Today I will be alone. My parents are taking the children for the day, and Jon is going to work, and I get to be just me by myself. There’s tidying to do, and grading, possible baking projects, and all sorts of other things to distract me, but today, I am mostly going to write. I am going to plan to get five or six solid hours of writing done. Maybe a nap. Maybe some reading, some quiet contemplating, some yoga.
Last night’s dreams included the one about the treehouse. This is a recurring setting in my dreams. You climb up to the tree house, and then there are two possibilities for how to get into the treehouse: You can squeeze through a claustrophobic little window (I only tried that option once or twice) or you can balance across the very slippery top. Last night, I scooted across the top backwards on my backside, and it was easy. Usually, crossing through or over the treehouse is the only way to get to one or two of the rooms in the hotel–and I am usually assigned to one of those rooms when I have this particular dream.
In last night’s dreams, I meet a group of friends on the porch of the hotel. One friend, whom I haven’t seen for a long time, has lost a dire amount of weight. He says that some signal coming from his television has turned the fillings in his teeth toxic. Shortly after telling me his story, he gets a surprised look on his face and comes across to sit next to me. Something emanating from me has reversed the process, he says. And he IS looking healthier suddenly.
In the last couple of days, I have done a lot of processing about the way I have become weighed down in the past month or so, wondering whether it’s a mild depression, a seasonal affective disorder, a little of both. . . I’ve been thinking about my style of working, how I approach the Impossible Tasks (or avoid them, rather). I think the ease with which I crossed the bridge-roof of the treehouse is a metaphor for the shift I am making, not just pushing right into the first tight hole and getting stuck, but looking up and outward at other possibilities, putting aside worry, and just crossing to where I need to go.
5. Words on a page
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for the Second Day of Kwanzaa:
Today’s word is Kujichagulia. Self determination.
(Even if you don’t know Swahili, it’s a fun word to roll around in your mouth. Try it. Emphasize the second and second to last syllables.)
“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ―Carrie Fisher
“Be somebody that makes everybody feel like a somebody.” —Kid President
1. The glorious compensation for these darkly claustrophobic mornings is that we get to see the sunrise clouds on the way to school. I love sunrise clouds and sunrise skies.
2. Challenges. Our chapel speakers this week have been issuing challenges: See the sacred goodness in every person, turn off social media for two days, look for a situation in the world where dehumanization is happening and figure out how you can change that.
3. Fuzzy warm cats
4. A new good fantasy book to read: Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone
5. Raquel Vasquez Giilibrand’s chapbook Tales from the House of Vasquez. I read it yesterday, and found myself walking around chanting: madre, madrina, madrone. . . Mythic, legendary, ancestral: I love her poetry. It was like living in a dream while awake.
May we walk in Beauty!
John Philip Newell writes, “Knowing and naming brokenness is essential in the journey toward wholeness. To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.”
“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
“The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self—to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
“As long as I live,
I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood,
storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens,
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
“The world is our Mother. If we destroy her, where will we live?”
“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.” —Toko-pa Turner
Here’s something that happened in the Writers’ Retreat yesterday. Mostly unpolished, it might end up being only the final stanza:
If you take a vow of revenge, revenge will find you,
for vengeance works by exponential law,
building upon itself inexorably
until you no longer understand
the meanings of the words
balance, justice, restoration.
If you take a vow of poverty,
you may receive a mirror of what you offer
and what appears to be a meager bowl
and a wretched hovel will hold beauty
beyond the richest treasure
within your gilded spirit.
If you take a vow of silence,
you will find the words in every cloud and star.
For silence works by laws of paradox.
The bell chimes clearest in the quiet
and the space of no-words offers space
for the single word―
the sound borne on each passing breeze
too gently to hear when the heart speak in sermons
but always at hand when the soul settles inward―
1. The strong message, repeated by wise people two days in a row: Take care of yourself. I’m listening.
2. Painting (I’ve been telling myself that I have been granted an Artist’s Residency for the next month. It’s the Goldfinch Farm Artist’s Residency, and I have granted the prestigious honor to myownself. The requirement is to make ten paintings between now and the beginning of school.)
3. Shifting the daily practice.
5. Another strong message, two days in a row, by the same wise people: Prayer/Magic/Energy is also part of saving the world. The story of the Tibetan monks is that when they pick up the hoe for garden work or the knife for cutting vegetables for soup, they do it with the prayer that this act will be part of what brings all Beings awake, what makes all suffering to cease.
“We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
“There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.”
“Do anything, but let it produce joy.” ―Walt Whitman
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” ―Madeleine L’Engle
“I believe that if I can sit out there long enough those crows, the trees and the wind can teach me something about how to be a better human being. I don’t call that romanticism, I call that Indigenous Realism.” ―Dr. Daniel Wildcat
“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” ―Carlos Santana
“Take for joy from the palms of my hands
fragments of honey and sunlight,
as the bees of Persephone commanded us.”
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
―Martin Buber, “The Legend of the Baal-Shem”
“It’s no wonder we don’t defend the land where we live. We don’t live here. We live in television programs and movies and books and with celebrities and in heaven and by rules and laws and abstractions created by people far away and we live anywhere and everywhere except in our particular bodies on this particular land at this particular moment in these particular circumstances.” ―Derrick Jensen
1. The strong, articulate voices of young people
2. Morning mists–such a sense of mystery
3. Driving to school in daylight
4. That colony of feral cats at the farm we pass every day. I am starting to pick out several individuals now. I love the person who keeps them well fed.
