Things Work Out

Same photo as yesterday, sent through a rainy filter.

Gratitude List:
1. Wonder. When I was a kid, my teacher had us fill a jar with wet paper towels, and then poke seeds around the edges, and we watched the corn grow roots and sprouts. Last fall, I brought a jar and some corn into my classroom, and set it on my desk, hoping to get around to doing it in my classroom, just to see what would happen. (I’m a high school English teacher, but wonder is wonder, and science belongs everywhere.) Last week, my students were asking me about the jar, and one of them went and filled it with wet paper towels, and I poked the little kernels in, kind of doubting that it would work as I remembered. But the roots have been growing down, long and strong, and several sturdy green shoots are shooting upward. My students are loving it as much as I am. We’re all rooting (ha!) for the little plants. I guess I will have to transplant them soon, and then I’ll have sweet corn this summer! (Next up: beans.)
2. The power of personal narrative. We do a lot of personal narratives in writing classes. It can be a little challenging to keep it fresh, especially when you have the same students in a couple different classes, but it’s part of the deep curriculum at my school: We want our students to be able to self-examine, to understand who they are.
3. Colors. A student of mine introduced me to the game I Love Hue, an app that sets up a grid of colored squares, and then rearranges a bunch of them, and you have to move them back to the right places in relationship to each other. Sometimes I am a whiz at this game, and sometimes I am terrible. My brain is not consistent in its recognition of varieties of hues. I feel like I’m learning and improving my sense of hues, especially as they shift around the grid in relationship to each other.
4. Books. A friend recommended The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. It came in the mail yesterday. I want to read it with Josiah, and we’re currently into Avi’s Ragweed and Poppy series, so it will wait, but I am excited to get started. (We were reading The Book of the Dun Cow, but I had forgotten that the basilisks killed Pertelote and Chauntecleer’s three chicks, and that was a deal-breaker for us. We stopped the book.)
5. When the planning works out. My brain was so foggy last night that I went to bed without a plan for Speech class, but I woke up with a very clear picture in my brain of the file where I had last year’s plans for the same thing, and I found it this morning, and it’s brilliant. I don’t know what foggy-brained-me was thinking, trying to re-invent the plans all over.

May we walk in Beauty!

Bring Forth What is Within You

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” —Coretta Scott King
“If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.” —Gospel of Thomas
“If a child is to keep alive [her] inborn sense of wonder, [she] needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with [her] the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
—Rachel Carson
“The ultimate measure of a person is not where [he/she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [she/he] stands at times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The weight of the world is love.
Under the burden of solitude,
under the burden of dissatisfaction
the weight, the weight we carry is love.”
—Allen Ginsberg
“What have you done for color?”
—Henri Matisse
“Beauty is whatever gives joy.”
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” —Rachel Carson
“waging peace
with tender ferocity
and ingenious empathy
and wild compassion”
—Rob Brezsny
Have you caught the rustle of wings
as the train rushes through,
hardly slowly to stop at the station?
Have you felt the breath in your ear
as the quiet sun leaps from the ridge
and touches your face like a lover?
Have you noticed the shadow that darts
just at the edge of your vision
as the river flows with purpose
under your ancient bridge?
And suddenly, before you–
before you can take another breath,
the madness is upon you,
the craving has taken you,
the pen is in your hand,
the words glow and bleed
beneath your fingers.
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
“Dreams make the inner life substantial, giving it dimensionality, colour and form. Ritual is the further enfleshment of the unseen; a way of feeding that which is nourishing you so that your living conversation with the holy in nature grows in strength and vocabulary.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa

Gratitude List:
1. Snow sure is pretty
2. By hook or by crook, I am ready for the new semester to start today. Now if only I can find a few hours to finish up last semester’s grading. . .
3. I’m getting a whiteboard in my room, which will be nice and easy. I will, however, miss the beauty of chalk work. I’m a secret chalk artist, and I do love to leave little drawings on my board. But the surface was really rapidly wearing away. The other sad thing is that one of my own high school memories of this room is of walking into the classroom and seeing the same green chalkboard filled with Mrs. Banks’s neat and beautiful cursive notes. There were some of us who sought to emulate her handwriting. The more notes, the better–we got more practice copying the beauty.
4. The way you can’t keep a group of English Teachers on a focused conversation because everything comes back to grammar and pedagogy.
5. Chocolate. You know how it helps Harry Potter recover from the dementor attacks? Yeah.

May we walk in Beauty!

Charming Gardeners

My parents nurture beauty in their gardens and in the lives of people around them.

I love this first quotation by Marcel Proust. Thank you to so many of the charming gardeners who help to tend and nurture my soul. Let’s all take up this work.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
~~Marcel Proust
Naomi Shihab Nye: “You are living in a poem.”
“Every woman must own her story; otherwise we are all part of the silence.” ~~Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International
“Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.”
~~Joss Whedon
“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”
~~Abraham H. Maslow

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.

