Allow Yourself to Be Seen

The white egret has been visiting the creek across the road since the neighbors took the bamboo down. I took a photo with my phone through the binoculars, then did some filter-work to add some mood and deal with the odd blur.

I put my mantra on a sticky note on my big computer screen yesterday:
Limber, Heathy, & Strong.
Then I added another:
Straighten your spine.
And then:

These were good reminders throughout the day. It was hard to keep my intention of getting up every hour–back-to-back meetings, getting caught up in the thing I was doing, forgetting to check the time. . . Today, I will try again.

Gratitude List:
1. Visiting egrets
2. I found my Spirit Voyage Sampler CD–just perfect for quiet stretching and meditating.
3. How April throws up poems from previous years in my face. Some I thought were pretty good are kind of meh, and some I was uncomfortable with are grabbing me now. Maybe in May, I’ll finally find the energy to start another collection. We’ll see.
4. Catching new rhythms.
5. So much green!

May we walk in Beauty!

“‪‪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

“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


Some years, the messy beds out front have been filled with crocus by now, and windflowers were beginning. Even though I’ve been panicky about a spring come too early, I think perhaps my sense has been skewed. These two yellow crocus are the first in our beds, though on a drive through a residential neighborhood, we saw some yards just filled with crocus. I am always excited when they overflow the beds, but I have never seen them spill so carpet-like across the lawn. The aconite, at least, have begun to spread. When they go to seed, I will sprinkle seeds along the front bank and hope they come up there next spring. I think crocus spread underground. I will have to look that up.

Meanwhile, let’s spread beyond our bounds just a little bit today, shall we? Breathe in, breathe deeply. Hold it for a brief second. Breathe out. Expand. Send your breath and your roots and your seeds outward, beyond the tidy pathways that block growth. In. Hold. Out–Grow. Expand. You belong in the wide open spaces. What joy you bring to others as they see how you carpet your vast new green places.

Gratitude List:
1. I keep getting chunks of the work done.
2. This is show week. I’m tired already, but also excited to be part of the energy, and I love being part of something like this with my child (he’s on sound; I am singing in the pit).
3. I am applying for a writer’s thing this summer. There is very little chance that I will be chosen, but the daydreaming about it is giving me lots of energy and helping me to hold onto this piece of my identity with more intention.
4. How stretching and breathing work together, literally and metaphorically.
5. It’s 6:15, and the sun is coming up!

May we walk in Beauty!

Letter to My Cat

Dear Sweet Thor,
I know I said that I love the sound of your happy chirpy morning purr, and I do. Thing is, “morning” is the operative word in that sentence. It resonates a little differently at 3:30.

I love the way you pat my face so sweetly with your paw, but again, what is sweet at 5:30 only startles and annoys me at 4:00. The same is true of whiskers in my face, of walking up and down my body with your needle-fingers, of licking my hands. Please know that, no matter how much you lick my hands, I will not be petting you before the alarm goes off.

So far in my life, I have a 100% record of waking up in the morning–not always on time, I grant you, but usually–so you do not need to check on me every fifteen minutes from 3:30 onward to make sure whether I am still alive. Further, rolling over, stretching out my legs, yawning–these are not signals of my imminent awakening. They usually help me get back to sleep, unless, of course, someone is trying to wake me up.

One more thing, small dude: While I work hard at being culturally competent, I am never going to sniff your butt. You can stop offering. Especially in the night when I am trying to sleep.

See you in the morning, Sweetie.

Gratitude List:
1. Boy has been writing poems. “Who assigned you that prompt?” I ask.
“Oh, I just decided to write a poem for fun.”
Heart is melting.
2. Stretching and breathing. In-spir-ation.
3. Last night, I looked back through my New Orleans 2003 journal. I need to get back into doing watercolor sketches.
4. Carving spaces for myownself
5. All the little signs of spring.

May we walk in Beauty!

Advent 23: Stretching

The inner room is filling with light, with shadow.
More light and more shadow.
Long, quiet, holy darkness.
Short, sparkling light-filled days.

The little shack in C.S. Lewis’s Last Battle, and the Tardis in the Doctor Who television series, have something in common with you and with me. Each structure–shack, time machine, and human–is bigger are the inside than it appears from the outside. Outside, a normal-looking structure, but inside, a whole world of wonders.