5. Lonesome Joe (or Handsome Joe) the duck, who paddles in his little pool, and stretches his neck to see up the bank when we pass by.
May we walk in Beauty!
Sigh. I don’t have the time to do a sketch every day. I am going to try to maintain the practice, at least periodically, though perhaps I won’t always post them here, and just see where it takes me.
I love that photo of the water under the bridge. I didn’t notice until I pulled it up a few minutes ago that the reflections in the water look like script.
2. Fajitas for supper.
3. The writing on the water.
4. The sweet-faced, open-hearted batch of students this semester.
5. The little songs of cats.
May we walk in Beauty!
1. Did you see that sunrise this morning? The magenta clouds shot through with a golden ray?
2. An extra nap for the bad cold. Complete with cats.
3. The humidifier–may it last the whole winter.
4. Warm blankets
5. All the colors that we painted these rooms. Colors feed me through winter.
May we walk in Beauty!
Quotations for Today:
“You loose your grip
and then you slip
into the Masterpiece…”
“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality-not as we expect it to be but as it is-is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” ―Frederick Buechner
Toko-pa, quoting and reflecting on Marion Woodman:
“Marion Woodman—Jungian, author, teacher, crone—taught me that what is most missing from our culture is the Mature Feminine. Mature Feminine, she says, is the ability to ‘hold presence.’ It is not divided attention, like the sort you feel when someone is psychically composing their grocery instead of listening to you. “I don’t have time for that,” she says. Holding Presence “is to love the other exactly as they are, not as you want them to be.” It is love without judging, without getting the other tangled up in your own unconscious, unlived life. “Holding presence is to create room so the other can grow into their destiny. They can feel that.””
This one is not just for mothers. I know people, men and women, single and married, parent and nonparent, who see all children as their own. I know that parenting has heightened this for me personally:
“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” —Charlotte Gray
Today’s Prompt is to write a “Stranger ________” poem.
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
In that space between sleeping and waking,
aware of your day body breathing,
the sounds of the next-door world seep through,
the sounds of the dream-people speaking.
Past your body the dream-people wander,
and you are the watcher, observing
as they go about their dream-life day
while you listen to your own body breathing.
Sometimes you find yourself leaping
out of the breathing husk of your body,
grabbing the child from the predator’s pouncing
or answering questions dream-people are asking.
When you stumble back into your breathing body,
you find your eyes fluttering open,
echoes of dream-conversations ringing
into the quiet stillness of afternoon.
Well, I had a Dorothy Day Day a few weeks back. This seems to be my Bonhoeffer Day:
“We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing — for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’ — for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” —Nelson Mandela
“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” —Thomas Berry
1. Feeling good feels so good when one has felt bad.
2. Long naps full of crazy lucid dreams
3. Solitude (but for the dream-folk and the cats)
4. Kale and Jarlsberg quesadilla
5. The strong voices of women speaking out
May we walk in Beauty!
Today’s prompt is to use a city or town name as the title of a poem.
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
A ferry-step across the Susquehanna
from the town where Suzy Wright bought acres
and lived among her men: brothers and father,
though she never let herself be tied to any man.
Did she cross, too, here at the shallows,
where the Susquehannocks made a weir,
where they strung nets between rocks for fish,
waded out to gather mussels from their beds?
And this side became the wild frontier,
the land beyond the river-boundary.
These hills were wild, untamed, and game-full,
the lands beyond European civilization.
Like Suzy who lived on the other side,
the town on this side grew up unfettered,
wilder, more free than its married cousins
which tamely reside in pampered grace.
“Choosing to be honest is the first step in the process of love. There is no practitioner of love who deceives. Once the choice has been made to be honest, then the next step on love’s path is communication.”
― bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
―Rabbi Harold Kushner
I place in the hands of Time these stones:
the story of this day,
the people I have been near to,
the songs the Fates have whispered in my ears,
the colors that haunt me.
See how they turn to mist,
how they glow for a moment–
red, then golden, then blue–
then dissipate like ash blown by a wind
before I can register
that they have lost their substance.
Where does memory go
when it flows out with the tide,
when it slips down the drain,
when it is blown out with the morning fog?
I am still the child in the forest,
walking blind through the swirling mists,
under the shadows of the great trees.
With each forward step on the trail,
a little bird flutters from the pathway behind,
a bread crumb in its beak.
“When I stopped trying to change you, you changed me.” ―Rachel Macy Stafford
1. Guidance Counselors. Some of my students carry so much pain. I am grateful knowing that when I send a distraught student to the Guidance Office, she’ll receive the tender listening and help that she needs. Thank you to all my friends who are Guidance Counselors: You are saving the world.
2. Lasagna. Jon made a delicious spinach lasagna for supper tonight. We devoured it.
3. A heated house
4. Living with cats. I’m conflicted about what we humans have done to cats and dogs in domesticating them and breeding them, treating them like things we own. But we have co-evolved, and we are now responsible to care for them. I love the daily inter-species interaction.
5. That view of the hills of York County as we crested Mt. Pisgah on the way home: golden field of corn, then a green field, then a fringe of brown trunks of leafless trees, blue mountains behind, and a tangerine sky in the back with a fringe of migrating geese.
May we walk in Beauty!