How You Get There


I am signing off for a few days. I am going to the woods with some of my beloved community, to sing and laugh and play together, to walk the labyrinth in the woods, to listen for birdsong and look for tiny fungi in the leaf litter, to breathe and to wander. I will see you here in a few days.


“I remember nothing more about that night, except knowing that the enchantment of that moment would be with me forever, how what was burning so intensely in my heart could manifest itself in all of nature and how a song could thread itself through a needle, and stitch it all together, for one other-worldly, soul-aching, heart-breakingly hopeful glimpse of Nirvana.” –Excerpt of blog by Gloria Talcove-Woodward
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“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
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“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” –Louis C. K.
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“Never apologise for your sensitivity. It is the thinness of your skin which makes you brave. You are willing to live. You are willing to be alive.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
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“Acknowledge your mission. Trust your path. Become your chosen destiny.” –Jamie Sams
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“You are what you eat eats.” –Michael Pollan


Gratitude List:
1. Fridays: Week’s end, Faculty Hymn sing, the anticipation of rest and time in the woods with beloveds
2. Yesterday’s clouds, which were dragons and caves of flame and featherbeds
3. Teenagers and their enormous hearts
4. Monarch and dragonfly
5. Sharing laughter. What warmth of human connection when someone says, “Hey! Wanna hear a joke?” The social connection of good, healthy humor, how it bonds people together
6. (I am breaking the rules today and adding another) Playing with sentences. In a couple different classes right now, we are playing with sentence structure, copying the forms of professionally-written sentences, writing poems based on set formulae of absolute phrases and participial phrases. For some, it’s a bit tedious, but it has been delightful to watch the twinkle in the eyes of others when they begin to get it, to feel what it’s like to write a really elegant sentence.
7. (while I am at it. . .) Yesterday’s chapel talk by Brenda Martin Hurst. She reminded me of how much work has been done by so many to create a world and a church in which girls and women are valued as much as men and boys, and how much work there still is to do. I am grateful for my mother and others who worked with such love and courage and sheer will to begin to pave a way for women’s voices to be more fully heard in the Mennonite Church. This, more than anything, gives me great hope that some day we, too, can break through the wrongs against which we raise our voices.

May we walk in Beauty!

Remembering Old Friends

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This is one of the Lehmans’ fields, just about a week ago. Now their heads are all bowed, the petals have faded and dried up, and the seeds are filling in.

Last night I went to the viewing for a childhood friend of mine. When we moved to Pennsylvania when I was ten years old, Linda and her family lived about a mile away from us–a nice bike ride–and our families went to the same church.  Linda was tall and sort of shy; I was short and chatty. I remember hanging out in her family’s cool basement, reading each other the Dear Abby column from old newspapers, playing with her brother’s chemistry set (I think we wanted to make something blow up–what kid with a chemistry set doesn’t?), and riding our bikes down over the field to the Green Dragon yard sale and buying stuffed animals that our mothers wouldn’t let into the house.

We went to different high schools, but we remained friends, going to youth group together, and writing each other long notes during the week that we would give to each other to read each Sunday at church. On really cold winter afternoons, a bunch of us would head over to Leroy and Beulah’s pond for raucous games of MudSucker, a version of ice hockey with players on skates or in big old boots, and lots of body checking and laughter.

Linda was a loyal and gentle friend, always present in conversation, often smiling, thoughtful, and lots of fun to be with.

After high school, our lives went different ways, and I never made the effort to get back together. We each made attempts here and there to connect, but somehow we never managed to maintain the connection.  Every once in a while, I would wonder where she was, how she was doing. I reconnected with our friend Stacey a couple years ago on Facebook, and she at least updated me on Linda, but I still didn’t make the extra effort to get her number, to call her, to see her again.

This is a story about regret. I am trying to learn to sit with these crunchy emotions, to welcome them into my guesthouse (to use Rumi’s phrase). If I don’t sit with the tough emotions and listen to the stories they have for me, they get in anyway, and then they barrel around and destroy things. Regret turns to flaming shame and eats all the food in the house. Perhaps if I invite them in for a while, just to talk, and listen to the stories they have to tell me, I can learn something about myself and about the past.

