WORDHOARD

I said I wasn’t going to choose a specific word or theme for this year because I had so many words I wanted to work with, and that in itself became a word and a process. Of course. So my word for 2023 will be WORDHOARD. In the past week, I’ve been foraging for words (and hoarding them) to make into little cards to represent lots of ideas and themes that have lingered in my inner rooms.

I’ve been painting the insides of cereal and food boxes with gesso, then cutting them into 4×5 cards, then painting and collaging and drawing on them, and pasting a word from my wordhoard–these are the words that I have already foraged and printed from a document. I really like the Courier New font for a project like this. I already have several dozen words in my hoard. I have lots of little cards to make!

After all the recent years of metaphors and symbols and inspirations that I have chosen for my Word of The Year, it feels a little strange to move to something so nearly concrete. It’s my hoard of words. But it has also been–already–a really energizing creative process, both linguistically and visually. I’m including the animal symbols that have been meaningful to me, and words that have been previous Word of The Year words. I’m studying Swahili, so instead of Bridge, I will make a Daraja Card. And Spider will be Buibui.

It’s going to be a chance for me to do some experimental work with artistic processes. I find myself thinking about different ideas I want to try for laying on paint or embellishing.

We usually tend to celebrate New Years Eve at home, and with three of the four of us down with Covid this year, we aren’t going anywhere. Some of us will probably be going to bed in a couple of hours.


Gratitude List:
1. The challenges. I don’t want to do this year again. But I am grateful for the things I have learned through the challenging times.
2. The sighs of relief. I know that good news does not always follow bad, but this year’s run of bad news was frequently followed by sighs of relief.
3. Making things, coming up with ideas and then making them happen.
4. Moments in time when we look backward and forward, like the god Janus, who sees both past and future, and integrates them into the work of the now. New years, new months, new eras in our lives. How the future reflects the past.
5. You. All my Beloveds. I can’t imagine how I would have moved forward this year without the amazing community of people who surround me. I am grateful. Sometimes it’s just a nod or a little word of encouragement or commiseration that makes the difference.
May we walk ever in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.


“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming


“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


A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (From the Talmud)


“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana


“By our love and our need for love we become for one another midwives of the true self.” —James Finley


“Civility will not overturn the patriarchy.” —Mona Eltahawy


“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.” —Bryan Stevenson


“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie


“In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language.” ―Adrienne Rich, 1993


“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you… where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” ―Adrienne Rich


“More firebrand women. More dragon spirited women. More loud women. More angry women. More hard women. More intimidating women. More history-making women. More rebel women. More rebel women. More rebel women.” ―Nikita Gill


“In the teaching of history, there should be no undue emphasis upon one’s own country. The history of wars should be a small part of what is taught. Much the more important part should be concerned with progress in the arts of civilisation. War should be treated as murder is treated. It should be regarded with equal horror and with equal aversion. It will be said that boys under such a regimen will be soft and effeminate. It will be said that they will lose the manly virtues and will be destitute of courage. And all this will be said by Christians in spite of Christ’s teaching.

But, dreadful as it may appear, boys brought up in the old way will grow into quarrelsome men who will find a world without war unbearably tame. Only a new kind of education, inculcating a new set of moral values, will make it possible to keep a peaceful world in existence. In the future there will, after all, be plenty of opportunity for adventure, even dangerous adventure. Boys can go to the Antarctic for their holidays, and young men can go to the moon. There are many ways of showing courage without having to kill other people, and it is such ways that should be encouraged.” ―Bertrand Russell,


“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” ―John Lewis


“The web of life both cradles us and calls us to weave it further.” —Joanna Macy


New Year Poem
by May Sarton

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.
We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.
Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.
We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.
There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)
Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.
Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.


Someone Should Start Laughing
A Poem by Hafiz (Ladinsky)

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing—Now!


Mary Oliver:

The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

A Calming Retreat

In June, right after school was over, and before I had even completed my grading, I went on silent retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, probably my last time there, as the Jesuits are selling the building and grounds. I needed that healing time.

In the weeks since, I have been taking stock, clearing out my hoard (fabric, mostly, but more will come), and working on getting healthy.

Here is a little photo essay of my time on retreat:

On the way, I stopped and walked the labyrinth at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church near Lititz. On the way out of the labyrinth, the word embodiment came to me. That became the focus of my retreat. When I got home, I listened to sonia renee taylor’s The Body is Not an Apology. I liked it so much that I bought my own copy so I can underline bits and read sections to my classes.
My room. First time I have had air conditioning. It was very hot, so I actually spent more time in my room than usual.

