Limber, Healthy, and Strong

The ferns remember. . .

I’m not moving my body enough. I can feel almost the gears and cogs gumming up, getting crochety. It’s easy to put off yoga or walking because I have one more task at the computer that MUST be done. Everything is on the screens now.

So I set the intention of getting up and moving every hour. At school, I’m at least pacing around my classroom, walking to the office (and then speed-walking back to my classroom and back to the office again because I forgot something), even walking to and from the car. Here, I can ignore the pauses “between,” miss the chances to stand up and walk around.

I’m including ten deep outside breaths every morning (as my sister-in-law prescribed), and greeting the Beings in the hollow. I need to find patience for yoga and other exercise. Walking is good, because by the time I start to thinking, “Ugh. I have so much to do on the computer,” I am half a mile away from the house, and I still have another half mile to walk back.

So. Here’s the intention: Get up and walk around the house at least once and hour–maybe us and down the steps. I’ll keep up the walking every day or two. And once or twice a day, 15 minutes of yoga.

Truth be told, the yoga has been demoralizing. For years, I have had a balance series that I did, and over the past six months, I have noticed that one of the more challenging pieces has been getting harder and harder, and I can no longer actually do it–my left hand can no longer reach behind me and grab my left foot. I love that stretch, so sometimes, I sidle up to a wall so I can push my foot into my hand. But it’s no longer the easy flow that it used to be.

I just need to redevelop a new routine, one that still challenges me, that includes some of my beloved balance poses, but one that also stretches my back and legs, one that strengthens my core, one that allows me to shift away from some of my expectations and lets me be in the moment.

Also, when I am creating intentions to move more and exercise more, I have a tendency to fall onto the tracks of the weight-loss train. This is a danger zone for me. I need to want this for my health and my strength and my mobility and not for my weight. Somehow that sneaky little trick always happens and I find myself starting to pull out the scales, starting to plan another dietary tactic. So the spiritual/emotional discipline in this will be to keep my focus on keeping limber, healthy, and strong. There’s my mantra.


Gratitude List:
1. My yeast came! Thanks to my friend Joan, who sent me yeast in the mail. This morning I set another dough to rise with my wild yeast (the last attempt, on Tuesday, resulted in a chewy flatbread), and this afternoon, I am thinking of making a dough with Joan’s yeast for a calzone or something for supper. The wild yeast needs me to let it be experimental for now and not have too high an expectation
2. Cats in the classroom. Cats are good people to have around.
3. Poetry. This month has been another period of poetic breakthrough for me, and I am grateful. I think my writing deepens when I’m fighting my way through the woods of anxiety and grief. Also, an accountable writing community helps.
4. Intentions.
5. Watching the green appear, and anticipating oriole.

May we walk in Beauty!


“‪Good morning. There is a small, but meaningful thing you could do today in the service of your long term goal. Do that thing and then celebrate your progress with wild abandon. This is how we cultivate our dreams with a gardener’s gentle diligence.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Most lives are not distinguished by great achievements. They are measured by an infinite number of small ones. Each time you do a kindness for someone or bring a smile to his face, it gives your life meaning. Never doubt your value, little friend. The world would be a dismal place without you in it.” —Lisa Kleypas


“Decide to rise.
Lean in. Listen up. Closely.
It’s your soul speaking and she says,
Get UP! I need you. I want you. I am you. Choose me.
Lean in. Listen up. Closely.
Decide to rise.” —Danielle LaPorte


“What you are comes to you.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Poetry, indeed, has always been one of humanity’s sharpest tools for puncturing the shrink-wrap of silence and oppression, and although it may appear to be galaxies apart from science, these two channels of truth have something essential in common: nature, the raw material for both. To impoverish the world of the birds and the bees is to impoverish it of the bards and the biologists.” —Jane Hirschfield


“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” —Helen Keller


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi


“We Are…
our grandmothers’ prayers,
we are our grandfathers’ dreamings,
we are the breath of the ancestors,
we are the spirit of God.”
―Ysaye M. Barnwell

