I’m not sure where this one came from. My brain is a little fried from a day of really hard work. Sometimes that’s when it’s easier to unhitch the brain’s horse and let it run free to do what it wants.
Gratitude List: 1. Finishing a long, hard procrastinated project, almost on time. 2. A day of being silent and alone 3. Lemon poppyseed muffin 4. An altar with a pathway of shining stones 5. The prospect of sleep: soon, soon, soon May we walk in Beauty!
“People have said to me, ‘You’re so courageous. Aren’t you ever afraid?’ I laugh because it’s not possible to be courageous if you’re not afraid. Courage doesn’t happen without fear; it happens in spite of fear. The word courage derives from ‘coeur’, the French for ‘heart.’ True courage happens only when we face our fear and choose to act anyway, out of love.” —Julia Butterfly Hill
“Where is our comfort but in the free, uninvolved, finally mysterious beauty and grace of this world that we did not make, that has no price? Where is our sanity but there? Where is our pleasure but in working and resting kindly in the presence of this world?” —Wendell Berry
“Every country should have a Ministry of Peace” —Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire
“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.” —Tom Robbins
“I never want to lose the story-loving child in me. A story that meant one thing to me when I was forty may mean something quite different to me today.” —Madeleine L’Engle
“Imagine the tiny percentage of your body that is directly involved in reading this sentence. Now, consider the oversized percentage this conscious part of you occupies in your concept of yourself. So? What does this discrepancy mean? Is our “who” different from our “what”?” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist
“Where you ache to be recognized, allow yourself to be seen.” —Toko-pa Turner
I was wrong yesterday. My friend had been telling me about an article on dreaming in different languages, and then he went on to chat about a book of Rilke poetry he bought. When he suggested the six phrases for us to use as the basis for some poeming, I didn’t realize they were lines from Rilke, which somehow increases the fun of this project. The first two lines of today’s poems are Rilke.
Gratitude List: 1. The goldfinches have gone golden. 2. This year is this year and not last year. 3. The pear trees in the orchard are blooming. 4. Apple Crisp, fresh from the oven. 5. Milkweed and dogbane cordage. May we walk in Beauty!
“Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. (Hope) is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.” —Rebecca Solnit
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” —Maya Angelou
“God invites everyone to the House of Peace.” —The Holy Quran
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell
“What a pity that so hard on the heels of Christ came the Christians.” —Annie Dillard
“The arc of history is long, and what we’re here to do is make a mark. . . . You do the work because you’re slowly moving the needle. There are times in history when we feel like we’re going backward, but that’s part of the growth.” —Barack Obama
“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” —Rumi
“You are a co-creator of love in this world.” —Richard Rohr
“Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing out a space where new stories can root; in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves.” —Jeanette Winterson
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn Is just to love and be loved in return.” —Eden Ahbez
“Remember, the ugly, old woman/witch is the invention of dominant cultures. The beauty of crones is legendary: old women are satin-skinned, softly wrinkled, silver-haired, and awe-inspiring in their truth and dignity.” —Susun Weed
This week I have been the worship leader for my church’s Sunday service, my first time to prepare the videos to open the service, to pray, to bless us at the end, and to ask others to do children’s time and scripture. It felt daunting, and it highlighted how much I miss being part of that weekly gathering. And so last night’s dream:
In the dream, I am planning worship, asking people to make videos for the Sunday morning service. The pastor suggests that we really need a saxophone solo, so I go searching for people I know who could record a saxophone solo, but suddenly it’s no longer quarantine, and we’re holding church in a parking lot in a city (on folding chairs) and it’s about to begin and I have not yet found someone to do the saxophone solo when an old friend comes walking by and I ask him, and he starts to play “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” and everyone gets up and follows him in a dancing march around and around the parking lot, and everyone is laughing and dancing and celebrating, and no one is afraid to bump into anyone else or to touch.
And now I am crying.
The other day, Jon and I were talking about what it will mean when parts of Pennsylvania go from red to yellow, and I realized that for me, it won’t necessarily be any different. Really, in life Before, I mostly went to four places: church, school, and to visit our parents. When we go to yellow, we still won’t go to church, we definitely won’t go to school, and I don’t think we’ll be able to visit retirement communities yet. It feels pretty bleak.
I wrote that thing the other day about the After, how the time when this is over won’t be a “getting back to normal.” I like that awareness that people are putting into the world–this is a time for change and transformation, to envision what the new way will be when we are again out in the world. Still, for me, I long to get back to a normal where we can brush past each other in public, link arms, hug, dance, celebrate together without fear, when we can go marching in, joyfully, to the public places we share together.
Gratitude List: 1. Sometimes something that appears and creates stress is also really exciting. I have a week to get my whole classroom cleared (that means my thousand and one books packed, too) because it looks like construction on our air conditioning will begin in June! 2. Anticipating Oriole 3. Quiet mornings with my boy before anyone else is up 4. Good stretching 5. Dreaming well
May we walk in Beauty!
