Yesterday was a long day, beginning with Faculty Meetings, continuing on to the last minute work sessions of the afternoon, and into an evening of New Student Orientation. The energy in the building last night was zizzly. The students who came into my room, both the student tour leaders and the new students, were sweetly earnest and polite. So many were clearly excited. I couldn’t help but ride onto that wave of lovely energy, despite the fact that I don’t quite feel ready.
I am ready, of course. My plans are in place–I just haven’t dithered over them as I often do. Today is a day for leaping into it, trusting the process, believing that my plans are sufficient to carry me. And I have the delightful energy of last night’s eager students to help me fly.
Gratitudes: This work, exhausting and overwhelming as it has often been. Spending time with colleagues and teenagers. Hopeful smiles. New things to learn together
May we do Justice, love Mercy, and walk Humbly! In Beauty!
“Every word you utter to another human being has an effect, but you don’t know it. If people began to understand that change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then, they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” – Howard Zinn
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” –Leonard Bernstein
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living In better conditions.” ~ Hafiz
“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.” ~ Christy Ann Martine
“Let us stand in the moment shoulder to shoulder like the deer on the verge we caught in our headlights, and listen for the distant unrolling of words.” –Beth Weaver-Kreider
So many random dream images from last night. They’re fragmented, but they all seem connected somehow.
Josiah and I buy sandwiches in some sort of sunny outdoor courtyard. People are setting up for some sort of event, so we put together a couple of chairs and sit down. One of the custodians from school makes a chair for himself and eats with us.
Jon and I are in a classroom. I think we’re back in elementary school. We’re ahead of the class, so we get to sit near the back and read the next material on our own. The class is finished with the work, but the teacher can’t find the test. I have little plastic animals set up all around my desk and on the windowsill behind me. I’m a little claustrophobic in the space, worried I’ll send my little animals tumbling if I move.
I’m in a Victorian sort of house with two other young women. It’s the next class (after the one in the previous paragraph), and we’re reading a Shakespeare play together. The one woman gets bored and wanders off. I am helping the other to read the parts. It sounds more like Jane Austen than Shakespeare. The other woman tires out, but we’ve been reading for half an hour, so we quit.
I am frantically calling people and trying to find out where my baby is. Someone took him and said they’d bring him right back, but I can’t get in touch with anyone.
I’m on a sort of courtroom, and the proceedings have been going on for hours. I’m bored. Suddenly I notice that the one lawyer is terribly sick. His eyes are red and puffy and he’s sneezing. No one else seems to notice, but I am frantic about finding my mask and putting it on. I move to a corner of the room near a window.
I find a telephone and try to remember how to dial my parents’ number to tell them about the missing baby. This never goes well in dreams, but this time when I pick up the old-fashioned receiver, my mother is right there, on the other end of the line! I think that perhaps everything is going to be okay.
I decide to rid my bike through the countryside to get home to my parents. This is common in dreams for me. I get to a place that is familiar to my dream-self, except that the corn has grown up on all the corners. Someone has placed blankets on the corn all around, as if they needed somewhere to hang a thousand blankets to dry. The road to the right should be the right way to go, but it seems to curve up ahead in a way that it isn’t supposed to. I ride several yards up toward the curve, but it actually turns back upon itself in a loop and ends up heading back the way I have come. Someone has planted their corn across the road! Just as I decide to ride back the way I have come, I wake up.
The odd thing in the waking up was that I thought I was hearing people speaking, so faintly it could have been my imagination (which it probably was). I thought maybe one of the kids was up really early, listening to a video somewhere in the house. But there’s no sign of anyone. Maybe it was the heat coming on that sounded in my dreambrain like people talking.
This set has a lot of little anxieties: the lost child, the inability to get to my parents, the unprepared teacher, the claustrophobia, the coronavirus, the confusing pathway home. So many of these are my dream-tropes for lostness and confusion. In each one, I am just going along, trying to muddle through each scene the best I can, which is what Jon and I are doing here, trying to make the best of this strange year. This will be a lovely introverts’ holiday, all of us together here, but we also need our people, and we can’t quite see how the road ahead will lead us to them. It seems to be recursive, bending back upon itself.
If there’s a message here, it’s to tend to my anxieties, to notice how the worry affects my choices.
Gratitude: 1. The messages of dreams 2. Quiet holidays 3. Loving hearts, even at a distance 4. There will be an end to this 5. All the people who are working to keep us safe, and to bring an end to this.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
Someday soon, we all will be together, if the Fates allow. . .”
