Safety Nets

Gratitude List:
1. That our school offers a series of safety nets for students: from caring teachers, to an incredible group of Guidance Counselors, to classes that build resilience and self-awareness into the curriculum. I want to be ever more conscious of building those skills into my classes.
2. People who fearlessly speak truth to power.
3. Grateful that this is Friday. If I am this tired, I can only imagine how it is for the people who sing and dance and play instruments for the whole show. It’s absolutely amazing to sit in the pit–the conductor and instrumentalists are actively ON at all moments. I’m agog with admiration for the work of the students and others who have created this show.
4. Supper with the family last night. Jon went home and got Josiah and brought him all the way back to Lancaster so we could at least eat together.
5. Yesterday’s chapel: Songs of the Civil Rights Movement, led by students, supported by our incredible music teacher. (That’s another thing about my colleagues–they’re good at supporting students to become leaders, to take risks, to speak up.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude as Resistance

Perhaps I am going to sound a little like a conspiracy theorist here, but I think it holds pretty true, actually. Those who are in power, those trying to consolidate their economic and political power against the people, rely on our anxiety and fear, our disillusionment and angst, our impotent rage and our divisive talk, to paralyze us against positive and just action. I don’t think this means I have to entirely give up my outrage and worry, my despair and angst–they’re the feels I feel, and I won’t cut off my feelings. Still, I can surf them instead of getting sucked into their vortex–which is, I think, what the destroyers want of us.

I have practiced the writing of gratitude lists for about ten years now, on and off, sometimes religiously writing a list a day, sometimes settling into a weekly or bi-weekly pattern. As I have written before, this particular spiritual practice has helped to ground and deepen me, particularly in times of stress and rage and grief. In recent weeks, when the practice might have been extremely helpful, I have been very sparse in my gratitude-contemplations, and I think I have had trouble finding my way back to center. I think it correlates.

This morning, my friend Karen wrote that every day between now and Thanksgiving, she will write one simple gratitude as an act of resistance. That gives the Work of Gratitude a whole new layer of inner empowerment, doesn’t it? Gratitude as Resistance. What better way to resist the destroyers’ dependence on our paralysis?

In order to find my way back toward equilibrium, and to maintain the magical/prayerful intention of resistance, I will follow Karen’s wise example in the coming month and post One Gratitude as Resistance each day in the month leading up to Thanksgiving. Thank you, Karen, for leading me into a new space.


Gratitude One:
Guidance Counselors: Guidance Counselors are superheroes. I have no doubt that you save lives. As a teacher, I am comforted to know that you are there, a safety net, offering solace and help for students in their pain and troubles. At least twice this week, I have been able to rest in the knowledge that someone was taking care of a student who was in a crisis. And when I was helping a student perfect her college application essays, she kept telling me things that her guidance counselor had helped her to think about as she wrote. I’m glad you’re in my village, both my local school village, and in other schools.

May we walk in Beauty!


Here’s a little self-touting:
I’m actually not sure what it means. It’s not a publishing thing, and it doesn’t have prize money or certificates attached to it, but it’s satisfying. I try not to doubt my poetic voice, but when mostly what I have in response to sending poems for publication is a long list of rejections, I sometimes struggle to keep me sense of my poetic self intact. So it was a good morale boost for me to discover yesterday, sort of by accident, that I had won last year’s Poetic Asides November Poem-a-Day Challenge Chapbook contest. The little book is called Shapeshifting, and it contains thirteen poems that I wrote during last November’s challenge.

Here’s the link to the announcement.

Still the Child in the Forest

Today’s prompt is to use a city or town name as the title of a poem.

Wrightsville
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

A ferry-step across the Susquehanna
from the town where Suzy Wright bought acres
and lived among her men: brothers and father,
though she never let herself be tied to any man.

Did she cross, too, here at the shallows,
where the Susquehannocks made a weir,
where they strung nets between rocks for fish,
waded out to gather mussels from their beds?

And this side became the wild frontier,
the land beyond the river-boundary.
These hills were wild, untamed, and game-full,
the lands beyond European civilization.

Like Suzy who lived on the other side,
the town on this side grew up unfettered,
wilder, more free than its married cousins
which tamely reside in pampered grace.


“Choosing to be honest is the first step in the process of love. There is no practitioner of love who deceives. Once the choice has been made to be honest, then the next step on love’s path is communication.”
― bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions
*
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”  ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien
*
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.

Amen.
―Rabbi Harold Kushner
*
I place in the hands of Time these stones:
the story of this day,
the people I have been near to,
the songs the Fates have whispered in my ears,
the colors that haunt me.

See how they turn to mist,
how they glow for a moment–
red, then golden, then blue–
then dissipate like ash blown by a wind
before I can register
that they have lost their substance.

Where does memory go
when it flows out with the tide,
when it slips down the drain,
when it is blown out with the morning fog?

I am still the child in the forest,
walking blind through the swirling mists,
under the shadows of the great trees.
With each forward step on the trail,
a little bird flutters from the pathway behind,
a bread crumb in its beak.
―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“When I stopped trying to change you, you changed me.” ―Rachel Macy Stafford


Gratitude Lists:
1. Guidance Counselors. Some of my students carry so much pain. I am grateful knowing that when I send a distraught student to the Guidance Office, she’ll receive the tender listening and help that she needs. Thank you to all my friends who are Guidance Counselors: You are saving the world.
2. Lasagna. Jon made a delicious spinach lasagna for supper tonight. We devoured it.
3. A heated house
4. Living with cats. I’m conflicted about what we humans have done to cats and dogs in domesticating them and breeding them, treating them like things we own. But we have co-evolved, and we are now responsible to care for them. I love the daily inter-species interaction.
5. That view of the hills of York County as we crested Mt. Pisgah on the way home: golden field of corn, then a green field, then a fringe of brown trunks of leafless trees, blue mountains behind, and a tangerine sky in the back with a fringe of migrating geese.

May we walk in Beauty!