Set Your Life on Fire

Some Thoughts to Ponder for Saturday:
“Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn.” —Gustav Klimt

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” —Rumi

“Your life is not about you; you are about Life. You are an instance of a universal, eternal pattern.” —Richard Rohr

“It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.” —Leymah Gbowee

“Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really really long poem about everything.” —David Bowie

“We can never be born enough.” —e. e. cummings

“. . .to cry out like Cassandra, but be listened to this time.” —Grace Paley

Aldo Leopold: “Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish [her] right hand and chop off [her] left.”

“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” —John Muir

“Our time is hungry in spirit. In some unnoticed way we have managed to inflict severe surgery on ourselves. We have separated soul from experience, become utterly taken up with the outside world and allowed the interior life to shrink. Like a stream disappears underground, there remains on the surface only the slightest trickle. When we devote no time to the inner life, we lose the habit of soul. We become accustomed to keeping things at surface level. The deeper questions about who we are and what we are here for visit us less and less. If we allow time for soul, we will come to sense its dark and luminous depth. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives.” —John O’Donohue

“Justice is not negotiable.” —Dr. Denis Mukwege

Gratitude List:
1. Endings and Beginnings
2. Changing up the rhythms
3. Sifting and shifting
4. Word play
5. Sharp cheddar cheese on a bagel.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Am a Verb

“Self care is not an individual act; it is a collective act.” —Yara Sallam
“The enemy of a love is never outside, it’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.” —Anaïs Nin
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” —Frederick Buechner
“To live by a large river is to be kept in the heart of things. ” —John Haines
I haven’t yet read The Shack, but this passage makes me think I oughta:
“I,” she [the Holy Spirit] opened her hands to include Jesus and Papa, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active and moving. I am a being verb. And as my very essence is a verb, I am more attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing, and on and on. Humans, on the other hand, have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules. Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless ‘I am’ there are no verbs and verbs are what makes the universe alive.” —Wm Paul Young, The Shack
Thomas Merton:
“There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist. . .most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work. . . . It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her). . .work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
“I can’t control the world, but I can control myself. And you are not going to coerce me into hating.” —Ruby Sales
“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.” —Mark Strand
“A characteristic of feminism is to think twice about what you know.” —Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”  ―Iain Thomas (not Vonnegut, as everyone says)

Gratitude List:
1. Chances to breathe, to catch breath, to sigh, to yawn
2. Sunflowers, seeds, and pollinators
3. Little nap with a cat on the lap
4. Cheese
5. Reading with the kids. Right now it’s Patricia Wrede’s Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest.

May we walk in Beauty!

Death and Temperance, and the Wall


I have hit the poetry wall tonight. I’ve been feeling it coming for a couple days now, the slowing, the resistance in my brain as I approach it. And here, tonight, with Death as the prompt, I don’t know where to go. I want to make it light and fluffy, toss it off without thinking. I don’t have the brain cells for much work tonight, and my will to work is shallow and listless. Then I remind myself that some of the shiniest poems happen at the moment of the wall. Of course, that’s when some of the worst ones happen, too. Sigh.



No, I think she’s a woman in a red cloak
with gentle brown eyes and midnight skin.
Unlike the ferryman, she asks no token,
no proof of passage or confession of sin.

She carries a sickle instead of a scythe,
appearing in fevered delusions and dreams,
and though you may dread to see her arrive,
you will cherish her presence on the journey.

There now. I’ve written something. I honestly can’t tell whether I like it or not. That’s part of the wall, too, the loss of a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Best to just get it down there, and come back to it with a clear head when April is over.

So much of it is about Balance, isn’t it? Justice, a few days ago. Even Death–there’s always a balance between death and life, between the fear of it and the hope for it. The Lovers–they’re all about balance between the opposite parts of our inner nature. Tomorrow, again, is another sort of balance: Temperance. We’re not talking about periods of US history here, but about the concept. Passion and zeal are important drivers, and they can be great when you need to get the chariot moving, but fokeeping it going straight and steady, you’ve got to find the temperate balance. Can the Fool, in her naive and wandering heart, find the deep meaning of Temperance?

