Keep Pushing


Not intending to be maudlin here. I don’t know quite why the carvings of skull wings on 17th century gravestones is so fascinating to me.

Gratitude List:
1. Doing things. Channeling the unsettledness into working for change. Keep up the writing and calling, folks. Keep your Senators’ and Representatives’ feet to the fire. Demand that they be fully informed of the truth of what is happening. Send them the images and the videos and the news reports. Require them to respond.
2. Hours of professional development this afternoon with a colleague who just retired, and in passing on two challenging but fun classes to me.
3. Listening to a Terry Pratchett novel. I love reading the Tiffany Aching books, but to really get the accents right, you can’t beat an audiobook. I’m listening to Hatful of Sky. Really disappointed I couldn’t find Wee Free Men.
4. Butterflies
5. Colorful stones. I am oiling the collection of stones I found on Race Point Beach. It’s taking a while because I am soaking them for hours in the oil before polishing them. They come out with slightly matte colors compared to the brilliance of being in water, but the colors are definitely brighter than the dry ones.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotes for the Day:
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ―Anne Lamott
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“[E]ducation is not just about utilizing a particular curriculum, or ensuring that critical reflection in a community follows a particular formula. It is full of intangible and random events. It is not just taught in the classroom, but lived in the midst of the community in ways that are not even fully quantifiable.” ―M.S. Bickford on the educational theories of John Westerhoff
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“The trouble with trouble is, it starts out as fun.” ―Anonymous
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“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. . .give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard
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“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
—Leymah Gbowee
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“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.” —Wangari Maathai
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“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.”
—Wangari Maathai
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“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
—Joseph Campbell
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“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
—Ray Bradbury

Questioning the Wolf

Little Red
I am a big fan of reinterpreting the wolf, of finding new ways to look at fairy tales. I think that’s one of the great beauties of fairy tales: like dream images, they can hold so many meanings, so many messages. I need my wolf today to be as big and scary as the messages from last night’s dream. I need Little Red to be little and solid as she confronts the creature. (This image is all over the internet, but I cannot seem to find the author’s name, or I would gladly give credit. I would like to see more work by this artist.)

In recent years, my most difficult dreams have been those disturbing anxiety dreams where I can’t find my classroom or I am totally unprepared or I can’t find clothes that fit. It’s been years since I had one of those dreams that wakes you up, paralyzed and sweating, unable to move anything but your eyeballs, months since I have had one of the ones that leave me with disturbing, haunting images that I can’t get out of the back of my head.  This morning, I woke up with an adrenaline shot and a searing image from one of those.

Isn’t that the funny thing about dreams? The lovely ones, the weird ones, the ones that feel like they have thoughtful messages–those I need to capture and hold onto with pen and paper the second I open my eyes, or they’re gone like frost crystals in the morning sun, dissipated like a mist. But the ones that pierce and hurt, the images that haunt and ache, that tell you the stories of your deepest, most panicky fears–those live on like a bad smell, like a poison ivy rash.

I know last night’s dream had messages for me. I used every technique I could think of to erase the image, and it isn’t holding such power over me as it did in the panicky moment of waking, though it’s still there, lurking. Now is the time to look back at it from this slightly safer distance and ask it what it wants to tell me. I am Little Red Riding Hood talking to the Wolf, Vassilissa in the house of Baba Yaga.

Gratitude List:
1. The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen.  How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.
2. History. How we live into it today, wear it like a scarf over the clothes of this moment. Not just our own personal history, but deep history, the history of our ancestors, our nations, our idealistic and philosophical and spiritual pathways.
3. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s revolutionary stuff. I keep coming back to it, seeing it with fresh eyes. One of my favorite poems. One of my favorite spiritual growth essays. One of my favorite revolutionary treatises. It’s all in there.
4. Butterflies! Everywhere. They’re just everywhere. Monarchs flit along the highways and down the River. The swallowtails drift across the hollow all day long. I wish I could see a residual image of their pathways. I bet they’ve flown an intricate dreamcatcher across our life here, a web. (Perhaps it was that dream catcher that caught this morning’s fearsome nightmare before it could settle too deeply.)
5. Cooler days are coming.  Which is a thinly veiled complaint about the current heat. It bothers me so much more than it used to. So I will live with the happy thought of cool autumn days and chilly nights with a warm quilt.

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.

Fierce Compassion

I have been trying to figure out how, in the midst of my rages and furies, to find compassion, holding it all in the bowl of the heart.  That is my primary practice.

But now, I think that the work moves forward to a discipline more grammatical–in which order shall I place my adjectives and my nouns, my adverbs, my verbs?  It makes a difference, see:

Shall I be a keeper of a grave grace?  Or shall I practice grace within my gravity?  Shall I continue to seek for compassion in my rage and my anger?  Or shall I actively practice fierce compassion?

How will that look when I walk into a story in which I see harm being done? Sharing compassion fiercely rather than sharing anger compassionately?  Being gravely graceful rather than being gracefully grave?  The order matters, and it will happen differently in different situations, I think.

My story keeps beginning again.

(Thanks to The Story for the “Grace in Gravity” reference and to my friend Lisa Walker LeFevre for opening my heart to the phrase “fierce compassion.)

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Tree spirit.  (Photographed with a mirroring app.)

Gratitude List:
1. Fierce compassion.
2. Butterflies everywhere.  They belongs on the list again and again and again.
3. Milo Zen Puppy.  I haven’t written a gratitude list since I met him a couple days ago, and he is likely the cutest person to ever walk on four legs.  Really.  This is not hyperbole.
4. Radiance.  I mean the shop this time–it was such a pleasure to be there again, in the scents and the colors and all of it.  Seeing Sarah again.  Touching all the stones.  Coming home smelling like Radiance.
5. Radiance.  Yours, this time.  Yours and yours and yours. You shine.  You help me want to keep growing and being a better person.  You push me toward Love.

May we walk in Love.

Spiders and Space

Gratitude List:
1. Watching children wake up.  They’re like spiders, beginning all curled in on themselves, and then there’s the release of the limbs and suddenly they’re all elbows and knees and long limbs flailing and twisting.  I think there are only four limbs per kid, but I wouldn’t be surprised some days if there were eight.
2. August suppers: corn on the cob and tomato sandwiches and blueberries.
3. Making spaces: I spent yesterday in my classroom, puttering and making spaces, getting ready for my students.  The excitement is beginning outweigh the worries about not being ready enough.
4. Sweaty little hands in mine.  I feel time passing, feel their childhoods slipping by at a rate that makes me uneasy.  I want to hold onto those little hands as long as I can.
5. Butterflies everywhere.  The flowerbeds are alive with all manner of swallowtails and commas and question marks (English teachers have their own butterflies!), and I keep seeing monarchs whenever I am driving anywhere.  Fly safely, little ones!
(6. Bonus: In last night’s dream, Billy Collins came to visit, and we recited his poetry together.  I even recited some Mary Oliver for him, and he was impressed.)

May we walk in Beauty!