Meeting Up

Waiting. The new emerges around the old.

One of my colleagues organized Faculty Devotions this morning on Google Meet, and it was satisfying to see people and hear them talk, and to see families and pets in the frames.

I opened up a Google Meet room this morning for one of my classes for students to stop in and ask questions. I think next week I will have several hour-long periods of Office Hours, where students can stop in and say hello and ask questions they may have. Only five or six students stopped in today, but it was really exciting to see them and to connect. It makes it more real.

I would not want to be a cyber-school educator. I am finding that despite my deep longing for solitude, I also have deep longing for human connection beyond simply being here at home with the family. I miss the extraverted part of me. (That was a little personally startling to write, true as it is.) But for now, I am something of a cyber-school educator, and it’s essential that I do what I can to keep a connection with my students as much as I am able. Our day are altered, so we alter our plans. We adapt and make do. When we get frustrated, we yell, and believe it or not, someone comes to our rescue! When something works, we share it so others who are struggling can find help.

Today’s poem is Theodore Roethke’s “In a Dark Time.”

Gratitude List:
1. My younger son is in public school, and his teachers are not allowed to assign required work. Yesterday we got an email to have them check their Google classroom anyway. His teachers had all created fun and chatty videos with their families and housepets. Just for fun. Just for the connection. What priceless people. A little extra reaching out means so much.
2. Also, his school is handing out free meals to kids, to try to ensure that no one falls through the cracks during these altered days. Staff from the high school came down the hill to help with the distribution. Good people keep doing good things.
3. The gold on those finches is really shining through the winter olive. Shine, birdies, shine!
4. My back is hurting again today. I am so glad I have Yasmin’s yoga video to help me.
5. Google Meet. The possibility of continuing connections.

May we walk in Beauty!

“We must always trust in the difficult, then what appears to us as the most frightening will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if sadness or anxiety casts a shadow over your life. Something is happening within you. Remember that life has not forgotten you. It holds you in its hand and will not let you go. And after all, why would you want to live without pain and unease? You don’t yet know what mysterious work these feelings are accomplishing inside you.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” —Anais Nin

“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” —Anais Nin

“If you take two steps toward God,” he used to tell me, “God runs to you!”
—Satish Kumar in Life of Pi by Yann Martel

“Russian scientists have discovered gold deposits in the dust of decayed tree stumps. The phenomenon occurs in forests growing in ground where there is gold ore. Over the course of centuries, the trees’ roots suck in minute quantities of the precious metal, eventually accumulating nuggets. Describe a metaphorically comparable process you could carry out in your own life over the course of the next 20 years. What invisible part of you is like a tree’s roots? What’s the gold you’d like to suck up?” —Rob Brezsny in PRONOIA is the Antidote to Paranoia.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
—John O’Donohue

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” —Carl Sagan

Trying to Unsee

You can’t unsee things.  I would not have chosen to see that picture of the baby on the beach, but it popped up on my screen when a well-meaning friend put it on Facebook.  I can’t scratch it out of my brain, and the more I try to unsee it, the more it appears, unbidden.  Yesterday, it appeared in my head as I was playing in the water with my own children. A sudden chill overtook me, left me gasping, barely able to restrain myself from reaching out and grabbing my own laughing children, to pull them both from the water to safety.  When I was in college, I had a series of nightmares about seriously injured children asking me for help, and I couldn’t help them.  I could swear that this very image was in those dreams.

Other layers of worry catch me, too–the thought of all my shining teenagers with their phones, slipping like swimmers through the waters of the images that appear there, stumbling upon horror and gore: the world’s realities that they will not be able to unsee.  How will a photo of a drowned child compound their anxieties, their despairs, their rage?  How will such a picture drown their sense of safety and holiness and wonder about the world around them?

I want to know about the troubles of the world.  I think we need to, if we are to participate in the Work of changing the world.  I think my students need to know that we do not live in a perfect world–they, too, will need the information in order to become participants with us in the business of creating a more just and compassionate future.  Still, I do not want to see them stumbling into these terrifying boundary-lands. I do not want to wander here myself.

Yesterday, during our Staff Development Day at LMS, historian John Roth (our input speaker for the day) told a story of an Amishman quizzing a group of Mennonites about television.
“How many of you own a TV?” he asked.  Every hand went up.
“How many of you think you probably watch too much TV?”  Again, every hand went up.
“How many of you think that your children watch too much TV?”  Every hand.
“How many of you will go home today and get rid of your televisions?”  Nobody raised a hand.

I am not ready to simply accept the inevitability that my children will be witness to murder and tragedy via the screens that surround us.  I don’t want to accept that inevitability for my students, either, though I have less influence on that sphere.

I don’t know how to end this, how to wrap it up.  The loose ends are all over the place.  Pandora’s box is virtual, but it’s been opened, and a host of terrors and rages and sadnesses have been unleashed upon us.


After all that, I need a
Gratitude List:
1.  That box of yarn that came in the mail today.  Watching how the boys couldn’t keep their hands off it, how they immediately developed projects and plans for the different balls of yarn.  One small boy is planning to weave many, many little patches that he will sew together into a woven blanket.  The other made me show him how to crochet.

2.  Music.  One boy is learning cello for the orchestra and trombone for the band.  And after my rant about technology, I must also note that I am grateful for the ability to use a computer program that helps him to listen for the pitch.
3.  Monarchs. I saw two adults today, and two caterpillars.
4.  Yesterday’s John Roth lectures on Teaching to Transform.  His final point of the day was an eloquent examination of a spiritual practice that I call Holding the Bowl of the Heart, and that he called something like Being Attentive to the Beauty of Holiness.  It’s about expansively opening oneself to wonder and awe, compassion and love, while recognizing that for humans, these experiences are intermixed with death and grief and shame and anger.  So one holds them all together, with an attentive awareness that both sides of experience inform and shape each other. Beauty is another of my names for God.
5.  Quartz and kyanite, garnet and serpentine.

May we walk in Beauty.