Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
I am writing this the evening before, because my family has decided that tomorrow will be a screen-free (other than work/school) day. We have a tendency to get caught up in our various internet pursuits and spend less time with each other, and we’ve developed patterns of crankiness after long internet sessions. We’re breaking the pattern tomorrow, shifting the energy, offering ourselves open spaces in our mornings and afternoons together.
Our hope is that this gives us more moments to be present with each other. So that’s my word for December 4: Presence. It’s an Advent word, after all–in the Christian tradition, we wait for the coming of God-with-us, Emmanuel.
In what ways can I be more present with family, my students, myownself?
Gratitude List: 1. Warm lap-cat on a chilly day. Cats draped along my legs and lap. 2. How coffee takes the edge off. (I know. It’s a drug. And I actually had someone confront me once about being thankful for a mind-altering substance like coffee. Still, it’s what I am grateful for.) 3. Presence. Being here in this moment. And this one. And this one. 4. Catching up 5. Community
Gratitude List: 1. Did you see that sunrise this morning? The magenta clouds shot through with a golden ray?
2. An extra nap for the bad cold. Complete with cats.
3. The humidifier–may it last the whole winter.
4. Warm blankets
5. All the colors that we painted these rooms. Colors feed me through winter.
May we walk in Beauty!
Quotations for Today:
“You loose your grip
and then you slip
into the Masterpiece…”
“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality-not as we expect it to be but as it is-is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” ―Frederick Buechner
Toko-pa, quoting and reflecting on Marion Woodman:
“Marion Woodman—Jungian, author, teacher, crone—taught me that what is most missing from our culture is the Mature Feminine. Mature Feminine, she says, is the ability to ‘hold presence.’ It is not divided attention, like the sort you feel when someone is psychically composing their grocery instead of listening to you. “I don’t have time for that,” she says. Holding Presence “is to love the other exactly as they are, not as you want them to be.” It is love without judging, without getting the other tangled up in your own unconscious, unlived life. “Holding presence is to create room so the other can grow into their destiny. They can feel that.””
This one is not just for mothers. I know people, men and women, single and married, parent and nonparent, who see all children as their own. I know that parenting has heightened this for me personally:
“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” —Charlotte Gray
“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” –Audre Lorde
“This is the true meaning of embodiment: To show up with wholehearted presence for this moving encounter with life. Instead of clambering towards ever-furthering horizons or withdrawing into distractions and addictions, showing up for those absences in our lives. Welcoming our fears and discomforts as necessary conditions to creativity. Loving the gestation as much as the harvest, even while remembering the barren season that must follow. Aspiring, in all things, to be human.” –Toko-pa Turner
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
“Human beings lose their logic in their vindictiveness.”
–Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born,
and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere–on water and land.” –Walt Whitman
A Prayer for the World
Rabbi Harold Kushner
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Gratitude List: 1. Crows in the mist
2. Robins making a deafening ruckus in the hollow at dawn
3. A murmuration of starlings
4. The tender, open, compassionate hearts of teenagers. Every day, there’s something that melts my crusty heart a little.
5. I love Jon’s new job
We are saying goodbye to Fred today. His confusion about his sudden blindness and the constant pain despite medication have made his life one of endurance rather than contentment. Fred is a mensch of a cat. He’s been quick to express his needs and wants, quick to respond to those of others. He took his work seriously, whether it was upping the harvest of mice and voles when we brought babies home from the hospital, or patrolling the perimeter of the farm for irregularities, or welcoming visitors to the farm, or monitoring the feasts at break time. He gave the best kitty hugs and head boops. We will miss him terribly, at the same time that we are feeling relieved that he will no longer suffer.
“First things first, but not necessarily in that order.” —Doctor Who
“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” —Tay Hohoff
“I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul.”
“A little drowsing cat is an image of perfect beatitude.”
“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.” —Albert Schweitzer
“Be wary of any influence in your environment which dismisses or judges your enthusiasm. Without it, we would become anaesthetised to life itself. Anyone who demands this smallness of you is in danger themselves and may have contracted this insidious, deadening monotone. Enthusiasm is the vitality of spirit expressing itself through us and its grace in our voice should be welcomed and cherished. The word originates in the early 17th century, from the Greek enthousiasmos meaning ‘possessed by god.’ Now, more than ever, the world needs your enlargement, your weirdness, your fiery crescendos of rebellion from boring.”
—Dreamwork with Toko-pa
Gratitude List: 1. Spontaneous moments of joy: Little voice in the next aisle over in the grocery store: “HAAAAA-we-yu-ya! “HAAAAA-we-yu-ya!” A little bit of Handel, and pitch perfect.
2. Purring, the sound of contentment
3. The way cats teach us Presence
4. Our family in Campbelltown have been visited by a white hummingbird–magic is all around us, if we would care to look.
5. Clearing spaces. We gave away the piano yesterday, and we’re setting up a bedroom for Ellis in the “little room” upstairs. Now other things can shift, and other kids of clearing will follow.
Last year, I began my April 2 Poem with “Sing me that Song.”
I’ll try it again this year:
Sing me that song,
like Phoebe in spring,
where you sing your own name
over and over,
reminding the world
how you belong here,
naming this spot as your true home.
Sing it fiercely into the rain.
Sing your true name.
Sing it like a whisper in the dawn,
then loud and louder,
feeling it enter the the deepest corners
inside the hidden chambers of your heart,
inside the locked rooms
where you waited so fearfully
for hope to enter.
Gratitude List: 1. Phoebe in the hollow
2. I’m just going to repeat this one from two years ago: “Robin singing the sun to birth and singing it to sleep again [in the] evening. A day bookmarked by robinsong cannot go far awry.”