What Is the Message?


The bluebird told me, and I told the wren.
The bluebird got it from someone on the ground,
a vole, perhaps, or field mouse,
who’d caught the gist from the catfish
who lives in a corner of the pond.
She’d heard it from the turtle
who was scratching a hole in the bank
where she could lay her clutch
of pearly eggs, and she said she had learned it
from the black snake looping its way
along a branch of locust, careful of the thorns.
Who knows where that old slitherer
came upon the information?  Perhaps
she heard it on the wind
as it whispered through the valley.

I regret I cannot tell you what it was–
it has gone on now, beyond me
and beyond this poem’s edges.
Ask wren, perhaps, but he has already
told the thing to bat, who’s given it
to a thoughtfully grazing groundhog
who keeps her springtime quarters
across the field there by the little oak,
right where a sprinkle of sunshine
sparkles in the dew most mornings.

Gratitude List:
1. Earth: The view from the top of the ridge of Mt. Pisgah, looking down to the Susquehanna River always lifts my spirits.  How did I get so lucky, to get such a view almost every day?
2. Air: Poetry and Stories spoken aloud.  Last night’s Spoken Word Play (the 14th) was profound and powerful.
3. Fire: Making fire with the boys yesterday.  Ellis finally drew flames from a pile of sycamore fluff, using the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass.  Joss wanted a fire, too, so we built two small fires on bricks on the driveway, and the boys spent hours feeding them with sticks (it cleaned up the yard, that’s certain).  Joss toasted a piece of bread, and they each roasted potatoes in the hot coals for our supper.  I recently read, “They won’t remember their best afternoon of television.”  That’s the truth.  But I think they’ll remember the day they made fire.
4. Water: The River.  Did I say the River?  I cross her twice every day.  She runs through our lives like a thread that weaves us together with the lives of those who live all along her shores, and with those who have ever lived here in this place where she runs.
5. Spirit: That which enlivens and animates us.  Love that connects and weaves us together, like the River.

May we walk in Beauty!

Where Such a River Runs

What a wonder of a tree.  I am so grateful to live here in this place where such trees stand sentinel, where such a River runs.

Gratitude List:
1. The woman who reads bedtime stories to her little dog, and it settles him in to sleep.
2. Stories of people who stood up for what they knew was right, no matter the personal cost.  These days, Sophie Scholl and Wangari Maathai are on my mind.
3. The work of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.   Currently, laureates Rigoberto Menchu and Jody Williams are in Guatemala, witnessing the Sepur Zarco trial to bring justice for Mayan women survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the Guatemalan military.
4. Blessings on the seeds!  Jon started planting in the greenhouse yesterday.  We will be selling some tomatoes and their friends throughout the mid-season, and doing a short late-season CSA.
5. Vocation

May we walk in Beauty!

Rain and River

Today was bookended by two powerful stories about language, how it differentiates, how it connects.  This morning in chapel a colleague of mine spoke thoughtfully and reflectively about her own life story, about the Tower of Babel–how we build complicated structures of our lives, placing our hopes and expectations into them, and how we can be blindsided when they crumble.  Her stories were affirming of those who struggle, acknowledging the struggle, and offering the hope of transformation, not only of the pain, but of inner prejudices and stereotypes.

On the other end of the day, in Faculty Meeting, was a presentation on resilience, particularly for women (and others) who have been marginalized and excluded from leadership roles in the church and its institutions.  The framing story was Pentecost, another tale of people of many languages trying to communicate.

Language helps us to classify and analyze and differentiate.  It’s an intellectual tool.  It also helps us to connect and weave together and integrate.  It’s a psychological/heart tool.

Gratitude List:
1. The scent of the honey locust tree blossoms wafting through the window just as I am falling asleep.  Blessings on the bees.
2. Yesterday, Jon spotted a box turtle on the driveway, wandering off into the yard.  I was sort of afraid that thee’d become too rare to spot anymore, but there is at least one living on Goldfinch Farm.
3. Rain, rain, rain.  Slow and deliberate and steady.  Free of high wind and hail and flooding.
4. Chasing rainbows.  After supper we drove down to the Rt. 30 bridge to see the new girders that were just put in place last night above the highway by Wrightsville.  We have some engineers in the family who just couldn’t wait to see them.  As we reached the crest of the hill, we saw the rainbow, looking like one foot was in the hollow and another was at Sam Lewis Park, but the nearer foot kept shifting as we neared the park.
5. We parked by the River at the John Wright restaurant boat launch, and Ellis and I walked down to the water, standing between the two bridges in the rain.  I found a shining 2015 penny there on the threshold between the land and the water.
6. Language, the gossamer thread of words that we send between us like trees, our conversation the webs cast by a spider.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hive Mind

