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

Minds Like Still Water

“On teaching:…the job seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.” ―Franklin Habit
*
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” ―W.B. Yeats
*
“We’re all lovers and we’re all destroyers. We’re all frightened and at the same time we all want terribly to trust. This is part of our struggle. We have to help what is most beautiful to emerge in us and to divert the powers of darkness and violence. I learn to be able to say, ‘This is my fragility. I must learn about it and use it in a constructive way.'” ―Jean Vanier
*
“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire. 
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible;
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”
―Dawna Markova


Gratitude:
Not so much a list tonight. A recognition, perhaps of the thrumming of the web, the sense of connection and holding spaces for each other. The warmth of face-to-face connections and eye contact. Twinkling eyes. The fierce protectiveness we feel for the ones in our care, and the sense of being cared for just so fiercely by others. The way lines on a page–a screen–can be drawn between us, so that we can come away with a sense that we Know each other, that we Belong in each other’s circles. That mystical sense of knowing that someone is
praying
spelling
dreaming
sending energy
holding the light
carrying stones
on my behalf, on your behalf, on behalf of the world.

May you feel yourself upon the web.

Seeking Solitude

      
This afternoon, I will be driving up to the monastery for several days. I

“Inside a moment, centuries of June.” ―Emily Dickinson
*
African proverb:, “When death comes, may it find you fully alive.”
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“I think there ought to be a little music here: hum, hum.” ―Mary Oliver
*
“Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”  ―Albert Einstein
*
“I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.” ―Sonia Sotomayor
*
“Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” ―Buddha
*
“I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ … The twenty-five percent is for error.”  ―Linus Pauling


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird moth
2. Listening to the boys in the backseat take off on a story and riff a thousand possible endings.
3. Cycle the Solstice. In my opinion, they’re sort of crazy for biking these eastern York hills, but hey, they’re a super-fun bunch of people, and all we had to do was offer food and water.
4. Lightning Bugs
5. Solitude

May we walk in Beauty!

Green Tara


Two years ago, I spent some time meditating in an alcove at the Jesuit Center where Green Tara rested beneath a painting of the Madonna. Last year, she wasn’t there. This year, I am going to search for her again.

Today’s Quotes:
Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
*
“We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit.”
—Audre Lorde
*
“Acknowledging our love for the living world does something that a library full of papers on sustainable development and ecosystem services cannot: it engages the imagination as well as the intellect. It inspires belief; and this is essential to the lasting success of any movement.” —George Monbiot


Gratitude List:
1. (What wakes you up?) Stiff, aching muscles from a 2.5-mile walk with my youngster yesterday. While the increasing aches of aging are challenging for me, this stiff-and-soreness is because of a delightful walk in the evening, where we just kept going. “Shall we see where the road construction began? Why don’t we just walk up Poff Road now?”
2. (What inspires you?) The friend who keeps running, keeps walking, keepings signing up for those half-marathons. Reading last year’s reflections on an educational seminar I took.
3. (What catches your eye?) Daylily, Chicory, and Queen Anne’s Lace are a-bloom again. Contrasting colors of orange and blue, and that lacy white among them.
4. (What keeps you in the moment?) The oriole calling from the honey locust trees by the parking lot.
5. (What draws you into the future?) Yesterday’s conversation with a teacher friend about the past year, about what sort of teachers we want to be. The gangly growth spurts of my children. The anticipation of next weekend’s solitude retreat.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Just Love that Kid

I wonder if my students sometimes find themselves filled with a warm feeling out of nowhere, as if someone has just whispered, “I just love that kid,” and they can feel the vibe like a gentle breeze across their souls. I always feel a little frustrated with myself at the end of a semester when I still have a stack of grading to finish, and I wish I could have handed the papers directly to the students for the feedback; still, I also love to have these final moments of quiet, thoughtful contemplation of each one of them, bringing them back into my mind as I read their last words of the school season. Often, I catch myself whispering, “I just love that kid.”


Gratitude List:
1. My own schedule. Sleeping when I want. Working and taking breaks when I want.
2. Planning for next year. While I am doing this last bit of grading, I am thinking about how to make next year’s classes even better. How to define my assignments more clearly. How to ask more effective questions. How to get them interacting with each other more. How to elicit critical thinking. How to stimulate curiosity and creativity. How to challenge them without creating frustration.
3. Indigo bunting
4. Nettle/mint/dandelion/wild chamomile/catnip/plantain tonic. Good for what ails you.
5. Solitude

May we walk in Beauty!

What the Covfefe is Happening?


It turns out it was a tulip moth and not a sweetbay moth–those are from further south. Apparently I had correctly identified last year’s visitor, but I’d forgotten.  I’m posting this filtered version to balance today’s rant with a little beauty.

We’ve all had a ton of fun today, laughing at the US president’s cryptic “covfefe” tweet. He’s even joined the joking with a more cogent message during daylight hours: “Who can figure out the true meaning of “covfefe” ??? Enjoy!”  I won’t repeat all the brilliant jokes. You can find them all over the internet, and they are most entertaining. My favorite is that “covfefe” is the Russian word for “resign.”

