No rants today. I think that from here on out, today will be rantless for me (I can’t call the whole day rantless because I accidentally ranted a bit on Facebook this morning. Ranting is also good for waking up.)
I have a sadness: Our resident Great Blue Heron has died. We need to go do something to honor the body, at least place it serenely in the woods, so the People Who Deal with Death can do their work. The vultures and worms and their communities of goodfolk. I will take photos of the Beautiful One’s feathers. I just need to steel myself. I am not naturally brave with Death, although I value Her, and trust Her.
I also have a lovely happiness: I have no essays to grade this weekend. My soul is free for two days. I need to make something.
Gratitude List: 1. The birdlife here in the hollow. So sad to lose our Blue Heron friend, but this is part of the Cycle. Others will come in their time. Meanwhile, the small wingfolk are singing Spring. 2. Brunch at 301 Cafe! We haven’t done that yet, but it’s in the plan! 3. No big grading this weekend. I feel so light, I could float away. 4. Reassuring dreams 5. Meditating
Gratitude List: 1. Motivation. Wherever it comes from. I read a silly thing the other day that suggested that if you have trouble getting the motivation to exercise or remembering to take your vitamins, imagine that the health boost is magically transferred to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Somehow, at least for now, it’s been helping. 2. Learning to rest. When I had the backlog stacks of grading hanging over me, I didn’t always manage to get to chipping away at it every evening, but everything I did was colored by that low-grade panic: I SHOULD be doing that. Now that I am caught up and keeping up, I still find that panic rising, and now I can remind myself that everything is okay. I am caught up, and I am going to keep up with it this time. I have a better plan. 3. Little synchronicities 4. Little daily rituals 5. Nourishment, of all sorts
May we walk in Beauty!
“We love because it’s the only true adventure.” —Nikki Giovanni
“Everything we do is music.” —John Cage
Abba Poemon said, “Teach your mouth to say what is in your heart.”
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ―Audre Lorde
“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” ―Audre Lorde
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” ―Audre Lorde
“We’re still dumb kids, just gray and tame. If we had it to do again, we’d get it right.” ―from Jack Ridl’s “The Reunion”
“For a lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.” ―Evelyn Underhill
“… a ditch somewhere – or a creek, meadow, woodlot, or marsh…. These are places of initiation, where the borders between ourselves and other creatures break down, where the earth gets under our nails and a sense of place gets under our skin.… Everybody has a ditch, or ought to. For only the ditches and the field, the woods, the ravines – can teach us to care enough for all the land.” —Robert Michael Pyle, Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland
Grades are due Monday. I’m focusing on the day ahead, the weekend ahead, on getting it done. Fueled by coffee, hope, and the wild burst of procrastinator’s eleventh-hour mania. I am good at getting things done on time, but not in a timely fashion, if that makes any sense. Always hoping to rectify that, and sometimes, like now, finding myself deeper in the hole than ever.
Gratitude List: 1. Good colleagues. I love working with these earnest and compassionate people. And they’re funny, too. 2. There are some clear-thinking, justice-aware folks in that room in Washington. I don’t think I am really hopeful at all that the rule of law will prevail, that justice will be done, that the democracy will be saved. Still, some people are standing up for truth and democracy and justice. 3. Reading through student journals yesterday about people they admire. Some of their answers were my colleagues (see point number one), and others were family members. One student write a gripping couple paragraphs about being inspired by Bernstein and Woodward. Another write a page and a half about Tolstoy as an inspirational model for living. I love these young people. 4. Animal companions 5. Flannel sheets
A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about some online quizzes that help you learn world geography. I play them every few months, and every time I come back, I have lost fewer of them. Now I put myself to sleep at night by reciting the names of the nations of the world. It’s time for a new challenge. I am going to start on flags now, and then capitals, I think.
One of the powerful benefits of this has been that when I read headlines about the people of The Gambia suing Myanmar for the genocide of the Rohingya people, I no longer think, “Somewhere in Africa” or “Somewhere in Asia.” I see the place on the map. As tensions with Iran have increased, I see Iran in my head, where it is in relation to the countries around it. When students say they come from Thailand, or South Korea, or Singapore, or Ghana, I can picture where they come from on the map in my head. And so I have increased the sense of my own place, my own places, too.
It also increases my anxiety at times. A couple years ago when the Caribbean was torn apart by massive hurricanes, I knew the names of the islands in their paths, could sense the vulnerability in ways I had been previously unable to imagine. But some painful knowings are important knowings, and help me to better understand my own connection to others.
As we apply ourselves to the study of our own inner maps, I think we have similar experiences. When I dare to memorize the shape and location of sadness and despair within myself, then perhaps I can be more attentive when I see it in someone else. “I recognize that!” Joy. Confusion. Satisfaction. Secretiveness. Deviousness. Compassion and Empathy. They all take on more recognizable shapes as I explore their geography within me. And the anxious knowing applies as well. How will your small islands weather the hurricanes of grief and loss and stress? Can you pick up the pieces and set up a new infrastructure when the storms rage through? Hang in there. Put out a call for help to others to send boats and aid, to airlift hope and helping hands.
Gratitude List: 1. Asian New Year celebration at my school today. Such talented students. Songs, drumming, and K-Pop Dancers. Incredible! 2. Half a day to grade. Catching up with myself. 3. I’ve been reading the poetry of Reginald Dwayne Betts in the spaces of the day. His word-work is so inspiring. 4. That samosa a student brought me from their Ethnic Foods class (or maybe it was just Ethnic Foods Unit in a regular Foods class?) 5. Walking, stretching, being good to the organism that is me.
