Breathe and Pray

This morning, I wrote this:

Beloveds, I don’t really have much in the way of words to offer this morning, to wade through the bog of my own anxiety to offer hope or resilience. I’m here in my bog, listening. I need to be a teacher today, especially for students who are equally as enmired as I am.

Here in the anxious bog of me today, I sit like an angry old spider. I cast a line from me to you. Catch. Send out webs of your own. While we wait for things to ravel or unravel, we weave and spin and hold our own webs as steady as we may. We are stronger when we are together.

Black lives STILL matter.
Love is STILL love is STILL love.
Your name and pronouns STILL belong to you.
Your body is STILL your own.
You STILL have agency.
The Planet STILL needs us.
The elderly and vulnerable STILL need protection from the coronavirus.
STILL, nobody is illegal.
Justice is STILL important.


This morning felt so dire, so much a repetition of 2016. Jon and I both woke up at 2:30, and made the perhaps unwise choice to check the returns. My heart was racing, and I figured I wouldn’t get to sleep until I saw something to confirm or allay the anxiety. Look the wolf in the eye, they say. I felt in a visceral way how the anxiety and sense of tragedy of the 2016 election had lodged in my body, and how it replayed itself in the night four years later.

This afternoon, there are a few more reasons to hope. The morning, said Vassilissa’s doll in the Baba Yaga stories, is wiser than the evening. Today, the afternoon is wiser than the morning. Get some distance. Get some rest. Get some perspective.

It’s not over, and won’t be for a long time, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve completely shattered the Democracy quite yet. And the popular vote seems to be pretty definitely against the tyrant.

Here’s the one thing that sticks with me, however, like a grief: It wasn’t a clear and obvious win. My neighbors, good people and salt of the earth in so many ways, have not–by and large–passed the test, choosing instead to vote for white supremacy and patriarchy, for homophobia and transphobia, against the poor and the ill and the immigrants. And I do not know what to do with that.


I don’t feel like I can muster appropriate Gratitudes today. Perhaps a couple Commitments might stand in:
1. I commit to not respond smugly if Biden wins. I will express relief and hope if it happens (because I am human and must live my emotions), but I will not be smug, and especially I will try to be open to the pain and confusion of people for whom that is frightening, even though I do not understand it.
2. No matter who wins this election, I commit to standing for justice and compassion, for Black and Indigenous People and other People of Color, for LGBTQ+ folx, for women, for immigrants, for poor and houseless people, for all who are harmed by our systems. I commit to pushing whoever is president for the next four years (and other elected officials) to do right by the people, especially whose who have not been truly free and equal.
3. I commit to harbor no illusions that the lesser of two evils is the savior.
4. I commit to walk this together with you, my Beloveds, and to ask for help when I am sinking.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. In Beauty.

Evening Encounters

My camera phone is pretty grainy, especially at distances, but if you look closely, you can see the spotty white breast of the wood thrush against the trunk on the lower left, and the curious deer in the trees on the upper right.

Last evening, we went for an evening walk up at Sam Lewis State Park. It’s easy sometimes to forget the glorious gems of we have in our own backyards. There is a series of walking trails through the woods around the crest of the ridge, over rock tumbles, through piney groves, along meadows, between mountain laurels and pawpaw trees. Massive oaks and maples stand sentinel at the edges of the woods.

I never really quite know where I am going when we set out on a trail at Sam Lewis. It’s probably no more than two or three miles of trails total, and they wind around and cross each other, and they’re all completely familiar. There’s no chance of getting lost, but I often think I am going to emerge from the woods at one point, and find myself at another point altogether. It’s not disconcerting or frustrating, partly because its so contained. It’s just a tiny bit mystical and dreamy. Probably it’s just me and my strange sense of direction, and maybe if I start walking up there several times a week instead of once every few months, I’ll develop an inner map of the place. I’m not sure I want to. I like the slight and utterly non-anxious disorientation, the sense of discovery.