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. . . .get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
“From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone. Let the king beware for your justice tears every tyrant from his throne. The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn; These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn. My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, For the dawn draws near, And the world is about to turn.” —Rory Cooney, from “Canticle of the Turning”
Making the House Ready for the Lord by Mary Oliver Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but still nothing is as shining as it should be for you. Under the sink, for example, is an uproar of mice–it is the season of their many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances–but it is the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say, as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through listen to this music I am the concert from the mouth of every creature singing with the myriad chorus” —Hafiz (Ladinsky)
“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” ―Mary Oliver
“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass
“I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple—or a green field—a place to enter, and in which to feel.” ―Mary Oliver
Gratitude List: 1. H, who sort of styles himself as a tough guy came to my room yesterday: “Miss! I thought of you! I was at the library and I saw a book by Maya Angelou. I checked it out. I haven’t started reading it yet, but I plan to this week. It’s full of poetry!” I’m getting chills just writing about it. I have missed this. 2. This web of community that is supporting and praying for teachers and students and schoolfolks and our families right now. I can almost see the golden threads in the air around me 3. My friends’ photos of groundhog babies and hummingbirds and owls and flowers and children. Such a joy to wake up to. 4. My 8th period class, who are so full of energy and presence and joy. I needed that shot in the arm at the end of the day yesterday. 5. The next step–all I have to do is to put one foot down, then the next, then the next. Breathe and step, breathe and step.
May we walk in Beauty!
“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” ―Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’” ―Kurt Vonnegut
“I know there are people who don’t read fiction at all, and I find it hard to understand how they can bear to be inside the same head all the time.” ―Diane Setterfield
“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” ―Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
“A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.” ―Diane Setterfield
“”What we need is a tough new kind of feminism with no illusions. Women do not change institutions simply by assimilating into them, only by consciously deciding to fight for change. We need a feminism that teaches a woman to say no — not just to the date rapist or overly insistent boyfriend but, when necessary, to the military or corporate hierarchy within which she finds herself. “In short, we need a kind of feminism that aims not just to assimilate into the institutions that men have created over the centuries, but to infiltrate and subvert them. “To cite an old, and far from naive, feminist saying: “If you think equality is the goal, your standards are too low.” It is not enough to be equal to men, when the men are acting like beasts. It is not enough to assimilate. We need to create a world worth assimilating into.” ―Barbara Ehrenreich
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” ―Thomas Merton
Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya (and now around the world), told a story about a hummingbird.
When the great forest was on fire, and all the animals were fleeing for their lives, the tiny Hummingbird zipped to the river, gathered a beakful of water, and zipped back to release the water onto the raging flames. Again and again, she carried her tiny beakfuls of water to try to put out the flames. The other animals noticed, and told her how futile her efforts were, but Hummingbird kept on and on, believing that it was her duty–no matter what–to do her one little thing.
Perhaps some of the other animals were inspired to get down to work, to do their own little thing, to pass on the hope of a thousand small actions. Perhaps the fire raged on despite their efforts. Perhaps they held it back. Perhaps they even put it out in the end.
During these days which, in the deepest of the dark insomniac nights, feel a little like the Beginning of the End of Things, Hummingbird has been sipping sweetness from the petunia basket outside my window, resting sometimes on the wire, nabbing gnats out of the air, hovering right at the window and peering in at me.
When I brought my first baby home from the hospital more than 14 years ago (a world ended and a world began with his birth), I settled into the recliner, exhausted and full of great satisfaction and wonder, to nurse the tiny person who had entered our world. Looking up from the babe, I saw Hummingbird hovering at the window for what seemed like ten seconds or more (an eternity of seconds), and she seemed to be watching the New Person, and marveling with me. In the succeeding years, I have marveled back at the wonder of her own young, at their tenacity and resilience, surviving lashing storms in their bottle-cap-sized nest. At their first fledgings. At the blur of their wings as they sip sweetness. At the self-contained unself-consciousness of their existence.
And now, in a time when I am bending all my mental and emotional and physical will toward resilience and tenacity, when I am terrified for my children, my students, my parents, my self, I have Hummingbird in my days, quietly doing her thing, going about her business, checking on me through the window.
She leaves me with questions. Perhaps you want to ponder them, too: * What, in these days of going back to school, will be your sips of sweetness to fuel you through the moments of high challenge and frustration and worry? * What, as Wangari Maathai asked, is your “one little thing”? What is that thing you will do to stem the tides of destruction, even when it seems like only a beakful of water? * What does resilience look like to you? (For me, I want to picture myself in my classroom BEING tenacious and resilient.) * In the story, Hummingbird simply did her work and did not ask for help. I am not Hummingbird, and she leaves me with that question, too: How will you remember to ask for help when you need it?
