Wearing a Mask, and Grounding

13 Ways of Looking at a Mask:
1. When you are in a meeting, people can’t see you yawn.
2. You can stick out your tongue at people who annoy you, and they will never know.
3. Makes you look mysterious.
4. It’s a fashion accessory. Add bling! Make a statement!
5. You can walk down the street talking quietly to yourself, and no one watching would know you’re off your rocker.
6. No one will see your cold sore, or the zit on the end of your nose.
7. It helps to mask bad breath. Go ahead and eat the garlic and onions for lunch! (And if the mask doesn’t work, you’ve got help with the social distancing.)
8. Superheroes wear masks. Maybe you’re a superhero too?
9. Spinach stuck in your teeth? Who cares? You’re wearing a mask!
10. If you are an allergy sufferer, it helps to filter out pollens and allergens that make you snuffly and sneezy.
11. It protects others, and yourself, from getting the virus.
12. It’s been mandated for public health and safety by the PA governor.
13. It’s like wearing a seatbelt, or a bike helmet. It’s like washing your hands before you eat, or wearing shoes and a shirt into a restaurant. It’s basic good common sense.


Some thoughts on Mind/Body and Anxiety:
This might be true for you as well: When I am in times of high anxiety, my brain tends to pull me outside of my sense of being in a body. Anxiety is a mental activity that demands mental energy. The work of the body goes to feed the fluttery brainwork of responding to the sense of crisis.

If you’re like me in this, try some of these things to self-soothe:
* Breathe deeply and intentionally, into your gut, into your toes, into the tips of your fingers.
* Try moving your arms in time with your breath, as if you are the Maestro of Breathing. Begin with your arms at your sides, and raise your arms as you breathe in as if pulling the music to a crescendo. Pause a moment at the peak of motion and inbreath, and then gently and slowly release.
* When you yawn, give yourself to to the process. Yawn deeply and fully.
* Gather a bowlful of smooth stones, and run them through your fingers. Dried corn or beans also work.
* Find a pillow or throw or sweater that has a silky surface or a knubbly texture. Keep it handy to run your fingers across the surface when you feel anxious.
* Pop the bubbles in the bubble wrap.
* Make hot drinks, even in summer. Steam is calming and comforting.
* Find a source of running water–a brook, a fountain, a river. (We bought a water fountain for our cats, and it’s been a soothing sound to listen to.)
* Wake up early enough in the morning to listen to birdsong.
* Load up a calming jam on PC or phone. Sometimes loud and dissonant music can be cathartic, but I would be careful with using it in anxious moments because it can also jar you out of the body on the way to catharsis.
* Find a purring cat.
* Smell the flowers. In public places, don’t worry what people will think if you stop to smell the flowers. Bring flowers inside if you don’t have allergies–smell them.
* Find a couple essential oils that calm and relax you. Add some drops to a little spray bottle of water (a little alcohol in the mix helps to keep the oil from jamming the sprayer), and spray yourself, your pillow, your clothes, your couch. Mist it into the air when you feel yourself getting out of yourself.
* Bake brownies or bread. Make mint tea. Slice an orange. (This will ground you in scent and taste).
* For people like me, the natural response to anxiety is to ground myself through eating. I need to be super careful here. But we, too, can use taste to ground ourselves. Herbal teas with a little honey are grounding without the numbing effect of sugar and carbs. A small handful of nuts or a piece of cheese. A piece of fruit. Extra hot peppers in the dinner plans.
* Surround yourself with color. Paint a picture to hang in your work space. Find a brightly colored rug or cloth with colors that please. Really looking deeply at color can be incredibly grounding. That viney hill and woodsy area out my window is not just “green.” It’s a thousand greens.
* When you are with people, remember to look them in the eyes. Eyes are what we have, now that we cover the rest of our faces. Pause and enjoy the moments of greeting in the day. Let your contacts with people be grounding for you. Phone calls. Messages and conversations through social media. Each of those contacts is a chance to connect deeply to your (and their) human self.


