Gratitude List: 1. How the smell of coffee begins to revive me, even before the first sip. 2. Featherbed weather. 3. Thursdays that are Fridays. 4. Red and orange trees, and how they focus the blue behind them. 5. Morning silence. Lately, the noise of the day occasionally feels like an assault. I need to store up morning silence like cool water and sip from the memory well of it all through the day.
Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
Today, one of my best beloveds is having surgery on his heart. I cling to words like “routine” and “basic procedure” although I know that anything involving that particular mass of muscle is anything but simple routine. Still, I trust that there will indeed be something normal and uncomplicated about it all, that my beloved one will come through this fine and healthy and as twinkly-eyed as ever.
Trust seems to be my word of the day. Trust in the uncertainty and unknowing. Trust in the medical folks, in the procedures, in the body’s ability to respond and heal. Trust in time and spirit and the doctor’s good, good hands.
Such an Advent moment, these coming hours of uncertainty. Waiting. Praying. Focusing my heart. Trusting. Today, the words of Julian of Norwich will accompany me: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Gratitude List: 1. The doctors and nurses and medical staff who are tending to one I love. 2. The heart. 3. St. Lucia Day. We carry the light. 4. Tenacity 5. Small, busy birds
May we walk in Beauty!
“Everything is holy now.” —Peter Mayer
“I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“The only door out is the door in.” —George MacDonald (Lilith)
BY FADY JOUDAH
wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
Until it left of its own accord
If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
And you’d get to go biking
She said that’s how others
Become refugees isn’t it?
Terry Tempest Williams (from Red: On Passion and Patience in the Desert): “I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget,,,, I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long walks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness…. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine….I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.”
Thoughts for Tuesday:
“The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.
Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ―Vincent Van Gogh
“Change is continuous on the seamless web,
Yet moments come like this one, when you feel
Upon your heart a signal to attend
The definite announcement of an end
Where one thing ceases and another starts;
When like the spider waiting on the web
You know the intricate dependencies
Spreading in secret through the fabric vast
Of heaven and earth, sending their messages
Ciphered in chemistry to all the kinds,
The whisper down the bloodstream: it is time.”
“One of the most exciting things for me about being in the freedom movement was discovering other people who were compelled by the Spirit at the heart of our organizing work, and who were also interested in the mysticism that can be nurtured in social justice activism. We experienced something extraordinary in the freedom movement, something that hinted at a tremendous potential for love and community and transformation that exists here in this scarred, spectacular country. For many of us, that “something” touched us in the deepest part of our selves and challenged us in ways both personal and political.” ―Rosemarie Freeney Harding, in “Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering”
“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.”
“Would you come if someone called you
by the wrong name?
I wept, because for years He did not enter my arms:
then one night I was told a
Perhaps the name you call God is
not really His, maybe it
is just an
I thought about this, and came up with a pet name
for my Beloved I never mention
All I can say is―
―Rabia of Batista
“The aim of education is to reveal an attainable image of self that is lovelier than that manifested in his or her present acts.” ―Nel Noddings
Oh my. This was a year ago today. We’ll have to try this this week. After we finish the leftover mac and cheese and veggies from the family reunion potluck.
Gratitude List: 1. Family. Family reunions. Family circles. Laughter. Stories. Food. Cousins. Aunts and Uncles. Little tiny people and wise elders.
2. Chimney swifts. Such aerial acrobats with such unaerodynamic little cigar-shaped bodies.
3. Kate DiCamillo. An author who expands the heart.
4. My classroom is, for the most part, organized for the coming year! I know where almost everything is.
5. Deep, long sleep.
May we walk in Beauty!
“. . .my grandmother would get very annoyed when anyone would talk about “the power of love.” Love, she insisted, is not power, which she considered always coercive. To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.”
“Stories beget understanding,
Understanding begets respect,
Respect begets justice,
Justice begets peace,
That is the power of story.”
