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 called themselves The White Rose. A group of young people, propelled by their deep desire for justice, their faith, their profound belief in doing what it right. They began writing pamphlets, an underground newspaper of sorts, detailing the reasons for their resistance against Hitler and the Nazis, and leaving them around their university and town for people to find and read.
Three of them, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst, were arrested on February 18, 1943, and sent to the guillotine on February 22, less than a week later. They were all under the age of 25. At the trial before their execution, Sophie appeared with a broken leg, apparently sustained during torture. The defendants were not given a chance to speak, but Sophie called out: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!”
On the back of the indictment that pronounced her death sentence, Sophie wrote, “Freedom!”
Her last words, apparently recorded by a guard present at her execution, were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
This poem inspired the name of the White Rose (Die Weiße Rose):
I Have a White Rose to Tend (Verse XXXIX) by José Martí
I have a white rose to tend In July as in January; I give it to the true friend Who offers his frank hand to me. And for the cruel one whose blows Break the heart by which I live, Thistle nor thorn do I give: For him, too, I have a white rose.
CULTIVO UNA ROSA BLANCA… (Verso XXXIX)
Cultivo una rosa blanca, En julio como en enero, Para el amigo sincero Que me da su mano franca. Y para el cruel que me arranca El corazón con que vivo, Cardo ni oruga cultivo: Cultivo la rosa blanca.
Gratitude List: 1. How my students are present for each other. Yesterday, two in particular ministered (I just can’t think of a word that says it more clearly) to another student who was in pain. Natural, appropriate, immediate responses. The kids are all right. 2. Black History Month Chapel at my school yesterday. These young folks are educators, incredible teachers, wise souls. I’m so proud to know them. 3. All the birds! Yesterday as I was walking out of school, a group of nuthatches were angrily scolding in the maple tree at the corner of the parking lot (nyerk! nyerk! nyerk!). I noticed that they were hollering at a robin. Looking closer, I saw a junco sitting on a branch next to the robin. Then a downy woodpecker began shimmying up the main branch, and in front of her, a bluebird was murmuring along with the nuthatch racket. All in one tree! That was incredibly amazing in itself, but. . . 4. . . .just at the moment, the two people on campus that I knew would appreciate such a sight happened to come along, from two different directions. One a teacher and one a student. So I could share the amazing sight immediately with people who also experienced the wonder. 5. Speaking of birds, there’s a glorious red-bellied woodpecker out there right now chipping away at the suet block. 6. The examples of so many people of courage: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, John Lewis (whose birthday was yesterday), you.
One of the subjects that keeps snagging my poetic attention is the landscape manuscript–how everything around us (not just the landscape) has a “text” that we might understand, if only we could read it. When I’m driving down the road and thinking about a knotty issue I am trying to resolve and I see three crows standing quietly in a winter field, or seven geese suddenly fly overhead in a raggedy V across my view, or something in the way the sun shines on the remaining leaves of that old oak seems to have a message for me–it’s as if there’s a deep text in the world that could be understood if only I knew the letters. And of course the landscape does have messages, and they can be read. It’s what farmers and meteorologists and hikers have done forever. It is what ecologists and environmentalists are doing right now, to save our lives.
And sometimes the visual and aural messages in my environment do seem to align themselves in perfect messages that feel like they’re meant for me, specifically, to read. Again, this is whimsical and playful rather than scientific. And it also captures my attention. I’m not going to make a judgement about whether or not the Holy One Herself, or the Universe, or the faeries, set up yesterday’s little alignment just so my heart could see it, but I will claim the whimsy, say that the synchronicity caught my heart, and then I will use it to construct the next steps of intuitive meaning for the shape my ponderings take in the coming days. I’d rather step into the future making meaning from the rich webs of whimsy and coincidence that surround me than refusing to gather the symbols that dance through my life and live with meaning defined only by the hardest of logic.
I was driving across the Route 30 bridge, listening to the most recent episode of “This Jungian Life” podcast, on the Trickster archetype, because my friend had recommended it to me. I was thinking about the Fool, and how I hoped that this archetype would inform my activism in the coming year, speaking truth through the lies in the way only the Fool can. The theme of the podcast suddenly turned to the way that tricksters throughout history have been challengers of suppression and repression and autocratic rule, how they act as a corrective when a person or a system becomes too rigidly rule-based and oppressive. There was a “click” in my brain at the coincidence of thought and outer message.
