Pathways of the Heart

Mountaintop  42068733_360534797822346_7202145227302807350_n(1)

Looking back through some of my previous blog posts, I came upon this again this morning, something that keeps leaping out at me from the past to remind me to open my throat. Today Joss is nine and Ellis is twelve. They must have been three and six at the time of this story:

This morning when we were playing with our gnomes, Joss decided that the gnome house was on fire, and he raced to get a group of gnomes to put it out. “Red! We need all the red gnomes!” Exactly–to put out a fire, it takes lots of red gnomes. Ellis chimed in, “And Minus! We need the Minus Gnome! Because a house with fire Minus the fire is just a house!”

Sometimes I sure would like to use some of Minus Gnome’s magic on me. An anxious Beth Minus anxiety is just Beth. Angst-ridden, anger-struck Beth Minus angst and anger? Beth. So that’s a nice little thing to do with meditation. Of course as soon as I began to work with the idea, it hit me again that the angers and angsts are so often born of compassion and caring, and for those I have been seeking the services of Multiplication Gnome. I need to untangle the compassion from its attendant anger at injustice, its partner anxiety at losses to those I love.

Wow. Look at those words that I wanted to get rid of: Angst, Anxiety, Anger. . .I looked them up, along with their sister Anguish. There at their root is angh-, which comes from the Indo-European language tree, and generally refers to distress of some sort. That lovely vowel–ah–cut short in the back of the throat, closed up along with all hope of breath: Angh!

Fear, shame, anger, distress: what sound emerges when you truly feel them? Angh! Choke.

But still, that lovely vowel–ah–the first we say in so many languages: Mama, Abba, Baba, Dada, Nana, Papa. The opposite of the choke, our family names, our names for the Ineffable Mystery: they release the breath in a tender sigh. Ah. There we go.

When I get really stuck in the Angh, I can dislodge that choke with a little Hahaha, a great belly laugh to force the air back through, a little spiritual CPR, so to speak. Or skip down the street with a Tra-la-la, a little song to start up the rhythm of breathing again. Or a little eureka, a bright discovery with a great Aha!

So the next time I wake up at three in the morning, suddenly filled with the dread of what is happening to this world that I have brought these light-filled children into, or choked with shame for some harshness I have spoken to their tender hearts, I think I will apply the Ah!, the Mama, the Ha! and see if that breath can be a lullaby to take my spirit back to sleep.


Gratitude List:
1. Breathing through the angh- to the aaaaaah
2. Long sleep last night
3. Re-orientation: Not getting stuck in the ruts of rage, but carrying the coals tucked in my apron to use at need
4. So many names for the Great Mystery
5. Building relationships with those who are not human: ducks, cats, trees, rivers, stones. . .

May we walk in Beauty!

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!

Hold Your Heart


These days, my heart feels a little like a shredded blanket that I am trying my best to hold into one piece, and my guess is that yours might be a little tender right now, too.

When my children fight, and I have to speak sternly, or tell them for the fifteenth time to clean up after themselves, I suddenly get teary: So many mothers have been wrenched from their children. How dare I speak anything but total tenderness to these kids?

Or they show me the projects and ideas they’re working on, or they read out loud something funny in their books, and I suddenly get teary: What must it be like to be torn out of your children’s lives? To wonder if anyone is appreciating their humor and tenderness and genius in the way that only you can? To not know if they will be cared for and comforted?

My arms hurt with ache of the loss, like they did after my own miscarriages. I feel that wrenching in my womb, that sense of not being able to go back to the before, when everything was okay.

In the day since the president signed his grandiose Executive Order to stop the separation of families, I only come up with more sadness, more questions. I am having trouble sorting out the information, and I wonder if this was the intent: To offer an obvious outrage, then set out a “solution,” but a solution with fangs.

These are things that I don’t like, and things that I want to continue to call my representatives about:
1. The 2300 who were torn from their families must be reunited with their parents. Now!
2. Indefinite detention–that doesn’t sound so good. Refugees, asylum seekers–they’re going to be placed in detention indefinitely. How far is this from a concentration camp?
3. I think I understand this new plan correctly: Entering the country without paperwork will now be a criminal offense instead of a misdemeanor. Is that right? That’s getting pretty intense. And that would then lead to children being taken from their parents anyway, right?
4. The language that these folks are using to talk about deterrents and following the law is still pretty brutal and cruel-sounding.
5. The president’s EO feels like a smokescreen, to further obfuscate the cruelty and inhumanity that is occurring. It all feels so carefully orchestrated to me–Like they played with these children’s lives not because they really thought it would even provide the deterrent they claimed, but because they wanted to exhaust our outrage so that we’d be ready to give up and accept this EO as an answer.
6. Blogger John Pavlovitz used the analogy of someone running recklessly and intentionally over people with their car, then blaming it on someone else. When they finally stop running over people, you don’t praise them for stopping. You stand up and speak out.


