Wish You Were Here!

When this is all over, I wonder how it will have affected my teaching? I try to create a student-centered classroom, and I think my normal (non-Exile) classroom is very student-focused, but I still found myself spending a lot of time as the sage on the stage. But now, in the past week and a half, I have probably erred on the side of not enough teaching, and more on project-style instruction. I am working toward finding a balance. I hope that as I travel this new pedagogical pathway I can integrate old and new aspects of my teaching self. Maybe, hopefully, I will come out of this a better teacher.

How are you faring in your new rhythms? Are you able to consider that the new ways of doing things in this time-out-of-time might actually improve your understanding of yourself? It’s okay if you feel like you are in a holding pattern, or like you’re losing ground. Or if you’re back and forth (truth be told, that’s a more accurate picture of my status–it’s just that morning brings a clarity that is not always completely present for me all day).

My heart is with you, who must still go out daily to do essential jobs for the good of the community. May your immune system be as strong as your good heart.

My heart is with you, who have been laid off, or who will be laid off. May you find a settled place within, to face the uncertainty of these days. May help come soon.

My heart is with you, who live alone in Exile. May you find alternate ways to do community, from a safe distance.

My heart is with you, who suddenly have two or more overwhelming jobs: working from home or out in the community, and still supervising your children’s schooling, or caring for the emotional needs of family members and beloveds. May you find rest and may you settle into the new rhythms with grace. You are doing enough. You are enough.


Gratitude List:
1. The birthday bush (I thought tree, but I have been corrected by the soon-to-be-birthday-boy) survived the night. Before we went to bed, I repeatedly reminded the cats that it was their responsibility to protect the tree from goblins in the night. They’re less likely to destroy something (like sleep or a birthday bush) if they have been charged with its protection.
2. I realized yesterday that I will likely be home this year when Oriole returns. My heart rises in anticipation. To sit on the porch all day and listen to him calling in his beloved is one of my great joys.
3. Yesterday, I managed to keep up with the minute-by-minute work as well as catch up significantly on pre-Friday-the-13th work. I am feeling more on top of things, school-wise, than I have felt since the beginning of the semester. Now if only I can try to end my school day at 5 today, then I will be golden.
4. The way humans rise to a crisis. And I know not all humans are rising. But the regular people, often those with the most to lose, have been settling in and creating community, reaching out, looking after each other. I really do love humans.
5. The bird feeders. If I go back to teaching in my physical school building this spring, I am going to have to figure out how to set up some bird feeders on the roof outside my windows. It brings me such great joy to watch the birds.

Take care of each other!

This morning my grandmother is teaching me
that the easiest (and most elegant) way to defeat an army of hatred,
is to sing it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees and surrenders.

It will do this, she says, because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found heaven.
It has found HOZHO.
—Lyla Johnston


“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…” —Aldous Huxley


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” —Anaïs Nin


“What a miracle to be awake inside your breathing!” —Hildegard of Bingen


Definition of Weald: wild, forested lands, uncultivated regions


“Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” —Archibald Macleish


“This poem is not housebroken.” —Anne Haines


*I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” —Joan Didion


“Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.” —John O’Donohue

If you have never read Toko-pa Turner’s work, begin by buying her book Belonging. It will be a comforting and enlightening companion for your Exile.

Welcome, November

This month, I am trying to re-arrange some of my daily practice in order to make more space for writing. I have had two books floating about in my brain for some time, but I can never seem to find the time to work on them, so I thought I would give my first morning moments to the process and see what happens. So far, in the last two days, in the moments before I wake up fully, my brain has grasped a piece of dream-flotsam, and wrangled it into an image or phrase which I have used to begin a dreamy piece of super-flash fiction.

Perhaps I’ll be able to fit these into one of the books. Meanwhile, I am following the Dreamcatcher to see what she offers me.

In the past six or eight years, I have missed very few November Poem-A-Day challenges with Poetic Asides blog. This new process feels a little solitary, even lonely. But it feels like I have stepped onto a pathway, in much the same way that my first forays into Poem-A-Day were steps on a poetic pathway.

Here’s another thing: This week, I opened a Bag of Longing to see what was inside. This one was the idea of getting an MFA. It’s been haunting the deep corners of my brain for some time now. I decided to look at it more closely and see what it might look like this week. It’s so easy to get excited about it, but it’s hard to justify adding debt to debt when we have projects on the farm that must be fed money, and when the first of the children has just entered high school and will be exploring college possibilities himself before we can even catch our breath. Shall I close this Bag and stuff it back into a corner before it starts to eat me? Or shall I let the creature inside it out to roam, hoping it can find its own way home?