I took along a white cloth and some red thread. I have been inspired by several instagrammer embroiderers to begin to create a story cloth, something that’s not specifically functional, but is more of a journal, a dialogue with my inner self. On one of the first days there, I was meditating on something I’d read, a Buddhist idea about the base of the spine being where the three rivers meet. I began to consider what my three rivers are. Along with embodiment, I received creativity, and magic/mysticism. So I began embroidering the flowering hand image I found framed on the wall–for creativity. Then I embroidered a full body–my body–with wings and a crown, to represent embodiment, being alive within this body. And later, I embroidered my stump, the center of my current magical work, representing the inner work and the spiritual connection to the Source of All Life. All three are connected to a center cauldron, which is the place where the three rivers meet. Other images above include some collages I made while meditating, a painting (“You can become all flame,” said the ancient desert abba), and the back of my #alonetogether sweater, which I completed during retreat.

Every year when I am at the monastery, I greet Jesus in the stairwell when I go up and down the stairs. This year, he and the painting of Mary with the sacred heart were especially meaningful as I held my anxieties about my father’s upcoming open-heart surgery (all has gone exceedingly well, and he is now recovering and regaining his strength).

More than almost anything, perhaps, I will miss this grand cathedral beech.

A Small Bird in My Heart

Erebus loves to play Mousetrap. One of the blocks in the game says, “Big fat cat! Go back 3 spaces!” He loves that he has a specific role in the game. Also, he loves to knock the diver off the table.

Toko-pa Turner: In the Quechua tradition, when you feel grateful, you say, “There is a small bird in my heart.”

Gratitude List:
1. Looking forward to Good Work
2. Having time do focus inward and do inner work
3. A restful pace
4. I got a lovely view of a female Baltimore oriole yesterday–such a beautiful gentle orange, and that means that the lighter greenish-yellow oriole I have been seeing must have been a female orchard oriole.
5. Playing games with the family yesterday, even if it was Monopoly (which I really don’t like).

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly–in Beauty!


“Whenever there is a strong lock used there is something extremely precious hidden. The thicker the veil, the more valuable the jewel. A hoard of treasure is guarded by a large snake; do not dwell on the hideousness of the snake, contemplate the dazzling and the priceless things you’ll discover in the treasure.” —Rumi


“If your religion requires you to hate someone, you need a new religion.” ―Glennon Doyle


“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
―W. B. Yeats


“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
―Patrick Rothfuss


“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
―Sue Monk Kidd

Balancing the Energy

This is the little zen garden in my classroom. It was constantly changing throughout the day as different students would rake and arrange it. I miss those moments.

Since I have been working from home, I have noticed–along with the uncomfortable energies of anxiety and irritability and grieving–a positive energy shift. In normal life, I am often exhausted and worn down. I can’t sleep past 5:30. I get home, and all I want to do is sleep. I try to get to the big grading projects, and it’s like trying to walk through a wall inside my brain. I start to feel like I am a lazy procrastinator. The sense of inadequacy makes me feel more tired and run-down.

In the two and a half weeks since I’ve been working at home, I find that I have to remind myself to stop working. I have to make it a point to take breaks. I feel like I have the energy to work like I need to, to do ALL the grading.

As I have been pondering it, I realize that the energy shift has to do with introversion and extraversion, with being an ambivert–both intro and extra. I think that in many public spaces I present primarily as an extravert, and I love that part of myself. When I am teaching, the interaction with students, whether one-on-one or in a class setting, is one of my great joys. I love pushing myself outward, meeting the other, making connection. But the constant extraversion, and the need to be “on” all the time, takes a toll on my emotional energy. The introvert never gets fed.

Grading, while it’s a solitary sort of task, is (I think) an extension of the extraverted element of the working day. In normal life, I just hit a wall and can’t seem to get past it to push myself out there to do the next thing. My extravert side is exhausted and run-down, and my introvert can’t find the energy to get back into balance.

These days, the grading and the school communicating is pretty much all I have for that crucial connected part of my work-life. My introvert is being fed with lots of quietness and stillness, even in this crowded house. I pace myself. I have re-taught my body to sleep until 6:30. The grading and the school communications give my life purpose and structure. The wall between me and the grading projects is gone. I just sit down and do the next thing. I actually feel (mostly) adequate to these particular tasks.

But I miss my students terribly. I can hardly bear that I might never see some of them again. I know that some of them are hurting and struggling, and I don’t know how to be Present through a computer. When this is over, I will happily go back to physical school. Despite what I am learning about myself and my energy, I don’t think I am meant to be a cyber-school teacher. I need faces and classrooms. While I think that my teaching can be perfectly adequate from home, there’s nothing like the magic of exploring ideas about literature and writing in a real-time class. And there are costs to this kind of work. I NEED to have a life outside of school, and now that school has invaded my home, there is almost nothing that is not school. I must set boundaries, and leave some work unfinished.

