Advent 6: Examining Shadows

Every year, I have to talk myself through this. I love darkness. I love the quiet and the rest, the comfort of enveloping night. And–

And the short days and long nights also fill me with a growing sense of panic, a sense of claustrophobia, as the night comes early and the dark lingers late into the mornings. I feel the panic rise, like it does when my clothes are too tight or I’m in a crowd, closed in on all sides by people, or when the seatbelt in the car pulls tight and won’t let go. It takes a conscious effort of will and a lot of self-talk to get myself back to the quiet space where I can sit in the darkness of early evening and remember how good it is to sit in the warm yellow glow of a lamp and feel the gentle arms of darkness around me.

So, here in the sixth passage of this labyrinth walk into December, I want to look into the shadows. Perhaps tomorrow, or another day, I will look into the more metaphorical shadows inside me (they make me claustrophobic, too), but yesterday I was caught up in looking at the blues and the indigos and violets that glow in the edges of the shadows and color the deeper areas. The under-shadow of the clouds was such a blue yesterday that I wondered if my eyes are developing a more acute sense of blue as they grow aged and fuzzy. The indigos beside the blue were richer, more lustrous. I think I know why the search for indigo has been a human obsession.

This morning, the shadows cast beyond the lamplight cross shadows falling through the archway to the kitchen. The lines between create distinct zones and areas, but try to look directly at the borders between light and shadow and doubled shadow, and suddenly the boundaries blur and disappear. Stare too long at the edges of a shadow and it starts to pulse and shift.

Without light, there is no shadow. Yesterday when I got home from work, I climbed onto the picnic table to catch a photo of the glorious shadows cast by the sycamore tree onto the red wall of the barn. The moment I raised my camera, a cloud slipped in front of the sun and the shadow was gone.

On today’s journey into winter, shall we explore the spaces between sun and shadow, consider the ways that light creates shadow, hone our noticing of color and line in the deepening shadows of winter?

(On Sunday, Michelle asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)

Yesterday, One of my friends told me of a woman in a retirement center who greets each person she passes with, “God loves you.” This reminds me of a student of mine who would come into class every day with a high five and a “Make it a great day, Ms. Weaver-Kreider!” And of the students who always thank me as they are leaving class. And of the people who look others in the eye, and make the effort to make that powerful human contact for just a moment in the day. Loving interaction which in which we See each other–that’s my vision for today.

Bridge Week

DSCN8665 bridge2bridge Bridge3
Bridges. One across the Susquehanna (EWK photo); below it, a bridge in the Scottish highlands, a photo found on the internet, which some friends and I have used for a meeting of hearts; and on the right, two bridges across the Mill Stream at my school: on top, a photo from the school website of the footbridge, and below it the road bridge on Mennonite School Road, taken from

This is the beginning of my final week of summer. It’s a bridge week, from the open rhythms of the summer to the formal rhythms of the school year, from a slow and contemplative pace to a quick and formulated pace. These are not value-judgement statements–I need the macro-rhythm of shift from one to the other, and I am looking forward to daily structure which someone else has created–I only have to fill in the outlines. While I will miss the freedom of the summer schedule, I long for the more formal rhythms and rituals of the school day.

I love that my school uses the bridge as its symbol. It offers a rich metaphor for reflction. As I contemplate the coming season during this last week before school, I wonder how I can make my work at school into a bridge, safe and sturdy, that helps to lead young people from their childhood into their adulthood, toward independent critical thinking, toward compassionate responses to the pain of those they meet, toward trust in their own instincts and ideas.

Gratitude List:
1. I am taking a Reiki class today. I’m very excited.
2. Bridges
3. Family time
4. Harvesting up in the fields just before sunset, when the clouds are big and towering. In the fields, we’re up out the hollow and can see the full sky, how the light from the nearly setting sun in the west hits the clouds to the south, shining golden and white, glowing magenta and tangerine.
5. Morning yoga–waking up the spine, feeling the stretch.

May we walk in Beauty!


I have oranges in the dogwood tree for Oriole, but he seems uninterested.  He prefers the sycamore fluffs at the tops of the trees.  The dogwoods have lost their pink in the three days since I took the photo.

Gratitude List:
1. Cool May–whenever I start to kvetch about being too cold, I remember the beastly heat at the end of the year last year, and I am grateful.  I have not started up my classroom air conditioner at all this spring.
2. Deep, flowing conversations.
3. Your heart.  My heart.  The strands of love and compassion that connect those dots.
4. White fluffy clouds in blue sky.
5. Passing on the Flame.

May we walk in Beauty!

National Poetry Month!


Happy National Poetry Month!

all day I listened
for the small, wild thread
of your song,
like the first notes
of a sparrow
tuning up for morning

Gratitude List:
1. The music in yesterday’s chapel.  I could listen to Mindy Nolt sing for hours.  Sending the students out into their day with the message that everything will work itself out.
2. How things come together even when they seem like they won’t.
3. That impossibly golden forsythia.
4. Morning clouds–layers of colors and shadows.
5. Mercy and grace.  Mercy and grace.  Mercy and grace.

May we walk in Mercy.



