Invitation

I get to choose from three possible thumbnails. What it they’re ALL goofy?

Mary Oliver quotes the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in her poem “Invitation.”

“You must change your life,” says Rilke.

And here is our invitation, in the middle of this muddle of Exile and Isolation and Distancing: Change Your Life. To a very large degree, it has been wrenched out of our own hands. My life has changed, whether I wanted it to or not. Out of my control.

So how can I take up this invitation, and take the pen in my own hands, the yarn, the paintbrush? How can I pick up the reins of my story and change my own life in this time?

In the two weeks since I have been home, I keep saying, every day, that I am going to get control of this wild horse of school work that will take up every inch of space in my day if I let it. And it’s been a comfort to know that I have something to do that is contributing, in some way, to the continuing work of the world in a time of shut-down. Still, I need to make my balance.

This is the first way that I will change my life. I will figure this out–that spaces between Work and Not-work.

How will you accept Rilke’s invitation?


Gratitude List:
1. Mary Oliver and Rainer Maria Rilke and the invitation to change my life.
2. Fridays are catch-up days. In school, there are Study Halls, and classes are sometimes work periods. There are spaces in the days for catch-up. Somehow, at home, it all runs together, and students and teachers can get a little breathless. Many students are being called in to work extra hours at their essential jobs, and these jobs are helping to support families in a time of uncertainty. Others are struggling with the fear and anxiety and overwhelm of the new normal. So Fridays, while still school days, are days to take a little breath, to have meetings with non-class groups, to regroup in preparation for the coming week. Breathe in. Breathe out.
3. The phoebe perched on the birdfeeder station for a moment, then flitted off.
4. I’m going to bake rolls today. Grateful for yeast and flour and work that teaches me patience.
5. Wild purple hyacinths. We always called them bluebells, and that’s how I think of them.

Take care of each other!


“We get over things. It is the most amazing faculty that we possess. War or pestilence; drought or famine; fire or flood; it does not matter. However devastating the catastrophe, however frightful the slaughter, however total the eclipse, we surmount our sorrows and find ourselves still smiling when the storm is overpast. . . . Nature heals her wounds with loveliness. She gets over things.” —Frank W. Boreham


“I believe a huge part of our collective feeling of emptiness comes from living in this self-centred phase of our evolution as a species, where everything begins with I. I want this object, I want to succeed. I want to improve myself. Even: I want to belong.

But true happiness depends upon our reciprocity with the environment in which we are embedded, and unto which we are indebted. In the same way that mitochondria work to break down nutrients and turn it into energy for our bodies, we too are but a single component of a greater biosphere that sees no hierarchy between ferns and redwoods, worms and eagles.

If we imagine an invisible mycelial network under the visible surface of things, of which we are but fruiting bodies, then we see how our lives should be in service to feeding the whole forest together. Our negligence of that reciprocity is, more than any other factor, what fosters unbelonging.” —Toko-pa Turner


“We are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“We must learn to respond not to this or that syllable, but to the whole song.” —Thomas Merton


“For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green” —J.R.R.Tolkien


“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Das


“I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.”
—Adrienne Rich


Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
—Rainer Maria Rilke

Cats in the Classroom

My classroom has cats. I think Sachs would approve of the look this filter gave him.
Because this is how we live now.

Gratitude List:
1. Slowly, but surely, I am catching up on some of my pre-Friday-the-13th work. It has been really difficult to adjust schedules and plans to fit online learning. I’m beginning to carve out spaces for big grading in the midst of the daily tasks.
2. Maybe it’s the fat coffee (cream and butter, coconut oil and protein powder), or maybe it’s the new schedule, but I realized yesterday that I don’t feel run down and exhausted anymore. Even though I am working almost all the time, I feel charged and up to the tasks of my day.
3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Josiah and I finished that one yesterday, and I love the reminder that the real adventure is the one that takes you inside yourself. That adventure is always available.
4. Goldfinches. They’re going to show up a lot on here because they’re my constant visual companions right now, and getting shinier by the day. I live on Goldfinch Farm, and we named it that for a reason, and in these challenging days, that reason has become one of my grounding delights.
5. Yesterday I saw the phoebe! Sitting on a branch above the bluff, dipping her tail. I have been hearing them, but there’s something about catching that glimpse. . .

Take care of each other!


“Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle. And let us not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” —Albus Dumbledore


Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young, and with the mothers or families,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.
—Walt Whitman, from the Preface to Leaves of Grass


THE OLD WISDOM

When the night wind makes the pine trees creak
And the pale clouds glide across the dark sky,
Go out my child, go out and seek
Your soul: The Eternal I.
For all the grasses rustling at your feet
And every flaming star that glitters high
Above you, close up and meet
In you: The Eternal I.
Yes, my child, go out into the world; walk slow
And silent, comprehending all, and by and by
Your soul, the Universe, will know
Itself: the Eternal I.
—Jane Goodall


“If you believe peace is the absence of war, you’ve missed the mark. There will never be full peace until we treat each other the way we want to be treated. Peace is allowing an individual or group of people to command their space in the way they know how without the violent intervention from another.” —Leymah Gbowee

Happy Number 49

49

I am turning 49 today.

Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC, though not, I think, when he was 49.

The number 49 is a square, of course: 7*7. Perfection squared.

And its digits, 4 and 9, are themselves squares of 2 and 3. Kind of cool, that.

