Gratitude List: 1. Today is not yesterday. Yesterday I never quite came out of the fog. This morning I already feel crisper than I did at any point in the day yesterday, so hopefully that was just a blip. I feel ready for this one. 2. Homemade cookies. MCCL kids, for making those kits: Thank you! 3. People who are anchors. You know who you are. My life is so much better for your presence. Thank you. (Actually, maybe you don’t know you’ve anchored me. It might be the kind thing you said, or the story you told, or the little quote you posted on social media, or the way you talk about someone you love, or the way you genuinely look people in the eye when you talk to them, or the way you take a deep breath and stand up straight when you have something hard to do: I notice, and I am inspired and anchored just by being near you.) 4. Also, people who are speaking and living truth. Especially in times when so much truth is being so cynically bartered for power. Thank you. 5. For the trees, for the “leaping greenly spirits of trees” (even when you are no longer green, your spirits still leap greenly: holy, holy): Thank you.*
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!)
One thing I love about being part of The Academy (I like the pompous sound of that, more than “school system”) is that twice a year I get a fresh start. No matter how badly I feel about myself at the end of a semester, there’s always a fresh, uncharted page coming up, and I can write myself onto that page as solidly and competently as I possible. There’s a hopefulness, a sense of lightness and release. Maybe I can do this, after all. After the slog at the end of the semester, suddenly, there’s a burning fire of creative juices, and a little chorus of inner voices, saying, “You can do this thing!”
Some semesters are harder than others, and this past semester got caught up in the grind of my slip into the year’s shadow. It was harder this year than it has been for a long time. So there’s a soberness to the creative fires that are sparking for the new page before me. And I still have all that work to finish up from last semester. Still, I love the bright shine of that empty page ahead, stretching out before me like the fields of snow I woke up to this morning.
Gratitude List: 1. The beautiful singers at my school. They’re so brave, these young people who get up on stage to perform for their whole school. I am grateful for my colleagues in the music department who offer our kids such a powerful music education. I have tried not to push my own child into the music classes–I want him to be free to take whatever he wants, to explore all his interests–so I am really delighted that he is taking chorus and two different bands this semester. 2. This week’s birds: kestrel hovering, vultures everywhere (as usual), two bald eagles, blue heron, owls calling in the bosque, and crows and geese winging across the sunrise skies. My soul is stirring, too. 3. Tabula Rasa. The fresh page. 4. Snow. 5. The magic of air filling lungs. I listened to a Shakespeare scholar talk this week about how a line of iambic pentameter is just the right number of beats to fill the human lungs. I might have to start reading Shakespeare sonnets to wake up in the mornings.
May we walk in Beauty on the Fresh Page of Today.
“This is the season of owl, of winds that howl through the hollow, the season of the sharp bark of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.
This is the season of bitter, of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands, the season of crystal, crisp and cutting, of beauty that will slice you open.
This is the season of rising, thin and pale, into the dawn air, but also of burrowing, huddling deep into the layers that hold you.
Walk the thin line of today with care, one foot precisely placed, the other. . .
Perhaps you will notice, when you raise your eyes for a moment, how the line curves out ahead of you, bringing you always back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost
“I am always doing what I cannot do yet
in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh
“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney
“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman
“The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou
“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)
“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
Re-examine all you have been told
at school or church or in any book;
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.
“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich
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’m getting ready for a new week, and already feeling far behind. And tired. Don’t get me wrong. I love my students and my colleagues, so school is a good place to be. I just. Don’t. Want. To. Go. I’m feeling such a powerful inner resistance to leaving the house, to leaving this nest of darkness and warmth. Today’s word, I think, must be steps. I’ll just have to move moment to moment, and step to step, through the fog of morning and into the week.
Gratitude List: 1. Scent of Pine 2. Tender Hearts 3. Walking through the shadows, one step at a time 4. Literature 5. Wise Friends
May we walk in Beauty!
“Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” —Rumi
“O, my love, there’s sun in the crook of your arm!” —Grace Schulman
Excerpt from Leymah Gbowee’s Nobel speech:
“This prize could not have come at a better time than this; a time when global and community conversations are about how local community members and unarmed civilians can help turn our upside-down World, right-side up. It has come at a time when unarmed citizens—men and women, boys and girls—are challenging dictatorships and ushering in democracy and the sovereignty of people.
To women of Liberia and sisterhood across West Africa who continue to band together to respond to crisis in our sub region; to women in Asia, the Middle East and the World: As we celebrate our achievement through this recognition let us remind ourselves that victory is still afar. We must continue to unite in sisterhood to turn our tears into triumph, our despair into determination and our fear into fortitude. There is no time to rest until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where all men and women are considered equal and free.”
Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, a claustrophobic pressure in my soul. The darkness begins to feel overwhelming, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously contend with the darkness, to ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, when we proclaim the light really and truly returned, I will set it down here on the blog. Knowing how the season hits me, I will give myself permission for some minimal days, a sentence or two, or soothing words from another poet or writer instead of my own. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
The first panic rises when the days begin to dwindle, when the darkness fills the afternoons, and each day-cycle offers less light.
At first, I cannot make peace with darkness, cannot move, cannot stop moving, cannot rest for the restlessness.
In the last month, the dark has become something like a living creature, a dragon or a bear that pursues me down the tunnel of the year.
So. First, we feel the panic, name the restlessness, sit with the great bear of darkness, no matter how restless, no matter how afraid, no matter how filled with dread.
As the dark surrounds my soul and presses into the light-filled rooms, I will ask its name, and listen for the words it has to teach me.
Today, I think the name is insufficiency. Within myself, I fear I do not have reserves of patience, or goodness, or strength, of time, or will, or energy to make it through. Insufficiency is an ache in my bones, a rodent gnawing in the back of my brain.
The trick I am trying is simply to sit with the names that come, not to deny the ugliness or fear. I will not end this with an affirmation that denies the reality of the feeling.
Today, I will meet only one goal, and then perhaps I will find the strength for another, and another. I will find the inner resources for a single task at a time.
Today’s Gratitude: Yesterday, due to some schedule changes, I had an ad hoc study period with students who are not usually in my classes. After lunch, a spirited group came laughing into my room to ask me to settle a silly argument. They pointed to a blue circle on a package of gummy fruit. “What is this this?” they demanded. When I said I was sure it was a blueberry, giggles erupted. Some said blueberry, some said grape.
It was a good-humored debate among a group of four girls from different places in the world: Bahrain, US/Russia, China, and Belize. One of them has a sign language interpreter. They weren’t ignoring their differences or trying to be all the same–they were reveling in their differences, finding delight in each other and in their difference of perception.
We just kept up the conversation for the rest of the period, and two others came in just after, and joined, these two from Ethiopia. The playful conversation grew and expanded, and soon someone was asking these two what it was like to be twins, and everyone was sharing stories.
I know that we don’t always meet our goals to be as inclusive as we want to be. We still have separation of race and ethnicity and social class and identity at our lunchroom tables, but we do break through. We do expand beyond our little circles. We have times of totally un-self-conscious openness when we delight in our stories together.