Waking Up and Waking Up

My husband sells used books. Sometimes he finds fascinating treasures inside the donations. I don’t know about you, but somehow I am a little creeped out at the thought of a confidential consultation with the proprietor of the Gallery of Anatomy.

Gratitude List:
1. Moonrise
2. The sycamore tree at Landis Homes. I’m not sure whether there’s any documentation, but word is that it’s a couple hundred years old. It’s surrounded by glorious and lively wetlands. Josiah found the skeleton of a mouse among its root-tangle.
3. You’re never too old to begin living fully into the truth of who you are.
4. The misty grey dawn arriving as I write in the mornings.
5. Waking up. Then waking up again.

May we walk in Beauty!

The View From Here

Today’s Poetic Asides Prompt is to write a View Poem. As is so often the case, I have come to the end of the day tired and foggy.

The View from Here

Down the hill on Ducktown Road through the woods, the open view
begins with a plush Persian rug of purple dead nettle and chickweed,
glowing with the life force of spring, and dotted with golden dandelions.

Beyond, the peach tree blossoms are begin to open on the branches
like pink popcorn, a few more each time we pass,
and the ridge, darker behind the farms of our little valley,
even that winter brown is is tufted with green and shining red.

It’s a cloud-watching day, with a Maryblue sky,
and I think that if I could travel anywhere in the world
to find a beautiful landscape, I might just come right here.

In the Dreamtime, Day 9

It’s all been anxiety dreams again this night, at least what I remember. No visitations by interesting animals or night-time messengers. I suppose I shouldn’t simply ignore the anxiety dreams, but this is supposed to be my rest from teaching, and I’m tired of teaching all night in my dreams as well.

So instead of dreams, here is an image of three trees on a hillside. It felt like an archetypal image when I took it, and the digital distortions give it a dreamlike quality. Three trees on a green hill. Cat-claws slashes of jet trails across the sky. So many mystical traditions around the world, and through time, consider three to be an important number. Something in the human psyche responds to sets of three. Sets of three are dynamic, curious, energetic, satisfying. Three aspects of deity. Three wishes. Tragedies come in threes. Three guesses. Three days. Three challenges. Three trials.


Gratitude List:
1. Holy moments
2. Compelling images
3. Cornbread
4. Sleep
5. Family time

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for the Sixth Day of Kwanzaa:
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


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


“The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.”
—Mary Oliver


“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)


From “Dawn”
Lyla June Johnston
Dawn. It is dawn.
The sun is conquering the sky
and my grandmother and I
are heaving prayers at the horizon.
“Show me something unbeautiful,” she says,
“and I will show you the veil over your eyes and take it away.
And you will see hozho all around you, inside of you.”


Someone Should Start Laughing
A Poem by Hafiz
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing—Now!

Notes from the Week’s Adventures

Notes on the Adventures of the Week:

My parents came on Tuesday morning when they heard that the tree crew was going to be able to come and take down the old poplar. They brought a friend from their garden: a monarch caterpillar. She wandered around and explored the milkweed all day, but did not eat.

   

   
They took the tree down in stages. By the end of the day Tuesday, a sweltering, humid rain swamp of a day, they had taken it down to the central trunk. The caterpillar had begun hanging from a leaf by her foot, and occasionally swaying or twitching as she began to get comfortable for her transformation.

   
By ten on Wednesday morning, the trunk was down, and the crew commenced to saw it into sections, carting away several dump truck loads. The lawn was completely torn up–they clearly tried very hard to be careful, but it was impossible on that wet ground not to make mud.

I came in the house at about 1 in the afternoon to find the caterpillar’s skin (that black thing on the leaf above the chrysalis–I put it there so I could have both in one picture) on the counter, and the emerald jewel of the chrysalis hanging there. How is that possible, that this oblong jewel was inside that caterpillar skin? And now for complete transformation: Her insides will dissolve into goo while her wings form and she takes her new shape.

 

This is the stump. I haven’t checked the measurement on its diameter, but you could put a little table and a chair up there. I posed the feather.

Notes from the tree guy:
1. He thinks it’s one of the tallest trees they’ve ever taken down.
2. It was still strong, but a couple more years and it would have been too much rot (see that big spot?) and would have been really dangerous in the taking down.
3. He thinks it was about 90 feet tall.

We counted the rings–it’s hard to be sure you’re getting them all–and got somewhere between 67 and 71 years. Some of the rings are really thin and some are really wide. This is the story the tree is telling.

