It’s been a really difficult day. I knew I would have to deal with it sooner or later, but I truly hadn’t prepared myself for the intense feeling of grief that would follow Governor Wolf’s announcement that all PA schools would be closed until the end of the year. I really thought that this is what would happen, and there’s even relief in no longer having to guess. Still, I kind of thought that we would have a chance to say goodbye. School continues on the virtual plane, but it will not be the same, and I am grieving.
I forget who distilled the idea— that the friendships we build here in the tangible world create actual structures in the spiritual realms, that we must take the utmost care to make our friendships sound and safe. Who knows who will reside there in the spaces we have crafted with our loving attention or callous disregard?
So, now that our classrooms are empty, our hallways ringing with silence, how shall we maintain the soundness of the fine and shining edifices we’ve been constructing in school? We’ll need to trust that our stories, our careful discussions, our scholarly questions, even our sleepiness, our boredom, our grinding of teeth as we wait for the clock to run out, will hold up this house so we can finish the building with elegance and style.
This is a photo of a poster in the dining room at the National Conference Center. I love Jitterbug Perfume. I need to try to figure out how to use this as a basis for a Creative Writing exercise in descriptive and fanciful writing. It’s so imaginative, it goes way out beyond extended metaphor. Part of it is the wild riff on beets themselves, and part of it is the repeated comparison to the characteristics of other vegetables.
And that last line. Suddenly beet people are desperate, perhaps visionary, perhaps utterly mad.
Try it. Choose a random thing, a thing among things, something you can compare to other items in a similar category: paper clips, Legos, dogwood tree. Describe it, in terms of itself, but also in terms of the other things in its category. Who exemplifies the characteristics of your item? Remember that you really aren’t describing an item at all, but a person.
Gratitude List: 1. Kitty snuggles. (Except at 3 in the morning. No, even that is sweet, if disruptive. Thor seems to have some anxiety issues related to Mama going away. He kept waking me up. He wanted to perch on top of me–shoulder, hip–but seemed to need to hold on with his claws. Sigh. Still, midnight purrs and kitty kisses are precious.) 2. Being home. Being away, and then being home again. 3. Making plans, making progress toward goals. 4. Morning sun. 5. The moon, the moon, the moon.
“God is your Lover, not your jailer” —Hazrat Inayat Khan
“What is good for the world will be good for us. That requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.”
“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.” —H. G. Wells
“Stand firm against injustice even if it be against yourself.”
“It is out of the dailiness of life that one is driven into the deepest recesses of the self.” —Stanley Kunitz
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” —Rachel Carson
Gratitude List: 1. Swallows on a wire
2. The butterflies that dance in the garden my Beloved has planted for Beauty
3. Reunion: The next generation seems to like each other, too
5. Africa House: It’s one of the places that our group has met most often in recent years, and by now it has begun to feel like the home of us
“Do you not see how everything that happens keeps on being a beginning?” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
“Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion A filling up.” ~ Anne D. LeClaire
“To me, every hour of the day and night
is an unspeakably perfect miracle. ” ~Walt Whitman
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.” ~ Etty Hillesum
“Am I killing time, or is it killing me?” ~The Middle Brother Band
Gratitude List: 1. Happily home again, after a satisfying vacation
2. The possibilities the day brings. When the air is so gravid with rain, it feels as though anything could happen.
3. The prospect of coffee with a friend–a friendship that blossomed online.
4. That fuzzy old man cat Fred. I miss him when we’re away.
5. Sharing stories together. I’m reading the Heroes of Olympus series to the kids right now. I love the way the boys are absorbing Greek mythology while we read. I also love the way they get the jokes.
Ship carved into the wall of the Timothy Hill House, the oldest house on Chincoteague Island.
What songs shall we sing
when the dawn has come creeping
the ridges and the mountains
through a summer veil of haze? Gratitude List: 1. Home again, home again. Safely. Settling back in.
2. Seeing Fred again. We all missed him.
3. Those enormous walnut limbs that fell while we were away didn’t fall on little Pippi the Prius.
4. Vacation. This one feels like those space trips that use the gravitational force of the moon to go further into space. This trip to Chincoteague has given me renewed energy to get my work done.
5. Waking up to the sounds of home.
Josiah’s robin picture from last year. I saw a flock on my way home from the conference yesterday.
