Saturday’s Stories: ‘When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality and get into the forests again, we shall shiver with cold and fright but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in, and passion will make our bodies taut with power. We shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down, we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.’ ―D.H.Lawrence
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” ―Rabindranath Tagore
“Every day look at a beautiful picture, read a beautiful poem, listen to some beautiful music, and if possible, say some reasonable thing.” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?” ―Christine Valters Paintner
“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we shall harness for God energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world we will have discovered fire.” ―Teilhard de Chardin
“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
Today, my friend Jindu wrote a poem of time and story and God, and I let that wave roll over me as I sat down to write my own poem. I think I let the poem tell me enough about myself to make me a little uncomfortable, maybe light a fire under me.
Forest of Hours by Beth Weaver-Kreider
The clock has berated me all day, complaining about my betrayal of time, scorning the way I keep getting lost in the forest of hours, claiming I should be familiar with the pathway home by now.
I am not time’s fool, you know, nor God’s familiar. I’m no black cat, no ignorant—or innocent— child in the fairy tale. I know what I’m doing. I’m wasting not time, but self.
I’m listening for the sound God makes as she sings through the branches of these hours that surround me. I know in my bones that the story has a hole in it somewhere, know without asking that the wolf is standing there right behind my left shoulder, and also that there is a well in a stone tower within a grove of oak that holds the secret, if only I can find the key to fit the door.
But who is telling this story? I could have sworn it was God, but maybe I’m just fooling myself, brother. Maybe the wolf has been lying to me all along. Maybe God rides a broomstick through the waving branches. Maybe the story is telling itself.
Perhaps the clock has a point. I am, after all, a middle-aged poet with nothing much to show for my life’s work but these rags, this tarnished key, and the sense that I’ll find the secret of the story in the next bright clearing.
“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” —Samwise Gamgee
“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” —Miles Davis
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” —Frida Kahlo
A little story by Amrita Nadi: At the end of a talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?” The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.” Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he added, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back. . .but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”
“There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.” —Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life
“Always there is something worth saying about glory, about gratitude.” —Mary Oliver, What Do We Know
Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together, that overwhelm the world. —Desmond Tutu
“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” —Jeannette Rankin
When we see the Beloved in each person, it’s like walking through a garden, watching flowers bloom all around us. —Ram Dass
“You came into this world as a radiant bundle of exuberant riddles. You slipped into this dimension as a shimmering burst of spiral hallelujahs. You blasted into this realm as a lush explosion of ecstatic gratitude. And it is your birthright to fulfill those promises. I’m not pandering to your egotism by telling you these things. When I say, “Be yourself,” I don’t mean you should be the self that wants to win every game and use up every resource and stand alone at the end of time on top of a Mt. Everest-sized pile of pretty garbage. When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the self that says “Thank you!” to the wild irises and the windy rain and the people who grow your food. I mean the rebel creator who’s longing to make the whole universe your home and sanctuary. I mean the dissident bodhisattva who’s joyfully struggling to germinate the seeds of divine love that are packed inside every moment. When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the spiritual freedom fighter who’s scrambling and finagling and conspiring to relieve your fellow messiahs from their suffering and shower them with rowdy blessings.” —Rob Brezsny
“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ―Brother David Steindl-Rast
Gratitude List: 1. The way that talking about it, writing about it, makes it more bearable. It doesn’t go away. It just looms less. 2. Poems I wrote last year and other years are popping up today to help me through the challenges of today. Time’s a circle. Time’s a loop. Time’s a weird tangle of threads. 3. That goldfinch singing on the top of the bird feeder is so bright in the morning sunshine it almost hurts my eyes. 4. And. . .the blue, the blue, the blue: wild hyacinths, violets, gill-on-the-grass. 5. You, finding your groundedness out there, and me finding my roots here. Usually, I think of the world in webs. Today, I think of mycelium, and I know that as surely as the trees in the bosque across our road are communicating through a mysterious underground network of fungi, that you and I, as we find our roots, are also mysteriously and powerfully communicating, and holding things together.
