Gratitudes, Musings

Expectancy and Hope

Gratitude List:
1. Advent, expectancy, hope
2. Getting older (I am not finding parts of this particularly enjoyable right now, and I put it here to remind me that it really is a wonderful thing despite the grouchy bits)
3. Hot coffee and cold water
4. Cozy warm morning house
5. A refreshing break (I am still holding back a bit on whether I really want to get back into the swing of things, but I’ll be ready when the dawn comes)

May we walk in Beauty!


“The heart is your student, for love is the only way we learn.”
—Rumi


Poet Joy Harjo, from 2012:
“Visited with my cousin George Coser, Jr yesterday at the kitchen table. He’s a gift. Always something profound among the stories. The sacred lies at the root of the mundane. And every word is a power element. Each word or sound, whether thought, written or spoken grows our path, the path of our generation, the children, grandchildren, the Earth. . . . We become the ancestors. A sense of play gives a lightness of being. So get out there and play—and be kind while you’re at it. To yourself, too.”


Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.
—The Prayer of St. Brendan (attributed to Brendan)


The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Musings, Poems, Poetry Prompts

Let Me Drink the Day

“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”
―Les Brown
*
“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.” ―Edith Wharton
*
“Love is a decision–not an emotion!”
―Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
*
“To live is to find out for yourself what is true, and you can do this only when there is freedom, when there is continuous revolution inwardly, within yourself.” ―Jiddu Krishnamurti
*
When the brokenness of the world makes you tired, run to the forest.
Remember how small you are.
Watch the leaves change.
Listen to acorns fall from the heights.
Let the wind and the water talk to you about what it means to heal.
Let The Creator show you the benevolent, secret places.
―Kaitlin Curtice
*
“Every seed we plant is a tiny loving prayer in action.” ―Rowen White
*
“In a time of destruction, create something.” ―Maxine Hong Kingston
*
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
―T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages
*
“I guess if I’d had any sense I’d’ve been a little scared, but what was the point of being scared?

“The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.” ―Fannie Lou Hamer
*
“Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.” ―Albert Einstein


Gratitude List:
1. Sunrises. I love driving to school in the sunrise. Magenta on indigo clouds, then shooting rays of gold.
2. Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Shoofly Pie.” It’s been a joy to read it with my Academic Writers. They just wanted to keep reading stories together, it was such a pleasant experience.
3. Basic Kindness.
4. Habanero peppers–we sauteed one in butter tonight for the adults to sprinkle on our milk beans and rice.
5. The messages in dreams. I woke up with words ringing in my ears this morning. I need to listen, to find the key to make the message real in waking life. (Perhaps I need to engage the assistance of a life coach or a spiritual director.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Fog and Owls

“Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.” —Naguib Mahfouz
*
“Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of meaning.”
—Joy Harjo
*
“Everything I love most happens most every day.”
—Howard Norman
*
“I was just thinking
one morning
during meditation
how much alike
hope
and baking powder are:
quietly
getting what is
best in me
to rise,
awakening
the hint of eternity
within.”  —Macrina Wiederkehr
*
The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
*
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth


Gratitude List:
1. Morning fog
2. Crows flying through trees in the fog
3. The way fog nestles in the hollows, among the hills
4. Driving through morning fog–how it makes the mundane journey feel like an adventure
5. Great horned owl calling from the south. Screech owl calling from the north.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

It Lights the Whole World

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
– e. e. cummings
*
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” –Frederick Douglass
*
Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”

Look
what happens
with a love like that —
It lights the whole
world.

–Hafiz
*
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
~ Mother Teresa


Gratitude List:
1. Re-arranging. We have a storage and clutter problem, but this weekend, we’ve been sorting and shifting, finding places for things, getting the right pieces of furniture for the right jobs.
2. The red berries on the dogwood trees
3. Hints of yellow and red in the leaves
4. Bridges
5. Warm socks

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Despise Not Small Things


The theme of my cousin Ken’s words at Uncle Harold’s funeral last night. Uncle Harold loved the small, the miniature, the tiny. His delight in tiny things led the rest of us toward wonder as well. He offered us a great example of the power of giving great attention to his craft, and to small acts of kindness and love.  


