Gratitudes, Musings

Truth is a Mirror


Time is Telling.

“The heart is the house of empathy whose door opens when we receive the pain of others. This is where bravery lives, where we’ll find our mettle to give and receive, to love and be loved, to stand in the center of uncertainty with strength, not fear, understanding this is all there is. The heart is the path to wisdom because it dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power.”
—Terry Tempest Williams
*
“To understand the world knowledge is not enough. You must see it, touch it, live in its presence.”
–Teilhard de Chardin
*
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” — Maya Angelou
*
“Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.” –Pablo Neruda
*
“Not to spoil the ending for you, but everything is going to be okay.” –Anonymous
*
“may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old …” –e.e. cummings
*
“Truth was a mirror in the hands of God
It fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece of it,
and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.” –Rumi


Gratitude List:
1. Collegiality. I really enjoy the people I work with. Laughing together is powerful social glue.
2. Cool mornings and rain.
3. Supper at Mexitaly last night. Big burrito with mango habanero sauce!
4. These cats. I know it’s an obsession these days. Thorby is so funny, flopping on the floor for belly rubs and petting his own face. Sachs still likes quiet, secluded spaces, but I no longer have to snort dust bunnies under the bed in order to get to know him. He comes out for regular petting sessions and purring.
5. Three deer in the horse field near Highpoint last evening when the sun was slanting in.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Season of Revisions

Now we come to the Season of Revisions. I am not only speaking of poetry here; I am speaking poetically. I have habits of mind and habits of space and movement to revise and to refine. I have thoughts and ideas, plans and intentions to revise and to renovate. Perhaps my poetic revisions can be like a wave that will help me in other areas to continue to move always in the direction I want to move, to break the stasis, to step out of the rut, to live–as US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera says, “in a flourishing way.”

Earlier in the month of April, I tossed out this poem one evening:

Message from the Empress

In the orchard over the ridge
the trees have broken into a riot of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet grass beneath.

Let us riot too.

Let us spread
our blooming fingers to the sky,
opening our mouths and our hearts,
meeting destruction with bloom,
with green, with simple beauty,
with overpowering fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.

Last week I subjected it to a several-step revision process that I asked my Creative Writing students to engage in:

Step One:
Change up the line lengths. Consider tossing in some tabs to change the shape of the poem on the page. Or center. Or right-justify.

Step Two:
Find six interesting words in your poem. Using an online thesaurus, your own head, or the help of a friend, write three+ synonyms for each word, and substitute them for the words in your poem.

Step Three:
Go back to Step Two. Retype those six words, or choose six more. Find three+ rhymes for each of those words, using an online rhyming dictionary, or the help of a friend or your own head. Can you tuck any of these words into your poem? Also, listen for words with similar sounds–vowels and consonants–even if they don’t rhyme. Can you add or substitute any of those words in your poem?

Step Four:
Rewrite your poem, using rhythm and rhyme. This one may feel like the most complicated one, but see if you can feel a sense of the rhythm of your words. (I have revised my revision process: originally I had steps three and four in opposite order. They make much more sense when you transpose them.)

Step Five:
Read through all your versions. Is there one that stands out as the strongest to you? Are there parts of different ones that you like? Mix and match. Choose your favorite version so far and type that one in.

I ended up with this:

Message from the Empress

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
     Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
     Let us be wanton.

***
I’m still not sure that this is my best version, but I feel a real satisfaction. I hope my students can feel a little measure of that satisfaction with their own poems.

Gratitude List:
1. Wise and open-hearted colleagues
2. Sharing food
3. Revising, renewing, renovating, reactivating
4. Yellow feathers, yellow flowers
5. Breath. Inspiration. Breath.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

Eight Candles


Gratitude List:
1. People who cry when they read the sad parts in books. I am thinking of a particular student wiping her eyes as she finished the last pages of her most recent book.
2. Cherry blossoms
3. The tight fists of buds in the Flinchbaugh orchards. Some tiny blooms, too.
4. This parenting gig. Birthdays remind me how precious it all is, and how fleeting.
5. People are still talking about the Senior Presentations. During Tuesday’s final group, the rooms were packed, the energy was high, and the support was evident. People were pronouncing blessings on their fledglings. I love to hear students speak of how much they appreciate their teachers–it gives me a new and deeper appreciation (already deep) for my colleagues.

May we walk in Beauty. May we shower each other with Blessings.

Gratitudes

A Long Weekend

stones-or-eggs Eggs or stones?

Gratitude List:
1. Hooray! Pippi Prius can be fixed. It took a while to get the details worked out with the insurance company, and the damage was apparently almost equal to her value, but they’ve agreed to go ahead and do it.
2. My colleagues. Yesterday was an in-service day, and much as I always wish I could just have those days to decompress or catch up on work, I always come away feeling energized and inspired for the work ahead–also, grateful for the earnest, positive, playful energy of my colleagues.
3. Our school superintendent, Richard Thomas. Since he announced his coming retirement last winter, it’s been disconcerting to think of the future of the school without him. He has helped this school system to shape a vision of itself as a community, as a place where students and teachers and staff work to become our best selves, to create a place of shalom. Yesterday we had a chance to try to tell him a little bit about what he means to us.
4. The Search Committee, who had a huge task in a short time. They listened well, heard our concerns and our hopes for the future, and found someone who seems to have vision and determination and savvy enough to step into the superintendent’s role.  They have been careful to be confidential when confidentiality has been necessary, while staying as transparent as possible. Yesterday they carefully led us through their process of the past six months and shared the ways in which our new superintendent fits the values and ideals that we gave them.
5. Today. I can work all day to catch up. I didn’t get as much done last weekend as I wanted. I plan to go to school on Monday with no late grading hanging over my head.