Gratitude List:

1.  This little, spotted-winged moth who keeps fluttering in front of my eyes.  Now she is resting on the desk.  Her tiny wings are so dainty, and she has striped legs.  What a marvel for the morning, even before the sun is awake.  Just the moth and I, and the sleepy-voiced birds who are at this moment beginning to twitter and chat.
2.  The Hive Mind.  I asked friends on Facebook to help me with some poetry ideas for my students.  I now have a shiny stack of poems here to offer for the next few weeks.
3.  My students.  They are so big-hearted, so earnest, so tricksy, so open, so ready for the world.  I love them.
4.  The view of the River and valley from the crest of Mt. Pisgah in the mornings when I am going to work and the mists are still whispering through the low places.
5.  Yesterday–first day of school for my children–went fine, and none of my anxieties materialized.  The kindergartener is happy and chatty about his teacher and his classmates.  The third grader is intent and eager to learn.

May we walk in Beauty!

Who is Pushing them in?

My father, a physician, used to give talks about healthy diet and lifestyle.  One story that he used to tell has really stuck with me.

Once there was a little town located beside a wide and perilous river.  Occasionally townspeople would rush to the aid of someone who had fallen in upriver.  At great risk to their own lives, they would mobilize and save a hapless stranger from drowning.  As time went by, and more and more of these rescues began to occur, the little town developed an excellent rescue aid society.  They had their own boats and equipment.  They held fundraisers to support the River Rescue Society.  Volunteers trained long hours.

Over time, more and more people came floating by, in peril of drowning, and the town’s rescue crew grew and grew.  They began to post watchers on the shoreline because the numbers of people in need of rescue had begun to increase monumentally.  It was all the little town could do to keep up with the work.  But they were proud of their River Rescue Society.

One night, at a town meeting, the topic on the table for discussion was (once again) the need for more money to fund the Rescue Society.  They were now in need of full-time watchers on the shore and more money for training and research into the best techniques for safely pulling people out of the river.  Finally a quiet woman who had been knitting in the corner stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Perhaps we ought to send someone upriver to discover who is pushing all these people in?”

Yesterday, I found out that yet another friend of mine has cancer.  Leukemia.  Two friends of mine are walking with their mothers through the rocky terrain of breast cancer at the moment.  I find it alarming and disconcerting, the way we just accept that cancer is a way of life for us now.  I’m glad that we’re working so hard on the rescue side of this story.  I am so grateful for the treatment options for my friends, for my friends’ mothers, for your friends and family members.  It seems to me that in recent years, the number of people floating down this particular river has increased rather dramatically.  What are we going to do about figuring out who is pushing them in?

We can start, I think, by letting the dandelions grow.  Refusing to put chemicals on our lawns and gardens.  Cleaning our houses with soap and water and vinegar instead of chemicals.  We can pay attention to the food we put into our bodies, where it comes from, what practices were used to grow it.  We can stop drinking out of plastic containers.  These things will not ensure that we don’t fall in the river ourselves, but they might begin to slow down the numbers of people who do.  We need to take a look upriver, and find out who has been pushing all these people into the river.


Gratitude List:
1. A lovely day yesterday with my mother-in-law
2. Singing together–I love that my son joins in with the hymns in church
3. Community–how it falls together sometimes, how we can also work to build and maintain it intentionally
4. Anticipation (as edgy as it can make me, I love having possibilities to dream)
5. Language and the gifts it offers to our reasoning brains

May we walk in Beauty!

Yes, More Snow Geese

2014 February 088

Gratitude List:
1.  Like snowflakes falling across the field, they settled.  Like they were choreographed.  Snow geese.  It always reminds me of the chilly winter day about 20 years ago when Jon and I were hiking on a ridge at Middle Creek and we looked out over the valley and the lake and it was suddenly like being inside one of those Japanese paintings, where petals or snowflakes or geese are settling downward so gracefully.  Today was no less magical.
2.  Dinner with good friends.  I just don’t want to say goodbye.
3.  Quest for a stone.
4.  The River.  Always this River and this Bridge.
5.  Spikes of crocus in the flowerbed, and sunny aconite abloom.

