Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday’s list of gratitude for trees missed my friend Willow, who is putting on her stunning yellow dancing gown for spring. . . 2. . . .and Walnut, whose shadow arms falling across the drive invite me to find the pathways to the sun. 3. The delight of a composer-boy in his birthday gift. He’s working on a long and complicated composition on Noteflite. He’s listening through the piece now, making notes about places where he wants to make changes. 4. Teaching school from my armchair, with a little ginger cat tucked beside me, purring. 5. All that this anxiety is teaching me about living in the moment, about treasuring each joy and delight as I live it.
Take care of each other!
“Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the Universe.” —Galileo
“The way that I understand it, dreaming is nature ‘naturing’ through us. Just as a tree bears fruit or a plant expresses itself in flowers, dreams are fruiting from us. The production of symbols and story is a biological necessity. Without dreams, we could not survive. And though it is possible to get by without remembering our dreams, a life guided and shaped by dreaming is a life that follows the innate knowing of the earth itself. As we learn to follow the instincts of our inner wilderness, respecting its agreements and disagreements, we are also developing our capacity for subtlety. This sensitivity is what makes us more porous and multilingual, bringing us into conversation with the many languages of the world around us.” —Toko-pa Turner
“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” ―Guy Gavriel Kay
“Even the simplest of rituals is a way of acknowledging the unseen, the unspoken-about, the holy, which feeds our lives with its inexhaustible generosity. Ritual restores us to one another and to that grander coherence to which we all belong. Devoting your time to a ritual is like tending to a living bridge between the seen and the unseen, keeping that reciprocity alive.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” —Nelson Mandela
“Beneath the surface, there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self.” —Cynthia Bourgeault
In second or third grade, my teachers did that thing where you fill a jar with wet paper towels and then poke corn kernels and beans around the outside, and as they send out roots and send up shoots, you get to watch the whole process. Last fall, I decided I wanted to do that in my classroom, just for a little excitement, even if it’s an English class in a high school rather than an elementary science room. I left the jar of corn on my desk for a long time, too busy to get to it, but at the beginning of the semester, a couple students noticed and asked what it was. When I told them, they went and filled the jar with wet paper towels, and we poked the corn in along the sides. I rubber-banded a piece of plastic over the top to keep in the moisture.
Within days, the roots were beginning to grow, and it was less than a week before the sprouts started poking upward. I brought them home last night to plant in a little container, and now I am going to do a set of beans.
Maybe it will help my students to connect with natural processes in a visceral way. Maybe it will be a metaphor for their own rampant growth. Maybe it’s just a nice diversion, a way to spark and nurture generalized curiosity. It’s a fun thing to have in the classroom, and a community-building experience: Everyone is rooting for growth.
Gratitude List: 1. Growth 2. Green 3. Curiosity 4. Hope (Curiosity and Hope were the themes of last weekend’s conference) 5. Jon WK. He’s always on my implicit Gratitude List, but sometimes I’ve just got to mention how marvelous it is to share a life with such a wise and compassionate soul.
Sweet Shining and Shadowy Beloveds: This morning, it’s hard to keep believing in justice, hard to keep the long view in mind, hard to hold a vision of a world in which people of courage make decisions for the good of all, with wisdom, humility, and honor.
Part of me longs to enumerate all the horrors and destructions of the past week, to see the hurts laid out like a cadaver, to identify each killing blow, each bruise, each scar.
But that would only serve to feed the rising panic that’s been gathering in my gut this week, and perhaps in yours, too. Those pieces will come later, in poems. But now it’s time to tend to ourselves, to shore up and take stock and plan our way forward.
Let’s fight this collective panic attack. If we’re left lost and quivering, we only feed their power. Oh yes, I’m lost this morning, and quivering, too, re-traumatized. Let’s acknowledge it, notice where it lodges in our bodies.
My muscles actually ache from all the tightness I’ve been holding in. My head is pounding and my brain is foggy.
Now, it’s time to push back the panic: Breathe in. Straighten your spine. Lower your shoulders. Breathe out. Roll your neck and shoulders. Stretch and wriggle your spine until you feel yourself to be a line drawn between heaven and earth, a conduit of energy that flows through you. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Notice every place your body is touching a surface. Notice the sensations in your body. My backside and thighs on the chair.One foot on the floor, one on a chair rail.This cozy jacket keeps me just warm enough.My tongue’s a little scalded from that first sip of coffee.
What do you hear? The water in the cat’s drinking fountain, a small boy clicking his tongue, the creaking of an old house on a chilly morning.
What do you taste? (Grab a bite of something, or remember a favorite taste sensation.) The bite of pepper and the creamy counterpart in the pepperjack cheese.
What do you smell? Coffee, vanilla, springtime
Look around you. Find a color, a texture, a beautiful thing. The shining scarlet drop of red on the head of that downy woodpecker.The sweet, soft salmon leaves of the Japanese maple,still clinging to the branches and twigs.So many winter goldfinches on the thistle bag!
