A Small Bird in My Heart

Erebus loves to play Mousetrap. One of the blocks in the game says, “Big fat cat! Go back 3 spaces!” He loves that he has a specific role in the game. Also, he loves to knock the diver off the table.

Toko-pa Turner: In the Quechua tradition, when you feel grateful, you say, “There is a small bird in my heart.”

Gratitude List:
1. Looking forward to Good Work
2. Having time do focus inward and do inner work
3. A restful pace
4. I got a lovely view of a female Baltimore oriole yesterday–such a beautiful gentle orange, and that means that the lighter greenish-yellow oriole I have been seeing must have been a female orchard oriole.
5. Playing games with the family yesterday, even if it was Monopoly (which I really don’t like).

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly–in Beauty!


“Whenever there is a strong lock used there is something extremely precious hidden. The thicker the veil, the more valuable the jewel. A hoard of treasure is guarded by a large snake; do not dwell on the hideousness of the snake, contemplate the dazzling and the priceless things you’ll discover in the treasure.” —Rumi


“If your religion requires you to hate someone, you need a new religion.” ―Glennon Doyle


“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
―W. B. Yeats


“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
―Patrick Rothfuss


“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
―Sue Monk Kidd

An Abundance of Caution

There’s no shame in using an abundance of caution in times of pandemic. This is new to all of us. If you’ve been instructed to stay home, and if it is at all possible: Stay home. If you must go out, wash your hands, and wash your hands, and wash your hands again. Check on your neighbors and beloveds by phone or email or text. How can we help each other during these times?

Settle in. Get some exercise. Read. Paint. Play games and do puzzles. Write that book.

Read this poem by Lynn Ungar:
“Pandemic”


Gratitude List:
1. We saw both Golda and Gator in the pond today. She’s a golden koifish, the Queen of the Pondrealm. He is a Vietnamese Algae Eater, enormous and hard to spot. They often swim together. I didn’t see Gator last season. I figured he had died. But there he was today, looming in the depths.
2. Long walks. I am pushing my step-count up for the weeks that I am home, trying to use the time to get in shape.
3. Tree-shadows striping the fields and hills.
4. Good rest. I am sleeping better these days.
5. Poetry.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Color of My Joy

Perhaps I have said this before: I don’t get very sick very often. I often live with feeling tired and run-down, but I think my general immunity is pretty strong. I am not particularly worried about the virus for myself or my family. But my parents and many of my Beloveds are in the age range where the danger rises. And many of my students have immune issues of their own. I have committed myself to wash my hands as frequently as possible, to use hand sanitizer, to greet people without touching, to minimizing the possibilities that I could pass the virus on unawares. You too? Let’s do our part to stop the spread.

Gratitude List:
1. Parent Teacher Conferences. It breaks the rhythm, and enlivens the two days, and I love to talk to the parents of my kids about my kids. Over the years, I have had my share of really difficult and challenging conferences, but mostly it’s just a really nice chance for two groups of people to talk about someone they mutually love.
2. Because of conferences, I have a couple extra hours in my classroom today during which I will begin to tidy and organize for The Big Move (we’re moving out of our rooms at the end of the year for summertime renovations).
3. I’m feeling satisfied right now. It might be that deep river of joy, or it might be resting in the inevitability of seasons and changes and things staying the same, but it feels like satisfaction. Simple and comfortable satisfaction. Let’s call it the current color of my joy. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have flare-ups of rage and anxiety about politics and coronavirus and getting the work done. It’s something deeper than the flares, though.
4. I’ve gone back to fat in my morning coffee: butter, cream, and coconut oil. I think it revs me up a bit in the morning, and I feel more ready to get into the day, less in a fog. Plus, it tastes like a gourmet treat.
5. Health care workers. Place of honor on my gratitude list today. And also a plea for blessing their health as they stand on the front lines of a world crisis. A thousand blessings on all who are caring for those who are sick.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Until you can discover and delight in the souls of other things, even trees and animals, I doubt you can discover your own soul.” —Richard Rohr


