Things Work Out

Same photo as yesterday, sent through a rainy filter.

Gratitude List:
1. Wonder. When I was a kid, my teacher had us fill a jar with wet paper towels, and then poke seeds around the edges, and we watched the corn grow roots and sprouts. Last fall, I brought a jar and some corn into my classroom, and set it on my desk, hoping to get around to doing it in my classroom, just to see what would happen. (I’m a high school English teacher, but wonder is wonder, and science belongs everywhere.) Last week, my students were asking me about the jar, and one of them went and filled it with wet paper towels, and I poked the little kernels in, kind of doubting that it would work as I remembered. But the roots have been growing down, long and strong, and several sturdy green shoots are shooting upward. My students are loving it as much as I am. We’re all rooting (ha!) for the little plants. I guess I will have to transplant them soon, and then I’ll have sweet corn this summer! (Next up: beans.)
2. The power of personal narrative. We do a lot of personal narratives in writing classes. It can be a little challenging to keep it fresh, especially when you have the same students in a couple different classes, but it’s part of the deep curriculum at my school: We want our students to be able to self-examine, to understand who they are.
3. Colors. A student of mine introduced me to the game I Love Hue, an app that sets up a grid of colored squares, and then rearranges a bunch of them, and you have to move them back to the right places in relationship to each other. Sometimes I am a whiz at this game, and sometimes I am terrible. My brain is not consistent in its recognition of varieties of hues. I feel like I’m learning and improving my sense of hues, especially as they shift around the grid in relationship to each other.
4. Books. A friend recommended The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. It came in the mail yesterday. I want to read it with Josiah, and we’re currently into Avi’s Ragweed and Poppy series, so it will wait, but I am excited to get started. (We were reading The Book of the Dun Cow, but I had forgotten that the basilisks killed Pertelote and Chauntecleer’s three chicks, and that was a deal-breaker for us. We stopped the book.)
5. When the planning works out. My brain was so foggy last night that I went to bed without a plan for Speech class, but I woke up with a very clear picture in my brain of the file where I had last year’s plans for the same thing, and I found it this morning, and it’s brilliant. I don’t know what foggy-brained-me was thinking, trying to re-invent the plans all over.

May we walk in Beauty!

Back to Basics: Gratitude

Gratitude List:
1. Dreaming of crows. The way poet/priestesses unpack the images. Snuggling my shadows.
2. Today I had so many opportunities to do my WORK. Teaching is my vocation, and I love so much about it, but the best thing about it is that it lets me do my Work. It includes tears and hugs and hard conversations and so much self-reflection.
3. Curiosity. When people get curious about each other. Curiosity is a fine engineer, building bridges of gossamer web and light across chasms. But stronger bridges than you can imagine.
4. This fine boy of mine, who keeps being ahead of himself in so many ways. Perhaps what I mean to say is that he is ahead of my perceptions. Or that he grows into whatever space he enters. With grace and thoughtfulness. . .and curiosity (there it is again). He leaves a stage of childhood behind tonight at his eighth grade graduation.
5. Cool breezes. This means exactly what it says, because my room is hot as a sauna. But then it means more than that because your poems and your wisdom and your presence in the world are cool breezes to me, my friends.

May we walk in BEAUTY!


Today’s prompt is to title the poem the name of a plant, and then to write the poem.

(for the people who sit in their trees to stop the pipeline)

The women themselves are oaks
in this ocean of oak,
in these groves of trees–
Sycamore, Poplar, Pine–
riding their boats,
tiny houses high in the boughs of the oak trees.

Riding the waves of storm,
surfing the wind high up in the branches,
they have no safe port, no harbor,
no safe place to re-supply.
Below them, the sharks circle,
waiting for the first sign of weakness.
But their friends, too, have made a circle,
a web to hold the women who sit in the oaks.

The women are watching and waiting.

They are protectors.
They are the guardians.
They are trees and the mothers of trees.
They know the secrets of the acorn.
They know how long it takes an oak to grow.
They have the patience of mountains.

Gratitude List:
1. Warm spring weather
2. Spring breeze
3. Reading books together
4. The defenders of the earth
5. Magic

May we walk in Beauty!

