Every 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.
I am writing this the evening before, because my family has decided that tomorrow will be a screen-free (other than work/school) day. We have a tendency to get caught up in our various internet pursuits and spend less time with each other, and we’ve developed patterns of crankiness after long internet sessions. We’re breaking the pattern tomorrow, shifting the energy, offering ourselves open spaces in our mornings and afternoons together.
Our hope is that this gives us more moments to be present with each other. So that’s my word for December 4: Presence. It’s an Advent word, after all–in the Christian tradition, we wait for the coming of God-with-us, Emmanuel.
In what ways can I be more present with family, my students, myownself?
Gratitude List: 1. Warm lap-cat on a chilly day. Cats draped along my legs and lap. 2. How coffee takes the edge off. (I know. It’s a drug. And I actually had someone confront me once about being thankful for a mind-altering substance like coffee. Still, it’s what I am grateful for.) 3. Presence. Being here in this moment. And this one. And this one. 4. Catching up 5. Community
Today’s prompt is to write a love/anti-love poem. I ended the day today sort of exhausted, partly because of the incredible resistance I am getting from some students in my Creative Writing class.
I see it in your eyes when you ask the question
(the loathing, the defiant refusal to accept)
“Why do we have to study poetry?”
And in this moment I do not know how,
after all these years of this work,
to hand you this gift
that I love so deeply,
which you so staunchly refuse.
It’s about your own power,
I want to tell you,
about your power to say
exactly what you want to say,
to take that roiling mass of uncertainty
that slides out from behind the tough mask
you put on for me,
to take all that and give it words,
to sort it, to speak your truth,
to know the beauty and the strength
of your own words, to find your way
Now. Close your eyes and open your hands.
1. My contemplative friend Handsome Joe, how he cocks his beak to look at me as I pass. Paddling in his pool in the creek, or strolling through the green grasses of his estate.
2. The red sprouts of peonies lifting their heads by the shop.
3. The first fern fiddleheads unfurling.
4. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s their azure and indigo underbellies that capture me.
5. The challenges and delights of belonging to a community.
Gratitude List: 1. Sacred Circles: Family, friends, communities
2. Laughter and tears in the sacred circle
3. Sharing Stories
4. Birds: geese, hawks, flocks of little birds, lone crows flying above wintry fields
5. A very faint sun dog in the clouds on the way home today
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ―Victor Hugo
“Everybody’s In, Baby.” ―The Love Warriors
“And when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up and away; she looked into the eyes of the person next to her. Which is Harder. Better.” ―Glennon Doyle
“When we ask for help, we are building community. We are doing away with this notion that we should be practicing at detachment. We are rapturously attaching! We become responsible for tending to one another’s pieces. Not only is the giver allowed to express their bestowing heart, the receiver is taken into a greater tenderness of their own giving nature. As we grow our capacity for gratitude, which is another way of saying completeness or belonging, we are healing our tinygiant part of the world’s devastating wound of scarcity.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Forever is composed of nows.” ―Emily Dickinson
Rob Brezsny: ‘So it turns out that the “blemish” is actually essential to the beauty. The “deviation” is at the core of the strength. The “wrong turn” was crucial to you getting you back on the path with heart.’
“If not for reverence, if not for wonder, if not for love, why have we come here?” ―Raffi
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ―Anne Frank
Gratitude List: 1. Reading. I have gotten out of the habit of reading for fun, only catching a page or three here and there between projects. Yesterday, I had whole blocks of time to just read. I’m re-reading Patricia McKillip’s Alphabet of Thorn. I want to get her Kingfisher, which won this year’s Mythopoeic Society’s Award.
2. The place between worlds that is the beach: Earth, Water, Air. The Fire part is a little more esoteric, perhaps, but the sun provides.
3. Tiny beach pebbles. They’re so satisfying to hold in my hand
4. The sound of gulls in the wind
5. So many sane and articulate people in the world
For some reason my brain went with doggerel tonight.
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
You can call me Raging Heart,
Heart of Tiger, Heart of Flame.
You can call me Crushing Fury.
Just don’t forget my other name.
You can call me Quivering Spirit,
Cowering Critter, Anxious Mouse.
You can call me Wild-Eyed Worry.
Just find the doorway to my house.
You can call me Grieving Moonchild,
Weeping Willow, Wailing Place.
You can call me Wounded Creature.
Just remember how to see my face.
1. My family, spaghetti, coffee, and salted caramel ice cream. I held myself together long enough to make it home and take in this good medicine.
2. The deepening of colors on rainy days. Such rich color.
3. Community. All the pledges to hold each other, to love each other, to protect each other.
5. How grieving builds empathy
I find myself doodling and drawing labyrinths again–it always seems to happen when I am thrown off-balance. Here is one of my favorite labyrinths, up at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville.
Today’s Poetry Prompt is to write an Activity Poem.
Blessing for Election Day and Beyond
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
May we be spinners of webs,
catching each other,
wrapping each other
in silken threads
to keep us all from falling.