“Live in the center of your life.” ―Sark
*
“Cluster together like stars.” ―Henry Miller
*
“Now that you’ve awakened. . .immediately take a nap! Naps are when the angels come out to take special care of you.” ―Sark (I think naps help to cement and deepen the insights we have in waking life.)
*
“We live by mystery, not by explanations.” —Cecil Collins
*
“Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: She is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy.” ―Rob Brezsny
*
“In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
*
“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except to be able to grow in rows” ― Doug Larson


Yesterday, after I wrote about the Shameshadow, I began to think about the indicators and symptoms of unacknowledged shame, signposts I can see much more clearly when I look backwards than when I walk among them.

1. Pacifiers: For me, this has been Facebook, or reading, or any odd task that took me out of my inner space–usually Facebook surfing. Whenever I have a free moment, instead of settling into myself, I find myself gravitating to the computer. “I just want to check this one thing.” Anything so I don’t have to be alone inside my own head. Seeking outside comfort first, and avoiding discomfort at all costs. This sounds to me like the definition of an addiction.
2. Affirmations: Affirmation begins to mean more than it should. You know what I mean? I think that it’s important to spread the love around, to affirm each other, to tell each other the positive things we see. When I begin to ignore my shadows, I find myself seeking affirmation, basking in any little tidbit. Like the pacifiers, affirmation in this case leaves me feeling a little hollow, wanting more, rather than resting in the beauty of the connection between myself and the other person.
3. Excuses: The underbelly of the affirmation-crutch is the excuse-machine. When I am avoiding looking into myself and my shadows, instead of developing a healthy awareness of my human limitations, I make excuses for my shame.
4. Reading instead of doing: I am an English teacher, and far be it from me to suggest that reading is a bad thing. Still, there are times when I find that I am reading about inner work rather than doing inner work, and calling that sufficient. Don’t get me wrong: Reading often leads me into inner work, gives me the inspiration and ideas to move more deeply inward. But when I am avoiding myself, I find that I can use the reading about inner work as an avoidance of actually doing it, taking an intellectual path rather than that little trail that leads to the heart.
5. Chronic Feelings of Embarrassment: I call this Alfred Prufrocking. Like T. S. Eliot’s character, I find myself asking, “Do I dare? What will people think?” Poor Alfred. He didn’t even know how he ought to part his hair in order to please people. He didn’t dare to eat a peach. What a fearful and tremulous way to live. Embarrassment tames and domesticates us. It kills our essential wildness.

I remain grateful for this current encounter with my shadows. Funny thing about the Shameshadow is that I feel sort of ashamed for experiencing shame, like I should somehow be more evolved than that. Ha. I’m walking around in a big old circle there.


Gratitude List:
1. Bree Newsome. Remember her? She climbed the flagpole to take down the offensive flag. When she was arrested, she calmly recited ancient biblical poetry. She looked positively joyful. Her act woke people up. Be like Bree.
2. Kettle of vultures above Columbia. Usually the Columbia vulture club has about seven or eight members. Yesterday, I drove underneath a kettle that must have contained at least fifty birds. Vultures symbolize the dying of old patterns, old ideas, old habits, old chains, and the transformation of all that is dead into new energy, new life, new flight.
3. Family time, and remembering a good, good man. We met to say farewell to a beloved uncle last night. I will miss his gentle smile, his good humor, and his accordion music. I remember at least two family reunions that I left with a voice hoarse from singing along.
4. Establishing new rhythms and patterns. Now I really fully enter summer. May it be fruitful and fun.
5. The way paying attention leads to seeing new things. I have been doing zentangles again as a way to focus my brain, slow me down, and help me to be conscious of my breathing. Suddenly, I am seeing beautiful lines everywhere. That dull brown moth on the curtain actually has an intricate, delicate pattern of fine lines on her wings. Today I will be looking for elegant lines.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Circle Keeping

seed
Same tree as yesterday, another pod beginning to let her seeds fall.

