Naming the Colors

A golden person peeked in my window this morning while I was writing about colors.

Here’s a little Noticing Exercise for today:
Go outside, or stand at your window, and look around. Take a few deep breaths, of course. Feel your feet on the ground. Now, start naming the colors you see. Maybe start with the spectrum. Hang out with old Roy G. Biv for a few moments.

Find something red (it can be something human-wrought, but it’s especially satisfying to do this only with naturally-occurring colors). Breathe in red.

Orange might be harder, unless you have a family of resident orioles chasing each other across your view, but look really closely at the turnings of color at the tips of a patch of weeds, or the hidden shades of turned earth in the flowerbed. See if you can find it. Breathe in orange.

Yellow is pretty easy if you’ve got a dandelion patch, or goldfinches. Breathe yellow.

Green–it’s everywhere, but don’t forget to breathe it in.

Blue. Also easy, perhaps, particularly if the sky is cloudless. Breathe blue.

Indigo: We’re not really trained to notice indigo. If you have a bunting or a bluebird handy, the indigo is really the deep well of blue that pools beneath the flash and shine. Or look at a cloud–what we call the silver lining of a cloud is actually indigo. Really look at it. Then look into it. Without a cloud, you can do this with shadows. Indigo is the deepest layer of shadow. If you think you’re really only imagining it, you’re probably in the presence of indigo. Indigo is mysterious, almost elusive. Breathe in indigo.

Violet is in the gill-on-the-grass, the edges of asters, the pulsing life force in the newest branches. Find violet. Breath in violet.

Now you’ve breathed a rainbow. Won’t it just be a glorious day from here on out?


Gratitude List:
1. Things are zoomy and bright out there in birdland. In all the years we’ve been here, I really don’t know when I have seen such a healthy flock of local goldfinches.
2. Last night’s weekly Birding Club (I mean Family) Zoom call. If you think I talk a lot about birds, you need to meet my family. In the Before, I might sometimes go a couple months without seeing or talking to my siblings. Now, I talk to them Every Week. I just got a little teary writing that. Even when I am raging at the losses, here is a gift. Such a gift.
3. This is the last week of school. I am so terribly torn. There really is a part of me that dreads this. The lack of closure is extremely painful. It feels wrong. I think I have been keeping myself from anticipating the end of the semester because I don’t know how to close this out. But I so desperately need this break, the chance to re-group, to make art without feeling like I should be doing something else, the opportunity to write what I want when I want, and the movement out of this incredibly sedentary life.
4. Sunshine and cool breezes. Thermal Delight.
5. Color!

May we walk in Beauty!


“Perfectionism is a virus which keeps us running on the treadmill of never-enoughness. It is inherently deadening for how it strives and never arrives. Failure is embedded in its very pursuit, for our humanity can never be homogenised. The only antidote is to turn away from every whiff of plastic and gloss and follow our grief, pursue our imperfections, exaggerate our eccentricities until they, the things we once sought to hide, reveal themselves as our true majesty.” —Toko-pa Turner


“The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.” —Douglas Adams


“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” —Carl Sagan


“UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.”
—The Onceler, Dr. Seuss

Coronavirus Dream

No raccoons this morning. I am such a worrywort, and when I start to care deeply, then I begin to worry about Every Little Thing. We’re assuming that Mama came back for her baby sometime yesterday when we weren’t watching. We’re assuming that she didn’t take them up this tree last night–I have read that they often choose different hiding places each day or week. Just because I kept smelling fox yesterday doesn’t mean that they’ve encountered the raccoons, and just like the raccoons need to feed their littles on birds’ eggs, foxes need little raccoons to feed their littles, so the cycle of life continues. . .


Two nights ago, I dreamed I met a llama. Nothing more remains of that dream, except the llama coming to greet me.

Last night I had my first coronavirus dream. Jon and I were going somewhere in the car, and I realized that I didn’t have my mask along. I told Jon I needed to use his, but he was pretty strict about sharing masks and said I couldn’t use his. The people in the building where we were going to be were all pretty skeptical about social distancing and mask-wearing, so I NEEDED to have my mask to keep me and them safe, and to normalize mask-wearing. Just as we pulled in to the place, I found a scarf in the car, so I wrapped it around my head like a hijab, covering my mouth and nose, although I knew the people in the building would find that triggering.


Gratitude:
Color is so important to me. This morning, Indigo Bunting and Blue Jay were at the feeder together. Moments after they flew away, a bright red cardinal and a glowing yellow goldfinch flew in, followed a red-bellied woodpecker with its cap on fire.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

The Impossible Truth


May you feel your spirit rise today,
rolling away the stone from the entrance
and bursting forth into the shining garden.

