Gratitude List: 1. The play, while it was absolutely marvelous, is over. I only ushered, and I am exhausted. My son the sound engineer is more tired than I, and I am sure the actors are working on a deficit. It’s going to be a gentle week in my classroom, I think. 2. Fall color. The maple trees are on fire. 3. Listening ears. 4. Challenge. I am trying to lean into the challenges, and accept what they will teach me. Does this get harder with age? Or am I just in a phase of comfort-seeking? In my dream last night, I was afraid to scale a large rock, but when it came to it, I scrambled up without effort. I will carry that sense of personal empowerment with me. 5. Slow and steady wins the race. That’s more of an exhortation than a gratitude. So personal exhortations will be my fifth gratitude. When I find myself in a negative self-talk loop, I’ll add exhortations. You’ve got this, Grrrrl.
May we walk in Beauty!
(Isn’t that “h” in exhaustion and exhortation an interesting bit of extra and perhaps unheeded breathiness? I do like it. Say exhaustion with the “h” and it has a nice helpful exhale in the middle. Exhale–that’s an “h” that definitely gets pronounced. It’s almost onomatopoetic: It sounds like what it is. And the almost enunciated “h” in exhortation is fortifying. Try saying that one in the word, and you’re ready to conquer that coming challenge. Remember to breathe!)
At one of the moments of waking in the night, I had netted a dream—like catching a fish, and thought I would hold it until morning, but it has slipped away into the shallows of my dream-brain. I think last night’s dreams were mostly the to-ing and fro-ing, the hither-and-yonning, of a mind gearing up to get the necessary work done. No images stand out from the chatter.
From yesterday’s meditations, I have pulled up the image of the Messenger or Page, the archetypal communicator, tasked with carrying messages throughout the royal household and beyond. While my outer life is all about communication and getting the messages across, I think that what has broken down for me in the past few months is the communicative process between my Deep self and my Surface self. The surface me did not quite know or believe that the deeper regions of my psyche were sad and overwhelmed and world-weary. I wasn’t keeping those pages working, moving between regions of my inner household to keep all the important pieces of me informed. I, who can sometimes live a little too intensely in the emotional realm, was getting cut off from my emotional self, not listening to the messages that the Deep self, which usually feeds me, was hungry and cut off. To be completely truthful, I think my Surface self was actually aware that things were getting out of order in the rooms deeper in, but didn’t quite know how to go about the process of daily living while tending to the work that needed to be done. Thankfully, Christmas Break has come along.
That’s a lot of navel-gazing, but the point is: To keep a healthy inner life, it’s really important to maintain regular times for meditation and contemplation and noticing the deepest inner places. It’s important for me to find and practice regular spiritual techniques in order to maintain inner balance. As a teacher, I sometimes get so compartmentalized that I push off my serious contemplative work to my breaks, thinking I’ll recharge and reconnect then, but without regular noticing, that inner space can get pretty messy and uninhabitable. The quick daily gratitude list hasn’t been enough for me to sustain the lines of communication. I am going to need to build in another regular practice in the coming months to keep myself healthy.
If I look back at what I have been writing in the past week, I think that part of what has been rampaging through my inner rooms is the untold stories. One solution for me will be to find focused time to work on this novel in the coming weeks. I need to either take it up or put it down, but I have to stop trying to keep it locked in the attic. It’s too destructive up there.
And sometimes inner turmoil can be symptomatic of other issues, ones we might not be able to see on our own. It might be time to schedule a check-up with a mental health counselor as well. Why don’t our health care plans include regular mental health check-ups as well as physical health check-ups? It would be a good idea to build it into our health care plans.
Gratitude List: 1. Purring Cat. When I woke up at four with the weight of the world on my chest, certain I would never get back to sleep, a little cat sensed my state of mind, settled on my chest, and purred me back to sleep. Never mind that an hour later, he woke me again with an angsty rendition of some teen-cat emo song. It was short, and I got back to sleep again then, too. 2. The Messengers, outer and inner 3. Rest. Such a little word for something so important 4. Grapefruit 5. Listening
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for the Fifth Day of Kwanzaa: Today’s word is Nia: Purpose. This refers to the purpose of building African culture through community endeavor. As a white person, this is another reminder to me to take a learning and listening posture, and to use the privilege culturally stamped on my skin to give space and voice to others.
“Being curious is the most important part of being a journalist. It might be the most important part of being anything.” —Lemony Snicket
“And when I had asked the name of the river from the brakeman, and heard that it was called the Susquehanna, the beauty of the name seemed to be part and parcel of the beauty of the land. That was the name, as no other could be, for that shining river and desirable valley.” —Robert Louis Stevenson, 1879
The New Song
by W. S. Merwin
For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then
there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song
SABBATHS 2000: V
by Wendell Berry
I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valleyside,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth and be free.