Gratitude List:
1. The catfam all have homes, and we have a plan for Adoption Day at the end of August. This actually makes me sad as well as deeply relieved. It has been a great weight of responsibility to care for and worry about these guests, but I have loved it, and am sad to see them dispersed. Without intervention, we would have four breeding feral cats in the neighborhood, and Mama would drive the youngsters away eventually, and they would be susceptible to disease and coyotes and the road. Instead, they will all have loving homes. Grateful.
2. The goldenrod is beginning to bloom and shine.
3. The work gets done. It sometimes feels frantic and frazzled, but it gets done.
4. Physical comforts. One of my anchors right now is physical comforts: soft and textured fabrics, rich and evocative scents, complex flavor, bright color, haunting and gentle music.
5. Wonderful colleagues.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Words don’t have meaning without context.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates


“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed… because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events… by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” ―Leonard Bernstein


“Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.” —Isaac Asimov


Albert Camus: “If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this one.”


“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


“We do not have to live as though we are alone.” ―Wendell Berry


“We are made and set here to give voice to our astonishments.” ―Annie Dillard


“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.” ―Fatema Mernissi


“Through trial and fire, against the odds, you have grown to trust that the world can be a safe place and you have every right to walk here. You have made parents of your instincts, intuition and dreaming; you have allowed love into where it had never before been received; you have grown life where once it was barren. With just a few found and trustworthy seeds, you have nurtured the greatest harvest there is in this, your humble life of belonging.” ―Toko-pa Turner


“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
―Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Gertrude Stein defined love as “the skillful audacity required to share an inner life.”


“When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become.” ―John O’Donohue

Anxious Days and Gratitude

Gull on a bad hair day.

I am suffering from some serious internal whiplash these days.

Within the past week, I have experienced some incredibly healing times safely social distanced with some of my best beloveds, looking into twinkling eyes, hearing laughter and wisdom and articulate questions. I have had some deeply reviving time in nature despite the heat.

And at the same time, one thought can set my nerves jangling, twanging the wires of anxiety, clashing and clanging waves of worry. School.

While teaching students to read and write–to communicate, to learn to express emotion and articulate new ideas–is clearly my vocational mission, I have an underlying agenda which is just as important as English Language Arts: To create a safe space for young people to explore who they are and learn how to be comfortable and confident in the world. In the spring, when we were sent home to do our learning, we lost that safe space together. I lost the opportunity to make eye contact in the halls with someone who worried that nobody would ever notice them, lost the chance to listen to a student come into my room ranting about some injustice they wanted to remove from the world, lost the chance to watch laughter displace worry or sadness or fear, lost the chance to tell someone that they are stronger than they think.

And now, we’re planning to meet again in the fall, and I will get some of that back on a limited basis, but I don’t feel safe, for me or for them, for our families and beloveds. This virus has stripped us of our safety. I want so desperately to return to classes, but something in me feels like it isn’t yet time, like my Safe Place is still unsafe. I find myself hoping that the governor calls off school again, so we won’t have to navigate these waters, so I won’t have to add to my duties the policing of students’ spacing and masking in the halls, so I won’t have to worry that every sneeze or cough could result in someone’s grandmother fighting for her life, so every day won’t feel like a risk.

I know that we need to open schools again when it is safe to do so. I know that many students’ mental health depends upon it. But it feels like a dangerous experiment with our physical health, and the health of our families to do it now, when my state can’t seem to get its numbers under control, when adults who should know better are refusing to do the simple things to keep us all safe.

I breathe a lot to ground myself, during these days when I struggle through allergies to catch the deepest breaths and yawns. I go to my beloveds, online and in safe circles. I anchor myself in the green and the blue, in earth and air and water. I search for Beauty, and find my grateful center. It helps me a little, a least to ride the top of the anxiety waves. It’s harder than usual to hold onto a calm center, when grief and rage and worry knot themselves into a little ball inside my spirit.

Some Things to Be Grateful For:
1. The twinkling eyes of my beloveds
2. Blue and green, and golden sun
3. Birdfolk
4. Water
5. Laughter.

May we walk in Beauty!


“May hope rise within you. May peace wash over you.” —Charlene Costanzo


“You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.”
—Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony


“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson


“A poem is not a puzzle, even if it’s puzzling at first. Instead, it’s a highly selected parcel or capsule of language meant to burst into your psyche and change you in some way. Poetry is the life blood of our language, and it’s meant for everyone, not just academics or young people in school. Poetry is in a word: consciousness.” —Cathryn Hankla


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen


Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath:
I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…

As long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.