I have also learned that, mathematically, 49 is a Happy Number. That’s delightful, and the mathemagic that makes it so is rather sweet: 4 squared (16) + 9 squared (81) = 97. Square and add those digits (9 and 7) for the number 130. Keep doing that–squaring and adding the digits–and if it’s a Happy Number Sequence, you find your way to 1. Wholeness and Unity. Mystery within the mathematical process. So, 1 squared + 3 squared + 0 squared = 10, and 1 squared + 0 squared = 1. Voila! It’s a Happy Number.

The US/Canada border is on the 49th parallel. Good boundary between friendly neighbors.

Many Asian traditions (Buddhism, Taoism, and others) believe that 49 is a sacred number, the number of days the soul hangs around before it moves on after death.

The website Affinity Numerology notes that the number 49 “resonates with focus, conscientiousness, and being realistic, generally with concerns about and directed toward solutions for humanity. The number tends to be both pragmatic and idealistic.”

The site also says that “When 49 decides to do something, it determines the method and steps required to accomplish it, then applies its focus to that method and those steps until the goal is reached.” Now, no matter whether one believes that there is something to this numerology stuff, of that it’s all a bunch of hooey, that’s a nice goal to seek for living in this year labeled 49.

Of course, I am actually beginning my 50th year today, but I will stick with our cultural method of counting and call myself part of the cohort number 49. This year I will wear the Happy Number badge, and focus on systematically accomplishing my goals–conscientiously, pragmatically, and with a healthy whiff of idealism.  May it be so.

Gratitude List:
1. This practice. It has deepened and anchored and changed me. My husband asked me yesterday whether I think it’s been good for me because I write the lists religiously, or whether it would work to just try to inwardly experience gratitude more. I think the latter would definitely be true for a thoughtful and grounded individual. For someone with my tendency to live in the moment, the writing of the list holds me down and keeps me on the ground long enough to look inside and look around. And reviewing my lists regularly adds to the sense of it all being an unfolding journey.
2. Goldfinches. Yesterday, I did the 2-mile Schmuck walk–up to the top of the hill, back down to the very bottom, and back up again to the house, a two-mile loop. As I was approaching the small group of trees at the top of Skunk Hollow Lane, watching four bright male goldfinches flittering through the roadside weeds ahead of me, a big blue pick-up went racing down the street past me, past the little grove of trees. Out of the weeds at the base of the tree, a flock of a dozen or more shining golden birds (along with their quieter consorts) flushed out of the weeds and spiralled up into the trees, like yellow leaves falling upwards, chittering as they flew. It was a holy moment, pick-up and all. I will now call those trees Goldfinch Grove.
3. Also on my walk, I watched our neighbor farmer Donny baling hay. It’s so satisfying to watch the baler pass–cha-chung cha-chung cha-chung, to feel the anticipation build, and then the click and flick of a perfect green bale flung into the wagon behind. And Donny always smiles and waves. Whenever he drives a tractor past our house, he always looks in to see if there are children to wave to, bless him.
4. Crickets and peepers and cicadas. The cicada roar can be deafening at moments, but it adds layers to the sound-texture of the place. Even the birds are silent and listening this morning.
5. I think that perhaps I have Turned a Corner. Two years ago, I was really excited at this moment, getting ready to step back into the classroom. That was a marvelous excitement, but an anxious one, too, filled with worry about whether I was up to the job. Last year was much better, anxiety-wise, but somehow I just didn’t feel very prepared, like I was still off-balance, a little unsure of what I was doing, of whether I was equal to the task. My friend Verlin has been telling me for the past two years that it’s in the third year that you catch your stride, gain your full confidence, feel on top of things. If the preparations are any indication, I think he is right. I don’t know if I have put a whole lot more time into preparations this season, but I think the time I have put in has been much more productive and focused. I need to remember to be humble enough not to assume that things will be simple and easy going forward, but I feel ready to face the tasks ahead.

May we walk in Beauty!

Dragons and Olympians

DSCN9215
You can take the girl out of the Waldorf, but you can’t take the Waldorf out of the girl: Here is a dragon I drew on my chalkboard.  After I erased the tree that I had started drawing, I received requests from students for a red dragon.  I was a good challenge, and fun to watch them discover it as it developed over several days.

Facebook tells me that for the past two years on this very day, I heard and saw Oriole for the first time that spring.  I have been worried that I haven’t been aware of him yet, wondering if my busy schedule has kept me from noticing, or whether he has chosen not to return to the hollow.  Sometimes several of them come at once and fight for the prime territories.  Now I can be patient a little while longer.  I miss my bright friend.

Gratitude List:
1. The gold has returned to the goldfinches.  The bluebird, as Thoreau says, may carry the sky on his back, but the goldfinch carries the sun on his.
2. A cozy warm dress on a chilly May morning.
3. Summer vacation is coming.  I love teaching dearly, but at this time of year, I begin to anticipate June with the intensity of a senior.
4. Our ancient traditions: Yesterday, I volunteered to be one of the measurers for the track meet at school, holding the end of the measuring tape for the shot put, discus, and javelin.  Two of the guys on the team are in my English class, where we happen to be studying Ancient Greece, where the earliest Olympians competing in those same contests.
5. The little places in the day where I get a chance to breathe.

May we walk in Beauty!