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

Rivers of Life


I carefully outlined the significant stages of my life, but somehow forgot to put my 18-22 section on there–and that was a SIGNIFICANT part of my life. It’s where I met Jon, where I met my lifelong friends. Where I learned to hold on to love even through a rough patch. I want to remake it in paint or colored pencils.

I am pretty strongly anti-established-religion. White Christian evangelicals in the US today are complicit with such great evils that I want nothing to do with them. I see people who say they follow the way of Jesus shrugging their shoulders and ignoring the pain of children torn from their parents by a government they support. I see them rabidly calling for more ill-treatment of people seeking asylum at our borders. I see them fighting for systems and policies that further marginalize people who are ill and struggling with poverty. I see them speaking with vitriol and rancor toward people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people from other countries. The list goes on.

There’s a quotation, often attributed to Gandhi (though perhaps erroneously), that goes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m a fan of Jesus, too. I just don’t like a lot of the people who claim him. I don’t think it’s possible to really “get” who Jesus was and support a political administration that tears families apart, that regularly spews such racist and xenophobic and homophobic and misogynist hatred. I sound really judgey here, and I try hard not to be judgey, but I can’t withhold my judgement at times of great injustice and destruction.

On the other hand, I love a lot of Christians. In fact, despite its harsh beginning, this post is really about a church that I love, a place where I–with all my wild, witchy, unsettled, doubtful, defiant, questioning universalism–can feel belonging. We’re all welcome in this place, and questions are blessed, and crunchy feelings are held and observed together. Some people use very specific God-language that I couldn’t bring out of my own mouth, but I don’t feel uncomfortable because my own non-specific and outside-the-box language is accepted, too. I am not the only one who calls the Holy One by the name of Mystery. And I don’t want to be in a place where everyone believes exactly the same thing–just a place like this, where Love is the guiding principle.

And we sing together. And we make art. And we talk and dream and stand up to the powers together. We talk earnestly with each other and we laugh together, and cry. Our children feel safe and loved. It’s Real Church. It’s good community. I am grateful for each of the individuals who make up the circle of us.

Gratitude List:
1. Making collages with Chloe and Monica and the others this weekend at camp. Drawing the Rivers of our Lives with Josiah and Andrea and Maggie. Soulful art-making.
2. Storytelling. Vulnerable, life-affirming, tear-filled, laughter-filled, life-sharing storytelling.
3. Fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. I have severely curtailed my sweets intake in the past month, and I don’t let myself eat sugary things unless I am absolutely sure it will be worth it. This cake was completely worth it.
4. Christine’s Box of Tea. I tried the Stash Chocolate Hazelnut, which was sublime.
5. We are in the Golden Season: Goldenrod, sunflowers, slanting sunlight in the afternoons, Jerusalem artichokes, yellow walnut leaves. Glorious golden! Now for some coolness, please?

May we walk in Beauty!


“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Christopher Walken
*****
“Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
*****
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.” —David Whyte
*****
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its’ imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” —Annie Dillard
*****
“Forms are the symbols of formless divine principles; symbolism is the language of nature.”
—Manly P. Hall
*****
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.” —C. G. Jung
*****
From Omid Safi:
The great mystic Zol Nun (Dhu ‘l-Nun) met a woman at the sea shore.

He asked her: “What is the end of love?” She answered: “O simpleton, love has no end.”

He asked why.
She said: “Because God, the Beloved, has no end.”
*****
“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.“ —Gloria Steinem
*****
In the silence before time began, in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation,
at the birth of every creature,
at the centre of each moment
is your splendour.
Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the splendour of this moment. Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the blazing splendour
that burns from the heart of this moment. —John Philip Newell
*****
Hafiz:
“I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being.”
*****
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” —Emma Goldman

Gratitudes, Poems, Poetry Prompts

Searching for the Beloved

Today’s prompt is to write a metaphor poem. I have been contemplating the Sufi concept of the Divine Beloved, so a metaphorical search for the nature of the Beloved seemed apt.

