Brewer’s prompt today was to write a poem about the future. I was contemplating the timelessness of praying in the the cherry grove, and on friendships that have lasted and grown over thirty-five years. As I rode my bike this early afternoon along the Susquehanna, I write this poem, stopping every once in a while to write down what had been happening in my head.
Finding Time for Nancy
Stand in the center of this sacred grove and feel how past and future converge upon the miracle of this moment, how your ancient loves and longings are stitched with gold and scarlet thread into the tapestry of the holy Now. Leave the tattered threads of future fears behind you and wade into the waters of this present, this presence.
You are the soul you have always been, the soul you all ways have been. And, you are new now.
Gratitude List: 1. A marvelous bike 2. Trees that seem to reach out for human companionship 3. Beloved friends in it for the long haul 4. Strings of prayer flags 5. People who help me to be my best self May we walk in Beauty!
“Through a process of perpetual discernment and “prayer unceasing” we may dive into the well of each faith and emerge with the treasure that connects us all.” —Mirabai Starr
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” —Carl Sagan
“If the Rhine, the Yellow, the Mississippi rivers are changed to poison, so too are the rivers in the trees, in the birds, and in the humans changed to poison, almost simultaneously. There is only one river on the planet Earth and it has multiple tributaries, many of which flow through the veins of sentient creatures.” —Thomas Berry
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“For a Star to be born, there is one thing that must happen; a nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your Destruction. This is your birth.” —attributed to Noor Tagouri
”So much of bird flight is really expert falling, slipping into that delicate space within the argument between gravity and air resistance. That natural alchemy transforms a plummet into a glide. Someday, I hope to learn to fail like birds fall.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist
“Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in; writing is breathing out.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
Here we sit on the cusp, the rim, ready to tumble into a new year. Yes, time is only a construct, an abstract idea, and a moment like this, which may have once occurred on the Solstice, but is now unmoored from any cosmic significance, is purely arbitrary. Still, we give it meaning–collective meaning–and so it bears meaning. The world recognizes this as the moment; even if cultural and religious years end and begin elsewhere in the Wheel, anyone with a phone or computer will see the numbers change at midnight tonight.
Significance enough. And so, what do we do at beginnings? We review, we close up shop on the things of the past that no longer serve us, and we set goals and intentions for the coming season, something to pull us onward. For me, taking on the aspect of Janus, who looked both backward and forward, assessing past and future, enables me to live more joyfully into the present moment, with more abandon and satisfaction.
I know many people object to the setting of resolutions at this time of year. I know that resolutions can be hollow. They can be self-loathing. They can be shallow and lazy. I know. I know. But I like setting intentions. I NEED to review and reassess periodically, to look back at my life and say, “Yeah, actually, I feel pretty good about this. I want more of this. I want less of this.” I want to live less on autopilot, and more on the guiding of my intentions and intuition.
No, in all the years that I have set the intention of publishing another book, I haven’t yet completed that task. So this is the time to ask myself Why, and to check in about what keeps me from it. Is it procrastination? Laziness? Fear? Lack of self-confidence? Has it simply not been time for this project to be born?
I am happy to live my life somewhat haphazardly. It fits my nature. I’m a Leo, subject to the shifting fires of my creative ideas. I am an Enneagram Seven, enthusiastically picking up the next fun thing. A sanguine personality that flits like a butterfly between beautiful flowers. I need the freedom to pursue the passion of the moment in order to fuel my creative fires, but I can get lost (SO LOST) in the woods. So it helps to have a plan. And these moments in the turning of the Wheel, no matter how random or purposeful, offer me the chance to stop and breathe and look around before taking the next leap.
I do this with a look of deep compassion at the woman who has been holding on and swimming for survival for the past two years, and even finding some joy and hope in the midst of the angst and worry and rage. I HAVE been moving toward becoming my best self in the past two years, but I’ve been in survival mode, and I want to use the gravity of this moment to help gain momentum to move onward with intention and out of some of the ruts which I have fallen into.
So, here are some loose, but thoughtfully processed, intentions for 2022: 1. To breathe and stretch and move mindfully each day. Movement will mostly mean walking, and that will depend on how my feet feel. But I am going to keep the intention. 2. To continue shifting my morning habits to get back to more writing. (Oooh, that’s pretty loosely worded, but it’ll do to kick me out of the starting gate). 3. I’m still assessing my social media use. At this point, it’s a loose intention to be on the phone less. I’ve self-soothed a lot in recent months with daily puzzles (Sudoku and Blockdoku and a Scrabble-style Word game). Facebook and Instagram are also major self-soothers. I feel like the connections have been crucial mental health survival assistance during the pandemic, but now it is time establish new habits, to breathe into new changes. 4. To bring back writing and creative projects as my primary soothers. 5. To give myself grace, and grace, and more grace. To turn my compassionate eye toward myself with more intention. 6. To ask for help. This may be the year I actually find a therapist or life coach or spiritual director who can help me sort out some of the inner tangles.
Gratitude List: 1. Intentions 2. Purple hair. Weirdly, it has lifted my spirits. 3. The earnest goofiness of squirrels 4. A Clean Slate, A Fresh Page, Tabula Rasa 5. Creative Projects May we walk in Beauty!
Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.
“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming
“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman
A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (From the Talmud)
“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana
“By our love and our need for love we become for one another midwives of the true self.” —James Finley
“Civility will not overturn the patriarchy.” —Mona Eltahawy
“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.” —Bryan Stevenson
“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie
“In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language.” ―Adrienne Rich, 1993
“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you… where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” ―Adrienne Rich
“More firebrand women. More dragon spirited women. More loud women. More angry women. More hard women. More intimidating women. More history-making women. More rebel women. More rebel women. More rebel women.” ―Nikita Gill
“In the teaching of history, there should be no undue emphasis upon one’s own country. The history of wars should be a small part of what is taught. Much the more important part should be concerned with progress in the arts of civilisation. War should be treated as murder is treated. It should be regarded with equal horror and with equal aversion. It will be said that boys under such a regimen will be soft and effeminate. It will be said that they will lose the manly virtues and will be destitute of courage. And all this will be said by Christians in spite of Christ’s teaching.
But, dreadful as it may appear, boys brought up in the old way will grow into quarrelsome men who will find a world without war unbearably tame. Only a new kind of education, inculcating a new set of moral values, will make it possible to keep a peaceful world in existence. In the future there will, after all, be plenty of opportunity for adventure, even dangerous adventure. Boys can go to the Antarctic for their holidays, and young men can go to the moon. There are many ways of showing courage without having to kill other people, and it is such ways that should be encouraged.” ―Bertrand Russell,
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” ―John Lewis
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?