“Magic is a relationship forged in the ordinary. It is our endurance through the unknown, unyielding times. It is faith in the as yet unmanifest. It is the invocation of the large, but while praising the small. Magic is the redoubling of our vow when disappointment befalls us, a shoulder to the wheel of our intent.” —Toko-pa Turner


Quotidian Mysteries:
“Change the burned-out lightbulb. Water the plants. Take your vitamins. Wash the dishes. Bow down to the Great Mystery. Take out the garbage.”
—Rob Brezsny


“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”
―Terry Pratchett


“A Word that Breathes Distinctly
Has not the Power to Die”
―Emily Dickinson


“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” —Neil DeGrasse Tyson


So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,

one of which was you.
―Mary Oliver

Shiny

Gratitude List:
1. The shiny children
2. I finally saw a tiny Priestess gathering pollen for her Lady. And now the crocus and windflowers and daffodils are opening. The tiny narcissus on the neighbors’ bank are open. Lots of pollen for the Little Sisters.
3. A restful weekend
4. Henry and his grandfather flying a kite. It went SO high!
5. The constant murmuring of the bluebirds in the little woods at my parents’ house. I have no doubt that they were telling each other stories about my dad.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Awake my dear, be kind to your sleeping heart; take it out into the vast fields of light and let it breathe.” —Háfiz


“For things to reveal themselves to us,
we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” —Thích Nhất Hạnh


“Only until all human beings begin to recognize themselves as human beings will prejudice be gone forever.” —Amelia Boynton, Civil Rights leader


“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” ―Rabindranath Tagore


“It is time for women to stop being politely angry.” ―Leymah Gbowee


“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ―Franz Kafka


“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ―Rachel Carson


“Don’t die ’til you’re dead.” —Mississippi John Hurt

Persist

Before I begin the rant, I want to make a point about Vice Presidents, in light of everything I am about to say. The choice of Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris as a running mate would go a long way toward attracting my vote, if there’s any choice left in this debacle of a primary campaign by the time it reaches Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Warren, too, of course, but the loss of Warren in the race was only the most recent blow in a line of killing the vast diversity of the overwhelming field of candidates. (I’ve never been sure what to do with Gabbard, and I’m not sure she knows herself.) (Also, I know that Sanders, as a Jewish man, still brings a little diversity–it’s not simply two old white men remaining. Just two old men.) (Ugh. And now I sound really ageist. In this context, the default seems to always be old white men, so that’s part of the story.)

I wrote this rant in pieces yesterday between naps as I was resting to fend off the worst edges of a bad cold. That bit was successful, at least, and I am feeling much better today.


Today, I am an enraged middle school girl. I am a third grader stamping her foot at the unfairness. I am a high school girl rolling her eyes at the absolutely stupidity of it, a college girl sighing yet again in defeat. All of these girls in me had their absolutely valid reasons for rage, and I cannot see over my own middle-aged rage to deal with the echoing memories of theirs. Mine. Ours. The layers.

I just have to say it. This has been a triggering experience for me. I find myself flashing back to younger versions of myself, living this fifty-two-year-old experience along with my college self, my high school self, my middle school and elementary school selves. I don’t remember the first time I noticed that a girl could be smart and articulate and shiny and dynamic, but she couldn’t beat out a goofy boy with a sense of entitlement. For anything. She couldn’t be heard above the clamor of an angry boy, no matter how lucid and smart her own ideas.

This is how it’s been my whole life: A brilliant girl tries for something—some honor, some leadership role, some place—and a goofy boy with a sense of kingly entitlement begins to talk about the inevitability of his own winning, and suddenly she has completely disappeared. No matter that she has a plan for EVERYTHING. No matter that she can talk her way around that boy ten times before he has put together a coherent sentence. No matter that she was born for this. And so he wins.

And today the goofy boy and the angry boy win again, beating out the brilliant girl who has been invisibilized and now erased.

I’m just tired.

