Gratitude List: 1. Community 2. Cats 3. Morning coffee 4. There is always another poem 5. Puzzles
Take care of each other.
Friday’s Finds: “We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life, and the unnaturalness and injustice of all special favoritisms, whether of sex, race, country or condition. If one link of the chain be broken, the chain is broken. A bridge is no stronger than its weakest part, and a cause is not worthier than its weakest element.” —Anna Julia Cooper
“…now is all there ever is…” —Eckhart Tolle
The moon is most happy When it is full. And the sun always looks Like a perfectly minted gold coin That was just polished And placed in flight By God’s playful kiss. And so many varieties of fruit Hang plump and round From branches that seem like a sculptor’s hands. I see the beautiful curve of a pregnant belly Shaped by a soul within, And the Earth itself, And the planets and the Spheres– I have gotten the hint: There is something about circles The Beloved likes. Hafiz, within the Circle of a Perfect One There is an Infinite Community Of Light. —Hafiz
“The church says: The body is a sin. Science says: The body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business. The body says: I am a fiesta.” —Eduardo Galeano
“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.
“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.
“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.” —Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”
If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present. . .gratefully. —Maya Angelou
Has it been worse this year? I think it’s been worse. The dullness, the bone-weariness, the loss of zip and vim. The sleepiness compounded by insomnia, anxiety-ridden, with sudden nighttime joltings-awake. The Wintertime nightbird sitting on the chest, crying, “Shame! Loss! Devastation! Rage! Woe!” The burden. The Burden.
Winter is an enormous, lumpy, grey gunny sack full of dirty laundry that I must carry around on my back. It gets heavier and heavier by the day. Some years, it’s an act of sheer, daily endurance to make it through. There’s no extra energy to look around and see just how grey it’s all become. I just have to plod forward into the mist.
There are momentary compensations—shining blue days when sun sparkles on ice and snow, sky-heavy days when snowflakes whirl and dance through the air. Yes, momentary compensations. Breaks in the clouded heaviness. Few and far between. Just enough to keep me trudging in the direction of that pinprick of light in the far distance ahead.
And then the light begins to creep back in. The momentary compensations begin to string themselves together like shining beads. People like me, the ones who’ve been caught in Winter’s steely grey net—we lift our heads like small creatures catching a new scent on the breeze. We feel the wind in our whiskers, smell the freshness of the air, and catch a flashing glimpse of yellow aconite or blue-violet crocus.
We’ve still got a bit of a trudge until we can lay down the burden of Winter and roll in the warm grass of Spring, but knowing that the end is in sight makes the Burden lighter. It’s one of those things, for me, where I don’t know quite how bad it is until I’m coming through the other side. When you’re focused on the endurance, you don’t stop to wonder if this time around is worse than the last one. You just put the next foot forward.
And now, I have those shiny beads: earlier sun in the mornings, the aconite slipping out of the mud of the garden, the birds of morning singing their Springtime songs, the geese, the swans, the caress of warmth in the afternoon air.
Gratitude List: 1. Morning birdsong and the Hope of Spring 2. The fun of the Youth Group Auction, a night when we all come together to support the young people. 3. This kid here at the table next to me, carefully and deliberately putting together his new Ertl tractor model, which he got at the auction. He gets frustrated and stops, saying he can’t do it. Then his curiosity and will overcome his frustration, and he gets back to it, solving the problems that seemed insurmountable. (Hmm. I think I am telling myself a story to live by.) 4. Magical conversations. Not simply deep and thoughtful, but full of synchronicities that fill the air of the room like a humming web. Like it’s the two of you talking, and then maybe fairies or angels joining in, the Great Mystery guiding the stories and images. 5. Watching these children grow. Sometimes, I am sad that the babies are gone, gone, gone. But they are Becoming so delightfully themselves. Yesterday, the dentist removed a baby molar from Child 1, to make room for the big tooth coming in. It was his last baby tooth. Another step toward adulthood.
May we walk in Beauty!
Words for Sunday Meditation:
“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.” —Hildegard of Bingen
“Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.” ―J.K. Rowling
“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation.” —Nikola Tesla
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.” ―Sophie Scholl
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ―Gilda Radner
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” —Anne Lamott
“And these children that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ―David Bowie
“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you. . .where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” —Adrienne Rich
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” —Dr. Cornel West
“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation―either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.
“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life―meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
Gratitude List: 1. The glorious compensation for these darkly claustrophobic mornings is that we get to see the sunrise clouds on the way to school. I love sunrise clouds and sunrise skies.
2. Challenges. Our chapel speakers this week have been issuing challenges: See the sacred goodness in every person, turn off social media for two days, look for a situation in the world where dehumanization is happening and figure out how you can change that.
