Tree Beings

Recent bits and pieces. Lots of imaginings with Trees lately.

And here is a photo of shadows of branches on my wall. I have run it though a couple filters. Can you see the Tree Being gazing at you?

Gratitude List:
1. Young Adults. Those shiny folks who spoke in church this morning.
2. I’m not grateful that I got poison ivy, but I am grateful for its lessons. It reminds me of boundaries, and of the work it takes to re-establish a boundary that has been breached. It reminds me of the need to take care of myself, and gets me working with jewelweed, which is another good herbal ally to work with.
3. Summer suppers: tomatoes sandwiches with mayonnaise, corn on the cob, steamed green beans.
4. Rivers. The Susquehanna especially.
5. Weaving. Poems, stories, songs, words, people, ideas.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Worried


Like Mary Oliver, I can worry a lot.
Will the hummingbird eggs be viable?
Will the bats return every summer?
Will the children be safe?
Will the people like me?
Will I be sufficient to the tasks before me?

Have I given birth to children in the era before the end?
Will their adult lives be spent in a constant effort to survive the heat?
Will elephants become extinct in my lifetime?

Will courteous discourse die out?
Will fascism rise again?

Sometimes I can make my way to her last stanza, to see that it all comes to nothing. Simply giving it up is harder. But some days it helps to write it out. I go back to that Little Red Riding Hood image I posted a few days ago. As long as those worries are lurking out in the dark woods behind me somewhere, they could be anything. They become monsters beyond all proportion. Even if they’re big and scary like the wolf in that image, or like the looming monsters of terrorism and climate change, it’s somehow a comfort to finally look them in the eye. “You might be big, you scary old thing, but you have no power over me as long I can see you.”

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s Reiki class. My cohort of co-students. Sarah, who teaches with such love and grace. Love and Life Force and the prayerful laying on of hands.
2. One more family hurrah before the end of summer. My marvelous siblings and their spouses. Their kids. My parents. I think that is probably a blessing not to be taken for granted. It’s not just that I love my parents, and my brother and sister and their spouses, but that I really like them. I like to spend time with them and converse with them. And the same goes for the nieces and nephews.
3. New stretches. I am adding some new stretches to my daily yoga movements. They’re harder than they were 20 years ago, even when I was thirty-five pounds heavier than I am now, but in just a week, I am feeling more and more comfort in the new stretches. I may be talking about yoga here, but I think this applies to quite a lot of the middle-aging process. I hate to sound slogan-y, but I think Use It Or Lose It might apply here. So yoga stretches and geography quizzes will be part of my regular established routine now.
4. Racing down the home stretch. Getting the papers and the space and the ideas all in order. Opening the heart to receive the new people and ideas who come my way. Developing and organizing the plans.
5. Sorting tomatoes. The tomatoes were late this year, but when they came in, they exploded off the vines. I haven’t done a lot of the sorting this summer–it used to be one of the tasks I owned, but now others often do it. Today might be the last time I sort them for the summer. I love lining up the colors, putting the paste tomatoes into their own bin, setting the ones with a little disease or damage in their own beautiful rows over on the extras table.

May we walk in Beauty!

On the Border


Where will you wander today?

What doorways, what thresholds,
what boundaries will you traverse?

Where will your heart find the opening
into the next open meadow?

Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs! We saw six yesterday in the milkweed patch, four butterflies and two large, healthy caterpillars we saw without even searching. Blessings on the monarchs.
2. Hard work. I haven’t been up the fields with the farm crew yet this season. I can’t quite believe that, but there it is. So yesterday, when we were short a few hands, I worked with a small crew in the bean and tomato fields. The camaraderie, the sweat dripping down the small of the back, the view over the hills. All good, good, good.
3. “August is the Sunday of the summer.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? Someone said it out in the fields yesterday. It captures the anxiety and excitement, the resolve and the dread of Sunday afternoons before you go back into the week, that sense that this is your moment to pile on the fun. Whee! Here we go–one more week of my summer-August. It’s like 6:00 on a Sunday evening: I have to get my papers in order for Monday, and do one more super-fun thing.
4. It’s been quite a while since I have eaten a tomato in the fields, but there was this gorgeous butter-yellow Goldie with one triangular turtle bite, and I didn’t want to just toss it without getting some of the benefit. Then there was a deep purple Carbon with a large bruised patch on one side. Then a Mr. Slabaugh with a deep crack. There is nothing so refreshing when you’re keel-over hot than a juicy tomato right off the vine, the juice running down your arms to your elbows.
5. Finding the memory that eludes, no matter how trivial: At snack break yesterday, someone started talking about a WXPN show that featured “Yacht Rock.” I am not a pop culture maven, nor have I ever been on a yacht, but I got it, especially when she said that Duran Duran and Kenny G would both fit, no matter their quality differences. I had in my head the perfect song to fit the genre, one I have really liked, but I couldn’t remember the singer’s name, the title, or even a phrase from the song. The moment I said out loud, “I know one!” it was gone-gone-gone. We played a guessing game for a while, with the others trying to draw it out, but my brain held onto it and wouldn’t let it go. Finally, as we were walking up the hill to the tomatoes, even though it felt completely ridiculous, I told Jon how I kept feeling like I almost had it, and then Cat Stevens would come into my head, but he was definitely not it. Jon immediately said, “Al stewart–‘Year of the Cat'”–and that was it. Except it was “On the Border,” not “Year of the Cat.” Weird how the mind works. (I think Oliver Sachs might have enjoyed studying my weird brain.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Garden Peach, Goldie, and Green Zebra

(The babies are coming up in the greenhouse.  We will be selling tomatoes this summer.)

Gratitude List:
1. How prayer changes the one who is praying.
2. That sliver of a new moon that rode low in the sky last night as I was driving home.
3. Warm breezes.
4. Chickadee’s spring song.  “S-weeeeet?”
5. Knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

May we walk in Beauty!

Love Wins

Gratitude List:
1. Love wins.
2. Fried tomatoes for breakfast
3. Such a birdy day: titmouse fledglings, nuthatch, crows, cardinals, goldfinch, swallows. . .
4. Dream visitors: turkey, this time
5. Tomato sandwiches for supper

May we walk in Love!

Marvel and Wonder

How would things change if, every time we approached the word God in our speech, we would instead use the word Love?  Parker Palmer does this sometimes, and it is powerful: We are made, each one of us in the image of Love.

Would we be less judgmental, more likely to be little versions of Love ourselves?


Last night in the Dreamings, I was in a green field of clover and vetch at the edge of a wood.  I was out in the field and standing just outside the trees and looking at me very intently, watching and observing me, was Turkey.  I was gathering blue feathers in the field, and a teen-aged boy was walking up the path toward me.  Turkey watched.  I wanted to be friendly to the boy, but I didn’t want to encourage conversation because gathering the feathers was a private and personal thing for me and I wanted to be alone to contemplate.

I have been reading Jamie Sams’ words about Turkey, a symbol of the Give-Away, the “deep and abiding recognition of the sacrifices of both self and others.”  She seems to be a symbol of reaching a new and deeper place.  Feathers are gifts to me, symbols of my communication with Spirit, and blue feathers are about finding my voice.  I feel like Turkey was watching me, like the “woman of that place” in the Denise Levertov poem, to be sure that I was noticing and appreciating the gifts, both the social and the contemplative moments (especially the contemplative rhythm of summer), the voice, being in the presence of Spirit.

The Fountain
by Denise Levertov

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched — but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

– See more at:

Moth Mummy

Gratitude List:
1. Gentle rain
2. Studying
3. Tomatoes!
4. Cecropia Moth Cocoon
5. Mockingbird: he is effusive, irrepressible, ebullient, buoyant, rhapsodic

May we walk in Beauty!


cecropia  Cecropia 2

The cecropia moth cocoon has been attached to the bar of the cast iron plant holder for almost a year now.  I knew it was dead, but I didn’t want to think about it.  Today, Jon and Holly opened it up.  Jon could hardly get his knife through the shell of the cocoon.  Cecropias are silk moths, and this cocoon had hard strands of silk surrounding a paper-like material that was tougher than cardboard (silk and “cardboard” visible in second picture).  Inside was this magical faerie mummy being.  You can see her head to the right side of the first photo, and her legs folded down the center.  Wrapping the head and legs are her two long, feathery antennae, and her wings drape gracefully around the rest of it.  I am so sad that she did not have the chance to emerge.  Still I am fascinated by this incredible moment of transformation frozen in the moments before emergence.