I can live forward through this. I can “get on board.” Goddess knows, I am experienced at that part of the story. Still, I just get tired of hearing people talk about the inevitability of her disappearance from the story. And when the goofball wins, he gets the brilliant girl to assist him. Or the angry boy gets the nice girl to help him. Because they need her in order to truly succeed. But then everyone says, “Look! She’s got something anyway, doesn’t she? She should be happy now. Satisfied now. Everybody wins.” And she ends up doing his work for him or putting out the fires he starts. And he gets the credit. And the next time a girl is running against a boy, everyone says, “Now don’t be too hasty. She really can’t compete. If we want to keep the bullies at bay, we need a good strong boy to take the reins.”

I will vote for whichever of these boys takes the nomination, but I will do it with the rage of a middle school girl who has repeatedly seen her brilliant girlfriends completely marginalized and ignored for goofy and angry boys who have controlled the process for her whole life. I will be happy if she gets to be a good strong vice or cabinet something. Absolutely. But I will know, with the heart of my 12-year-old self, that she was always the best choice: Elizabeth, Kamala, Amy.


Gratitude List:
1. Feeling better. That first nap–three hours of serious sleep–felt like the most rejuvenating part of the day. Even the tossy-turny nature of last night’s sleep hasn’t thrown me back to the exhausted state of earlier in the week, and I feel like I can fight off this cold.
2. Friday. End of the week. Faculty Hymn Sing before school (every Friday–how lucky am I?), the International Women’s Day chapel planned by students. It should be a pleasant day.
3. Daffodils
4. The crocus are blooming, too, and in some strange and wonderful places, way out of the beds. Crocus always remind me to let myself leak outside the boundaries.
5. Nimbleness. How my child just leapt onto the bench to straighten the curtains. I think that one of my physical goals for the next part of this year will be to develop greater nimbleness. I think I have become more sedentary rather than less, and it is affecting my nimbleness.

May we walk in Beauty!

Show Day

I should be used to it by now: I wrangle ushers for all the shows at my school. I shouldn’t be internally startled that the show opens on Thursday, but somehow it always confuses my days for me. It feels like it should be a Friday. And tonight, I have to train my ushers to do both the usual jobs as well as the intermission and end-of-show jobs because I will be running up to the stage to sing in the pit. I’m excited to be in a show, even if I’m back in the shadows, simply boosting the sound.


Gratitude List:
1. The incredible talents of the young people in my school. They are pulling off a major production this weekend.
2. The organizers and directors and costumers and musicians and choreographers who coach and assist and counsel the students to create the show.
3. Rest, in the between spaces.
4. Red. I am wearing a red scarf today for energy.
5. This not-so-little kid beside me, doing a puzzle and whistling something classical. I think it’s from Grieg. I don’t think we play enough classical music here, but he seems to have picked up some motifs.

May we walk in Beauty!

Synchronicity and Spin

On a walk by the pond yesterday with my small boy, the phone slipped as I was taking a photo, and gave me a swirly image, so I replicated the slip, and found this.

Gratitude List:
1. Motivation. Wherever it comes from. I read a silly thing the other day that suggested that if you have trouble getting the motivation to exercise or remembering to take your vitamins, imagine that the health boost is magically transferred to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Somehow, at least for now, it’s been helping.
2. Learning to rest. When I had the backlog stacks of grading hanging over me, I didn’t always manage to get to chipping away at it every evening, but everything I did was colored by that low-grade panic: I SHOULD be doing that. Now that I am caught up and keeping up, I still find that panic rising, and now I can remind myself that everything is okay. I am caught up, and I am going to keep up with it this time. I have a better plan.
3. Little synchronicities
4. Little daily rituals
5. Nourishment, of all sorts

May we walk in Beauty!


“We love because it’s the only true adventure.” —Nikki Giovanni


“Everything we do is music.” —John Cage


Abba Poemon said, “Teach your mouth to say what is in your heart.”


