Coping

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Re-Entering the Old Rage

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Heart’s Revolution

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.

May we walk in Beauty!

Into the Dark, December 8

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.


Gratitude List:
1. Space
2. Silence
3. Breathing
4. Spice
5. Solitude

May we walk in Beauty!


“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

The Single Word in the Silence

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.
4. Resolve
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.

Namaste!


“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.”
—Henri Nouwen
***
“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.”
―Osip Mandelstam
***
“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

Snakes and Startlement

  

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!


Friday’s Quotations:

“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

The Tree Spirit of Goldfinch Bluff


Can you see the thoughtful face of my friend there up on the hill, keeping watch over the farm?

Today’s Prompt is to write a “Stranger ________” poem.

Stranger Dreams
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In that space between sleeping and waking,
aware of your day body breathing,
the sounds of the next-door world seep through,
the sounds of the dream-people speaking.

Past your body the dream-people wander,
and you are the watcher, observing
as they go about their dream-life day
while you listen to your own body breathing.

Sometimes you find yourself leaping
out of the breathing husk of your body,
grabbing the child from the predator’s pouncing
or answering questions dream-people are asking.

When you stumble back into your breathing body,
you find your eyes fluttering open,
echoes of dream-conversations ringing
into the quiet stillness of afternoon.


Well, I had a Dorothy Day Day a few weeks back. This seems to be my Bonhoeffer Day:
“We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing — for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’ — for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
***
“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
***
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
***
“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
***
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
***
“It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” —Nelson Mandela
***
“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” —Thomas Berry


Gratitude List:
1. Feeling good feels so good when one has felt bad.
2. Long naps full of crazy lucid dreams
3. Solitude (but for the dream-folk and the cats)
4. Kale and Jarlsberg quesadilla
5. The strong voices of women speaking out

May we walk in Beauty!

Remembering How to Dream

“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”
–Claude Monet
*
“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” –Vincent van Gogh
*
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those downstream do unto you.” –Wendell Berry
*
Every step you take is a doorway to somewhere new,
a choice between what was and what will be.
Do not fear the darkness behind you
nor the mists that rise in your path.
Pause on the threshold a moment.
Take a deep and aching breath,
and straighten your shoulders.
Release the past with gratitude
for all that it has taught you,
and step forward in strength and beauty.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
Mary Oliver:
“Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.”


Gratitude List:
1. Rest
2. Dreaming
3. Work
4. Play
5. Silence

May we walk in Beauty!

Embodiment

“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” –Audre Lorde
*
“This is the true meaning of embodiment: To show up with wholehearted presence for this moving encounter with life. Instead of clambering towards ever-furthering horizons or withdrawing into distractions and addictions, showing up for those absences in our lives. Welcoming our fears and discomforts as necessary conditions to creativity. Loving the gestation as much as the harvest, even while remembering the barren season that must follow. Aspiring, in all things, to be human.” –Toko-pa Turner
*
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
*
“Human beings lose their logic in their vindictiveness.”
–Elizabeth Cady Stanton
*
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born,
and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere–on water and land.” –Walt Whitman
*
A Prayer for the World
Rabbi Harold Kushner

Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Amen.


Gratitude List:
1. Crows in the mist
2. Robins making a deafening ruckus in the hollow at dawn
3. A murmuration of starlings
4. The tender, open, compassionate hearts of teenagers. Every day, there’s something that melts my crusty heart a little.
5. I love Jon’s new job

May we walk in Beauty!

Poetry as Breathing


“[Ginsburg] was right about the poem being a mind-breath. Each word depends on how your mind breathes.” —Juan Felipe Herrera
*
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” —Sue Monk Kidd
*
“Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
your ancestors wandered.
It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.
It will not offer you answers
to the why of war.
Still, the waters may offer
questions, instead. Questions
will create the riddles
that will draw you on
despite the darkness.”

—Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“May your day be bright with sunlight shimmering through the trees. May magic grab your sleeves at every turn you take. May you feel the web that connects you to so many–to oh, so many–loving hearts.” —BW-K
*
This one is long, but I think it really needs to be here:
Guidelines for Despair and Empowerment Work by Joanna Macy
“These are not steps in a prescribed order, but guidelines to our process wherever we may find ourselves entering it.
1. Acknowledge our pain for the world. If it is present, we cannot deny its reality. We cannot make it go away by arguing it out of existence, or burying it inside of ourselves. We can acknowledge our pain for the world to ourselves through journal writing or prayer, and if we choose, by communicating our awareness to those around us.
2. Validate our pain for the world. Let us honor it in ourselves and others, by listening carefully and accepting it as healthy and normal in the present situation. To hurry in with words of cheer can trivialize its meaning and foster repression.
3. Experience the pain. Let us not fear its impact on ourselves and others. We will not shatter, for we are not objects that can break. Nor will we get stuck in this pain, for it is dynamic, it flows through us. Drop our defenses, let us stay present to its flow, express it—in words, movement and sounds.
4. Move through the pain to its source. As we experience this pain, we learn that it is rooted in caring, not just for ourselves and our children, but for all of humanity. We rediscover our interconnectedness with all beings. Allow this sense of mutual belonging to surface in whatever words and images are meaningful and share them.
5. Experience the power of interconnectedness. Let us dare to translate our caring into a sense of belonging to all humanity and the web of life. Observe the trust level rise when we expose our vulnerability to pain for the world. Recognize how the realization of interconnectedness results in personal security and economy of effort.”
From Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1983.)


Gratitude List:
1. That big branch that fell last night seems to have avoided even scratching the car. We have been really conscientious about not parking our car under the poplar tree for just this reason, and the branches rarely fall. Last night, we left the car in the driveway overnight, and that’s the night the poplar chose to drop a limb. It woke me up. I thought someone was upending furniture downstairs.
2. I got a LOT of work done yesterday, and I plan to get a lot more done this morning. Here’s to long uninterrupted hours.
3. The way the mind attaches itself to pattern. There’s a perfect circle out in the bushes and greenery on the wild hillside out my window. No camera could capture it because it’s how my eye sees the arc of a bush, fills out the next bit of arc, attaches a curved shadow beneath the vines, fills in a little more and finds another bit of curve, until the circle is complete. It may be that only my eyes can see it, but it is there, as truly as grass or tree or vine. And our minds do this all the time, all day long. I see faces everywhere I turn, in the plaster on the ceiling, in the neighbors’ walnut tree, in a towel tossed on the floor. Our minds are made to seek patterns, calling us to an awareness of greater patterns.
4. There was a moment there when all the machines and appliances seemed to cease their electrical humming, and the house was filled with a profound silence. Nothing, until the wren again took up his incessant holler.
5. Lights at ends of tunnels.

May we walk in Beauty!