On these November days, instead of writing a daily poem, as I have for most of the past eight Novembers, I am writing short pieces of prose: fiction, meditation, dream. This morning’s piece was simply a telling of last night’s dream:
The hillsides are covered with loosely growing trees, not quite close enough to be woods, and yet woods, for all that. Some places are woodsy enough that no sky shows through, though there is space enough between to see through them down the hillside to where the paths curve and separate. To the east, the trees open out toward bare grassy hillside and the smell of the sea. In the shade at the edges of the wood, three tidy white-washed Baba Yaga huts stand on stilts in a sandy courtyard, and further off, beyond the first grassy hill, smoke rises from a little village.
The trees are sinewy and resinous, Mediterannean, not pine—more like laurel, if laurel were thirty feet tall. The trunks are thin and many-branched, but open, and the leaves are mostly at the crowns, letting light filter magically through. All is green and blue and twinkling golden. Though there are no people, there is the sense of people, the presence of people doing people things.
In your head, a soundtrack starts to play, a woman’s voice talking about a sudden and catastrophic event, how one moment one notices the short bursts of steam rising from individual trees, curiously taking in the strange phenomenon, and then, suddenly, the whole wood will combust, not a long-burning, raging conflagration, but a whoosh of fire that’s there one moment, and in the next is gone, leaving bare and charred hillsides. You wonder why there are no signs to warn visitors off the paths. And then you notice the explosive bursts of mist and steam puffing from random trees on the hillside below you. Should you start to get nervous? If the voice is correct, it could happen at any moment. But you are entranced, curious, unable to give yourself to fear. You turn onto a path that leads up the hill toward the Baba Yaga courtyard, intending to explore the little huts, to see if anyone lives there. At the edge of the courtyard a long tube suddenly rises, like a cannon being aimed for a blast, and powerful jet of water bursts into the air, raining down on the little houses, raining down on you, sparkling through the sunlight, wetting the trees. Looking back the way you came, you can see several more of the water cannons discharging their spray through the groves and woods covering the lower hillsides.
You wander through the small village beyond the Baba Yaga houses, where people wander, eating foods from the markets, taking pictures beside the quiet houses, murmuring to each other. You look back over the hillsides where you have been wandering, and the trees have vanished. At the edge of the village, the green grass ends at bare soil. Everything is gone. Despite the water precautions, the woods and pathways are gone. An enormous yellow bulldozer rumbles over the destroyed land.
Gratitude List: 1. Dreams and their messages 2. Many sources of light 3. The lull after the grading storm. There’s so much more to do, but after a weekend of fierce grading, I took a break last night and rested. 4. The line of orange light along the horizon at dawn 5. New England clam chowder when it is made well
Things That Made Me Happy Today (Another way to say Gratitude): 1. The chenille bedspread. It’s so comforting to snuggle up under it. 2. My Best Bird, the Oriole, flitting in and out of the honeysuckle vines all morning. 3. The holler is filled with the scent of honeysuckle. 4. Reading Bud, Not Buddy with the kid before he headed off to school this morning. 5. Completing the grading for four of my six classes. Only two more to go! 6. Talking on the phone with Sarah this morning. 7. The way the sun dapples the pathway the deer have made in the bosque across the stream. 8. How Ellis hums to himself wherever he is, like his dad.
Sometimes it all comes ready-made,
like seeds, like sunshine, like rain.
But sometimes you make it yourself.
Take a little clay, a palmful of water,
sculpt and carve, shift and caress,
with great care and concentration.
And sometimes it all just gets
tossed in your direction,
bits and pieces scattered on the wind,
and you take the threads into your hands
and begin to weave. And you chant,
and you dance, and then it happens.
There’s no single formula for family,
no direction manual, no guide.
Blood’s one sacred element, certainly,
but water will do it, or wind,
whatever hold the souls together,
like laughter, like tears.
Gratitude List: 1. Celebrating Chester’s 100th birthday. Harmonica, singing, family, trees, stories, and a picture of Sarah Jane. She was there, of course. I know she was there.
2. Grades are all done and marked ready to submit, and it isn’t even midnight!
3. Reading Susan Cooper’s books with the boys. I love when they get so into the reading of a book that they stand up and start to pace, and talk back to the book.
4. Little bits of tidiness.
5. The warm times are coming. The birds tell me so every morning. I can wait.
1. Wise voices. I am grateful for the people who are willing to take their time to wisely and compassionately and fiercely and gently mentor others. The ears of my heart are listening. This week has brought some important wise voices my way. If you are one of these people, you likely know who you are. I am holding great gratitude for you.
2. The first semester grades are in. I have been a bit of a mess, either scratching away furiously at the grading or avoiding the grading or being anxious about the grading. Now I am here, in this moment, in this semester. I can live this teaching space now without dragging a bagful of yesterday’s teaching around with me.
3. Images of transformation: the snake shedding her skin, the turtle diving down to sleep in the winter mud, the caterpillar hardening her chrysalis.
4. Hot tea
5. This work. I do mine, and you do yours, and our webs connect, and the world changes. Thank you for being part of the web.
“The Wild Mother whispers, ‘Have you noticed? I left the gate open just for you?'” ~Anonymous
Gratitude List: 1. Grades are done and marked ready for the Registrar. Weight off my shoulders.
2. Anticipating summer fun.
3. Hearing the voice of one of my Beloveds on the phone today.
4. Full moon
5. Crocheting. It’s like poetry–making meaning from a simply meaningless string is like making meaning from a seemingly meaningless collection of words.