Now, here we are in the doorway of a new season. Today and tomorrow mark the beginning of Imbolc, the Season of Stirrings. New life is coming, cold snap or not. Sap will rise. Seeds will sprout. The Earth spins and whirls on in her dance through the cosmos.
One of the old names for today is Candlemas, when we acknowledge how the light has been within us all along, how much light we have to offer. Take stock of your candles. What is the small flame that you can offer the world in this moment? What is the fuel that you share?
Perhaps you are already doing it–tending daily to children or calling your senators, teaching teenagers to ask discerning questions or planting seeds for the crops that will feed your neighbors, healing bodies, gathering friends, listening. Today, this week, this month, do that work like a prayer, like a magic spell. Do it with intention, knowing that your work is changing the world, that what you do is fighting the forces of wanton destruction and power-mongering.
And maybe take up another thing this week. Make cranes for the Tsuru for Solidarity March, when Japanese Americans for social justice will be marching on Washington in early June to demand the closure of internment camps in the United States. Become an advocate for immigration reform. Send money or food to groups who are taking food to asylum-seekers forced to wait in inhumane conditions in Mexico. Express your support for Muslim people, and people from African and Asian countries which have been added to the US travel bans. Help people register to vote.
To combat the lies and obfuscations: Speak truth. Magically. Prayerfully. To combat the normalized cruelty: Speak compassion and tenderness. Prayerfully. Magically. To combat the power-mongering: Share your privilege. Offer the microphone, the stage, the moment. Do it prayerfully. Do it magically. To combat the greed-mongering: Be generous. Give. Share. Do it magically and prayerfully.
Another ancient name for this day, this season, is Brigid, after the ancient goddess of the Celtic peoples, who offered her muse to poets, to metalworkers, and to healers. She later became syncretized with the beloved St. Brighid, and so this aspect of human understanding of the Divine was not lost. Water and flame and word are her tools, her symbols. Today, make a poem, or make art, or make a nourishing broth to honor the gifts the Holy One has given you to make and change and heal. Do it prayerfully, as an act of defiant hope in the face of lies and cruelty and greed.
And also, this is the Groundhog’s moment. Tomorrow is the day when we check on the burrowers and the underworld dwellers. What light do they see? What shadows? In Advent, we walked into our own shadows. On Epiphany, we celebrated our light. And now, as we feel the heavy weight of the week’s shadows like a physical burden upon our shoulders, we must acknowledge and greet our own shadows. How do they give us power? How do they sap our power? Can we work with them instead of against them? Can we find their deepest meanings?
We can’t know what the coming days will bring. Too many signs point toward historical repetitions that turn me to salt, to stone. I freeze. I feel small and insignificant. But I must remember, constantly: Nothing we do now–to fight the tides of hatred and cruelty, to stand between the powerful and the vulnerable, to create holiness and beauty and health–will be wasted, no matter what happens. Now, perhaps more than ever, every act of hope and healing and love matters.
We are not alone. You are not alone. Reach out. Take hands. Build the webs. Ask for help, and be the helper.
Let’s situate ourselves so that we are always ready–strong enough, centered enough, grounded enough–to step up and do the work of love and compassion and justice, to stand up, to stand between, to risk, to raise our voices, to be the fierce and defiant hope for the future we want to create.
I have been fuzzy in my civic understanding of the differences and similarities between a democracy and a republic, and to what degree my own nation is one or both of those. This morning, alarmingly, I have seen two articles posted online, one warning that our democracy is dying, the other that our republic is in its death throes. I suppose it’s time I develop a clearer understanding of the terms so that I can better understand what it is we are in danger of losing.
I think we are an oligarchy. I think we are in end-stage capitalism. I think that greed and self-interest have become the MO of our most powerful public servants. Serving the will of the people, and doing the right thing, have taken second place to staying in office, and garnering personal political power and wealth. The ideals of democracy and republic have failed to serve us as a nation.
There have been some bright spots in this impeachment process, some fine speechmaking and oratory, some grand ideals expressed, some hope for a society that governs itself according to core principles of freedom and justice for all. Still, the defensiveness and bullying, the sense of threat hanging over the whole proceeding, begins to make the story feel ominous and tragic.
A society that cares more about protecting the assets of its wealthiest members rather than providing for the basic needs of its most vulnerable members is headed for implosion.
Gratitude List: 2. This is my tabula rasa morning. I’ve been living in semester two for two weeks, but finishing up the grading for semester one. I will hit the Grades Ready for Registrar button in half an hour, and then the last rocks blocking this tunnel will crumble and disintegrate, and I will walk into the full light of the new story. 3. Wise people. Wise women. Helpful, thoughtful, perceptive friends. I don’t know how I would get by without those serendipitous and intentional moments of wisdom and care that you share. 1. Not everything is dire and tragic. So much is beautiful and wise and thoughtful and hopeful. You are here, and so am I, and we hold the ideals of a civilization that protects the environment and cares for the vulnerable. 5. Stretching, releasing breath, grounding, centering. 4. The breathing spaces in the day to come.
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.
