Open Hearts Are Brave Hearts

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.
—Brené Brown


“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.”
—Rumi


“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

Enter the Portal


Two crow feathers in one week. The world is full of messages, if we know how to look,
if we know how to read the text of the landscape.

Gratitude List:
1. Teaching the spectrum. I have begun teaching college-in-the-high-school courses this year, and I am loving the conversation, the determination, the bright-eyed desire to LEARN of these soon-to-fledge upperclassfolk. I also have much younger students just coming in as ninth graders, both the 101s, and the students coming into my Foundations class to get some more literacy skill-building to prepare them to succeed in high school. This latter group tends to be more shy, more uncertain about school, but they’re ready and shiny-eyed in their own way, and eager to learn. I saw stirrings of deep understanding in this group on Tuesday when I showed them Kendi Ibram’s speech about what it means to be an intellectual. My heart is full.
2. Monarchs. Every day on the drive to and from school, I can count 3-5, and sometimes more, flitting across the road or in the roadside wildflower buffet. Sun in their wings, dancing in the breezes, determined wings setting a course for the beach. My heart is full.
3. Joe the Duck and the Cat Clan. Now that school has started, we pick up ED every morning and drive down the road where Joe the Duck lives, and where a colony of half-feral cats lives. We pause at Joe’s personal paddle pool to say hello, and drive slowly through the territory of the cat colony. There are new kittens: black, ginger-and-white, and a greyish-tortoise-shell. My heart is full.
4. Learning New Messages. “I am an organized person.” Ellis and I are reminding each other of our Organized Person identities, and I’m at least beginning to override the old story I habitually told myself about being unable to remain organized. And I see him doing the same. My heart is full.
5. My children are excited about school. Ellis has been advocating for himself to take Spanish 2 when it looked like he wouldn’t be able to fit it into his schedule. In the end, he and three others got permission to take a computer course in the library during the time others are taking Spanish 1. He’s taking charge of his learning, and that makes me proud. Right now, he’s downstairs on a Friday night doing his Algebra homework. (I think he knows it’s Friday.) And Josiah had three extra days off this summer because of mold in the school district, and while that was exciting, he is chomping at the bit to get back to school. My heart is full.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Meditations:
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.” —Hafiz
*****
“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.” —Christy Ann Martine
******
“Every word you utter to another human being has an effect, but you don’t know it. If people began to understand that change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then, they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” —Howard Zinn
******
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” —Leonard Bernstein
*****
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ―Elie Wiesel
*****
“All forms of racism must be rejected directly and openly.” —bell hooks and Cornel West
*****
“Our mission was to make a beloved community in the world where everyone would be free to live well.” —bell hooks

Response Poem

Today’s prompt is to write a response to one of the previous poems from the month. I chose my April 27 poem.

There once was a girl
who was so afraid of spiders
that when a web of song,
a web of prayer,
came floating to her
on a breeze, she ran
as fast as she could
in the other direction.

There once was a girl
who was so afraid of darkness
that when a quiet veil
of comforting shadows
fell about her,
she fell down in terror
and hid her head
until the staring sun
came out again.

There once was a girl
who was so afraid of heights
that when her friends
sang bridges that led
to safer meadows,
she could not unfreeze
her footsteps from the Earth
to flee toward the havens.

Whenever she ran from her fears,
they always caught her.
Whenever she froze in terror,
she found herself engulfed.
I would like to say she learned
to reach her hands toward her friends
and find her way home.


Gratitude:
I am grateful today for the concentric and interlocking circles of community in my life, for the people who keep their protective eyes on my children, who teach and mentor them and love them.

May we walk in Beauty!

Battle the Fear

Today’s prompt was a fill-in-the-blank title: Battle __(blank)__

Battle the Fear

Walk this way without shame.
Your head will touch the clouds.
Your eyes will shine with the glow
of the new-risen moon.

The Fear will track you
through the wastelands
like a wolf on a scent.
It will hunt you like a lion
across the wide fields.

Listen to the ticking of your heart
and the gentle whisper of breath
as it slides in and out of the bags of your lungs.