At that moment, my eye caught the new Sight and Sound billboard at the end of the bridge—shining purple, it advertised their upcoming production of Queen Esther, and one of my favorite Bible phrases, from the book of Esther, took up the central space in large letters: “FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.” Again, an internal click.
As I passed the billboard, a large vulture swooped low above the highway. Click.
Yes, it’s whimsy and intuition, poetry and dreaminess, rather than hard science or pure logic or cold reason. While I need the latter, while I value science and logic and reason as important mental processes, I think a world that makes meaning without the more poetic processes is bereft of the spark of spirit.
And so it is settled, this day before Epiphany. My word, my archetype, my guiding principle, for the coming year is the Fool. Sacred clown. Jester. Trickster. I’ve been considering how the Fool subverts the dominant paradigm (to use an old phrase) to speak the truth behind the lies. In a political milieu swimming in falsehoods, how does the Fool speak truth? Lear’s Fool spoke from deep love and tenderness, was not afraid to speak harsh truths right to the king’s face, and kept repeating the truth from various angles until the truth shone in.
Even the travelers whose arrival we celebrate today and tomorrow, the Wise Ones, the magi, have an element of the Fool. Magi, Mages, Magic, Image, Imagination. The truth they first told Herod was too bald, too open, too dangerous, and so, when they were presented with the deep truth of this Child, they disobeyed the king and fled home a different way, tricking the King. Still, the consequences were grave and terrible for too baldly proclaiming the truth to the king in the first place. This is lesson to be deeply conscious of to whom and how the truth is presented. The Fool must be wise.
So. The Fool. Those black vulture wings are also in my consciousness. And the echidna, a hybrid creature who survives and thrives because it is more than one thing. Those mists and rainbows, veiling and shattering, scattering light. Wading in the water: Do you want to be well? And Aslan’s words to Lucy: “Courage, Dear Heart!”
There is one more thing, a more abstract word rather than an archetype: Orenda. It comes from the Iroquoian language systems, and it refers to the spiritual power that exists in all things, the energy that we transmit between us, that we can access to change the world.
Okay, and there’s one more thing. My friends. Community. Last night’s dreams were a succession of anxiety dreams. In several scenes, I was trying to find Joss, and just couldn’t make contact. In several scenes, I had little fiddly school details to remember and take care of while I was rushing around trying to do other things. In several scenes I was in a car, constantly missing my exit, needing to turn around, but unable to get around another car or to fit my car into the space of the turn-off. Finally, standing on a sidewalk, about to throw my phone on the ground because I couldn’t get it to make a simple call to Joss, a group of my college friends walked up. Nancy took my phone and got it to dial Joss. Gloria put her hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes, and started to tell me a helpful story. The others gathered around. I could feel everyone’s presence. And I calmed down. Friends. I get by with a little help. . .
What are your messages from the coming year? What words and images coalesce for you? What synchronicities in your inner and outer landscape call to you to listen and follow?
Gratitude List: 1. Friends. How even in my dreams, my beloveds appeared to bring me peace. You. The little connections that are bigger than you know. The way the web of our connections holds us up, and holds the world. 2. The spiritual force within each one of us that enlivens and enlightens and helps us to bring change and goodness into the world. 3. Synchronicity and coincidence and making meaning where it comes. 4. Image and imagination and magic. 5. Being greeted throughout the day by cats.
For the month leading up to Thanksgiving, I followed the lead of a friend and committed to daily gratitude practice that viewed gratitude as an act of resistance, to publicly and intentionally seek out things to be grateful for in the face of forces that seek to demoralize and oppress. To label each grateful paragraph in the first part of the month of November as an act of resistance helped me to keep that perspective, that to be grateful and kind and hopeful in the face of all that seeks to destroy goodness in the world is a primal act of resistance.
Yesterday, in conversation with some of my beloveds, we talked about resistance, about the man who jumped across a police barrier to take down a confederate flag, about the Dutch church that has been holding services for twenty-seven days to protect a family from deportation, about people who are writing letters and protesting on behalf of someone who has experienced a shameful injustice.
We may not be committing the big acts of bold resistance at this moment. Your life may be caught in the business of staying afloat or tending to the needs of your beloveds. Still, we can make it all a resistance. Small acts, little conversations, openness to the moment—opportunities to resist despair and destruction and to create new patterns and stories abound:
* Smile at people and make eye contact. Ask them about themselves. Open hearts are a great antidote to the fear and rage that float around us in our environment.