Panic, a low-grade sense of not-right-ness, of un-cope-ability, wants to be the word of the day. Yesterday’s sore neck turned out to be a full-blown headache/migraine thing, and I sort of ghosted my way through the day. That all sounds like a complaint, but it sets the stage for this morning’s emotional “migraine”–when you feel bad, you feel like you’ll never feel better, you know? Like somehow, this pain in the neck, this uncertainty, this sense of doom and gloom is all it’s ever going to be.
But of course it isn’t. Pain fades. New forms of certainty and rhythm arise. Gloom and doom lift. The sun shines again. The shadows offer gifts of insight and wonder. And that’s the story of Advent for me. Sometimes, you have to endure to get through the night to the daytime. There’s my word for today: endure. I know: There’s so much joy in the lights and the music and the cookies, in the parties and the planning. Still, the walk into the darkness is an endurance test for some of us some years. Ten more days of walking into the night, and then we can turn around and start walking back into the daylight.
(And I’m okay, really. Just caught in the web of the season. Hit harder by the lengthy nights than I sometimes am. Which is why I am writing these daily reflections, of course. To make it through. To leave myself a trail of bread crumbs for next year’s journey.)
Gratitude List: 1. Today is not yesterday 2. Dinner with Dorm Students last evening 3. Twinkling lights in the living room 4. Cheese 5. Featherbed
May we walk in Beauty!
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.” —Mahatma Gandhi
“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman
“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver
“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to [all].” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Gratitude of Resistance Sixteen: Reweaving the threads of friendship and memory with my Beloveds. We need to keep our Beloveds close in these times, and what can fight the tides of hate and intolerance and despair more effectively than eye contact across a table, sharing food, creating ideas and dreams together? Make each moment with those you love and trust a moment of prayer in action, a grand magic spell, a wishing bird of hope–that all may come and go in peace, that no one shall be forced away from the table, that a better way of living together in this world will be possible.
Gratitude of Resistance Thirteen: You know that feeling when you’ve been following a bright path in the forest, working your way from twinkling mushroom to red flower, and suddenly you find yourself completely lost and caught hopelessly in the brambles? You’re scratched and bleeding and entangled and far from home and you can hear the wolves closing in, and something moving around in the leaves nearby.
Then suddenly an army of mice and little birds appears. The mice carefully chew their way through the brambles that hold you and the birds bring you bright berries, and suddenly you’re free. There might still be wolves around, and you’re still scratched and bleeding, but you’re free now, and you know you’re not alone.
That was me yesterday, and all the wonderful people who reminded me that all is not lost, that much has been gained in the movement toward more kindness, more decency, more justice. And some of those berries are so bright and sweet: 100 Women Elected to Congress. That will have to become a poem, I think.
To top off the recovery, yesterday was a five-hawk day: a red-shouldered, three red-tails, and a mottled juvenile something-or-other.
Yesterday as I was falling asleep, meditating on how we make the shift from incivility to kindness, I saw a sky full of crows flying across the sky of my inner eye. All of us together, Friends. Hope against hope. Believe in the Good which is to come. Be ready to Be Change. Love and joy.
I do not deny that I go to bed tonight full of anxiety and angst for what tomorrow brings, but there’s a boatful of hope sailing that swamp, and a vast cloud of wise souls flying that gray cloudy sky. I cast the web from me to you. Let’s weave and dream.
The young folk have developed some lovely intricate stacks of wood and stone in the zen garden.
Gratitude List: 1. The Black History Month chapel today. The students lead and teach us.
2. Chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips.
3. The slow blink of cat’s eyes.
4. Sickness seems to be abating.
5. Hope and zen.
Today’s Prompt is to write a Construction and/or a Deconstruction Poem.
I am wiped right out tonight, so I am going to do my favorite form of deconstruction. I am going to take a little poem and run it through Google Translate several times:
Every day, I am remade,
reborn from the husk
of yesterday’s creature.
(To Malayalam and back again)
Every day, I’m reconstructing,
Resurrected from throat
(To Bangla and back)
Every day, I’m rebuilding,
Resurrection from throat
(To Gujarati and Amharic and back)
I will rebuild every day,
From the Crucifixion
They work today
I will rebuild it everyday
They work today
I’ll rebuild it everyday
They work today
I’ll give you a daily day
They work today
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
For a day, just for one day,
Talk about that which disturbs no one
And bring some peace into your beautiful eyes.
“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.” —proverb
“All religions, all this singing, one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity. The sun’s light looks a little different on this wall than it does on that wall, and a lot different on this other one, but it’s still one light.” —Rumi
The magic of autumn has seized the countryside;
now that the sun isn’t ripening anything
it shines for the sake of the golden age;
for the sake of Eden;
to please the moon for all I know.
“. . .fairies’ gold, they say, is like love or knowledge–or a good story. It’s most valuable when it’s shared.” —Heather Forest, The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies
Gratitude List: 1. A Tuesday that was a Friday. Big sigh of relief.
2. Time to catch up on my work.
3. That moon
4. The musical students of LMH