During the Time of the Exile for the Good of the Realm

Yesterday’s walk: The green hill to the right of the photo is the end of the currently-unused landing strip for our former neighbors’ ultra-light. Just to the left of that, in the break between the trees, is the path onto Goldfinch Farm, down into the holler to home. The green path ahead of me (to the left) winds through the neighbor’s ridge-top fields to their farm. I like to walk partway down those fields and back.

I suppose that technically our self-isolation begins today. No church tomorrow. No school for two weeks. Someone whose handle is @Sarkor posted a lovely social media thing yesterday, encouraging people to think of it not as “self-isolation” but as “Exile for the Good of the Realm.” I am taking that on with gusto, while also keeping an awareness that for many people this is an extremely difficult time.

Now is the time to keep our eyes on our neighbors, to check in with working people whose children must stay home, to check in with elders who will be even more isolated. Such care we must take in these days, such deliberation. We wash our hands and we meditate on hope and on goodness. We check in with those for whom this exile is costly, and we wash our hands again.

My up-the-road neighbor works in healthcare. Maybe I will wash my hands and bake her some break this week and leave it at her door. What about our neighbors whose livelihoods depend on People Showing Up? I was glad to hear one of the speakers in the PA governor’s address yesterday talk about buying gift cards from local small businesses to use when we’re back out in society. Also, we need to eat. We will wash our hands and get as much of our needs from Flinchbaugh’s and Sue’s, the local farmer’s market and small grocery, in the coming days, and to Jillybeans Sweet Shop, a marvelous little bakery in Wrightsville. And then we will wash our hands. I might wash my hands and go get a coffee at The Cycle Works’ coffee shop. I’ll maintain exile and precautions as much as possible, while doing my best to support those around me who depend on People Showing Up.

Also, let’s use this time to make our social media spaces places where people can feel connected and involved, places where we can help each other through our isolation and distance. Let’s share photos and poetry and stories. Let’s manage our anxiety so that we can express our worries without Feeding the Fears. That’s easier for me to say this morning than last night, when I was comparing my feelings of direness to the way I felt on 9/11. That’s a little how it felt: out-of-body unsettled. Let’s keep connecting to the deeper rivers of joy and satisfaction and memory and gratitude that carry us through difficult times, and let’s help each other find those rivers.

And here, on the farm, I will relish the introverted time, the time with the boys, the burgeoning spring, the cat cuddles, the sunrise and the birds calling. As someone who gets wobbly and rudderless without a schedule, the promise of daily school tasks in this work-at-home environment is a welcome diversion. Last night, we saw a daily schedule someone had made for student-people during the Exile. My younger son immediately constructed his own. I am going to make my own, looser, schedule, to include several hours of focused academic work, time exercising and being outside, time for art and making things, tidying time, limits for myself on screen time (while also giving myself a bigger breathing space for blogging/writing).

If you, too, are in Exile for the Good of the Realm, I wish you peace, joyful contemplation, productive work, and moments of satisfying connection with others through computer or phone. Let’s look out for each other. If it gets to be too much, reach out to someone. (If we’re not friends on Facebook, you can look me up there, and check in–I’ll give you a virtual high five and we can help each other to breathe through this.)


Gratitude List:
1. GREEN! The chickweed is up and vibrantly glowing with green life force. The highway medians and fields are shining with verdancy.
2. Blue: The speedwell is up, and parts of the yard are carpeted in blue. And the sky is the shade of a robin’s egg.
3. Coming to Terms. I acknowledge my anxiety. It sits there in the room like a large bear waiting to be acknowledged. (Welcome, Friend. Let’s get to know each other while we are here together in Exile.) If I ignore it, my imagination makes it so much bigger and scarier, but if we sit and have coffee together, we can figure each other out a little bit. This is a time to practice living with that particular friend and learning how to recognize her.
4. While I recognize that this time is really challenging for many people, the truth of the matter is that two weeks of being at home on the farm with the kids and the cats while having structured work to do each day is close to ideal for me. I am grateful.
5. Puzzles. Last weekend after we had brunch at Cafe 301 to celebrate Jon’s birthday, we went down the street to the Re-Uzit shop, where Jon bought several little puzzles. We’ll enjoy putting them together over the next couple of weeks.

May we walk in Beauty! Be safe. Be well. Keep connected.