Shalom.

Gratitudes, Poems

Where Does Coyote Go?

chicken-of-the-woods
Hen of the Woods, Halifax,PA. Altered by Dreamscope.

Where does coyote go to rest in these hills and mountains
cross-hatched by houses and fields of corn and soy?
Where does he lay his head? Where does vixen raise her family?
Where does she hide her young ones?
Where do they find a patch of sun to play in?

Coyote brought us losses. We breathe a sigh in memory
of the soft feathers and sweet cluckings of our little flock.
Perhaps we drew him here with hens, and when they were spent,
he stayed on for fatty groundhog and the tenderness of rabbit.
An we breathe a sigh of gratitude for that.
If only now he brought us rain.

(I’m not sure quite what that is–I think it might work better in a prosey form, but I have become accustomed to lining out my thoughts like poems, considering where I want to breathe in the spaces of the phrase.)

Gratitude List:
1. Sleeping until just minutes before the alarm went off. I think I must have slept even more deeply last night.
2. Watching my children grow and learn and become themselves. Sometimes when they start to talk about what they are learning or thinking about, I find myself watching them from outside myself, marveling at these creatures that I know so intimately and that I do not know at all. Where have they come from?
3. My colleagues. Yesterday after a meeting about our accreditation process, one of the other teachers said to me that he found it interesting that no one in the meeting seemed discouraged or frustrated. Anyone can tell you that the beginning of an accreditation process can seem daunting at best. But he was right–the team seemed cheerful and eager. The administrative folks who are holding us through this and guiding the process are walking with us and brainstorming ways to streamline the process even as we take it seriously and fulfill the work of it thoroughly.
4. This steely grey moment before dawn bounds over the hill, when everything gets just a little quieter, even the crickets, and the trees are silhouetted against the sky.
5. My Book of Days (it sounds better than “bullet journal”) Fishing around inside myself for that fifth point, I keep circling around to my little daybook again, abandoning it because I wrote about it a couple days ago, and picking it up again. I have always had a sort of anxious relationship to calendar-keeping, finding it difficult to conceptualize future time, struggling to commit to future dates because the future is so fluid and I don’t want to nail it down. Somehow the little system that I have begun to use in the last week has helped me to visualize and conceptualize the framework of the future. I feel like I have organized the garage.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Making a Circle to Hold a Heart

heartstone
A safe circle for a heart.

Is it cold in the house of the hummingbird,
when raindrops patter softly on the sycamore leaf-roof,

when one small bird has dared the day,
flown upward through sunbeams,
trusting to wings insubstantial as mist?

The other no longer sits more quiet than breath,
but turns her head to the thunder,
hunkers deep into her mattress of cobweb,
waits for her moment to fledge.

Gratitude List:
1. One small hummingbird has dared the day and taken first flight. Safe journeys!
2. Anticipating a weekend and time with friends
3. My wise and earnest colleagues
4. A fine collection of Maine island stones, each with a single white line across, each one a little message about pathways, direction, and destiny, about joining up and making a way where none seems to be
5. English grammar. I happened upon a really fun sentence modeling exercise, which I did with a couple of classes yesterday. One student, who struggles to understand the structure of a complete simple sentence, read out the sentence he’d built, which included carefully placed adverbs and adjectives, two prepositional phrases, an appositive phrase, a subordinate clause, and three absolute phrases. He sounded so elegant and well-spoken, but most delightfully, he sounded proud of himself.  Here is an example of a sentence using all of those pieces: In the classroom, one laid-back teenager, a young man who often has no time for grammar, proudly read an elegant sentence from his writing journal as his delighted teacher listened, the words flowing like water, the ideas sparkling in the air, the class electrified by language.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Beloved

DSCN8971
There is such a thing as the Sun.  I captured this photo of the elusive creature a couple days ago, so I know it, whether or not you believe me.

Henri Nouwen said:
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

As much as I want to, I don’t think I will read this quotation in my classes.  I think that the specific students to whom I want to give it would only feel a greater burden of guilt because they can’t FEEL Beloved.  But it shows me more deeply how the work we need to do, no matter the physical vocation, is to find ways to show people this truth: You are Beloved. To paraphrase I Corinthians 13: If you are a brilliant intellectual or a gifted teacher, but have not love, you are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  As I strive to improve my skills and knowledge base as an educator, I need to keep this always in my heart.

Gratitude List:
1. I am Beloved.  You are Beloved.
2. Working together.  Supportive colleagues.
3. Memory
4. Watching a small boy prepare for his dad’s birthday party.
5. Eating ugali.  I don’t know why I don’t make it more often.  (It’s a thick corn-meal mush, sort of like polenta.)

May we walk in Beauty, knowing we are Beloved.