Blood and breath will be your companions.
Carry your bowl of stones and feathers
and do not look back.

Whistle in the darkness.
Sing your heart’s own melody.
Remember, always,
the light at the center
of your being.

(www.farmpoem.wordpress.com)

A Daily Day


Today’s Prompt is to write a Construction and/or a Deconstruction Poem.
I am wiped right out tonight, so I am going to do my favorite form of deconstruction. I am going to take a little poem and run it through Google Translate several times:

Every day, I am remade,
reborn from the husk
of yesterday’s creature.

(To Malayalam and back again)
Every day, I’m reconstructing,
Resurrected from throat
Today’s work.

(To Bangla and back)
Every day, I’m rebuilding,
Resurrection from throat
Today’s job.

(To Gujarati and Amharic and back)
I will rebuild every day,
From the Crucifixion
They work today

(Chinese)
I will rebuild it everyday
Crucified
They work today

(Hausa)
I’ll rebuild it everyday
Cross
They work today

(Sindhi)
I’ll give you a daily day
Cross
They work today


“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
—Nelson Mandela
***
For a day, just for one day,
Talk about that which disturbs no one
And bring some peace into your beautiful eyes.
—Hafiz
***
“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.” —proverb
***
“All religions, all this singing, one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity. The sun’s light looks a little different on this wall than it does on that wall, and a lot different on this other one, but it’s still one light.” —Rumi
***
The magic of autumn has seized the countryside;
now that the sun isn’t ripening anything
it shines for the sake of the golden age;
for the sake of Eden;
to please the moon for all I know.
—Elizabeth Coatsworth
***
“. . .fairies’ gold, they say, is like love or knowledge–or a good story. It’s most valuable when it’s shared.” —Heather Forest, The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies


Gratitude List:
1. A Tuesday that was a Friday. Big sigh of relief.
2. Time to catch up on my work.
3. That moon
4. The musical students of LMH
5. Resolve

May we walk in Beauty!

Mercy and Fear

Today’s prompt is to write a triangle poem:

Triangle: The Spell, The Sleep, The Waking
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

First is the spell, the incantation, the bright blessing.
First is the curse of the jealous fairy.
First is the vain step-mother, the anxious interloper.
First is the dawn of the golden child.
First is three wishes and a wild, wild wind.

Second is when she loses the golden ball of her voice.
Second, the falling asleep.
Second is ball gowns and tea cakes.
Second is the pampered pedestal.
Second is a red bird in a golden cage.

Third, the clocks booms midnight.
Third, the wolf howls.
Third, the cock crows.
Third, the red rider races across the pathway.
Third, she opens her eyes.


“Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” –James Keenan
*
“The heavens are sweeping us along in a cyclone of stars.” –Teilhard de Chardin
*
Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that, you are free.” –Jim Morrison
*
“You need not wade through the mists and bogs to reach the moon.
You need not climb a ladder of cobweb.
You need not ride the stallions that wicker in the sea’s pounding surf.

Draw back the curtain and open the window.
Breathe the bracing air and listen:
The whinny of an owl, the click of the bat,
The grunt of a buck and the distant roar of the train.

The full moon will spill a milky road before you.
That is all the pathway you will need.”
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
Joseph Campbell: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”


Gratitude List:
1. Robins gathering in the hollow in the growing dusk
2. Russet. Nice word. Nice color.
3. The steeples of Wrightsville. This really is a lovely little town nestled into the hills of York County.
4. Falling leaves. Rilke’s poem really got into me. There’s nothing quite like translation to put a poet inside your head.
5. Moon moon moon moon mooooooooooooon

May we walk in Beauty!

Fog and Owls

“Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.” —Naguib Mahfouz
*
“Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of meaning.”
—Joy Harjo
*
“Everything I love most happens most every day.”
—Howard Norman
*
“I was just thinking
one morning
during meditation
how much alike
hope
and baking powder are:
quietly
getting what is
best in me
to rise,
awakening
the hint of eternity
within.”  —Macrina Wiederkehr
*
The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
*
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth


Gratitude List:
1. Morning fog
2. Crows flying through trees in the fog
3. The way fog nestles in the hollows, among the hills
4. Driving through morning fog–how it makes the mundane journey feel like an adventure
5. Great horned owl calling from the south. Screech owl calling from the north.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Journey Downward and Inward


Leaving the old shell behind. Grasshopper transformation.

