Bread and the Bird of Heaven

He’s back! I went out this morning to do Ten Breaths, and the moment I stepped out onto the porch, there was his whistle. One long, clear call in the dawn air. I listened longer, and he kept piping occasionally, one or two or three long notes at a time. I think I saw him, too, pulling apart a sycamore ball to get the nourishing seeds, but the rising sun was behind him so he was in silhouette. I waited, but he was busy, too busy to call more than a single whistle at a time. Then, just as the chill drove me to turn back indoors, there it was, the full trill: “O-ri-ole!” My shining bird friend is back in the hollow.

Yesterday I decided to make sun rolls to celebrate the May. I don’t have a recipe for sun rolls–I’m not sure there is one, really. It just seemed like the thing to do on a crisp May Day to welcome the turning of the season.

So when I went out for yesterday’s Ten Breaths and to wash my face in May Day dew (because that’s what you do), I picked dandelions. I couldn’t resist the violets that grow so thickly next to the locust grove, so I picked some of those as well. The poor dandies looked utterly brutalized by the previous day’s rain. I brought them in and washed them and laid them on a cloth to dry. Within an hour, they’d perked up, as if they were outside on their stalks. The Life Force is powerful in dandelions.

If I were to write a book about magic, I think the second chapter might be about dandelions. The first chapter would be about yeast. Yeast is primordial. Yeast is ylem. I’m pretty sure I am not using that word quite correctly, but I have commandeered it for my own purposes. Ylem, according to Dictionary.com, is “the primordial matter of the universe, originally conceived as composed of neutrons at high temperature and density.” I just stop at primordial matter of the universe, and take my meanings from there. Yeast is ylem.

I used my typical recipe for rolls, warming the milk, adding salt and a little flour and yeast. Because these were to be sun rolls, I exchanged the sugar for honey to celebrate the Little Sisters who have been busy in that dandelion patch. And I let the mix bubble for ten minutes. Really, is there any more magical moment in daily existence than coming to the bowl of yeast and flour after ten minutes to see the transformation that has occurred there? The scent of living, growing Life Force, the eager face of the bubbly risen mix. There’s a sound as well, or perhaps I have imagined it, of the bubbles. . .gurgling, plipping, popping, bubbling. . . Life Force.

I always start mixing bread in the stand mixer a friend of mine gave to me when she moved. It makes the process a little simpler, but I also love the feeling of connection it gives me. Even solitary bread-making is communal. I have my recipe mostly memorized, but I keep the cookbook handy on the counter, because that, too, was written by a friend, and it adds to the web of connections I am building as the gluten is aligning in the dough.

Yesterday, I added about a cup of yellow dandelion petals when I added the extra flour (flowers and flours), and used the mixer to bring the dough together, but I need to knead by hand: I love the feeling of kneading a good dough. Then it was rise and shape and rise and bake.

In the meantime was a bittersweetness. I haven’t seen my parents for seven weeks, and we had an exchange to make. They’re giving their old laptop to my boy, and they were out of whole wheat flour, and my mom needed some more crochet hooks and yarn. I had felt a little sheepish about buying two bags of whole wheat when I was out last week, and now it seems there was a reason. So we went to the trailer at the entrance to their retirement community to make the drop off–we’re not allowed to go on campus, and we’re grateful that they are so protected. There they were, and we got to see them and to say hello, from a distance, and through our masks. I didn’t realize how hard it would be not to hug. That was a challenge. The closeness emphasized the distance, but it was marvelous to see them.

They gave us another bag, too, with cookies and a couple pieces of chocolate cake, and a bottle of elderberry mead, perfect for a celebration of May Day. What a treat! So my May Day was sun rolls and mead and chocolate cake, the Life Force in flowers and yeast and honey, and a glimpse of my beloveds.

And now, this shining morning after, the call of the Bird of Heaven from the sycamore.

Gratitude List:
1. Oriole is back!
2. Elderberry mead
3. Yeasty sun rolls
4. Connections and community
5. Life Force evident everywhere

May we walk in Beauty!


“The only time incorrectly is not spelled incorrectly is when it is spelled incorrectly.”


“There is no such thing as one-sided generosity. Like one ecosystem, we are each at different times receiving or purging, growing or pruning. In those moments when you believe you aren’t receiving enough, consider what you most want to receive might be the thing you need to give away.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” —Henry David Thoreau


“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.” —Joanna Macy


“What if the Creator is like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s God: “like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence”?

What if the Source of All Life inhabits both the dark and the light, heals with strange splendor as much as with sweet insight, is hermaphroditic and omnisexual?

What if the Source loves to give you riddles that push you past the boundaries of your understanding, forcing you to change the ways you think about everything?

What if, as Rusty Morrison speculates in “Poetry Flash,” “the sublime can only be glimpsed by pressing through fear’s boundary, beyond one’s previous conceptions of the beautiful”?