* Offer people food. Share meals. Experience the flavors of the world together. Develop culinary curiosity about foodways around the world. Watch Anthony Bourdain together.
* Keep your eyes on those who turn inward, who keep to the corners. Be a safe place, a docking spot for ships that are sailing through hostile waters.
*Build bridges with your words. I don’t have to agree with someone to be civil. I can be kind and open in conversation and still maintain a fierce and steady stance on the side of justice. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t always mean attacking. I am more likely to change someone’s mind in a civil conversation than in a battlefield conversation.
* It IS about changing minds and hearts. It is about setting fears and anxieties to rest. The destroyers rely on fear. They’ve weaponized and monetized it. We can walk into the world with courage and draw out the bravery of those around us. Open hearts are brave hearts.
* Speak up for justice. We don’t have to go into conversations blazing with fury and rage against the president. But we can (and should) call out the racist and misogynistic and xenophobic language. We can graciously and civilly state our own desire for more grace and civility and diversity.
* Don’t be afraid to call out your own “side.” Politicians on every side make greedy and unjust choices. Name it when you see it.
* Be grateful. Be joyful. Dance. Find delight and awe in nature. And children. And small animals. All of that—joy and delight and tenderness and curiosity and awe—is active resistance to the tide of destruction.
* Be ready. There may come moments when we are called upon to take the bigger step, the bolder step, the more dangerous or fierce step. We can position ourselves so we are ready to do the thing that must be done when we are called upon to do it.
* Support those who are taking the big and fierce steps right now. Letters and public praise for the ones who taking public stands for justice go a long way to establishing a culture that resists destruction.
*What are your daily acts of resistance?
Gratitude List: 1. Small and large acts of Resistance. Acts of love. Acts of hope. Acts of kindness. 2. Oak trees 3. Family time: games, food, stories, puppy and cat, laughter, wrangling the serious issues 4. Shelter 5. A good rest
May we walk in Beauty!
Sunday’s Treats: “Let my anger be the celebration we were never / supposed to have.” —Jacqui Germain
I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness. It’s right in front of me, if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.
“The eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“You’ve seen my descent.
Now watch my rising.”
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”—Thomas Merton
“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” —Mary Oliver
Tomorrow, in Washington, DC and all across the country, students–youth and children–will be marching for their lives, asking the adults in this country to do something to keep them safe in their schools. That’s what they’re asking: to be safe in their schools. They’re demanding that we adults find the will and the courage to keep them safe when they gather together to learn.
As an English teacher, one of my primary life goals is to offer students the skills and tools and opportunities to find their voices and to speak their truths. My heart is filled to overflowing as I listen to the young people of today articulate their ideas with clarity and force and determination.
I urge you to join them, to join us, to say Enough is Enough, Not One More, Keep Them Safe. To amplify their strong and powerful voices.
Gratitude List: (for the students)
1. Their voices
2. Their determination
3. Their courage
4. Their leadership
5. Their playfulness
To write a poem is to shapeshift,
to become spider, who anchors her line
upon a slender twig high in the sycamore,
then casts herself forth upon air
to float earthward, supported only
by the capricious air and the line
of her own making, trusting to its strength,
trusting that her web will travel from Point A
to Point B in the most efficient line possible.
I wrote this last year on this day, on my Facebook page. Let’s keep looking for those doors. And I think about that line I wrote in the poem yesterday about God being a Mother who opens our doors. She helps us find the new ones, too.
“This morning, I feel as though a door has opened wide within me. It’s like those dreams, where I am wandering through Grandma’s old Victorian house, and opening doors I never noticed before, and finding rooms I have never seen. Suddenly, in a dark inner corner that I thought led to a dead end, I have found a new door, cobweb-covered and enshadowed, with deep green paint beneath the dust. And behind the door, a thousand shades of blue.
“Walk through the shadows to find the next Yes.
“Of course, this doesn’t change the world. But it does en-courage me to step forward. Let’s all take hands as we find our new doors, our new steps forward into darkness and light.”
Gratitude List: 1. La Luna
2. Los gatos
3. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin roll
4. My sweet snuggly kiddos
5. Teaching Nate to knit–he’s a fast learner
Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.