“We need wilderness and extravagance. Whatever shuts a human being away from the waterfall and the tiger will kill [her].” —Robert Bly
“Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends, the desire to live is the same within all of us…” ―Rai Aren
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
“Just living is not enough said the butterfly, one needs sunshine, freedom and and a little flower.” ―Hans Christian Anderson
“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.”
“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”
― Vandana Shiva
“How do you endeavour words at the marvel of dawn – slow but suddenly arising in your heart?
How do you speak to the dispersing cold and fog from the treetops, the gradual bathing of your outlook in gentle pinks and gold?
What can you say towards the stillness of things, even as they move, like a sleepy barge drifting through the channel,
reflecting the presence of that forgiving first light from all its bright sides?
How can you say I am sorry for all the dawnings you’ve not gambled in poetry?
Perhaps today, you think, you’ll make up for it – steadily pulsing in your reverence, keeping these embers of attention aglow.
But morning never remains.
Instead it grows into a glory of chaos, dropping its gifts – too numerous to carry – in an afternoon heap at our feet.
Generous as it is, the day collapses us into a womb of darkness, where we can finally rest our magnificent failures at being all the way alive.” ―Toko-pa
“On this day
the blessings of heaven.
On this day
the blessings of earth.
On this day
the blessings of sea and of sky.
To open us to life
to ground us in life
to fill us with life
and with wonder.
On those we love this day
and on every human family
the blessings of heaven
the blessings of earth
the blessings of sea and of sky.” ―John Philip Newell
“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.”
“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
“I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, “I take care care of my own.”
“I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours–I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.”
Gratitude List: 1. Getting the primer coat on Ellis’ room. I feel like we’re making progress, like we’ll finally have this project finished before school starts.
2. The magic of that book we just finished reading together: One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin. Joss picked it out of the used book shelf as his reading prize at the library. It connected to so much that I have been pondering lately: how time works in layers, the tenderness and fragility of memory, the infrangibility of friendship (that’s a word you learn in the book), the deep desire to protect what we love.
3. Each peach, pear, plum. . . Actually, no pears yet, so maybe it’s cherries instead, but I didn’t want to break up the line from the children’s book. (I spy Tom Thumb!)
4. Screech owl calling in the hollow last night when we were sitting outside before bed.
5. Supper on the porch.
A good reminder in church today: Let’s listen more than we talk. Or listen before we talk, perhaps. What is the pain behind the lashing out? What is the story behind the closed doors and windows? Where does that rant come from? What truth can be excavated from a bagful of raging fury?
And then: Let’s speak up more than we are silent. Although it sounds like the opposite of the first part, it’s really a good next step, isn’t it? Listen first. Find the source of pain, of confusion, of anger, of despair. Then speak up. When you see an injustice, speak out. The front of the bulletin at church today was the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote:
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
We have a new generation in the current walk toward justice. Will we need to repent again for our silence, or will we meet the challenges ahead with courage and joy, speaking up for those who are harmed by hatred of their race or country, their sexuality or gender, their religion or their class?
Courage and joy. I wish you Courage and Joy.
Gratitude List: 1. William Carlos Williams moment: So much depends on a green field dotted with white gulls in the winter rain.
2. My church congregation, who welcome students from my school to lead the service today on anti-racism, with much applause and appreciation.
3. Those young people. I learn so much from them. Constantly. They will lead us. We just need to give them the safe spaces to learn the power of their voices. And then we need to be their back-up, their safety net, their boosters. I am incredibly proud of them. Break every chain.
4. That shade of brown/salmon/ochre that is the color of the leafy forest floor seen through trees on a rainy day. You know the color I’m talking about? It’s so satisfying.
5. Listening. Speaking Up.
I choose the vulture today because vultures are watchers. And vultures are composters, taking what is dead and decaying and turning it into the energy that gives them flight. May we, too, take the old and decayed and rotten, and use it to create flight and vision. [This particular piece is an altered photo (I took the original from the internet that was labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification). I love those long primaries.]
In the weeks leading up to the election, a local pastor wrote a regular blog on the theme, “Love is Our Resistance.” That phrase keeps coming back to me these days. I have a sense deep in my gut that these next years are going to demand serious resistance, like the prayerful peaceful protests at Standing Rock, like the life-on-the-line peaceful demonstrations led by Martin Luther King and John Lewis and so many others. Perhaps these are the days for the new revolution. I imagine the call to the movement:
And what shall be your resistance?
Love is our resistance!
And what shall be your revolution?
Our revolution will be Peace!