May you sense the impossible truth today.
As you huddle in your anguished grieving,
may you hear the Gardener call your name
as you turn into the light.


Gratitude List:
1. A shining morning
2. Making things: clothing and poems and bread
3. All the colors out there: flashes of red and yellow in the trees, blue and green
4. Courage
5. Sunlight in the hollow

May we walk in Beauty!


“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” ―Rumi


“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ―Buddha


Some words on my River, from Robert Louis Stevenson:
“I have been changed from what I was before;
and drunk too deep perchance the lotus of the air,
Beside the Susquehanna and along the Delaware.”
―Robert Louis Stevenson


“. . .and as I saw, one after another, pleasant villages, carts upon the highway and fishers by the stream, and heard cockcrows and cheery voices in the distance, and beheld the sun, no longer shining blankly on the plains of ocean, but striking among shapely hills and his light dispersed and coloured by a thousand accidents of form and surface, I began to exult with myself upon this rise in life like a man who had come into a rich estate. And when I had asked the name of a river from the brakesman, and heard that it was called the Susquehanna, the beauty of the name seemed to be part and parcel of the beauty of the land. As when Adam with divine fitness named the creatures, so this word Susquehanna was at once accepted by the fancy. That was the name, as no other could be, for that shining river and desirable valley.” ―Robert Louis Stevenson


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ―Elie Wiesel


Rob Brezsny:
Plato said God was a geometer who created an ordered universe imbued with mathematical principles. Through the ages, scientists who’ve dared to speak of a Supreme Being have sounded the same theme. Galileo wrote, “To understand the universe, you must know the language in which it is written. And that language is mathematics.”

Modern physicist Stephen Hawking says that by using mathematical theories to comprehend the nature of the cosmos, we’re trying to know “the mind of God.”

But philosopher Richard Tarnas proposes a different model. In his book “Cosmos and Psyche,” he suggests that God is an artist—more in the mold of Shakespeare than Einstein.

For myself―as I converse with God every day―I find Her equally at home as a mathematician and artist.

The Unflappables

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s dawn: How the sky was a living breathing indigo until the horizon cracked open in magenta, a tangerine orange glow slowly seeping through.
2. Persephone’s footsteps, the crocus and anemone popping up everywhere. We have a large clump of white crocus in a patch of green chickweed by the porch. We usually only have one or two white ones.
3. Crows
4. Puzzles
5. The steady, unflappable people. If you’re feeling anxious about politics or viruses or the economy or whatever, find one of the Unflappables and bask in their settledness.

May we walk in Beauty!

Things Work Out

Same photo as yesterday, sent through a rainy filter.

Gratitude List:
1. Wonder. When I was a kid, my teacher had us fill a jar with wet paper towels, and then poke seeds around the edges, and we watched the corn grow roots and sprouts. Last fall, I brought a jar and some corn into my classroom, and set it on my desk, hoping to get around to doing it in my classroom, just to see what would happen. (I’m a high school English teacher, but wonder is wonder, and science belongs everywhere.) Last week, my students were asking me about the jar, and one of them went and filled it with wet paper towels, and I poked the little kernels in, kind of doubting that it would work as I remembered. But the roots have been growing down, long and strong, and several sturdy green shoots are shooting upward. My students are loving it as much as I am. We’re all rooting (ha!) for the little plants. I guess I will have to transplant them soon, and then I’ll have sweet corn this summer! (Next up: beans.)
2. The power of personal narrative. We do a lot of personal narratives in writing classes. It can be a little challenging to keep it fresh, especially when you have the same students in a couple different classes, but it’s part of the deep curriculum at my school: We want our students to be able to self-examine, to understand who they are.
3. Colors. A student of mine introduced me to the game I Love Hue, an app that sets up a grid of colored squares, and then rearranges a bunch of them, and you have to move them back to the right places in relationship to each other. Sometimes I am a whiz at this game, and sometimes I am terrible. My brain is not consistent in its recognition of varieties of hues. I feel like I’m learning and improving my sense of hues, especially as they shift around the grid in relationship to each other.
4. Books. A friend recommended The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. It came in the mail yesterday. I want to read it with Josiah, and we’re currently into Avi’s Ragweed and Poppy series, so it will wait, but I am excited to get started. (We were reading The Book of the Dun Cow, but I had forgotten that the basilisks killed Pertelote and Chauntecleer’s three chicks, and that was a deal-breaker for us. We stopped the book.)
5. When the planning works out. My brain was so foggy last night that I went to bed without a plan for Speech class, but I woke up with a very clear picture in my brain of the file where I had last year’s plans for the same thing, and I found it this morning, and it’s brilliant. I don’t know what foggy-brained-me was thinking, trying to re-invent the plans all over.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 20: The Last Day to Walk In

If this journey into the December darkness is a labyrinth, today we have come to the second to last turning, the final passage before we turn inward to the center circle. Today is the approach, the last moment in the labyrinth walk, when I am usually asking myself, “Have I missed anything that I need to lay down, to let go of, to relinquish?”