It was a grateful and grounding walk.
It was St. John’s Eve, and I found a patch of St. John’s Wort at the edge of the meadow.
Down on the piney path near the big meadow, we encountered a wood thrush, who seemed completely unfussed at our presence, and sang a call and response with a friend further up the hill.
At one point, we were caught in currents that carried scent of pine, wild yarrow, and the freshly-opened buds of milkweed.
On a trail that wound around a group of giant boulders, we found some mountain laurel still blooming.
Around one bend in the trail, near one of the frisbee baskets, we met a deer. I’m not sure who was more interested in whom.
At the very top of the bald, where people like to go to fly kites, and where you can see the whole river valley laid out before you, evening breezes came tumbling up over the ridge.
The paths go from gentle ramble to strong and steady upward climb. My legs and lungs were glad of the exercise.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Inside a moment, centuries of June.” ―Emily Dickinson


African proverb:, “When death comes, may it find you fully alive.”


“I think there ought to be a little music here: hum, hum.” ―Mary Oliver


“Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” ―Albert Einstein


“I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.” ―Sonia Sotomayor


“Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” ―Buddha


“I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ … The twenty-five percent is for error.” ―Linus Pauling

Resilience and Resistance

Friends I met on my walk yesterday:
1. Crow. Crow reminds me to get the wide perspective, to take on the adventure that any wind offers, to speak my mind. Crows don’t take heed for nothing.
2. Dogbane. Dogbane reminds me to be resourceful, to take note of the helpers who are always present, and to spin: cord, stories, prayers. . .
3. Deer. She ran across Schmuck Road, causing an SUV to brake. She reminds me to pause. She reminds me to love myself unconditionally, to live from the heart, to listen.
4. Monarch. He reminds me of resilience, how fragility and strength are not mutually exclusive. He reminds me to always look for beauty in everything.
5. Scarlet Pimpernel. A tiny five-petaled scarlet flower found in the grasses. When I was in college, I watched the old black and white movie The Scarlet Pimpernel, about a French dandy who uses disguises to rescue aristocrats condemned to the guillotine. What I took away from the movie is the importance of resisting the machines vengeance and death-dealing. Be surprising. Pop up wherever you’re needed.

What messages is the world sending your way?

Exchanges

Gratitude of Resistance Fifteen:
Exchanges. I forget if I have written about this in my Resistance Gratitudes,  but it bears repeating: School Foreign Exchange programs. They’re an incredible growing experience for students who go abroad, for the students who receive them, and for the teachers who experience students from around the world in their classrooms, and the chance to experience a collegial relationship with teachers from other countries. My school, Lancaster Mennonite, has students who come to us for three or four years from other countries, like Korea, Ethiopia, China, Japan, Ghana, and elsewhere, and just this past month, we hosted two short-term visiting groups–from Germany and France. These groups come with teachers, who teach their students a few lessons a day, and then visit our classes to observe how we do education in the US. I always look forward to having these visitors in in my classroom.  Both groups left us yesterday, and Monday is going to feel a little empty.

May we walk in Beauty!

Susquehanna Turkey

Today’s prompt is to title your poem the name of a food, and go from there. Mine just turned into a recipe.

Dutch Goose

Also known as hogmaw,
pig stomach,
Susquehanna turkey.

The recipe begins with an attitude:
Nothing goes to waste.
When you butcher,
set aside the feet for souse,
prepare the intestines for sausage,
remove the inner stomach lining.
(Okay, so that you may discard.)
All the extras go for the scrapple.

Wash the bag of the stomach
and soak in salted water for hours.
Make up a filling of potatoes,
cabbage, onion, and ground sausage.
Mix with egg, parsley, and milk.

I remember it was peppery,
though the recipes all
contain a dearth of pepper.

Stuff the stomach full
and sew it closed securely.

Roast for hours in the oven.
Baste with butter.
Serve with gravy
made from the drippings.


Gratitude List:
1. Sleeping through the night.
2. Grandma’s cookbook
3. Moving forward
4. Listening together
5. Three deer in the caw pasture at dusk.

May we walk in Beauty!

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!

There Needs to Be a Poem

There needs to be a poem here
something to fill the space
to inspire
to bless.

There needs to be a word
that fills the small green hollows
between the first shy greeting
and the questions
that draw out the hearts
like small burrowing animals
from their safe nests.

There needs to be a song here.
At least a whispered line
with a hint of a melody
and a rhythm
like the chirping of the tree frogs
high in the oak grove.

