift meaning out of events and experience, Lewis’s analogies appear into my consciousness to help me make narrative sense of what seems to be senseless. I know I have used this analogy before, have written about the bone-headed refusal of the dwarfs in The Last Battle to See the new reality, to engage with the truth of what was right in front of their faces, because they simply could not accept the truth that their eyes presented to them, but so often these days, I see similar intellectual acrobats who are unable to make sense of the reality they face because they cannot find their way out of the reality they have created for themselves.

In The Last Battle, at the moment of the very end of the world, everyone enters the door of the shack, expecting to see Aslan or his opposite (serious thealogical cringe). When the dwarfs enter, all they see is the dark interior of the shack. With the sounds of thousands rushing past them into eternity, the dwarfs sit down in a circle and talk amongst themselves about how deluded everyone else is, how everyone else has allowed their imaginations to run away with them. Griffle and his friends cannot see the reality that is in front of their faces because they have created a reality that they refuse to interrogate, and so they are stuck in the shack.

All along the way, the dwarfs, clannish and tribal, can only see the interests of themselves and those like them. Lewis gives them more range than he does his specifically evil characters. You’re allowed to like them, to wish–along with the children and Prince Tirian–that they would let themselves See beyond the structures of reality that they have created. But in the end, they’re imprisoned–as Aslan points out–by their own false reality.

I keep thinking of the dwarfs these days as I read bits and pieces of the rants from people who believe this virus is a hoax meant to line the pockets of Bill Gates and his cronies. They’ll give you web sites and articles and Youtube videos that explain how the virus is really not a thing, how it’s played up by Big Pharma because: insert merger here, only old and weak people are dying [really, I am still hearing this], Bill Gates, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. . . They write whole essays in the social media threads. They sound like college professors. Or the Unibomber. Or evangelists. They’re the mansplainer of mansplainers, although some of them are women. They will explain to you in great detail how none of this is happening, how some nebulous cabal has created this whole thing in order to rule the world [cue super-villain laughter]. They’re not going to be fooled again, they tell you.

You must think we’re blooming soft in the head, that you must,” said Griffle. “We’ve been taken in once and now you expect us to be taken in again the next minute.

(The Last Battle)

Instead of the shaggy golden face of Aslan, however, the image we behold in the space we have entered today is a life-threatening virus, and it’s overwhelming hospitals and taking lives at an increasingly rapid pace. And for some unfathomable reason the maskless masses continue to sit in their circle saying, “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs,” refusing to see the danger that is right in front of their faces. I too have little faith that the pharmaceutical companies have more interest in public health than in their own wealth and power. I don’t believe that corporations are capable of basic altruism. Still, the global goal at this point is to eradicate this virus to the greatest extent possible, and public health requires a vaccine, requires mitigation efforts. Please don’t sit in the circle with Griffle and Diggle and their friends, denying the reality of what is around you.


Gratitudes:
1. Belonging: This is something I wrote in previous years, but still rings true today–
“I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.”
2. Birdwatching at our little feeder station. There’s a whole family of red-bellied woodpeckers, along with the newly-arrived flock of juncos, titmouses (titmice?) and nuthatches, chickadees, goldfinches, sparrows, doves, downies, cardinals, a blue jay, and several fat squirrels.
3. How physically cleaning a space seems to create inner space. I need the creative jumble of clutter, but putting it neatly away also makes creative spaces.
4. My mother’s old Singer sewing machine. I have been putting it to great use lately, making what my friend Kris calls Frankendresses–I love that term.
5. This web of loving hearts. Thanks for being part of it all. Cast a line to someone today. Let’s make a glorious net, a new thing, a hopeful future.

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


“Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks. And that’s ok, that’s ok, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing.” —Ijeoma Umebinyuo


“No matter where we are, the ground between us will always be sacred ground.“ —Fr. Henri Nouwen


“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.” —Gretel Ehrlich


“‪The fact that these words and the jumble of lines that create their letters has no real, inherent meaning outside of a human context, yet they hum with life, is a wonderful reminder that what we imagine can easily become real and powerful simply because we decide it should be so.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Writing at the library. Surrounded by thousands of books, windows into other minds. Some of these writers are living. Some are not. Neatly ordered rectangles of concentrated human life and intellect. A book is certainly a kind of ghost and libraries are pleasantly haunted places.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“The beauty of the world…has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” —Virginia Woolf


I know nothing, except what everyone knows —
If there when Grace dances, I should dance.
—W.H. Auden


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint

Open-Hearted Curiosity

Yesterday, I watched that new Mark Rober video that everyone has been passing around the internet, in which he completely overengineers an anti-squirrel bird feeder, creating a ninja-warrior course and making friends with his team of squirrel subjects in the process. He learned things. The squirrels learned things. Everybody evolved.