Gratitude List: 1. Home, sweet home.
2. Downtime with colleagues this weekend. Laughing together. Good conversations. Eating together.
3. The poetry and art of Jan Richardson 4. Hawks in trees along the highways
5. Dream-stories. That deep hidden part of the brain has so much to teach me.
1. Still, that new name for God keeps ringing in my ears, making me want to pronounce it, feel how it sounds through my own throat: Ja kon kudho. Remover of Thorns. I hear it in the voice of Mama Nyakyema of Bwiri village, tender, a murmur. I hear it in the voice of the twinkly-eyed man who used to stop me in the street whenever he saw me to make me practice my Swahili and to give me new Luo words. I hear him saying it carefully as he always did for me, so my English ears can hear it, make sense of it, and repeat it back. A little song in it, low on the kudho with a pause in the middle of the word. Soft j, almost a dy. And the dh almost a th, but not quite. Sounds that invite your spirit to sit down and rest a moment.
2. Hummingbird. I was talking with a customer about hummingbirds today. She said sometimes she goes out into her garden with the intention that she IS going to see a hummingbird. Invariably, one appears. Not fifteen minutes after she left, I was working at the table outside, and I heard a tiny whoosh in my ears. About two and a half feet away, a female hummer hovered for about ten seconds at the corner of the building. Long enough for me to say, “Well, hello! I was just talking about you!”
3. How speaking a new thing makes it real.
4. The web. When my heart aches for someone I love, I grab the strands, feel you there, and you, and you. Sense the presence of so many who hold the world together in so many ways. Keep the light shining so all the lost ones may find their way.
5. Learning to refuse the invitations to enter the cage, not with anger or fear, but simply to go on whistling by.
I wish I had had my camera. I wish I could draw well and fast. Instead, I’ll have to try to give you the picture in words.
It’s a really hot day on the beach. The elements are all doing their elemental best to claim the day: sand, air, sun and waves. You have to yell to be heard above the pounding of the surf, and the tide is rising fast, claiming sneakers and chairs and sand pails faster than their startled owners can drag them in. One dad gets a bright idea to stave off the loss of his space by building a sea wall, and digs a fortification in front of his family’s umbrella: a deep hole with a wall on the side to the ocean. Suddenly kids from all over have gotten into the act, digging and fortifying.
My boys ran down with their cousins to join in. Parents came, too, and we built drip castles all along the line of the wall. And the wall held against the tide, giving the umbrella people another forty minutes of time before the hole behind the wall filled with fresh cold sea water, and the children went from castle-builders to merfolk, dabbling in the pool they’d created and covering themselves with yellow foam.
Gratitude List: 1. Family time at the beach
2. Mama Ocean
3. Watching Joss devour every kind of seafood he could get his hands on: clams, flounder, shrimp, scallops.
4. Coming home to Jon
5. Myotis lucifugus, the little brown bat. The first one to roost in the barn we called Otis because it seemed more likely that a solitary bat would be male. The friend who was roosting with him today we will call Lucy, in hopes that they might be a breeding pair. Fly well, small ones.
Day 11 Prompt: Write a veteran poem from the point of view of a veteran.
It was like I had slewed into an alternate reality
just one notch over from the one I’d always known.
On the surface, everything was as I remembered,
but almost imperceptibly off.
The sycamore tree out behind the house
was just coming into leaf
with that almost impossible gray-green
that sings out at you in the morning light.
When I came home, it was as if
someone had clicked that off,
turned down the volume.
The swaggering pink of the dogwood
was on mute.
Everything was like that,
like a veil had been thrown
over my senses,
like I was under the burqa.
Setting the table or sitting on the porch
talking to my mother
I began to feel that I could
no longer trust the distances, even.
Had I grown? Or shrunk?
I worried that I would miss contact
with the surfaces around me,
slide out of existence.
One thing. One thing remains the same.
No matter where I am in the house,
I can still feel the attention
of that crazy old dog, searching me out.
If everything else is slightly less real,
then this is more so.
When I roll over in bed,
I can sense him twitching his ears
where he lies downstairs on the kitchen floor.
Even when I am off to town
I feel the silver cord of his hope
mooring me, holding me solid.
And when I sit next to him
watching the sunset,
inside the bubble of his wakefulness,
the colors begin to sparkle and sing
almost as clearly as they used to.