The Teacher

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Journey, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. As I work on creating my own deck with the help of an online AI image generator, I am renaming some of the cards to unthread the gendered nature of the older titles, but holding the images and ideas I have learned in twenty years of studying the tarot carefully in my center while I consider their significance.

I have been struggling to meditate on this one because of my own recent pain. For so many years of my life, I have identified as a teacher, and since early April, I have doubted that path, considered other options as perfectly viable options for my future, and finally, returned to The Teacher as my primary vocational destiny. It came clear to me one morning, just after I celebrated the graduation of the senior class I was unable to finish teaching. Being among them, even after the grief and rage of this loss, reminded me of the thing that brings me most alive. And so, I said Yes to a small school that has offered me a position as a Humanities Teacher. I am feeling satisfied and grateful. I have not yet signed the paperwork, so I won’t give details just yet.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, this card is the Hierophant, a figure in the clothes of a bishop or pope, holding up a hand in blessing. The idea that comes with this card is the passing on of tradition. But it looks so patriarchal, I just struggle with it. As I worked with this card with friends, we came to see that this isn’t inherently about passing on the patriarchy, but about passing on knowledge and history, nurturing ideas and critical thinking. This is, to me, The Teacher.

I’ve spent so many years of my teaching life saying that I could probably be happy in any profession, that it’s not necessarily the profession that I love. But I realize that I have been fooling myself. Here’s another thing: One playful thing you can do in working with the tarot is to find your Soul Card. Take your birthday: Add the year to the month to the day. Mine is 1967+08+10=1985. Then add the digits together: 1+9+6+7=23. If it’s more than 22, add those together: 2+3=5. Your number, between 1 and 22, is your Soul Card. This is your soul’s work. It always bothered me that my Soul Card was The Hierophant, and I have sought out other, more helpful interpretations, and now, as I settle on my own extension of the meaning of this card as The Teacher, and realize that the vocation of Teacher is truly part of who I am, I can breathe a little better.

As I worked with the AI on this one, it was very important to me that my input would cause the AI to create the image in a natural setting because I think that the most pressing issue underlying everything we do and teach today must include a sense of the importance of knowing and protecting the Earth.


Gratitude List:
1. Settling into my vocation. When I have signed the paperwork, I will say more, but for now, I am deeply grateful and delighted to have found a teaching position for the fall!
2. Cool mid-June. I struggle with really difficult allergies from mid-May until mid-June, so during what are the most pleasant temperatures of the late spring, I keep indoors with doors and windows closed. When I emerge from the allergy fog, the season has usually turned hot. I am so grateful for these cooler days when I am emerging and able to live out of doors again.
3. Kindness. Tenderness. Gentleness.
4. Poppies. I still don’t have any of my own, but I LOVE walking and driving past other people’s gardens, especially when the poppies are blooming.
5. Truth. Veracity. Impeccability. People who can humbly speak what they know to be true without having to shift the narrative in order to defend or aggrandize themselves.
May we walk humbly, justly, and kindly, in Beauty!


“We are so brief. A one-day dandelion. A seedpod skittering across the ice. We are a feather falling from the wing of a bird. I don’t know why it is given to us to be so mortal and to feel so much. It is a cruel trick, and glorious.” —Louise Eldrich


“A man who does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. And a man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man.” —Henry Ward Beecher, social reformer and abolitionist (1813-1887)


Here’s the best way to see a thing: catch
the edge of light
that burns
around its opposite, that
which it would otherwise
obscure.
—Mark Bibbins


I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone.
How to believe the legends I am told? …

I turned your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore—
Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place!
That is the gift I thank Medusa for.
—May Sarton, “The Muse as Medusa”


“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” —The Mad Hatter


“When you look at what is happening to our world—and it is hard to look at what’s happening to our water, our air, our trees, our fellow species—it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible.” —Joanna Macy


“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time.” —Joanna Macy


“And I consider myself a skeptic, but Lord, I’m an optimistic soul.” —Rising Appalachia

Bleeding Hearts

My landscaping plan is generally: Buy or be given a new plant, and plant it wherever. Random is the order of the day. I dig up a few hostas and ferns every spring, and put them along the shop or in other beds to fill things out. A couple years ago, I bought a small bleeding heart at a perennials sale. Last summer, I took some of the now rather extensive bleeding heart and planted it by the shop–both plants came up this spring.

When my brother and sister-in-law stopped in to hug me last Friday, he said, “Oh! Look at your bleeding heart!” Then he gave me one of his classic looks, and said, “I mean the plant, of course.”


Gratitude for All that Opens the Heart:
1. Humor
2. Tender Words
3. Kind deeds
4. Children and teens and young adults
5. You
So Much Love!


“Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” —Simone Weil


“You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoe.” —Leymah Gbowee


“God speaks to each of us as [she] makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“I do not see a delegation of the four-footed.
I see no seat for the eagles.” —Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga


“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.” ―Rachel Held Evans


Go deeper.
Past thoughts into silence.
Past silence into stillness.
Past stillness into the heart.
Let love consume all that is left of you.
—Kabir

A New Day Begins

Gratitude List:
1. Kind words
2. I returned from Atlanta and the goldfinches had goldened!
3. Such kind words
4. Remembering a beloved friend who has gone. What a huge, huge heart he had! And reflecting on the way people shape who I/we have become. I would not be the most truly Me without You.
5. Kind, kind, kind words
May we walk in Kindness!


“People have said to me, ‘You’re so courageous. Aren’t you ever afraid?’ I laugh because it’s not possible to be courageous if you’re not afraid. Courage doesn’t happen without fear; it happens in spite of fear. The word courage derives from ‘coeur’, the French for ‘heart.’ True courage happens only when we face our fear and choose to act anyway, out of love.” —Julia Butterfly Hill


“Where is our comfort but in the free, uninvolved, finally mysterious beauty and grace of this world that we did not make, that has no price? Where is our sanity but there? Where is our pleasure but in working and resting kindly in the presence of this world?” —Wendell Berry


“Every country should have a Ministry of Peace” —Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire


“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.” —Tom Robbins


“I never want to lose the story-loving child in me. A story that meant one thing to me when I was forty may mean something quite different to me today.” —Madeleine L’Engle

Poem a Day: 11

Today’s Prompts were New World, and Control.

The Crone Speaks
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

How will you enter the new world when you get there?
How will you even know you when you have arrived?
Will a score of gleaming knights on black stallions
ride across a causeway, trumpets blaring?
Will the forest path end abruptly at the top of a windy cliff
high above a roiling green sea?
Will there be a hidden doorway behind a veil of vines
in the back corner of a neglected garden?

I see how it is with you, Princess.
You knock on the door of my cottage—
so brave of you to come to the witch for advice.
You’ve got all the steps memorized, don’t you?. Admit it.

One: Learn to spin and to weave.
Bake bread. Learn to sing.
Speak the truth, but in stories.

Two: Take a walk in the woods,
though all have warned you against it.
Don’t forget to put into your pocket
the doll your mother gave you.

Three: Be kind to the Old One
sitting at the crossroad
who asks for your bread.

Four: Offer your service to the crone
who lives in the cottage
made of wishes and bones.

You’re a conscientious follower of the tales, you are.
No leaf unturned, no story left untold.
You have folded your heart
into an origami bird, ready for flying.

The only crumb you missed
on the way to the house of the witch
is this one: The whole point,
my dear—the sole purpose
of this journey
is that you learn one thing—
You must relinquish your control.
Offer the story to the birds who come
to collect the crumbs on the pathway.
The Old One who asks bread of you
seeks not the loaf you have carefully prepared
for the purpose, but the one
you’ve been saving for yourself.
Your mother’s doll will offer good advice,
but the tool you most need you will find on the way.

This story, your story, isn’t intended
to follow the formula you studied with such care.
The truth you found so dear in all the others
will not guide the plot of your own.
The Guide you seek might be a tree,
or a stone, or a wide shallow river.
Find your own signposts.
Seek your own star.
Learn your own recipes
for kindness and bread.
And please, close the door on your way out.

Unintended Changes

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking a little break and decided to flip through various WordPress themes and accidentally saved a new format. I suppose that’s as good a way as any to force me to adapt and update and change. I’ll take it. It means that the page might be in flux for a little while as I keep tweaking themes and ideas. I’ll try to settle it over the weekend sometime when I have a little more opportunity to focus on it.


Last evening, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Leroy Hopkins talk about the Columbia area’s history of resistance to slavery, specifically through the Underground Railroad. Most of the abolitionists who were actively shuttling people north through the area on the Underground Railroad were black, he said. Dr. Hopkins is a rare genius, with a wealth of information and connections to draw from. I really struggle with going out into the dark and the cold in this season of the year, and it was a real challenge for me to actually go, but I am glad I did.


Gratitude List:
1. Historians
2. People who fight for the safety and wellbeing and rights of others
3. The story Dr. Hopkins told last night of a group of 100 African American women from Columbia who marched to the Hotel Bletz in Mountville to rescue a group of enslaved people. This has captured my imagination. There really should be a ballad.
4. Opening: hearts, windows, minds, doors, possibilities
5. Cardigans and kindness

May we walk in Beauty!

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.

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!

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!

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!

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!