May we be builders of bridges,
creating firm pathways
so all may walk safely
over the chasm
or meet in the middle.
May we be wanderers,
willing to walk in the wild places,
seeking each other
when distance has
broken our circles.
May we be dreamers
and planners, wishers
and makers, devising a future
may find a home in love.
Gratitude List: 1. A pileated woodpecker sailing through the treetops and sunshine on the way down Ducktown this morning. It has been a long time since I have seen one.
2. Getting the grades in. What’s the old saying? “The wonderful thing about hanging by your fingernails is it feels so good when you’re done.” Yeah, that.
3. The promise of a warm and comfortable bed very soon. I admit it, small as that hour is, the time change is challenging for me. I always feel like I need extra sleep to handle it. I am off to bed VERY soon.
4. Jon Carlson’s thoughtful reminder in chapel this morning: The really important thing is Love. I will carry that with me like a shiny pebble into the day tomorrow, and the days that follow.
5. You, my friends. You keep bringing me back to center when I start to fray around the edges. What bright and brilliant community.
Hold on tightly. Breathe deeply. Smile at each other often. Get some sleep.
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.
I spent last week quietly anticipating another walk of the Camp Hebron Labyrinth. On my Saturday morning walk own to the woods, I kept thinking how different the paths and the distances seemed in just a week. The thought appeared in my head: “It’s a different journey now.” Even though I am walking a similar path and toward a different destination, the journey keeps shifting and changing. Just moments after I had begun to ponder what I meant by thinking that, I arrived at the labyrinth to find that a tree had fallen across it.
I recently found this piece of paper on which I wrote, in the summer of 2015, a series of examen-type questions. I think I probably have already written these in the blog, but I am going to put them here again so that I can ponder them this week. I wouldn’t use more than five of them a day, probably, and for similar ones, like the first four, I would spread them out over days, to see how the different ways of asking almost the same question evokes different internal responses.
How did Mystery encounter you today?
How did you encounter Mystery today?
How were found by Mystery?
How did God/dess seek you?
What awakened you?
What vision brought your spirit awake?
What nudged you? (Or nudged you forward?)
Where does your heart sit?
What gave you wings?
What do you take on your journey?
What do you tuck into the corners?
What quickened within you?
What brought your senses (or your heart, your spirit, your brain) alive?
What do you take deeper?
What do you take into prayer?
What is the weight that you carry?
And not that I am thinking about it again, I’ll add some more from today’s heart:
What itches? What makes you uncomfortable?
What feels unsettled?
What skin are you shedding?
What muscles are you stretching?
Gratitude List: 1. Bridges, and bridge-building language and actions
2. Gathered Community
3. Getting the work organized, making a plan
4. Treasuring each other
5. Waking up–I am struggling with the actual physical process this morning. How much more intense it can be to wake up in other ways. May we always be open to the pull to wake further, to bring our dreams into the wakeful spaces.
This is the family portrait that my friend Kris Miller (Art of the Brogue) took of our little family of hummingbirds. I love this photograph so much. It’s still hard to believe that such a miracle exists in the tree outside. It is such an honor that she chose our spot for her family.
Gratitude List: 1. Family
2. Community networks of prayer
3. Tiny wonders
5. The way the day always branches outward with so many possibilities
As you read, you can use your own name for the Great Mystery, the Force of Life, Beauty, Love:
Psalm of Desire
(14 August 2016, revised)
O God of Beauty,
God of Marvel,
God of Wonder,
the whole universe that you have made
is built upon desire:
the force that holds electrons in atomic orbit,
that keeps the planets in their dance around the sun,
and wheels the spiraled walk of galaxies
is that same force which holds us to the earth,
which pulls the tides up the beach and back,
and calls us from complacency
to yearn for something more.
Not only do we hunger for you,
but you are the very force of our longing,
the Magnet which draws us ever outward
from the limiting walls of our own egos
to seek your face in all that surrounds us,
to seek your heart in the hearts of our neighbors,
to follow the pathway that leads us homeward.
You are the Magnet which draws us, finally,
into the home of our deepest selves,
where we are most truly
what you have made us to be.
Our yearning for you is an echo
of your own yearning for your children.
May we carry the knowledge within us,
deep in our cellular constellations,
pulled with the tides of our blood,
that our own deepest longings
are the echoes of your voice
calling us to you.
Draw us ever closer to your Center,
as the sun holds the planets in constant orbit,
as a mother draws her child to her heart,
that our longing may lead us always to you,
our Truest Home.
Gratitude List: 1. Preparing the heart space. So much work remains to be done, but the work on the heart moves on apace. (I copied this from last year’s August 15 list.) 2. Memories of luna moth. I haven’t seen any this year (yet), but I love looking at photos from other years.
3. How Love will always trump dogma. Generous spirits.
4. The wise and loving community.
5. Feathers. Wings. Wind. Flight.