Gratitude List:
1. The girls and women of Sense of Wonder Camp. I love telling stories to that group. This year, their theme is leadership, and they’re including the collaborative leadership and listening process of The Council of All Beings.
2. On the way home from Sense of Wonder, I saw a foal nursing from a mare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Tender.
3. All the Tree Beings: Sycamore, poplar, oak, pine, walnut, willow. . .
4. These goofy, goofy cat people.
5. Snakes and snakes messages. Snake sightings are becoming at least an every other day occurrence in the holler right now. Time to shed old bad habits and pick up new good ones.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Dreams of Trees

Gratitude List:
1. The black arms of trees reaching up into a magenta sky
2. The white arms of the sycamores with the ginger ruff of autumn leaves against the deep grey of woods along the river
3. Al the many varieties of oak
4. The two triplet birch trees in front of my parents’ house
5. The rusty feathers of the larch and dawn redwoods

May we walk in Beauty!

The Heart Must Hold Them All


I have been thinking again about the quotations I post every day, how they’re like rungs on a ladder for me, steps toward ideas that I am seeking, seeds of ideas that I am watering and nurturing. Sometimes they’re a little harsh and jangly, and that is well and good, because I am feeling a little harsh and jangly these days, full of nerves easily frayed by the next round of cynicism and rudeness and cruelty and tragedy.

Then I find another quotation that blows cooling breeze over the rippling waters of my soul. Or someone posts a picture of a man carrying a pink umbrella to shield his family from the sun, and his wife, with their baby on her back, wraps an arm companionably about his waist. Or a student comes up to me with shining eyes and a world-changing idea. Or the mist lies over the fields of drying sunflowers like a road to Avalon.

And I find myself back at the start again, learning as if for the first time, that my heart must hold them all, both the jangly and the tender.

I watch my skittish cat, the longing in his eyes to be part of the action, and the constant anxiety, the startlement at every tiny sound. He’s so sensitive, so wound up, so completely attentive to it all, that he sometimes gets paralyzed, and can’t function except to flee and hide. When we determine that our Work is pay closer attention, to increase our sensitivity, to care more deeply, it is possible to become as tightly wound as poor Sachs, and tremble in fear at any change in atmosphere. In days like these, it’s important to me that I remember the pink umbrella and the shining eyes and the mist. If I don’t want to get completely jangled and twitchy, I must keep looking for the feathers and the sparkling morning cobwebs, must listen for the racket of robins in the hollow each morning, must breathe in the scent of autumn in the air.


“The world has been abnormal for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a peaceful and reasonable climate. If there is to be any peace or reason, we have to create it in our own hearts and homes.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet
*
“People are just trees who have forgotten.”
—William Adams
*
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” —Goethe
*
“My actions are my only true belongings.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
*
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong
*
“The women, united, will never be defeated.” —Ubaka Hill
*
“Life is a luminous pause between two great mysteries, which themselves are one.” —C. G. Jung
*
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” —John Steinbeck


Gratitude List:
1. Balance
2. Paying Attention
3. Waking Up
4. Beginning Again
5. Sunrise

May we walk in Beauty!

It Lights the Whole World

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
– e. e. cummings
*
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” –Frederick Douglass
*
Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”

Look
what happens
with a love like that —
It lights the whole
world.

–Hafiz
*
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
~ Mother Teresa


Gratitude List:
1. Re-arranging. We have a storage and clutter problem, but this weekend, we’ve been sorting and shifting, finding places for things, getting the right pieces of furniture for the right jobs.
2. The red berries on the dogwood trees
3. Hints of yellow and red in the leaves
4. Bridges
5. Warm socks

May we walk in Beauty!

Silence, My Soul

“If we are to teach peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless ideal resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”
―Gandhi
*
“We must call evil by its name–call white supremacy a sin from the pulpit, and call white America to repentance.” ―Jim Wallis
*
“I think ultimately people become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent. I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.

“If, underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — I call them potholes — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction? … [T]here are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, they tend to search for very simple black and white answers.” ―Christian Picciolini, former skinhead
*
“Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.” ―John Oliver
*
“Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons…
We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
―Sweet Honey in the Rock
*
In Starhawk’s novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, Maya tells her beloved community to approach the invading soldiers with these words: “There’s a place set for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”
*
“The future, good or ill, was not forgotten,
but ceased to have any power over the present.
Health and hope grew strong in them,
and they were content with each good day as it came,
taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)
*
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”
― Linda Hogan
*
“Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.” ―Rabindranath Tagore
*
“Whoever you are,
now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
I have loved many women and men,
but I love none better than you.”
—Walt Whitman, “To You”
*
Let it flow.
Let what may come, come.
Let what must go, go.
But we,
we will put our feet
in the icy waters of now
and know
how all will pass
around us–
through us,
between us–
how everything changes
and everything stays the same. —Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt
*
“Shaped language is strangely immortal, living in a meadowy freshness outside of time.

