I Have a White Rose

Munich, 1942: The year before they were arrested and beheaded for writing and disseminating anti-Nazi pamphlets. Left to Right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst.

The called themselves The White Rose. A group of young people, propelled by their deep desire for justice, their faith, their profound belief in doing what it right. They began writing pamphlets, an underground newspaper of sorts, detailing the reasons for their resistance against Hitler and the Nazis, and leaving them around their university and town for people to find and read.

Three of them, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst, were arrested on February 18, 1943, and sent to the guillotine on February 22, less than a week later. They were all under the age of 25. At the trial before their execution, Sophie appeared with a broken leg, apparently sustained during torture. The defendants were not given a chance to speak, but Sophie called out: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!”

On the back of the indictment that pronounced her death sentence, Sophie wrote, “Freedom!”

Her last words, apparently recorded by a guard present at her execution, were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Read more about the story of the White Rose here.

This poem inspired the name of the White Rose (Die Weiße Rose):

I Have a White Rose to Tend (Verse XXXIX)
by José Martí

I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.

CULTIVO UNA ROSA BLANCA… (Verso XXXIX)

Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.


Gratitude List:
1. How my students are present for each other. Yesterday, two in particular ministered (I just can’t think of a word that says it more clearly) to another student who was in pain. Natural, appropriate, immediate responses. The kids are all right.
2. Black History Month Chapel at my school yesterday. These young folks are educators, incredible teachers, wise souls. I’m so proud to know them.
3. All the birds! Yesterday as I was walking out of school, a group of nuthatches were angrily scolding in the maple tree at the corner of the parking lot (nyerk! nyerk! nyerk!). I noticed that they were hollering at a robin. Looking closer, I saw a junco sitting on a branch next to the robin. Then a downy woodpecker began shimmying up the main branch, and in front of her, a bluebird was murmuring along with the nuthatch racket. All in one tree! That was incredibly amazing in itself, but. . .
4. . . .just at the moment, the two people on campus that I knew would appreciate such a sight happened to come along, from two different directions. One a teacher and one a student. So I could share the amazing sight immediately with people who also experienced the wonder.
5. Speaking of birds, there’s a glorious red-bellied woodpecker out there right now chipping away at the suet block.
6. The examples of so many people of courage: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, John Lewis (whose birthday was yesterday), you.

May we walk in Beauty! So much Beauty!

Mirrors and Reflections

One of my recent obsessions is taking photographs of light reflected in windows, so that it falls on the landscape outside, or seems to hover between realities, like a doorway or window between worlds. Mirrors, reflections, shadows: light and shadow create images that show us another version of reality, enable us to see things from a different perspective.

At the beginning of the year, instead of choosing a single word for my meditations throughout the year, I felt a nudging on Epiphany day just to keep the three that had risen to the top of my list: Bird, Bridge, Boundary. They’ve been weaving and reweaving themselves through my contemplations in the past month. And a week later, I felt the compulsion to add a fourth: mirror.

The season of Brigid calls us to consider mirrors and reflections and shadows, those otherworldly, deeper layers that offer us images of who we really are in the world. Look. Then look deeper. See, then See again. Open your eyes, and then open your eyes, and then open your eyes. The Groundhog takes on a priestly role, reminding us to examine what reflections we are making in the world, what shape is the shadow that we cast behind and around us.

Two nights ago, I dreamed about going on an adventure with one of my beloveds. I wrote and told her of the dream the next morning. During our conversation, she offered me the gift of mirroring, of showing me the shape she sees me casting into the world. It was a different image than my own perceptions offered me, and gentler. My own sense of inadequacy, my fierce judgement of myself, has cast another layer of shadow into my own perceptions, and made me see myself with too critical an eye. It took the gaze of a friend, the tending perception of another, to shift the view for me.