Gratitude List:
1. Pink trees
2. Cool breeze
3. Bees
4. (Ack! Now I need to keep going with this.) Poetries (Don’t judge me.)
5. Cheese (Hey now, I do love it, and we had some mighty fine Pepper Jack for supper.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Making Connections


You know that feeling when someone you love is probably dying?
And you feel like you should know exactly what to do, exactly what to say,
but you’re paralyzed by the shock, and really,
isn’t that what the doctors are for?
Shouldn’t they know what to do,
how to keep your loved one alive?

But still, you can’t quite sleep at night
for that nagging feeling in the pit of your gut
that tells you you should be doing something,
you should be making it stop,
should at least be saying something apt,
something to keep the demons at bay.

And so what do you do when you see it,
when you see your democracy dying?
You’ve been watching, all the signs,
every one, just like the predictions.
It’s a cancer, this.
And it’s progressing rapidly.
And what do you do?
Aren’t there lawyers, politicians,
noble powerful people somewhere
who know what to do to fix this mess?

And you can’t quite sleep at night
for that nagging feeling in the pit of your gut
that tells you you should be doing something,
you should be making it stop,
should at least be saying something apt,
something to keep the demons at bay.

Gratitude List:
1. The owls are really going at it tonight. I love living within hooting distance of so many of the wise ones.
2. It’s felt like a really long time when I could have a day when I didn’t absolutely have to be doing something school-related. What a relief. I did actually work on something for school today, a sample memoir project for my students to see what I am looking for in their projects.
3. Cheese
4. A good book to read on a cold night
5. Making connections: with people, with memories, with ideas, with synapses.

May we walk in Beauty!

Waking Up

Like the remnants of fog burning away in the morning sun
the last rags of dream whisper through the valleys
of my waking brain, gnats caught in the cobwebs of consciousness.

In the beginning of the year, the drops of mist form words
and a sentence emerges like a sapling from the fog:
All that I have been is compounded in the present moment.

One morning I wake and the spiders whisper the name
of an impossibly green stone, like poison, like miracles:
Dioptase, a viridian eye that sends forth the tentacles of the heart.

Or a song will be ringing in my ears as I tiptoe downstairs
in the dawn: Give yourself to love, if love is what you’re after.
Open up your heart to the tears and the laughter.

I gather the strands of silk and wool and hope that have caught
on the fences between the world of waking and sleeping,
and weave them into the story of the day, the week, the year.

There was this one: I am walking down a sunny city street
and am filled suddenly with foreboding, knowledge of a Terrible Presence.
I know that it will destroy me, and the world, if it senses my recognition.

The key, I learned without learning,
is to keep that knowledge hidden in the back of my brain
and cover it up with gratitude and joy and hope.

(Already I know that I will be revising this poem, to make it less self-referential, less plodding.  But I wanted to get it down today, and this is the place where I do this work.  Welcome to my process.)

Gratitude List:
1.  Towhee is back.  Ellis misidentified him as the orchard oriole.  If you know the two birds or have a bird book handy, you’ll understand why that makes me proud.  He’s getting his birder’s eyes on.
2.  Weighing cheese for the farm store with Ellis.  Impromptu math lesson on rounding up and down to the nickel.
3.  Chocolate cake/brownie goodness.  We have discovered the Grand Unifying Theory.  This is the basis of everything.  I love the Saturday crew.
4.  Phoebe babies in the barn.  It reminded me of the lovely book which my Great Aunt Lizzie gave to us when we were children.  I will read it to my own children again this coming week as we wait for the little ones to fledge.
5.  Ellis making the point that one of the things that is important to him is taking care of the very smallest ones.
(Hmmm.  A lot of Ellis in this list.  He’s a special kid, and so is his brother.)

May we walk in Beauty!