Gratitude List:
1. The many varieties of orange
2. That bright scarlet leaf on the neighbors’ orange dogwood tree was actually a cardinal
3. One small person humming quietly to himself in the car last night on the way home from trick-or-treating in town
4. November means cats in the bed, and that’s wonderful, as long as they give each other space and don’t start hissing
5. New practices

May we walk in Beauty!

Voices Made of Fire

If you could trust your voice completely,
if you didn’t have to consider how how others would respond,
if you didn’t have to be safe, to be tame, to be docile and
humble, acceptable and charming and quiet,
if you had not been trained to make your words
into an easy chair, to turn your voice to honey:
What would you say?

Poetry

Gratitude of Resistance Twenty-Three:
Poetry. November always feels a little frantic because I add writing a poem a day to my schedule. I have been doing this for so many years that by now, I would feel lost and bereft if I didn’t do this. It’s part of what holds me to my true purpose. I love teaching, and I feel like I belong in this job with these students and these colleagues at this time in my life. But I have chosen Poet as my identity, and whether or not my poetry ever makes an impression in the world, I would no longer be able to do my other work without it. November and April and summer always bring me back to poetic center.

May we walk in Beauty!

How the Beloved Enters

      

(I could have at least used the same fonts.)

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts for Tuesday:
“The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.
Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman
***
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ―Vincent Van Gogh
***
“Change is continuous on the seamless web,
Yet moments come like this one, when you feel
Upon your heart a signal to attend
The definite announcement of an end
Where one thing ceases and another starts;
When like the spider waiting on the web
You know the intricate dependencies
Spreading in secret through the fabric vast
Of heaven and earth, sending their messages
Ciphered in chemistry to all the kinds,
The whisper down the bloodstream: it is time.”
―Howard Nemerov
***
“One of the most exciting things for me about being in the freedom movement was discovering other people who were compelled by the Spirit at the heart of our organizing work, and who were also interested in the mysticism that can be nurtured in social justice activism. We experienced something extraordinary in the freedom movement, something that hinted at a tremendous potential for love and community and transformation that exists here in this scarred, spectacular country. For many of us, that “something” touched us in the deepest part of our selves and challenged us in ways both personal and political.” ―Rosemarie Freeney Harding, in “Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering”
***
“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.”
―Desmond Tutu
***
IT WORKS
“Would you come if someone called you
by the wrong name?
I wept, because for years He did not enter my arms:
then one night I was told a
secret:
Perhaps the name you call God is
not really His, maybe it
is just an
alias.
I thought about this, and came up with a pet name
for my Beloved I never mention
to others.
All I can say is―
it works.”
―Rabia of Batista
***
“The aim of education is to reveal an attainable image of self that is lovelier than that manifested in his or her present acts.” ―Nel Noddings

Trying to Be Found


Here are three tiny poems from my Creative Writing journal. (I usually wrote along with the students on the writing prompts).

Each day
a new story
of finding my way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once there was a little girl
who was trying to be found.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bluebird on a wire
muttering a gentle question.
No one answers but the hawk.


“I like sitting at the piano. I like the idea that there are things coming in through the window and through you and then down to the piano and out the window on the other side. If you want to catch songs you gotta start thinking like one, and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects. Once you get two or three tunes together, wherever three or more are gathered, then others come.” -Tom Waits
*
“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” –Rafael Campo
*
“Which came first, the fear or the gun? The broken heart or the bleeding one? The impulse toward death or the desperate reach for love?” –Mark Morford
*
“A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.”
–John O’Donohue


Gratitude List:
1. I think I am homing in on the nest of Our Lady of the Flowers. I sat on the porch for a while last evening and watched. She seems to return to the same general area of the tree. It’s located at a less convenient spot for gazing this year, hidden higher up and further from the house.
2. Weaving stories together. Listening to people tell their stories and talk about who they want to be in the world.
3. How a good stretch that wakes up the spine wakes up the body
4. The people who do good. I get so tied up in knots about the stupid, greedy, and cruel things that the powerful people are doing. It really helps to balance my heart to keep remembering all the good and wise and compassionate things that you and the others are doing. Thank you.
5. Pesto

May we walk in Beauty!

Coyotes and Goats


Someone was walking through the snow beside the porch today, taking the Coyote Road.

Gratitude List:
1. Petting two-day-old goats at Sonya’s today. Precious babies.
2. Afternoon nap
3. Charcoal. Slow, controlled burn.
4. Blue Heron sighting. I always feel a blessing when one flies above.
5. The satisfaction of submitting poems for publication.

May we walk in Beauty!

Time to Re-Envision and Revise

bridemusic
Another picture of my brother and me, singing yesterday at a celebration for Bridge of Hope National. 

I really like to work with extremely short poetry. There’s an imagist within me, I suppose, wanting to capture an image like a photograph, to hold it in words, to take the thing that I see and recreate it in such as way that you will see it, too. But I can never seem to leave it only at the image, because everything means something to me. It’s all messages.  Here is one from 2014:

yellow walnut leaves
twist and twirl silently earthward
lavishly giving themselves to breeze, to breath
prodigal as love

I wonder how it would affect the poem were I to change “breath” to “death”?  I’d lose the “r” sound that follows “earth” so nicely, for one thing.  And I like that repeated initial “br.” Maybe I will keep it. I am in revisions mode now, so every word is on the table for possible change and transformation. (Like that “twist.” I like the alliteration “twist and twirl,” but that seems a little bit of an obvious one.  Hmm.)

Gratitude List:
1. The people who do good work in the world, not because of some sense of wanting to feel better about themselves because they do charity, but because they know their future is bound up in the future of all, that we’re all one people, and we must survive together.
2. Organizations like Bridge of Hope and Samara, that work to support families in crisis, to give children a safer and healthier childhood.
3. I didn’t get it all done, but I got a lot of it done, and that feels at least a little satisfying.
4. In the midst of all the daily work, I managed to get my next poetry manuscript onto a single document in the betweeny moments. This week I will print it out, and I’ll start the revising and editing in the next raft of betweeny moments. A friend once told me the story of a wizard who never got wet in the rain because he just walked between the raindrops.  That’s going to be me and this manuscript, working between the raindrops of the daily.
5. Waking up the spine. Stretching. Breathing. The long, slow uncurling into the day’s work.

May we walk in Beauty!

St. John’s Eve

Tea
And here is the tea I made using the three roots I harvested, along with a few others I had in my cupboard, and some slices of ginger root as well.  Roots teas are simmered rather than steeped, and my kitchen smelled earthy and wholesome during the process.

I am going to slip out of poetry-writing mode for a little while now, as I begin the summer process of compiling and editing, sorting and weeding the writings that I have now.  Today is St. John’s Eve, the day before the feast day of St. John the Baptist.  Throughout time and cultural spaces, this celebration has changed and shifted, collected some of the meanings of the Solstice which has passed only days ago.

Midsummer marks the moment in the northern hemisphere when the sun begins to lose its power (though we don’t feel it for many months yet).  St. John’s Day carries with it the transformative weight of the symbolic gift of baptism that St. John created, so the dying light is also representative of our own dying lights and our own transformative resurrections throughout our lives.  The cycles continue.  Change is not only possible, not only inevitable, but welcome.

Paradoxically, while the Sun-king is overthrown as the days begin to shorten, his power continues strong, and flares up for the next season.  I think this is the time for me to take the words that I have written and subject them to a baptism, watch them transform.  I have read that in some celebrations of St. John’s Day, a snake is one of the primary symbols, the creature who sheds its skin, leaving its dead self behind, while the living part continues on, sleek and shining, transformed.  That is what I seek for my words in this season.  I will continue to write gratitude lists for daily practice, and occasional poems and ramblings as the Muse speaks.

I found this traditional St. John’s Day poem:
Green is gold
Fire is wet
Future’s told
Dragon’s met.

May you meet your dragon with courage and aplomb in this season as you step into your future.

Gratitude List:
1. Date night was wonderful last night.  Friends gave us a gift certificate to the Accomac.  I don’t know that I have ever sat down in a restaurant and said to myself that I could order whatever I wanted, with no limits, but this is precisely what we did last night.  Jon had a Wild Boar Bibimbap with kimchi for appetizer, and a Petit Mignon with herbed potatoes and scorched asparagus with preserved lemon.  I had Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with lotus pods (like Odysseus’s crew members I might have chosen to stay in that land of the lotus forever) and Blackened Swordfish with summer squash and herb sauce, along with the asparagus.  For dessert, he had an Accomac version of a hot fudge sundae and I had Bananas Foster (though they don’t flambee it tableside on the wooden porch).  We shared a cosmopolitan made with cranberry juice and jalapeno-infused vodka.  I think I will be infusing some jalapenos this summer–it seems like such a medicinal thing to use for a fancy drink, but I love that heat.
2. All the adults who care for and offer attention to my children.  I grew up in such a nest as well, with wise and friendly and funny adults who took time for me, and I am incredibly grateful for the adults who create the same protected space for my own children.  I am thinking right now of Sandra, in particular, who has been their summertime companion for years now.  Now when they are probably old enough to be required to entertain themselves on farm days, they cannot do without her, and this is as it should be.
3. Cool winds announcing rain.  The plink of raindrops on leaves.
4. Cycles and changes. Transformation.  Leaving the old skin behind to live in the new and tender and shining skin.
5. Layers of sound in the distance and nearby in the morning.  Birdsong mingled with the human sounds of the day’s beginning.

May we walk in Beauty!