Gold Gives Way

“As long as your heart pumps and your lungs expand, you can rise to this occasion.” – Sara Kellar
“The power of stories is that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is like a story.” ~Frederick Buechner
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
by Mary Oliver

On roadsides,
in fall fields,
in rumpy branches,
saffron and orange and pale gold,

in little towers,
soft as mash,
sneeze-bringers and seed-bearers,
full of bees and yellow beads and perfect flowerets

and orange butterflies.
I don’t suppose
much notice comes of it, except for honey,
and how it heartens the heart with its

blank blaze.
I don’t suppose anything loves it except, perhaps,
the rocky voids
filled by its dumb dazzle.

For myself,
I was just passing by, when the wind flared
and the blossoms rustled,
and the glittering pandemonium

leaned on me.
I was just minding my own business
when I found myself on their straw hillsides,
citron and butter-colored,

and was happy, and why not?
Are not the difficult labors of our lives
full of dark hours?
And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,

that is better than these light-filled bodies?
All day
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,

they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness,
in the pure peace of giving
one’s gold away.
~ Mary Oliver
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to realize that this, too, was a gift.”
~Mary Oliver

Gratitude List:
1. The moon in the morning. A young person I know looked up that the moon and said, “Hello, my Queen.” Yes.
2. Milkweed pods bursting, unfolding their treasure, releasing it to the winds. Fly well, small seeds, on your filmy parachutes.
3. First, the cats came and hung out with us on the couch, and then when we went up to bed to read Dealing with Dragons, they came and joined us on the bed. Things are getting really companionable. Even Sachs of Underbed has been out more than under in the past day.
4.  Pancake breakfast. We’re going to have pancakes this morning.
5. The restfulness of Saturday morning.

May we walk in Beauty!

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The Roman god Janus looks backward and forward.

Looking back, looking forward.
These are the Days of Doorway,
of standing on the threshold
between the worlds of what was
and what will be.

What of the past will you choose to carry into the future? What will you cut loose and remove from your story? Perhaps we cannot revise the events of the past, but we can revise the way we tell them, the meaning we make from them. And the future stands wide open before us, waiting for us to take up the pen and create the tale to come.

Here’s an exercise you can try: Looking Back/Looking Forward. Without making intentional value judgments, consider some of the themes of your past year (looking back). Consider how you will carry them or cut them loose in the coming year (looking forward).

Looking back, I see that often in the past year, I allowed myself to be overcome with weariness. I allowed the waiting tasks to overwhelm my ability to be present in the moment.

Looking forward, I will have strategies to deal with weariness. I will try to keep naps and extra coffee for last resorts. I’ll start with a walk around the farm, seeking signs of foxes. I’ll make sure I take my vitamin. I’ll eat some protein. I’ll drink water. I’ll do my balance poses. I’ll stand up and take ten deep breaths.

Looking back, I see how I allowed the birth of a wonderful idea to begin to take hold of my soul, to find its way into the images and colors of my dreams.

Looking forward, I will nurture this dream like the tenderest of seeds, watering it, feeding it, giving it space to grow and develop. I will work for this one.

Looking back, I feel a sense of satisfaction in the accomplishment of having written at least a gratitude list almost every day. And I have done my balance poses with the John O’Donohue poem almost every day. I have begun naming my emotions more consistently before reacting. I have been less consistent with checking in with my energy, and I have neglected quiet meditation.

Looking forward, I will continue to write regularly, to stretch and breathe and recite my daily poem. I will keep checking in with emotion and energy, and focus on settling into meditation for five to ten minutes a day.

Gratitude List:
1. Milkweed seeds, tossed to the winds as a blessing.
2. Little round “eggs” of moss, blown off the garage roof.
3. Looking backward, looking forward.
4. Slaying my dragons.
5. Talking to Mara on the phone this morning.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hello, Toadflax!

The other night when I was desperately trying to take a photo of the rainbow that would come even close to portraying the bright colors, I went through every funky filter on my phone.  This one came out really odd, but I like the psychedelic feel of it.  It’s kind of like a poem–it might not capture the physical reality of the moment, but the strangeness of the impression actually creates more the magical mood of the moment than the blander regular photos.

I have begun walking in the mornings.  I almost hesitate to say it, because it’s only been three days, hardly long enough to call it a habit.

Gratitude List:
1. Birdsong.  Swallows chittering.  Crow barking out directions. Sweet chirrup of goldfinch. A flock of swallows circled above the soybean field up near Mt. Pisgah Road, and one in particular sang a cheep-cheep, cheep-cheep, cheep-cheep.  Then it would swoop low, look me in the face, and say CHEEP-cheep right by my ear.  I find it amazing that something so tiny would take on a creature so much larger than itself.
2. Sun on flower faces.  There’s a yellow snapdragony-looking beauty that I have been calling butter-and-eggs.  Apparently that is actually one of its common names.  I must have pulled it out of deep memory.  Its Latin name is linaria vulgaris, and it is also known as Common Toadflax.  I love that so much, that we have a local plant called Toadflax.  Pleased to meet you, new friend.  Also, Queen Anne’s Lace veils the road edges, and the blue eye of chicory is everywhere.  Little patches of St. John’s Wort peek out from the poison oak.  The yellow bladders of jewelweed flowers are beginning to appear.
3. Cool breezes on the skin at the beginning of another hot day.  Warm sun on my face.
4. The scent of milkweed.  Milkweed a-buzz with pollinators, sending its aroma down the little breezes into the hollow.
5. Cold water infused with lemon, mint and basil.