I’m a fan of Mark Rober. I think he models open-hearted curiosity. He began the process in frustration: The squirrels, no matter what little modifications he made to his bird feeder, always won. He played the next step in the process as an attempt to outwit the squirrels, but by that point, his curiosity had already taken over. He was no longer really concerned about beating the squirrels. He realized that he had an opportunity on his hands here to explore something. Already his vision and his attention and his perspective had evolved.

(You have to watch the video. Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this video. Further note: You just may come away with a deeper appreciation of the animal life in your neighborhood.)

Watching the video brought into sharper focus for me something I believe, but haven’t explored very thoroughly in words, that open-hearted curiosity is at the heart of learning, and is a primary step in evolutionary processes. Lately, I’ve been hyper-focused on the way disruptions and challenges sprk evolution and transformation and change. We get pushed out of our easy status quo and we must adapt or flounder. So we adapt, sometimes kicking and screaming and lashing out at our neighbors who are having BBQs or our neighbors who urge everyone to be cautious and wear a mask.

How can I approach the frustrations and inconveniences, and even deep anxieties, of this experience with a more open-hearted and curious frame of mind? People aren’t squirrels, of course, but are there ways that we can engage each other more playfully that might bring about learning and evolution for all of us? I think we’re in a place–nationally and globally–where we have to evolve, and evolve quickly. If we can begin to approach the challenges with a greater sense of curiosity, hearts open to whatever possibilities the future holds, perhaps we can find our way through.


Gratitude List:
1. Sometimes my gratitude list becomes a little like a bird-watcher’s log, but here is a Big Joy from yesterday: On our walk yesterday morning, Jon and I saw a flock of cedar waxwings. Later, we saw them again, in the walnut tree by the barn. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen them in the hollow, but it’s been a long time. They’re so dapper and elegant, both in their coloring and their way of flying. It made me wish we had more early-fruiting berries.
2. Taking stock, and finding my way through a couple thorny things. I need to listen carefully to my own advice about curiosity and approach a couple of my current personal challenges less like a slog, and more like an interesting challenge. Can she do it? Can she make her way through the obstacle course of Issue X without falling? When she falls, can she get up again? It’s just good to have a plan.
3. Curiosity
4. Adapting, changing, evolving, transforming
5. The little joys that people share. It keeps everyone’s hearts softer and more open.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Let this be a voice for the mountains
Let this be a voice for the river
Let this be a voice for the forest
Let this be a voice for the flowers
Let this be a voice for the ocean
Let this be a voice for the desert
Let this be a voice for the children
Let this be a voice for the dreamers
Let this be a voice of no regret” —John Denver


“Just as we are taught that our universe is constantly expanding out into space at enormous speeds, so too our imagination must expand as we search for the knowledge that will in its turn expand into wisdom, and from wisdom into truth.” —Madeline L’Engle

Wish You Were Here!

When this is all over, I wonder how it will have affected my teaching? I try to create a student-centered classroom, and I think my normal (non-Exile) classroom is very student-focused, but I still found myself spending a lot of time as the sage on the stage. But now, in the past week and a half, I have probably erred on the side of not enough teaching, and more on project-style instruction. I am working toward finding a balance. I hope that as I travel this new pedagogical pathway I can integrate old and new aspects of my teaching self. Maybe, hopefully, I will come out of this a better teacher.

How are you faring in your new rhythms? Are you able to consider that the new ways of doing things in this time-out-of-time might actually improve your understanding of yourself? It’s okay if you feel like you are in a holding pattern, or like you’re losing ground. Or if you’re back and forth (truth be told, that’s a more accurate picture of my status–it’s just that morning brings a clarity that is not always completely present for me all day).