Brigid’s Day

Brigid’s Day is dawning, the indigo shifting to blue and grey over the southeastern hills. A strip of tangerine edges the horizon like a waking eye. From the porch, I heard a rooster from the Tome farm on the western rim of our little bowl of a hollow, and from the east, up in the brush and the treeline, I heard what must have been coyotes mumbling–not the loud yaps or howls, but friendly “look-what-I-founds” and “keep-together-now-kids.” The sound was closer to me than the dog kennel on the other sound of the ridge and it didn’t have the “help-I’ve-been-abandoned” sound of those residents.

This morning, groundhog will see her shadow or not, but spring is on its way. I do hope she slept late this morning, until the coyote family passed through.

Feel Earth stirring. Notice the kicking of the life that is growing this morning, the sap rising, the fresh breath of breeze. What new gestating thing is calling you into your wildness today? What is growing within you? How can you nourish and tend it within you until it grows to be ready for birth?

Blessed be your seeds, your fertile dreams, your deep awareness of that which will awaken, will bud, will sprout, will rise. Dream well. Plan big.


Gratitude List:
1. On Thursday evening, we saw sundogs on the way home from school–they were trying to become a halo, and they managed to be rainbow arcs on either side of the sun. I keep meaning to write them in a list.
2. Brigid’s morning. If you look deeply into the grey, you can see rich and watery blues.
3. Coconut shrimp for supper last night, with stir-fried zucchini, and butter pecan ice cream for dessert.
4. Creating the life I want.
5. All that is waiting to be born within me.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 6: Examining Shadows

Every year, I have to talk myself through this. I love darkness. I love the quiet and the rest, the comfort of enveloping night. And–

And the short days and long nights also fill me with a growing sense of panic, a sense of claustrophobia, as the night comes early and the dark lingers late into the mornings. I feel the panic rise, like it does when my clothes are too tight or I’m in a crowd, closed in on all sides by people, or when the seatbelt in the car pulls tight and won’t let go. It takes a conscious effort of will and a lot of self-talk to get myself back to the quiet space where I can sit in the darkness of early evening and remember how good it is to sit in the warm yellow glow of a lamp and feel the gentle arms of darkness around me.

So, here in the sixth passage of this labyrinth walk into December, I want to look into the shadows. Perhaps tomorrow, or another day, I will look into the more metaphorical shadows inside me (they make me claustrophobic, too), but yesterday I was caught up in looking at the blues and the indigos and violets that glow in the edges of the shadows and color the deeper areas. The under-shadow of the clouds was such a blue yesterday that I wondered if my eyes are developing a more acute sense of blue as they grow aged and fuzzy. The indigos beside the blue were richer, more lustrous. I think I know why the search for indigo has been a human obsession.

This morning, the shadows cast beyond the lamplight cross shadows falling through the archway to the kitchen. The lines between create distinct zones and areas, but try to look directly at the borders between light and shadow and doubled shadow, and suddenly the boundaries blur and disappear. Stare too long at the edges of a shadow and it starts to pulse and shift.

Without light, there is no shadow. Yesterday when I got home from work, I climbed onto the picnic table to catch a photo of the glorious shadows cast by the sycamore tree onto the red wall of the barn. The moment I raised my camera, a cloud slipped in front of the sun and the shadow was gone.

On today’s journey into winter, shall we explore the spaces between sun and shadow, consider the ways that light creates shadow, hone our noticing of color and line in the deepening shadows of winter?


Envisioning:
(On Sunday, Michelle asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)

Yesterday, One of my friends told me of a woman in a retirement center who greets each person she passes with, “God loves you.” This reminds me of a student of mine who would come into class every day with a high five and a “Make it a great day, Ms. Weaver-Kreider!” And of the students who always thank me as they are leaving class. And of the people who look others in the eye, and make the effort to make that powerful human contact for just a moment in the day. Loving interaction which in which we See each other–that’s my vision for today.

Welcome, November

This month, I am trying to re-arrange some of my daily practice in order to make more space for writing. I have had two books floating about in my brain for some time, but I can never seem to find the time to work on them, so I thought I would give my first morning moments to the process and see what happens. So far, in the last two days, in the moments before I wake up fully, my brain has grasped a piece of dream-flotsam, and wrangled it into an image or phrase which I have used to begin a dreamy piece of super-flash fiction.

Perhaps I’ll be able to fit these into one of the books. Meanwhile, I am following the Dreamcatcher to see what she offers me.