Here in these days of quiet and clamor, of enfolding darkness and bedazzling light, we walk through the inner rooms like we walk through the old house that recurs in our dreams, exploring the nooks and crannies, the magical spaces and the dark closets. It’s so big! I never knew this room existed! Look! Over here is a room full of treasures! This one is dark and quiet, and contains only a tiny wooden box. Whisper. Shout! These stairs end in a pantry, and those go up to the roof. Open this door. And this one.

Feel the vast spaces within you, knowable, unexplored, waiting for you to enter and experience who you are in your deepest inner rooms. Stretch your hands up and out. Draw in deep breaths. Stretch and stretch. You are larger on the inside.

As the wise man who left us yesterday reminded us:

“Be here now.” –Ram Dass

Stretch. Expand. Explore.

Gratitude List:
1. Back home with the cats
2. People who do things simply to watch the delight on the face of a child
3. My marvelous father, born on this day. What an example of tenderness and compassion he is.
4. I am pretty sure that seven-bird V that just winged its way above the hollow was snow geese.
5. Today is going to be a work day. I kind of dread hard work–I’d rather be playing with yarn or making cookies or writing poems, but when this day is done, I will feel much more free in my spirit to do those other things.

May we walk in Beauty!

Sacred Eating

1. Eating Verlen’s pepper. Great gratitude to the person who harvested them and brought them to church. It feels like such a sacred moment to share the food of a friend who has died. I could feel his smile.
2. Graceful lines of ink on paper
3. Stretching, strengthening
4. Origami. I found a pattern for a sweet little bat today, and my second try turned out a darling little critter. Now I need to find some pliable black paper.
5. Making knots in string. Crocheting again. All these bits of art and craft that make make life shiny.

May we walk in Beauty!

“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
So that your own heart
Will grow.

So God will think,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and

Because this is a food
Our starving world

Because that is the purest
“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

Trying to Be Found

Here are three tiny poems from my Creative Writing journal. (I usually wrote along with the students on the writing prompts).

Each day
a new story
of finding my way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once there was a little girl
who was trying to be found.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bluebird on a wire
muttering a gentle question.
No one answers but the hawk.

“I like sitting at the piano. I like the idea that there are things coming in through the window and through you and then down to the piano and out the window on the other side. If you want to catch songs you gotta start thinking like one, and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects. Once you get two or three tunes together, wherever three or more are gathered, then others come.” -Tom Waits
“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” –Rafael Campo
“Which came first, the fear or the gun? The broken heart or the bleeding one? The impulse toward death or the desperate reach for love?” –Mark Morford
“A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.”
–John O’Donohue

Gratitude List:
1. I think I am homing in on the nest of Our Lady of the Flowers. I sat on the porch for a while last evening and watched. She seems to return to the same general area of the tree. It’s located at a less convenient spot for gazing this year, hidden higher up and further from the house.
2. Weaving stories together. Listening to people tell their stories and talk about who they want to be in the world.
3. How a good stretch that wakes up the spine wakes up the body
4. The people who do good. I get so tied up in knots about the stupid, greedy, and cruel things that the powerful people are doing. It really helps to balance my heart to keep remembering all the good and wise and compassionate things that you and the others are doing. Thank you.
5. Pesto

May we walk in Beauty!


2013 August 175
This is a firebird in a campfire, but it feels like it belongs with the sunset thunderbird story.

Gratitude List:
1. Thunderbird Firebird Sunset: Can we do another sunset here?  It’s just that last night’s sunset was so much like a portent, like a message.  The sky behind was shading to tender aquamarine, the way it gets lighter and brighter before it darkens into night.  The clouds in front, layered lines of tufty fluff, were tinged with magenta on the bottom, with the realest indigo above, and true violet between.  The sky where the sun had just been was the glowing orange of coals.  But the most striking thing about it all was that in the space where the orange was, there was the clearly delineated shape of a thunderbird, like the ones carved by the Susquehannock people in the rocks of the River.  It was rising up out of the earth into the sky, a bird of flame.
2. An empty box: Last night, I picked up an empty cardboard box to take upstairs (we store the strongest ones in the attic).  I noticed that it was the box where I had kept the notes from my first teaching job, at Butler County Community College.  I had brought it down to put my papers in the recycling bin, and they went off in the truck early this morning.  And there’s an odd weight lifted from my shoulders.  Getting rid of my old notes and papers (which I never look at) means that I can now completely trust my own inner resources and my ability to find answers in the present day.  I can believe that what I learned in the past is part of me today, and I don’t have to keep papers as a link to my past to remind myself of what I might have forgotten.
3. I’ve got this: That’s my mantra for the time being.  I realized that although I think of myself as a fairly positive person, I have been continually feeding myself shameful messages about how I never seem to be able to stay organized and on top of things.  At the same time, I would set unrealistic goals about what I might be able to get done in any given amount of time.  In this coming season of my life, I will be setting realistic goals, and I will feed myself the message that I can do it.  Talking to a colleague yesterday, I mentioned that I am trying to keep my messages to myself positive, and without knowing my mantra, she said, “You’ve got this!”  Yes, yes, I believe I do.
4. Shakespeare and teenagers: We’re studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream in English 9 right now.  Yesterday one girl came to me after class and said, “I thought this Shakespeare stuff would be boring because it’s so old and hard to understand, but I really love this story!”  This is why I became a teacher.  Those words are a bright, bright, shiny stone that I will carry around with me for a long time.
5. Why am I at a loss to find the fifth today?  There are so many, many things that I am grateful for, but nothing seems to be quite the one that finishes this list.  Stretching.  That’s it.  Stretching.  Slow, careful, breath-infused stretching.  Yes, and that means more than it means.

