Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Prayers and Rage

Okay, so I am getting more nervous about the coming winter by the moment here, as I watch the busy tribe of squirrels on the bank behind the house. They are eating and gathering at a furious pace. If they have inside information, we’re in for a tough one.

And this is one healthy, glowing gang of critters: Their fur is sleek, and their bodies are filled out and muscular. They look like they’ve been lifting little weights. One of them, gorging on berries six feet up in a bush, began to slip downward. She didn’t even pause in her eating, but grabbed a branch beside her, somersaulted downward, landed on her feet with the berry branch still in her mouth, and continued eating. Little parkour ninja folk. And I know that squirrels are already that way, but these are just. . .more so.

I don’t know if I have ever noticed just how russet-colored is the feathery fur on their breasts until a moment ago when one stood to greet an approaching comrade, and his breast shone chestnut-red in the morning sun. And that’s another thing. You know how squirrels stand to look around and greet each other, hands on hearts? I’ve always thought it made them look sort of timid and cute in a timorous “oh-my-heart” sort of way. These folks, whenever someone else approaches, stand like little warriors, feet apart, spines straight, eyes alert, hands on their chests in a greeting of solidarity.

These people are readying themselves for a hard winter ahead. May the walnuts and berries be plenty. May you grow ever healthier and sleeker, small ones, as you do the work to prepare your colony for what is to come.


Gratitude List:
1. Squirrels
2. There was a roseate spoonbill down on the Flats last week. They say it’s gone, but I think I’ll drive down there and just look around. I am grateful to know such a being was here.
3. Oak leaves
4. Clouds
5. All the people doing the good work. Let’s not let ourselves get too discouraged. So much wrongness has seeped out of the cracks recently, and for those of us who want to believe in the beauty and marvel and goodness of everyone, it has been particularly painful. A friend of mine reminded me this morning that often there are still noble elements that reside within the souls of those who are living openly by greed and power-mongering and death-dealing, and we need to find ways to hold conversations that enkindle those sparks of Goodness. I’ll keep searching for that nobility while remembering that there are so many out there who continue to work and live from the depths of their Divine Spark. Like you.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Doorway:
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” -―Rumi
*****
“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves
into the rhythms of the human heart.
The earth is not outside us; it is within:
the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”
―John O’Donohue
*****
“There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”
―Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
*****
A Gift
by Denise Levertov

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.
*****
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively; go to the side and do it differently. Don’t waste time with oppositional energy.” ―Richard Rohr, writing about the thinking of Dom Helder Camara
*****
“The heart of faith is the call to love one another. . .” ―Avis Crowe
*****
“A child looking at ruins grows younger but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips in the sun.”
—W. S. Merwin, The Love of October
*****
“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
—Lucille Ball
*****
“My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated.” —Óscar Romero

Gratitudes, Musings

The Practice of Peace

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
–Walt Whitman
*
“To live a life of peace, we must practice peace with all we meet, indeed, with the whole world. To practice this publicly, we consciously reject the chaos around us and steadfastly choose peace. Once we make that choice, a whole new journey begins.” –John Dear
*
“Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.” –many author attributions
*
“Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?” –Walt Whitman
*
“The universe may be a mystery, but it’s not a secret.” –Michael Schneider
*
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things that you fight for and then you protect.” –Wangari Maathai
*
“I like stories where women save themselves.” — Neil Gaiman
*
“Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)”
–Walt Whitman


Gratitude List:
1. Last night’s indigo clouds on a twilight background: A dragon flying to meet a witch, who held the crescent moon glowing in the palm of her hand.
2. Step by step the longest march can be won.
3. Red–an enlivening, heart-opening color
4. Knitting. I like to knit during conversations and public events, and I feel as though I am knitting the stories of the moments into the thing I am making. This winter, I will wear a warm hat that will contain yesterday’s stories from wise and resilient women, and the blessing of the babies, and the hard work of this season of my life, and an orange tree, and Dorothy Day, and two students who I am praying for in particular in these days. That’s going to be one heavy hat.
5. Laughter

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Trying to Be Found


Here are three tiny poems from my Creative Writing journal. (I usually wrote along with the students on the writing prompts).