My heart is with you, who must still go out daily to do essential jobs for the good of the community. May your immune system be as strong as your good heart.

My heart is with you, who have been laid off, or who will be laid off. May you find a settled place within, to face the uncertainty of these days. May help come soon.

My heart is with you, who live alone in Exile. May you find alternate ways to do community, from a safe distance.

My heart is with you, who suddenly have two or more overwhelming jobs: working from home or out in the community, and still supervising your children’s schooling, or caring for the emotional needs of family members and beloveds. May you find rest and may you settle into the new rhythms with grace. You are doing enough. You are enough.


Gratitude List:
1. The birthday bush (I thought tree, but I have been corrected by the soon-to-be-birthday-boy) survived the night. Before we went to bed, I repeatedly reminded the cats that it was their responsibility to protect the tree from goblins in the night. They’re less likely to destroy something (like sleep or a birthday bush) if they have been charged with its protection.
2. I realized yesterday that I will likely be home this year when Oriole returns. My heart rises in anticipation. To sit on the porch all day and listen to him calling in his beloved is one of my great joys.
3. Yesterday, I managed to keep up with the minute-by-minute work as well as catch up significantly on pre-Friday-the-13th work. I am feeling more on top of things, school-wise, than I have felt since the beginning of the semester. Now if only I can try to end my school day at 5 today, then I will be golden.
4. The way humans rise to a crisis. And I know not all humans are rising. But the regular people, often those with the most to lose, have been settling in and creating community, reaching out, looking after each other. I really do love humans.
5. The bird feeders. If I go back to teaching in my physical school building this spring, I am going to have to figure out how to set up some bird feeders on the roof outside my windows. It brings me such great joy to watch the birds.

Take care of each other!

This morning my grandmother is teaching me
that the easiest (and most elegant) way to defeat an army of hatred,
is to sing it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees and surrenders.

It will do this, she says, because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found heaven.
It has found HOZHO.
—Lyla Johnston


“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…” —Aldous Huxley


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” —Anaïs Nin


“What a miracle to be awake inside your breathing!” —Hildegard of Bingen


Definition of Weald: wild, forested lands, uncultivated regions


“Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” —Archibald Macleish


“This poem is not housebroken.” —Anne Haines


*I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” —Joan Didion


“Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.” —John O’Donohue

If you have never read Toko-pa Turner’s work, begin by buying her book Belonging. It will be a comforting and enlightening companion for your Exile.

He Said. She Said.

“Why would he lie?”
That’s what Chris Matthews asked Elizabeth Warren this week about the numerous accusations against Mike Bloomberg and his company over the years: sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexist and harassing comments that contribute to a hostile workplace. Anna North, in an article in Vox, refers to at least 65 women making accusations against Bloomberg and his company in about 40 cases.

“Why would he lie?” Matthews asked Warren about Bloomberg’s denials that he had told one pregnant employee to “kill it.”

“And why would she lie?” rejoins Warren. “That’s the question, Chris. Why would you assume. . .?” And then he interrupts her.

He said. She said. Why would you believe her? Why would you believe him? He’s innocent until proven guilty. Bloomberg, with his dozens of non-disclosure agreements with women. The president, with twenty-seven accusations of sexual assault. Kavanaugh, with his three accusers, one at a public confirmation hearing. Why would you believe her? Why would you believe them?

And that’s just it. The women’s stories are always accusations. Always awaiting that adjective: credible. Always waiting to be proven, always a likely or possible lie, until proven. Sexual assault. Sexual innuendos and crude talk that create hostile and unsafe environments. Pregnancy discrimination. She has to prove he did it, said it, suggested it, made it unsafe. And he is always innocent until he is proven guilty, and until then, she is a liar. She is guilty. Guilty of lying until she can prove he’s the liar.

And he is (usually) white. And he is powerful. And he is male. He is (often) wealthy. He is the default for all the power dynamics: for truth and believability, for threatening posturing, for the pay-off.

Innocence until guilt is proven is an important tool in our legal process. In an ideal world, you are protected from conviction without strong proof of your guilt. It’s backbone, foundation, bedrock.