“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.”
“The world is our Mother. If we destroy her, where will we live?”
“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
“I know our forefathers said you could own a gun, but they also said you could own people.” –Michael Che
Gratitude List: 1. The Earthkeepers and Waterprotectors. More than twenty courageous and determined people were arrested today in Lancaster County, protesting a pipeline that is being built through the outdoor chapel of the Adorers of the Precious Blood. You can support their legal defense fund here: LAP.
2. The songs of dawn
3. How the cats always seem to be hanging out wherever we are.
4. Chicken corn soup for supper
5. Invigorating breezes
I am a little obsessed at the moment with this portal, an opening in the old lime kiln on the Susquehanna River Trail. I think it will have to be the setting for a story.
May you have the courage of the small ones who rise against giants.
May you have someone to sing you back to yourself when you lose your way.
May your wisdom find its threads, its tension, and its color–
may yours be woven with the wisdom of others into a shining bridge.
May your heart be supple and open, and safe.
May your breathing cleanse and invigorate you.
May you find your fire.
Gratitude List: 1. NURSES! My mother-in-law is getting excellent care in the hospital this evening (she’ll be fine) from a wonderful team of nurses. It’s nice to know in the moment of crisis that qualified people who know what to do are caring for your loved one. I am grateful for nurses.
2. As she was being admitted for the night, she mentioned that the last time she was admitted to a hospital was exactly 49 years ago (within a day), when she gave birth to Jon. What a gift he has been to the world.
3. Having a good book handy to read to the boys in the long waiting times in the waiting room. We finished the fourth Percy Jackson book today, and it held our worries at bay.
4. The We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor signs–we spotted one in Hershey today on the way to the Medical Center.
5. Signs of the coming spring are everywhere. I feel it inside me, too.
A good reminder in church today: Let’s listen more than we talk. Or listen before we talk, perhaps. What is the pain behind the lashing out? What is the story behind the closed doors and windows? Where does that rant come from? What truth can be excavated from a bagful of raging fury?
And then: Let’s speak up more than we are silent. Although it sounds like the opposite of the first part, it’s really a good next step, isn’t it? Listen first. Find the source of pain, of confusion, of anger, of despair. Then speak up. When you see an injustice, speak out. The front of the bulletin at church today was the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote:
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
We have a new generation in the current walk toward justice. Will we need to repent again for our silence, or will we meet the challenges ahead with courage and joy, speaking up for those who are harmed by hatred of their race or country, their sexuality or gender, their religion or their class?
Courage and joy. I wish you Courage and Joy.
Gratitude List: 1. William Carlos Williams moment: So much depends on a green field dotted with white gulls in the winter rain.
2. My church congregation, who welcome students from my school to lead the service today on anti-racism, with much applause and appreciation.
3. Those young people. I learn so much from them. Constantly. They will lead us. We just need to give them the safe spaces to learn the power of their voices. And then we need to be their back-up, their safety net, their boosters. I am incredibly proud of them. Break every chain.
4. That shade of brown/salmon/ochre that is the color of the leafy forest floor seen through trees on a rainy day. You know the color I’m talking about? It’s so satisfying.
5. Listening. Speaking Up.
I am rather proud of these two paintings which I managed despite the fact that the canvases constantly twitched and squinted. Panther requested that I paint green eyes on his eyelids, which meant that he went around with his eyes closed for a while. When he smudged his paint, he touched it up himself. He has requested that we buy ourselves a family set of face paints. I think I will.
Gratitude List: 1. A day of play
2. Public spaces that are created specifically for children. (Yes, I know it’s a lucrative business. Still, the Hands on House is particularly well done. My boys were some of the older ones there, and they became obsessed with keeping the factory room tidied and organized.)
3. The determination of a small child to participate in the cleaning of the garage, the preparation for the first share of the season on Monday.
4. Mist in the mornings. Makes me want to hike to Rivendell.
5. Courage, which I think is different than bravery, because the courageous person recognizes that she is terrified, but she takes the next breath anyway. I have friends who are deeply courageous, though perhaps they don’t realize how deeply courageous they are. (Root is couer = Heart.) I want to start a poem like Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese,” only to say:
You do not have to be brave.
You only have to fill your aching lungs with one more breath.
You do not have to wait until you no longer feel afraid.
You only have to step from this moment into the next one.