Turning Toward Spring

A Random Catalog of Thoughts During Exile:
1. The rhythm of my days is much gentler and more self-paced, but it’s not really less busy. The work is still there, and perhaps there’s even more work. Instead of relying on a well-sketched idea and my own charisma to carry a class, I have to communicate my lesson plans extremely carefully and clearly for my students. I love this, too, but it’s a lot of determined work.
2. There are different kinds of tired. The tired feeling after one of those days of charismatic engagement with students is different from the tiredness of spending most of the day attached to my computer, communicating with people through a screen.
3. I miss my students. I didn’t think that would happen so soon, but I think the worry about everything has me thinking more about them, too, wondering how they are, missing the daily jokes in second period AP Comp, the earnestness of first period, the wild creativity, the sleepy good humor of others. Yesterday, I had Office Hours via Google Meet for my AP Comp classes, and I loved checking in with those who showed up. I don’t know how long this will go, but I am going to start having one or two periods of time every school day in which I have Office Hours, and anyone may stop in to talk.
4. I think I am doing pretty well at handling the anxiety, at being Rumi’s “Guest House,” and welcoming in all the challenging feelings. But I think I have let my anxiety lodge in my lower back. I rarely have back pain for more than a few hours. This week, it’s been a lot more prolonged. It may be partly the longer walks up hill and down, and the increased time sitting at a computer, but if I am honest, I think it’s also connected to the anxiety. Yoga has been incredibly helpful.
5. One of those goldfinches has a white forehead. I wonder if it’s a mutation, or just a bit of molting weirdness?
6. Here in the eastern US, where I live, Spring will arrive today, just before the turning of the day into tomorrow: 11:49. For the past six years, I have not had the chance to observe the shift into spring so closely. Happy Equinox, Friends!
7. That cardinal out in the grey wet morning is shining out like a glowing coal.
8. I need to work even harder to establish daily rhythms. I am a work-on-it-until-it’s-done person. I don’t take enough breaks. I need to work on chunking my activities a little more intentionally.
9. There needs to be more baking in this house during the Exile.
10. One son has a Flexible Instructional Day Plan. If I didn’t interrupt him occasionally, he would work from the moment he gets up (late morning) until midnight, with a few breaks to play Minecraft. This kid was built for cyber-schooling. I don’t think his teachers are assigning him too much work. I think he just likes to go down his own rabbit trails. Now I need to make sure he is keeping up with the reading and writing, too.
11. The other son has no FID plan. He re-arranges his room. He plays online games. He asks me to play games with him. He rejects all my suggestions for projects and activities. “I might do that later.” I haven’t been able to help him out much because I have been focused on my own school work. Tomorrow is a day off, so I will spend some time helping him to develop a plan.
12. I love that some people are calling these Jammy Days and living in their pajamas. On the other hand, I find that dressing in the morning gives me a certain energy and wakefulness. This is not true for everyone, of course, but I don’t feel fully ready for the day until I am dressed.


Gratitude List:
1. Cardinal shining through the rain. Birdlife at the feeder.
2. Establishing new rhythms. The first few days were hard. Keep your head down and slog through. Make it work. Now, I am seeing my way to establishing the home rhythm.
3. Baking. Yesterday it was scones. Today it might be scones again: I have to practice, don’t I?
4. Online connections. I give myself limits and parameters to social media use during the day, and I will be creating even more careful structure in the future. Still, outside connections are keeping me sane and grounded.
5. The way crises open up spaces for new paradigms. How Mutual Aid is rising as an important social construct. I love people.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.” —Martha Graham


“What in your life is calling you,
When all the noise is silenced,
The meetings adjourned. . .
The lists laid aside,
And the Wild Iris blooms
By itself
In the dark forest. . .
What still pulls on your soul?”
—Rumi


