Gratitude List: 1. The shiny children 2. I finally saw a tiny Priestess gathering pollen for her Lady. And now the crocus and windflowers and daffodils are opening. The tiny narcissus on the neighbors’ bank are open. Lots of pollen for the Little Sisters. 3. A restful weekend 4. Henry and his grandfather flying a kite. It went SO high! 5. The constant murmuring of the bluebirds in the little woods at my parents’ house. I have no doubt that they were telling each other stories about my dad.
May we walk in Beauty!
“Awake my dear, be kind to your sleeping heart; take it out into the vast fields of light and let it breathe.” —Háfiz
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” —Thích Nhất Hạnh
“Only until all human beings begin to recognize themselves as human beings will prejudice be gone forever.” —Amelia Boynton, Civil Rights leader
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” ―Rabindranath Tagore
“It is time for women to stop being politely angry.” ―Leymah Gbowee
“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ―Franz Kafka
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ―Rachel Carson
“Don’t die ’til you’re dead.” —Mississippi John Hurt
One thing about the Fool. The Fool somersaults and tumbles, one minute leaping high, and then pratfalling underneath the table the very next. The Fool shows us our up-and-down-selves, our extremes, our fluctuations, our truth. The Fool may tell jokes, but in the next breath comes a story to break your heart and tear you open.
In the Christian tradition, the holy blessed silence and the ringing song, the quiet candlelight, and the stories of shepherds and magi, are followed by a story so terrible we can hardly encompass it. We want to look away. Please, let me get back to finishing the Christmas cookies and playing that funny new game. Let me get back to gazing at the twinkling tree with a cat on my lap and that new book in hand. But this story will not be ignored.
I am leading worship in church this Sunday, and even the lectionary can’t make up its mind. We begin with the Hallelujahs! All creation celebrates the coming of the Child of Promise! Holy, holy, holy.
Then we enter the doorway of the Gospel reading and everything changes. An angry king, desperate to hold onto his own power, hears of the birth of a new king and orders a genocide of baby boys. Our hearts read this part fast, and rush with the Holy Family through dark of night, across a border to a safer land. We turn our faces away from the carnage they have left behind. We cannot bear to look. Yet even as we approach the border to safety with the vulnerable Mary-Joseph-Jesus, we hear Rachel wailing in the distance behind us.
Through the long hallways of space and time, we can still hear her howling her grief-rage, her despair. Whenever atrocities occur, Rachel’s voice from Ramah, from Bethlehem, rises, howling despair through the hollow places in our bones.
Herod’s men have ridden throughout history, committing unmentionable atrocities in every land. Men’s histories speak of strategy and honor in war, omitting the rape of women and children, the murder of the innocents. Even today, textbooks in the United States tell children that slavery, while not a good thing, was a dreamy transaction that protected and provided for the enslaved, making little or no mention of the inhuman atrocities committed by the powerful against the powerless. Their history books tell of brave frontier communities battling fierce Native warriors, forgetting that it was the Europeans doing the invading, committing genocide against the communities that thrived here before them.
On this day in 1763, the Paxtang Boys mounted their horses for a second time, to finish the terrible job they began on the 14th of the month when they wiped out everyone–mostly elderly people and children–in the last village of Conestoga people in Lancaster County. On this day, while the people of Lancaster City were at holiday concerts and parties, the Paxtang Boys rode into Lancaster, bribed or threatened the jail-keeper (unless he was in league with them), and savagely murdered the remaining villagers–children, elders, and others who were being kept in the poorhouse for their own safety. Rachel’s voice sounded through the halls of history, for there was no one left of the Conestogas to howl and wail. The genocide was complete.
They were completely and utterly defenceless. They were scalped and dismembered. Their names were Kyunqueagoah, Koweenassee, Tenseedaagua, Kanianguas, Saquies-hat-tuh, Chee-na-wen, Quaachow, Shae-e-kah, Tong-quas, Ex-undas, Hy-ye-naes, Ko-qoa-e-un-quas, Karen-do-nah, and Canu-kie-sung.
Herod’s soldiers, and the slave-owners, and the Paxtang Boys all continued to live respectable lives in their communities, powerful and dignified. Rachel’s life, and her sisters’ lives down throughout history, have been inexorably altered, marked by the horrors of the brutality committed by “respectable law-abiding” citizens.