So what do you need in order to prove guilt? Tears? Hidden cameras? Secret recordings? Semen? Blood? Twenty-seven women coming forward with similar stories? (I’m looking at you, Mr. President.) How many women’s truths does it take to outweigh one rich man’s lie? What is the tipping point when we suddenly stop seeing Cosby, America’s dad, and start conceiving the possibility of Cosby, sexual predator? How do we go from Bloomberg or Trump, wealthy and powerful political leaders, to sexual harasser and sexual predator?

What does it take to believe the woman in the story? Why would you believe her? Why would you believe him? She is the accuser. Always. She is always the accuser in the story, and so her burden is proof.

In the secret stories that women and girls tell each other, he has groomed her for silence, or intimidated her to silence. He has gaslighted her until she can no longer separate his false reality from her truth. He has stepped over so many boundaries with such deadly skill that she no longer knows where the first boundary lay. He has paid for her silence. He has cajoled, intimidated, forced her to sign the non-disclosure agreement. He has told her the devastating truth that no one will believe her anyway.

I am not necessarily advocating for the elimination of innocence until guilt is proven. It’s foundational to our understanding of legal justice in this country. But I think that there is something terribly broken about the way we use it. It privileges the powerful, the wealthy, the white man, the abuser; it makes eternally possible Chris Matthews’ question: “What would you believe her?” It is a cloak behind which the rapist, the predator, the hateful misogynist boss can hide, with a fair degree of certainty that no one will believe her anyway.


Gratitude List (Beauties I See on Saturday Morning):
Saturday mornings are for birding-watching from the kitchen table.
1. That cardinal is the purest scarlet I may have ever seen.
2. A flock of goldfinches has claimed the thistle sock. They’re beginning to glow gold around the edges, gold shining through the olive, leaking onto their wings. They look so delicate and faerie-like next to the muscular house finch who has zipped in to share the thistle.
3. I heard the doves call this morning. Haunting.
4. The ground under the feeder seems to be alive until you let your eyes focus on the little flock of sparrows, juncoes, and doves feeding.
5. Something in me flies, too. Something sings. Something rises in the cool dawn.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Have a White Rose

Munich, 1942: The year before they were arrested and beheaded for writing and disseminating anti-Nazi pamphlets. Left to Right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst.

The called themselves The White Rose. A group of young people, propelled by their deep desire for justice, their faith, their profound belief in doing what it right. They began writing pamphlets, an underground newspaper of sorts, detailing the reasons for their resistance against Hitler and the Nazis, and leaving them around their university and town for people to find and read.

Three of them, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst, were arrested on February 18, 1943, and sent to the guillotine on February 22, less than a week later. They were all under the age of 25. At the trial before their execution, Sophie appeared with a broken leg, apparently sustained during torture. The defendants were not given a chance to speak, but Sophie called out: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!”

On the back of the indictment that pronounced her death sentence, Sophie wrote, “Freedom!”

Her last words, apparently recorded by a guard present at her execution, were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Read more about the story of the White Rose here.

This poem inspired the name of the White Rose (Die Weiße Rose):

I Have a White Rose to Tend (Verse XXXIX)
by José Martí

I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.

CULTIVO UNA ROSA BLANCA… (Verso XXXIX)

Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.


Gratitude List:
1. How my students are present for each other. Yesterday, two in particular ministered (I just can’t think of a word that says it more clearly) to another student who was in pain. Natural, appropriate, immediate responses. The kids are all right.
2. Black History Month Chapel at my school yesterday. These young folks are educators, incredible teachers, wise souls. I’m so proud to know them.
3. All the birds! Yesterday as I was walking out of school, a group of nuthatches were angrily scolding in the maple tree at the corner of the parking lot (nyerk! nyerk! nyerk!). I noticed that they were hollering at a robin. Looking closer, I saw a junco sitting on a branch next to the robin. Then a downy woodpecker began shimmying up the main branch, and in front of her, a bluebird was murmuring along with the nuthatch racket. All in one tree! That was incredibly amazing in itself, but. . .
4. . . .just at the moment, the two people on campus that I knew would appreciate such a sight happened to come along, from two different directions. One a teacher and one a student. So I could share the amazing sight immediately with people who also experienced the wonder.
5. Speaking of birds, there’s a glorious red-bellied woodpecker out there right now chipping away at the suet block.
6. The examples of so many people of courage: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, John Lewis (whose birthday was yesterday), you.

