Holding Our Brokenness

This ceramic chalice was on a shelf in a meeting room at my church last year. I could sense the disappointment that must have occurred to the person who broke it or discovered it broken. But it spoke to me, to my own sense of brokenness, how we hold our brokenness, how the essential form and idea of the thing remains even when it is broken. I wonder if someone ought to try to mend it with kitsugi in the Japanese way.

Gratitude List:
1. The blue underbellies of evening clouds
2. Taking a break: I am nursing a rather nasty cold, but the idea of a break is a big lift to my mental well-being as well. Hmmm. They seem to be related, both the downward slide, and the recovery.
3. Butter coffee
4. Bright pops of color in the muted landscape: I suppose that’s why everyone seems to love cardinals and berries.
5. Naps: Refer to #2

May we walk in Beauty!

“Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks. And that’s ok, that’s ok, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing.” —Ijeoma Umebinyuo


“No matter where we are, the ground between us will always be sacred ground.“ —Fr. Henri Nouwen


“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.” —Gretel Ehrlich


“‪The fact that these words and the jumble of lines that create their letters has no real, inherent meaning outside of a human context, yet they hum with life, is a wonderful reminder that what we imagine can easily become real and powerful simply because we decide it should be so.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Writing at the library. Surrounded by thousands of books, windows into other minds. Some of these writers are living. Some are not. Neatly ordered rectangles of concentrated human life and intellect. A book is certainly a kind of ghost and libraries are pleasantly haunted places.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“The beauty of the world…has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” —Virginia Woolf


I know nothing, except what everyone knows —
If there when Grace dances, I should dance.
—W.H. Auden


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint

Across the River

As of today, nearly 250 of the children abducted by the Trump/Sessions/Miller policy of family border separation remain in detention camps and facilities, months after the debacle occurred.


I carried my bones across the river and into the arms of the border patrol.
I laid my child in the hollow between sand-hills where she would be hidden.
I placed her in the quiet shade of a cactus where the little wren would sing to her.
I carried her on my back when the wind drove sand in our faces.
I tore her from the powerful arms of the river, and up the far bank

but now
she is lost in the long white hallways,
lost in the echoing rooms.
The vultures have carried her bones
to a far-off place
and all I can hear
is the screaming of sirens.

The sound fills up my bones.
There is no color but sound,
no feeling but the wailing of sirens,
the screeching and scraping,
the fierce clang of doors,
the cold bars of cages.

I carried my child to the river and now I am empty sky filled with ash.
My bones have turned to ashes and my dreams have fled
across the desert like birds.

There is nothing in this hollow place but sirens and slamming doors and questions,
the godawful questions–and a wailing that will not be silenced.

The gods have all died, blown across the sands like so much ash,
fled deep into soil like the water that has gone from this place.
Mother Mary, who sheltered us, is cast into a cage
and her child is walking alone in the maze of hallways
where she cannot reach him.

Where now is the mother?
Where is the child?
Where is the voice that will call to me
through this cacophony?

Where is the map through this desert?
Where is the red thread to follow in the wilderness?

The end is here.
The end is here.
The end is here.
And all the little birds have flown beyond the river.

I carried my bones across the river and the waters did not close about me.
I carried my child through the desert and now my story has ended.
The ashes swirl and eddy in the wind, borne into the raging arms of the river.

This is the end.
This is the end.
This is the end.


Gratitude List:
1. Making time to get some of this angst into a poem. I can breathe a little better.
2. Magical, prayerful acts. Granny squares have a really satisfying rhythm of threes: the steps of a double crochet are threes, and there are three double crochets in each set. Threes are good for the rhythm of prayer/chant.
3. How laughter helps me to breathe
4. The angle of autumn sunlight
5. Solitude

May we walk in Beauty!

Prayers and Rage

Okay, so I am getting more nervous about the coming winter by the moment here, as I watch the busy tribe of squirrels on the bank behind the house. They are eating and gathering at a furious pace. If they have inside information, we’re in for a tough one.