Take care of your roots. May we walk in Beauty!
“Our task is to take this earth so deeply and wholly into ourselves that it will resurrect within our being.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“We have no symbolic life, and we are all badly in need of the symbolic life. Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul – the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill – this awful, banal, grinding life in which they are “nothing but.” —C. G. Jung
Listen by Shel Silverstein
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child, Listen to the DON’TS Listen to the SHOULDN’TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS Listen to the NEVER HAVES, Then listen close to me- Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.
If you are a dreamer by Shel Silverstein
If you are a dreamer, come in, If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer… If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!
“It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.” —Mary Oliver
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” —Once-ler, in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ―Nelson Mandela
Perhaps I have said this before: I don’t get very sick very often. I often live with feeling tired and run-down, but I think my general immunity is pretty strong. I am not particularly worried about the virus for myself or my family. But my parents and many of my Beloveds are in the age range where the danger rises. And many of my students have immune issues of their own. I have committed myself to wash my hands as frequently as possible, to use hand sanitizer, to greet people without touching, to minimizing the possibilities that I could pass the virus on unawares. You too? Let’s do our part to stop the spread.
Gratitude List: 1. Parent Teacher Conferences. It breaks the rhythm, and enlivens the two days, and I love to talk to the parents of my kids about my kids. Over the years, I have had my share of really difficult and challenging conferences, but mostly it’s just a really nice chance for two groups of people to talk about someone they mutually love. 2. Because of conferences, I have a couple extra hours in my classroom today during which I will begin to tidy and organize for The Big Move (we’re moving out of our rooms at the end of the year for summertime renovations). 3. I’m feeling satisfied right now. It might be that deep river of joy, or it might be resting in the inevitability of seasons and changes and things staying the same, but it feels like satisfaction. Simple and comfortable satisfaction. Let’s call it the current color of my joy. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have flare-ups of rage and anxiety about politics and coronavirus and getting the work done. It’s something deeper than the flares, though. 4. I’ve gone back to fat in my morning coffee: butter, cream, and coconut oil. I think it revs me up a bit in the morning, and I feel more ready to get into the day, less in a fog. Plus, it tastes like a gourmet treat. 5. Health care workers. Place of honor on my gratitude list today. And also a plea for blessing their health as they stand on the front lines of a world crisis. A thousand blessings on all who are caring for those who are sick.
May we walk in Beauty!
“Until you can discover and delight in the souls of other things, even trees and animals, I doubt you can discover your own soul.” —Richard Rohr
“Magic is a relationship forged in the ordinary. It is our endurance through the unknown, unyielding times. It is faith in the as yet unmanifest. It is the invocation of the large, but while praising the small. Magic is the redoubling of our vow when disappointment befalls us, a shoulder to the wheel of our intent.” —Toko-pa Turner
Quotidian Mysteries: “Change the burned-out lightbulb. Water the plants. Take your vitamins. Wash the dishes. Bow down to the Great Mystery. Take out the garbage.” —Rob Brezsny
“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.” ―Terry Pratchett
“A Word that Breathes Distinctly Has not the Power to Die” ―Emily Dickinson
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” —Neil DeGrasse Tyson
So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God,
“You’ve seen my descent. Now watch my rising.” –Rumi
“If I have something that is too difficult for adults to swallow, I will write it in a book for children.” –Madeline L’Engle
“Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” –perhaps Dorothy Parker
“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” –Thomas Paine
“Once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.” – Seamus Heaney
Gratitude List: 1. Sleep is healing, and I got lots yesterday and last night. Cold, be gone!
2. Did I mention those fields of sunflowers? I might do it every day for a while. How those golden faces turn toward sunrise.
3. My colleagues. What a team of earnest, compassionate, gentle people, all focused on building up and supporting our teenagers.
