Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Tabula Rasa, Sort of

I’m not quite sure what that white rectangle is down on the lower right, 
but it seems to be the blank page.

One thing I love about being part of The Academy (I like the pompous sound of that, more than “school system”) is that twice a year I get a fresh start. No matter how badly I feel about myself at the end of a semester, there’s always a fresh, uncharted page coming up, and I can write myself onto that page as solidly and competently as I possible. There’s a hopefulness, a sense of lightness and release. Maybe I can do this, after all. After the slog at the end of the semester, suddenly, there’s a burning fire of creative juices, and a little chorus of inner voices, saying, “You can do this thing!”

Some semesters are harder than others, and this past semester got caught up in the grind of my slip into the year’s shadow. It was harder this year than it has been for a long time. So there’s a soberness to the creative fires that are sparking for the new page before me. And I still have all that work to finish up from last semester. Still, I love the bright shine of that empty page ahead, stretching out before me like the fields of snow I woke up to this morning.


Gratitude List:
1. The beautiful singers at my school. They’re so brave, these young people who get up on stage to perform for their whole school. I am grateful for my colleagues in the music department who offer our kids such a powerful music education. I have tried not to push my own child into the music classes–I want him to be free to take whatever he wants, to explore all his interests–so I am really delighted that he is taking chorus and two different bands this semester.
2. This week’s birds: kestrel hovering, vultures everywhere (as usual), two bald eagles, blue heron, owls calling in the bosque, and crows and geese winging across the sunrise skies. My soul is stirring, too.
3. Tabula Rasa. The fresh page.
4. Snow.
5. The magic of air filling lungs. I listened to a Shakespeare scholar talk this week about how a line of iambic pentameter is just the right number of beats to fill the human lungs. I might have to start reading Shakespeare sonnets to wake up in the mornings.

May we walk in Beauty on the Fresh Page of Today.


“This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .

Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost


“I am always doing what I cannot do yet
in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney


“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman


“‎The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou


“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)


“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
Re-examine all you have been told
at school or church or in any book;
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
—Walt Whitman


“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.

“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich

Gratitudes, Musings

In the Dreamtime, Day 4

This is a digitally enhanced fragment of the painting that was on the wall of the restaurant at yesterday’s 
Christmas dinner. I think it looks like the Susquehanna River Bridge.

I don’t know if anxiety dreams should count in the collection of images I gather for the coming year. Last night’s dreams were all about being unprepared, about having to wing it in front of school administrators and donors. Considering how helpful and supportive my school’s administrators are, it’s clear that these dreams are about my anxieties about myself rather than about my school. I suppose it’s important not to ignore the deep truth of these dreams–that I do not feel adequate to the task of teaching. This is not a revelation. It’s part of my every day reality. Whenever someone depends on me, I feel the weight of not performing, not mastering, not being perfectly suited to the task. No matter how much daytime work I do to convince myself that I am being sufficient to the tasks of my life, my dreams always tell me how much more work I have to do. Sigh.

In last night’s dreams, I actually did fairly well teaching a chapter from a book I had never read while administrators (they were clearly from my dream-school, not recognizably from my real life school) looked on. Then I gave a group of very sleepy donors a run-down of the work we do in our Advisory Groups. It actually woke them up and got them participating and laughing, even though I diverged into some topics I really knew nothing about. So maybe I will look at those dreams and remind myself: I am sufficient to the tasks I must accomplish. But today, at least, will be another day of stepping away from the necessary tasks I must complete in order to be sufficiently prepared to return to school next week.


Gratitude List:
1. My Christmas robe. It’s soft and toasty warm–the perfect thing to cope with winter.
2. Family. I know not to take these people in my life for granted. Family can be our greatest joy or our most intimate agony. If the latter is your story, I wish for you the discovery of healthy, joyful family that is formed by bonds not of blood, but of circumstance and friendship.
3. Time out of time
4. Darkness and light
5. Music of resistance

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for the first day of Kwanzaa:
Joyful Kwanzaa to my friends who are celebrating the first fruits: Today is Umoja, or Unity. Reflect on ways in which we can bring unity in divided situations in the coming year.


“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” —Mary Oliver


“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” ―Susan Sontag


“People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.” —Wendell Berry


“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.” —Mary Oliver


“When you understand interconnectedness, it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying.”
—Robert A. F. Thurman


“It’s quiet now. So quiet that can almost hear other people’s dreams.” ―Gayle Forman


“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh

Gratitudes, Musings

Enter the Portal


Two crow feathers in one week. The world is full of messages, if we know how to look,
if we know how to read the text of the landscape.