“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.” —Nina Simone
“A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” —Rachel Naomi Remen
“The secret to waking up is unscrambling the word earth.” —anonymous
“I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.” ―Rachel Held Evans
“What a comfort to know that God is a poet.” ―Rachel Held Evans
“Geometry is the archetype of the beauty of the world.” —Johannes Kepler
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” —John Keating (Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society)
“You are the Ground of all being the Well-Spring of time Womb of the earth the Seed-Force of stars. And so at the opening of this day we wait not for blessings from afar but for You the very Soil of our soul the early Freshness of morning the first Breath of day.” —John Philip Newell
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” ―J.K. Rowling
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
This is going to sound whinier than I mean it to be. It’s just a reality. Kind of funny, actually, when I’ve worked my way to the other side of it.
In summer, troubles just roll off your back. In winter, they stick together and compound each other, like those little fuzzy seed balls that stick to your socks when you walk in the fields. They catch hold of each other and suddenly they’re one big mass, and you can’t really separate them from each other. For example, the car was hit by a deer, and the light switch in the bedroom broke, and the Prius tail light is out, and the kitchen light and the bathroom lights burned out on the same day, and when we did get a new car, the front light was out, and then the water pump starting gasping like it was going out of business. In summer, you fix things and then you move on. In winter, you feel the weight of cosmic fate pounding you down with each little thing. And so many of these tiny things had to do with lost light, it began to feel like someone was making fun of me: “You feeling a little anxious about the shorter days? The loss of light is bothering you? Let’s try this.”
Ugh. Tiny, minor details. Nothing to get fussed about. You fix stuff and you move on. In summer. In winter, you gripe about it, and you feel burdened, and then you fix stuff and move on.
Gratitude List: 1. There is a frog who lives in the springhouse. This knowledge makes me happy. 2. Sun streaming in to the hollow 3. The sleeping silence of a Saturday morning house 4. The Givers. Lancaster raised $10.5 million for charitable causes yesterday. I kept the ExtraGive main page and the page for our school on the board all day yesterday, and kept refreshing it for my students to see. Thank you, Lancaster, for giving your time and money and hearts to help build up our community. 5. The vibrant browns of late autumn. The salmon-beige beech tree leaves in the understory of the woods along Ducktown Road. The leathery burnt-orange of this oak up the hill. The auburn oak across from Flinchbaugh’s.
I had all sorts of ideas about items for today’s list, but here in the foggy-brained morning, they’ve fled. It’s nice to know that I have been actively feeling gratitude, even if I can’t remember the exact moments.
Gratitude List: 1. At first, it felt like “Oh no! This again?!” when an internal itch came back. I thought I had resolved that, packed it up, and put it to rest, for Pete’s sake. But Pete or someone else had other ideas, and I’ve reopened the case on it. When conflicts and obsessions and simmering rages that I thought I had finished with come roaring back to life, it means they’re not really done yet. They’ve got more work to do in the psyche. So instead of panicking and getting back into the frenzied cycle, I can tell myself that time and distance enable me to be more circumspect now, to find the deeper themes and meanings, and to turn myself even more directly toward grace, to spiral more toward my center. So, I will be grateful for the next level of messages and learning that come. 2. LeVar Burton’s podcast. Short stories! Read by one of my favorite voices of all time. 3. Aging. Changing. Entering the doorway of the Crone’s Hut. It’s time to take up the threads of the fairy tales again. 4. Oak trees. Really, these are the people you need to be noticing right now, how they hold their leaves and spin them into leather of rich colors. Not the shiny brights like the maples, but equally sumptuous and eye-catching, if you look. 5. Morning quiet. Always, the morning quiet. My brain is alone for a little while every day in this morning quiet.
Gratitude List: 1. How the smell of coffee begins to revive me, even before the first sip. 2. Featherbed weather. 3. Thursdays that are Fridays. 4. Red and orange trees, and how they focus the blue behind them. 5. Morning silence. Lately, the noise of the day occasionally feels like an assault. I need to store up morning silence like cool water and sip from the memory well of it all through the day.
Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
Making space. Those will be my words for today. Clearing kitchen and floors, getting ready for the Yule tree. If nothing else, getting a Christmas tree into the house each year demands that we rethink our daily clutter and find a way to shift the mess. Last weekend, Josiah decided that since we weren’t yet getting a tree, he would decorate anyway, and decorate he did, forcing us to begin the process of clearing and shifting. He set up the mantelpiece to look like a city street, with the carolers and the nutcracker, the Bavarian gnome from his uncle, and his grandmother’s wooden Santa.
Here is a poem by spiritual director Martha Postlewaite about making space:
Clearing by Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worth of rescue.