“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ―Audre Lorde


“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
―Audre Lorde


“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” ―Audre Lorde


“We’re still dumb kids, just gray
and tame. If we had it to do again, we’d get it
right.”
―from Jack Ridl’s “The Reunion”


“For a lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.” ―Evelyn Underhill


“… a ditch somewhere – or a creek, meadow, woodlot, or marsh…. These are places of initiation, where the borders between ourselves and other creatures break down, where the earth gets under our nails and a sense of place gets under our skin.… Everybody has a ditch, or ought to. For only the ditches and the field, the woods, the ravines – can teach us to care enough for all the land.” —Robert Michael Pyle, Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland

Mental Health Break

Today, I am taking a day of work-rest. With stacks of grading that are somehow not grading themselves, I asked to take this day off so that I could catch up to myself. It will not be a day of rest, exactly, but it will be restful. It will be at my pace, though I need to keep it moving so I get as much work accomplished as possible.

And it will be silence. Hours of silence. Me and the cats and the papers. No one needing anything from me except for an occasional head-rub. I need a mini-vacation from being needed. And it’s strange, when my work is words, when the spoken word is my favorite art form to observe and to do, that the rest that I crave is a break from speech. I long for this coming day of silence.

I have begun looking at the mini-breaks that I take in my day, trying to mark and acknowledge them and live into them, so that I can feel them as balm and not simply as escape. In that thirty seconds after the room empties and I need to head off to chapel, can I take three intentional deep breaths? Instead of walking down the hall to lunch, might I detour outside for a moment and greet the Three Magnolia Trees in the corner behind the old classroom building? Can I take three minutes of my prep period to listen to a piece of music every day? Or open my journal and do a five-minute word-dump or fast-write?

What if we were to try to see our moments, or breaks in the day, as little vacations instead of as escapes? If we were to intentionally stop and take breaths, make art, feel silence, listen to our heartbeats, put our feet on earth, commune with plant-beings? I think this will be my plan for the shadow journey ahead.


Gratitude List:
1. The earnestness of Lancaster people to resist injustice and to create compassion. Last night I attended a public meeting of Wing, a local group begun to try to develop community responses to the crisis created by recent immigration policies. The meeting was held at my church, and we filled the parking lot and the edges of the parking lot and the grassy spaces along the lot, and people parked down the streets and walked to the church. There is good energy in this community to do something to help those who are suffering as a result of this country’s harsh immigration detention policies.
2. Women in Black. I am heartened by this group of women who are committed to standing in protest of violence. Last night we stood with a sign proclaiming our solidarity with Kurdish women who are suffering in the wake of Turkish incursions.
3. Poetry and story. The weaving of words.
4. Yesterday, after I asked for today off, I felt such a release of tension and pressure. I’m grateful for understanding administrators and colleagues. I will be a much better colleague and teacher myself for having this day to breathe and catch up.
5. Dawn. The coming of light into the day.

May we walk in Beauty!

Once Was a Woman

I’ve been doing a little series of short-form poems with the idea of a middle-aged woman at the center of a fairy tale. I have been playing with writing prose fairy tales on the subject, but short-form poetry works more easily into my schedule, and the condensed qualities of poetic forms lend themselves to the cryptic and mythic thinking of the fairy tale. In these beginning stages of perimenopause, I fine myself comparing notes with my younger self at menarche, noting the ways that the hormonal shifts affect me: energy pits, headaches, emotional bounces, self-doubt, bursts of confidence. I’ve done quite a lot of fairy tale analysis over the years, from feminist reinterpretations, to Jungian dream-style considerations, to uncovering layers that reveal ancient goddess stories. The constant through most of the stories is the girl, the girl, the girl. I’m walking out the other side of the woods now, or walking into a different woods altogether. I feel a need of re-imagining the girl-hero’s journey as she begins her croning time.


Gratitude List:
1. Fairy tales and what lies beneath them
2. Warm blankets
3. Stir fry on noodles, with hot sauce. The other night, we added brussel sprouts to the stir fry, and the boys just ate it up without comment or complaint. And they chose chopsticks over forks. For some reason, that made me especially happy.
4. People around the world who are standing up for human rights and for the planet.
5. Tiny little personal escapes throughout the busy moments of the day. Five minutes into a poem. Two minutes into a deep breath. A glance through a Luci Shaw or Jean Janzen book on the writing process, a quick dip into the world of a beautiful picture, a quick friendly chat with a colleague or student.

May we walk in Beauty!