Gratitude List:
1. Teaching the spectrum. I have begun teaching college-in-the-high-school courses this year, and I am loving the conversation, the determination, the bright-eyed desire to LEARN of these soon-to-fledge upperclassfolk. I also have much younger students just coming in as ninth graders, both the 101s, and the students coming into my Foundations class to get some more literacy skill-building to prepare them to succeed in high school. This latter group tends to be more shy, more uncertain about school, but they’re ready and shiny-eyed in their own way, and eager to learn. I saw stirrings of deep understanding in this group on Tuesday when I showed them Kendi Ibram’s speech about what it means to be an intellectual. My heart is full.
2. Monarchs. Every day on the drive to and from school, I can count 3-5, and sometimes more, flitting across the road or in the roadside wildflower buffet. Sun in their wings, dancing in the breezes, determined wings setting a course for the beach. My heart is full.
3. Joe the Duck and the Cat Clan. Now that school has started, we pick up ED every morning and drive down the road where Joe the Duck lives, and where a colony of half-feral cats lives. We pause at Joe’s personal paddle pool to say hello, and drive slowly through the territory of the cat colony. There are new kittens: black, ginger-and-white, and a greyish-tortoise-shell. My heart is full.
4. Learning New Messages. “I am an organized person.” Ellis and I are reminding each other of our Organized Person identities, and I’m at least beginning to override the old story I habitually told myself about being unable to remain organized. And I see him doing the same. My heart is full.
5. My children are excited about school. Ellis has been advocating for himself to take Spanish 2 when it looked like he wouldn’t be able to fit it into his schedule. In the end, he and three others got permission to take a computer course in the library during the time others are taking Spanish 1. He’s taking charge of his learning, and that makes me proud. Right now, he’s downstairs on a Friday night doing his Algebra homework. (I think he knows it’s Friday.) And Josiah had three extra days off this summer because of mold in the school district, and while that was exciting, he is chomping at the bit to get back to school. My heart is full.

May we walk in Beauty!


Friday’s Meditations:
“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
******
“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
*****
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ―Elie Wiesel
*****
“All forms of racism must be rejected directly and openly.” —bell hooks and Cornel West
*****
“Our mission was to make a beloved community in the world where everyone would be free to live well.” —bell hooks

Gratitudes, Musings

Small Paper Lanterns


“I went down in the river to pray. . .”

‘When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power.
We shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.’
―D.H.Lawrence
*
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
―Rabindranath Tagore
*
“Every day look at a beautiful picture, read a beautiful poem, listen to some beautiful music, and if possible, say some reasonable thing.”  ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
*
“Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?” ―Christine Valters Paintner
*
“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we shall harness for God energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world we will have discovered fire.” ―Teilhard de Chardin
*
“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
*
“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


Gratitude List:
1. This, from a song in church this morning: “Not by your finger, not by your anger, will our world order change in a day, but by your people, fearless and faithful, small paper lanterns lighting the way.” I am grateful for you and you and you, for being my small paper lanterns.
2. The young people of my church, who are small paper lanterns for me.
3. Community dinners, sitting out on the lawn, eating together, laughing, talking, remembering.
4. My tender-hearted children.
5. Anticipation of a new year.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Any Road

I think it is only a couple months that I have been putting these quotations on this blog, but I have noticed that I began the practice on FB about a year ago. When they reappear now, I re-use some of them, and I choose a few new ones from the day’s searches.
****
“Hold on to what is good, Even if it’s a handful of earth. Hold on to what you believe, Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself. Hold on to what you must do, Even if it’s a long way from here. Hold on to your life, Even if it’s easier to let go. Hold on to my hand, Even if I’ve gone away from you.”
–A Pueblo Indian Prayer
*
“All roads lead to my house,
Even ones I’ve never known.
And when I’m backing out my driveway,
I’m just taking the scenic route home.”
–Trout Fishing in America
*
‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.’ –Lewis Carroll
*
yellow walnut leaves
twist and twirl silently earthward
lavishly giving themselves to breeze, to breath
prodigal as love –Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
I wish for you,
when you lose your way,
a bright feather on your path.

I wish for you,
when your eyes are spangled with tears,
a shaft of shining light to prism you a rainbow.

I wish for you,
when the load is heavy,
a gentle wind to lift you up.