And this is one healthy, glowing gang of critters: Their fur is sleek, and their bodies are filled out and muscular. They look like they’ve been lifting little weights. One of them, gorging on berries six feet up in a bush, began to slip downward. She didn’t even pause in her eating, but grabbed a branch beside her, somersaulted downward, landed on her feet with the berry branch still in her mouth, and continued eating. Little parkour ninja folk. And I know that squirrels are already that way, but these are just. . .more so.

I don’t know if I have ever noticed just how russet-colored is the feathery fur on their breasts until a moment ago when one stood to greet an approaching comrade, and his breast shone chestnut-red in the morning sun. And that’s another thing. You know how squirrels stand to look around and greet each other, hands on hearts? I’ve always thought it made them look sort of timid and cute in a timorous “oh-my-heart” sort of way. These folks, whenever someone else approaches, stand like little warriors, feet apart, spines straight, eyes alert, hands on their chests in a greeting of solidarity.

These people are readying themselves for a hard winter ahead. May the walnuts and berries be plenty. May you grow ever healthier and sleeker, small ones, as you do the work to prepare your colony for what is to come.


Gratitude List:
1. Squirrels
2. There was a roseate spoonbill down on the Flats last week. They say it’s gone, but I think I’ll drive down there and just look around. I am grateful to know such a being was here.
3. Oak leaves
4. Clouds
5. All the people doing the good work. Let’s not let ourselves get too discouraged. So much wrongness has seeped out of the cracks recently, and for those of us who want to believe in the beauty and marvel and goodness of everyone, it has been particularly painful. A friend of mine reminded me this morning that often there are still noble elements that reside within the souls of those who are living openly by greed and power-mongering and death-dealing, and we need to find ways to hold conversations that enkindle those sparks of Goodness. I’ll keep searching for that nobility while remembering that there are so many out there who continue to work and live from the depths of their Divine Spark. Like you.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Doorway:
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” -―Rumi
*****
“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves
into the rhythms of the human heart.
The earth is not outside us; it is within:
the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”
―John O’Donohue
*****
“There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”
―Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
*****
A Gift
by Denise Levertov

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.
*****
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively; go to the side and do it differently. Don’t waste time with oppositional energy.” ―Richard Rohr, writing about the thinking of Dom Helder Camara
*****
“The heart of faith is the call to love one another. . .” ―Avis Crowe
*****
“A child looking at ruins grows younger but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips in the sun.”
—W. S. Merwin, The Love of October
*****
“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
—Lucille Ball
*****
“My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated.” —Óscar Romero

Glorious Compensation

Gratitude List:
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.”
—Reinhold Niebuhr
*****
“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.”
—John Muir
*****
“The world is our Mother. If we destroy her, where will we live?”
—Kogi Mama
*****
“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

Breath of the Goddess

Gratitude List:
1.  Colleagues. I am grateful for colleagues who are truly concerned about the welfare and well-being of the students. Not just their academic performance, but the health of their spirit as well.

 

2. Glory clouds, sun rays shining down through
3. June is coming. I can taste it.
4. Witnessing a student who is usually quiet and reserved be one of the first to respond to a classmate in meltdown mode, with a gentle word and a hand on the shoulder. And seeing how the calm spread like a wave to the one in need.

 

 

5. How the scent of lilac and lily of the valley fills the hollow.

May we walk in Beauty!

 

 

This will Be a Memory

“Look! Look! Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”
~ Albert Einstein
*
“The only trap I must beware not to fall into, is to think that each day is the same as the next. In fact, each morning brings with it a hidden miracle, and we must pay attention to this miracle.”
~ Paulo Coelho
*
“In the end, so much of the conflict we feel in our hearts is because we’ve split ourselves off from the very life we are living. We partition ourselves from the things with which we are at odds, treating them as unbelonging even as we live them. We vaguely imagine some other place, some better job, some other lover – but the irony is that so much of what makes us unhappy is our own rejection of the life we have made. Eventually we must take our life into our arms and call it our own. We must look at it squarely with all its unbecoming qualities and find a way to love it anyway. Only from that complete embrace can a life begin to grow into what it is meant to become.”
–Toko-pa Turner
*
“There is a notion that creative people are absentminded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true.” –Mary Oliver
*
“Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable.” –Mahatma Gandhi
*
“People who talk only to communicate are different from people who talk for pleasure. People who talk for pleasure, as opposed to people who talk to communicate, become wonderful talkers over the years. They have eloquence.”
—Wendell Berry
*
“You must not only aim right, but draw the bow with all your might.”
–Henry David Thoreau
*
“Be curious, not judgmental.” –Walt Whitman
*
Out in the dawn, a misty sea
in walnut tree
a silent crow
will dream of snow