May we walk in Beauty.

Gracious Goodness

Gratitude List:
1.  Strong boundaries
2.  Compassionate hearts
3.  The balance of boundaries and compassion
4.  Morning mist rising from my River.  When I say “my” River, I don’t mean it as mine alone.  Nor do I mean that it is my River exclusive of all other rivers.  But it can be my River and one of my rivers and still belong also to you and to all of us in the way that I can say you are my Friend, and yet you are not exclusively mine, nor are you my only friend, but that I love you in a particular way that is particular to our relationship.  My River.  The mist rises from it in the red morning light, and there is so much magic in it.  And also in you.
5.  And this: Goodness.  There is so much goodness in people, in strangers even.  And I know too many stories, especially in recent days, of people who fell to the lowest pitches of bullyhood and meanness and real evil when left to their own devices.  But this also is true, so gloriously true: that so many people are simply good, simply full of heart and tenderness and compassion.  That you do not have to bang on the doors or scratch very deeply at all before goodness oozes out all over, fresh and raw and sweet like honey.  I have seen it just today, how you can look into a stranger’s eyes and see it and know it is there, and follow it.   The guy who drives your tow truck may be a philosopher to rival the ancient mystics.  The woman who sells you groceries may have some rich wisdom about human nature that even the respected psychoanalysts have yet to figure.  So many wise ones to discover.  So many namaste moments to explore.

May we walk in Beauty.

River and Bridge


Faerie Tree

   Gratitude List:
   1.  Starting the morning with Hezza-by-the River.  Visitations by magical birds, playing
Chinese jumprope with Kira, faerie house, the golden road of sunrise unrolling a road to us,
sparkling ice crystals floating on ice islands down the River, ice skirts on the trees. . .
2.  Launching
3.  Oh, did I mention the bridge, Bridge, the bridge?
4.  Ending the day at Francie’s party with old friends and new, delicious flavors of pot luck,
felting with Janet, telling stories, singing with Viv on the spoons. . .
5.  Brigid’s Eve.  Imbolc.  Candlemas.  Groundhog Day.  One more step out of the darkness.

May we walk in Beauty.

Susquehanna Alchemy

I wrote this one about a year ago, perhaps two.  There is a moment in the morning when the sun suddenly hits the River with a flash of pure gold.

Susquehanna Alchemy
Fragments of mist
roll down the ridge above the River,
peeling the veil
from Pisgah’s grey shoulders.
Pockets of fog
cloak the farms
in the folds of the valley.
Susquehanna meanders,
a twisting ribbon of lead
in the dawn.
Above, a blue heron
plies a patient path
through cold currents
on its way to fishing.
Wren, sparrow and finch
send threads of brilliance
into the bowl of sky:
“Here. Here. Here. I am here.”
Their voices spiral upward.
A chilly breeze disturbs
the fleecy tail of a squirrel
who has paused
down a grey-brown
trunk of oak.
The wintry skeletons of maples
wear the green auras of early spring.
Sun touches the branches,
tempers them with silver
in the first light.
One day you will remember to look
and the fresh nests of birds
will be hidden
amid a riot of green.
You turn off the spine of the mountain.
You slide from the ridge of Mt. Pisgah,
winding your way along a streamlet
which hastens toward the river’s embrace.
A stone schoolhouse with boarded windows
sits amid a scholarship
of dried ivy vines
and last fall’s nettle stalks.
Among the wrinkled hollows and hills
you curve away from the river and back again.
Now you turn onto the river road.
Birdsong has lost the insistent shrill of dawn.
The last mist of morning
dissipates before you.
The sun slides a glance
off the surface of grey water,
and sparkles of gold appear.
Gold grows on the water,
transforming lead,
and in a moment
you will avert your eyes
from its blinding dazzle.

Gratitude List:
1.  Spring Tonic–the boys and I went wandering this morning, found several leaves of plantain, chickweed, nettles, henbit and ground ivy, stick-stalks of mint, sage and thyme.  We made a tea-tonic out of it all.
2.  Collaborative artwork with my children.  This photo is one Josiah and I made this morning.  It’s a cardinal family in a nest.  The red blobs above the nest are daytime fireworks, according to one of the artists:
2013 March 056

3.  Flaky biscuits and hot soup
4.  Being understood
5.  A new poet to learn: Ada Limon
May we walk in beauty.  So, so much beauty.