Light is funny that way. Send it through water, and the image is distorted, shifted slightly. The kingfisher knows this, and automatically corrects for refraction, aiming straight for the minnows despite the tricks of the light. I’ve let myself be seduced by the critical angle of the light, viewing myself with a distorted lens. It helps to have a beloved willing to gently mirror a different perception back to me. My contemplative lens will be clearer now, and perhaps my work will blossom as I view it through another’s eyes.

I’m intentionally mixing the images here: mirror, light, shadow, image, refraction, reflection. Their meanings are like different layers of light viewed in the reflections on a window, each with its own truth to offer, but all part of the layered image.

May your reflections in this season bring you insight into your truest self.
May your beloveds be tender mirrors to guide you to images which help you blossom.
May your inner gaze be kind, offering yourself space to grow and change.

Postscript: This image of the back pages of my grandmother’s copy of The Mennonite Community Cookbook is also a reflection of sorts, a mirror that shows me my reflection in the past, in my own ancestors, or perhaps their reflection/refraction into the image of me. When I am searching for a recipe, fanning the pages with my thumb, there’s a moment when I feel this little arc in the paper, this spot worn away by the years of my grandmother’s own thumb flipping the pages of her cookbook, and I can almost feel her reflected into the moment, into me.

Tender Threads

Today’s Prompt is to write a ________ Thread poem

Tender Threads

Threads of story, threads of dream,
webs stretch across vast distances,
holding the space between your story and mine,
between this heartbeat, and that one.

Silver cords of energy stitch our hearts
into a single cloth that spreads
outward, a cloth of all the threads
that we have been, from the birth
of the first grandmother
to the newest person on the planet,
one tapestry, one weaving.


Gratitude List:
1. We had a girls’ choir from a school in South Africa sing in our chapel today. It was a sublime experience.
2. A student told me that I looked like a Persian princess today. I felt exotic instead of frumpy.
3. One of my students has been going through a rough patch, and it’s been apparent in her world-weary eyes. Today she came to talk to me, and her eyes were clear and sparkly again. My own heart lifted. May she find her way into the sunshine, and home to herself.
4. Spring morning birdsong
5. The tender hearts of my Beloveds.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotes and Notes for the Day

Thursday’s Thoughts:
People Like Us
by Robert Bly

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can’t remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can’t remember where
He was when they went to sleep. It’s
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time
To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he’s lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,
You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death you’re safe.
***
I will hold your heart
as I hold all the stories
which you’ve let slip through
the filters of your fingers.
How they are caught in my web!
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
***
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” ―Frederick Buechner
***
“The words you speak become the house you live in.” ―Hafiz
***
“Humans are the most intellectually advanced animal on the planet and yet, we are destroying our only home. The window of time is very small, but I refuse to believe that we cannot solve this problem.” ―Dr. Jane Goodall
***
“Memory makes the now fully inhabitable.” ―David Whyte
***
“Things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance even after the physical contact has been severed.” ―James Frazer
***
“Which world are we trying to sustain: a resource to fulfill our desires of material prosperity, or an Earth of wonder, beauty, and sacred meaning?” — Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
***
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” —John Steinbeck
***
“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation. All things have a frequency and a vibration.” —Nikola Tesla

Cocooned


The hollow is cocooned in a bowl of fog and mist. The songbirds are striking up the second movement in the dawn chorus, and the gang of crows that were arguing in the bosque has moved on to other venues. The mourning dove is giving voice to her emotions. Perhaps three cars have passed in the hour I have been sitting here.

I have been thinking more about how we live in layers, how the past and the present come together in this moment, and sometimes we seem to be living in the layers of time simultaneously. In recent years, Facebook has become my diary, showing me what I have done on this day in years past. I have been fascinated by some of the uncanny coincidences. We went to the Shoe House for ice cream on the exact same day two years in a row–the only two times we have taken our children there. Yesterday before we took Fred to the vet to release him from his pain and confusion, Jon had a tender encounter with a hummingbird who hovered for a few seconds so close to him that he could hear her wings. This morning, I read that two years ago yesterday, I had a similar encounter with a hummingbird. These are lovely little whimsical connections, but they draw my mind to the deeper ones, to the circles and spirals and overlaps of my existence here. Nothing that happens has happened before. Everything has happened before. All moments are unique and separate, and all moments are one single moment.