Still, something has been bothering me today. All the hilarity aside, the implications of the president’s incoherent tweet of last night unsettle me. Sure, accidentally posting a garbled and incoherent midnight social media post isn’t uncommon, and there’s no danger in leaving it up for the night when you get distracted and just want to get to sleep. It’s sort of adorably capricious, something a big old forgetful lummox might do, a forgivable distractability. Except that this is the president of the United States we’re talking about. The US president does not get to be adorably capricious, or forgetful, or distractible. He could have been drunk. He could have been high. He could have been having a stroke, or a psychotic break. A responsible White House staff would be prepared to mop up quickly to make sure that the world wasn’t looking in on the impaired or distractible ramblings of one of the most powerful people on the planet, unsure about whether anyone in the White House is actually holding the reins.

The president is off his covfefe. He’s gone completely around the covfefe. And his handlers and staff are so sloppily covfefe that they don’t even seem to care about the reputation of the office of president anymore.

Gratitude List:
1. This sweet moment in my day: I stepped out of the classroom today during Advisory Group to wash the ice cream scoop (umm, yes, there was ice cream), leaving my first years listening to a Minions video set to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” When I came back, the song was over, and a bunch of them were gathered around the Smart Board to choose the next video. I had a moment of feeling anxious at the idea of letting them choose the party music. Several of them started saying things like, “Yes! That one! It’s one of my favorites!” And they’d chosen: “Baba Yetu.” LMH Party Music: The Swahili Lord’s Prayer.
2. Today was the last day for seniors. So happy-sad. Many of them also seemed to get the sad part of that combination, and that made me sort of happy. Sigh. I’m going to miss them. This is a really good batch of young folks we’re sending forth this weekend.
3. A little solitude this evening. Everyone else went to the baseball game, but I am incapacitated by tree pollen, and so I stayed home. By myself. All alone. Such silence in my head, and all around me. Solitude is such a balm.
4. People who just jump in and do the right thing.
5. Afternoon sunlight, how it sparkles.

May we walk in Beauty!

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!

Coyote in the Bosque

coyote
This morning we saw a coyote in the bosque.

Gratitude List:
1. Geese
Skeins of snow geese embroider
cloud to Mary’s blue robe.
Veins of geese like rivers
flow across the sky,
deltas of birds, calling,
filling the air with invitation.
2. Coyote
A golden shadow flashes,
golden as the forest floor,
across the creek and up the hill
through the bosque.
3. Solitude
Even the cat has stopped yelling,
and the only sound in my head
is the clock ticking
on my grandmother’s mantle.
4. Walking Barefoot Through Lent
Bare feet on the ground,
feeling the Earth,
connected, walking
in the footsteps of Moses,
Martin, and Malala.
5. Sun
You can’t get that angle in summer
the way the sun casts tree-shadows
all across Skunk hollow,
pathways to secret destinations.

May we walk in Beauty!

Dreams of Flying

mermaid
During yesterday’s day alone, I took a little time to play with the Dreamscope app. This is younger me as a mermaid.

Gratitude List:
1. Featherbed. The very definition of coziness. (Check out John McCutcheon singing Featherbed.)
2. Yesterday’s solitude. I feel prepared to be back among people.
3. The great-horned owl calling from the bosque.
4. Dreams of flying. In last night’s dream, I wasn’t actually flying, but jumping and gliding. Still, it fulfilled the wild feeling of catching the wind.
5. Stones. Prayers.

May we walk in Beauty!

Secret River

secret

Not sure what this is–fragment of dream, perhaps:

I have wandered these hallways, these corridors,
these rooms filled with shadow, filled with light,
since before I knew myself a traveler.

Gratitude List:
1. Poets in the streets. I love reading with the poets under the Poetry Spoken Here tent at YorkArts Fest. Yesterday was wonderful again. Someday, I will be able to just take the whole day and go and plant myself in that tent and let the words bathe and scour me.
2. I know I have seen the book before, but I never sat down to read the whole thing until yesterday: The Secret River, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. It’s a powerful fable/myth/folk tale about listening to your heart, seeking guidance, trusting your intuition, taking the inward journey. I started reading it to the kids and I knew it was going to go long, and I didn’t want to miss the first poet in York, but I couldn’t stop reading. “Her name was Calpurnia because she was born to be a poet.” You must read it.
3. Yesterday the boys were fighting about how to divide the bottle caps because someone wanted to make a project. Finally I took them outside and showed them two siblings who share a room the size of one of their bottle caps, no deeper than two of them. We all saw both babies, their tiny needle beaks poking out over the rim of the nest. Hummingbird babies grow fast!
4. Sleep. Rest. Quiet. Solitude.
5. Vegetables. August and September are such wonderful seasons for just going outside and getting the food that you’re going to use for a meal. I forage on the extras table for squash and peppers, tomatoes and okra.

May we walk in Beauty!