I am taking a class right now for professional development, called Shaping a Community of Learners, through the Anabaptist Learning Institute.  One of the recent assignments was to respond to one of William Stafford’s poems, or to choose another poet’s poem which speaks to the spiritual life of the teacher.  I chose Mary Oliver’s “Landscape.” The assignment briefly discussed Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future, which I reference in the paper.  I discovered the Oliver poem when I was reading this OnBeing blog entry by Parker Palmer.

Here is the paper I wrote:

I love the poetry of William Stafford–his ethic of care for humans, animals, and the earth; his hope that acknowledges the journey of anxiety and despair that it takes to get there; his ability to find a moment of worship in a clod of earth.  I excitedly read through all the options listed.  I was focusing on a couple possibilities when, just last night, I came upon a post Parker Palmer wrote for the OnBeing blog, in which he responded to Mary Oliver’s “Landscape.”  I am not sure that Mary Oliver fits the category of Christian Poet exactly, but my own spiritual journey has been so constantly fed and nourished by her words that I think her work will fit the parameters of the assignment.

Mary Oliver

Isn’t it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn’t it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I’m alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky—as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.

I want to read Howard Gardner’s work on the five aspects of mind sometime.  Meanwhile, I want to add “Open-heartedness” to the list, or perhaps to begin a list of various aspects of the heart, and begin with this one.  Mary Oliver’s poem “Landscape” holds this idea of open-heartedness for me.

Oliver writes “. . .if the doors of my heart / ever close, I am as good as dead.”  If I close the doors of my heart to the darknesses that surround me–to the poverty and racism and destruction of the earth, to last week’s massacre in Charleston, to the desperate plight of refugees fleeing places of conflict–then I also close my heart to the lecture of the moss, the posture of the oaks, the imaginings of the crows.  As I hone my sensitivity to the story that comes from the world around me–to the “lecture[s]” from the natural world, my sensitivity to the plight of other humans and other parts of the earth is also heightened.  But I do not want to shut off that part of myself, because I believe with Oliver that to close those doors is like dying.

My students bring me these darknesses.  They come to class and they ask what I think of the latest Painful Thing in the News.  I think I do a disservice to them if I minimize or ignore their questions and their need to come to terms with the harsh realities.  If I want my teaching to be transformative, I think I need to incorporate these things into the discussions, connect what is happening now to the readings that we are doing.  I need to listen to them process and discuss and think critically about the issues that beset us,  and encourage them to think about and write about these things.  If my students and I are in training to be people of service to the world, to teach and model peace and reverence in our lives, then part of our work is to know of the difficult things and to find ways to respond.  Part of my job as their teacher is to model ways to keep those heart doors open while finding ways to “disentangle [ourselves] from the darkness,” as Palmer writes in his response to this poem.

One way to keep imagining our “strong, thick wings” so that we may “burst up into the sky” is to maintain an inner life that contemplates the world of nature, and the depth of spirit of the people all around us.  I hope that I can model for my students the reflective work of listening to our inner voices, to finding the deep wisdom in the people around us, and to reading the text of the natural world around us: reverence, wonder, awe, spiritual observation and noticing.  That work, which Oliver describes in her poem, helps to balance the work of staying aware of the pain of the world.

In the past year, as I have been teaching at LMH, I have become more aware, too, of the fact that it is not just a one-way street, that it isn’t just about how I model this idea of holding our heart doors open for both the reverence and the shadows, but that they already have these capabilities within them.  They are already doing this work.  If I can find the right questions and poems and the right listening attitude, they bring their own transformative wisdom to the table.

