Brewer’s prompt at Writers Digest today was to write a poem titled: ______ Story.
Dance the story across the page, pirouette and shimmy from word to word to wandering word.
Thread a conga along the lines of rising action and twine and spiral to the inevitable climax, then salsa down the denouement to a slow and stately resolution.
Gratitude List: 1. Warm cat on my lap 2. The morning’s sunrise 3. Saying Yes 4. Getting unstuck 5. Beginning again May we walk in Beauty!
“We live in a world of theophanies. Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can only happen if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.” —Macrina Wiederkehr
“It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.” —P.G. Wodehouse
“You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.” —Frida Kahlo
“I touch God in my song as the hill touches the far-away sea with its waterfall. The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” —Rabindranath Tagore
Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds beacons, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.”
“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.” —Brooke Hampton
“Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar— I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.” —Meister Eckhart
It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen. Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know. That’s why we wake and look out–no guarantees in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening. —William Stafford
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien
I failed 7th Grade Home Economics. I would like to say that it is because I was protesting. I was angry, after all, that in 7th grade, we were divided into two classes: girls to Home Ec, and boys to Mechanical Drawing. Really. It was assumed that girls needed this class in the “womanly” arts, and boys needed the heady realm of architecture and design. Sabotaging one’s own grade, however, in order to make a protest, is rather ineffective, not to mention that it never entered my mind. Perhaps it’s because I hated Home Ec so much? No, actually, I loved the crafts and the cooking then as much as I do now. Nor did I dislike the teacher. She was a gem, kind enough and firm enough. I failed Home Ec because I didn’t turn in my assignments. I procrastinated on the paperwork for the meals I prepared at home. I did most of the projects, but never followed through to hand in the necessary paperwork.
Here I am, forty-five years later, trying to function as an adult, and still stuck in the procrastination rut, still avoiding the paperwork, resenting the details that take me out of my butterfly brain. The little thing becomes a big thing, and the big thing gets spun together with strands of shame to become a BIG thing, and I just can’t even begin.
Is it an executive function issue? Belligerence? Depression? A poor self-concept? Laziness? Being in the wrong job for my temperament? Simply being human? The thing is, I never feel like I am out of the norm, or that I have a problem, until I’m out of it and back into functioning at a more-than-mere-survival rate. Then I look back and realize that I was in a bad space. I’ve not been diagnosed with depression or an executive functioning disorder. I tend to name it laziness more than anything, which is a bad tape to play on repeat.
I wonder if I need a therapist. Or a life coach? Or a spiritual advisor? When I’m so overwhelmed by The Big Thing, the thought of adding an appointment to my schedule and expense to our tight budget feels like an Impossible Thing. But here I am now, on the other side of the most recent Impossible Task, and it’s a roof-don’t-leak-when-the-rain-don’t-come moment. And so I dither and pass it off. As difficult as it is, I feel like I need to keep telling myself the story of how bad it was so I don’t settle in to another new normal without getting myself the help that I need to keep from getting into that sort of hole again.
This past week, I did a little art therapy to keep me processing and pushing toward making a change, toward getting help. I recently opened a box in the attic and discovered the little embroidery project that I finished in that 7th grade Home Ec class, probably the only assignment I handed in for the class. A mouse had discovered it before me, and had eaten through the musical notes that Snoopy is playing. Had it been whole, I might have thrown it out, jettisoning things that no longer serve me. But something in me said, “Mend it!” And so I did, weaving embroidery thread through the mouse-chewed hole, and re-embroidering Snoopy’s pawprint eighth notes. It’s not perfect, and neither am I. The mend is visible, as are my own torn and shredded pieces, and mended pieces.
As I wove and mended, I wondered whether that was when it began, when I started playing the tapes in my head that I am inadequate to the task, that I am too flaky, too inattentive, too lazy to follow through? Perhaps.
Snoopy needed a little help to be restored, and now I will stitch the piece onto a bag or a blanket or a pillow. Or I will fold it carefully and keep it in a drawer, to draw it out when I need to remind myself that I, too, need help to get through a rough patch, to shift my process so that I can keep from falling into holes I create.
Gratitudes: 1. This morning’s sunrise: A dragon opening a heavy cloud-indigo eyelid over a tangerine iris, shooting burning rays upward, a sundog to the southeast. 2. Mending 3. Making plans, making progress 4. Seeking help 5. Such wise and merry people in my life
May we walk in Beauty!
