Yesterday was a long day, beginning with Faculty Meetings, continuing on to the last minute work sessions of the afternoon, and into an evening of New Student Orientation. The energy in the building last night was zizzly. The students who came into my room, both the student tour leaders and the new students, were sweetly earnest and polite. So many were clearly excited. I couldn’t help but ride onto that wave of lovely energy, despite the fact that I don’t quite feel ready.
I am ready, of course. My plans are in place–I just haven’t dithered over them as I often do. Today is a day for leaping into it, trusting the process, believing that my plans are sufficient to carry me. And I have the delightful energy of last night’s eager students to help me fly.
Gratitudes: This work, exhausting and overwhelming as it has often been. Spending time with colleagues and teenagers. Hopeful smiles. New things to learn together
May we do Justice, love Mercy, and walk Humbly! In Beauty!
“Every word you utter to another human being has an effect, but you don’t know it. If people began to understand that change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then, they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” – Howard Zinn
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” –Leonard Bernstein
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living In better conditions.” ~ Hafiz
“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.” ~ Christy Ann Martine
“Let us stand in the moment shoulder to shoulder like the deer on the verge we caught in our headlights, and listen for the distant unrolling of words.” –Beth Weaver-Kreider
That’s what I said to Jon before I slipped off to sleep last night. I’m tired of this sometimes overpowering feeling of dread. I’m tired of carrying this bag of tears just beneath the surface.
The virus has entered my circles. People I know, and the beloveds of people I know, are getting sick. I had just heard the news of John Prine’s death, and then an anxious email popped up from someone I know, asking me to pray for his family because his father (who is an essential worker) came home yesterday with a fever. The dread is seeping in deeply. I was relieved to escape the real world into sleep for a little while.
I’m sorry. That’s a lot of heavy to place into this bowl of a space first thing in the morning. But it’s a big part of what I’ve got. So I stretch and breathe, stretch and breathe. I breathe in, and feel all the places where my body is touching a surface. I breathe out and straighten my spine. I breathe in and draw in the blue violet of those wild hyacinths. I breathe out and relax my shoulders. I breathe in and hold the taste and smell of the coffee that I am drinking. I breathe out and notice the quiet cat at the windowsill. In. Out. I can feel myself settling.
The dread is not gone. It’s going to be a long time before it’s gone. And maybe it will never go away. Likely it will mark and shape who I become for the rest of my life. And not all of that will be terrible. Some will contribute to my growth and completeness as a human. But right now? Right now, I breathe, and I notice. I find ways to live through the dread.
And this morning I have strange and wacky dreams to sort through. There was a part of the dream that was part real-life, part animation. A young man in a striped shirt was sneaking around, watching people, trying not to get caught. It wasn’t creepy or terrifying–more like an old-fashioned mystery. We chased him to an open field where dozens of blankets were lying about. He crawled under one, and by the time we got there and lifted the corner, he’d vanished.
And there was a baby bird who fluttered up to me with its beak open. I fed it tomatoes–they’re red like worms, right? It’s back was developing rich golden feathers through the baby fluff. Someone said it was a cuckoo.
And the strangest and most beautiful was the phrase. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up with a song or a phrase in my head, often completely unrelated to anything. This morning’s phrase is “Thou camest to me in sadness. . .and what wilt thou do for joy?” Yes, my Sleep Angels seem to be speaking Elizabethan English. Despite the weirdness of the delivery, it seemed to be a pretty clear response to my expression of pain as I dropped into sleep. And I think of the dreams that I dreamed (there were others, which even now are fading), and I wonder if this is what I can do for joy today and in the coming days: I can let myself experience wonder and surprise. I can tend to those who need me to feed them whatever I have at hand. I can immerse myself in story. I can communicate with my beloveds.
It feels like an extension of a thing a friend wrote to me yesterday, when I asked her about her husband, who has a fever and a cough: “Holding grief and joy together is messy and weird.” That has to be one of the defining phrases of these days.
May we all find ways to bring joy into these days when grief and dread can feel all-encompassing. Listen to your dreams. Keep an eye out for blue, for gold, for the thousand shades of green. Hold each other close–in our hearts if not in our arms. And when it just seems like you cannot bear the dread, let someone know. Reach out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Ground and center. There is no way out but through, and it will be easier if we walk it together.
