Exile is the theme of today’s Poetic Asides Prompt:

There are bubbles of belonging inside these spaces of separation,
places where true soul contact lies, and understanding lives.
It gives the exile a chance to feel connected, even in the crowd
of loud and angry judges who seek to cut away the sinners
from the inner group of those who belong, the righteous ones.

I’m done with trying to seek favor with the hoarders of grace
who place the ancient blood rules and regulations above
the call of love. I’ve chosen my exile and it only remains
to name the spaces where the outcasts can gather together,
our Cafes of Emigres, where grace and mercy are served with the tea.

Winds of Grace

I cannot wrap my head around the events of the past twenty-four hours. My heart is trying to encompass tragedy, to be witness, to hold a space for love. May we learn to be better humans.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
―LM Montgomery/Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)
“I think it’s so foolish for people to want to be happy. Happy is so momentary–you’re happy for an instant and then you start thinking again. Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.” ―Georgia O’Keeffe
“It’s impossible to contemplate the life of soil very long without seeing its analogy to the life of the spirit.” ―Wendell Berry
“There is no room for harsh words among us, only open hearts.” ―Pope Francis
“If you want to know who your tribe is, speak your truth, then see who sticks around. Those are the people who get a spot in your blanket fort.” ―Nanea Hoffman
“The winds of grace are always blowing,
but it is you who must raise your sails.”
―Rabindranath Tagore

Gratitude List:
1. The morning seemed full of portents and omens, in an almost Shakespearean way,
2. how the mist lay thickly in the hollows and valleys below the ridge,
3. how the sun became visible like a red ghost as we neared the River,
4. and the hills along the River peeked out between skuthers of mist,
5. and a young eagle flew above us as we emerged into a clear sky on the River’s opposite side.

May we walk in Beauty!

So Many Fragile Things

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien
“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire” ―Teilhard de Chardin
“There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.”
―Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
“Grace met us right there. It meets you right where it finds you, but it does not leave you where it found you. It moves you toward breath; moves you towards things being a little bit better: wow. Grace WD-40. Grace is water wings. Grace makes you shake your head with wonder, and laugh and cry.” ―Anne Lamott
To Be Of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” ―Oscar Wilde
“No single voice will be able to take control if everyone in the circle has a voice.” ―Kay Pranis
” I look up at God every day, and I say, “You are SUCH a show-off.” I have to shake my head and laugh. Maybe God does, too. If He or She does not have a sense of humor, I am doomed.” ―Anne Lamott

Gratitude List:
1. The protesters, showing us how to make courageous choices
2. In the new day, the crisis of the previous night pales
3. Today’s songs, especially this line: “. . .unseen wings, protecting, hide you.”
4. Catching up
5. Living with cats

May we walk in Beauty!



Gratitude List:
1. Golden morning moonset, and a russet sunrise.
2. Introducing my students to Shakespearean insults.
3. People rising to the occasion.
4. Grace and civility and kindness are not dead. (I know that seems like the total antithesis of number 2, but it just all fits.)
5. Voice Class recital for Chapel this morning. I am en-couraged by the courage of those young folks taking the stage and taking risks. And the music was sublime.

May we walk in Beauty!

A Wide Open Field

2014 April 068

Sometimes I think that I am a Benedictine, seeking the Order that would give my life an established contemplative rhythm: work and prayer, work and prayer, work that is prayer.

Sometimes I think I am Ignatian, looking to follow the Rule, the map to the journey inward: this step, then this one, then this–deeper, deeper, deeper.

Sometimes I think I am Franciscan, seeking the Holy One in the mundane, in the wild places, in the faces of people around me, in the incarnate world.

Or–how would I even say this one?–Julianist?  Seeking ecstasy and union with the One.

Hildegardian–Searching for the correspondences between the eternal and the temporal, to see the macro within the micro.

Brigidan–Tending, nurturing, observing, experiencing pure devotion.  Perhaps this one could also be called Oliverian (I am a follower of the way of Mary Oliver, of paying attention).

My own tradition has no saints, so I wander into the realm of the Catholics and others to borrow theirs.  The more I study, the more it seems to me that some of the least dogmatically churchy people are some of the people the church holds up most lovingly for veneration.  Even many of my own Anabaptist forbears were rebels and refuseniks, iconoclasts and outsiders.  It helps me to remember this, that my own sense of being on the edge, of standing in the open field outside the structure of the church, of lurking on the fringes, is part of a long tradition.  It’s what Father Richard Rohr calls the place of spiritual freedom: “a life on the edge of the inside–not at the center or at the top, but not outside throwing rocks, either.”

Some of those we venerate were stone-throwers themselves.  I’ve seen the modern iconoclasts and rebels picking up stones, have joined in that myself, actually.  And if I am honest, my fingers still occasionally twitch with the desire to join the battlers again.  Sometimes even the people who speak most passionately and articulately for the way of peace and justice in the world are all the while wreaking violence and destruction in the spiritual field.  I will put down my stones, and I will continue to stand out here on the field of the fringe, my feet in the world of both/and.

Perhaps, in the end, I am all of the above, and a Mennonite, too, following the path of Menno Simons toward Quietness, toward Yieldedness, toward Community, not blind submission to the established order, but a resting in the peace of being on this wide and open field, experiencing and sharing grace, absorbing the lessons of so many who have been here before.

Gratitude List:
1. The field is so wide, so eternally expansive
2. Articulators, people who envision the pathways–saints and poets and musicians and artists and children and you
3. Purring–why is a cat’s purr so calming to humans?
4. Someone else woke up early in this house so he could make paper hearts to hang all around to celebrate Valentine’s Day
5. Balance

May we walk in Beauty!