Sometimes I would like to be one of those crows and sail above the landscape of my life, looking for patterns, gaining perspective. I suppose these moments of reflection are just that. But I can’t live my life with that sort of distance, that sort of intellectual fascination. I have to live down here, in the moments that come, holding within me the fragments of the map as I glimpse them, and experiencing everything as though it is both the freshest and newest thing and also a part of the ancient pattern.
*****

I have done very little writing of my own this summer, choosing instead to curate the words of others. In the past decade, I have been honing my craft, finding my voice, building up a body of poems. I have self-published two little books, and that has been immensely satisfying, but I am feeling unsettled again, like I need to find my voice in a wider space. I have been playing with submitting poems and short stories to various publications this summer, and garnering the requisite rejections. I am not discouraged, although I have come to the realization that I need to find a better focus for the work of submission. I have worked in publishing myself (25 years ago), yet I still don’t think I have the requisite savvy for the art of selling my work to the appropriate venues.  That’s my goal for the coming season–not just to submit my poems to random contests and magazines, but to target publications that might appreciate my particular perspectives. Advice is always welcome.


“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” ~James Baldwin
*
“Three things cannot be hidden: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.” ~ Gautama Buddha
*
“Those doing soul work, who want the searing truth more than solace or applause, know each other right away. Those who want something else turn and take a seat in another room. Soul-makers find each other’s company” ~ Rumi
*
“Going within is the only way out.” ~Toko-pa Turner
*
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.”
~Thomas Merton
*
“Let me fall, if I must. The one I will become will catch me.” ~Baal Shem Tov
*
“The sky itself
Reels with love.”
—Rumi
*
“That’s a tough spirituality. That’s not any kind of sweet-by-and-by spirituality. That’s a spirituality that takes on the world as it is and says, ‘I’m gonna figure this out one way or another.’ The mystic and the Moses.” ~Vincent Harding (On Being interview)
*
“How do you survive through time and chance,
through the twisty songs of fate?
Plant your roots deep,
cling to rock and boulder.
Send your strong trunk up into sky.
Live in the stillness.
Breathe.” ~Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“May you know the fearlessness of an open heart. May you never meet anyone you consider a stranger, and know that no matter what, you are not alone. May you have compassion for others’ suffering and joy in their delights. May you be free to give and receive love.” –Sharon Salzberg
*
“In our culture, we use the word ‘dreamy’ derogatively to describe someone who is unrealistic or without ambition. But what thrills and amazes me about dreamwork is how truly grounding it is. One of the reasons this is true, is because dreams are expressions of that larger ecosystem in which we are embedded, and which has a design for our lives within that greater context! So rather than taking our cues from consensus culture, instead we are listening to the mystery which combines us. As Jungian analyst Ann Bedford Ulanov puts it, “the Self is that within us that knows about God.” So when we come together in dreamsharing community, our symbols can begin to heal one another as we work within our psychic commons.” – Dreamwork with Toko-pa


Gratitude List:
1. The tenderness of the folks at St. Francis Animal Hospital. They gave us space to grieve, and one woman walked us out to the car afterward. There’s a hole in our hearts, and we were at loose ends much of the day yesterday, but we are grateful that Fred is no longer suffering. It’s the contract we make when we take animals into our care, that we will be ready to make the hard decision to relieve them of their pain when life is about endurance rather than contentment.
2. These quiet moments on the porch, in the fog, in the bowl of birdsong and silence.
3. The work of the coming day. This is the season of clearing clutter and making spaces that work for us.
4. Yesterday’s storm.
5. The human urge to create and to make.

May we walk in Beauty!

Despise Not Small Things


The theme of my cousin Ken’s words at Uncle Harold’s funeral last night. Uncle Harold loved the small, the miniature, the tiny. His delight in tiny things led the rest of us toward wonder as well. He offered us a great example of the power of giving great attention to his craft, and to small acts of kindness and love.  


