Some Rooney Rants

I had a couple long conversations with Thor yesterday. I reminded him that my success rate for waking up in the morning has been 100%, so he doesn’t need to check whether I am still alive. I told him to wait until the alarm goes off. And here’s the thing: He did not wake me up last night.


Gratitude List:
1. The doves are getting all amorous out there in the weeds and the vines. Sure sign of spring.
2. During my lunch watch yesterday, at least three students came up and told me about book series that they love.
3. I correctly identified that Araucana hen in the FFA quiz in chapel yesterday, even if I missed the one about the cultipacker.
4. Friday. It’s Friday
5. How the kids in Speech class support each other. Some powerful stories were told.

May we walk in Beauty!


I’ve been really circumspect about not discussing the Democratic political candidates here. From the early days of 27+ candidates, I have been mostly sitting back to watch what happens. It feels to me like the more we citizens fight about our candidates, the more unruly the whole process becomes, the ore tarnished all the candidates become. When a nominee rises to the top, I don’t want them to be muddied and bruised by the Dem rivals. But this most recent candidate is causing me no little angst, and so here are a few thoughts, Andy Rooney-style:

  1. I have not been particularly vocal about my candidate choice in the primary, and I’m still keeping all the doors open, with the exception of one candidate. I think it’s best, in general, to avoid jumping into the negativity and back-biting tornado. Still, when you line them up on a debate stage, you can sing Sesame Street’s teaching song “One of these things is not like the others. . .” with a pretty clear view of the one that “just doesn’t belong.” If he wins the nomination, I don’t know how I will be able to vote.
  2. Speaking of Andy Rooney, I am getting so tired of grumpy old white men running things. Just tired. Tired. And I’m getting grumpy–like those old white men.
  3. I can get behind a woman who can speak the truth about the Old Boys’ Club right to their faces. Call them out. Stand up to them. Call the bluff on their obfuscations. Such a woman empowers other women. I feel intense gratitude for people who don’t let the boors hide their bad behavior under a veneer of Good Old Boy bluster.
  4. Stridently calling out bad behavior is not the same thing as being mean. Sometimes you have to be strident to be heard above the bluster and the big money.
  5. I laughed out loud at the Elle article by R. Eric Thomas. Google it–you know how.
  6. Can someone tell Bernie that pointing at people comes across and hostile, and emphasizes all the negatives of the grumpy old white man persona?
  7. Some of you are older white men. I have no quibble with you, per se. I just want to try something different in the White House for a while.

Letter to My Cat

Dear Sweet Thor,
I know I said that I love the sound of your happy chirpy morning purr, and I do. Thing is, “morning” is the operative word in that sentence. It resonates a little differently at 3:30.

I love the way you pat my face so sweetly with your paw, but again, what is sweet at 5:30 only startles and annoys me at 4:00. The same is true of whiskers in my face, of walking up and down my body with your needle-fingers, of licking my hands. Please know that, no matter how much you lick my hands, I will not be petting you before the alarm goes off.

So far in my life, I have a 100% record of waking up in the morning–not always on time, I grant you, but usually–so you do not need to check on me every fifteen minutes from 3:30 onward to make sure whether I am still alive. Further, rolling over, stretching out my legs, yawning–these are not signals of my imminent awakening. They usually help me get back to sleep, unless, of course, someone is trying to wake me up.

One more thing, small dude: While I work hard at being culturally competent, I am never going to sniff your butt. You can stop offering. Especially in the night when I am trying to sleep.

See you in the morning, Sweetie.


Gratitude List:
1. Boy has been writing poems. “Who assigned you that prompt?” I ask.
“Oh, I just decided to write a poem for fun.”
Heart is melting.
2. Stretching and breathing. In-spir-ation.
3. Last night, I looked back through my New Orleans 2003 journal. I need to get back into doing watercolor sketches.
4. Carving spaces for myownself
5. All the little signs of spring.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hope

Today, during the quiet moments between things, make a conscious effort to breathe deeply, down into your roots. Feel your spine straighten and your branches extend out and up.