This is a story about friendship. Treasure your friendships in your heart. Know that the friends you make will be there, ready to pick up the threads again when you reconnect. But never waver at a chance to re-connect, to make contact. Our friends become part of us, they shape and mold us in ways we can’t always name. I could vow to never again take a friendship for granted, to never completely lose touch again with people I have loved, but I think it is the way of the world, that people connect and move on, and the contact fades. I can, however, use this moment to remember the ways in which my friends over the years have blessed and changed me, and to be ready, whenever the moment presents itself, to take the time and attention to reconnect, to make that extra effort.

Gratitude List:
1. This weather. Yesterday’s weather was perfect. Thermal Delight.
2. Pawpaws. Like custardy mangoes. I really need to plant me a pawpaw tree.
3. Asian pears. For lunch, I have been eating a soft and tender pawpaw, and then a crisp and crunchy pear. Perfect crunch, perfect sweet tang.
4. Old friends. Even (or especially) in the painful times of death, it is nice to reconnect with friends I have known and loved long ago.
5. Fridays. Faculty hymn sing, a schedule that sort of teaches itself, and anticipating Saturday with the family. Rest. Breathing. Rejuvenating. (I will love Monday, too, when it comes.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Wings Wide

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Just a picture of green leaves, but if you look really closely and squint your eyes and cock your head to the side, about a third of the way along the very bottom of the photo, you can make out the silhouette of the mother hummingbird’s head, her bill pointing down as she feeds her baby.

For the Vulture

When you came to rest upon the pole
and opened your wings
wide to the sky,
were you holding up that cloud, or
warming your shoulders in the sun?

Were you warning the people in the valley
that death will one day visit us all,
or reminding us that all of life
is one great cycle, with no beginning
and no end?

I felt it as a benediction,
the pastor raising her hands toward heaven
and blessing her tiny congregation
gathered under the sycamore tree.

Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbirds. I know. Every day, right? But yes, every single day, and yesterday I trained my binoculars on the nest when the mother flew away and saw two tiny needle beaks poking up above the nest’s rim. Picture a metal bottle cap–the inside of the nest is only millimeters deeper than that, and two tiny hearts beat inside two impossibly tiny winged creatures who live inside that space. My heart keeps falling on its knees.
2. Friday. I love teaching, love my new batch of students, love seeing my earnest colleagues daily. And. And. I am exhausted. The first week is a glorious whirl. At one point this week, I found myself telling one class about another class’s deadline.  One the day when I was orienting all the classes to the use of certain computer programs, I completely missed a step in the last class of the day because I thought I had told them already–I had said it so many times already. That said–I am eager for the weekend of rest.
3. Poetry. My life is so much richer for the beauty of language that surrounds me.
4. Hymn sing. Friday mornings, the faculty gathers before school to sing hymns together. It’s the perfect thing to wake up the spirit for the last day of the week. What a perfect, perfect metaphor for the work we do together, to sit and blend our harmonies once a week.
5. Solitude. (I need to carefully find my moments of solitude in the new rhythm of my life.)

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.

Hymn Sing

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Gratitude List:
1. The poetry of old hymns.  John Ruth (may he live forever) articulated this beautifully last night.  I have been itching to find words for why I keep returning to the oldest hymns, even when the patriarchal language and theology send part of me into a tizzy.  It has to do with the fact that we’re singing poetry together.
2. The resonance of a hymn-sing in hardwood-floored gallery.  A perfect space for four-part harmony.
3. Singing and reading poetry in a gallery.  The hymns and poems and paintings all have a deep sense of structure beneath the surface vibrancy and color.  While we sang, while I read, I gazed at Freiman Stoltzfus’s mandala painting on his Symphony of Spring wall.  We sang “For the beauty of the earth”–this line caught me: “for the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight.”  Holy moments.  (If you get into Lancaster, you must check out Freiman’s gallery on Prince Street.)
4. Roma and John Ruth.  What lovely people!  They must be nearing 90, but they’re as crisp and playful as ever, she leading the songs with vigor, he giving vignettes and thoughts on each song, on the state of singing, on how moving it is to watch youtube videos about interspecies interactions.  And here is the amazing thing: After I introduced myself to him, I mentioned that we had talked about my great-grandfather 25 years ago.  He remembered the conversation (better than I did).  He’s written a 1000+-page book in the intervening years, met hundreds of new people, traveled the world, and he could still remember meeting a kid just out of college and researching her family history.  What a brilliant mind.
5. Words and word-lovers.

May we walk in Beauty!