May your roads be green.
May your stars shine brightly in the night.
May the valley ahead be filled with small hearth fires
and the sound of singing. –Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
— Maya Angelou
*
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
— James Baldwin


Gratitude List:
1. Going back to school. Yesterday, when we were buying school supplies, the young man at the check-out told us he is a high school senior. Talking to him, I realized that I’d flipped the switch on summer–I want to be back in the presence of teenagers.
2. The boys are excited to go back to school, too.
3. Entering new rhythms
4. The sheer joy of playing fetch and mouse hockey with a madcap cat
5. The glorious weekend that stretches before us

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Walking Around Shining


Handsome.

I have an uneasy relationship with the first part of the Bible. I am not a friend of the deity who calls on a nation to enter a land and slaughter everyone, except for the virgins that the marauders want to take for themselves. The height of hypocrisy, in my opinion, is the Christians who pull violent quotes out of the Quran to prove that Islam is a religion of violence, when I could show you many verses in the Judeo-Christian book that show a Divine Force calling for genocide. Thank goodness, we have a little space for interpretation in our holy texts. Jewish people find the God of Love in their text, a God who cares for the people and the land. Christians find a God who sends God’s child in human form to teach the people to Love, Muslims find a prophet who tells them that doing good works is pleasing to Allah.

So here, in my list today, is a quotation from Deuteronomy, one of the books I tend to avoid, because it’s in some of those early books where we find an Accounting God, who keeps close record of every little infraction in order to prove you’re not worthy. And this is a total proof-text, I suppose, because it’s prophet speaking, and I am using it as a self-blessing.  The sentiment is beautiful, and a blessing to teachers who want their work to be about nurture and development and growth. We use texts for our own purposes, and find in them what we need. There’s danger in that, that we twist and manipulate words and ideas. Still, it’s often how we meet texts: we find that which applies to our own story, and say, “Yes! This!”


“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” —Deuteronomy 32:2
*
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” —Thomas Merton (Oh, but I am going to try, Thomas Merton. I am going to try.)
*
Deep breath.
Straighten the spine.
Scan the wide vista before you.
Feel the morning breeze
as the sun rises
over the far horizon.
Another deep breath.
Spread your wings.
Leap.
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”
—Alvin Toffler
*
“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again.
But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description.
You are It.”
—Rumi
*
“Though my soul may set in darkness
it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
—Attributed to Galileo
*
“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.” —from The Talmud
*
“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.”
—George Santayana


Gratitude List:
1. The day ahead
2. The day behind
3. This moment where I sit
4. Work that is Work
5. Dreams

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

The Witch’s Cottage

This weekend, we spent a lot of time with the Legos. I decided to tear down my apartment building and build a witch’s cottage. I looked at pictures of a Lego fairy tale cottage for ideas.
      
The front of the cottage, looking out toward the swamp, where the gang is birding and boating and enjoying the day. And the rear of the cottage, with the requisite spiderweb (it IS a witch’s cottage).

           
The sides. Yes, there’s a rat in the flower garden. The baby dragon, an owl, and Michael Birdboy live on the roof.
     
Jasmine and Robin have tea in the dining room and discuss their morning bird sightings. Raine and Marie and Midge warm up by the hearth

Gratitude List:
1. Kings: The Kingbird that flew beside us all the way past the cow meadow at the top of the hill, and the Kingfisher that swooped across the street and into the sycamore tree today.
2. Hannah’s quilt in front of the sanctuary these last few weeks. I love the way her grandmother used straight lines to suggest curves.
3. Tender-hearted people
4. Two more weeks
5. Three weeks until the beach. Five weeks until my Solitude Retreat. I am trying something different this year. Last year, I was serendipitously there at the same time as a friend, and we finished our time there with a long chat. This year we are intentionally going at the same time, and planning some processing time together.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Houseguest

mouse
(Free online photo, marked available for reuse. I ran it through a Dreamscope filter.)

We struggle every winter with the houseguests. Usually they take up residence in the bathroom drawers, stealing cotton balls and Q-tips, knocking over my little bottles of oil, and getting high off of loose cough drops and allergy meds. We’ve learned to keep such things in jars.

Sometimes they invade the kitchen, too, and that feels like more of a cause for concern, but it does force us to become more fastidious about keeping our countertops clean.

We’ve become familiar with several brands of no-kill traps. There was a time when I let the frustration of the constant escapes from the no-kill traps drive me to the snap traps, but that just always feels so terribly unbalanced, and then there was the incident a few years ago when I was carrying a dead mouse downstairs and one of the smallfolk saw me, burst into tears, and wailed, “You don’t have to KILL them!”