Gratitude List:
1. The sweet little chirpy purr of a small cat who is happy that his human is awake.
2. Homemade soup
3. Making little changes to routines
4. The intense excitement of a small boy preparing for a competition. You’d think he was flying to California, with the seriousness of his planning and preparations.
5. Breath.

May we walk in Beauty!

You are Beloved

When they are babies or small children, each child at my church is held and blessed by one of our pastors, and told: “You are known and loved by God.” Whatever your word for that great and unknowable–but personal and tender–Mystery, know this today and always: The One who is the Source and Cause of all being, all Beauty, all Knowing, all Making, loves you. Knows you. As intimately as a painter who cherishes the tiny green dot of color in a painting, which she knows is there, which she placed there with purpose. You are deeply and singularly beloved.

Gratitude List:
1. Contemplating Longing and Belonging, and the Web upon which we all live and move.
2. Deep sleep. Somehow, at this point of middle age, sleep has become a regular visitor to this list–perhaps because it’s not so regular in real life
3. How dreams teach me about myself
4. Artistic processes–whether it be collage or poetry or doodles, or simply seeing and listening
5. All my Beloveds. You’re in my heart, on my web. I cast a line from me to you today. Take hold.

May we walk in Beauty!

On the Dream Scene

In the dream, I am back in a little town where I have often found myself in dreams. It’s a fully realized little town, with neighborhoods and trees and people and traffic. It’s miles away from any other town or city, out in a scrubby desert. On the outskirts of town are several truckyards–I suppose this is the source of the town’s thriving economy. But this is something I know from previous dreams about the place.
**
In this particular dream, we are living in a house (that I think belongs to us or a friend). People come and go through the property, and the path leads over a steep, muddy embankment in the corner of the yard. When I skid down over the hill, I realize at the bottom that the mud and grass cover an enormous quartz crystal “colony.” Some beautiful points are visible beneath the mud. Bits have broken off, and points and broken pillars of crystal scatter the lower yard. They’re so clear and shiny, even amidst the mud that they look almost more like Herkimer Diamonds than Quartz. I collect LOTS of random pieces, and someone has left baskets of stones and little carvings and treasures on the sidewalk near our house. I know that they are for us, if we want them, so I decide to come back and get them later, along with several of the more beautiful quartz bits.
**
A little later, we’re going to eat lunch at the cafe in the community center (which might also be our house, or next to our house). We’ve gone to taste the Bhaktar (not a waking-life word or recipe), which is a cracker-like bread crumbled into a bowl with a creamy soup poured over top. On the way in, we pass a student of mine who is taking people’s orders. She looks at me and says, “Have you ever seen James Kinder’s wife? She reminds me so much of you!” I google them, and it turns out that she is the creative director of the plays and events at the community center.

After lunch, we watch some of the dancers preparing a performance at the community center. I don’t think James Kinder’s wife looks or acts anything like me. She reminds me a bit of Amanda Palmer, someone with a lot of creative energy and vision, which I really admire, but super vampy/campy in her own aspect, which makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward. I wonder if people perceive me as vampy and insincere. Not that she is insincere, really. I just can’t get past the vampy-style mask to make a human connection. I wonder if people think of me as wearing too much of a mask to really get to know me.

The dance performance they’re preparing is amazing. Back stage (or maybe on stage), I make friends with the Kinders’ sweet black cat.
**
A little later, my whole family is gathered at our house. Everyone seems to have something they really want to do right there at the house, but I want to explore the town. Finally, I get up the nerve to tell everyone that I would like to go window shopping. They sort of chuckle, but they don’t make fun of me for wanting to shop. I say it’s because I want to get the steps on my step-counter.
**
Just as I am waking up, I find myself fascinated with how my legs and arms move as I am walking up the hill, and I realize that I am actually in someone else’s body. I’m not sure if anyone else notices. I enjoy the odd experience of being in a different body. Her limbs are long and thin and very dark brown. I’ve tripped and scratched her knee, but I don’t feel the hurt.
**
A small ginger cat in the waking world is licking my cheek, and someone is meowing in the hall to say that no one filled the cat food bowl before we went to bed, so the dream ended and the day began.


