I need to sit quietly and spend some time understanding all that I have learned and experienced in the last three days as we’ve explored the Harriet Tubman Byway near Cambridge, Maryland. Words like inspiring and life-changing don’t quite do it justice.
Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in 2015 after a church meal at the house of friends. I had plans then to revise it, and never did. Perhaps that might be the task of the week ahead.
The Cherry Tree
After we had eaten, the adults shared stories in a circle underneath the trees.
The children rode the tractor wagon down the hill to splash and wander up the creek almost out of hearing or gather sweet black raspberries to pass around in paper cups, each set of fingers smashing down the fruit below until all was sludge scooped out and licked from purple hands: a sacrament.
Back from the creek and the fields and the barn they came, dripping water, straw in their hair, trailing jewelweed, clothes and fingers and smiles stained purple from berries.
We gathered beneath the cherry tree with buckets and bags. We all were children then, in the kingdom of the cherry tree, laughing, leaping high to catch her boughs to draw the clusters down within our reach. We could not hope to get them all, even when the children scampered up into her branches.
We laughed and were amazed at the wild abundance of the tree. And this was church as ever church can be, all of us filled, dazzled, alit.
May your mouth be filled with sweetness. May your ears be filled with the laughter of children. May your heart be as wide and open as the blue sky. And may your stories blend with the stories of others, reaching out and upward like the branches of a tree.
Spider is writing her poems along the field
from sedge to bramble to foxtail
in silver shining threads and dew.
Gratitude List: 1. Several new babies safely in the world now. Blessings on the new people and their parents.
2. Dawn chorus. I may need to change up my routine and do my writing in the evenings so I can sit out on the porch and listen to the morning’s symphony.
3. Harriet Tubman will be on the $20 bill. It’s a symbol, and it’s only money, but it’s a nod to her role in our history. The people we set up as our heroes shape who we become as a nation. This is a small step, but it has the potential to show us a better side of who we can be.
4. Resolve. Determination. Will. I don’t know about you, but it seems as though I have energy cycles–sometimes I can only focus on getting done the things I need to get done at the moment, whether it’s a lot or a little. There are times, however, when it seems as though the winds push through an extra measure of resolve, and the energy for moving forward is more constant.
5. How spring always has a new thing. The crocus and the earliest spring flowers are faded, but a few daffodils remain. Ms. Freiberg’s yellow tulips are still shining in the morning dew, and the my guarddogwood trees are daring each other to be the first to burst into bloom. (Now, if only oriole would come and whistle for me.)
International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world since 1911, to honor the work that women do. This year’s theme is a pledge for parity, with the core belief that empowering women will lead to greater sustainability on the planet.
Gratitude List: 1. Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmentalist and human rights worker, 2015 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, who rallied the indigenous Lenca people to oust the builders of the Agua Zarca Dam, a project which would have cut off water for the Lenca and made it impossible for them to continue living sustainably on the land. She was assassinated last week in her home.
2. Harriet Tubman, whose story amazes and inspires me, challenges and informs me. If all you know about her is that she rescued people out of slavery, you owe it to yourself to find out more about her, about her many roles during the war, and how she continued to work for human rights and dignity until she died.
3. Wangari Mathaai, the Kenyan college professor and founder of the Green Belt Movement, first woman in East Africa with a doctorate degree, and 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who saved Karura Forest, who planted trees, who worked for the rights of women. (Karura Forest is again threatened with development, and the Green Belt Movement is working to save it yet again.)
4. Jane Goodall, who, though she is in her early 80s, continues to travel around the world to speak on behalf of sustainability, earth care, and animal rights.
5. All you women in my life who have mentored me and modeled for me how to live sustainably, how to regulate and care for my own energy, how to stand up and speak out, how to do the work. Friends and family, women older than me, my peers, and young women, too–my nieces and my students–who show me every day what it means to make a hopeful difference in the world.
May we walk with wisdom, with courage, and with strength. May we make the world a better place.
The dreams of All Hallows night are supposed to hold meanings and portents. I dearly hope mine doesn’t qualify. Here’s a look into my anxious and twisted brain: I spent the night running from the Taliban. I would wake up, breathe a sigh of relief that the dream was over, and fall right back to sleep and into the same dream again.
Today is All Saints Day. Here are some of my personal saints:
All Saints Gratitude List: 1. Harriet Tubman, who followed her dreams out of darkness, but who didn’t stop there. No she didn’t stop there. She walked back into the darkness, back into the nightmare and brought so many back with her.
2. Dirk Willems, 16th century Anabaptist martyr, who took his chance for escape when the lake froze by the tower where he was being held for refusing to recant his beliefs. Months of deprivation had made him thin and lean, and he skidded across the ice to safety and freedom. His well-fed pursuer, however, broke through the ice and started to drown. Dirk Willems ran back across the ice and saved the man’s life. He was re-captured and later put to death.
3. Rumi, because his words are sublime.
4. Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, because the Earth needs trees to breathe and because women need sustaining work of their own to support their families, particularly when they are alone. So she brought women together into supportive communities, where they supported themselves on the stipends they received from planting trees.
5. Jane Addams, suffragist, social worker, agent of change.