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.” ―Vincent van Gogh
“When we share our stories and dreams, we are accepting help in the shouldering of responsibility and despair. By extension, our windfalls and triumphs belong to us all. In witnessing each other, we are cross-pollinating our wisdoms and broadening our storylines, moving the locus of our attention from competition to collaboration. No longer governed by personal lack, we begin to make decisions as an ecosystem would, from the appreciation of our indivisibility.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past.” ―Robert Holden
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This is the poem I presented at the education conference I attended this weekend. I came away from the conference inspired and energized. The answer, behind all the pedagogical strategies and theories and techniques, is always Love.
And the Third Circle is the Heart
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
“The eye is the first circle, the horizon which it forms is the second: and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
The heart, too, is a circle,
the horizon expanding to infinity
or contracting into a small black hole.
The round bud of the heart
opens, the radius expanding.
The work, you say, is to keep opening,
casting that radius wider
at every turn of the wheel,
to hold everything within its protective arc,
the bright flowers and the white-hot stones.
When I begin to say
that I am you and you are I
then the pain that you wear
must wound me too.
This is the work,
to widen that horizon that lies within
to hold the world, if we must.
This is the burden
To be watchers,
to inwardly transmute
these stones we are given to bear
into gems of great value.
To keep soft,
to let the ego
into a weightless place.
Speak your story.
Let it fall like a stone
into the quiet pool of my heart.
The circles expand out and outward,
not matter but pure energy,
more doors opening.
I see you.
I feel you.
I know you.
I recognize myself in you.
These are the doors we step into.
These are the circles we enter.
2. Stepping out of my comfort zone
3. Wise mentors
5. Being heard
When you are finished reading this poem,
it will self-destruct. The words
will fly outward, shards of ideas
exploding, lacerating skin,
feelings and notions piercing the soul,
shredding elevated egos
and mangling worn-out theories.
You will not be able to escape
into the house of another poem,
for all poetry is designed to explode,
to burst, to shatter into a thousand colors,
like the fracturing of light.
“The word is the making of the world.” —Wallace Stevens
“Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” —Albert Einstein
“I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.” —Coretta Scott King
“When you feel the suffering of every living thing in your own heart, that is consciousness.”
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.”
―Naomi Shihab Nye
Gratitude List: 1. How dreams keep revealing themselves
2. How the leaves fly down from the sky
3. How children see things that adults miss
4. How the work gets done
5. How starlings move as a single bird
“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you are about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret. ”
“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.” ―Parker J. Palmer
“In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?”
―Rabia al-Adawiyya, Sufi poet, 717-801
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Gratitude List: 1. Today I am grateful that I no longer experience weeks of 4-hour sleep. When I experience insomnia these days, it’s a couple hours for a couple nights in a row. It has become a teacher instead of a raging enemy.
2. The UNICEF kids. They put on a great party today, set up without prompting and supervision, ran the show, and cleaned up so quickly, I hardly knew what hit me. They’re going to change the world.
3. This ratty old black long-sleeved T-shirt. I’ve bought shirts to replace it, and they’re okay in their way, but none are so soft, so mine. I will wear it until it’s rags.
4. The Ducktown Road bridge is functional! I drove the whole way up Ducktown on my way home tonight.
5. How things come together, and fall apart, only to come together again, in a new way.
“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” ―Dorothy Day
“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” ―Dorothy Day
“Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
“The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”
I’m not very good at praying, but what I experience when I’m writing a poem is close to prayer. I feel it in different degrees and not with every poem. But in certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” ―Denise Levertov
“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.”
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” ―attributed to Albert Einstein
Look into me, for I am the light in your eyes. ―Rumi
“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”
“When it comes down to it, even on the natural plane, it is much happier and more enlivening to love than to be loved.”
“Paperwork, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens–these things, too, are the works of peace.”
