Learning the Map

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about some online quizzes that help you learn world geography. I play them every few months, and every time I come back, I have lost fewer of them. Now I put myself to sleep at night by reciting the names of the nations of the world. It’s time for a new challenge. I am going to start on flags now, and then capitals, I think.

One of the powerful benefits of this has been that when I read headlines about the people of The Gambia suing Myanmar for the genocide of the Rohingya people, I no longer think, “Somewhere in Africa” or “Somewhere in Asia.” I see the place on the map. As tensions with Iran have increased, I see Iran in my head, where it is in relation to the countries around it. When students say they come from Thailand, or South Korea, or Singapore, or Ghana, I can picture where they come from on the map in my head. And so I have increased the sense of my own place, my own places, too.

It also increases my anxiety at times. A couple years ago when the Caribbean was torn apart by massive hurricanes, I knew the names of the islands in their paths, could sense the vulnerability in ways I had been previously unable to imagine. But some painful knowings are important knowings, and help me to better understand my own connection to others.

As we apply ourselves to the study of our own inner maps, I think we have similar experiences. When I dare to memorize the shape and location of sadness and despair within myself, then perhaps I can be more attentive when I see it in someone else. “I recognize that!” Joy. Confusion. Satisfaction. Secretiveness. Deviousness. Compassion and Empathy. They all take on more recognizable shapes as I explore their geography within me. And the anxious knowing applies as well. How will your small islands weather the hurricanes of grief and loss and stress? Can you pick up the pieces and set up a new infrastructure when the storms rage through? Hang in there. Put out a call for help to others to send boats and aid, to airlift hope and helping hands.

Gratitude List:
1. Asian New Year celebration at my school today. Such talented students. Songs, drumming, and K-Pop Dancers. Incredible!
2. Half a day to grade. Catching up with myself.
3. I’ve been reading the poetry of Reginald Dwayne Betts in the spaces of the day. His word-work is so inspiring.
4. That samosa a student brought me from their Ethnic Foods class (or maybe it was just Ethnic Foods Unit in a regular Foods class?)
5. Walking, stretching, being good to the organism that is me.

May we walk in Beauty!

Follow Your Map

Quotations for today:
“Morning is the best of all times in the garden. The sun is not yet hot. Sweet vapors rise from the earth. Night dew clings to the soil and makes plants glisten. Birds call to one another. Bees are already at work.” —William Longgood
“Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn—and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb. So, let us drink a cup of tea.” —Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
“There is ecstasy in paying attention.”
—Anne Lamott
“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Gratitude List:
1. I usually try to protect his privacy on my social media sites, but I just have to say that you have to love a man who sings to his cats.
2. And who delights in sharing the first ripe tomato. On toast. With mayo.
3. Reading with the children. Sharing stories together.
4. Maps and guides, which is to say, You. You and the stones and the rivers. And the Voice inside.
5. Therese Patricia Okoumou, who climbed to the feet of Our Lady Liberty to protest the criminalization of migrants. She inspires.

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding the Map Home


When have you felt yourself to be your best self?
When have you been most comfortable being who you are?
What would it take to find your way back into that house of yourself?
Did you leave yourself a map?
Is there an old photograph in an dusty album somewhere in your heart
that you can use to guide yourself back to that place?
It might be as simple as taking three deep breaths,
clicking your sneaker-clad heels together three times,
and chanting, “I want to go home, I want to go home,
I want to go home.”
Shall we try it?

Gratitude List:
1. Jon Weaver-Kreider’s delicious dinner of spinach-stuffed shells.
2. Driving to school in that dawning.
3. Driving home from school in that sunset.
4. The gentle lengthening of the days.
5. Re-reading Julius Caesar. I never get tired of it, and it always brings new revelations. I love having a job where I can read Shakespeare with teenagers.

May we walk in Beauty!