Last evening, we went for an evening walk up at Sam Lewis State Park. It’s easy sometimes to forget the glorious gems of we have in our own backyards. There is a series of walking trails through the woods around the crest of the ridge, over rock tumbles, through piney groves, along meadows, between mountain laurels and pawpaw trees. Massive oaks and maples stand sentinel at the edges of the woods.
I never really quite know where I am going when we set out on a trail at Sam Lewis. It’s probably no more than two or three miles of trails total, and they wind around and cross each other, and they’re all completely familiar. There’s no chance of getting lost, but I often think I am going to emerge from the woods at one point, and find myself at another point altogether. It’s not disconcerting or frustrating, partly because its so contained. It’s just a tiny bit mystical and dreamy. Probably it’s just me and my strange sense of direction, and maybe if I start walking up there several times a week instead of once every few months, I’ll develop an inner map of the place. I’m not sure I want to. I like the slight and utterly non-anxious disorientation, the sense of discovery.
It was a grateful and grounding walk. It was St. John’s Eve, and I found a patch of St. John’s Wort at the edge of the meadow. Down on the piney path near the big meadow, we encountered a wood thrush, who seemed completely unfussed at our presence, and sang a call and response with a friend further up the hill. At one point, we were caught in currents that carried scent of pine, wild yarrow, and the freshly-opened buds of milkweed. On a trail that wound around a group of giant boulders, we found some mountain laurel still blooming. Around one bend in the trail, near one of the frisbee baskets, we met a deer. I’m not sure who was more interested in whom. At the very top of the bald, where people like to go to fly kites, and where you can see the whole river valley laid out before you, evening breezes came tumbling up over the ridge. The paths go from gentle ramble to strong and steady upward climb. My legs and lungs were glad of the exercise.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
“Inside a moment, centuries of June.” ―Emily Dickinson
African proverb:, “When death comes, may it find you fully alive.”
“I think there ought to be a little music here: hum, hum.” ―Mary Oliver
“Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” ―Albert Einstein
“I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.” ―Sonia Sotomayor
“Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” ―Buddha
“I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ … The twenty-five percent is for error.” ―Linus Pauling
Greetings from Narnia! In these days, I remember that even in Narnia, things have often been unstable, have often felt dangerous and frightening. Remember the first time we went there, how we had to draw on all our ingenuity and courage to find our way through? How we needed help from others along the way, how we had to keep going even when we knew we were only children, and clearly not up to the task of saving the realm from an autocratic and capricious leader? That was a plague of winter rather than virus, but people were dying then, too, and people stayed in their houses, fearful of going out.
Here is this realm, we stay indoors in order to try to save more of us in the end, and we have these magical boxes that help us build communities even while we’re far apart. The fear is here, and sometimes I think I can smell it, as if I were one of our animal friends from Narnia. We have to figure out how to survive.
Right now, it’s really hard in Pennsylvania, as it might be where you live. We’ve been out of school for a week, learning through computers and figuring out the best ways to connect. Yesterday, Governor Wolf announced that all non-life-supporting businesses MUST close, which was sort of in effect already, but the clarifications mean that businesses that had closed to the public but still brought their employees in to work behind the scenes will need to keep their employees home. It makes sense, and I respect Governor Wolf’s decision. And yes, and yes, and yes. But it brings the hurt home to the hollow here because Jon won’t get any more hours at work until this is over. The shoe has dropped. We’ve got social and community safety nets, and all sorts of possible strategies to manage, so we’ll be okay. It just brings the harshness of it home, and makes the uncertainty more real, more looming. But we’ll be okay.
I hope you will be, too. It feels pretty dire at times, and every day brings something a little more dire. Searching for the little things that bring light and delight into the day becomes more important to me at times like this. Five things that make me grateful don’t cancel out the gnawing anxiety, and they don’t change the harsh reality. Still, they bring me balance. They help me to remember that my feet touch the ground, that I live in this body in this space. Despite the wild uncertainty of these days, some beautiful things are certain. Some wonders and delights go on. I choose to ground myself in those. I might catch the kite o my anxiety and go zooming off in tears and conjectures, but that string of connection to you, and to the Earth, and to all my Beloved Community–that’s real, and that’s strong, and that will bring me back to solid ground, safe.