So. Whatever our tasks in this time of great trouble, whatever our capacities to meet the challenges before us, let us fly with strength and power, knowing that we are doing our part. Around us are so many who are joining in the work. Let us be resilient and vulnerable, earnest and tenacious, willing to ask for help when we need it, offering to give others a spell when they reach exhaustion.
As the Talmud says: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Gratitude List: 1. Messages from Hummingbird 2. Help from a friend when I didn’t even think to ask for help 3. Colleagues. I love my colleagues. 4. The custodial staff at my school. They make me feel safe. They care for the building and the spaces we inhabit. And, they’re so good-humored. 5. Air conditioning in my classroom. If, on top of everything else, I had to go into a 90-degree classroom to teach in my mask, I think I would have given up. I don’t think I could have mustered that much resilience. Air conditioning! I have air conditioning in my classroom!
May we all do our Little Thing, doing justice loving mercy, and walking humbly.
“By expanding our self-interest to include other beings in the body of Earth, the ecological self also widens our window on time. It enlarges our temporal context, freeing us from identifying our goals and rewards solely in terms of our present lifetime. The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first spinning and splitting of the stars.
“Thus the greening of the self helps us to re-inhabit time and own our story as life on Earth. We were present in the primal flaring forth, and in the rains that streamed down on this still-molten planet, and in the primordial seas. In our mother’s womb we remembered that journey wearing vestigial gills and tail and fins for hands. Beneath the outer layers of our neocortex and what we learned at school, that story is in us—the story of a deep kinship with all life, bringing strengths that we never imagined. When we claim this story as our innermost sense of who we are, a gladness comes that will help us survive.” —Joanna Macy
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” —St. Augustine (I’m not usually a great fan of St. A, but I find this really moving)
“Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” —Wendell Berry
“Literature irrigates the deserts that our lives have become.” —C.S. Lewis
“A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire.” —Fred Ross
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. —Wendell Berry
I am suffering from some serious internal whiplash these days.
Within the past week, I have experienced some incredibly healing times safely social distanced with some of my best beloveds, looking into twinkling eyes, hearing laughter and wisdom and articulate questions. I have had some deeply reviving time in nature despite the heat.
And at the same time, one thought can set my nerves jangling, twanging the wires of anxiety, clashing and clanging waves of worry. School.
While teaching students to read and write–to communicate, to learn to express emotion and articulate new ideas–is clearly my vocational mission, I have an underlying agenda which is just as important as English Language Arts: To create a safe space for young people to explore who they are and learn how to be comfortable and confident in the world. In the spring, when we were sent home to do our learning, we lost that safe space together. I lost the opportunity to make eye contact in the halls with someone who worried that nobody would ever notice them, lost the chance to listen to a student come into my room ranting about some injustice they wanted to remove from the world, lost the chance to watch laughter displace worry or sadness or fear, lost the chance to tell someone that they are stronger than they think.
And now, we’re planning to meet again in the fall, and I will get some of that back on a limited basis, but I don’t feel safe, for me or for them, for our families and beloveds. This virus has stripped us of our safety. I want so desperately to return to classes, but something in me feels like it isn’t yet time, like my Safe Place is still unsafe. I find myself hoping that the governor calls off school again, so we won’t have to navigate these waters, so I won’t have to add to my duties the policing of students’ spacing and masking in the halls, so I won’t have to worry that every sneeze or cough could result in someone’s grandmother fighting for her life, so every day won’t feel like a risk.
I know that we need to open schools again when it is safe to do so. I know that many students’ mental health depends upon it. But it feels like a dangerous experiment with our physical health, and the health of our families to do it now, when my state can’t seem to get its numbers under control, when adults who should know better are refusing to do the simple things to keep us all safe.
I breathe a lot to ground myself, during these days when I struggle through allergies to catch the deepest breaths and yawns. I go to my beloveds, online and in safe circles. I anchor myself in the green and the blue, in earth and air and water. I search for Beauty, and find my grateful center. It helps me a little, a least to ride the top of the anxiety waves. It’s harder than usual to hold onto a calm center, when grief and rage and worry knot themselves into a little ball inside my spirit.
Some Things to Be Grateful For: 1. The twinkling eyes of my beloveds 2. Blue and green, and golden sun 3. Birdfolk 4. Water 5. Laughter.