Inanna gave up–willingly–all her symbols of personal power in her underground search for her sister, until at last she came to the deep central chamber naked and unadorned. No pretense, no mask, no tool, could hide or protect her when she entered the chamber to greet her sister, who was all moving shadow, all hidden secret.

What are the last unexamined scraps of our deep selves that we have left unexamined? What personal power have we yet failed to turn over to the guards at the gates?

Yesterday while I was folding clothes, I listened to LeVar Burton read the short story “Navigators,” by Mike Meginnis, about a boy and his father who play a video game whose heroine, instead of gathering powers as the game progresses, slowly gives up her powers. Each item they find in their hero’s journey disables something of the video character’s power. As she lost strength and speed, they began to notice other hidden aspects of the game, places they could hide, and ways their hero could escape rather than fight. It struck me how much this is like the Inanna tale.

So much there is that I want to fight for. I don’t want to enter this next doorway defenseless. If I am going to keep participating in this battle for justice for the children, for those who seek asylum and justice, for the planet herself, don’t I need to keep my fighting powers intact? Don’t I need to gain strength and power instead of letting it all fall away?

And there, I think, I am beginning to come toward the kernel that I might be trying to learn in this year’s labyrinth. In November, I experienced a significant hit to my ego, a sideways blow that made me question myself and my sense of belonging. Trying to respond with vulnerability and yet maintain my sense of safety took a great deal of inner energy. I raged a little bit that fate would keep bringing me this particular lesson–Didn’t I do the chapter on ego back in 2003? Haven’t I been through all the review sessions? Haven’t I already passed all the levels of this test?

There’s always one more test. You’re never really done. I stand here and hold my fragile ego in my hands, my own words from past lessons and tests ringing in my ears: Begin the lesson again. Lay it down. Break it open. One. Final. Thing.


Gratitude List:
1. Punctuation. I put a couple little punctuation jokes on the the board yesterday. Most of my classes smiled politely, but one class suddenly broke into an intense discussion of how we use punctuation in texting and social media these days, how it’s changing, how punctuation has suddenly become necessary to help create the emotional context for digital communication. It took twenty minutes of the class period, but it was such delightful intellectual analysis that I was happy to set aside the plan.
2. Those bright and shiny student brains and hearts. In three classes, we concluded Julius Caesar yesterday. At the end, I asked them to consider their own ideals for their countries. What is the purpose of a government? What should be the relationship of government to people? In two of the classes, more than five countries were represented, and in all of them were students from both sides of the US political spectrum, but in all three classes, the ideals brought forth were the same.
3. Examining the last shreds of ego to relinquish to December darkness. Today is the last leg of the inward journey. Tomorrow is the dark and quiet inner chamber. And then we begin walking toward the light.
4. Breaks from the routine.
5. Pops of color in the grey.

May we walk in Beauty!

Exhaustion and Exhortation (What’s With the H?)

Gratitude List:
1. The play, while it was absolutely marvelous, is over. I only ushered, and I am exhausted. My son the sound engineer is more tired than I, and I am sure the actors are working on a deficit. It’s going to be a gentle week in my classroom, I think.
2. Fall color. The maple trees are on fire.
3. Listening ears.
4. Challenge. I am trying to lean into the challenges, and accept what they will teach me. Does this get harder with age? Or am I just in a phase of comfort-seeking? In my dream last night, I was afraid to scale a large rock, but when it came to it, I scrambled up without effort. I will carry that sense of personal empowerment with me.
5. Slow and steady wins the race. That’s more of an exhortation than a gratitude. So personal exhortations will be my fifth gratitude. When I find myself in a negative self-talk loop, I’ll add exhortations. You’ve got this, Grrrrl.

May we walk in Beauty!

(Isn’t that “h” in exhaustion and exhortation an interesting bit of extra and perhaps unheeded breathiness? I do like it. Say exhaustion with the “h” and it has a nice helpful exhale in the middle. Exhale–that’s an “h” that definitely gets pronounced. It’s almost onomatopoetic: It sounds like what it is. And the almost enunciated “h” in exhortation is fortifying. Try saying that one in the word, and you’re ready to conquer that coming challenge. Remember to breathe!)