Please, if you are finding yourself close to the edge of the panic or despair, reach out. Make a connection with someone out in the wide world. Find your kite strings–who and what holds you to the Earth?
Kite Strings of Gratitude: 1. You. Yesterday, a friend of mine asked to see her friends’ face on FB, and I cried, seeing all her lovely community, so I did the same, and all throughout the day, my friends posted their photos, sometimes with their children or their four-legged companions, and my day was so bright, despite the harsher news, despite the uncertainty. 2. Yesterday after lunch, I did the two-mile walk up and down the hill. The world was still misty, and it felt as though the the hollow itself was an empty bowl with a curtain of mist all around. The bowl was all that existed for a little while. Silence and birdsong. Distant traffic. 3. Yoga. It’s one of my coping strategies right now, both for grounding and for chasing the anxieties out of my lower back. 4. Yesterday during my Office Hour, a couple students from the dorm checked in and then walked the laptop around the dorm so I could say hello to everyone there. It made me sort of giddy. I really miss my students. 5. Yesterday morning, a great blue heron flew through the mist above the hollow. Even though my other blue friend is gone, others are still here.
Take care of each other.
“Although I am a woman of strong faith, I admit that my spirit sometimes struggled to overcome the heaviness of the tragedies around me. When heartbreak knocked on my door, I learned to let faith answer.” —Coretta Scott King
“On this day, the Vernal Equinox, we are in perfect balance between light and dark. Let us pray loving attention to the fragile sprouts of inner beauty which have survived the long dark of hibernation, despite all odds, to push up through the soil into the light. Let us honour the faith it has taken to believe in the invisible, upper world, where soon we will blossom into sprawling gardens overflowing with fruit. Let us hold our painful hearts with gentle hands today. Let us express our gratitude to the light that can only be found in the dark. Let us ask our vulnerability to shine radiantly with knowing that we are unfolding right on time.” —Toko-pa Turner
“The happiest people I’ve ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. They are the people who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or will speak up about an injustice when they see it.” ―Wilma Mankiller
“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam. Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam? Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.” —J.R.R. Tolkien? Or was this from the movie?
“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” —Margaret Atwood
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” —Fred Rogers, born on this day in 1928
“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver
“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
Gratitude List: 1. On the way past Sam Lewis Park yesterday afternoon, we saw a dragon in the sky. And two dinosaurs. And two trilobites. People were flying kites. I think they’re known as Finnish kites. A high up leader kite is tethered to a balloon-style kite. The higher kite pulls the lower one up into the air. It’s amazing to watch.
2. Bubbles. Also at the park, a couple had brought along several buckets full of soap solution and long rope-style bubble wands. They created enormous bubbles.
3. Sharing stories. Stories, like bridges between us.
4. The Labor movement–people believing in their cause–in worker safety, in justice and fairness in pay, in reasonable hours, in respectable treatment of employees.
5. Playing games with the kids.
I have been thinking about how I make meaning as I speak. As I am talking, I come to know what I mean. I might have ideas and thoughts in my head, but the nuance and subtleties of language shift and tweak the essence of a thought. It grows or shrinks as I speak it. Sometimes in conversation I find myself saying a thing, only to realize that it’s not exactly what I meant, so I need to re-phrase and re-re-phrase it. I love conversations where people work at that process together. Sometimes I am left confused when I assume that someone will be joining me in that conversational work, and then they don’t really get it.
I think that’s why I like poetry. Using words so intentionally, packing so much meaning into each word, means that the landscape of meaning shifts and twists with each reading, sometimes becoming clearer and more defined, and other times deconstructing and separating out into many threads.
Gratitude List: 1. The wonderful owl kites that Suzy Hamme gave the kids. Ellis ran around the farm for hours today with an owl flapping behind him. What magic you gave us, my friend!
2. Picnic at Sam Lewis State Park, flying kites, rolling down the hill, climbing the rocks, playing on the playground, pretending to be astronauts and aliens.
3. Planting a garden with the kids (which was mostly me planting and them sort of diddling, but still, it was a fun project.
4. The way the sun rays sparkled through the cloud just before sunset.
5. Dreams that bring comfort.