Gratitudes, Musings

In the Dreamtime, Day 4

This is a digitally enhanced fragment of the painting that was on the wall of the restaurant at yesterday’s 
Christmas dinner. I think it looks like the Susquehanna River Bridge.

I don’t know if anxiety dreams should count in the collection of images I gather for the coming year. Last night’s dreams were all about being unprepared, about having to wing it in front of school administrators and donors. Considering how helpful and supportive my school’s administrators are, it’s clear that these dreams are about my anxieties about myself rather than about my school. I suppose it’s important not to ignore the deep truth of these dreams–that I do not feel adequate to the task of teaching. This is not a revelation. It’s part of my every day reality. Whenever someone depends on me, I feel the weight of not performing, not mastering, not being perfectly suited to the task. No matter how much daytime work I do to convince myself that I am being sufficient to the tasks of my life, my dreams always tell me how much more work I have to do. Sigh.

In last night’s dreams, I actually did fairly well teaching a chapter from a book I had never read while administrators (they were clearly from my dream-school, not recognizably from my real life school) looked on. Then I gave a group of very sleepy donors a run-down of the work we do in our Advisory Groups. It actually woke them up and got them participating and laughing, even though I diverged into some topics I really knew nothing about. So maybe I will look at those dreams and remind myself: I am sufficient to the tasks I must accomplish. But today, at least, will be another day of stepping away from the necessary tasks I must complete in order to be sufficiently prepared to return to school next week.

Gratitude List:
1. My Christmas robe. It’s soft and toasty warm–the perfect thing to cope with winter.
2. Family. I know not to take these people in my life for granted. Family can be our greatest joy or our most intimate agony. If the latter is your story, I wish for you the discovery of healthy, joyful family that is formed by bonds not of blood, but of circumstance and friendship.
3. Time out of time
4. Darkness and light
5. Music of resistance

May we walk in Beauty!

Words for the first day of Kwanzaa:
Joyful Kwanzaa to my friends who are celebrating the first fruits: Today is Umoja, or Unity. Reflect on ways in which we can bring unity in divided situations in the coming year.

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” —Mary Oliver

“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” ―Susan Sontag

“People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.” —Wendell Berry

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.” —Mary Oliver

“When you understand interconnectedness, it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying.”
—Robert A. F. Thurman

“It’s quiet now. So quiet that can almost hear other people’s dreams.” ―Gayle Forman

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh

Musings, Poems


I wrote this poem this afternoon before I heard the news from Gaza.

I don’t know how to seek gratitude amidst the pain of this day, knowing that my government’s bombastic embassy move to Jerusalem precipitated the violence of the day. Or coincided, anyway. The photos of the US/Israeli celebration of the new embassy location were a kick in the gut.

May each peaceful gesture we make bring more peace into the world.

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Tell the Truth

“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
“Tell the truth about your wound, and then you will get a truthful picture of the remedy to apply to it. Don’t pack what is easiest and most available into the emptiness. Hold out for the right medicine. You will recognize it because it makes your life stronger rather than weaker.” — Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —” —Emily Dickinson
As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,
may your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills. When the way is flat and dull in times of gray endurance,
may your imagination continue to evoke horizons.
—John O‘Donohue
by David Whyte

These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now.
“I always thought why didn’t somebody do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” —anonymous
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” —James Heller
“There comes . . . a longing never to travel again except on foot.”
—Wendell Berry

Gratitude List:
1. All the ponderables of yesterday: The Woman in Blue, Our Lady of Fatima, the tragedy of Emily Dickinson, the Elder Mother, Blue Hydrangea. . . I cant’s say quite how they are all woven together, but they fit into the day’s tapestry.
2. Creativity
3. The trolls might be out there in force, but the wise and compassionate voices are rising.
4. Crickets
5. Book sale! I am going to the Book Sale at Overlook after school today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Maybe You Are Magic

“You take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.”
—Frida Kahlo
“I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth? … And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
—Audre Lorde
“The greatest influence you can have in any situation is to be the presence of love.” —Robert Holden
“I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” —Stephen Jay Gould
You Reading This, Be Ready —by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened 
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life––
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us… . We must recover the sense of the majesty of the creation and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.” —Wendell Berry
Tony Hoagland’s The Word:

“Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds
of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?”