“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” —Brené Brown
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” —Georgia O’Keeffe
“Nothing good comes of forgetting; remember, so that my past doesn’t become your future…” —Elie Wiesel
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” —Mitch McConnell, February 7, 2017
“They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth.” —Elizabeth Warren, February 7, 2017
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe
“You have to impose, in fact—this may sound very strange—you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.” —James Baldwin
“There’s still a lot worth fighting for.” —Dr.Jane Goodall
“You’ve heard it said there’s a window that opens from one mind to another, but if there’s no wall, there’s no need for fitting the window, or a latch.” —Rumi
“Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Whether through prayer, ritual, poetry, or song, gratitude solidifies our relationship with the living mystery. It rejoins us to the intangible wholeness from which we feel disconnected. As we remember ourselves to the holy in nature, we are forging our own belonging.” —Toko-pa Turner
“Stories surround us like air; we breathe them in, we breathe them out. The art of being fully conscious in personal life means seeing the stories and becoming their teller, rather than letting them be the unseen forces that tell you what to do. Being a public storyteller requires the same skills with larger consequences and responsibilities, because your story becomes part of that water, undermining or reinforcing the existing stories. Your job is to report on the story on the surface, the contained story, the one that happened yesterday. It’s also to see and sometimes to break open or break apart the ambient stories, the stories that are already written, and to understand the relationship between the two.” —Rebecca Solnit
“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. . . . “We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom.” —Ursula K. Le Guin
So many of the little treasures that wash up on the shore of my consciousness after a night of dreaming seem insignificant, silly, unconnected. This morning, I woke up really early with my mind tugging at a joke it was making, about someone with the last name of Waters who had a son named Wade. Weird brain.
I know where my deep-self elf pulled the word Wade from. Yesterday one of my friends posted one of those word searches where the first three words you see are to predict something about your coming year. The words are always sweet and inspiring. I saw HEALTH, and GRATITUDE, and WADE. Wade? I think that word got into the search by accident, but there you have it. And then I think, the inner fool sent it back to me again, as a sort of joke. If I keep to the beachcombing metaphor, this one is a really odd-shaped piece of who-knows-what. It’s interesting enough, if it doesn’t seem to have any particular meaning. Into the collecting bag it goes.
Later, in my more complete and final waking of the morning I am dreaming: We are staying with friends at a little bed and breakfast sort of place in a sort of European-seeming city-town. I wake up really early and wander around the courtyard a bit. After a while, one of our friends wakes up and makes a fire in the fireplace in the kitchen. We sit and talk, but I wish we had made the fire in the courtyard by the garden, to watch the sun rise and feel the morning breeze.
Later, I go up to the second floor to pack up some things, and I open a window and look out at the sunrise. The landscape before me is green and rolling, first the gardens of the town, then rolling hills, and finally deep blue sky and the sun rising in a halo of rainbow. (There’s rainbow again.) I am filled with a sense of complete well-being.
I woke into the waking day to a grey-fog-filled hollow, which has its own kind of deeply satisfying beauty. I love the mystery of a good fog.
Do your dreams bring you satisfaction? Are they unsettling? I am paying attention to that sense of wellbeing I felt at the end of my dreams. The deep-self speaks in feelings as well as in images.
Gratitude List: 1. Fogs and mists 2. The long view 3. Mysteries–both holy and mundane (maybe they’re the same thing) 4. How people show up, even when it’s hard 5. Our friend’s surgery seems to have been successful. We pray that he will now be cancer free and on the road to recovery.
Gratitude List: 1. The way that rages and shocks and personal affronts can burn up and burn out, leaving crystal clear resolve–and a little bit of empathy–in their wake. 2. Watching my children become ever more themselves. 3. Sunrise: Magenta and indigo clouds, and a tiny peep of aquamarine sky. 4. Beauty all around. 5. Resolve.
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
“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”
“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.” ―Edith Wharton
“Love is a decision–not an emotion!”
―Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
“To live is to find out for yourself what is true, and you can do this only when there is freedom, when there is continuous revolution inwardly, within yourself.” ―Jiddu Krishnamurti
When the brokenness of the world makes you tired, run to the forest.
Remember how small you are.
Watch the leaves change.
Listen to acorns fall from the heights.
Let the wind and the water talk to you about what it means to heal.
Let The Creator show you the benevolent, secret places.
“Every seed we plant is a tiny loving prayer in action.” ―Rowen White
“In a time of destruction, create something.” ―Maxine Hong Kingston
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
―T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages
“I guess if I’d had any sense I’d’ve been a little scared, but what was the point of being scared?
“The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.” ―Fannie Lou Hamer
“Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.” ―Albert Einstein
Gratitude List: 1. Sunrises. I love driving to school in the sunrise. Magenta on indigo clouds, then shooting rays of gold.
2. Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Shoofly Pie.” It’s been a joy to read it with my Academic Writers. They just wanted to keep reading stories together, it was such a pleasant experience.
3. Basic Kindness.
4. Habanero peppers–we sauteed one in butter tonight for the adults to sprinkle on our milk beans and rice.
5. The messages in dreams. I woke up with words ringing in my ears this morning. I need to listen, to find the key to make the message real in waking life. (Perhaps I need to engage the assistance of a life coach or a spiritual director.)
A couple years ago, I had a girl in my freshman class who entered every classroom on high alert, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. She didn’t wait to be bullied or insulted–she was ready to lash out at the least hint of a slight, the least whiff of aggression. Within days, most of her classmates were steering a wide path around her, terrified that they might accidentally look at her the wrong way and find themselves on the receiving end of her wrath.
One of the things I love about my school is the restorative way that teachers and administrators work with students. Teachers kept reminding her to keep her language school-appropriate, to speak more gently with her classmates. Students who felt harmed by her sharpness were cared for and comforted, and she was held accountable for the harm she caused. Still, she was treated like a person herself, not like a perpetrator, not like a problem. The adults understood that she was experiencing an extreme sense of vulnerability, that her social anxiety and the pain she was dealing with in her personal life made her push people away before she could be hurt.
Gradually, she began letting other students and adults near her. She discovered that people liked her for who she was, that we appreciated her quick wit, that she could make us laugh and smile. She began to talk and write about deeper things, too. When she lost someone she loved, instead of retreating to her cave and biting anyone who came near, she wrote it out. She talked about it. She let her friends hold her and care for her.
Now she’s a junior. She’s finding her voice, catching her stride. She can still make you cringe when she gets into a temper. She’ll always be good at speaking her mind. But the aggressiveness is tempered with gentleness. Instead of masking her vulnerability, she uses her tender heart to find connections with others who hurt. She’s beginning to speak out about issues and causes that matter to her, using both reason and passion. She’s becoming a leader. I am proud of her, and grateful for this community that helped her find her way to her best self. She’s going to be one of the ones who changes the world.
Gratitude List: 1. Beloved community that provides a place for us to fail and try and fail and try and learn and become.
2. The way the sunlight spilled across the fields as dawn arrived.
3. Magenta, Indigo, Aquamarine, which is to say: The clouds at sunrise.
4. The way those five crows flying in a perfect line laced up the clouds they flew between.
5. The members of the Silhouette Magazine staff. They’re witty, earnest, playful, and thoughtful. I’m proud of the assembly they presented this morning.
Gratitude List: 1. The Imbolc sun rising this morning. Before the disk rose above the horizon, a single wide shaft of sun rose up into the higher cloud cover to east, a brighter magenta smudge on magenta and indigo clouds. Then, as we traveled eastward, the sunshaft shifted to tangerine, and then to golden. It felt like a good omen, that dawning.
2. The relief of a less grueling grading schedule this semester.
3. Harvest. Of word and image and story and idea. Picking the bits and weaving them together.
4. The loving resistance.
5. Venus. I am pretty sure that I have never yet seen a star or planet so brightly shining. This past month or so, Venus seems brighter and bigger, so big and shiny I could almost pack up my camel and go searching for a child of promise. And of course, it’s Venus, so that feels like a particularly good omen.
Gratitude List: 1. Golden morning moonset, and a russet sunrise.
2. Introducing my students to Shakespearean insults.
3. People rising to the occasion.
4. Grace and civility and kindness are not dead. (I know that seems like the total antithesis of number 2, but it just all fits.)
5. Voice Class recital for Chapel this morning. I am en-couraged by the courage of those young folks taking the stage and taking risks. And the music was sublime.
When have you felt yourself to be your best self?
When have you been most comfortable being who you are?
What would it take to find your way back into that house of yourself?
Did you leave yourself a map?
Is there an old photograph in an dusty album somewhere in your heart
that you can use to guide yourself back to that place?
It might be as simple as taking three deep breaths,
clicking your sneaker-clad heels together three times,
and chanting, “I want to go home, I want to go home,
I want to go home.”
Shall we try it?
Gratitude List: 1. Jon Weaver-Kreider’s delicious dinner of spinach-stuffed shells.
2. Driving to school in that dawning.
3. Driving home from school in that sunset.
4. The gentle lengthening of the days.
5. Re-reading Julius Caesar. I never get tired of it, and it always brings new revelations. I love having a job where I can read Shakespeare with teenagers.