May we walk in Beauty! So much Beauty!

Twelvenight: Happy New Year!

The Fool rides a dragonfly.

On this day when everyone’s attempting to solve and re-solve their solutions, to resolve their resolutions, to tend to their intentions, I’m still waiting on a word. I watch my dreams and inner questions until the shining sixth, Epiphany, until the kings come. Wise ones. Mages. The light pours in on Epiphany and wisdom comes to the house.

It doesn’t really matter which day you embark on the journey. It only matters that you take it. Today we stand with Janus in his doorway, looking back and looking forward. With the double-faced god beside us, we can simultaneously look behind to the road that has brought us here, and ahead to the road we’re soon to take.

How could I live the coming year without that knowledge of the shadow that travels behind me, the road I walked to get here, the person I have been? It’s so easy, when we turn over a new leaf marking a new season in our lives, to simply yank the leaf from its twig, but the what-will-be is built upon the what-was. The new self which is emerging only arrived at this doorway on the persistent legs of the self which brought me here.

Whether you are waiting, like me, for Wisdom to come on Epiphany, or whether you step away from the door this morning to begin the journey of the year, this is the season of the set intention, the forward-moving affirmation. This is the time of the tabula rasa, the blank page upon which you can write whatever you choose.

Do you have a resolution for the coming year? A re-solution, perhaps, to an old and persistent problem?
Or perhaps you need this official moment to end a habit that has you in a rut? Or to begin a new one that will get you traveling a more liberating and exciting road than the one you’ve become accustomed to walking?
Many people I know prefer to call it an intention rather than a resolution. Perhaps an unachieved intention sounds less like a broken promise than an unsolved resolution.

The road to February is littered with broken resolutions and lost intentions, with holy words discarded and new habits jettisoned as old habits creep from the undergrowth and reattach themselves. I don’t think this means we shouldn’t set intentions or resolutions. Perhaps we need to set the intention and then set a second intention: To tend the first. If I set the intention to get 7,000 steps a day, and I succeed for a week or two, but then fall away, I will have had a less sedentary week or two. That’s a good thing. The idea, then, is to come back to it. Perhaps 7,000 is too much to ask, amid all the other things I need to accomplish. So maybe I re-set my intention and say 5,000 steps a day during the weekday, and 7,000 on weekends. And I try again, with fresh will and determination. After all, February first is another new beginning.

And I think we need to take great care in the intentions we set. If I decide that I don’t like the way I look these days, so I am going to whip my body into shape by diet and exercise, that’s a punishing resolution. My body is going to rebel, and the deep-self is going to feel attacked. But the fact is that for my whole life, I have needed to keep re-setting the intention to move more, and to maintain a healthier balance of the foods I eat. I don’t believe in self-denial. I will never entirely give up chocolate or ice cream or cookies, because then I am bound for failure. But I can probably re-set some of my boundaries with the sweet things. Slow down and savor.

Now there’s a good intention for experiencing life in 2020: Slow down and savor.

In the coming year, may you be kind to yourself. May you set reasonable goals that help you meet with success and fulfillment. May you bring out the best you, informed by all the versions of yourself that you have been. May you not jettison old versions of yourself along the trail behind you, but transform yourself in ways that acknowledge all the work you’ve done to get here.


Blessing for the New Year
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

May you be born
fresh and shining
into the new year
and may the old you
continue, too,
a thread that ties you
to past versions
of your truest self,
for we need to be
constantly reborn
while we hold a deep sense
of the shape we create
in the universe.