(Totally off-topic: Joss just said, “Mom, you know why my socks go to church?”
Me: “I don’t know. Why?”
Joss: “Because they’re holey.”)

The Circle Keeper places a canvas bag of small pieces of driftwood on the floor beside the center table. One by one, around the circle, the people come to the table and arrange wood. Everyone is silent, except for occasional chuckles and shuffling.  We are not to speak, not to stop until everyone in the circle passes and accepts what has been set up in the center.

First round. We’re tentative, building on each others’ ideas, adding a piece or two at a time. Suddenly someone dumps the bag on the table, and pieces scatter. What to do now? Are we angry? This is just a game. Still, someone has shifted the balance, upset the order. Some people are looking relieved that the order that was being enforced upon the pieces is now freed.

Second round. People re-build, tear down, rebuild. Set pieces under the table. Put them all in the bag but one. Dump them out again. Put one back in the bag. The floor comes into play. We gather and separate the wood. We build bridges and destroy them. We make patterns and sweep away patterns.

Third round, or maybe fourth by now. A circle of wood forms. Shifts, becomes almost a spiral, then a yin/yang. The table is set aside. We’re entirely on the floor. A smiling face emerges. Laughter. Clapping. Everyone passes around the room.

It’s not the meaning I would have chosen. It’s too orderly, too specifically a sign for me. I think it’s way too orderly for the Chaos and Loki folks on the other side of the circle. It’s not the fluid beauty that some of the other folks wanted. Still, I am left feeling like I had my part to play in the creation of this. And it does represent us as a group–in the process of the exercise, we HAVE become a group. We have made choices together, we have made assumptions about each other and shattered those assumptions or shifted them to something deeper. We have laughed together, grinned at each other, watched each other carefully, thought about our own internal reactions. The final image in the center is a wobbly circle, representing us, and with a quirk of a smile that adds a little mischief, which is who we are, too. This is who we will be for three days together.

Gratitude List:
1. The Circle Keeper. Circle Keepers, formal and informal. Wise women.
2. Holding paradoxes. Leaning into ambiguity.
3. Looking through the others’ eyes. Shifting perspective.
4. This boy, who watches and notices, who sees when another child is being mistreated, who cannot help but speak up. Such a balance in him between the technological and the human. He loves his numbers, but he loves people, too.
5. Omelet for lunch yesterday. I think I’ll reprise that one today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

Fierce

DSCN9045
Acorn caps and dandelion fluff.  Oak leaf.

Gratitude List:
1. Fierce love.  I keep coming back to that word–fierce–lately.  This impulse to protect the ones we love with whatever we have inside us.  Today is a day to hold someone in Mama Bear love.  Stand at the door of that cave and bear your teeth.
2. How decisions dawn, especially when they are tough decisions.  Still, the right answer comes.
3. Kindness.  Someone said yesterday, “Kindness is one of my core beliefs.”
4. Speedwell and crocus and windflower.  The green of the aconite leaves when the flowers fade.
5. Parent Teacher Conferences this evening.  I have so many ninth graders that I end up with a pretty full schedule.  I love talking with parents about their students, being able to characterize how I  see them in class.  May our time be fruitful and helpful.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems, Poetry Prompts

My Cat, the Alchemist

Ah.  This is awkward.  Today’s prompt is to name your poem “My (fill in), the (fill in).”  For some reason cat and alchemist were in my brain, and I didn’t manage to exorcise them before they started to become a poem.  Silly, perhaps, or campy, but something in me sort of likes it.

My Cat, the Alchemist

He takes me in my sleeping state
and transmutes me to my waking self,
reaching through the gates
between those two worlds
with a cry like a human babe

and claws that shred
the stuff of dreams
to ribbons of image,
figments of half-memory,

and I am running faster
down that railroad bridge,
running from a lion
who keeps calling my name,

I am pulled from my quiet wanderings
through the empty rooms of a house
I both know and don’t know.