May we walk in Beauty!

Meeting The Guardian

Girl With Death Mask, by Frida Kahlo

I have never seen this one before.  I post it today because it is one of the images that Robert Brewer offers as inspiration for writing an ekphrastic poem (a poem inspired by or connected to an image).

You have been walking through desert for centuries,
walking for hundreds of miles toward mountains.
Suddenly there in your path stands the guardian.

Every quest, every dream, every task has its challenger–
She who will stand at the gate of your destiny,
waiting to ask you the questions you came for:

What is the thing that you fear?  Can you face it?
What is the name of the monster that haunts you?
Can you look death in the eye and say, “Feed Me”?

If She reveals Herself at your parting,
you must be ready to hold what She offers you:
a small golden aster and three white-hot stones.

Gratitude List:
1. The principals at my school.  They’re thoughtful, supportive, restorative, and they have a keen and careful vision for the school community.
2. This morning a small boy asked me to do stretches with him, like they do in school every morning.  I love that his teacher is teaching them to stretch as well as to read.
3. Challengers.  I am trying really hard to turn this one into a gratitude.  Deep, deep down, I truly am actually grateful for yesterday’s challenger moment.  (Perhaps I need to do some more stretches to help that bit of gratitude bubble upward.)
4. Autumn wind: it calls me to adventure.
5. The helpers.  All those people in Paris and Beirut who ran to help, who offered safe houses, who hugged and held and helped.  It seems to be too much of a truth today that some people will lash out and try to harm.  But as much of a truth and greater is that more people will rush in to help and to heal.  May it always be so.

May we carry healing with us wherever we go.

The Birth of Phoenix

Today I have been sorting through some old poems, to see which ones I still want to consider viable and alive, and which ones just deserve to fade away in my computer files.  Here is one from the late ’90s, when we lived in Slippery Rock.  I still remember the cafe where I wrote it the morning after I dreamed it.

The Birth of Phoenix
This is the story of the woman
Who believed that happiness
lay in the sound of Any-Man-At-All
slipping through her open doorway,
Who grew beyond bounds,
Whose walls dissolved in a grey mist
to let in a garden,
a star,
and a small silvery snake,
Who discovered the spiraling staircase
which led to the Aunt in the attic,
Who plied that old woman with indecent questions
and robed herself warmly
in old woman’s laughter,
Who carried the rage of the crone in her pocket
like a sculpted soapstone jackal,
Who suckled that fury–that ravenous infant,
Who knew a canary from plaster pretenders,
Who built her own cottage of clay, thatch, and brambles,
Who walked through the market,
unveiled by the eyebrows
of merchants and gabblers,
Who swam to deep waters
alone like a manta,
Who left the green waves for a road full of daughters,
Who shaved off her hair,
to step naked and newborn
among glowing embers.

 Gratitude List:
1.  Mid-day today, Ellis raced through the room (after 36 hours of intermittent up-chucking) and announced, “I feel so good!”  And promptly made himself a sandwich and ate it.  And kept it down.
2.  This image, which stays with me: The bluebirds at my parents’ house know that my dad goes out the glass doors at the back of the house to feed them.  On Sunday as we were sitting at the dining room table putting a puzzle together, one of them came and sat on the handle of the glass door, and peered around the door frame through the glass and watched us.  Apparently he often sits there to watch his friend drinking coffee or eating or working a puzzle.
3.  The release of a good stretch
4.  Eager new customers, and long-term customers who have become friends
5.  Planning and plotting
May we walk in beauty.

2012 February 058