In the past six or eight years, I have missed very few November Poem-A-Day challenges with Poetic Asides blog. This new process feels a little solitary, even lonely. But it feels like I have stepped onto a pathway, in much the same way that my first forays into Poem-A-Day were steps on a poetic pathway.

Here’s another thing: This week, I opened a Bag of Longing to see what was inside. This one was the idea of getting an MFA. It’s been haunting the deep corners of my brain for some time now. I decided to look at it more closely and see what it might look like this week. It’s so easy to get excited about it, but it’s hard to justify adding debt to debt when we have projects on the farm that must be fed money, and when the first of the children has just entered high school and will be exploring college possibilities himself before we can even catch our breath. Shall I close this Bag and stuff it back into a corner before it starts to eat me? Or shall I let the creature inside it out to roam, hoping it can find its own way home?


Gratitude List:
1. The many varieties of orange
2. That bright scarlet leaf on the neighbors’ orange dogwood tree was actually a cardinal
3. One small person humming quietly to himself in the car last night on the way home from trick-or-treating in town
4. November means cats in the bed, and that’s wonderful, as long as they give each other space and don’t start hissing
5. New practices

May we walk in Beauty!

How the Beloved Enters

      

(I could have at least used the same fonts.)

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts for Tuesday:
“The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.
Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman
***
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ―Vincent Van Gogh
***
“Change is continuous on the seamless web,
Yet moments come like this one, when you feel
Upon your heart a signal to attend
The definite announcement of an end
Where one thing ceases and another starts;
When like the spider waiting on the web
You know the intricate dependencies
Spreading in secret through the fabric vast
Of heaven and earth, sending their messages
Ciphered in chemistry to all the kinds,
The whisper down the bloodstream: it is time.”
―Howard Nemerov
***
“One of the most exciting things for me about being in the freedom movement was discovering other people who were compelled by the Spirit at the heart of our organizing work, and who were also interested in the mysticism that can be nurtured in social justice activism. We experienced something extraordinary in the freedom movement, something that hinted at a tremendous potential for love and community and transformation that exists here in this scarred, spectacular country. For many of us, that “something” touched us in the deepest part of our selves and challenged us in ways both personal and political.” ―Rosemarie Freeney Harding, in “Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering”
***
“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.”
―Desmond Tutu
***
IT WORKS
“Would you come if someone called you
by the wrong name?
I wept, because for years He did not enter my arms:
then one night I was told a
secret:
Perhaps the name you call God is
not really His, maybe it
is just an
alias.
I thought about this, and came up with a pet name
for my Beloved I never mention
to others.
All I can say is―
it works.”
―Rabia of Batista
***
“The aim of education is to reveal an attainable image of self that is lovelier than that manifested in his or her present acts.” ―Nel Noddings

Seeking Blue


One of my ponderings, as I travel from place to place each day, is to meditate on the colors of blue, to try to identify various blues in the sky and the shadows. Even in my dreams, I am seeking blue, collecting moments of blue. In last night’s dream:

I am sitting on a grassy patch at the edge of a large parking lot, waiting for my friend who has gone to go collect some things from the car. There is a large smoky white cat purring on my lap. I am wearing a long blue dress, almost the color of Mary’s robes. My friend comes running up, her arms laden with packages, but she has one hand sort of free to hold a pair of binoculars.

“There!” she says, dropping her packages, and pointing down the hill behind me, where crowds of people are walking about. She focuses her binoculars. “You have to see it! She’s wearing the perfect blue!”

I look where she is pointing, and everyone is wearing blue, and some of them are exquisite. She tells me to look for a woman with a brown jacket on. And then I see it. Her dress is the perfect blue. It’s a little lighter than I have been imagining it, not quite as saturated as I have thought it would be. I wonder for a moment if the woman in the dress is Mary.