Gratitude List: 1. The messages that come in dreams (even–or especially–if they’re speaking in Elizabethan English) 2. That patch of blue violet wild hyacinth at the base of the bird feeder stand, and the violet Gill-on-the-Grass that spreads from there to the Japanese maple 3. The chipping sparrow in the Japanese maple 4. The sounds of the morning house: cat eating second (or third, or fourth) breakfast, the constant flow of the water fountain (yes, also for cats), the little bits of conversation with Josiah, my own breathing. . . 5. The way a gratitude list becomes a grounding in-the-moment exercise. The dread has not lifted, but I am no longer living in the center of that cloud. I have sunk to a deeper place, where I can find more complexity (for now)–there is joy in the midst of sadness, no matter how messy and weird it is to hold all those pieces together.
Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. May we walk in Beauty!
“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” —Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” ―Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“Where there’s life there’s hope, and need of vittles.” ―JRR Tolkien
“We are the ones we have been waiting for.” ―June Jordan
“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ―Albert Einstein
“We are all the leaves of one tree. We are all the waves of one sea.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
“It is respectable to have no illusions―and safe―and profitable and dull.” ―Joseph Conrad
“I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether they are worthy.” —Thomas Merton
“After a War” by Chinua Achebe
After a war life catches desperately at passing hints of normalcy like vines entwining a hollow twig; its famished roots close on rubble and every piece of broken glass. Irritations we used to curse return to joyous tables like prodigals home from the city. . . . The meter man serving my maiden bill brought a friendly face to my circle of sullen strangers and me smiling gratefully to the door. After a war we clutch at watery scum pulsating on listless eddies of our spent deluge. . . . Convalescent dancers rising too soon to rejoin their circle dance our powerless feet intent as before but no longer adept contrive only half-remembered eccentric steps. After years of pressing death and dizzy last-hour reprieves we’re glad to dump our fears and our perilous gains together in one shallow grave and flee the same rueful way we came straight home to haunted revelry.
Perhaps I have said this before: I don’t get very sick very often. I often live with feeling tired and run-down, but I think my general immunity is pretty strong. I am not particularly worried about the virus for myself or my family. But my parents and many of my Beloveds are in the age range where the danger rises. And many of my students have immune issues of their own. I have committed myself to wash my hands as frequently as possible, to use hand sanitizer, to greet people without touching, to minimizing the possibilities that I could pass the virus on unawares. You too? Let’s do our part to stop the spread.
Gratitude List: 1. Parent Teacher Conferences. It breaks the rhythm, and enlivens the two days, and I love to talk to the parents of my kids about my kids. Over the years, I have had my share of really difficult and challenging conferences, but mostly it’s just a really nice chance for two groups of people to talk about someone they mutually love. 2. Because of conferences, I have a couple extra hours in my classroom today during which I will begin to tidy and organize for The Big Move (we’re moving out of our rooms at the end of the year for summertime renovations). 3. I’m feeling satisfied right now. It might be that deep river of joy, or it might be resting in the inevitability of seasons and changes and things staying the same, but it feels like satisfaction. Simple and comfortable satisfaction. Let’s call it the current color of my joy. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have flare-ups of rage and anxiety about politics and coronavirus and getting the work done. It’s something deeper than the flares, though. 4. I’ve gone back to fat in my morning coffee: butter, cream, and coconut oil. I think it revs me up a bit in the morning, and I feel more ready to get into the day, less in a fog. Plus, it tastes like a gourmet treat. 5. Health care workers. Place of honor on my gratitude list today. And also a plea for blessing their health as they stand on the front lines of a world crisis. A thousand blessings on all who are caring for those who are sick.
May we walk in Beauty!