Beads, Like Grace

EWK 4 001

Slipping into the arms of an old friend,
I pulled back to look in her shining eyes,
and my beads went skittering over the floor,
heart beads, rose quartz and green aventurine,
so much that has been held back
no longer contained,
scattering like grace
and into every corner
ready to be found
by you.

Gratitude List:
1. Beads scattering everywhere, shattering something that needed to be opened
2. Time to just hang out with my colleagues last night, and meet potential new students
3. Weekends
4. This red woven scarf–recycled silk saris.  What life did they live before?  Who was beautiful in these shining threads?
5. The sun is returning.  (Blessed be.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Grace and Balance and Beauty

Christmas morning dewdrops on a birch tree.

My dreams have been disturbed the last two nights, sleeping in other rooms, other beds.  Last night, I was living by myself in an apartment, and I was moving out, turning over the lease to someone else.  I realized that I was going to have nowhere to live, nowhere to sleep.  I thought of all the many people in the town that I knew, and tried to think of who to call to ask for a place to stay, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Even when I was talking to people I knew, I couldn’t bring myself to say, “Hey!  Could I stay at your house for a couple days?”  I told myself it was because I am an introvert, but I knew that it is because I couldn’t find the humility.  One of my fatal flaws, I think, is the inability to ask for help when I really need it.

Gratitude List:
1. Grace and balance.  (I have been watching my 9-year-old learn to ride his new ripstick.)
2. Beauty all around.  (I have been taking walks with my 6-year-old, looking for interesting things to photograph.)
3. A misty Christmas Day.
4. Fun playing games with the family.  (3-person chess is exhilarating!  And Ticket to Ride is stressful.)
5. You.  Your stories.  The music you make.  The powerful thoughts you put into the world.  The beauty and grace that you notice and share.  The way you are real.

So much love!


2012 February 058

Today’s prompt is to write a haunted poem.

Everything leaves its imprint,
like the stain of a leaf long-gone to soil
which moldered on the concrete walk
leaving its shadow for another season’s grace.

Your very atoms press against the air,
push through the space around you.
Why should the sense of you be gone
when you are gone?  Why shouldn’t your image
remain behind to haunt the space you filled?

When you turn a corner you will see them,
in those rooms you inhabit inside your soul,
shifting lights and shadows,
mirages or reflections.

Listen for the whispering:
“I was here. I will always be here.”

Gratitude List:
1. Richard Rohr.  Remember, it’s about grace.
2. The Subversive Jesus.  Who is throwing stones?
3. Earthshine.  Have you seen how we light up the moon, even when she is only a sliver?
4. Meeting the day.
5. You.  How you receive the world with open arms.  How you do not judge the worthiness of others or separate people into categories or close doors to keep some out and to lock others in.  How you remind me that there are still people who walk in the way of grace.

May we walk with Great Grace.

Following the Path of Grace

DSCN8664 (1)

There is no prompt up yet, and I have to head to school.  I’ll do a second post later today with the poem.

Gratitude List:
1. Awakenings: Yesterday in a short story, the girl’s boyfriend and his mother offered to help in a chaotic moment at the restaurant.  The dad went out to wait in the car.  This was an incidental sentence in the story, but two of my classes stopped the story and complained about the dad.  They expect more of men these days.
2. Companionship: This bright boy sitting beside me and reading as I write.
3. Redemption. Grace. Restoration:  We don’t always live up to the possibilities.  The people we care for sometimes break or trample the trust we put in them.  Still, we find room for grace.  Today’s grace may be fragile, may be temporary, but I will nurture the hope it offers with everything I can give it, like the tiny, impossible flame we tended at the fire pit a couple weeks ago, giving it our breath, feeding it, believing it would catch.
4. Solitude: Not yet, not yet.  But last night I began my first dreamings for my contemplative solitude retreat this summer.
5. Growth: Sometimes the daily minutiae of teacher-work can make it seem like there is no growth, or that the growth is too small, too slow.  When I step back and look at the progress of students’ work from last year to this, it suddenly becomes clear, like looking at that small oak tree out on the hill.  I cannot see its day-to-day growth, but when I look at it over time, I can see the miracle of its growth.

May we walk in Beauty!

Fierce Compassion

I have been trying to figure out how, in the midst of my rages and furies, to find compassion, holding it all in the bowl of the heart.  That is my primary practice.

But now, I think that the work moves forward to a discipline more grammatical–in which order shall I place my adjectives and my nouns, my adverbs, my verbs?  It makes a difference, see:

Shall I be a keeper of a grave grace?  Or shall I practice grace within my gravity?  Shall I continue to seek for compassion in my rage and my anger?  Or shall I actively practice fierce compassion?

How will that look when I walk into a story in which I see harm being done? Sharing compassion fiercely rather than sharing anger compassionately?  Being gravely graceful rather than being gracefully grave?  The order matters, and it will happen differently in different situations, I think.

My story keeps beginning again.

(Thanks to The Story for the “Grace in Gravity” reference and to my friend Lisa Walker LeFevre for opening my heart to the phrase “fierce compassion.)

Tree spirit.  (Photographed with a mirroring app.)

Gratitude List:
1. Fierce compassion.
2. Butterflies everywhere.  They belongs on the list again and again and again.
3. Milo Zen Puppy.  I haven’t written a gratitude list since I met him a couple days ago, and he is likely the cutest person to ever walk on four legs.  Really.  This is not hyperbole.
4. Radiance.  I mean the shop this time–it was such a pleasure to be there again, in the scents and the colors and all of it.  Seeing Sarah again.  Touching all the stones.  Coming home smelling like Radiance.
5. Radiance.  Yours, this time.  Yours and yours and yours. You shine.  You help me want to keep growing and being a better person.  You push me toward Love.

May we walk in Love.