The porch is now a sunny spot in the mornings.

I did not plan to reseed a yard this week, but that’s what I did today. Satisfying work, and it needed to be done before another big rain washes all the exposed topsoil away.

I’m going to miss the shade and the people who lived in the city of its branches, but seeing all that early rot in the middle of every large branch made me realize that it was a really good decision.


Gratitude List:
1. How the work gets done.
2. Painting. I have been loving my morning painting practice, and I am sad to see the time of relaxed morning painting coming soon to an end.
3. Clouds and blue sky.
4. Wind chimes. I bought myself a nice set of metal ones today to replace the clunky old bamboo ones.
5. Ferns and Morning Glories

May we walk in Beauty!

Stand a Moment

Gratitude List:
1. Sharing rainbows with strangers
2. Monarchs everywhere
3. The many years of shade the old Poplar has given this hollow
4. Good quick air-clearing rain
5. Tenderness and kindness are still to be found, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Tuesday When the Tree Comes Down:
“Drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence. Here, where the old ways are crumbling and you may be tempted to burn down your own house. Ask instead for an introduction to that which endures. This place without a foothold is the province of grace. It is the questing field, most responsive to magic and fluent in myth. Here, where there is nothing left to lose, sing out of necessity that your ragged heart be heard. Send out your holy signal and listen for the echo back.” ―Toko-pa Turner
***
“A child needs the same things a tree needs: Earth. Water. Sun. Air.” ―Unknown
***
“What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.” ―Wendell Berry
***
“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”
―Barry Lopez
***
“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone & every flower, every bird that sings & every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees & the hills & the river & the rocks, in the sea & the stars & the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.” ―Kate Forsyth

The Face in the Shadows

 
Someone appears to be watching in the tree shadows.

Gratitude List:
1. Rain. Oh yes, the rain. The scent of it. The coolness in the air. The way you can feel the plants sighing with relief.
2. Yesterday, in one visual moment: A crow in a dead tree, and a monarch flitting by, blue sky behind.
3. Chicory. Have I mentioned the chicory? A blue that heals.
4. Writing Day. Today I took John Terlazzo’s Flame in the Hand Writer’s Retreat. What an utter joy. My spirit is quieter. My resolve is firmer. I feel anchored. Chanting, meditating, listening, writing.
5. Looking through old college yearbooks with college friends. Oh my.

Holyholyholyhallelujah.


“There is so much in eternity that is trying to reach us, if only we can suspend our wranglings long enough to be touched.” —Toko-pa Turner
***
“I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.” —D. H. Lawrence
***
“Water, the Hub of Life. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Water is the most extraordinary substance! Practically all its properties are anomalous, which enabled life to use it as building material for its machinery. Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893 – 1986) Hungarian-American physiologist; Nobel laureate
***
“There is really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” —Arundhati Roy
***
“God is only ever where we stand with our neighbor in trouble and against injustice.” —Naomi Wolf
***
“Follow the waters,
lean in with the trees,
breathe the cool morning air,
walk through the swirling mists.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider

Oaks


Today’s prompt is to title the poem the name of a plant, and then to write the poem.

Oaks
(for the people who sit in their trees to stop the pipeline)

The women themselves are oaks
in this ocean of oak,
in these groves of trees–
Sycamore, Poplar, Pine–
riding their boats,
tiny houses high in the boughs of the oak trees.

Riding the waves of storm,
surfing the wind high up in the branches,
they have no safe port, no harbor,
no safe place to re-supply.
Below them, the sharks circle,
waiting for the first sign of weakness.
But their friends, too, have made a circle,
a web to hold the women who sit in the oaks.

The women are watching and waiting.

They are protectors.
They are the guardians.
They are trees and the mothers of trees.
They know the secrets of the acorn.
They know how long it takes an oak to grow.
They have the patience of mountains.


Gratitude List:
1. Warm spring weather
2. Spring breeze
3. Reading books together
4. The defenders of the earth
5. Magic

May we walk in Beauty!