Let us stand in the moment
shoulder to shoulder
like the deer on the verge
we caught in our headlights,
and listen for the distant unrolling of words.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  That wonderful woman at OfficeMax yesterday who said that since the Lancaster store was selling notebooks for a penny a piece, she could give me the same price, and then only gulped a little when I said, “That’s so great!  I’d like a hundred for my English classes!”  I quickly realized that I was taking overenthusiastic advantage of a kindness and cut my number back just a little.
2.  Waters of Transformation.  Yes, indeed.
3.  I have a job where people sometimes start the day with a collegial hymn-sing.  Have I landed in a perfect place for me, or what?
4.  Inspiration struck when I needed it and before I was a complete wreck of exhaustion: I have been a little anxious this weekend about preparation for the coming week.  I came away from last week sort of feeling like I had drained my wells of inspiration for lesson plans.  Just like poetry writing, however: When you let go, sometimes the streams begin to trickle back in again, and sometimes they come in as a flood. I hope the students are a tenth as eager for the work I present tomorrow as I am to present it.
5.  Family time.  Meeting Kim’s dear children.  Basking in Craig’s delightful smile.  Listening to the harmonica trio play in harmony.  Discussing recipes for fish.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Marker

(on the day of the massacre of the people of the Conestoga 250 years ago)

Come with me now, Bright Souls
and we’ll sit in a circle together.
Silently a while.  Then we talk.

Light six candles
for the people of the longhouse
who died that wintry dawning.

The air is filled already
with too many words.
The day carries so many mutterings
on the wind, on the wings
of the vulture, drifting
above the broken fields.

Sheehays, Wa-a-shen,
Tee-kau-ley,
Ess-canesh,
Tea-wonsha-i-ong,
Kannenquas.

If we are to keep awake,
to live in the place
where the heart stays open,
then perhaps we must look
into the teeth of the story.
Together we gaze at those shadows.
Together we speak their names.
Together we listen for the sparrow’s call.

At the place of the great stone
I did not speak their names.
I left my shell there at that place
in the glittering sun.

Some days I cannot bear the darkness,
but I will close my eyes and sing
while you keep vigil near me.
And when you falter, too,
I will have found the strength renewed
to witness the tale while you sing to me.

Perhaps you will not believe me
when I tell you: As I drove
that road toward the River,
six deer ran across blue shadows
cast by afternoon sun on snow,
over the fields to the road.
They paused a moment to watch
the golden fish of my car approach,
then slipped across Indian Marker Road
and were gone, past the still pond
and into a fringe of wood.

2013 December 105

Gratitude List:
1.  Deer running through blue shadows on a snowy field
2.  The winter slant of light, sparkling on snow
3.  Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and radishes and turnips and potatoes and carrots
4.  Snails.  Who would have thought I would love snails so?  Now that the fish has died, the snails provide much more entertainment than I would have expected.  The big blue one has doubled its size in two weeks’ time.  Their antennae are swirly.
5.  Learning to listen, to wait

May we walk in Beauty.

Spiders and Grace

2013 August 334  2013 August 339
2013 August 342  2013 August 348

Gratitude List:
1.  Deer.  Listening, unconditional love, the open heart.
2.  Robins congregating in the bosque at night.
3.  Two-year-olds.  I know I have said it before, but they melt me.  Utterly.
4.  Root beer floats
5.  Pattern and design

May we walk in Beauty.

Finding Your Sacred Song

I looked up mockingbird in Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak.  He says the keynote of the mockingbird is “Finding your sacred song.”  In these days when the mockingbirds are singing from treetops in every hollow and on every hilltop, I wish you that finding.  May your song rise clear into the air.

Gratitude List:
1.  Deer and lion and rabbit and Suzy.  Messages of compassion and courage and listening.
2.  We managed to catch Pepita without too much trouble after she ran across the street and under the grumpy neighbor’s forsythia bush.  And we have a sort of funny story out of it.
3.  I feel so good about what I accomplished today, all that mowing and making supper (Shepherd’s Pie) and spending time with a friend–and the children didn’t melt down and fall apart in the meantime.
4.  The way swallows climb the sky.  How they beat their wings against the wind and rise up it.
5.  Forgiveness.

May we walk in Beauty.