Gratitude List:
1. Sincerity and honesty. People who can interact without too much of the mask.
2. While I am tired of the recent days of constant waking in the night, the waking brings the memories of dreams, and dreams are fascinating, and they offer me clues to my deeper self.
3. New strategies for handling the workload. There’s always hope that another way to organize will help me keep up with things better this time.
4. Reading books to a small person. I’m going to string this out as long as he can take it. He still demands that we read every night.
5. The interplay between language and ideas. In AP Comp, we watched a TED talk by Lera Boroditsky on how language shapes thought, and I am finding that the video itself is giving me new language for thinking about how vocabulary actually directs the shape of abstract ideas.

May we walk in Beauty!

Combustible Child

I was a little obsessed yesterday with the way the sun shone through the wine and water glasses.

In the dream, there is a combustible child, who is likely at any moment to burst into flame: hair, chest, shins on fire. I am the child, running to escape a mob of children. Their fear and their curiosity and their rage torment me. I just want to be alone, so I can burn in peace. I burn, but I am not harmed. But my fire can burn the buildings of the town, and the trees.

Also I am a child in the mob. I run with the others, trying to catch the combustible child. I want to protect him. I know that some of the others mean to kill him, and I want to be the first to find him, to warn him, to help him. But he is always ahead of us.

We are in the labyrinthine passages beneath an old mill building. I am the child, running and hiding, afraid the light of my burning will show the children where I am. I am also seeking the child, fearful that he will hurt himself, or burn the building down, but mostly that the other children will hurt him.

I have found a way to the roof of the old mill. The others are still mostly down in the underground passages. The building is wood, but it is not burning beneath me, although other buildings have burned in the past. Down below, I am a child in the mob; I hear two children talking. They have discovered one of the secrets of the combustible child: “I think he was the one we thought had drowned there in the lake. Remember?” I have to find the combustible child and warn him.

(I welcome comments and thoughts about my dreams. I don’t feel comfortable with the “Your dream means” sort of interpretations, but speculative and conjectural comments and questions are better for helping me to think through what might be going on.)


Gratitude List:
1. How tears sometimes bless the receiver of tears. Sharing emotion, like sharing bread.
2. Laughing with loved ones
3. Pumpkin coconut pie, venison pie, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake pie
4. Sweet soft cat. I’m a little grumpy because Thor was chasing Sachs all around the house, thumpily and hissily. I could not get him to stop. I came downstairs to the recliner, hoping it would distract him, and I could get back to sleep. No. I held him and gave him a lecture about chasing kitties. No. Every time I settled down to sleep, he was off and thundering. The minute I turned on the light and picked up the laptop, he jumped up beside me, rolled onto his back, and fell into a deep sleep. Sigh. And am I grouchy? No, I just love this soft warm breathing presence beside me. I’ll nap later.
5. Belonging. 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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Wear Gratitude Like a Cloak

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” —Rumi
Like big sweaters and soft scarves on a chilly fall morning, I am finding a return to a regular practice of gratitude to be fortifying against internal chills.

Gratitude List:
1. One small boy submitted a cello piece he wrote, to the York Symphony Orchestra Song Writing Contest for students. He received a call from the director yesterday that he won an honorable mention. I’m so happy that his hard work received some recognition.
2. Stories. Grit. Resilience. Resolve.
3. The small sounds of morning. The little water fountain, a boy shuffling through pages in the next room. Small cat squeaks and mews of greeting.
4. Advocates.
5. A warm robe and slippers.

May we walk in Beauty!