Close your eyes and imagine you can sense the presence of this tender, marvelous, difficult, entertaining intelligence.” —Rob Brezsny

Questions for a New Season

(This is a reprise from a previous year. Somehow, this year, the talk of risk and abandon seems to need to include a caveat, that of course we are not risking our own or other people’s health or safety in the risks we are taking.)

May first is Beltane, the ancient holiday marking the mid-point of spring, the wanton flowering season, the wild celebration of abandon and extravagant freedom.

What will you give yourself to in the coming season? What direction will your passions lead you? What freedom can you claim for yourself in the days ahead? Throw off the cloaks and veils that hide you. Remove your corsets and girdles. Run barefoot in the fields. Roll in the grass. Swing from the trees.

May Day is about running through the door, barefoot and maybe naked, but completely unconcerned, willing to take the necessary risks to accomplish your dreams.

Look around you, at all that is growing so wildly, so full of life force. What forces within you are pushing their way toward the sunlight? What will not be contained? What is exploding into bloom? What vines curl outward from your center?

What will you risk in the coming season? What constricting “clothing” do you need to cast off in order to abandon yourself to your projects?

A Blessed Beltane season to you!
May your dreams feed you.


Gratitude List:
1. That pink guarddogwood
2. Stretching body and mind
3. Birdsong
4. Baking
5. Hunger, appetite

May we walk in Beauty!


“As I me walk-ed in a May morning, I heard a bird sing. . .” ―May song


“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” ―Jules de Gaultier


“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ―Iris Murdoch


“A light wind swept over the corn, and all Nature laughed.” ―Anne Bronte


“We are all just walking each other home.” ―Ram Dass


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke


“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” ―Thích Nhất Hạnh


“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” ―Frederick Douglass


“Hopelessness is the Enemy of Justice.” —Bryan Stevenson

In the Doorway of My Cottage


Here I am, stepping out of my little dream-cottage, into the world again, a little at a time.

When the stress of the everyday gets too stressy, I begin to fantasize about what my little witch-poet’s cottage might look like: thatched roof and cob walls, a nice big window, sunflowers and poppies and blue-eyed chicory in the garden, and a bee skep on a bench. Inside, a fireplace and bookshelves, cabinets to hold stones and papers, birds’ nests on the mantel, a comfortable recliner and a writing desk. (Somehow, in the filtering process to modify this photo, my gnome-friend Solomon Shandy appeared in the photo. He’s in the lower left-hand side of the photo–can you spot him?)


“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” –John F. Kennedy


I wear beads on one arm for Beauty,
beads on the other for Kindness.
I need a third arm for Rage.


Some say she was a mermaid or a selkie,
a creature of both land and sea
moving with ease in either element
and graciously bridging the space between.

That is true, of course, but they didn’t know
how on windy days, she rose with wings above the surf,
or how her sudden laugh would often draw her into flame.


Gratitude List:
1. Icarus Oriole–always calling in my treetops of May
2. A LONG afternoon nap, with a warm blanket and a cat on my lap
3. Friends had a fundraiser yard sale today for their nonprofit. We scored the game Mousetrap, and Connect Four, and a novel by Jane Yolen that I had never read.
4. May Day at Wrightsville Elementary. It had to be inside because of the rain. I ran the Color Spin game, and had a blast trying to increase the odds for the littlest kids. The community comes together to make a good time for the kids.
5. Watching ET with the family. Turn on your Heartlight. I’ll be right here.

May we walk in Beauty!

Happy May Day!

CRANE_a_garland_for_mayday_1895
Today is May Day, celebrated around the world as the day of the workers.  Today we honor the people who fought–and still fight–for workers’ rights, the people who contribute their sweat for the good of a (hopefully) well-run society, the ones who get the job done.

It is also the day of Beltane, one of the ancient celebrations of spring and fertility.  Look around you, at all that is growing so wildly, so full of life force.  What forces within you are pushing their way toward the sunlight?  What will not be contained?  What is exploding into bloom?  What vines curl outward from your center?

Gratitude List:
1. The way life sometimes brings you exactly what you need. Two years ago on this day, I received a message from a friend saying that he had heard there was an opening on the English Faculty at Lancaster Mennonite High School.
2. The workers.  All the unsung people who make things run, and often without much thanks.   And all who work to make a more just society, not simply because it will benefit them, but because it will benefit all.  Happy May Day!
3. Daniel Berrigan, who died yesterday at 94.  A good man who lived his faith.
4. The certainty that the wheel will turn and a new thing will always come around again.  May comes again.  Happy May Day!
5. The richness of the pink on those dogwood trees in the rain.

May we walk in Beauty!

Oriole is Home!

Sun shines through new leaves on the sycamore
then, high in the treetop,
clear, like whistling for a dog,
he calls.  Home again.
A flash of orange,
the truest orange possible,
and oriole has returned to the hollow.

Gratitude List:
1.  Oriole is home!
2.  May day party at the elementary school.
3.  Watching my 7-year-old painting the belly cast made when he was in my belly.
4.  Denise Levertov
5.  Reading A.A. Milne to the kids.

Namaste.  May we walk in beauty.