“For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love
And to both, bee and flower,
the giving and the receiving is a need and an ecstasy.” —Khalil Gibran


“Find the sweetness in your own heart,
then you may find the sweetness in every heart.”
—Rumi


“There is in Celtic mythology the notion of ‘thin places’ in the universe where the visible and the invisible world come into their closest proximity. To seek such places is the vocation of the wise and the good—and for those that find them, the clearest communication between the temporal and eternal. Mountains and rivers are particularly favored as thin places marking invariably as they do, the horizontal and perpendicular frontiers. But perhaps the ultimate of these thin places in the human condition are the experiences people are likely to have as they encounter suffering, joy, and mystery.” —Peter Gomes


“You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.” —Eliezer Yudkowsky


“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” —Dr. Seuss


March
by James Wright

A bear under the snow
Turns over to yawn.
It’s been a long, hard rest.
Once, as she lay asleep, her cubs fell
Out of her hair,
And she did not know them.
It’s hard to breathe
In a tight grave:
So she roars,
And the roof breaks.
Dark rivers and leaves
Pour down.
When the wind opens its doors
In its own good time,
The cubs follow that relaxed and beautiful woman
Outside to the unfamiliar cities
Of moss.


Spring Follows Winter Once More
by Tom Hennen

Lying here in the tall grass
Where it’s so soft
Is this what it is to go home?
Into the earth
Of worms and black smells
With a larch tree gathering sunlight
In the spring afternoon
And the gates of Paradise open just enough
To let out
A flock of geese.

Advent 16: Companionship

Last summer’s wren nest from the behind the light switch in the shop. Even claustrophobic people love the cozy symbolism of a nest.

Today, as we Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, a song and a poem to sustain us on this walk through Day Sixteen toward Advent. Thank you for walking with me. Only five more days until Sunreturn, Beloveds. We are going to make it.

When I compare this year’s more deliberate and careful wander into the dark of December with last year’s panicked careen, I am filled with gratitude. I know I tried last year, but I had decided that I was going to try a keto-based way of eating last fall, and my deliberations were focused on that, and less inward. It was only when I reached the growing light of late January that I realized how deeply I had sunk into winter’s numbness. Last year, I probably should have checked in with a therapist to keep me coping. This year, I am watching and ready to make that call, in case I feel myself sinking into the pool of sadness. If the season weighs too heavily, or the cold seeps into your spirit, I encourage you to be ready, too, to check in with a professional.

Funny, isn’t it? Usually, we look for the light at the end of a tunnel, meaning we’ll be out and into the fresh air, but while this journey into the well of December may bring us to a lighted chamber, we have to turn and walk out again the same distance before we get back out of the tunnel. Still, that moment of coming to center and pausing, then the turning, and setting our faces toward the return journey into the light–oh, how I long for that moment. That will be so joyful. Five more days.


Here is a video of Brian Claflin and Ellie Grace singing “I’m Gonna Walk It With You.” Whether our journey is the descent into winter’s darkness, or the determined march toward justice, I am glad of your companionship. You can support Claflin and Grace by buying their music at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8boCrXOp9M.


I wrote this poem a few years ago, but it feels like it fits this moment, my deep gratitude for your companionship on this journey.

Stepping Toward the Solstice

We stand in the shadows.
Hold my hand.
The darkness suffocates.
Look this way,
to where the sun shines briefly
through a curtain of ice.
This. This one moment
will sustain us for the next steps.


Gratitude List:
1. I made an enormous dent in my Impossible Mountain last night. Part of my relief today is the amount of work I accomplished, but a greater part of the relief is the feeling of that dam being unclogged. Still so much to do, but I have returned to the truth that Will builds Will. An act of will creates the possibility for more acts of will. As long as I keep that energy, I should make it.
2. Great gratitude to Nancy, for listening and sharing the story. I think I needed an accountability partner, and I used our conversation yesterday as the slingshot to get me around the hardest bits of the Impossible Task.
3. A new warm thing. I stopped at Goodwill and bought myself a new warm fleece jacket-thing. It’s for wearing around the house at home, and it’s cozy, and it’s a wild cat print, so it makes me feel a little fierce. Is that a middle-aged woman thing, to want to wear wildcat print? Or maybe it’s just a Leo thing. I know that some consider it a tacky thing, too, but I’m not fussed about that. It’s warm and it’s fierce, and so Merry Christmas to me.
4. The sacred moments within the mundane.
5. The anticipation of a snow day, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s going to pan out.