May we walk in Beauty!
“May hope rise within you. May peace wash over you.” —Charlene Costanzo
“You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories.” —Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson
“A poem is not a puzzle, even if it’s puzzling at first. Instead, it’s a highly selected parcel or capsule of language meant to burst into your psyche and change you in some way. Poetry is the life blood of our language, and it’s meant for everyone, not just academics or young people in school. Poetry is in a word: consciousness.” —Cathryn Hankla
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in. —Leonard Cohen
Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath: I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…
As long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.
Gratitude List: 1. Last Day of School, and I think I am going to get everything done on time. Saturday is graduation, so I will get to see and say goodbye to so many students I love, so that’s some closure, even if this online business feels like leaving an open wound. (Hmmm. That seems to decrease the import of the gratitude, doesn’t it? It’s just that the yuckiness of ending this way is the reality I cannot escape, so I am grateful for an alternative method of closure that’s more real while still being safe.) 2. The smells! Yesterday I was walking and suddenly I was hit by a wall of scent. I know that they’re terrible for the trees, but one of the climbing multiflora roses whacked me in the nose with its scent as I passed. So beautiful. And then when I got home, I spent some time communing with the opening peonies. Their scent reminds me of the grandmothers. 3. The Faerie Grove. That little grove of trees down by Skunk Hollow Lane where the wild rose is exploding into bloom is where I have seen the cedar waxwings twice. At the base of the trees is the rooty log of another tree that fell years ago, with plenty of nooks and crannies for a hundred apartments for small living things. I often see goldfinches congregating there. And the vultures tend to kettle over that field. 4. Rain. It feels just right to have rain on the last day of school. Change, movement, shift. 5. The coming days are full. There’s so much writing to do, knitting and bookmaking, reading (so MUCH to read!), house projects, walking, hanging out with Jon and the kids.
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for Today: (and Maya Angelou reaches through the veils of time to hold us in the way that only she could)
“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” —Sinclair Lewis
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” —attr. to Richard Feynman
”The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world—we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.” —Joanna Macy
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ―Maya Angelou
“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
You think you’ve got your hand on the valve, naming the emotions as they come, sorting and categorizing them, giving them their due. And then something comes along and stops up the pipe, impedes the flow, and all those wild emotions start to splutter and spray all over the place. Your carefully controlled flow becomes a torrent.
And then the pipes are cleared out, the weeping and raging is done for a time, and you’re. . .drained.
I had been holding it all so tearlessly, tending my emotional valves, calling it anxiety and simple sadness. And then the governor announced we wouldn’t be going back to school this year, and I was blindsided by the grief. When I started to let myself cry, I couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t stop pouring it out, couldn’t stop it gushing forth. I knew I had been experiencing sadness, but I had no idea how it would drown me when I started to give it voice. By day’s end, I felt like I’d experienced a death.
And that brings on the guilt. This is not a death. My losses are small. But this grief is not mine alone, and much of what I hold is grief for all the losses my students are experiencing, for those (mine and others all around the world) who will fall through the cracks, who will have to call on every ounce of their resilience to make it through, those who will be marked by this in lasting and terrible ways.
Were I not me, I would tell me that it’s okay to let yourself feel, to experience the emotions that come, to give voice, to weep, to rage, to break down. I would tell me not to be embarrassed or ashamed for the gushing of words and of pain. I would tell me that it’s necessary to open the valves so they don’t really explode. So I will call yesterday a necessary day, gather myself, tend to the work I left undone in the fog of grieving, mend and build and cleanse.
Today is for tending and mending, for quiet feeling.
Gratitude List: 1. These humming people. Jon goes about his work at home, humming and singing. Ellis scats along with the music in his headphones. Josiah bounces into a room humming (his two favorites seem to be the guitar riffs from “Seven Nation Army” and “Burn This Whole House Down”). 2. All the goldfinches! Fluttering through the milder winds of yesterday’s scouring, there must have been ten or twelve at the feeder at once, and so many bright ones! 3. I love the way the purple is wearing out of my hair–it’s fading to blue-grey on the ends where I’m greyest. Right now, I could mail order ALL the colors and experiment. It’s not like I’m going out in public any time soon. 4. This Ethiopian coffee a dear young person brought back from her trip home last Christmas. I have been allowed to go back to the classroom to get essential items that I had left behind, and last time I was there, I put this coffee in my box. It’s a connection to that part of my life, and it has a hint of cardamom which gives it mystery, and it tastes soooo delicious. 5. A four-day weekend. I didn’t get much of anything yesterday in the fog of sadness. Now I have catch-up time, and a chance to begin reconfiguring my long-term plans.