And today? Where are Herod’s men enforcing Herod’s lust for power against the powerless? Where are the Paxtang Boys, claiming to keep their communities safe from the Other, instead committing atrocities against the Other? They won’t look like wild and raging desperadoes. They’ll be cloaked in the garb of respectability and community sanction.
Can you hear Rachel weeping? Can you hear her howls rending the air? She is inconsolable.
Can we welcome the holy child of light and promise, and turn our faces away from children torn from their parents and placed in cages? Can we gaze on the graceful face of Mary and ignore the wailing of her sister Rachel, her sisters Maria and Raquel and Isabella and Jimena?
This woman is from a really recent dream/image. I frequently wake up with dream-images in my head, or fragments of song, or a word or phrase, instead of a story. In this case, the central woman is wearing flowing blue robes, and lined along the edges of her cloak are children that she is protecting. She is very much a Mary-figure, and the children are safe in the folds of her cloak. There are dozens and dozens of them. May it be so.
Gratitude List: 1. The ones who protect children. Thank you. 2. The water protectors and earth protectors. Thank you. 3. Core values and deep conscience. We had a lengthy and powerful discussion in a class yesterday about making choices based on core values. My students are wise. 4. Refried beans and tortillas. Weeks ago, Jon made an enormous pot of refried beans, and froze the leftovers in batches. I love refried beans and tortillas. 5. Wordplay.
Gratitude List: 1. The way that rages and shocks and personal affronts can burn up and burn out, leaving crystal clear resolve–and a little bit of empathy–in their wake. 2. Watching my children become ever more themselves. 3. Sunrise: Magenta and indigo clouds, and a tiny peep of aquamarine sky. 4. Beauty all around. 5. Resolve.
Today’s prompt is to write a poem titled __________ Wave.
Ride the Wave
If you watch closely
as it approaches
you can begin to feel
the energy enter your body
before the water
even takes shape.
Enter the sound and the color
before the matter engages you.
And suddenly you are part of it,
caught in the song of it,
bound in the curve and the crash
and the pull of the wave.
Gratitude List: 1. Speedwell and dandelion and grape hyacinth and violet and deadnettle. The little quiet beauties that catch your eye when you’re least expecting it. “Wake up now,” they say.
2. Spring in the air
3. People who put their souls and hearts into what they do. Art that is more than technical perfection, but is a reflection of humanity.
4. Getting some of the work done. Not nearly enough. But some. The load begins to lift.
5. Blooming. Flowers, children, teenagers, relationships, work, ideas.
Now you have endangered our children.
Your insatiable greed
and your ravening thirst
bring death to their doorways
and poison their waters.
You’ve sold your souls
to any devil who can pay
and you roll across the land
with your ravening hunger,
your howls and growls of need.
So we make ourselves into brambles.
We become the thorns
that stand in your path,
make the land into a maze
that will turn you and taunt you,
send you curling back upon yourselves.
Like the wild rose and the blackberry,
we dig ourselves into the soil
and new thorns rise.
You trample us,
and our broken stubs take root.
You cut us back, and we flourish.
More and more and more of us,
we rise in your pathway.
You cannot pass.
“Choose to be in touch with what is wonderful, refreshing, and healing within yourself and around you.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
“Someday, somewhere―anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.” ―Pablo Neruda
“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” ―Meister Eckhart
“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”
―Mary Harris Jones
Gratitude List: 1. The shining children in my week. Laughter, mischief, earnestness, wonder. . .
2. Morning storm. That mucky wet air is feeling crisp and clean again
3. Just doing the hard stuff. I submitted a short story and some poems yesterday. I really do want to publish, but the work of finding the right place for the right poem or story is a little daunting. It took me hours to settle on which pieces I wanted to send where. I have to get better at that.
4. The birds who are out there singing in the rain.
5. Ah well. My house is messy and cluttered again, but it’s filled with love and laughter.
#resist — I found this in my classroom zen garden last week.
I am sure that I have written this before. Still, it seems to want to be said again.
The first time I was pregnant,
I spent Mother’s Day
with the dawning awareness
that I was losing that baby.
The next Mother’s Day,
I held that one’s brother in my arms.
Becoming a mother was fraught
with much more peril than I’d anticipated,
each son preceded by a shadow child,
a rainbow child.
We talk amongst ourselves
about the lost ones,
and we wonder:
Were they just the first attempt
of these two who made it,
missing the train on the first go?