“Let us not make America Great again.That greatness they yearn for was rooted in death and oppression. Let us make America Good. For all, for the very first time.

Do not let it go without saying. If you and your family denounce white supremacy: say it. Let it be known. You are not how you feel or think. You are what you say and do.” –Glennon Doyle
*
“Hate evil and love what is good. We have to be able to say that evil is evil. It’s not something that exists on many sides.” –Rabbi Jack Paskoff of Lancaster, PA
*
“I repose in myself. And that part of myself, that deepest and richest part in which I repose, is what I call ‘God.'” –Etty Hillesum
*
“THE JOURNEY DOWNWARD
Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. In the process of discovering bodhichitta [the awakened heart], the journey goes down, not up. It’s as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward the turbulence and doubt. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. At the bottom we discover water, the healing water of bodhichitta. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.”
–Pema Chödrön
*
“I invite you to think about your relationship to human beings who haven’t been born yet. What might you create for them to use? How can you make your life a gift to the future? Can you not only help preserve the wonders we live amidst, but actually enhance them?” –Rob Brezsny
*
Lewis Carroll: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.”
*
“Some days,
you feel as though
you have been walking that knife edge
forever,
too afraid
to look to right or left.
And then one day,
you raise your gaze
and there before you
is the green valley
with a blue glass lake
and a silent island
that you have been seeking
in every dream
since you were born.” –Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“I demand unconditional love and complete freedom. That is why I am terrible.”  –Tomaž Šalamun
*
“You want weapons? We’re in a library! BOOKS! The best weapons in the world.” –Doctor Who
*
“A banjo will get you through times of no money, but money won’t get you through times of no banjo.”  –John Hartford


Gratitude List:
1. The voices of Amanda Kemp, Kevin Ressler, Rev. Forbes, Andrea Brown, Jim Amstutz, and others at the Lancaster vigil last night. I am so proud of Lancaster and York for turning out like they did.
2. The stately and friendly architecture of downtown Lancaster.
3. The little screech owl trilling in the hollow. And then the great horned owl all in the early morning.
4. Sachs came out from under the bed! (See how I changed the spelling there? He is a person of such grave dignity that Socks seems insufficient. Sachs, on the other hand, has a grandeur, and even a hipness, which is in keeping with the cat himself.)
5. One more week of summer schedule. I am going to make the most of it!

May we walk in Beauty!

Sun and Sunflowers

sun-and-flowers

This river keeps rolling
rushing beneath me
even when my small boat
rests still on the water
quiet and open

Gratitude List:
1. Good Parenting is alive and well. Yesterday at Hersheypark, in the claustrophobic middle of the masses, where exhausted, grouchy parents are trying to deal with exhausted, grouchy children, I did not expect to so consistently witness such tender and attentive parenting. The whole point of going to an amusement part as a family is to have fun together, and mostly I saw adults eagerly sharing and creating a fun experience for their children.
2. Watching a child conquer his fears by going on a slightly scary roller coaster. “Let’s do that one again!”
3. Oak and sycamore and larch. The beautiful old trees at the park.
4. Seeing the world from high above. Perspective.
5. Doing the inner work. There is always a new challenge, a new practice, a new perspective to incorporate.

May we walk in Beauty!

Let’s Get Down To Business

First, some mulling drawn from today’s Facebook conversations.  Then a poem.  Then a Gratitude List.

Sometimes I don’t know if I can bear the weight of the problems of the world. I get so furious, not just at the military-industrial complex, but at the way corporations have become the ruling classes, the way Monsanto has taken over the USDA, the way our consumer culture is balanced on the backs of slaves and oppressed people elsewhere in the world. I don’t know if we can turn things back. But I know that there are lots of like-minded people out there who want to turn things back. I’m not sure how we do that, but I want to start by putting as much love out there as possible in the meantime.