Walk in Beauty!
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” —Hafiz ***** “The problem is that you think you are separate from others.” —Richard Rohr ***** “You have to want a thing enough to reach out for it.” —Lailah Gifty Akita ***** “To wait within the moment for the coming dawn, To breathe the single breath of all that lives, To walk the web on which we all belong, To face the newborn day with love instead of fear. To listen for the whisper of the Spirit’s wind, To feel Creator’s heartbeat in the world around, To hear the grace of the Beloved in my neighbor’s voice, To embrace the sacred space between the past and change.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider ***** “Hope is a dimension of the soul. . .an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . .It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” —Vaclav Havel ***** “When time comes for us to again rejoin the infinite stream of water flowing to and from the great timeless ocean, our little droplet of soulful water will once again flow with the endless stream.” —William E. Marks ***** “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I suppose that technically our self-isolation begins today. No church tomorrow. No school for two weeks. Someone whose handle is @Sarkor posted a lovely social media thing yesterday, encouraging people to think of it not as “self-isolation” but as “Exile for the Good of the Realm.” I am taking that on with gusto, while also keeping an awareness that for many people this is an extremely difficult time.
Now is the time to keep our eyes on our neighbors, to check in with working people whose children must stay home, to check in with elders who will be even more isolated. Such care we must take in these days, such deliberation. We wash our hands and we meditate on hope and on goodness. We check in with those for whom this exile is costly, and we wash our hands again.
My up-the-road neighbor works in healthcare. Maybe I will wash my hands and bake her some break this week and leave it at her door. What about our neighbors whose livelihoods depend on People Showing Up? I was glad to hear one of the speakers in the PA governor’s address yesterday talk about buying gift cards from local small businesses to use when we’re back out in society. Also, we need to eat. We will wash our hands and get as much of our needs from Flinchbaugh’s and Sue’s, the local farmer’s market and small grocery, in the coming days, and to Jillybeans Sweet Shop, a marvelous little bakery in Wrightsville. And then we will wash our hands. I might wash my hands and go get a coffee at The Cycle Works’ coffee shop. I’ll maintain exile and precautions as much as possible, while doing my best to support those around me who depend on People Showing Up.
Also, let’s use this time to make our social media spaces places where people can feel connected and involved, places where we can help each other through our isolation and distance. Let’s share photos and poetry and stories. Let’s manage our anxiety so that we can express our worries without Feeding the Fears. That’s easier for me to say this morning than last night, when I was comparing my feelings of direness to the way I felt on 9/11. That’s a little how it felt: out-of-body unsettled. Let’s keep connecting to the deeper rivers of joy and satisfaction and memory and gratitude that carry us through difficult times, and let’s help each other find those rivers.
And here, on the farm, I will relish the introverted time, the time with the boys, the burgeoning spring, the cat cuddles, the sunrise and the birds calling. As someone who gets wobbly and rudderless without a schedule, the promise of daily school tasks in this work-at-home environment is a welcome diversion. Last night, we saw a daily schedule someone had made for student-people during the Exile. My younger son immediately constructed his own. I am going to make my own, looser, schedule, to include several hours of focused academic work, time exercising and being outside, time for art and making things, tidying time, limits for myself on screen time (while also giving myself a bigger breathing space for blogging/writing).
If you, too, are in Exile for the Good of the Realm, I wish you peace, joyful contemplation, productive work, and moments of satisfying connection with others through computer or phone. Let’s look out for each other. If it gets to be too much, reach out to someone. (If we’re not friends on Facebook, you can look me up there, and check in–I’ll give you a virtual high five and we can help each other to breathe through this.)
Gratitude List: 1. GREEN! The chickweed is up and vibrantly glowing with green life force. The highway medians and fields are shining with verdancy. 2. Blue: The speedwell is up, and parts of the yard are carpeted in blue. And the sky is the shade of a robin’s egg. 3. Coming to Terms. I acknowledge my anxiety. It sits there in the room like a large bear waiting to be acknowledged. (Welcome, Friend. Let’s get to know each other while we are here together in Exile.) If I ignore it, my imagination makes it so much bigger and scarier, but if we sit and have coffee together, we can figure each other out a little bit. This is a time to practice living with that particular friend and learning how to recognize her. 4. While I recognize that this time is really challenging for many people, the truth of the matter is that two weeks of being at home on the farm with the kids and the cats while having structured work to do each day is close to ideal for me. I am grateful. 5. Puzzles. Last weekend after we had brunch at Cafe 301 to celebrate Jon’s birthday, we went down the street to the Re-Uzit shop, where Jon bought several little puzzles. We’ll enjoy putting them together over the next couple of weeks.