Into the Dark, December 5

very year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

Those sunrise clouds do it every morning. I move through the morning darkness like a wader in a murky pond every morning, until I am fully awake, until I can let some of my muscles relax into the day. The clouds help. Magenta and tangerine streaks across cobalt and indigo and grey. Touches of aquamarine in the sky below.

Not every day, of course. Some of the sunrises are simple shifts from grey to grey. But some mornings, the sky breathes for me, breathes in colors that seep into my bones, the way warmth begins to creep inward from a nice cup of tea.

My word for today will be Color. Even in the grey days, there’s color to be found, and even now there are deep rich greens, pops of berry red, cardinal red, golden sunbeam.

Today, may colors seep into your soul, awaken and enliven you, help you breathe. Blessed be.


“The opposite of consumption is not frugality, it is generosity.”
—Raj Patel


“By reciting a myth, the storyteller remembers a creation, and, by remembering, is a part of that creating. It is best understood in that dreadful solecism “walkabout”. In walking, the Australians speak the land. Their feet make it new, now, and in its beginning. And the land speaks to them, now, anew, and in their beginning, by step and breath that meet in its dance, so that land and people sing as one.” —Alan Garner, The Voice That Thunders


“This earth that we live on is full of stories in the same way that, for a fish, the ocean is full of ocean. Some people say when we are born we’re born into stories. I say we’re also born from stories.” —Ben Okri


“So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,
one of which was you.” ―Mary Oliver


“Let the violence and pain in our world root you even more deeply in your commitment to be kinder and love harder, no matter the person or circumstance. Your great ability to love has everything to do with creating a more peaceful reality on our planet. Your love matters. It makes a critical difference. It helps us all.” —Scott Stabile


“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” —Nelson Mandela


“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
—Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)


“Never does Nature say one thing and Wisdom another.” —Juvenal


“There is a place where words are born of silence,
A place where the whispers of the heart arise.” —Rumi


Gratitude List:
1. Warm blankets
2. Elementary School Music Concerts
3. Nourishment
4. Words
5. You

May we walk in Beauty!

Shadow and Flame

What would you see if you could look through that window?

Gratitude List:
1. Elderberry wine. It’s a great comfort for a cold.
2. Windows, on many levels
3. Quiet and solitude
4. Color
5. DreamsThe dream as I woke up this morning went like this:
Two sisters were holding each other.
One says, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay.”
The Other says, “I wish I could believe that.”
The First says, “It’s okay. I’ll believe it for both of us. You just concentrate on taking one step at a time.”
This was after a harrowing dream about trying to get somewhere that I needed to go, and trying to contact Jon to tell him I would be late, and the taxi just wouldn’t come, and my phone was blinking out, and I couldn’t remember whether I had closed the door to keep the cats from getting out.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Quiet the mind enough
so it is the heart
that gives the prayer.”
—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King Jr.


“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


“Creative acts of social justice constitute life’s highest performance art.” —Rebecca Alban Hoffberger


“If you will, you can become all flame.” —Abba Joseph


“Become all shadow.
Become all light.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


“You cannot use someone else’s fire; you can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe you have it.” —Audre Lorde


“The first duty of love is to listen.”
—Paul Tillich


“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith. The opposite of faith is certainty.”
—Paul Tillich


“When you go to your place of prayer, don’t try to think too much or manufacture feelings or sensations. Don’t worry about what words you should say or what posture you should take. It’s not about you or what you do. Simply allow Love to look at you—and trust what God sees! God just keeps looking at you and loving you center to center. ” —Richard Rohr


“All through your life, the most precious experiences seemed to vanish. Transience turns everything to air. You look behind and see no sign even of a yesterday that was so intense. Yet in truth, nothing ever disappears, nothing is lost. Everything that happens to us in the world passes into us. It all becomes part of the inner temple of the soul and it can never be lost. This is the art of the soul: to harvest your deeper life from all the seasons of your experience. This is probably why the soul never surfaces fully. The intimacy and tenderness of its light would blind us. We continue in our days to wander between the shadowing and the brightening, while all the time a more subtle brightness sustains us. If we could but realize the sureness around us, we would be much more courageous in our lives. The frames of anxiety that keep us caged would dissolve. We would live the life we love and in that way, day by day, free our future from the weight of regret.” —John O’Donohue


“People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.” —Charles Fort


“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.” —Shakespeare, The Tempest

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