Gratitude List:
1. Inner vigilance.  Not panicky hyper-attention, but calm and thoughtful dropped and open attention.  So much to learn about the world.
2. The sun-limned cloud on the journey home from school yesterday.
3. Making art with  a small person.
4. Watching a small person dive headfirst into the world of literature.  (Now to make sure he can get anything else done.)
5. Honey.  Those bees know what they’re doing.  As Ellis said once when he was about three: “Honey is my favorite medicine.”

May we walk in Beauty!

Abandon Hope

Today’s Prompt is to use a standard phrase for the title of your poem, and then to respond to that.  I have to start working on these earlier in the day, before my brain starts to shut down.

Abandon Hope all Ye Who Enter Here
with apologies and thanks to Pema Chodron and Margaret Wheatley

“Hope. . . is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense regardless
of how it turns out.”  –Vaclav Havel

I have a fierce attachment to hope,
to that inward knowing
that this boat will stay afloat no matter what.

I have a deep-rooted, heavy-booted fear
that in this moment
we are in the very act of sinking.

Like they say, the hope keeps me living,
living in the middle of the fear,
and paralyzed to move,
lest my shift cause this bark to sink.

Perhaps the future demands not hope,
but willingness to sleep with uncertainty.
That we lay our heads on pillows of rock,
and though we know not whether the day will dawn,
sleep soundly through the storm.

Though we know the fight is likely useless,
onward we fight because it makes sense
to hold our ideals no matter what we face.

Oh, I’ll hold hope in my pocket–
uncoupled from its sticky twin–
like a shiny copper penny,
like a talisman.



Gratitude List:
1. Mockingbird is back on stage, in rare form, full of gossip and outlandish tales.  He got me this morning–I started to say, “Killdeer!” before he was off on a riff about cardinal, before I realized it was him.
2.  Chickweed pesto
3.  Windflower and speedwell
4.  Cloud constellations (a term coined by my younger child)
5.  Joss found my glasses in the field when I was sure that they were gone for good.  No scratches.  Whew.

May we walk in Beauty!


Clouds, Gardens and Everything Comes Together

These are the days when I become a quiet rock,
a quivering leaf, an ear of lichen
listening to the stones grow.
The words have wandered away,
eloquence eludes me,
and all my sentences begin
with the word So.

Wind will sing in my feathers
but my own story waits
like a seed in the heart of earth,
like a dream that must rise through mud,
a bubble, the nymph of a damselfly
crawling through centuries
up the stalk of a smooth green reed
to be born to the blue light.

There is a roaring in my ears
like the sound of grief or rage.
But it is only the lazy hum of summer,
of fireflies clicking their rhythms
into the velvet indigo of solstice,
communing with the moon.

Another day I’ll dawn,
but for now I will sink
slowly into the pond
with Grandmother Moon
and leave my message with the fish.

2013 June 141
The makings of a batch of medicine bags: spinning the wool, crocheting, and adding beads and cord.  Portable and easy to fit in the spaces of a busy season.

Gratitude List:
1.  Clouds.  Not cloudiness, which is its own sort of blessing at times.  But clouds, those Michelangelo works of art that have been so magnificent in the recent spate of changeable weather.
2.  Vegetable Gardens.  Have you seen it, too?  Everywhere, woven through people’s flower patches, a few tomato cages, a wide-spreading squash.  Or off to the side of the house–out front, even–tidy or  wanton, fenced or flowing vegetable gardens.  If this crazy economy has been good for anything, I think it has empowered people to remember that they can grow their own food.
3.  The way things come together sometimes, even when you’re not quite trying.  This is especially nice when I remember the times when things haven’t come together, even when I’ve tried desperately.
4.  Day lilies and chicory.  Bright orange stars on all the back-road banks, and chicory’s beautiful blue eyes, almost as sparkly as my Jonny’s.  Let’s throw in some lace, shall we?  Queen Anne has plenty to spare.  And something golden to balance the lace–buttercups!  And just here, a cascade of lush lavender vetch.  Oh summer!  You fill my spirit.
5.  Making.  There are moments in these busy days when I have to sit down and rest, but my hands still want something to do.  I have found my way back to making again, and am satisfied.

May we walk in Beauty.


May the bright breeze of morning rouse your heart to singing,
May the fire of the noonday warm your heart to hopefulness,
May the cooling rains of evening wash your heart to freshness,
May the enclosing arms of the earth hold you through the midnight.

Walk in paths of the winds that awaken,
Walk through the fires that burn off the scars,
Walk in the waters that cool and renew,
Stand with your feet firmly planted on earth

Until you hear the voice of the wind,
Until you breathe the essence of the fire,
Until you smell the message of the waters,
Until you feel the heartbeat of the earth,
Until you see the sun rise
within you,
within you.

Prompt for Monday:

Write a poem about a secret or a lie.  I might tell a lie about myself, or make up a secret, or tell a REAL secret, perhaps.  But you’ll never know, really, what the truth is, eh?  Care to join me?

Gratitude List:

1.  A gripping historical account of the assassination of President Lincoln told by my 12-year-old nephew.  And the way my brother explains the patterns of ancient human history.
2.  The brightness of the half-moon, and the stars, tonight.
3.  Reading Mara’s poetry–awash in the language, in the imagery, in the mystery.
4.  A cloud above the Susquehanna, shaped like an eagle with a fish in its talons.
5.  Noticing.

May we walk in Beauty!

Passel of kids