Gratitude List:
1. Cloud-shadows: I think that gazing at the undersides of clouds has given me a deeper sense than anything of the true color of indigo. Mostly I see grey, but in recent years, I sometimes see that deep indigo.
2. This little ginger bundle of purr on my lap
3. Getting a little relief from the ragweed sniffles
4. My children’s teachers
5. Stones for grounding, which is also to say: There are many ways to pray.

May we walk in Beauty!


Mirror in the Hands of God

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.” –Rumi
“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.”
~ Khalil Gibran
“If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” –Desmond Tutu
“In a moment of pure frustration today, I realized that there is no angry way to say ‘bubbles.'” –Anonymous
“God is an artist. It invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. It has no real style, it just goes on trying other things.” ~Pablo Picasso

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday afternoon, a monarch making lazy loops through the echinacea patch behind the old classroom building at school.
2. The day before, a pair of goldfinches twittering in the same patch of echinacea.
3. A very pleasant (if a little hot) first day of school. All those thoughtful, shining faces!
4. My thoughtful and compassionate colleagues
5. Love and Learning. Love and Learning.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Messages from Skunk


Blessed are the watchers, the sentinels, the keepers.
Blessed are the ones who pause and listen
for the quietest voices on the wind.

Blessed are the ones who let truth whisper
in the curling spirals of their ears,
who take it in and feel it in their marrow,
let it settle in their bellies, in the gut, the womb, the blood.
Blessed are the ones who sit with that bright coal
that grows and glows within them
as it reaches flaming fingers into every artery and vein.

I have been in conversation today with a friend on the subject of truth. While I love truth as an ideal, and I have worked on impeccability as a spiritual discipline, I have tended to be uncomfortable speaking of truth because of the way it has been used–particularly in religious circles–as a bludgeon. Too many times I have heard people speak of the One Truth: “I have a corner on the Truth, and unless you believe exactly as I do, you are believing lies and falsehoods and you are hopelessly lost.” Poor, poor Truth. She’s so misunderstood.

And lately she’s become such a commodity. When people in positions of power are slicing her up into tiny fragments, stitching her into their webs of falsehoods, and selling her to the lowest bidder, she’s lost all her sense of purpose in the world. It behooves people of integrity to take her in, harbor her, give her sanctuary. My friend suggested taking Truth inside, and observing your physiological response. How does she feel inside you? These times call for a new and wide-awake relationship with Truth. She’s an ally, not a weapon. She’s a teacher, not a dictator.

Gratitude List:
1) You know how I chose skunk (see February 3) as my symbol of nonviolent resistance? This morning as we were driving between corn-stubbly fields on the way to school, a great big skunker with ambled out of the thin line of woods and looked at us passing by. I love seeing skunks at any time, but today it felt like an affirmation.
2) Crows. I think we saw all 20,000 at once this afternoon. No kidding. They were swirling in the wind above a field like a little cyclone, sitting in all the trees along the highway, flying above us in the sunset. They also feel like a message.
3) All the migrators. Along with the crows, the sky was simply filled with all the wing-folk today. Flock of small birds layered behind the crow flocks, and behind and above them, skeins of geese.
4) That seahorse cloud. Golden-white against the pinking sky. Like an embossment. Far away, it kept its shape longer than other whimsy-clouds tend to, almost the whole way home from school.
5) Vision. Sight. Seeing.

May we walk in Beauty!


The Truth about the Tree Poem

Poem-A-Day Day 24 Prompt:  The title begins, “The Truth About ______”

When I said that I was transformed into a tree
perhaps it would have been more accurate
to say that I became a raven
my roots curling into claws
my branches melting into blackness
the rush of the dawn wind in my ears.

Did I say “roots” again?  Pardon me.
My feet are roots, of course, when I am a tree,
but also when I am a rainbow.
Did you know?  A rainbow has roots too
great arcing roots that mirror and reflect
their sky-form.  The earth spectrum of the underworld.
When I am a rainbow, I am a perfect circle
holding the world in my colors.

It may be closer to the truth were I to say
that one fateful day I became a stone
and sank deeply into a stillness so profound
I could not hear even my jeweled heart
burning with the brilliant fire of the Earth.
I cannot recall what happened to my night-black wings
on the day I turned into a stone.

You may think it is not possible, not true,
that right now I am actually hearing you say, “But
a person does not simply turn into a tree
or a stone, into a rainbow or a bird.”
Now, see, I have told you your own thoughts
and you can feel free to be amazed.

But how can I not hear you
when you have become
the gentlest of breezes
and whispered your protest
with a smile
into my ear?