Paths Crossing

Last Sunday morning, two rabbits hopped companionably from northeast to southwest, and someone else trotted sort of purposefully from north to south. Probably this happened at significantly different times. Cat or fox seems to have been unaware of its potential prey-folk going the other direction.

This morning, a week later, most of the snow is gone. The sun is bright in the blue sky, and a murder has just passed through the hollow, a massive flock of crows, barking and yapping, making the very air tingle with their passing. I stood in the yard and watched them. I could swear one of them vocalized “Hello” from the lower limbs of the dying chestnut. In four or five of the trees in the lower part of the hollow, sentries had placed themselves, repeating five or six short quick yaps in a row, in succession: walnut tree sentry, then maple tree sentry, then locust tree, and so on. Changes are on the wing. Fly brightly, Wildfolk.


Gratitude List:
1. Thoughtful conversations with young people on topics of social media and race and personal accountability.
2. My school’s Lunar New Year celebrations.
3. Hundreds of crows flying through the hollow.
4. This sore throat doesn’t seem to be more than a little part of a cold (knock on wood). When I take a cough drop or drink tea, it feels so much better.
5. All the people working for a better world.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Whether through prayer, ritual, poetry, or song, gratitude solidifies our relationship with the living mystery. It rejoins us to the intangible wholeness from which we feel disconnected. As we remember ourselves to the holy in nature, we are forging our own belonging.” —Toko-pa Turner


“If you want to do the work of God, pay attention to people. Notice them. . .especially the people nobody else notices.” —John Ortberg


“There is no reality but Oneness. Open into that.” —Bahauddin


“Take a deep breath. Find the place inside you that remembers how truth feels; remember that there are kinds of anger that are more effective than blind outrage.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (to remind myself)


Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Remember: truth and justice ultimately always win.


“The goal of any true resistance is to affect outcomes, not just to vent. And the only way to affect outcomes and thrive in our lives, is to find the eye in the hurricane, and act from that place of inner strength.” —Arianna Huffington


“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” —All of us, now, continuing to take the words away from that senator

Into the Dark, December 4

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

I am writing this the evening before, because my family has decided that tomorrow will be a screen-free (other than work/school) day. We have a tendency to get caught up in our various internet pursuits and spend less time with each other, and we’ve developed patterns of crankiness after long internet sessions. We’re breaking the pattern tomorrow, shifting the energy, offering ourselves open spaces in our mornings and afternoons together.

Our hope is that this gives us more moments to be present with each other. So that’s my word for December 4: Presence. It’s an Advent word, after all–in the Christian tradition, we wait for the coming of God-with-us, Emmanuel.

In what ways can I be more present with family, my students, myownself? 


Gratitude List:
1. Warm lap-cat on a chilly day. Cats draped along my legs and lap.
2. How coffee takes the edge off. (I know. It’s a drug. And I actually had someone confront me once about being thankful for a mind-altering substance like coffee. Still, it’s what I am grateful for.)
3. Presence. Being here in this moment. And this one. And this one.
4. Catching up
5. Community

May we walk in Beauty!

The Light Beckons

“Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.”
Ikkyu

Gratitude List:
1. Mitakuye oyasin: All my relations. That’s you, my Beloveds, and this curled-up ball of ginger fur beside me, and the sycamore tree that holds up the moon, and the moon, and the little mouse that makes a racket in the walls at night.
2. Parent Teacher Conferences: I always feel nervous. It’s a different sort of social situation than normal, and these are the real stakeholders in the work that I do. It’s not the same as a performance review, but I am responsible to these people for the care and nurture of their children, and I want to articulate well my perceptions of their children in my classroom. And it’s always a wonderful time, even when there are crunchy bits in the conversation. It’s an honor to do this work, and an honor to talk to the parents.
3. One daffodil has opened next to the school offices. I want to get a photo tomorrow–maybe it will have some friends by then.
4. The patience of robins.
5. The voices of the young people.

May we walk in Beauty!