I think I will need to hold some of this sense of empowerment and adequacy that I am gaining in my introverted time when I return to extraverted life. Perhaps this current sense of being adequate to the grading tasks will stick to me a little more solidly and I will be able to manage my ambiverted self with a little more balance and grace.


Gratitude List:
1. National Poetry Month! Something to break up the steady monotony of constant school. Today’s prompt is to write a new world poem.
2. Chipping sparrows. They’re so sweet, sort of timid, smaller than the white throats, and they wear those rusty caps. When they come in to the bird feeder, they sometimes hover for a couple seconds before they alight.
3. The sound of a woodpecker rat-a-tatting in the walnut tree.
4. Vanilla in my coffee. I make coffee shakes in the mornings: hot coffee, a little butter a little coconut oil, half-and-half (if I have it), and a scoopful of vanilla protein powder. Blend and drink.
5. How the altered times are teaching me things about myself, things I knew in my head, but didn’t have the space within which to explore the deeper truths.

Take care of each other!


Words for the Day of the Holy Fool:
“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” —Julian of Norwich


“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” —Carl Jung


“The historical Jesus probably looked like an average Syrian refugee. You know…the ones we turn away.” —Rebecca James Hecking


“Poems are maps to the place where you already are.”
—Jane Hirshfield


“Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation. The choice is to draw the blinds and shut it all out, or believe.” —Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson


“When you do not know you need mercy and forgiveness yourself, you invariably become stingy in sharing it with others. So make sure you are always waiting with hands widely cupped under the waterfall of mercy.” —Richard Rohr


“All four gospels insist that when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene does not run. She stands firm. She does not betray or lie about her commitment to Jesus—she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching—perhaps both. But why—one wonders–do Holy Week liturgies tell and re-tell the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, while the steady and unwavering witness of Magdalene is passed over—not even noticed? How would our understanding of the paschal story change if instead of reflecting upon Jesus dying alone and rejected if we were to reinforce the fact that one person stood by him and did not leave? For this story of Mary Magdalene is as firmly stated in scripture as the denial story. How would this change the emotional timbre of the day? How would it affect our feeling of ourselves? How would it reflect upon how we have viewed, and still view, women in the church? About the nature of redemptive love?” —Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal Priest


“When I feel this fog rolling in on me, I light fires of affection in the hearts of others. I tell them in tangible ways how the life they live makes me live mine differently, how precious and important they are to the rest of us. That fire then becomes like a beacon which burns through the grey and which I can sail towards.” –Toko-pa Turner


It’s good to leave each day behind,
like flowing water, free of sadness.
Yesterday is gone and its tale told.
Today new seeds are growing.
—Rumi

Re-Entering the Old Rage

I had all sorts of ideas about items for today’s list, but here in the foggy-brained morning, they’ve fled. It’s nice to know that I have been actively feeling gratitude, even if I can’t remember the exact moments.

Gratitude List:
1. At first, it felt like “Oh no! This again?!” when an internal itch came back. I thought I had resolved that, packed it up, and put it to rest, for Pete’s sake. But Pete or someone else had other ideas, and I’ve reopened the case on it. When conflicts and obsessions and simmering rages that I thought I had finished with come roaring back to life, it means they’re not really done yet. They’ve got more work to do in the psyche. So instead of panicking and getting back into the frenzied cycle, I can tell myself that time and distance enable me to be more circumspect now, to find the deeper themes and meanings, and to turn myself even more directly toward grace, to spiral more toward my center. So, I will be grateful for the next level of messages and learning that come.
2. LeVar Burton’s podcast. Short stories! Read by one of my favorite voices of all time.
3. Aging. Changing. Entering the doorway of the Crone’s Hut. It’s time to take up the threads of the fairy tales again.
4. Oak trees. Really, these are the people you need to be noticing right now, how they hold their leaves and spin them into leather of rich colors. Not the shiny brights like the maples, but equally sumptuous and eye-catching, if you look.
5. Morning quiet. Always, the morning quiet. My brain is alone for a little while every day in this morning quiet.

May we walk in Beauty!

Spiraling Inward

It isn’t a labyrinth, exactly, although it serves the same prayerful purpose. If you look closely and use your imagination, you can see that I shuffled a spiral in to the base of the maple tree.

November was going to be for morning serious writing sessions for me. I was going to get right down to writing, first thing, before the household wakes up. Somehow it hasn’t quite unfolded with the grace I had hoped for. My mornings have been more frantic and last minute as I try to rearrange my brain from that deep space to the focus of the day. Easier to continue to focus my morning writing on the quick little projects that I usually work on. I don’t feel like this is a failure so much as a recognition that the work that I normally do in this time is all writing practice. It’s just not writing toward a particular end goal. I have to find a different time of day for the goal-centered writing.