A few weeks ago, I had a Facebook conversation with several friends about the books we loved as children because someone we loved read them to us. The conversation was brought on by a post by the author Kate DiCamillo, who wrote about her elementary school teacher reading her The Island of the Blue Dolphins. Kate DiCamillo is herself the author of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. On Friday, at the Kreutz Creek library book sale, I bought a copy of Edward Tulane. When Joss saw it, he said his Library teacher had read it to his class, and that it was one of his favorite books, and he said we were going to take a break in our reading of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising in order to read it. We just finished reading it now, on the porch, and even though I knew what was going to happen, even though my heart had been broken and mended with Edward’s half a dozen times already, when the absolute perfect ending happened, I went to pieces and sobbed. Oh. It is exquisite. It is now one of my favorite books, too.


Years ago, during the month of April, I kept a poetree. Two dogwood trees stand on either side of my driveway. I would hang poems from the branches of the one closest to the house. Rain and snow caused problems until I got smart and hung them in plastic sheets. Since I have been teaching school, I have not had time to tend and April poetree, except on my bulletin board in the classroom one year. The year of this photo, 2013, I called myself the laundress of poetry, hanging my fresh sheets in the sun every few days.

Today’s prompt is to write a temptation poem. This year’s poems feel more solid than some years in the past. Fewer toss-offs, fewer place-holders. Today’s poem might fit those categories, but it has a little promise, I think:

Lead me not into temptation,
not into the Faculty snack room,
not into the valley of Facebook,
not into the sleepy arms of the recliner.

Lead me not into the second pot of coffee,
not into the bargain bin at the yarn store,
not into the library book sale,
not into the place of shiny stones.

Lead me into the long afternoon walk,
into the quiet seat in the spring sunshine,
into the circle of the oriole’s song,
into the embrace of a weeping pink tree.

Lead me into a whole classroom of laughter,
into the smile of a child,
into the room of your song,
into the twinkling space of your gaze.

Gratitude List:
1. Pink
2. Yellow
3. Yellow
4. Pink
5. Pink

May we walk in Beauty!


Here’s a meme that’s been making its rounds on social media lately:
The way you are describing your life is the way it is manifesting.
The way you are describing your life is the way it is manifesting.
The way you are describing your life is the way it is manifesting.

Now tell me again:
How are things going?

It’s not a NEW thought, really. The way it catches me is more about how it’s worded. It gets behind my oh-I-know-that-stuff-already defenses. The gratitude work has been immensely helpful to me in breaking some of the old cycles of complaint and self pity that happen when I describe my life to myself as series of burdensome events. Yes, if I look back at my meanderings on this blog over the years, I can see that I have been struggling–successfully and unsuccessfully–with this process in its deeper psychic layers. It’s not that I haven’t read and absorbed Shakti Gawain (she’s a sweet version of the Norman Vincent Peale for the New Age set). What you visualize is what you become, she says. One of the sermons I remember from years ago was one in which my pastor spoke about what we tell ourselves about ourselves. Do I keep telling myself I am exhausted and overwhelmed? (Yes.) Then I feel/am exhausted and overwhelmed. I “know” this principle, but I need to keep deepening it.

I can’t just visualize myself NOT overwhelmed and exhausted because visualization and belief don’t make the stacks of work go away. Imagination and action have to go together. That, too, has been a principle I have long been working to realize within myself. The contemplative and the activist need to dance together.

When I began this blog six years ago, I decided to move beyond just thinking of myself as a poet, but to DO poetry, to let those strips of words across the page in every gratitude list be little poems where I would daily juxtapose images and ideas that formed little poems of my day. As I began to describe myself to myself as a poet, I found my way into the identity of poet in a more solid way than I had ever done before.

Throughout my life, I have had begun several novels, imagining plot and structure in my brain, thinking through characters, beginning first chapters. And then abandoning them as life took over. A couple days ago, my friend Fern talked about Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic, in which she talks about how the ideas come shopping for us, and if we don’t answer them, they go away and find someone else to bring them to reality. I have two ideas that have been knocking at my door for a couple years now. To use the words of that meme up there, I am afraid to describe my life in terms of writing books. That is partly because I have been such a squirrel with the ideas that come knocking. I don’t want to do that anymore. If I welcome one in for tea, then i want to invite it to stay for the weekend, instead of becoming enamored of the next one that comes along and letting the first one drift away in loneliness and rejection.