Back to Gratitude

I need to step back into a thoroughly conscious and anchored gratitude practice these days. The rage and grief that I am feeling over what we are doing to the children at our borders threatens to capsize me, and I need to keep drawing down the energy, grounding, centering, focusing on the beautiful and tender realities that I notice around me.

Before the gratitude list, there’s a small sad thing that keeps getting tangled in my heart when I try to make my list: When we got home from vacation, I looked for Our Lady of the Flowers in her nest of cobweb and lichen on the swingy sycamore branch in front of the porch. The nest is gone. Fragments remain, stuck to the branch, but the little bowl is collapsed and torn. I hope Herself was able to fly free of whatever peril destroyed her home.

Gratitude List:
1. Lovely synchronicities: Today, a friend of mine who I met separately from my family saw a picture I posted on Facebook of my parents on their wedding day 57 years ago. My friend said she recognized my mother’s name, and wondered if she was the same friend she had known for a year when their husbands were both doing medical residencies at York Hospital in the mid-60s. They had had babies within a couple weeks of each other. It was! (My brother was that baby.) A lovely collision of the past into the now. It’s so satisfying.
2. This morning after I had mowed, I stood and watched the afternoon sun playing on the willow tree. A breeze whipped up and yellow locust leaves began sifting down all over the field while the willow danced in the sunlight. No photo, no video, would do it justice. Memory will have to suffice.
3. Little toad in the corner of the wood shop.
4. As wonderful as last week was, traveling, vacationing–still, I didn’t have the clear and unalterable sense of summer. I didn’t have a chance to establish summer routine before we left for Cape Cod. And that was perfect, because now I get to really live into the feeling of being on summer vacation.
5. Family sleeping parties. We’re all sleeping in the living room tonight to be near the air conditioner.

May we walk in Beauty!


I decided that I will try to make at least one phone call or write one letter every day this week, begging our congresspeople to speak out against the Family Separation Policy that the Attorney General has begun to enforce. Today, I called Smucker and Toomey.

Keep up the pressure on your Senators and Representatives. Ask them what their public statements are regarding the Family Separation Policy. Ask them for information about who is caring for the children. Are they vetted? Do they have clearances? How are the children being cared for? Are they getting their nutrition? Do they play? Are they getting education? Ask whether Health and Human Services is responsible for their care, and if so, why the administration is trusting HHS when within the past two weeks, HHS has admitted losing track of children in its care, some to traffickers.

Keep holding out your hands to people who are different from you politically. This is an affront to humanity, not just a liberal or conservative cause. Keep your heart open, keep soft, but don’t let the rage and grief throw you off. Hold on to your own humanity, to your own Love. These are difficult times, and people who would rip children from the arms of their parents in order to keep them out of our country would do anything to solidify their power.


Quotes for the day. I am conflicted about the Garrison Keillor quote because of the several credible accusations against him, but it came up on my feed today, and it felt like it meant to be there.

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
—Garrison Keillor
***
“It’s still a world with plums in it, my loves, & chamomile & lipstick & cellos. It’s still a world with us in it. Find a hand & hold on.” —Elena Rose
***
“The real work of planet-saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding. Its jobs will be too many to count, too many to report, too many to be publicly noticed or rewarded, too small to make anyone rich or famous.” ―Wendell Berry
***
”So many of us feel an agonizing longing to contribute something meaningful to the deficits of our time. But years can disappear in the doing of duties, in the never-reaching of rising expectations, in the always-falling-short of proving of one’s enoughness.

“The truth is that if we really want to make an eloquent offering of our lives, we have to step out of that ‘call and response’ relationship with the external world and locate our source of guidance within.

“To hear the rhythm of your indigenous song, to fall in step with the poetry of your unfolding, first there must be a clearing away: a ‘temenos’ of simplicity in which to dwell.

“Strike a holy grove of silence where you can listen as you long to be heard, see as you long to be seen, acknowledge where you long to be relevant, needed and necessary in the ‘family of things’.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
***
“One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.”
―Henry David Thoreau
***
“We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalized. We hold the line.” ―J.K. Rowling
***
Rumi: “Ours is no caravan of despair.”
***
“I profess the religion of love wherever its caravan turns along the way; that is the belief, the faith I keep.” ―Asma Kaftaro, UN Women Advisory Board
***
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.”
―Wangari Maathai