“An act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world, increases the courage and love and hope of all.” ―Dorothy Day
Gratitude List: 1. I hear: My family members singing and humming and whispering to themselves as they go about the work and play of the evening.
2. I see: Incredible photos that my friends post online. Such beauty there is in the world, and such tender eyes my friends have to notice and mark it.
3. I feel: The perfect temperatures of this week. A little cool, a little warm. Thermal delight.
4. I smelled: Coffee brewing.
5. I tasted: Broccoli on toast with melted cheese. And applesauce. Delicious supper.
These days when I am in the car by myself, I switch over the audio book CD from The Mark of Athena, which we listen to as a carpool on the way to and from school, to Tucker Malarkey’s Resurrection, an audio mystery book I got from the library book sale last summer. It’s an interesting slow-unraveling story about a young woman (post-WWII) who goes to settle the affairs of her archaeologist father in Egypt after his suspicious death. She discovers that he was working on finding and translating fragments of text from papyri found at Oxyrhynchus, and that someone is trying to stop the texts from becoming public. It’s entirely fiction, of course, except that it’s loosely based on some of the hype surrounding the mid-1940s discoveries of papyri fragments at Oxyrhynchus.
It makes me want to start looking again at some of the Gnostic texts and other gospels that were not included in the canon by the councils and church leaders by the time of the Synod of Hippo Regius in 393. The novel I am reading contends that the non-canonical gospels were actively suppressed, often violently, by church leaders who were threatened by the gnosticism of many of the texts. We have Elaine Pagels’ book on Thomas: Beyond Belief, and perhaps I will start there, as well as searching through the fascinating online Nag Hammadi Library.
Gnosis has always been one of my favorite words. It rings something inside me when I hear it. I remember that even before I really knew what it meant, I was drawn to its mystery. What are the layers beneath the stories I’ve heard all my life? What are the patterns and secrets that were kept so fiercely out of the text that we read today? Who were these early followers of Jesus? I think of gnosis as gut knowledge, bones knowledge, the kind of thing you know within yourself to be right and true.
Early gnostics believed that the physical world was to be transcended in favor of spiritual realities, a primary sticking point for me. Perhaps this is how some people reach their gnosis. I think the physical world is to be entered fully, experienced profoundly, relished deeply. For me, it’s about settling into the gut, the bones, the blood, seeking the way Spirit imbues matter, not the way it transcends it.
Gratitude List: 1. William Carlos Williams Moment: so much depends on a tangerine sun rising through blue into a violet magenta cloud. Suddenly all is cerulean and indigo and golden.
2. Heart Moment: Receiving an email from one of our graduates, asking several of us to pray for him as he prepares to deploy as a medic to the Syrian border. We have a bridge between us, despite my pacifism, and I am honored to be among those praying for his safety, praying that he may be a blessing to those he serves.
3. Comfort Moment: Sitting under a feather bed, reading a fantasy novel to my boy.
4. Moment of Depth: This quotation, by Alice Walker–“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”
5. Pleasure Moment: Shells with spinach and peas in a creamy cheesy sauce.
Last week, we met this teeny tiny turtle–a snapper the size of a half dollar–on the sidewalk into the school. We set him in the grass where he would be safer from the many feet that would be thundering through during the coming day.
“It can hurt to go through life with your heart open, but not as much as it does to go through life with your heart closed.” –Jim Doty
The bud always opens toward decay,
toward falling, the fragile bits within
slipping off their tiny moorings,
sifting downward, petals drooping,
dropping to the ground below,
offering beauty and a lingering aroma
in the briefest span.
The bud which never opens
also lives toward decay and rot
but never senses sun-warm petals,
never knows the draw of butterfly,
the tickle of the bee, never feels
the moment of release, of
settling to earth. Gratitude List: 1. Teeny tiny turtles
2. Having enough: enough sleep, enough love, enough time, enough of what we need to get by.
3. Spoken word poetry–always inspiring
4. Crickets, heartbeats
5. Believing in the good