4. My kids’ teachers.
5. Homemade pizza
If you look really closely, there’s a message hidden in there.
I am re-posting this piece I wrote last year on this day. Reminding myself how the gratitude practice keeps me centered:
Working with gratitude helps me to situate myself in time and place.
During these times of reflection, I am often hyper-aware of being here in this moment, right here, where I listen to the birdnews of the moment, the sounds of the day waking up, the thumps and bumbles of the smallfolk upstairs waking up.
This moment, where I look around to see the way the sun leans in or yawns behind grey haze. This moment when I sit in expectation of the bright yellow falling leaf, the flash of birdwing across my window, the way sun sparkles on spiderweb. This moment, in which yesterday’s movement is written in the aches and quirks of my muscles, the curve of my spine.
From the anchor of this moment, reflecting on the list takes me backward and elsewhere, to the color and shape of yesterday, to the shining white pebbles of moments past. I can pick them up and examine them, say, this one and I remember. I can watch how those pebbles are spun into golden strands sustained over time: The presence of a tiny impossible bird in this span of days. The season of the tang of tomato and the sweetness of basil. The long lazy days spent with the exploring feet and minds of my children.
The dailiness of the list also takes me forward into time. This has become my homework, the job I carry with me into each day. It is one of the anchoring ropes which I hold as I step into uncertain future, feeling my way in the grey mist as I go. Stepping forward with the search for gratitude on the agenda means I must go with an open heart, an open mind, searching not only for things, for items to check off my list, but for connections. It means walking into the future as into a puzzle, looking for five pieces of the coming day that will help me to shape the meaning of the picture that surrounds me.
I have been wondering lately at how this has become a habit, how I feel anxious and unmoored if I miss my daily list. For years, it was a thing I would do on occasion, as the mood hit, but in the past several months, it has become a deeper spiritual practice. I shift it from time to time, asking myself questions, or writing the list as a poem. Still, instead of becoming boring or tedious, it has become ever more a place where I can talk to myself, remind myself who I am, where I am, what I am doing here.
Nigerian writer Ben Okri: “Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”
“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?” —Siddhartha Gautama
“The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, generous service to neighbor and the world.” —Richard Rohr
“Only hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment.” —Richard Rohr
From Garrison Keillor: “And it was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in warfare, and only the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. It was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning. It exploded 1,900 feet above the ground. Capt Robert Lewis watched the explosion from his cockpit and wrote in his journal, ‘My God, what have we done?'”
Gratitude List: 1. The voice of Rhiannon Giddens
2. The words of Wendell Berry
3. The wide world of Georgia O’Keefe
4. The enriching thought of Clarissa Pinkola Estes
5. The activism of Jane Goodall
What a gift it is to have lifetime friends, people you can sit with and say, “Remember when you said. . .? Remember what she did. . .? Remember how he used to always. . .?”
People you can look in the eye and see not only a reflection of who you are in this moment, but also a reflection of who you have been–a year ago, five, ten, twenty.
People who know too much about you, who remember you before you settled adulthood’s masks into place, and they still love you, love you more for who you’ve been and who you’ve become.
People you can look at and see the butterfly of the now, but in whom can you identify the caterpillar of the past–and you love the butterfly, and the caterpillar, too.
People who know just which questions to ask.
People who help you live in this moment–with their laughter, their thoughtful eyes, their conversation. People who draw you into the realm of memory. People who help you envision the future. People who help you to live in all those layers at once.
Gratitude List: 1. Living in those layers of time (past, present, future) with people I love and trust
2. People who know my warts and rough edges and love me anyway
3. The way the next generation at reunions also gathers with ease and comfort, enjoying each other
4. Peaches and ice cream
5. Crisp, cool mornings
(Old Slabaugh Family Photo. I’ll need to ask around to find out who they are.)
Layers of Time
Sit in this bubble
of now, and settle yourself
into the moment.