“Until you can discover and delight in the souls of other things, even trees and animals, I doubt you can discover your own soul.” —Richard Rohr
“Magic is a relationship forged in the ordinary. It is our endurance through the unknown, unyielding times. It is faith in the as yet unmanifest. It is the invocation of the large, but while praising the small. Magic is the redoubling of our vow when disappointment befalls us, a shoulder to the wheel of our intent.” —Toko-pa Turner
Quotidian Mysteries: “Change the burned-out lightbulb. Water the plants. Take your vitamins. Wash the dishes. Bow down to the Great Mystery. Take out the garbage.” —Rob Brezsny
“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.” ―Terry Pratchett
“A Word that Breathes Distinctly Has not the Power to Die” ―Emily Dickinson
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” —Neil DeGrasse Tyson
So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God,
Gratitude List: 1. Joy runs underneath it all, like an underground river, even when things on the surface are dry and barren. 2. Misty mornings. Sun shining through the mist in the mornings. 3. How last year’s plans inform this year’s work. 4. Rhythms, seasons, cycles. 5. Color, texture, pattern–in the visual field, and in writing and speaking and music.
I need to sit quietly and spend some time understanding all that I have learned and experienced in the last three days as we’ve explored the Harriet Tubman Byway near Cambridge, Maryland. Words like inspiring and life-changing don’t quite do it justice.
Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in 2015 after a church meal at the house of friends. I had plans then to revise it, and never did. Perhaps that might be the task of the week ahead.
The Cherry Tree
After we had eaten, the adults shared stories in a circle underneath the trees.
The children rode the tractor wagon down the hill to splash and wander up the creek almost out of hearing or gather sweet black raspberries to pass around in paper cups, each set of fingers smashing down the fruit below until all was sludge scooped out and licked from purple hands: a sacrament.
Back from the creek and the fields and the barn they came, dripping water, straw in their hair, trailing jewelweed, clothes and fingers and smiles stained purple from berries.
We gathered beneath the cherry tree with buckets and bags. We all were children then, in the kingdom of the cherry tree, laughing, leaping high to catch her boughs to draw the clusters down within our reach. We could not hope to get them all, even when the children scampered up into her branches.
We laughed and were amazed at the wild abundance of the tree. And this was church as ever church can be, all of us filled, dazzled, alit.
May your mouth be filled with sweetness. May your ears be filled with the laughter of children. May your heart be as wide and open as the blue sky. And may your stories blend with the stories of others, reaching out and upward like the branches of a tree.
Things That Made Me Happy Today (Another way to say Gratitude): 1. The chenille bedspread. It’s so comforting to snuggle up under it. 2. My Best Bird, the Oriole, flitting in and out of the honeysuckle vines all morning. 3. The holler is filled with the scent of honeysuckle. 4. Reading Bud, Not Buddy with the kid before he headed off to school this morning. 5. Completing the grading for four of my six classes. Only two more to go! 6. Talking on the phone with Sarah this morning. 7. The way the sun dapples the pathway the deer have made in the bosque across the stream. 8. How Ellis hums to himself wherever he is, like his dad.
First of all: If this day when everyone speaks of mothers is a day unbearable to you, I wish you the spiraling green of a damp spring day, cool breezes which bring your skin alive, and birdsong which calls your spirit to adventure. If you just cannot do this day, I hope that you can make it your own. Call it the Day of the Lost and Venturesome Soul. Go forth and ride the winds with the joy of your own being in this place.
And also, I must mark this day for myself: First, for the mother who mothered me, who has shown me so much of beauty and goodness in the world, who reminds me to put on the brakes when I start sliding downhill into emotional pits. She taught me to look outside, and to look inside, to marvel, to wonder, to look at the crunchy emotions with as much curiosity as the soaring ones. She reminds me to trust my voice.
I know that not all of us have such women who raised us. In that case, I wish you nurturers in other guises, way-show-ers, path-markers, wise wells and founts of deep inner knowledge, who will mother and mentor you, no matter their gender or parental status. In my life, I have had many mothers who have been guides on this pathway, Hecates to my Persephone. Great gratitude to all of you, beloveds.
And my own mothering space is complicated, as yours might be, too. I began to lose my first pregnancy on Mother’s Day, and birthed my second in this season. I treasure these young souls in my care, and I love being their mother. And, befitting one of the besetting troubles of my own psyche, I feel inadequate to the task. I beat myself up for the many unmotherly things I have done. Still, I am grateful for this chance to grow more fully into myself with them.