will ruffle feathers in the chill
will wait until
the first bright ray
begins the day

then with a final shake will rise
from branch to skies
and this will be
a memory
–Beth Weaver-Kreider


Gratitude List:
1. The blue whale in the clouds, swimming into the sunset
2. Bellyful rainblue clouds
3. The quiet shift between tangerine and indigo in the sunset clouds
4. Layer upon layer of clouds
5. The LMS performance of Radium Girls tonight. What a talented and thoughtful bunch of young people. I am incredibly proud of them. If you’re in Lancaster, you might want to check it out tomorrow or Saturday night.

May we walk in Beauty!

How You Get There


I am signing off for a few days. I am going to the woods with some of my beloved community, to sing and laugh and play together, to walk the labyrinth in the woods, to listen for birdsong and look for tiny fungi in the leaf litter, to breathe and to wander. I will see you here in a few days.


“I remember nothing more about that night, except knowing that the enchantment of that moment would be with me forever, how what was burning so intensely in my heart could manifest itself in all of nature and how a song could thread itself through a needle, and stitch it all together, for one other-worldly, soul-aching, heart-breakingly hopeful glimpse of Nirvana.” –Excerpt of blog by Gloria Talcove-Woodward
*
“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
*
“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” –Louis C. K.
*
“Never apologise for your sensitivity. It is the thinness of your skin which makes you brave. You are willing to live. You are willing to be alive.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“Acknowledge your mission. Trust your path. Become your chosen destiny.” –Jamie Sams
*
“You are what you eat eats.” –Michael Pollan


Gratitude List:
1. Fridays: Week’s end, Faculty Hymn sing, the anticipation of rest and time in the woods with beloveds
2. Yesterday’s clouds, which were dragons and caves of flame and featherbeds
3. Teenagers and their enormous hearts
4. Monarch and dragonfly
5. Sharing laughter. What warmth of human connection when someone says, “Hey! Wanna hear a joke?” The social connection of good, healthy humor, how it bonds people together
6. (I am breaking the rules today and adding another) Playing with sentences. In a couple different classes right now, we are playing with sentence structure, copying the forms of professionally-written sentences, writing poems based on set formulae of absolute phrases and participial phrases. For some, it’s a bit tedious, but it has been delightful to watch the twinkle in the eyes of others when they begin to get it, to feel what it’s like to write a really elegant sentence.
7. (while I am at it. . .) Yesterday’s chapel talk by Brenda Martin Hurst. She reminded me of how much work has been done by so many to create a world and a church in which girls and women are valued as much as men and boys, and how much work there still is to do. I am grateful for my mother and others who worked with such love and courage and sheer will to begin to pave a way for women’s voices to be more fully heard in the Mennonite Church. This, more than anything, gives me great hope that some day we, too, can break through the wrongs against which we raise our voices.

May we walk in Beauty!

Daily Feather

  
In the lower right, the original photo, of a feather in the clouds. The others are filtered through Dreamscope app. 

“In summer, the song sings itself.”
―William Carlos Williams
*
“All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art and nature and life, and the love which that beauty inspires.” ―Edward Abbey
*
“They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.” ―Kahlil Gibran
*
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ―Pablo Picasso
*
“Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come. Our breath is a part of life’s breath, the ocean of air that envelops the earth.” ―David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature
*
“Memory is an invitation to the source of our life, to a fuller participation in the now, to a future about to happen, but ultimately to a frontier identity that holds them all at once.” ―David Whyte
*
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
―not actually Benjamin Franklin, as the internet claims
*
Lines
by Martha Collins

Draw a line. Write a line. There.
Stay in line, hold the line, a glance
between the lines is fine but don’t
turn corners, cross, cut in, go over
or out, between two points of no
return’s a line of flight, between
two points of view’s a line of vision.
But a line of thought is rarely
straight, an open line’s no party
line, however fine your point.
A line of fire communicates, but drop
your weapons and drop your line,
consider the shortest distance from x
to y, let x be me, let y be you.