Each day
a new story
of finding my way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once there was a little girl
who was trying to be found.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bluebird on a wire
muttering a gentle question.
No one answers but the hawk.


“I like sitting at the piano. I like the idea that there are things coming in through the window and through you and then down to the piano and out the window on the other side. If you want to catch songs you gotta start thinking like one, and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects. Once you get two or three tunes together, wherever three or more are gathered, then others come.” -Tom Waits
*
“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” –Rafael Campo
*
“Which came first, the fear or the gun? The broken heart or the bleeding one? The impulse toward death or the desperate reach for love?” –Mark Morford
*
“A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.”
–John O’Donohue


Gratitude List:
1. I think I am homing in on the nest of Our Lady of the Flowers. I sat on the porch for a while last evening and watched. She seems to return to the same general area of the tree. It’s located at a less convenient spot for gazing this year, hidden higher up and further from the house.
2. Weaving stories together. Listening to people tell their stories and talk about who they want to be in the world.
3. How a good stretch that wakes up the spine wakes up the body
4. The people who do good. I get so tied up in knots about the stupid, greedy, and cruel things that the powerful people are doing. It really helps to balance my heart to keep remembering all the good and wise and compassionate things that you and the others are doing. Thank you.
5. Pesto

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

A Bright Red Cardinal

shiny
Gratitude List:
1. A bright red cardinal amid the brown twisting branches and vines of the bosque.
2. Songs this morning that healed my soul.
3. Humor. Humor helps me to keep it together.
4. Stories of goodness. Let’s just keep doing our little bit of good every day. We will perhaps be called upon to do big good things, but in the meantime, let’s keep doing the little good things.  And reminding each other of the stories we hear of goodness.
5. Afternoon naps, Legos and Percy Jackson. In other words, a restful Sunday afternoon.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Following Your Task

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A little poem after reflecting on Mary Oliver (“You do not have to be good.”) and Caitlyn Siehl (“[Being pretty] is not your job.”).  This is an interesting draft to begin, but I definitely want to craft this one and perfect it.

When you crossed the threshold
into the indigo shadows of the Old One’s hut,
she took hold of you with her bony claw
and gave you three impossible tasks.

But none of them were beauty.
None of them were goodness.
She does not demand of you
what your stepfamily expects,
out there beyond the forest’s reach,
in their comfortable cottage
covered with vines and flowers.

The crone can see that your path leads
away from pleasantries and loveliness.
She knows the world will demand your strength,
the full force of your determination.
She knows that sometimes the most arduous task
is to turn your face away from the mirror
the others have given you,
the one in which you see
what they want you to see.

Seek the needle in the haystack,
catch the wind in a bag,
find the golden flower that grows
on the farthest mountains
beyond the lands of comfort.

When you return,
the mirror will be truly yours,
to see yourself as only you can see.
Then you will sit in the quiet shadows
waiting for a young one to coming humming
along the forest path to ask you for fire.

Gratitude List:
1. Students performing Shakespeare.  I knew they could manage the comedies with flair and finesse, but I had no idea they could do Julius Caesar with such incredible power.  A gender-fluid cast.  Brutus stayed male, but Caesar and Antony were female.  As always, they made it utterly accessible.  This could definitely be an award-winning performance.
2. One of the little jobs I get to volunteer for at school is Apple Pie Judge (I came back to this to capitalize it).  And the teacher in charge actually thanked ME for participating.  Heh.  No, that was all my pleasure, thank you.  These kids can bake a mean apple pie.  And it’s just one more way for students to get recognition for their abilities that go beyond the traditional boundaries of sports or music or academics.  Those were some fine pies.
3. Remembering this: You don’t do it all at once–you go step by step by step.
4. The baby green on the sycamore and poplar trees.
5. Today is Wrightsville’s Poem in Your Pocket Day.  I am going to rush home from school so I can go with the family around the town so the boys can read their chosen poems at participating businesses.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