So I’m putting it out there. The book idea I began working on two summers ago is still hanging out in the corners. I am going to feed it, begin to shape it, help it find its place. And the novel that began knocking a year ago has again begun to catch my attention. I’m grateful that these two friends have stuck around, and I want to facilitate their existence.

Still, I need to tend to the overwhelm of the mundane, or my life will implode. For now, I will catch little spaces in each week to tend to these companions, and plan for a summertime process that might give me time to work more intentionally with them.

I am a little sheepish when I speak about this, because I know what a squirrel I have been, how I have wandered away from the urgent ideas in the past. Oooh. See what I did there? I described my life in terms of a tendency to failure. What if I turned that around? What if, instead, I described my life this way: I have been a seeker of new ideas, a kid in the candy shop of story, a dreamer of books. And now, I am going to see if I can draw some of those ideas out of the ether, begin to describe myself as a writer of books.

Gratitude List:
1. Bald eagle
2. Shooting star
3. The shining talents of our shining young people
4. The sound of Spring
5. Laughter

May we walk in Beauty!

Some Come In, More Go Out

My husband has gotten a job selling used books for a historical society. This is a wonderful and a dangerous thing. It feeds my addiction. I went to the society’s Winter Book Sale today and bought these:

The Amazon Queen book is apparently based on an actual ancient Egyptian papyrus. I’m eager to read it through. I already have a copy of Life Prayers, but this one will be for my classroom. The L’Engle is a daily reader, and the Billy Collins has a bargain books sticker for $1 on the cover. I bought it at book sale paperback prices for $1.50. It’s hard to read the title here: The Trouble with Poetry.

So now I had a conundrum: I am getting rid of something every day in Lent. Can I really be buying NEW stuff? So I went through my shelves and pulled these off to give away. I made sure I’m giving away more than I bought. Four in, Eight out:

Eight Candles

Gratitude List:
1. People who cry when they read the sad parts in books. I am thinking of a particular student wiping her eyes as she finished the last pages of her most recent book.
2. Cherry blossoms
3. The tight fists of buds in the Flinchbaugh orchards. Some tiny blooms, too.
4. This parenting gig. Birthdays remind me how precious it all is, and how fleeting.
5. People are still talking about the Senior Presentations. During Tuesday’s final group, the rooms were packed, the energy was high, and the support was evident. People were pronouncing blessings on their fledglings. I love to hear students speak of how much they appreciate their teachers–it gives me a new and deeper appreciation (already deep) for my colleagues.

May we walk in Beauty. May we shower each other with Blessings.

A Pleasant Day

It’s a pleasant day for an old man cat, when the sun shines and the catnip is rising through the myrtle.  (Photo by Farmer Jon.)

UNESCO has named March 21 World Poetry Day.  Someone on my Facebook page suggested we mark the day by quoting Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” I read that part of that one to my classes today.

See if you can catch
a wriggling poem from air
to mark the new day.

Gratitude List:
1. Happy cat
2. Clear fresh water
3. Poetry and Poets
4. Wise women
5. A good book

May we walk in Beauty!

Green Shadows

Sometimes you start to write a poem, and an interesting structure emerges, and so so go on and formalize it and make your own structure.  What emerged here was a 2/8/8/3 syllable-count poem.  These really busy summer days when the farm is ramping up, but the feeling of the world is slow and lazy and dreamy, something about the structure of this appealed to my sense of being caught behind a veil, stuck in a conflict where something in me wants to live in a quiet instinctual place while the world is bustling about me.

The song
of the house finch is green, and the
way the sunlight dapples the wall
in shadow.

Green is
the soul of the field mouse, and the
way that the brook meanders through
the meadow.

The heart
of this morning is green, and the
morning breezes that eddy in
the hollow.


I realize that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are crunchy for many people, for many reasons.  If this is the case for you, I wish you comfort and solace, a chance to look quietly at the attendant pain, and good strong breath to carry you through.    Much love.

Gratitude List:
1. For my father, for the way he so gracefully blends reason and wisdom and compassion.
2. For Jon Weaver-Kreider, and his gentle spirit.
3. For books and stories, myths and fables
4. For work, preparations, and planning (opening day on the farm is this week!)
5. For that green sun peaking over the hill.

May we walk in Beauty!