What will be your tactics?
Open hearts. Prayer. Standing in the gap. Believing in each other. Speaking truth against the barrage of lies.
Peaceful, heart-led revolution is not a new thing. On this weekend when we commemorate the life and ideas of Martin Luther King, it seems perfectly fitting that people around the country are considering what their methods of resistance will be for the coming years. Let us take Martin Luther King as one of our pillars as we walk into the uncertain future.
Yesterday, a thought that has been forming within me since November 9 finally broke through the veil into words. It is this: These times will demand something new of us, and will shape our characters in ways we could have not imagined. As we rise to this work, we will become our best selves in ways we might not have, had we not had to meet the challenges that are coming our way.
I had read Clarrissa Pinkola Estes’ essay “We Were Made for These Times” to my students on Friday, and her words helped me to think this through. It’s not that I am grateful for the way things have gone. I am deeply troubled. Still, we can meet this as an opportunity to grow into our best selves, to let our souls shine. In the end, we will have become stronger, more loving and thoughtful people than we might have if we did not have these difficult days to face.
Keep reaching out. Look for the others who are doing the work of Loving Resistance. When you feel despair creeping upon you, find some small act of resistance you can do to further the revolution. If you know me well, you will hear me talking to myself.
* Tell radical truth. Confront the lies with truth and beauty and art and loving action.
* Encourage someone who is doing the Work.
* Write a postcard, make a call, stand on a street corner with a sign.
* Smile at people. Assume the best of people. Be someone who makes people want to be their Best Selves.
* Pray, in whatever way you pray. Pray in church, in synagogue, at the mosque, in the woods, in your kitchen, on the banks of the rivers. Hold stones. Make magic spells. Cast webs of prayer between you and those who are most vulnerable: the poor, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQI people, women, the Earth.
* Listen more than speaking.
*Live your prayers into being.
* Don’t feel like you always have to take a side. Just do the work. Be present to the situation in the moment, and do the work that needs to be done, whether it be speaking against the lie, or taking hands, or praying, or standing between vulnerable people and hatred.
What are your tactics for resistance?
Gratitude List: 1. Resistance and revolution
2. All those who have gone before. We have such a multitude of people who have gone before us who have practiced this form of resistance, who show us the way. Today I think in particular about the words and actions of Martin Luther King.
4. The Best Selves we are all becoming
5. You. We’re in this together, and I know that everything will be fine in the end, because you are there, doing your work, too–loving, praying, helping, holding.
What can we give besides our prayers and rage?
And what will that avail?
Send out the story on October winds.
Fling it high, where crows are flying.
Send the message echoing into earth
with every pounding step you take.
Let the shells of your ears gather the story.
Reel in the gossamer strands of the tale
and weave them into the veil you wear.
Listen for the stories of those who weep,
those who rage, those who only speak
with the shrug of a shoulder,
with a sigh, with a shudder.
Listen, too, to those who walk right in,
who step into your circle without invitation.
Listen to the voices that are hard to hear.
Offer only the bread that is yours to give.
Be like the old gods, with the raven Wisdom
on one shoulder and Memory on the other,
and Reason perched upon your hat.
Offer what is yours:
your watchful quiet heart.
Gratitude List: 1. Rage and prayer
2. Memory and Wisdom
4. Listening deeply. Being listened to deeply.
5. Graphic novels. I know this one is rather out of the context of the others, but the boys and I are really into graphic novels these days: the Amulet series, Zita the Spacegirl, Knights of the Lunch Table, and Mouse Guard. We really love Zita and her poor friend Randy who has a case of the squeaks.
Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday, there was sunshine. So much sunshine.
2. I left 20 minutes late for work yesterday (which, in my world, still gets me to school 40 minutes early), and caught the sunrise. So much color! I am hungry for color. Ravenous. The season is shifting out of greyscapes into pastels now and I can start to breathe.
3. Left foot, right foot, breathe.
Reach out your hand
like the quivering leaf.
Someone is there to grasp it:
wind, rain, a tiny green spider
wandering, crab-like, across its surface.
Lay your arms upon the air
like the oak branches that are held
in the grasp of the autumn sun.
Somewhere the invisible ones
are listening for the moment
when you offer your story to the breezes.
Gratitude List: 1. The fact that I have a lot more sense about how I dress in the daytime than I do in those crazy dreams.
2. Having wild and crazy dreams means I was sleeping last night. I can feel the restfulness seeping into me.
3. Watching healing take place. Friendship and kindnesses can begin to draw a person back toward wholeness. May the healing continue.
4. Students beginning class by asking if we can pray for an injured classmate.
5. Golden. I came out of school yesterday afternoon, and everything was Golden.