Gratitude List:
1. All the birdlife of yesterday! It felt like we were in a legend. Suddenly, after weeks of very little bird activity, there were birds everywhere: bluebirds on the wires, finches and sparrows at the feeders with juncoes and mourning doves catching the windfall below, woodpeckers rowing through the space between trees. On the road, flocks of little birds schooled from grove to grove of roadside trees. Vultures, and maybe an eagle, hung in the updrafts above the Susquehanna. And a kingfisher chattered on Fishing Creek.
2. A good, hard hike/climb on the Mason-Dixon Trail south of Long Level. The trail rises above the river on a steep rocky ridge climb, and you’re on a dragon’s back of up-jutting rocks for a quarter mile or more, the river flowing wide like a lake on your left, and Fishing Creek rushing rapidly down the steep ravine to your right.
3. The hike reminded me of the moment in Prince Caspian when the children and Trumpkin are walking along the gorge, trying to find their way, and Aslan appears to Lucy. She must make a choice to follow him rather than going the way the others are going. She knows what is right, and she must follow that way, even when the others mock her for seeing things they cannot see. Even though he doesn’t say it at that moment in that book, I still heard him say, “Courage, Dear Heart” as we picked our way along the stony pathway. I’ll take that with me into the New Year.
4. We meant to go to Infinito’s for their pizza bar for supper last night, but they had closed early for the holiday. Instead, we went next door to Asian Yummy, and it was beautiful as well as yummy.
5. Again, as I feel the sadness and loss of these long mornings for writing and thinking, I can only be grateful for the gift of them in this Time out of Time. While I have not made headway on any projects in particular, I have stretched my writing/thinking muscles on the blog, and it has been satisfying and fortifying.

May we walk in Beauty!


Last January, I had repeated visitations from kingfisher, in waking life, in dreams, in conversations, in books. I chose kingfisher as one of my symbols for the year. Yesterday, as we were finishing our hike, climbing down the ridge toward Fishing Creek, where it moves slowly in deep pools before rushing down the ravine, we heard a kingfisher chattering in the hollow, over and over again. When I got home, inspired by a friend who is writing Shadormas, I wrote this two-stanza shadorma (3/5/3/3/7/5):

Kingfisher,
who visited me
at the start
of the year
chattered farewell to the year
this cold afternoon.

And vulture
floated like eagle
through currents
o’er the ridge
while last year’s waters flowed down
the Susquehanna.


Dreamwork:
I don’t have much to say about last night’s busy anxiety dreams. In the dream, there is some sort of educational conference going on. It is both at my school, and not at my school. I go into a room, meaning to climb the stairs and go up a few floors, but it’s kind of Escher-like in design. I climb a flight of stair, walk along a landing, and the next flight leads down again into the same room, though I don’t really remember stepping down. Someone tells me I need to find the secret door on the landing. After that it’s possible to find stairs that go up, but each leads to an identical room with the same weird stair situation.

At one point, my colleagues are walking through my bedroom, and I say, “It wouldn’t be so bad if I felt this tired at the end of the day, but I feel like this right after waking up!”

Another of my colleagues, who retired a few years ago, is there, and he has brought his pet echidna. It’s really quite curious and adorable. It keeps sort of morphing into a puppy.

Perhaps I do need to pay attention to the exhaustion bit in here, and the confusion of stairs.

Wind and Windows

Gratitude List:
1. The satisfying pinkish shine of a well-scrubbed copper-bottomed pot.
2. The clucks and buzzes and twitterings of the people in the bushes on the late migration south.
3. Rain and wind. I love storminess. I remember when Miss Gehman showed us the Olivier version of King Lear in high school Shakespeare class–It was the storm that sold me, the King and his Fool out in the storm.
4. There really are windows everywhere. You just need to know how to look. Sometimes when life is intense, it’s just hard to see them.
5. The urgency of Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier and their cohort.

May we walk in Beauty!

Loosening Winter’s Grip

Has it been worse this year? I think it’s been worse. The dullness, the bone-weariness, the loss of zip and vim. The sleepiness compounded by insomnia, anxiety-ridden, with sudden nighttime joltings-awake. The Wintertime nightbird sitting on the chest, crying, “Shame! Loss! Devastation! Rage! Woe!” The burden. The Burden.

Winter is an enormous, lumpy, grey gunny sack full of dirty laundry that I must carry around on my back. It gets heavier and heavier by the day. Some years, it’s an act of sheer, daily endurance to make it through. There’s no extra energy to look around and see just how grey it’s all become. I just have to plod forward into the mist.

There are momentary compensations—shining blue days when sun sparkles on ice and snow, sky-heavy days when snowflakes whirl and dance through the air. Yes, momentary compensations. Breaks in the clouded heaviness. Few and far between. Just enough to keep me trudging in the direction of that pinprick of light in the far distance ahead.

And then the light begins to creep back in. The momentary compensations begin to string themselves together like shining beads. People like me, the ones who’ve been caught in Winter’s steely grey net—we lift our heads like small creatures catching a new scent on the breeze. We feel the wind in our whiskers, smell the freshness of the air, and catch a flashing glimpse of yellow aconite or blue-violet crocus.