The Beloved

She is a whisper
in the breeze,
‎calling you
‎into the wilderness,
‎reminding you
‎of your true name.

She is a crocus
in the wild wood,
‎escaping the borders
‎of the gardens,
‎catching the gaze
‎of your downcast eye.

She is three crows
casting themselves
‎into the tempest,
‎claiming the sky,
‎inviting you
‎to take wing.


Gratitude List:
1. Perhaps it’s the increased exercise, but I am getting better sleep again after about a week of ache-filled nights.
2. How people look out for each other. The three grandsons looking out for their grandma as she’s moving out of her cottage and into personal care.
3. The singing in church this morning. It’s always good, but it’s just so lovely to lead singing and stand in front and hear everyone making music together. Sacred and holy.
4. Pink trees. Pink. Pink. Pink. Pink.
5. Yesterday’s weather. (There’s a hidden grumble in that one, I think, but there’s definitely a promise of warmth to come, even if it takes another week.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Through the Veil

Tonight is the Hallowed Eve, the Holy Night, the opening of the veil into the Holy Days of All Saints and All Souls, a time to reflect on our mortality as we remember those who’ve gone before: the wise and compassionate ones, the givers and doers and makers, and the beloved ones who are no longer with us.

We all reach that doorway, in the end. The tunnel with the bright light, the voices calling, the shedding of the body. And so we remember to enjoy it while we have it, to wear these mortal clothes with as much delight and passion and wisdom and kindness as we can muster. To be like our saints and our beloveds. To carry their legacy within our own mortal bones.

We look the leering skull in the face and say, “Someday, yes. But not today.” Instead of running from the skeletons of memory and loss, we dance with them a while, drink a toast, and bow to respectfully, knowing we too will someday be the memories our beloveds dance with.


“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses,
And all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.” –Mother Goose
*
Marge Piercy:
Forgive the dead year. Forgive
yourself. What will be wants
to push through your fingers.
The light you seek hides
in your belly. The light you
crave longs to stream from
your eyes. You are the moon
that will wax in new goodness.
*
“Surrender is not passively resigning yourself to something. . .it is a conscious embracing of what is.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
*
The wheel turns.
The harvest is in.
The veil parts.
We walk into the dark time.
Dream well.
Bright Blessings.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” –C. S. Lewis
*
“When you think everything else is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot.” –Dalai Lama


Gratitude List:
(Some of these are a little goofy, perhaps, but they were all part of the sweet simple delights of the day)
1. When you’re singing a song to the cats, and when you pause, one of them comes in at exactly the right moment and pitch.
2. When you’re walking down the street in Wrightsville, and a tiny little Elsa-person looks up and says with gleaming eyes and gusto, “Hello, Witch!”
3. This night of the year when whole communities create fun for children.
4. That bush on our walk through Wrightsville, with the yellow flowers, like a bit of the tropics on a cold October night.
5. Tuesdays.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Blessed Be Your Longing

“Why are you so determined to keep your wild silently inside you? Let it breathe. Give it a voice. Let it roll out of you on the wide open waves. Set it free”
―Jeanette LeBlanc
*
“Lots of people talk to animals…Not very many listen though…that’s the problem.” ―Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
*
“When war is our only industry, the only crop is blood.” ―Will Giles
*
Plant
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,
“Ahhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh
Because that is the purest
Sound.
—Hafiz
*
“My journey has taught me that I must learn religion as the mystics learned it, through the inward quest that Jungian psychology has helped me with so much. Banding together in institutions, whether religious, academic or professional, helps some feel secure and able to look down on the unenlightened. But I’ve clearly learned that the inward quest must become one’s own before it’s any good at all.”
—Bud Harris, Ph.D.
*
“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” —Gabrielle Roth
*
“Blessed be your longing. Your endless ache. Your sharp crystal shatter. Your sea glass heart.” ―Jeannette LeBlanc


Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs drifting down the wind.
2. Murmurations. On the way home today, I saw, suddenly, in the windy sky ahead of me, two great black shapes like lungs in the air. It was a flock of starlings on a group maneuver. A second later, they banked and separated, and flickered out of apparent existence. When I drew underneath them, I could see a long and ragged flock flying north to south across the road. Only in their communal aerial acrobatics were they visible from a distance.
3. Driving beneath golden walnut leaves twirling earthward.
4. Singing together, and speaking poetry, and telling stories.
5. All the thousand names for God.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

May There Always Be Sunshine

“I didn’t need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.”  -Anne Lamott
*
“Morning is the best of all times in the garden. The sun is not yet hot. Sweet vapors rise from the earth. Night dew clings to the soil and makes plants glisten. Birds call to one another. Bees are already at work.” – William Longgood
*
“Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn — and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb. So, let us drink a cup of tea.”
– Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
*
“There is ecstasy in paying attention.”
– Anne Lamott
*
Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.

Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.

Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.
–Hal Hopson


Gratitude List:
1. Little Baby Anya examining her Uncle Dick’s face with such intensity.
2. Preparing songs for Anne’s ordination. Making music with Val and Todd.
3. Kids having fun together in the pool. I still watch closely, but today was the most relaxed I have ever been with my children in the pool.
4. Summer morning rain
5. A straight seven hours of sleep, not waking up even once

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

Dance


Message in the Zen Garden: “Dance like everyone is watching, and they are all your fans.” I love my students.

Gratitude List:
1. Mountain Laurel blooming on Ducktown Road.
2. A rousing rendition of Happy Birthday in chapel this morning, the footage to be sent to our Little Guy on his birthday in the hospital.
3. Music in chapel this morning: Peniel singing in Amharic, Shadrack singing in French, and Maya and Conner singing a Blessing (was it partly in Italian?) What a gift to have that half hour in the school day that is so often filled with incredible music.
4. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It feels as though there’s a deep chasm between me and the light, but I’ll get there one way or another.
5. Breeze.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

The Murmuration in the Woods

Gratitude List:
1. Listening to this Winnie the Pooh of a kid humming and singing to himself while he plays: “Umpity Dumpity Dumpity Dum,” and riffs on sounds that pop into his head.
2. Vultures on a billboard by the bridge this afternoon, wings out to the sun.
3. The murmuration flew through the woods behind the house this afternoon, whooshing through the trees.
4. Revising and editing
5. Onion Bagels

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

Helpful Friends

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Poor little Pippi encountered a deer in the morning gloaming on Ducktown Road yesterday. She’ll be out of commission for a little while.

Gratitude List:
1. Neither Ellis nor I were hurt in the collision. I am not so sure about the other guy, a large (8-point, perhaps?) buck. I thought he was dead. He just lay there where he had fallen, under the guard rail, but just as I had collected myself enough to think about getting out to check on him, he leaped up and dashed into the woods. Poor guy. I hope he survived.
2. Friends who help in a time of crisis. Julie Flinchbaugh, for comforting us and giving Ellis some apple cider. Erin Darby, who drove the carpool to Lancaster on a moment’s notice. Jon, who was my telephone anchor–I kept calling him because I didn’t know what to do. My parents, who gave us their second car while Pippi Prius is at the Dentist. (This is one of our favorite puns. Not only is she having her dents repaired, but the owner/operator of the garage that takes care of our vehicles is our neighbor, Den.  Den-dent-dentist: get it?)
3. Restorative conversations. This morning I get to help with a restorative conference at school. I went into the Restorative Circle training a couple weeks ago with a little trepidation, worried that my anxieties about conflict would keep me from really being able to do this kind of work. This morning, I feel really ready to participate, to ask questions, to help facilitate this conversation. I am eager to be part of this kind of work.
4. Flaming trees. They say that the color will be sort of “meh” this season, after the summer’s dry weather, but the maples didn’t get the memo. They’re pulling out the stops.
5. Yesterday’s singing in chapel. We sang “Tu Eres Todopoderoso,” a song from Mennonite World Conference. I love that song.

May we walk in Beauty!