3. Fuzzy warm cats
4. A new good fantasy book to read: Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone
5. Raquel Vasquez Giilibrand’s chapbook Tales from the House of Vasquez. I read it yesterday, and found myself walking around chanting: madre, madrina, madrone. . . Mythic, legendary, ancestral: I love her poetry. It was like living in a dream while awake.
May we walk in Beauty!
John Philip Newell writes, “Knowing and naming brokenness is essential in the journey toward wholeness. To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.”
“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
“The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self—to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
“As long as I live,
I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood,
storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens,
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
“The world is our Mother. If we destroy her, where will we live?”
“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life – meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” —Toko-pa Turner
Tonight is the last night of Twelvenight, the last of the Days of Christmas. Tomorrow morning the Light dawns. The Magi arrive. Watch for the Aha! what is waiting within you to be discovered?
Meanwhile, here in the dark nights of Winter, I have been ruminating on dreams and images, the ideas and words that have been floating around me in the days since Solstice, searching for my word for the coming year. I have some ideas: there are the recent frequent family references to my Aunt Lizzie along with her appearance in my dreams, there’s the eagle that keeps appearing at different places on my way to and from Lancaster, the calls to listen to my intuition, The Fool, the fire imagery. I’ll see if tonight’s dreams bring any sorting or synthesis. Tomorrow I find my 2017 Word.
Gratitude List: 1. That eagle again–this time sitting in a tree at Sam Lewis State Park as we passed on our way home this evening.
2. This sleeping thing seems to be working better lately. So much better. Of course, less disturbed sleep means fewer remembered dreams, but I’ll take the restedness over the dream-messages at this point.
3. I can’t stop writing about the sky. So orange this morning–deep, deep, glowing russet–and this afternoon a golden stair of light spiraling down through cloud.
4. Saying no, sorting, keeping what stuff is mine, but only that stuff.
5. The power of poetry to get students talking about emotions and internal landscapes.
Another November has come and gone. Such a feeling of sadness, such a feeling of relief. The pressure of a poem every day can be intense, especially when I am already tired, already busy. But it keeps me in the soup of words in ways that teaching doesn’t lead me.
Gratitude List: 1. When you set your heart on blue, it shows itself to you. I do not know how else to describe it, but to say that some colors seem to appear when you ask for them.
2. A good month of poeming. It was hard work, and I pooped out some nights, but I got some good work in, too. It keeps something in me alive to write even when I don’t have time to focus on it for long periods. I’m going to revise and edit several of them for the chapbook contest.
3. Mushrooms. Mycelium. Fungi. Whole networks of underground communication are functioning. Watch for the fruiting.
4. Bagels. Sometimes a few happy carbs are all you need.
5. Nikki Giovanni. I love her fearless work with rhythm and rhyme.
You say you don’t believe the stories the moon was telling
last night as she rose among the sparkling stars
over the rim of your feather pillow?
You say you’ve forgotten the song she sang,
the way her voice wrapped your heart
in a blanket made of spider silk?
You say you never find yourself lost and alone
and deliriously satisfied in the meadows of a dream?
Surely you have heard the singing when the rainbow arcs the sky?
Surely you have seen the pattern of the swallows’ dance above you?
Surely you can’t have missed the feel of the moon’s fingers
as she caresses your forehead on a summer night?
Friends, I am on the cusp of a big change, standing at the very edge of the cliff now, remembering that I have wings, but not sure that I am ready to fly. Oh, I know the wind will catch me, and I know all will be well, but it is right and proper, I suppose, for butterflies to fill the belly in the moments before the leap.
Today is my last Friday of farm harvest for the summer. While I will continue to fill in the cracks as I am able, Tuesday will essentially be the day I take off the farmer’s hat and put on the teacher’s hat.
I am going to try to continue to be present here on the blog through the changes, to continue to write gratitude lists, and hopefully poems, too. But the space may get a little dusty and cobwebby from time to time as I work to figure out how my new morning schedule works, and where I can carve out writing time in my new world.
Gratitude List: 1. The morning’s rosy sky
2. Creative community: currently, this postcard project, and how one word or phrase or idea on a postcard I receive becomes the thread I grab for the next two or three poems.
3. Wings. The fierce feeling of the wind in the eyes in the moments before leaping.
4. Last night the hamster cage was left open. I am grateful that Jon found Afil before Fred the Cat did.
5. Shuffling. How the pieces can fit together in many different ways. Sometimes I get afraid to shift things around for fear I’ll set the whole thing crumbling, but new patterns begin to emerge instead, new ways of making it all work.