May we walk in Beauty! Be safe. Be well. Keep connected.
Gratitude List: 1. How silence enters the body when you sit very still and watch it approach 2. Adaptability. The ability to adapt and change and transform. 3. That thing some cats do, where they roll over and pet their own faces. Sometimes a little face rub is just the thing to add a little stress reduction. 4. I stayed late at school after our staff development day on Monday to clean my unmanageable stacks. It’s much easier to actually work in my room now. 5. Today, all my classes are doing slightly longer personal introductions as community-building exercises. I love these moments of setting up the class connections. I need to remember how vital it is at the beginning of a semester to give a little serious time to helping them connect to each other and create a safe working group together.
May we walk in Beauty!
Quotations for the Day:
Oneiric: of or relating to dreams
“I am dogmatic in one way: I really do see no alternative than the cultivation of crazy loving humility—a visceral sense of ever-renewing wonder in the face of the Great Mystery.” —Rob Brezsny
“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” ―John Dewey
“I’ve learned for a long time that, to heal my wounds, I had to have the courage to look at them. — Paulo Coelho
“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. Here we are moving toward the exit of the 20th century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963)
“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not… the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than justice.” —Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963
“Beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.” —Oscar Wilde
“Regardless of our beliefs, we all suffer from ignorance, and we all have projected our losses and fears onto each other in one way or another. This is my dream of the beloved community: that we can at least find a way to talk to each other, to talk past the fear, the separation, and find another way to live.” —Sallie Jiko Tisdale, “Beloved Community”
“Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying.” —Terry Pratchett
Gratitude List: 1. Feeling my wings 2. Grades are ready to submit for Quarter 1. How have we gotten here already? 3. Breath. It’s always there when I need it, and more effective than sugar or coffee for a quick lift. 4. Keeping the resolve 5. The tunnel to Faerie up in the orchard, between the pear and cherry trees.
May we walk in Beauty! Breathe.
Sit in a quiet place, calm and undisturbed. Shift yourself into place. Let your upper body fidget a bit. Shrug and stretch, stretch your spine upwards, making little breathing spaces between all the bone. Sigh. Yawn. Sigh audibly. Settle your bones, making sure your ribcage is straight, your shoulders are restful, your hips are aligned.
Now begin to notice your breath as it enters and leaves the space of your body. Notice where your body rests on the chair, the floor, the earth. As you hold your awareness on your points of contact with earth, begin to draw the breath into your whole body. Breathe not only into your lungs, but into your stomach.
Feel the breath enliven your ribs and your gut. Breathe into the muscles and bones of your arms. Draw it down over your shoulders, swirling down your arms and down to your fingertips. As you breathe out, feel the breath flow out the tips of your fingers.
Draw breath down your spine. Let it flow out the base of your spine. Breathe it into your thighs and down your legs. Wiggle your toes and ankles as the breath fills your feet and trickles out the soles of your feet into the earth.
Breathe. And breathe. And breathe
Now shuffle your upper body once again, like a bird re-adjusting its feathers, and find your way to stillness, letting the breath continue to circulate through you.
Bring your attention to your back. Sit up a little straighter and pull your shoulders back. Can you sense your shoulder blades back there? These are your wingbuds. Breathe into them and out through them. Shift your shoulders as you need to, to maintain your awareness of them.
Feel or imagine them beginning to itch, to swell, to pulse with life. Feel the moment when a small, folded pair of wings bursts through the surface, like the tiny curl of a plant breaking through soil, or a small bird breaking out of an egg. As they grow larger with each breath, notice their color, their texture. Don’t rush to unfold them. Let them develop. Feel them in the space behind you. Roll your shoulders forward. Shrug. Give them space.
Then, when you are ready, on a breath, lift them upward and out. Feel their strength. Feel the way they lift you. Practice opening them and folding them. Notice how they become invisible when you fold them up, how you will be able to go about your normal life with your wings folded against your shoulders and back, and only those who Know will know.
Now when you need them, to give you strength, to help you move from one stuck place to a new open field—when you need to escape—when you need to see something from a distance, to change your perspective—now they will be there for you. All you have to do is to breathe into them, hear them rustle in the space behind you, stretch, and open.