The past will wash over you,
and the future will rush in.
Gratitude List: 1. Were I on our custodial staff, I would hate it, so I feel a little sheepish saying this, but I love the way the leaves leaves track all over the floor at school on rainy days. It’s like the trees are trying to come inside.
2. Our long-suffering and hard-working custodial staff.
3. One of my Chinese students made sushi for Advisory Group snack yesterday. That was delicious.
4. Problem-solving. Puzzles. Conundrums.
5. Restorative Justice. What if our schools and communities would start offering classes and workshops and trainings in restorative justice, in creatively addressing conflict rather than escalating it? What if all prospective security guards and police officers were required to log 50 hours of restorative justice training (and anti-racism training) before they entered their jobs?
from the room of this minute
into the room of the one to come
we scuttle and race
trailing the detritus
of our days like the stuff
falling from a half-open suitcase
appointments and obligations
litter the ground behind us
and we are gasping
grasping for the next
take a breath
on the floor of the room
of this moment in time
watch how the minutes flow over you
when you release your grasp
on the one ahead
watch how the space of this room
takes shape around you
watch how your breath
blooms into the air
Gratitude List: 1. Well-written popular history: Bill Bryson’s At Home, for example, which I am listening to in the car these days–a history of the house. It has everything: agriculture, architecture, social classes, semantics and etymology.
2. Yesterday was Taking Care of Me Day. I didn’t get a lot of work done, but I got my eyes checked and my hair done.
3. Sleep is appearing frequently on my list these days, and I am putting it down again. I have had at least three or four 8+-hour nights lately (with minor interruptions from the cat). It doesn’t always work, but I have found that when I can have a creative art project on the back burner of my mind during the day, I can pull it out and plan it during those moments of panic when I wake up and am suddenly panicky that I won’t get back to sleep. Something about imagining artistic processes lulls my brain.
4. I have a love-hate relationship with this pedometer, but it’s really getting me moving. Whoever devised this step-counting contest at school was a genius. I have been the lowest number on my team for the first two weeks, and I am determined not to let them all down, so I stand and step in place during evening activities these days. We play Uno a lot during these winter evenings, and I step my way through the games. This morning my legs actually ache from all that stepping yesterday. I hope it makes me healthier in the long run. It is at least keeping me from being quite so sedentary.
5. Dawn. Black tree silhouettes against newborn light.
I had intended today’s poem to be a children’s poem. It’s coming out more like a poem for my children.
I want to snag your memories,
to hold your busy brains and say,
“This. This is one to hold on to.
Here. Don’t ever let this moment go.”
Remember that day
when you first sat
in the butterfly swing
up on the hill?
I pushed you
you thought you were flying
above the house
into the clouds.
Remember when we went sledding
down the barn hill
on little plastic sleds
over a bare sprinkle of snow?
“Oh, yay for sledding day!”
as you danced
back up the hill
through the powder.
Remember the day
we went to pick up the chicks
and I saw you suddenly change
from one who is cared for
to one who cares for others?
You held the soft down
up to your cheek
and your eyes shone
with the mystery of
for the small ones.
you first began to read?
How you said,
“You read this one,
you couldn’t resist
reading aloud with me
at the good parts.
Our days are constant and comfortable.
The stream of life carries us
moment to moment,
and it would spoil it,
I suppose, to try to grasp it all,
to hold onto every shining treasure.
Oh, but I want to hook these few,
hold them to me like warm quilts
carefully crafted by the grandmothers,
and pass them on to you to treasure.
Prompt for Friday
I think tomorrow I will try a chant-style poem. Join me?
1. “Yay for sledding day!”–Joss said it and I agree with him.
2. Making gnomes with Ellis today. What a delight to watch him make something that he treasures.
3. The breezeway is clean–thanks, Jon!
4. Fidelity, loyalty, integrity, being true, garnets.
5. This: “Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” ― Mary Oliver