“You can’t oppress someone who is not afraid anymore.” —Cesar Chavez
“Among wolves, no matter how sick, no matter how cornered, no matter how alone, afraid or weakened, the wolf will continue. She will lope, even with a broken leg. She will strenuously outwait, outwit, outrun and outlast whatever is bedeviling her. She will put her all in taking breath after breath. The hallmark of the wild nature is that it goes on.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“If a child is to keep alive [her] inborn sense of wonder, [she] needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with [her] the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” –Rachel Carson
“When women were birds, we knew otherwise. We knew our greatest freedom was in taking flight at night, when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of Stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” —Leonard Bernstein
Here’s something that happened in the Writers’ Retreat yesterday. Mostly unpolished, it might end up being only the final stanza:
If you take a vow of revenge, revenge will find you,
for vengeance works by exponential law,
building upon itself inexorably
until you no longer understand
the meanings of the words balance, justice, restoration.
If you take a vow of poverty,
you may receive a mirror of what you offer
and what appears to be a meager bowl
and a wretched hovel will hold beauty
beyond the richest treasure
within your gilded spirit.
If you take a vow of silence,
you will find the words in every cloud and star.
For silence works by laws of paradox.
The bell chimes clearest in the quiet
and the space of no-words offers space
for the single word―
the sound borne on each passing breeze
too gently to hear when the heart speak in sermons
but always at hand when the soul settles inward― Beloved.
Gratitude List: 1. The strong message, repeated by wise people two days in a row: Take care of yourself. I’m listening.
2. Painting (I’ve been telling myself that I have been granted an Artist’s Residency for the next month. It’s the Goldfinch Farm Artist’s Residency, and I have granted the prestigious honor to myownself. The requirement is to make ten paintings between now and the beginning of school.)
3. Shifting the daily practice.
5. Another strong message, two days in a row, by the same wise people: Prayer/Magic/Energy is also part of saving the world. The story of the Tibetan monks is that when they pick up the hoe for garden work or the knife for cutting vegetables for soup, they do it with the prayer that this act will be part of what brings all Beings awake, what makes all suffering to cease.
“We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
“There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.”
“Do anything, but let it produce joy.” ―Walt Whitman
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” ―Madeleine L’Engle
“I believe that if I can sit out there long enough those crows, the trees and the wind can teach me something about how to be a better human being. I don’t call that romanticism, I call that Indigenous Realism.” ―Dr. Daniel Wildcat
“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” ―Carlos Santana
“Take for joy from the palms of my hands
fragments of honey and sunlight,
as the bees of Persephone commanded us.”
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
―Martin Buber, “The Legend of the Baal-Shem”
“It’s no wonder we don’t defend the land where we live. We don’t live here. We live in television programs and movies and books and with celebrities and in heaven and by rules and laws and abstractions created by people far away and we live anywhere and everywhere except in our particular bodies on this particular land at this particular moment in these particular circumstances.” ―Derrick Jensen
Gratitude List: 1. I met a long black snake in the grass on the way up the hill to water at the greenhouse today. I do have a startle reflex every time I see a snake, but I love them so much, and this one was glossy and watchful. I always feel like it’s a blessing to see them.
2. The excitement of kids getting ready for a yard sale
3. Corn on the cob
4. The people who know what is right and just and good, and then they do that, even at cost to themselves.
5. Quiet time
May we walk in Beauty!
“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” —Aldo Leopold
“Recognize the invisible hands that guide you, the breath that breathes you, the walls and roof that keep cold from chilling you, the water that magically springs from your taps, the long line of ancestors whose every step made your incarnation possible. You belong to these holy helpers. You have undisputed membership. In your recognition of this wealth, your own life cannot help but become an offering back to that which feeds you.” —Toko-pa Turner
“For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning.
“You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, but it is still not enough to be able to think of all that.
“You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open windows and the scattered noises.
And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“. . .The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth…” —Carl Jung
“The very form of our thinking has to be re-formed from “thinking about” to “thinking within,” and Silence is the teacher. . . . Silence is intelligence. . . . As we enter into Silence, we enter into Wisdom. We do not become wise but enter into the objective Wisdom of world processes. Judgment, as the primary mode of our thinking, ceases or is taken up only when needed for our practical life. As we enter into the Wisdom of Silence, we allow ourselves to be taught by the things of the world.” —Robert Sardello
“We are not alone. The world gets so heavy sometimes, but it’s at the heavy times that you can look around you and see all the people who are stepping out to the front to get the Work done. Sure, there’s a lot of fluffy and ranty clamor that distracts, but keep your eyes and ears open. They’re there, stepping into the fray, holding people, presenting clear and thoughtful ideas, loving their neighbors and the world. Often, they’re keeping their mouths shut, though sometimes they are the ones writing cogent and articulate pieces that help to shape the conversation. Listen and watch. The Workers are out there.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
“To disobey in order to take action is the byword of all creative spirits. The history of human progress amounts to a series of Promethean acts. But autonomy is also attained in the daily workings of individual lives by means of many small Promethean disobediences, at once clever, well thought out, and patiently pursued, so subtle at times as to avoid punishment entirely.” —Gaston Bachelard
“Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” ―Linda Hogan (Always a favorite)quotations