And editing. This is not the first time I have been working with the goddesses who descend–with Innana/Ishtar, with Persephone–and I feel a little like I am rewriting, like what I need to to organize what I have already written before I start the new stories.

Today, I am going to set myself a little writing goal. I am going to write Skinny poems: They’re eleven lines long. Line 1 is a phrase that catches your attention. Lines 2-10 are one word each. Lines 2, 6, and 10 are the same word. Line 11 uses the exact same words as the phrase in line 1, and these can be in any order that works for you. Le Hinton introduced us to this form on Friday, and it’s captured my attention, especially since I have gone googling Le’s Skinnys.


Gratitude List:
1. Inner work that helps me to bear the walk into the darkness.
2. I received a sweet gratitude from a student yesterday, something that reminded me of who I am and what my purpose is.
3. Yellow labyrinth-spiral of leaves beneath the maple tree.
4. Reaching small goals.
5. Rice and refried beans wrapped in a tortilla with all the fixings. It’s simple comfort.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Virus

White Supremacy is an ancient and virulent virus that has infected this country since its founding. It began with a “Manifest Destiny” that wiped out any humans that stood in the way of the European conquest of the New World and continued with an “all men [sic] are created equal” that didn’t recognize all the humans as human, ignoring the inhumanity of brutally enslaving thousands of African people.

White people, we are all infected to some degree. We have absorbed it in the images we have seen, the media we have consumed, the education we have received, and even the sermons we have heard in our churches. It’s everywhere. It’s no longer slavery or wholesale slaughter of the First Nations. It’s no longer explicitly codified in apartheid-style laws. It’s subtler, more insidious.

Oh, it’s also obvious. The woman on the video spewing the n-word and saying she’d say it again. The white people calling the police on black and brown people for simply existing in public spaces. The police officers who shoot first, shoot pre-emptively, and walk free of the murders they commit. And the epidemic (yes) of white men slaughtering people with their weapons of mass destruction–we have reached the point when it’s no surprise to discover that the madman with the AK-47 is a self-avowed White Supremacist.

And while we have been searching for ways to combat the virus within ourselves and our communities, the president and his cronies in the halls of power in this country are feeding the virus, adding to its virulence and strength. From his tweets to their shrugs and tepid explanations, the virus is being fortified and given room to bloom. When frat boys pose in celebration in front of a memorial to a black boy killed for the color of his skin, when people sworn to defend and protect all people are serving up vileness and hatred on the internet, when our nation is caging brown children and people of faith say they deserved it, when a raging and disaffected youth posts a manifesto about race and then picks up a gun to kill as many people as he can before he goes down in a blaze of non-glory, it’s not only the virus itself that is to blame. It is those who spread and nourish it.

I call out the president of the United States for spreading the virus of white supremacy, for normalizing it, for egging on his weak-minded followers to vile and horrendous acts. He and his enablers must be held accountable for their words and actions.

I’m not letting myself off the hook. I’m not letting you off the hook. All of us whose skin gives us privilege have a responsibility to deal with the virus within ourselves, within our communities, within this nation.

If you are white, I urge you to join me in several actions. First, let’s look inside and keep opening doors of awareness. It’s never enough to simply call out the racists out there. We need to look at the racists inside ourselves. When we feel defensive or self-righteous, those are clues that we are holding on to our own privilege in unhealthy ways. Examine. Repent. Let go. Grow. Move on. Repeat.

And then, let’s find one thing, or two, or twenty, that we can use to identify white supremacy in clear and articulate ways. Let’s call it out. Post it on our social media. Speak out. Open conversations. Teach our children. Spread the word. We need to kill this virus.

Walking in the Big Story

DSCN9177
Another dancing fire picture from last week.  This one is a little dragony. 

Gratitude List:
1. Homemade pizza.  With onions and fresh basil on top.
2. Inner exploration.  I am finishing this semester with my Creative Writers with an autobiographical piece, using lots and lots of writing prompts to explore their identity, to really look at what makes them who they are.  I think that self-reflection can help us to develop into more mature and healthy people.
3. Good Ethiopian Coffee to start my morning
4. Waking up, and then waking up, and then waking up.  There are always new rooms to awaken within.
5. How the stories that we read and listen to intertwine themselves with our own.  Sometimes this process is more intense than others.  I can remember the beautiful language and imagery of certain books with pleasure, but it’s when I am working a book–not just reading it–that I really thoroughly absorb it and take it in.  It happened to me at a young age with the Narnia books, and much later with the Lord of the Rings.  The Odyssey.  Perhaps it’s epics and journey stories that do it mostly.  We ourselves become part of the meta-myth.

May we walk in Beauty!