On this day, I commit myself to finding my own mothering/mentoring role in the world, to point out the beauty, to encourage the inward look, to nurture, to guide, to mentor, to engage, to See.
No matter your relationship to this day, I wish you a sense of yourself as belonging in this world. Much love.
We’re still within the twelve days of Christmas, but since I start counting the Dreamtime at Solstice, we’re on to Day 13 now in this little pocket of my counting of time.
One of the things I begin to discover at this point in the process of collecting the words and images from my dreams is that I start to catch echoes of my collection in the world around me. Bridges and boundaries are common enough metaphors, but because they’ve been swirling around in my dream-soup, when I catch references to them in people’s daily speech, it feels like I am receiving secret messages. I am listening for echoes now, affirmation that the words and images I am sanding and honing are the ones I should put in my internal medicine pouch to carry into the coming year.
In last night’s dream, Jon and I and a child (perhaps an amalgam of the two boys) are trying to get somewhere, hitching rides on the trains like hobos. It’s really dangerous, and I am terribly worried that the child will fall off. We finally decide to stop taking the risks and walk, but by this time we are far out in the wilderness, in the woods, and getting to civilization will take days. We sleep in the woods, and find our food where we can. Despite the long walk and the uncertainty, it feels like the right choice. I think the child is really me, and some of the recent choices I am making about the way I work, and the boundaries I set, are making the journey harder and lonelier perhaps, but safer for that inner child. Good choices.
In other dreams I am trying to text Jon that my meeting has gone really short and I can take Ellis home from school after all. Technology and phones never seem to work in dreams. I cannot find the numbers or the right app to text. Typical anxiety dream. Will Deep Self really be able to get the necessary messages across to Waking Self?
Gratitude List: 1. The dawning of women. I was unprepared for quite how relieved I would feel yesterday looking at the images of those joyful, powerful women entering Congress. I thought I had experienced all the joy when I learned they had been elected, but yesterday was a joyful day. 2. The three million women of Kerala who made a chain to tell the world that it is the time of women. 3. It’s the Tuesday of my work week, but it’s Friday. I really needed this slow start. 4. Michelle Obama’s book. She weaves words and ideas well. Her story is so completely her own story and her family’s story, but she deftly weaves the connection of her story to the experiences of black families in the past century, so that as I am learning her own history, I am developing a deeper context for understanding the Great Migration, white flight from cities, and the persistence of structural racism. 5. Dean’s pies. Every year my colleague makes a tableful of pies (8? 10? 12?) for us. It creates truly impossible choices. I take tiny slivers of several. And it’s sublime. Yesterday was a delicious day.
May we walk in Beauty!
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We use language to build the structures upon which we hang our ideas. Language is the scaffold upon which we develop whole structures of thought. Language anchors and shapes and breathes life into thought and idea. Conventional thinking, and conventional language, can end up being a pretty tight little box of a windowless building that doesn’t let in the light. The air in there gets pretty stale. When language—and its attendant ideas—become calcified and crippled into arthritic patterns, poetic image and word-use can find new ways to say things, can break windows into the walls of those airless rooms and build ornate new additions onto the old structures. Poetry jars the cart of language out of its constricting wheel ruts. This is why poets and writers can make good revolutionaries—if they know their work and do their jobs well.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014
“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” —Carl Sagan
Mary Oliver, on the Great Horned Owl: “I know this bird. If it could, it would eat the whole world.” And then: “The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I too live. There is only one world.”
Fierce Wild Joy
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2016
May this year bring you joy
like crows rising from the fields
into the wind
rowing through the tempest
with nothing but feathers.
“Have patience with everything
that remains unsolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books
written in a foreign language.
Do not now look for the answers.
They cannot now be given to you
because you could not live them.
It is a question of experiencing everything.
At present you need to live the question.
Perhaps you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
find yourself experiencing the answer,
some distant day.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”
For the month leading up to Thanksgiving, I followed the lead of a friend and committed to daily gratitude practice that viewed gratitude as an act of resistance, to publicly and intentionally seek out things to be grateful for in the face of forces that seek to demoralize and oppress. To label each grateful paragraph in the first part of the month of November as an act of resistance helped me to keep that perspective, that to be grateful and kind and hopeful in the face of all that seeks to destroy goodness in the world is a primal act of resistance.