“Live in the center of your life.” ―Sark
*
“Cluster together like stars.” ―Henry Miller
*
“Now that you’ve awakened. . .immediately take a nap! Naps are when the angels come out to take special care of you.” ―Sark (I think naps help to cement and deepen the insights we have in waking life.)
*
“We live by mystery, not by explanations.” —Cecil Collins
*
“Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: She is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy.” ―Rob Brezsny
*
“In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
*
“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except to be able to grow in rows” ― Doug Larson


Yesterday, after I wrote about the Shameshadow, I began to think about the indicators and symptoms of unacknowledged shame, signposts I can see much more clearly when I look backwards than when I walk among them.

1. Pacifiers: For me, this has been Facebook, or reading, or any odd task that took me out of my inner space–usually Facebook surfing. Whenever I have a free moment, instead of settling into myself, I find myself gravitating to the computer. “I just want to check this one thing.” Anything so I don’t have to be alone inside my own head. Seeking outside comfort first, and avoiding discomfort at all costs. This sounds to me like the definition of an addiction.
2. Affirmations: Affirmation begins to mean more than it should. You know what I mean? I think that it’s important to spread the love around, to affirm each other, to tell each other the positive things we see. When I begin to ignore my shadows, I find myself seeking affirmation, basking in any little tidbit. Like the pacifiers, affirmation in this case leaves me feeling a little hollow, wanting more, rather than resting in the beauty of the connection between myself and the other person.
3. Excuses: The underbelly of the affirmation-crutch is the excuse-machine. When I am avoiding looking into myself and my shadows, instead of developing a healthy awareness of my human limitations, I make excuses for my shame.
4. Reading instead of doing: I am an English teacher, and far be it from me to suggest that reading is a bad thing. Still, there are times when I find that I am reading about inner work rather than doing inner work, and calling that sufficient. Don’t get me wrong: Reading often leads me into inner work, gives me the inspiration and ideas to move more deeply inward. But when I am avoiding myself, I find that I can use the reading about inner work as an avoidance of actually doing it, taking an intellectual path rather than that little trail that leads to the heart.
5. Chronic Feelings of Embarrassment: I call this Alfred Prufrocking. Like T. S. Eliot’s character, I find myself asking, “Do I dare? What will people think?” Poor Alfred. He didn’t even know how he ought to part his hair in order to please people. He didn’t dare to eat a peach. What a fearful and tremulous way to live. Embarrassment tames and domesticates us. It kills our essential wildness.

I remain grateful for this current encounter with my shadows. Funny thing about the Shameshadow is that I feel sort of ashamed for experiencing shame, like I should somehow be more evolved than that. Ha. I’m walking around in a big old circle there.


Gratitude List:
1. Bree Newsome. Remember her? She climbed the flagpole to take down the offensive flag. When she was arrested, she calmly recited ancient biblical poetry. She looked positively joyful. Her act woke people up. Be like Bree.
2. Kettle of vultures above Columbia. Usually the Columbia vulture club has about seven or eight members. Yesterday, I drove underneath a kettle that must have contained at least fifty birds. Vultures symbolize the dying of old patterns, old ideas, old habits, old chains, and the transformation of all that is dead into new energy, new life, new flight.
3. Family time, and remembering a good, good man. We met to say farewell to a beloved uncle last night. I will miss his gentle smile, his good humor, and his accordion music. I remember at least two family reunions that I left with a voice hoarse from singing along.
4. Establishing new rhythms and patterns. Now I really fully enter summer. May it be fruitful and fun.
5. The way paying attention leads to seeing new things. I have been doing zentangles again as a way to focus my brain, slow me down, and help me to be conscious of my breathing. Suddenly, I am seeing beautiful lines everywhere. That dull brown moth on the curtain actually has an intricate, delicate pattern of fine lines on her wings. Today I will be looking for elegant lines.

May we walk in Beauty!