People Are Really Good at Heart

DSCN9023 DSCN9026 DSCN9029

Gratitude List:
1. Daffodils.  Narcissus.  Sunny golden greetings.
2. Orioles.  It’s too early, I know.  Way too early, I suppose.  But I dreamed last night of that whistle, high in the sycamore tree, of the oriole announcing his return.  I can’t wait until that bright bird is back with us.
3. Getting it done.  This and that and the other thing.  It DOES come together, even when it feels impossible.
4. The goodness in everyone.  Lately, my belief in this idea is being sorely shaken.  In this election cycle, I have begun to let a deep cynicism about the motives and benevolence of others begin to seep into my consciousness.  I want to continue to hold onto the belief that there is something inside each of us that can be touched and met.  If Anne Frank could say it, I can at least do my best to try to believe that “in spite of everything, people are really good at heart.”
5. Towering clouds.

May we walk in Beauty!  (In Goodness.)

Gratitudes, Poems

Fragments of a Letter I have been Meaning to Write

I
We handed you our trust, that egg,
so gently cradled in our palms,
our fingers making a cage to hold it
until we could be certain it was safe
in your own careful hands,
in the nest of your own heart.

II
I am thinking about freedom,
how you are free to do whatever you choose,
and how you are never truly free of consequence.
You may think you act alone,
but everything reverberates,
everything resonates.
It all ripples outward.

The tremors of one selfish choice
can grow into a quake that shakes a village.

So too must the good ones grow,
like instruments in an orchestra
building the sound together,
until a great and mighty
river of sound transports us.

III
You chose shame for shame.
So that will not be the name
I choose for this poem.
You chose the clothes you would wear for this one,
and soon enough the world will see your costume.
I will witness, but I can offer you nothing
but small pity, perhaps, for what broke you first.

IV
These angry squirrels gnaw and chase,
racing through my brain,
but I will not let them make me choose to hate.
I will not let them make me choose to hate.

 

Gratitude List:
1. The hope that good acts will grow and reverberate as surely as acts of cruelty and selfishness
2. Harvest, beautiful and lush and nourishing
3. How quickly the body can mend
4. Worms, down there under the soil, doing their work
5. Waking up to the clucking of the cuckoo in the bosque

May we all walk in Beauty

Gratitudes, Musings

Gracious Goodness

Gratitude List:
1.  Strong boundaries
2.  Compassionate hearts
3.  The balance of boundaries and compassion
4.  Morning mist rising from my River.  When I say “my” River, I don’t mean it as mine alone.  Nor do I mean that it is my River exclusive of all other rivers.  But it can be my River and one of my rivers and still belong also to you and to all of us in the way that I can say you are my Friend, and yet you are not exclusively mine, nor are you my only friend, but that I love you in a particular way that is particular to our relationship.  My River.  The mist rises from it in the red morning light, and there is so much magic in it.  And also in you.
5.  And this: Goodness.  There is so much goodness in people, in strangers even.  And I know too many stories, especially in recent days, of people who fell to the lowest pitches of bullyhood and meanness and real evil when left to their own devices.  But this also is true, so gloriously true: that so many people are simply good, simply full of heart and tenderness and compassion.  That you do not have to bang on the doors or scratch very deeply at all before goodness oozes out all over, fresh and raw and sweet like honey.  I have seen it just today, how you can look into a stranger’s eyes and see it and know it is there, and follow it.   The guy who drives your tow truck may be a philosopher to rival the ancient mystics.  The woman who sells you groceries may have some rich wisdom about human nature that even the respected psychoanalysts have yet to figure.  So many wise ones to discover.  So many namaste moments to explore.

May we walk in Beauty.