A few weeks ago, I had a Facebook conversation with several friends about the books we loved as children because someone we loved read them to us. The conversation was brought on by a post by the author Kate DiCamillo, who wrote about her elementary school teacher reading her The Island of the Blue Dolphins. Kate DiCamillo is herself the author of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. On Friday, at the Kreutz Creek library book sale, I bought a copy of Edward Tulane. When Joss saw it, he said his Library teacher had read it to his class, and that it was one of his favorite books, and he said we were going to take a break in our reading of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising in order to read it. We just finished reading it now, on the porch, and even though I knew what was going to happen, even though my heart had been broken and mended with Edward’s half a dozen times already, when the absolute perfect ending happened, I went to pieces and sobbed. Oh. It is exquisite. It is now one of my favorite books, too.

Lift Up Your Faces

“Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.” —Maya Angelou
*
“With dreamwork, we are endlessly tenderising ourselves to subtletly. When we begin to know its dimensions, pain can no longer envelop us in an indistinct mass. It’s not that we are ridding ourselves of suffering, but rather learning its name, which is the prelude to befriending it.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
Humility
by Mary Oliver
Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.
*
“On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree.” —W. S.Merwin
*
“Nature never repeats itself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton
*
“All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” —Kabir
*
Mirabai Starr said, “Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens. Poets speak truth in a very naked way that bypasses the rational mind. Poetry evokes, rather than describes.”
*
Kathleen Norris writes, “Poets understand that they do not know what they mean, and that is their strength. . . . Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the limits of language, and our knowing, and are dependent on our senses to ‘know’ for us.”
*
“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estés
*
“Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed can keep millions of people from starvation. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the world’s future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred…”
—His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
*
I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing–
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones–
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.

I want to stay clear in your sight.
I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.
—Rainer Maria Rilke


Gratitude List:
1. Teenagers: Asking open, thoughtful questions. Offering deep honesty. Sharing stories.
2. Cats. I know I am obsessed with the cats these days, but they really are caretakers of the soul of a home, and these two are settling into their role beautifully. (Though it can be a little hard to sleep with one on my chest and the other on my feet. I am a tosser and turner.)
3. Did I say teenagers? The energy of this UNICEF club at school, young people who are eager and intent to make a difference, to help a hurting world. They teach me so much about jumping in with an open heart.
4. October morning mists. Surreal and magickal. Moody.
5. Feathers. Guardian angels. Reminders to fly. Messages from Spirit. Invitations to stand in the presence of Beauty.

May we walk in Beauty.

Bubble Dragon

I wrote this last year, and it’s even more true today, if that’s possible:
“You know that exercise you do, where you list 12 famous people, dead or alive, that you would invite to dinner? I always loved that, seating Joan of Arc next to Harriet Tubman and Hildegarde of Bingen next to Starhawk. I love to ponder such conversations.

“Still, lately the table I fantasize about setting includes many more than 12, and all of you are living souls whom I know here in this space. Many of you I have never met in person, in this lifetime at least, and some of you I see rarely or never anymore, but I treasure who we have been together, and I am grateful for re-connection here in this place. Oh, how we would laugh and talk and sing and weep and eat until the wee hours if we were to set such a table. We’d need a many-day feast, I think.

“Thank you for being my friends.”
*
“One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people – a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lilian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousand of leaves tremble! What a life is ours! Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?” —Mary Oliver
*
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
—John Keats
*
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”
—Rumi
*
“My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: ‘We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.’” —Mother Jones
*
“Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” —Franklin Roosevelt


Gratitude List:
1. Wise friends
2. Thoughtful teenagers
3. Real, actual compassionate souls
4. Eggs on toast–comfort food
5. Sweater weather

May we walk in Beauty!

Hearts in the Trees

DSCN9072
(I have a friend who takes pictures of hearts that she finds in the world, and another friend who takes pictures of trees that she loves.  Here is a heart.  And I love this tree.)

Gratitude List:
1. Hearts.  Trees.  Hearts in trees.   The friends who draw them to my attention.
2. All this blooming.  Everywhere.  You’re blooming too, I think.
3. A day off and hanging out with my muchachos.
4. Arts.  I have been thinking a lot lately about how the arts make us more fully human, more compassionate with ourselves and others, more able to deal with and comprehend our secret inner worlds.  I want to do more to incorporate more art into my teaching, to encourage my students to incorporate more art into their projects.
5. Stories of Holy Week.  I have always thought of Jesus as a revolutionary, but somehow this year I have been struck in a more powerful way with the way the stories of Holy Week portray him: the street theater of the donkey ride into the city, the anarchism of the temple cleansing, the subversive answers to the establishment, the way he turned everybody’s expectations upside-down. (How sad that this story is so often used instead to enforce the status quo.)

May we walk in Beauty!