The Skunk Hollow mice are too smart for the no-kill traps, however. It’s been a long time since we’ve actually caught a mouse, although we diligently add new peanut butter every few days. It’s become less of a trapping program and more of a feeding program.

This morning as I was sitting in the dining room typing, a rustle on the kitchen counter caught my ear. I looked up in time to see a tiny four-footed person with a long tail whisking across the counter from behind the microwave and squeezing behind the cutting board propped up behind the sink. Moments later, nose and whiskers poked out the other side, and the Small One dashed toward the counter edge by the refrigerator.

Clamped tightly between her teeth, she held a red plastic bottle cap from a half-gallon of cider. At the edge of the sink, she became aware of me watching her, stopped, lifted her head, started to dash forward again, but tripped over her bottle-cap treasure and accidentally dropped it. She raced on to the counter-edge, sans prize. But seconds later, she re-appeared, ran back, picked up her bottle cap, and plunged over the edge between counter and fridge. I heard the bottle cap drop, then the scuttle of little mouse to the floor, and I was back to my quiet solitude again.

After that, how could I get out the snap traps again? She needed her bottle cap for something. Perhaps she’s completing a full set of dishes for her little mouse house. Perhaps I should start leaving bottle caps out for her on the counters. Still, I don’t really like the thought of a mouse on the counters, adorable as she is. We’ll have to upgrade our no-kill traps to something more successful, I suppose.

Gratitude List:
1. The wee four-foot folk
2. On the way to school today, a golden ray of rising sun shot out above the ridge from the direction of home. Yes.
3. How this ancient cat still plays, sometimes, like a kitten.
4. All my Beloveds. The hill, and the tree on the hill, and the wind in the tree on the hill. The mouse and the cat whose mousing days are done. The children who are preparing birthday celebrations for the man and the man whose birthday it is. And you. All my Beloveds.
5. The young woman who spoke her story today, to hundreds of her peers, who told of a good life in Syria, of the beautiful city of Aleppo that she loved, of her friends and her school, and her grandparents’ farm. Of how the bombs destroyed their home, how they fled on foot through the nights to Turkey where people were suspicious of them, assuming them to be allied with ISIS. Of coming to the US to make a new home. Of how the city and the school and some of the beloved friends are no more. May her words nurture seeds of compassion and action in the gathered community, that we may all seek to create safety for those who run from danger.  May her courage inspire us to acts of courage.

May we walk in Love.

Gratitudes

A Long Weekend

stones-or-eggs Eggs or stones?

Gratitude List:
1. Hooray! Pippi Prius can be fixed. It took a while to get the details worked out with the insurance company, and the damage was apparently almost equal to her value, but they’ve agreed to go ahead and do it.
2. My colleagues. Yesterday was an in-service day, and much as I always wish I could just have those days to decompress or catch up on work, I always come away feeling energized and inspired for the work ahead–also, grateful for the earnest, positive, playful energy of my colleagues.
3. Our school superintendent, Richard Thomas. Since he announced his coming retirement last winter, it’s been disconcerting to think of the future of the school without him. He has helped this school system to shape a vision of itself as a community, as a place where students and teachers and staff work to become our best selves, to create a place of shalom. Yesterday we had a chance to try to tell him a little bit about what he means to us.
4. The Search Committee, who had a huge task in a short time. They listened well, heard our concerns and our hopes for the future, and found someone who seems to have vision and determination and savvy enough to step into the superintendent’s role.  They have been careful to be confidential when confidentiality has been necessary, while staying as transparent as possible. Yesterday they carefully led us through their process of the past six months and shared the ways in which our new superintendent fits the values and ideals that we gave them.
5. Today. I can work all day to catch up. I didn’t get as much done last weekend as I wanted. I plan to go to school on Monday with no late grading hanging over my head.

Shalom.

Gratitudes

Let Wonder Be Your Guide

kindness rock

Gratitude List:
1. The Little Engine that Could: “I think I can!” Always the subject of the first chapel, since I was a sophomore at my school. This story has been a bridge across my own shift from student to teacher.
2. All those Bright and Shining faces yesterday. Lots of shyness and lots of nervous energy all ’round. So sweet.
3. My own 2nd and 6th graders both had marvelous first days as well.
4. Cool mornings. My brain gears up more quickly on cool mornings.
5. The fierce mothers. My friend Sarah has been putting this one on her list lately, and I copy her as an act of prayer. Mara and Lisa have been holding their daughters with such fiercely loving hearts in these days. I will stand in these circles of mothers and others as Katie recovers, and as we hold out every shred of certainty that Kyla’s new heart will come soon.

May we walk in Beauty!