But it also lives in the moment, in us. Emotion, intellect, and physiology are inseparably connected in the links of a poem’s sound. It is difficult to feel intimacy while shouting, to rage in a low whisper, to skip and weep at the same time.” ―Jane Hirshfield


Gratitude List:
1. The way this boy turns everything into a song. When I told them I didn’t know if the party was going to include swimming, he started singing from the back seat, in a lovely melody, “Call and check. Call and check. Call and check.” When he found a Lego he’d been searching for: “Here it is. Here it is, Here it is!” Often, throughout the day, I’ll hear him singing to himself in the other room. He takes after his dad.
2. One of my deeply compassionate colleagues, in the wake of the weekend’s violence, offered this solution: To love all our students more–to show it more. All of them. That’s our work. That’s the work of healing. That’s a solution I can implement.
3. Instars. I love that word. Instars are the developmental metamorphic stages of insects in which they shed a skin and a new body emerges with new powers and abilities. That’s a bit of a whimsical way to say it, perhaps, but I think my children are both approaching new instar phases of their development.
4. Voices calling for change. Coming out of this weekend’s terrorist attack, I see people looking inward, trying to understand at deeper levels what white privilege means, what it means to live in a white supremacist society. Perhaps good will rise out of evil.
5. Bruschetta and toast.

May we walk in Beauty!

There Was an Old Woman. . .


The Haines Shoe House, in Hellam Township, just a few miles from Goldfinch Farm. We finally took a tour yesterday. If you live near here, you should go there, get some ice cream, and take the tour.

“. . .my grandmother would get very annoyed when anyone would talk about “the power of love.” Love, she insisted, is not power, which she considered always coercive. To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
*
“Stories beget understanding,
Understanding begets respect,
Respect begets justice,
Justice begets peace,
That is the power of story.”
―Antonio Rocha
*
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.” ―Vincent van Gogh
*
“When we share our stories and dreams, we are accepting help in the shouldering of responsibility and despair. By extension, our windfalls and triumphs belong to us all. In witnessing each other, we are cross-pollinating our wisdoms and broadening our storylines, moving the locus of our attention from competition to collaboration. No longer governed by personal lack, we begin to make decisions as an ecosystem would, from the appreciation of our indivisibility.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past.” ―Robert Holden
*
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Gratitude List:
1. June bugs making lazy drunken circles in the tall grass by the walnut tree. There must be hundreds of them this year. They seem so ancient, so impossible.
2. Yesterday’s lower humidity
3. The roller coaster flight of the goldfinch. It feels like joy.
4. Fun coincidences. FB tells me that we went to the Shoe House on July 16 last year, too. That must be our Shoe House Day. And what a historical gem it is. What a quirky and delightful story of Mr. Haines, the philanthropist who built it. And they have good ice cream.
5. How people gather ’round. How people hold each other, even strangers. It makes me believe that there is a will to goodness within us.

May we walk in Beauty!

A Woman Must Be Willing to Burn



“A woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it is that she truly loves.”  —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
*
“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
*
“I can’t offer justice so I offer just trees.” —Kilian Schoenberger (who photographs trees and woods)
*
Make it All a Prayer
Beth Weaver-Kreider

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
*
Dalai Lama: “There are only two days of the year in which nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. That means today is the ideal day to love, to believe, to create and to live.”
*
“We cannot assume the sacredness nor spiritual livingness of the earth or accept it as a new ideology or as a sentimentally pleasing idea. We must experience that life and sacredness, if it is there, in relationship to our own and to that ultimate mystery we call God. We must experience it in our lives, in our practice, in the flesh of our cultural creativity. We must allow it to shape us, as great spiritual ideas have always shaped those who entertain them, and not expect that we can simply use the image of Gaia to meet emotional, religious, political, or even commercial needs without allowing it to transform us in unexpected and radical ways. The spirituality of the earth is more than a slogan. It is an invitation to initiation, to the death of what we have been and the birth of something new.”
—David Spangler


Gratitude List:
1. Rain
2. Bluebirds
3. Fresh berry smoothies
4. Hear/reading people reminisce
5. My friend, the sycamore tree

May we walk in Beauty!

The Girls Who Are Trees


The new Sense of  Wonder T-shirt (my Sycamore is wearing it for the photos), and some of the girls’ weavings


“Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don’t, it may drench itself out in sorrow. You special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person. It’s up to you.”  —Joan Baez
*
“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
― Leymah Gbowee
*
“Do not be afraid to include other people in your story, to ask others to hold the light for you in times of darkness and pain. This is a grace and a gift you offer them, to allow another the honor of walking beside you on the path, in silence or in song, no matter how treacherous the journey.”  —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2012
*
“When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
*
“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”  —Rachel Carson


Gratitude List:
1. The girls and women of Sense of Wonder Camp. What a lovely morning. After we talked about the life of Wangari Maathai, they each got a tree to take home. They immediately started naming their trees. One red oak sapling was almost completely leafless. I said, “This one needs a lot of love.” A girl next to me said, “That’s the one I am taking. I have a lot of love to give.”
2. Role models, mentors, and heras. Rachel Carson, Leymah Gbowee, Wangari Maathai, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, you.
3. Sycamore, oak, maple, beech, magnolia, redbud, walnut, poplar, acacia, frangipanni, baobab. . .
4. The wisdom of young women and girls
5. This quiet summer morning rain.

May we walk in Beauty!