(Parker Palmer’s OnBeing blog post: “Poetry as Sacrament: Disentangling from the Darkness”

Make it all a Prayer


make it all a prayer
each motion, each thought, each step
feel the connection
that silver strand that pulls you
to the heart of another

Gratitude List:
1. Those planets snuggled up to the moon at dusk yesterday.  Any of my star-folk friends know who they were?
2. Making art with my RVRGRL and my Animalboy.  In the time of the beginning, there was a cave. . .
3. Yesterday someone I love anointed my head with oil.  We were thinking more of protecting the crown chakra than of the 23rd Psalm, but I think it was kind of the same thing.  I was tenderly shepherded.
4. Reading about reading.  To say that preparing for teaching in the fall is a stimulating experience is an understatement of vast proportions.  I love to feel The Teacher re-waking within me.
5. How have I not yet had a gratitude dedicated to tomatoes?  Summertime tomatoes!  Red ones!  Pink ones!  Stripey ones!  Golden sunshiny yellow ones!  Deep purple and indigo ones!  Wintry grocery store tomatoes taste like styrofoam and sawdust and the people who pick them are not given fair wages or healthy living conditions–don’t eat them; please, don’t eat them.  Summertime tomatoes are luscious and wonderful, and they’re usually harvested by your local adorable farmer.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Have Been Circling


The summer has caught me up in its tangled strings.  Throughout the day, ideas for my gratitude list pop into my head.  I try to grab and secure them, but someone has left the lid off the pot while making this batch of popcorn, and they zing away before I can grasp them.

I’m not too fussed about it.  This is the nature of summer.  As the cooler weather returns and daily demands of the farm settle into more predictable rhythms, I’ll get the lid back on that wanton kettle of my brain.

Perhaps I have written this before: My friend Sarah and I have talked about how perhaps something about the gratitude list ought to be a little difficult, how for those of us who live fairly closely with the natural world, it would be pretty easy to rattle off a list of five natural things every day, and this might defeat the purpose a little.  This is a temptation for me.  On the other hand, I want my gratitude lists, like poetry, to carry several layers of meaning, as I hope this one will.

Gratitude List:
1.  Hummingbird: Yesterday when I came down from harvest, I let myself drop underneath the poplar tree.  I lay there watching the sun glowing through the pollen-golden wings of a tiger swallowtail wandering among the leaves, when suddenly there she was, wings a-blur in a patch of blue between the branches.  I don’t think I’ve ever observed a hummer in flight from directly below before.  She was a double fan of pure motion and light.  A lemniscate.  No wonder the Hopi and Navajo see her as the messenger between the worlds.  If I see her again today, what message shall I send?
2.  Toad: Yesterday I was with a crew harvesting tomatoes, while Holly and Mary Jo were picking squash.  Suddenly, Holly started to whoop and holler.  A few moments later, as we were loading our tomato bins into the back of the truck, Holly came over, her hands cupped together.  I thought she was wringing out a wet rag: water was streaming from between her fingers.  Instead, she was gently holding the largest toad I have ever seen, and it was performing its natural response to being picked up by a human.  I’m still a little stunned that it could hold that much liquid inside it.  Toads have been a watchful presence in my writing this past winter, so it felt like a doubly good omen.
3.  Pears: Driving the tractor down the hill, I noticed the pears shaping up beautifully on the trees in the orchard.   I can almost taste them.
4.  Tomatoes: Tomatoes satisfy on so many levels.  I have my first six quarts of 2013 sauce on the counter ready to go to the basement shelves for the season.  Fresh salsa with cilantro and lime and hot peppers.  But right now, the thing I love so much is the wanton variety of their shapes and colors when you put them in a bin together.  I didn’t get a shot of yesterday’s bins, but the one attached to this post looks almost the same.
5.  Rilke:  “I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.”  Rob Breszny challenged his readers to write their own permutation.  Here’s mine: ” I am circling around the Core, around the Source, and I have been circling since my thousand times began, and I still do not know whether I am a watchful toad, or a wordless prayer, or a cool wind above the fields.”

May we walk in beauty.