Some nights I can pull myself
gently back between the bars,
mend the tattered cloth of dream
and sail back into my night voyages.

Often, though, I find myself
wriggling and twisting, caught
in the bars between worlds,
neither quite here, nor quite there,
but an industrial purr beside me
and a small warm body against my leg.
Gratitude List:
1. Yes, I am utterly and unquenchably redundant, but have you seen the pink trees?  Pink Trees.  Number one on my gratitude list.  Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink.  “That’s nice,” says Joss, “because pink is my new favorite color.”  <Yes!>
2. Dinner with the dormies.  That was fun and yummy. We took a walk afterward, and a student’s father yelled out his car window that he loves to see families out walking together.
3. Random blessings from strangers.  See #2.
4. The Lego Museum.  Halfway through the DC day yesterday, Joss said, “I want to go home now.  I want to make a Lego Museum.”  Art imitates life.  He could only take in so much before he had to go start creating in response to it.
5. Kindness.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

There Needs to Be a Poem

There needs to be a poem here
something to fill the space
to inspire
to bless.

There needs to be a word
that fills the small green hollows
between the first shy greeting
and the questions
that draw out the hearts
like small burrowing animals
from their safe nests.

There needs to be a song here.
At least a whispered line
with a hint of a melody
and a rhythm
like the chirping of the tree frogs
high in the oak grove.

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.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  That wonderful woman at OfficeMax yesterday who said that since the Lancaster store was selling notebooks for a penny a piece, she could give me the same price, and then only gulped a little when I said, “That’s so great!  I’d like a hundred for my English classes!”  I quickly realized that I was taking overenthusiastic advantage of a kindness and cut my number back just a little.
2.  Waters of Transformation.  Yes, indeed.
3.  I have a job where people sometimes start the day with a collegial hymn-sing.  Have I landed in a perfect place for me, or what?
4.  Inspiration struck when I needed it and before I was a complete wreck of exhaustion: I have been a little anxious this weekend about preparation for the coming week.  I came away from last week sort of feeling like I had drained my wells of inspiration for lesson plans.  Just like poetry writing, however: When you let go, sometimes the streams begin to trickle back in again, and sometimes they come in as a flood. I hope the students are a tenth as eager for the work I present tomorrow as I am to present it.
5.  Family time.  Meeting Kim’s dear children.  Basking in Craig’s delightful smile.  Listening to the harmonica trio play in harmony.  Discussing recipes for fish.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems, Poetry Prompts

Talk to the Wind

Today’s prompt is to write a “Tell it to the (blank)” poem.

Tell it to the fierce and rowdy wind, my sisters.
Tell your story to the little skipping breezes.
Tell it to the leaves as they scuttle down the mountain
to eddy in the shadows of the hollow.

Tell it to the mockingbird,my brothers.
Tell your trouble to the crow, the wren, the gull.
Tell it to the wild geese, whose message
will reach my ears as they fly above my valley.

I will whisper them to the willows.
I will reveal them to the prayerful gathering
of ferns unfurling by the stone wall.
I will wrap them in scraps of blue silk.

I will hang them from the branches
of my guardians, the dogwood trees,
and etch them on the leaves of the sycamore.
I will place them in bowls of glowing stones.

Tell it to the soft enfolding darkness
as the sun settles below your horizon.
I will watch for your stories by sunrise,
as the dawn washes over the hills.

P1020078

Gratitude List:
1.  Poem in Your Pocket Day: The farmer/poet’s heart is happy with all the shy children who came to read me poems in exchange for a packet of lettuce seedlings.
2.  Kind words, kind hearts.  Thank you, my friends.
3.  Fred the Cat
4.  Incentive
5.  That new featherbed–it’s like sleeping wrapped in a cloud.

May we walk in Beauty!