We’ve still got a bit of a trudge until we can lay down the burden of Winter and roll in the warm grass of Spring, but knowing that the end is in sight makes the Burden lighter. It’s one of those things, for me, where I don’t know quite how bad it is until I’m coming through the other side. When you’re focused on the endurance, you don’t stop to wonder if this time around is worse than the last one. You just put the next foot forward.

And now, I have those shiny beads: earlier sun in the mornings, the aconite slipping out of the mud of the garden, the birds of morning singing their Springtime songs, the geese, the swans, the caress of warmth in the afternoon air.


Gratitude List:
1. Morning birdsong and the Hope of Spring
2. The fun of the Youth Group Auction, a night when we all come together to support the young people.
3. This kid here at the table next to me, carefully and deliberately putting together his new Ertl tractor model, which he got at the auction. He gets frustrated and stops, saying he can’t do it. Then his curiosity and will overcome his frustration, and he gets back to it, solving the problems that seemed insurmountable. (Hmm. I think I am telling myself a story to live by.)
4. Magical conversations. Not simply deep and thoughtful, but full of synchronicities that fill the air of the room like a humming web. Like it’s the two of you talking, and then maybe fairies or angels joining in, the Great Mystery guiding the stories and images.
5. Watching these children grow. Sometimes, I am sad that the babies are gone, gone, gone. But they are Becoming so delightfully themselves. Yesterday, the dentist removed a baby molar from Child 1, to make room for the big tooth coming in. It was his last baby tooth. Another step toward adulthood.

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Sunday Meditation:

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.” —Hildegard of Bingen


“Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.” ―J.K. Rowling


“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation.” —Nikola Tesla


“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”
― Rabindranath Tagore


“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee


“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.” ―Sophie Scholl


“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ―Gilda Radner


“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” —Anne Lamott


“And these children that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ―David Bowie


“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you. . .where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” —Adrienne Rich


“Justice is what love looks like in public.” —Dr. Cornel West


“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
―Elie Wiesel


“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation―either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.


“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life―meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa



Tabula Rasa, Sort of

I’m not quite sure what that white rectangle is down on the lower right, 
but it seems to be the blank page.

One thing I love about being part of The Academy (I like the pompous sound of that, more than “school system”) is that twice a year I get a fresh start. No matter how badly I feel about myself at the end of a semester, there’s always a fresh, uncharted page coming up, and I can write myself onto that page as solidly and competently as I possible. There’s a hopefulness, a sense of lightness and release. Maybe I can do this, after all. After the slog at the end of the semester, suddenly, there’s a burning fire of creative juices, and a little chorus of inner voices, saying, “You can do this thing!”

Some semesters are harder than others, and this past semester got caught up in the grind of my slip into the year’s shadow. It was harder this year than it has been for a long time. So there’s a soberness to the creative fires that are sparking for the new page before me. And I still have all that work to finish up from last semester. Still, I love the bright shine of that empty page ahead, stretching out before me like the fields of snow I woke up to this morning.


Gratitude List:
1. The beautiful singers at my school. They’re so brave, these young people who get up on stage to perform for their whole school. I am grateful for my colleagues in the music department who offer our kids such a powerful music education. I have tried not to push my own child into the music classes–I want him to be free to take whatever he wants, to explore all his interests–so I am really delighted that he is taking chorus and two different bands this semester.
2. This week’s birds: kestrel hovering, vultures everywhere (as usual), two bald eagles, blue heron, owls calling in the bosque, and crows and geese winging across the sunrise skies. My soul is stirring, too.
3. Tabula Rasa. The fresh page.
4. Snow.
5. The magic of air filling lungs. I listened to a Shakespeare scholar talk this week about how a line of iambic pentameter is just the right number of beats to fill the human lungs. I might have to start reading Shakespeare sonnets to wake up in the mornings.

May we walk in Beauty on the Fresh Page of Today.


“This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .

Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost


“I am always doing what I cannot do yet
in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney


“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman


“‎The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou


“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)


“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
Re-examine all you have been told
at school or church or in any book;
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
—Walt Whitman


“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.

“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich