Companions

Here is a poem from a couple years ago. Now, when we are unable to go visiting, when we’re living these quiet lives of quarantine (except for those who work essential jobs), let’s send out our awareness to each other–little birds, small clouds, whispering trees–to check in with each other. Which one of you is that mama bluebird who sits on the wire outside my window and peers in at me?

Present
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014

I have been thinking about you
more than you know, you know?

Here in the mornings when birdsong
enwraps me in a blanket
of messages in whistle and trill,
while the early morning chill
is dissipating as the sun
rises over the ridge,

or when I am out in the field,
or walking up our winding hill,
or pulling out the pans
to make tuna noodle casserole,

my heart will suddenly veer,
shift into a different focus,
and be where you are.

That little sparrow that hopped
along your windowsill
and peered inside
as if searching for someone.
That was my heart,
seeking you out.

The little white puff of cloud
alone in the blue sky
that seemed to follow you home.

The flash of sunlight
as you turned a corner.

I have wanted to give you words
to help you feel less alone.
Something that rhymes with hope,
or sounds like the whisper of the arms
of sturdy friends encircling you
through this slow and vicious storm.

Today, watch for sunlight on a bird’s wing,
look for the golden face of a dandelion in the grass,
the shadow on your kitchen table
as the day leans into afternoon.
Listen for the trill of sparrow
and the knock of a woodpecker
in the distance, from the park.

That vibrant net of color and sound
is woven by watchful hearts,
holding you.


Gratitude:
Yesterday’s car caravan from church to celebrate the graduating seniors in our congregation. What a delightful excursion! What a shining crew of young people, and it was good to see faces and chat at a distance with beloveds.

It’s harder to make lists that don’t all sound the same these days, because most days are pretty similar right now. School work. Birdsong. Breathing. Stretching. Color. Jon’s ever-steady presence. Josiah and Ellis. Three companionable cats. This isn’t a bad thing, and I am grateful for most of what my daily life brings me right now.

May we walk in Beauty!


“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”
—Mary Oliver


The Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.


“Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.” —Granny Weatherwax, Terry Pratchett


“You can‘t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it‘s just a cage.” —Granny Weatherwax, Terry Pratchett


“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” —Wendell Berry

Among Trees

Yesterday, in her online sermon, my pastor used the Psalm 23 text, and emphasized the sheltering aspects of the psalm. At one point, she was discussing the sheltering canopies of trees, and she intimately described this weeping beech tree who lives on the campus of the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA. We cannot travel there now to sit beneath her branches, but here is a photo. I will meditate within her shelter today, through the images I have of her, but I will also physically sit on my porch under the sheltering canopy of my sycamore friend.

Do you have a tree friend? If you can do so without breaking your rules of sheltering in place, why not find a tree today, someone whose bark you can feel beneath your hands, whose branches filter light and air above you, whose presence can hold you steady in these unsteady times.

Below is a paraphrase of Psalm 23 that another of our pastors read during our online service yesterday. I love it.


Psalm 23
Nan Merrill | March 2010 (Vol. XXIII, No. 3)

O my Beloved, you are my shepherd,
I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures for rest
and lead me beside still waters
renewing my spirit,
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow Love’s way.

Even though I walk through the
valley of the shadow and of death,
I am not afraid;
For You are ever with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they guide me,
they give me strength and comfort.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of all my fears;
you bless me with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will
follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the heart
of the Beloved
forever.

~ from Psalms for Praying


Gratitude List:
1. The weeping beech at Wernersville. How she is present even at a distance.
2. The sycamore who holds our home in the hollow beneath her sheltering arms.
3. That little oak up the hill, who was a tiny sapling mere years ago, and now rises twenty or thirty feet at the top of the bluff.
4. Jacarandas and frangipanis, baobabs and acacias, the trees of my childhood.
5. The trees that you are. Together, we are a massive forest of shelter and presence. Thank you for your steady breathing, your strong presence.

Take care of each other.


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic. . .the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint


“My invitation to each of you—student, faculty, community member—is to find a story of someone who has made a change, small or large, whether the consequence was their life or their comfort, and I want you to share that story with at least one other person, something that inspires you to step beyond the boundaries of your courage into a new world beyond the measure you ever thought you could make.” —Kevin Ressler, in 2017 memorial for M. J. Sharp


“What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss.” ―Miguel Ruiz


“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” ―Alice Hoffman


“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer

I Have a White Rose

Munich, 1942: The year before they were arrested and beheaded for writing and disseminating anti-Nazi pamphlets. Left to Right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst.

The called themselves The White Rose. A group of young people, propelled by their deep desire for justice, their faith, their profound belief in doing what it right. They began writing pamphlets, an underground newspaper of sorts, detailing the reasons for their resistance against Hitler and the Nazis, and leaving them around their university and town for people to find and read.

Three of them, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst, were arrested on February 18, 1943, and sent to the guillotine on February 22, less than a week later. They were all under the age of 25. At the trial before their execution, Sophie appeared with a broken leg, apparently sustained during torture. The defendants were not given a chance to speak, but Sophie called out: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!”

On the back of the indictment that pronounced her death sentence, Sophie wrote, “Freedom!”

Her last words, apparently recorded by a guard present at her execution, were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Read more about the story of the White Rose here.

This poem inspired the name of the White Rose (Die Weiße Rose):

I Have a White Rose to Tend (Verse XXXIX)
by José Martí

I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.

CULTIVO UNA ROSA BLANCA… (Verso XXXIX)

Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.


Gratitude List:
1. How my students are present for each other. Yesterday, two in particular ministered (I just can’t think of a word that says it more clearly) to another student who was in pain. Natural, appropriate, immediate responses. The kids are all right.
2. Black History Month Chapel at my school yesterday. These young folks are educators, incredible teachers, wise souls. I’m so proud to know them.
3. All the birds! Yesterday as I was walking out of school, a group of nuthatches were angrily scolding in the maple tree at the corner of the parking lot (nyerk! nyerk! nyerk!). I noticed that they were hollering at a robin. Looking closer, I saw a junco sitting on a branch next to the robin. Then a downy woodpecker began shimmying up the main branch, and in front of her, a bluebird was murmuring along with the nuthatch racket. All in one tree! That was incredibly amazing in itself, but. . .
4. . . .just at the moment, the two people on campus that I knew would appreciate such a sight happened to come along, from two different directions. One a teacher and one a student. So I could share the amazing sight immediately with people who also experienced the wonder.
5. Speaking of birds, there’s a glorious red-bellied woodpecker out there right now chipping away at the suet block.
6. The examples of so many people of courage: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, John Lewis (whose birthday was yesterday), you.

May we walk in Beauty! So much Beauty!

Into the Dark, December 4

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

May we walk in Beauty!

Holding Presence

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…”
—Leonard Cohen
***
“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

Embodiment

“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.
Amen.


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

May we walk in Beauty!

The Visible Soul of a Home


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.”
—Jean Cocteau
*
“A little drowsing cat is an image of perfect beatitude.”
—Jules Champfleury
*
“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”
—James Herriot
*
“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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Sing Me that Song

fern

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.”
3. Poetry
4. Presence
5. Planning

May we walk in Beauty!