But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
~~Margery Williams -The Velveteen Rabbit
I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night. ~~Tony Campolo

Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs everywhere–more than I have seen in several years. It is the season of butterflies and moths. How are you experiencing transformation from a creature of earth to a creature of air?
2. All the people who are charming gardeners (as Proust said) of my soul.
3. Cool morning
4. Purring and inquisitiveness from Fred this morning. One day at a time.
5. The start of a new week. Always we begin again.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tiny Wonders

This is the family portrait that my friend Kris Miller (Art of the Brogue) took of our little family of hummingbirds. I love this photograph so much. It’s still hard to believe that such a miracle exists in the tree outside. It is such an honor that she chose our spot for her family.

Gratitude List:
1. Family
2. Community networks of prayer
3. Tiny wonders
4. Stories
5. The way the day always branches outward with so many possibilities

May we walk in Beauty.

Let Wonder Be Your Guide

kindness rock

Gratitude List:
1. The Little Engine that Could: “I think I can!” Always the subject of the first chapel, since I was a sophomore at my school. This story has been a bridge across my own shift from student to teacher.
2. All those Bright and Shining faces yesterday. Lots of shyness and lots of nervous energy all ’round. So sweet.
3. My own 2nd and 6th graders both had marvelous first days as well.
4. Cool mornings. My brain gears up more quickly on cool mornings.
5. The fierce mothers. My friend Sarah has been putting this one on her list lately, and I copy her as an act of prayer. Mara and Lisa have been holding their daughters with such fiercely loving hearts in these days. I will stand in these circles of mothers and others as Katie recovers, and as we hold out every shred of certainty that Kyla’s new heart will come soon.

May we walk in Beauty!

Interlocking Prayers

I want the strength and comfort of this tree these days.  She is one of the ent-folk, I am sure of that, with a gnarled and twisted trunk and veils of leaves.

Oh, Turkey! Friends, we have such a big bowl of hurt to hold these days.
It helps if we all hold it together, I think.
Interlock our prayers like fingers, like bright threads.
This one for Turkey,
this for Nice,
that for your friend who is caught in a cycle of despair,
this for my friend who is waiting for her new heart,
for our cousins and companions who are anxious and worried
as they tend to their loved ones who are ill,
for those who lead us in the fight against racism every day,
for Baghdad, for Bangladesh, for Istanbul again.
For those baby birds who are fledging.
I will add some bright stones that I found in the bean patch today,
some feathers that found me on my walk,
the bright yellow faces of toadflax.
Will you add your rainbow, your twinkling eyes, your hopeful smile?

Gratitude List:
1. (What has awakened you?) Keeping my heart focused on the Noticing, in inner and outer worlds.  Also, laughter.
2. (How have you encountered Mystery?) In the calling of the young red-tail–the cycle of life always continues.
3. (What has given you cause for wonder?) Watching children create ideas in their heads and then make them with their hands.
4. (What has nudged you forward?) The constancy of work to be done, in many different places.  Learning to juggle the work.
5. (What do you offer the day?) More holding, more noticing, more listening.  Laughter.  I will find laughter in the day.  Also, twinkling eyes–I will seek out twinkles.

May we walk in Beauty!

Where Do You Find Hope?


Gratitude List:
1. (What inspires you?)  A child I know.  This morning, I was watching video of President Obama placing a wreath at Hiroshima, and Joss asked what it was about.  I told him a little about the end of WWII, and how this is the first time a US president has visited that site.  “I’m kind of glad he went there,” he said.  I think children often understand these things better than adults do.
2. (Where do you find relief?) Change of schedule, end of year.  There’s sadness in saying goodbye to the seniors–but we know and they know they they’re ready, that they’ve been working toward this coming moment for years.  And I need this summer that I am heading into.  I am looking forward with great relish to sleeping in until past 6, to playing with my children every day, to preparing for next year’s work.  There are a few loose ends to wrap up in the next two weeks, but without the constant pull of classes, I can manage the loose ends.
3. (What fills you with wonder?) The view from Mt. Pisgah near Sam Lewis Park, with mist in the folds of the valleys and mist caught in the trees on the other side of the River.
4. (What will you do for yourself?) I am going to get a haircut today.  Some people have a regular appointment to keep their hair looking a certain way.  This has never been my way.  It usually feels like “an event” when I get my hair cut, like I am treating myself to something special.  I like to do it that way.
5. (What gives you hope?) I need to keep answering this question for myself these days.  I look at the ways of the world and I get rageful or cynical or filled with despair.  And there are good reasons for all of those responses.  But there are also good reasons to be hopeful.  Right now, one of the places I turn for hope is the work of international women’s groups.  These women look into the teeth of the beasts of war and displacement and terror, and they raise their voices and their arms and their hearts.  UN Women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Isis-WICCE, Women in Black, TreeSisters, Carry the Future, Code Pink, and many others.  (Which women’s groups inspire you?)