I don’t mean for that to sound childish or like I am ignoring the problem. I bring it back to the metaphor of the bowl for the heart. I used to think that I could only have one thing in there at a time, either the joyful things full of wonder, or the angry and despairing things. But recently I have pledged to just sit with the bowl open and let it all fall in together. And the whole crazy mix belongs there. The love I have for butterflies and songbirds is precisely why I hate Monsanto so. The delight I take in my children is precisely why the military-industrial complex terrifies me.

How can I maintain the balance in my head when I get so furious and despairing and tired and sad about so much that is happening in the world? Sometimes it feels so schizophrenic to speak of beauty and wonder and delight when something in my heart is cringing in fear of what the future holds for my children. I know that remembering what I love, remembering what holds my heart, reminding myself why I fight, all this helps me to keep doing my work.

If we who care deeply enough to walk the cliffs of despair, if we let ourselves get frozen or lost or broken on those cliffs, then whatever it is that we’re fighting against has begun to win. Maybe that’s it. Instead of just using my rage and despair to fight this thing, I want to find ways to use my love and wonder to overcome it.

Perhaps my work of late has been too passive, too much in the realm of prayer and contemplation. What is the next step, I wonder?

These Are the Words
These are the things that I tell myself, over and over again.
These are the words I use to remember.

Don’t forget to do your soul-work.
Don’t stop because it seems like no one is watching,
because it seems like no one else is doing their work.
They are working.
Ask around. Tell your own story.
Suddenly they pop up like mushrooms,
all over the yard,
like fairy rings that fairly sparkle in the moonlight.

I always say, Be the web. Throw the lines from one to one to one.
Today I say, Be mycelium.
All those underground signals racing through the soil,
through the roots, through the fine hairs so tiny,
so tiny they are more energy than matter.

But that’s what matters.
That’s the heart of the matter.

We’re all doing our work, sending messages to each other,
invisible like energy,
like the sermons of the fungi
traveling those invisible underground highways.

Something is going to pop up.
I say, Something is going to pop up!

One morning you will wake up
and they’ll be there,
not just hiding underneath the leaves
with the shy toads and salamanders,
but spiced throughout the lawn
throughout the lawns
all over the world,
saying

We are here!
We are doing our work!

In the meantime, keep hoping,
keep praying,
keep making magic spells,
like the one my son made today
from dandelions and Virginia Creeper
to bring peace among the chickens,
and from them to their eggs and to us
and then to the whole world.

In the meantime,
keeping speaking the names of the captives.
Your words will set them free.

Keep singing and dancing,
praying and hoping.

Be the Underground Laureate of The Poetry of Waiting.
Be the One who Sings to the Dark Moon.
Be the Dancer in the Sullen Crowd.
Be the Painter of Speckled Eggs.

Oh, I have to say it, though the activists have said it a thousand times,
like Gandhi said it:

Be the change you wish to see.

Until the twining vines of the sacred squash
grow from your heaving heart,
until the song of the whale echoes through your deserts,
until the world is born afresh.
Until the world is born afresh.

This is the song. This is the poem.
This is the story that will heal the world.

Now.
Let’s get down to business.

Gratitude List:
1.  A pair of indigo buntings feeding in the dandelions before the rain.  (Perhaps some day I will write a gratitude list without the wing-folk.  Or perhaps not.)
2.  Ferns.  The ones I transplanted today from the barn wall to the house and walkway were taller than my children.  I think I may just keep adding and adding until the lawn is gone and the children can walk beneath their waving fronds like hobbits.
3.  The feeling of something being released in my spirit as the air pressure changes before rain.
4.  The way people care for your spirit when you ask for help.  That’s what I mean by asking around.  All that good work is being done, all that hopeful energy, all that intentionality, all that tremendous love waiting to spring into action, springing into action even before it is called upon.  Oh, I believe in angels, and some of them take human form.
5.  Conversations about the grandmothers that bring them into the present moment.

May we walk in beauty.  May we walk in love.