“Between us are vast distances, perhaps,
as vast as star to star and galaxy to galaxy,
or as blade of grass to blade of grass,
atom to atom–each space bridged
by gossamer web, threads of light and wind,
of prayer and dream, holding us together
with such beauty, with such insatiable desire
for the point of connection.”  ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?
How much have I put
on the line for freedom?
For mine and others?
As these freedoms are pared,
sliced and diced, where
have I spoken out? Who
have I tried to move?” ―Marge Piercy
*
“Before I am your daughter, your sister, your aunt, niece, or cousin, I am my own person, and I will not set fire to myself to keep you warm.” ―Hannah-Joy Robinson
*
“God is everywhere, but I have been in a lot of churches where God wasn’t really welcome.” ―found on FB
*
“People say you only live once. That’s incorrect. You only die once. You live every day.”  ―John Feal
*
“If we are to have a culture as resilient and competent in the face of necessity as it needs to be, then it must somehow involve within itself a ceremonious generosity toward the wilderness of natural force and instinct. The farm must yield a place to the forest, not as a wood lot, or even as a necessary agricultural principle but as a sacred grove – a place where the Creation is let alone, to serve as instruction, example, refuge; a place for people to go, free of work and presumption, to let themselves alone.” ―Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
*
In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


Gratitude List:
1. Whispers of fog caught like dreams in the trees of Flinchbaugh’s orchard.
2. The golden shift into autumn has begun to happen. There’s a diffuse golden quality to the light again, a way that the sun slants in, that I don’t experience as fully at any other moment in the year.
3. Sleep. This is big. Lately, my hips and shoulders always ache when I wake up, but it has been a long time since I have had a bout of insomnia. I hope I didn’t jinx this run by saying it. It’s really a big deal that, despite the aches, I keep managing to find my way back to sleep when I wake up.
4. The colors of blue
5. It’s pawpaw season. I need to find some. I can taste them already.

May we walk in Beauty!

Green Tara


Two years ago, I spent some time meditating in an alcove at the Jesuit Center where Green Tara rested beneath a painting of the Madonna. Last year, she wasn’t there. This year, I am going to search for her again.

Today’s Quotes:
Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
*
“We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit.”
—Audre Lorde
*
“Acknowledging our love for the living world does something that a library full of papers on sustainable development and ecosystem services cannot: it engages the imagination as well as the intellect. It inspires belief; and this is essential to the lasting success of any movement.” —George Monbiot


Gratitude List:
1. (What wakes you up?) Stiff, aching muscles from a 2.5-mile walk with my youngster yesterday. While the increasing aches of aging are challenging for me, this stiff-and-soreness is because of a delightful walk in the evening, where we just kept going. “Shall we see where the road construction began? Why don’t we just walk up Poff Road now?”
2. (What inspires you?) The friend who keeps running, keeps walking, keepings signing up for those half-marathons. Reading last year’s reflections on an educational seminar I took.
3. (What catches your eye?) Daylily, Chicory, and Queen Anne’s Lace are a-bloom again. Contrasting colors of orange and blue, and that lacy white among them.
4. (What keeps you in the moment?) The oriole calling from the honey locust trees by the parking lot.
5. (What draws you into the future?) Yesterday’s conversation with a teacher friend about the past year, about what sort of teachers we want to be. The gangly growth spurts of my children. The anticipation of next weekend’s solitude retreat.

May we walk in Beauty!

Cat and a Hat

catandhat cats
Cat and a Hat. My hat is ready for Saturday. Between my abysmal selfie skills and my poor smartphone camera, the original is a little blurry and grainy and wonky, but the filtered version, as much as I like the pattern that it makes on Fred, doesn’t quite make it clear that I am wearing a hat, perhaps. (Now I have a little vanity issue: My good warm parka is red. Can I wear a fluffy pink hat with a cool red parka?)

I know I have said this before, but it bears frequent repetition: The future is in good hands. I can walk really close to those cliffs of despair sometimes, but I have only to look into my students’ wise and curious and compassionate faces to see the way the future is headed. And it is not toward doom. We’re leaving them quite a mess to tidy up, but they have the inner resources and the drive to do the work.  They’ve got the perfect mix of humor and earnestness, the perfect combination of innocence and seasoning.

Let’s commit ourselves to mentor, support, challenge, and encourage the young folks in our lives. Let’s listen to their ideas and thoughts, offer them signposts, and believe in them. Let them know what we see in them, tap their shoulders, offer them as many opportunities to use their gifts as we can arrange.

Bring in the Age of Wisdom and Compassion. The vanguard is ready and stepping onto the stage.