Yesterday, in conversation with some of my beloveds, we talked about resistance, about the man who jumped across a police barrier to take down a confederate flag, about the Dutch church that has been holding services for twenty-seven days to protect a family from deportation, about people who are writing letters and protesting on behalf of someone who has experienced a shameful injustice.
We may not be committing the big acts of bold resistance at this moment. Your life may be caught in the business of staying afloat or tending to the needs of your beloveds. Still, we can make it all a resistance. Small acts, little conversations, openness to the moment—opportunities to resist despair and destruction and to create new patterns and stories abound:
* Smile at people and make eye contact. Ask them about themselves. Open hearts are a great antidote to the fear and rage that float around us in our environment.
* Offer people food. Share meals. Experience the flavors of the world together. Develop culinary curiosity about foodways around the world. Watch Anthony Bourdain together.
* Keep your eyes on those who turn inward, who keep to the corners. Be a safe place, a docking spot for ships that are sailing through hostile waters.
*Build bridges with your words. I don’t have to agree with someone to be civil. I can be kind and open in conversation and still maintain a fierce and steady stance on the side of justice. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t always mean attacking. I am more likely to change someone’s mind in a civil conversation than in a battlefield conversation.
* It IS about changing minds and hearts. It is about setting fears and anxieties to rest. The destroyers rely on fear. They’ve weaponized and monetized it. We can walk into the world with courage and draw out the bravery of those around us. Open hearts are brave hearts.
* Speak up for justice. We don’t have to go into conversations blazing with fury and rage against the president. But we can (and should) call out the racist and misogynistic and xenophobic language. We can graciously and civilly state our own desire for more grace and civility and diversity.
* Don’t be afraid to call out your own “side.” Politicians on every side make greedy and unjust choices. Name it when you see it.
* Be grateful. Be joyful. Dance. Find delight and awe in nature. And children. And small animals. All of that—joy and delight and tenderness and curiosity and awe—is active resistance to the tide of destruction.
* Be ready. There may come moments when we are called upon to take the bigger step, the bolder step, the more dangerous or fierce step. We can position ourselves so we are ready to do the thing that must be done when we are called upon to do it.
* Support those who are taking the big and fierce steps right now. Letters and public praise for the ones who taking public stands for justice go a long way to establishing a culture that resists destruction.
*What are your daily acts of resistance?
Gratitude List: 1. Small and large acts of Resistance. Acts of love. Acts of hope. Acts of kindness. 2. Oak trees 3. Family time: games, food, stories, puppy and cat, laughter, wrangling the serious issues 4. Shelter 5. A good rest
May we walk in Beauty!
Sunday’s Treats: “Let my anger be the celebration we were never / supposed to have.” —Jacqui Germain
I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness. It’s right in front of me, if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.
“The eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“You’ve seen my descent.
Now watch my rising.”
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”—Thomas Merton
“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” —Mary Oliver
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.” ―Rumi
“The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.”
“Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy.”
―Sarah Ban Breathnach
“Any feminist who has ever taken the high road will tell you the high road gets backed up.” ―Andrea Gibson
“Almost every woman I have ever met has a secret belief that she is just on the edge of madness, that there is some deep, crazy part within her, that she must be on guard constantly against ‘losing control’ — of her temper, of her appetite, of her sexuality, of her feelings, of her ambition, of her secret fantasies, of her mind.” ―Elana Dykewomon
“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.”
“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of one who gives and kindles joy in the heart of one who receives.”
―St. Seraphim of Sarov
It’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do, while the planet was plundered?
what did you do, when the earth was unravelling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do once you knew?
―Drew Dellinger, Ph.D.
“At any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” ―Abraham Maslow
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
— Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)
“Never forget: Justice is what love looks like in public.”
Gratitude List: 1. More powerful storytelling this morning
2. A nap
3. Rain. I love rain.
4. Gaining clarity through the fog
5. I love this little purring person who has to always sit on my lap.