May we walk in Beauty!

Scattering Prayers

milkweed  lawnlabyrinth
Scattering Milkweed seeds like prayers.

Yesterday I mowed a labyrinth into the grassy patch between the barn and the greenhouse.  The boys and I took a basket of milkweed pods that we had gathered last fall, and spiraled our way into the center of the labyrinth, where we scattered the the fluff like prayers.  Prayers for the monarchs, for the future of these children and the planet that supports them, for the people I carry in my heart.  For you.  For me.  For transformation, and for compassion and for love.  For Beauty, and for fun.

Gratitude List:
1. That wren out there reminding me to keeping listening, keep talking, keep the conversation going.
2. Being in a body.  These morning aches, this slightly blurry vision, this stuffy head–it’s all part of being in the body, along with tastebuds, sensations of cool breezes and warm sweaters, satisfying stretches.
3. Prayers.  I am re-establishing my connection to the word prayer.  I will keep using my other words, too–carrying stones, casting webs, holding the bowl–but prayer is a strong universal signifier for being mindful and concerned, and I am finding that I am choosing it more often to represent what I do, wordless as it so often is.
4. That tiger swallowtail that slipped like a sunbeam down the green slope of the ridge yesterday.
5. Compassion, and all the places you find it.

May we walk in Beauty!

Walking Up the Hill


Gratitude List:
1.  Walking up the hill, hand in hand with One Small Boy
2.  to see if we could find the female monarch we had seen earlier on the milkweed,
3.  which was a city a-buzz with pollinators,
4.  when we saw a bluebird, and I started singing, “Bluebird, bluebird, through my window,”
5.  and One Small Boy sang it with me because it was one of his school songs.

May we walk in Beauty!

Milkweed and Clouds

Gratitude List:
1. Milkweed and Monarchs.  Milkweed is blooming everywhere this year. Dare I have  hope?
2. Clouds flowing through the sky behind Marie’s sea glass blossom.
3. Public Lament.  Public tears.  Challenge: Don’t go back to sleep.  Don’t get over it.  Don’t forget.
4. Hearing my own words spoken as a blessing, in someone else’s voice.  What a gift.
5. Little boats.  Two boys learned/re-learned how to make paper boats in church today.  One boy is going to make “thousands!”  He is going to set up classes to teach other people how to make boats.  He is talking about how professional paper boat makers might make their creases.  He says things like, “This is how you turn a failure into a success.  You take it back to a hat, and start over from there.”  Yes, Boy.  Always take it back to the hat.  Turn those failures into successes.
6. Family reunion.

May we walk in Beauty!


I don’t fish in the actual sense, but I have been thinking about poetry and fishing for the last few days, and this morning I read something about how poetry is both art and craft, both inspiration and work.  Sometimes, it’s like the fish are just jumping out of the water, waiting for me to hold out my net and catch them.  I love it when that happens.  Sometimes I have to have two nets available to be catching them all as they rain past.  It’s important not to get too attached to every fish I catch in this manner.  Some are real stinkers, but occasionally I can catch a nice rainbow trout this way.

But more often than not, I just have to show up at the river, day after day, with my fishing rod, and sit there in the hot sun or under a shady tree, and wait and wait and wait.  Lots of times, I’ll hook an old boot or funny piece of wood.  Most of these things I’ll toss back, but some of them I can use.  It’s particularly rewarding to catch a beautiful fish this way–the wait and the work of it makes it especially satisfying.

When I first started writing poetry as a teenager, I didn’t have time for revising or perfecting.  I ended up throwing away most of that stuff when I reached my twenties.  Then I got into a phase where I didn’t believe anything was truly good until it had been worked over and wrangled repeatedly.  I sucked the life out of many a good poem that way.

I think sometimes really good poems do just drop out of the sky with little need for change.  Most of the poems I write need a little more tweaking, though.  During those times when they’re just jumping out of the lake, I need to just write it down like dictation without thinking about whether this is the perfect word, or whether the sounds work together or the rhythm is compelling.  Then, when the rush and whoosh is done, I can go back and see what I have, and organize it into a more complete form.

The other night, half a poem jumped out at me that way.  Had I not been on my way to an appointment, perhaps it would be complete, but now that I’ve lost the moment, I need to go back and sit by the river with this one, wait for inspiration to strike on the next line.


Gratitude List:
1.  Milkweed everywhere
2.  Quiet mornings
3.  Super moon, though it does cause some sleeping difficulty
4.  How inspiration strikes
5.  Crafting

May we walk in Beauty!