Gratitude List:
1. New semester! I love starting new classes, learning to know new students, the mix of familiar and new faces in a classroom. I have two Creative Writing classes this semester, which makes me totally not miss having a Study Hall.
2. Quinoa salad for lunch. That was delicious.
3. FFA gave the Faculty coffee and doughnuts this morning. What an enheartening treat to start the semester.
4. Crows flying out of the mist.
5. Blue. Again, I keep repeating this, but again this evening, the bellies of the clouds were a grab-your-heart blue, glowing like ice, and rimed with indigo.  Do aging eyes see blue better than young, 20/20 eyes? I don’t remember seeing such blues before, blues that make me want to kneel. Or weep. Do you know the blue I am talking about?

May we walk in Beauty!

How Do You See the Sky?

blue2   sky-blue
blue-sky

Another November has come and gone. Such a feeling of sadness, such a feeling of relief. The pressure of a poem every day can be intense, especially when I am already tired, already busy. But it keeps me in the soup of words in ways that teaching doesn’t lead me.

Gratitude List:
1. When you set your heart on blue, it shows itself to you. I do not know how else to describe it, but to say that some colors seem to appear when you ask for them.
2. A good month of poeming. It was hard work, and I pooped out some nights, but I got some good work in, too. It keeps something in me alive to write even when I don’t have time to focus on it for long periods. I’m going to revise and edit several of them for the chapbook contest.
3. Mushrooms. Mycelium. Fungi. Whole networks of underground communication are functioning. Watch for the fruiting.
4. Bagels. Sometimes a few happy carbs are all you need.
5. Nikki Giovanni. I love her fearless work with rhythm and rhyme.

May we walk in Beauty. In Blue.

Honing Perception

vulture1
I love these computer apps that turn a photo into a painting. The photo of the moment the vulture sat on the telephone pole and spread her wings does not do justice to the awe and wonder of the moment, but the painting version starts to add that layer.

<Post-publish edit: After I posted this, I went to my Facebook page and saw that on this same day last year I posted a gratitude reflection on the color indigo. I love that synchronicity. I wonder if mid-October is a particularly apt time to notice indigo.>

Gratitude List:
1. Parent-Teacher Conferences yesterday. It takes extra energy, and it’s a really long day, but I love the chance to tell parents how I see their student in classes. Yesterday one of my colleagues talked about the moments before a parent enters the room for a conference–he said, “You have to ‘put on the child.'” It may sound strange, but that’s exactly right. It feels almost like a prayer moment, that moment of breathing, of calling the image of the student into my head and heart, before we begin to talk. I often find myself glancing at the seat where the student sits when I am talking to the parents, as though the student is there in the room.  This kind of awareness is particularly important, I think, when we are discussing difficulties, because conversations about challenges can veer into talking as though the student is the problem, but of course that isn’t it at all. The student may have a problem, and we are there to strategize solutions. Parent-teacher conferences are a kind of professional development–both for the parenting and the teaching. We both come away with ideas for supporting these marvelous young people.
2. The colors of sunset. I am still intrigued by the new research that says that scholars who have studied ancient languages can’t find a word for blue. If we don’t have a word for a thing, it usually means we do not conceptualize it. I am baffled by the lack of blue in ancient eyes. On the other hand, indigo seems to be a color that modern eyes struggle to see. We keep dropping it from the rainbow, or we substitute Prussian Blue. I keep going back to the interview I heard with Oliver Sacks on Radiolab where he discussed his search to truly see indigo, how he could only see it during a drug-induced hallucination.  I feel like sunset is the time to settle the eyes and brain into a meditative state that might possibly be able to conceptualize and interpret the colors without the help of mind-altering substances. Sunset and sunrise are the moments when I think I am closest to understanding blue and indigo, to experiencing the shades and shifts of color throughout the spectrum.
3. The Moon, the First Star, and the Dragon-Shaped Cloud–these three accompanied me on the ride home as I drove into the sunset yesterday evening.
4. Literature and Story. When I got home last night, my kids were totally engrossed in their books. One of the reasons that I am an English teacher is that I want to give my students the gift of story. I don’t need them to all become voracious readers, but I want them all to learn to find satisfaction in story. The same goes for my boys–I love when they become involved in story. I suppose that the ability to get lost in a story is sort of like the ability to see certain colors. As we enter a story, we refine our internal perceptions of human experience, increasing our ability to conceptualize the shades and colors that fill the spectrum of what it means to be human. Let’s keep searching for each other’s indigo.
5. Michelle Obama. She is one of the most inspiring speech-makers I have listened to. I will miss her as First Lady.

May we walk in Beauty!