Gratitude List:
1. Not feeling wretched. Sometimes it’s good to have a day of pathetic wretchedness in order to remember how wonderful normal feels. Is that weird? It just feels so incredibly good not to feel awful.
2. Driving Pippi Prius again. In the same vein as #1, I was incredibly grateful that my father let us borrow his car while Pippi was getting her battery cells fixed, and his car is wonderful, but it just feels so good to drive my car again. As a smallish person, I feel most comfortable and safest driving a little car.
3. Following #2, I am grateful that we did not have to replace the whole hybrid battery just yet. The local garage thought that would be necessary, but Sam the Prius guy was able to change the cells instead, and they were still under warranty. We’ll save the big expenses for another time.
4. Long weekend ahead. I have a lovely day of in-service ahead with my colleagues, and then three days of break.
5. The puppycat. Joss and Thorby are playing fetch all over the house.

May we walk in Beauty!

Words

 

“The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”  ― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
*
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
*
“I hold the most archaic values on earth … the fertility of the soul, the magic of the animals, the power-vision in solitude…. the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe.” ― Gary Snyder
*
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
*
“The study of silence has long engrossed me. The matrix of a poet’s work consists not only of what is there to be absorbed and worked on, but also of what is missing, desaparecido, rendered unspeakable, thus unthinkable.” ―Adrienne Rich
*
“Be ready to be surprised by the crazy, wonderful events that will come dancing out of your past when you stir the pot of memory. Embrace those long-lost visitors.” ―William Zinsser
*
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. ―Bob Marley


Gratitude List:
1. Fridays
2. Owl calling in the pre-dawn
3. Artists
4. Dreams
5. Words

May we walk in Beauty!

Beloved Community

tree1

A couple years ago, I had a girl in my freshman class who entered every classroom on high alert, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. She didn’t wait to be bullied or insulted–she was ready to lash out at the least hint of a slight, the least whiff of aggression. Within days, most of her classmates were steering a wide path around her, terrified that they might accidentally look at her the wrong way and find themselves on the receiving end of her wrath.

One of the things I love about my school is the restorative way that teachers and administrators work with students. Teachers kept reminding her to keep her language school-appropriate, to speak more gently with her classmates. Students who felt harmed by her sharpness were cared for and comforted, and she was held accountable for the harm she caused. Still, she was treated like a person herself, not like a perpetrator, not like a problem. The adults understood that she was experiencing an extreme sense of vulnerability, that her social anxiety and the pain she was dealing with in her personal life made her push people away before she could be hurt.

Gradually, she began letting other students and adults near her. She discovered that people liked her for who she was, that we appreciated her quick wit, that she could make us laugh and smile. She began to talk and write about deeper things, too. When she lost someone she loved, instead of retreating to her cave and biting anyone who came near, she wrote it out. She talked about it. She let her friends hold her and care for her.

Now she’s a junior.  She’s finding her voice, catching her stride. She can still make you cringe when she gets into a temper. She’ll always be good at speaking her mind. But the aggressiveness is tempered with gentleness. Instead of masking her vulnerability, she uses her tender heart to find connections with others who hurt. She’s beginning to speak out about issues and causes that matter to her, using both reason and passion. She’s becoming a leader. I am proud of her, and grateful for this community that helped her find her way to her best self. She’s going to be one of the ones who changes the world.

Gratitude List:
1. Beloved community that provides a place for us to fail and try and fail and try and learn and become.
2. The way the sunlight spilled across the fields as dawn arrived.
3. Magenta, Indigo, Aquamarine, which is to say: The clouds at sunrise.
4. The way those five crows flying in a perfect line laced up the clouds they flew between.
5. The members of the Silhouette Magazine staff. They’re witty, earnest, playful, and thoughtful. I’m proud of the assembly they presented this morning.

May we walk in Beauty!