May we walk in Beauty!

What Have You Done?

Just a little morning riff here:

“What have you done for color?” –Henri Matisse

What have you done for color,
for light, for dancing?

What have you done
for the quiet journey of the sun
over the ridgetop at dawn?

What have you done for the line,
for the eloquent curve,
for the circle?

What have you done for the pure note,
the perfect A that hangs in the air above you?

Gratitude List:
1. Pie night.  I didn’t write about that when it happened, but when I got home on Friday, Jon was making pie crusts.  He made an out-of-this world vegetable pie, and with the leftover dough, we mixed up a lemon sponge pie.  I think we will have to do this more often.  Of course, it brought to mind the cherry pie that he made for me once when we were dating.  He told the boys that he would help them some day if they want to make pies to impress their dates and their families.
2. How getting rid of things makes the things you hold onto even more real.  We gave away a rather large stack of vinyl records the other day, and suddenly I find myself playing the ones we kept.  My ears are still filled with Abba.
3. Watching a child become a reader.  Literacy is a magical thing.
4. Miracles and wonder.  These are the days. . .
5. Learning the new script for how I speak about myself to myself.  (This is a constant process.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Lullabies and Wake Up Calls

Before you knew it
you were halfway across.
You had thought each step
would be an ordeal,
that you’d wrestle
the fear away
with every buck and sway
of the bridge.

But that bright butterfly
slipped along ahead of you
through the mist, the cloud,
and you followed it
until the cloud parted
and the valley lay out below you,
full of wonder.

The bridge,
you know,
the bridge itself
is the journey.

Gratitude List:
1.  Family camping-in-the-yard night.  Didn’t get much sleep, me.  But lots of snuggles and an great-horned owl lullaby and a crow and cuckoo wake-up call.  Worth it.
2.  Anticipating hearing the Africa stories this afternoon.
3.  Church.  I know.  But I love these people.  I can’t wait to get there and sing with people, and listen to the ideas and the stories.
4.  Kitty snuggles
5.  Bridges.  Made of language, of the future, of dreams, of feathers, of steel, of anxious wishing, of people, of hearts.

May we walk in Beauty!


Yesterday morning, I was pondering how my children have entered another of those changeling phases, when they suddenly look and act like changelings that the faeries have swapped for my little ones.  Suddenly, their teeth seem to be too big for their mouths, their chins are pointy, and their knees and elbows stick out at all angles.  Their shoulder blades stick out of their backs like they’re about to sprout wings.  Their hair seems to grow an inch a day.  They seem to have lost some hearing: they don’t come when I call or answer questions when I ask them.  They get a faraway look in their eyes.  Wild creatures.

Then I noticed that the Faerie Ring mushrooms had popped open in the night.  This is only the second or third year that I have noticed them out by the shop, and there are more now than there have ever been, about ten, in an oblong ring.  I told my youngest changeling that he might want to make a faerie garden down by the ring.  He spent most of the afternoon and evening creating an elaborate faerie village among and around the toadstools.  At one point, he set up four chairs down by the ring and invited the whole family to come sit and watch him work.

My friend Marie Winger, who is a powerful storyteller, and who was here at the CSA to pick up her weekly share of vegetables, told me how someone had once interviewed her about how people can preserve their capacity for wonder and imagination.  She told him, “How can you hope to see the faeries under the flowers, if you don’t notice the flowers themselves?”  That was the third time yesterday that someone had told me very earnestly that noticing, paying attention, is an important practice.  My children might not be very good right now at noticing when I call, but they’re very busy noticing the minute details of their world.

I love these changeling children and their wild wonder, their startling imaginative worlds.  If this cycle goes as the last one did, they’ll soon start to grow back into themselves.  Their feet and hands will seem to match their body proportions again.  Their fighting will become a little less fierce for a time.  They’ll listen better again.  They’ll come to terms with the space around them.  For now, I hope the faeries let me keep these little feral things a while longer.

Gratitude List:
1.  The faerie toadstool ring and the magic that it brings us.
2.  Virginia Sweet tomatoes, golden yellow streaked with pink, and almost two pounds each.  Sweet and juicy.
3.  Noticing.  Paying attention.  Being Here Now.
4.  My wise, wise friends.  That includes you, Bright Ones.
5.  The smell of good bread toasting.  Isn’t that a sort of iconic scent?  It’s more than it is, you know?

May we walk in Wonder!