Were they the vanguard,
making a pathway
for their brothers to follow?
Were they forces of nature,
unleashed into the world
to watch and protect?
But here in the sun of today
are these two shining changelings,
eyes older than time.
They know they belong here
in these bodies made of earth,
of wind and bone.
Perhaps they sometimes hear
the spirit children
singing in their dreams.
Some random quotations:
“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” ― Bob Marley
“Truth is an agile cat. It has more than nine lives.” ― Joy Harjo
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” ― Mark Twain
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” ― Fran Lebowitz
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Gratitude List: 1. Wood duck on Goldfinch Pond.
2. Three chittery indigo buntings flitting across the road.
3. The new giving project idea at church. I have never seen such unmitigated joy in response to the announcement of a new giving project. People clapped.
4. My mother. All the wisdom and Presence she offers to so many people.
5. And my grandmothers. And my mother-in-law. And all the women who have been mother to me. And Mother Earth.
6. My children: the two who bless and challenge me every day.
7. All our children, who challenge me/us to make the world a better and a safer place.
8. And Icarus Oriole, who sings to me all day. (I know he is really singing to Her Ladyship who hides herself greenly in the leaves, but it feels like he is singing to me.)
The Twelve Nights are finished. I might have resisted this waking up, resented this leaving of the cocoon, but for the bright surprise of the snow, the sun enlivening it to an almost unbearable shine, the way the Light shone so forcefully on this Epiphany day.
I have a jumble of words and ideas tumbling about in my brain from the past two weeks: Intuition, Birds of Prey (fierceness?), Aunt Lizzie (rampant creativity?), and the Book. As I made my Vision Board last week, the phrases “Unchain the book” and “Unlock the book” came into my head. And last night I woke in the middle of the night, and the phrase “Use the book” was skittering around in my brain.
So this Year my word will be Book. I tell my students that their lives are the stories of their own making. Some parts seem to be written for us, but even so, we write the meaning of the events that occur. We choose how the story is recorded within us, how we interpret our lives. This year, I will be the writer of my story. I will carry the satellite words of intuition and fierceness and creativity with me as well, and let them inform the story I create, both with my life and in my writing.
Gratitude List: 1. The young years. This is a wistful gratitude. With every passing day, I am noticing the baby days expiring on my youngest. I am gathering all I can of each tiny bit of baby sweetness into the jar of my heart to save for later. Here I am, Winnie the Pooh, standing at the edge of the Hunderd Aker Wood, watching Christopher Robin recede into the world. My heart is so full of the pride and the pain of it, the love and the loss of it.
2. I am grateful for their growing up, too. I treasure each new grown-up thing, how they think and wonder. Their curiosity. Their desire to know, to learn, to create.
3. Snow. Wasn’t that lovely? I love snow. It makes the cold feel worthwhile. It makes the winter feel real. It gives the dreamtime a blanket.
4. Those stripey clouds on the way home from school today. My carpool mates and I decided that they looked like the lines on a piece of notebook paper, just waiting for a poem. Or the ribs of a god (we’re listening to The Heroes of Olympus on our journeys). Or the oars of a great flying Viking ship.
5. The relationship of words to music. The musicality of language.
Dear friends, dear friends,
Can I tell you how I feel?
You have given me such blessing.
I love you so.
(Sing to the old tune of “Soul Cake”)
Sit in a circle at dusk with people you love.
Let it be when the swifts are flying.
Let there be a catbird with a whiskery voice in a spruce tree.
Speak your stories into the bowl of the space between you:
stories like a rich meal, the bitter, the savory, the sweet.
Let it get dark. The darkness will listen, too.
You can hear people listening when you speak in the dark.
You may light a candle if you have a candle.
Laugh together. Cry.
Let there be occasional questions,
occasional grunts, occasional exclamations of oh-I-hear-that!
Make a meal of the stories before you,
and eat your fill. Be nourished.
Be together in your stories.
Know that all these stories are your story, too.
Let there be a benediction,
words sung or spoken into the full dark,
accompanied by the chittering of bats,
good words to keep you always
in this circle where you belong.
Gratitude List: 1. Circles
2. Swifts and bats
3. Children obsessed with the game that they have created between them.
4. Stories. All of them. Holding them together. The inspiration of stories.
5. Circles. Did I say circles?
Much love. May we walk in Beauty. May we walk in Love.
May we live in the center of our stories