May we walk in Beauty!

Story of Descent

Gratitude List:
1. I am sinking so deeply into the story of Inanna as I write these mornings.
2. How stories of descent help me to live into the growing darkness of the season
3. How a walk can bring clarity
4. Anticipation, though today and tomorrow will end it: I am going to the Literary Festival at Millersville tonight and tomorrow. With the intensity of excitement this has brought me, I wonder why I have not done more festivals and conferences and workshops for writers.
5. The trees are still orange and golden.

May we walk in Beauty!

I’m Still Here


It’s been a good start to the school year, but the focus and exhaustion of beginning a new year has kept me away from the blog for a couple weeks.


Gratitude List:
1. Owls calling in the bosque.
2. Cats that sleep on their backs. Such soft bellies.
3. Strong community everywhere.
4. An earnest and bright-eyed crew of students.
5. Earnest and intentional colleagues.
. . .and monarchs. . .and sunflowers. . .and de-stressing decisions. . .and air conditioning. . .and the indigo throat of the morning glory. . .and long weekends. . .

May we walk in Beauty!
 
You get to choose the names that you wear, like you choose the clothes you wear. I am going to stop wearing Messy and Disorganized. I have too much to accomplish to be held back by those old rags. I will be She Who Walks Rooted. I will be Seeker of the Open Door. I will be Re-Sister and Per-Sister. I will be Snuggler of Cats.

Walking in the Rain

“The real work of planet-saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding. Its jobs will be too many to count, too many to report, too many to be publicly noticed or rewarded, too small to make anyone rich or famous.” ―Wendell Berry
*”So many of us feel an agonizing longing to contribute something meaningful to the deficits of our time. But years can disappear in the doing of duties, in the never-reaching of rising expectations, in the always-falling-short of proving of one’s enoughness.

The truth is that if we really want to make an eloquent offering of our lives, we have to step out of that ‘call and response’ relationship with the external world and locate our source of guidance within.

To hear the rhythm of your indigenous song, to fall in step with the poetry of your unfolding, first there must be a clearing away: a ‘temenos’ of simplicity in which to dwell.
Strike a holy grove of silence where you can listen as you long to be heard, see as you long to be seen, acknowledge where you long to be relevant, needed and necessary in the ‘family of things’.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.”
― Henry David Thoreau
*
“We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalized. We hold the line.” ―J.K. Rowling
*
Rumi: “Ours is no caravan of despair.”
*
“I profess the religion of love wherever its caravan turns along the way; that is the belief, the faith I keep.” ―Asma Kaftaro, UN Women Advisory Board
*
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.”
― Wangari Maathai
*
“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.”
― Wangari Maathai


Gratitude List:
1. Walking in the rain with my boys. We’d gotten about two miles in to the loop when the rain hit. Nothing to do but laugh and keep walking that last half mile. Then Jon appeared over the rise in the car, and we were rescued.
2. Homemade pizza
3. CSA season has arrived. Today we clean the Market Room, and tomorrow is first harvest.
4. My dad, Jon, fathers and fatherhood. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by good ones in my life, tender and thoughtful men who are not afraid to be fully human, vulnerable, and wise. Also today, I want to honor the many single mothers I know, who are being both mother and father to their children.
5. Wangari Maathai. I am researching her for a storytelling event this week at Sense of Wonder Camp. I love her story, her fortitude and fierceness, her determination and compassion.

May we walk in Beauty!