Alas, but the wee mousekin has died.  A small boy is learning that terrible and beautiful lesson that we all must learn throughout our lives, again and again and again: that when you open your heart to great love, you open your heart to great grief.  But oh, his heart broke so.  And so did ours, as we tried to be present, to help him be present, to witness that small death.  And of course, he is fine, and chattering on about the hamster that a wee mouse made space for in our idea for our life.

Amid all the sadness of that loss, and the excitement of making a new small friend, I hope he will never forget that day of tender care for one of the tiniest creatures.  I hope he will always remember how, when he would put his long slender fingers into the bin where it lived, the big eyes would turn eagerly toward him, and wee Shiver would scurry eagerly onto his hand and burrow her tiny face into his palm.


Gratitude List:
1.  For the big-hearted boy, for the chance–no matter how painful–to learn of grief early and gently, to name the feeling and mark it in his heart.  For his readiness to open his heart again.
2.  For the man who sat with the boy and wept with him silently, not asking him to process or discuss–only to witness and experience his emotions.
3.  For being recognized in the lists of poets from the Poem-A-Day challenge last April.  It’s not like winning a contest, really, but just having some of my poems noticed amidst the many that were posted feels kind of good inside.  I feel like I’ve joined a community of poets.
4.  Change.  Just enough.  Not too much.  Not too little.  In that place between too quiet a routine and too unbalanced a life.
5.  Camp.  I know I put this one up here just a few days ago, but that was gratitude for how well camp went for my boys.  Today I put it on the list for how it gives me a little breathing space in the clamor of summer demands.  Quiet.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1. The newest member of our family: Shiver McNibble the Mouse-babe.  Sweetness and tenderness it brings us.  I am in awe of the natural tenderness and careful care that my children offer this tiny, vulnerable creature.
2.  Farmer Jon’s Tomato Steak sandwiches: A little cream cheese and mayo on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, and then a thick slab of a Cosmonaut Volkov tomato, sprinkled with chunky sea salt.  Cosmic.
3.  A good beginning to farm camp for the boys.  Friends and kind adults, new chickens to play with, feeding the donkeys, playing in the Enchanted Bamboo Forest.  What more could a kid want?
4.  Yoga balance poses–feeling my body, even at this near-half-century, learn new confidence and balance and strength.
5.  Naming the feelings.

May we walk in Beauty!

Recently, my pattern is to write these lists in the mornings, before the children wake up, as a way to reflect on the previous day before I start the new one.  So each day I catalog the possibilities for gratitude before I go to bed, so I have something to work with in the mornings while my brain is beginning to emerge from sleep.

Sometimes that stew of anxiety-producing news and political analysis that mixes with the personal anxieties of the daily can stir up to a rather potent brew.  This week, in particular, I have felt how the practice of gratitude has helped to ground me in the midst of anxiety, how it keeps bringing my mind to a solid perch amidst the what-ifs that want to shake me loose.

Does it seem to be against the point to say that a daily gratitude practice has helped me understand my challenging emotions more fully?  Why do something that gets me in touch with anxiety or fear or fury or despair?  But this has truly been part of the grace of this practice for me.  Particularly in this past year, I feel as though I have owned some of these strong emotions.  Throughout an anxious day yesterday, each time I picked up a thread of gratitude, that brought me to a quiet and grounded place.  When I went back to the emotional tasks of the day, I found myself saying, “Oh, that thing I was feeling was fear.  I was afraid I would not be equal to this task before us.”  Because I could hold on to this grounded gratitude piece, I could be more present in the moment during anxious times, and name the challenging feelings I was feeling.  I think.  I hope.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be gratitude that does it.  I have been trying to live in a more mindful and conscious way for years.  Mindfulness is a powerful practice.  For me, in these recent years, practicing gratitude has helped me move to a deeper level of mindfulness.  I have a long way to go, but it’s nice to be able to look around and notice a little bit of a forward shift on the journey.


Gratitude List:
1.  Voices that encourage me/us to be listening for the Wind of change, to keep loving hearts open
2.  Fireflies rising in the dusk
3.  In the middle of the Old Bridge, several of the new lights are veiled in cobwebs that shiver and glimmer in the river breeezes
4.  Working together to find solutions to challenges
5.  Circles upon circles of community.  I love my people, all of you, in all these many circles.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1. Graceful, soul-satisfying calligraphy
2. East African jazz and benga music
3. Peach cobbler
4. The Susquehanna River
5. Illumination, which is perhaps the same as #1, and perhaps a different thing, and perhaps being different, it is yet the same.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here is an exercise that I haven’t done in a while, one that helps me to put myself in the perspective of the world.  It helps me to remember how small I am in such a vast world, but it also makes me feel special, here in my own particular spot in that vast world.  Anyone can do it.  Just start where you are, and work outward, including anything you think is important.  Sometimes I sort of backtrack, in order to make sure I have all the geographical features that are important to me.  Most of these places do actually have unofficial names, but you can name things whatever you like, eh?

Here I am, in Grandma’s recliner, in the living room of Arbor House, under the poplar and sycamore trees, on Goldfinch Farm, by Cabin Creek, on Schmuck Road, in Skunk Hollow, between two wings of Mount Pisgah, in Lower Windsor Township, along the Susquehanna River, in York County, in southeastern Pennsylvania, in the northeastern United States, in North America, in the western hemisphere, on Planet Earth, Terra, in the system of the star Sol, in the Milky Way Galaxy, in a small corner of the Universe, of the Multiverse.

There.  Now I know where I am.  Whew.

Gratitude List:
1.  Even more of the Tiny Bright Folk: praying mantis, katydid
2.  Thermal delight.  Sometimes it feels as though I could always find something to complain about regarding the weather.  Not this week.  This is weather that makes me feel alive and crisp and wakeful.
3.  Fred the Cat is much better now.  He was looking pretty miserable, and I wasn’t sure I could handle losing two cats in a season.  Changing flea control methods has worked wonders.
4.  The glowy golden orange color of the Orange Blossom tomatoes
5.  Getting projects completed before I open up the new world of my new job in less than a month

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:

1.  More Bright Wings: black and tiger swallowtails, a sphinx moth
2.  Hard physical labor
3.  Cool summer mornings–have I said that yet?
4.  Days of quiet mind
5.  The Goldfinch Farm Crew

May we walk in Beauty!

Yesterday was perhaps a bit of a let-down day after the high of Luna Moth Day, full of barely maskable crabbiness and low-grade anxiety.  Sigh.  I suppose we can’t always live in the realm of the sublime.  The mundane has lessons aplenty.

Worn out by the anxieties and slog of the day, I lay back in the recliner for an evening catnap, and the first part of this just sort of fluttered into my head.

Don’t sit so close to the gates of Despair, sister.
I don’t need to to tell you how the gates open inward,
suddenly drawing the shuffling masses inside the yawning arches.
I don’t need to tell you how easy it is to be carried along in the wave,
or worse, trampled by feet of those who are eager
to prove their dark visions and those who cannot
relinquish their lifelong addiction to fear.
You know them too well, these shadows.
You’ve been in that land.

Roll up your mat, gather your books,
pick up your bucketful of bright yellow flowers,
and walk twenty paces east of the gateway
to the place where a sapling grows patiently
out of the moss-covered pavements.

From this spot you will hear the faint whisper
of breezes, from faraway places
where courage is dawning.

From this breathable vantage point,
you will hear the distant shushing
of waves on the beaches
where hope will awaken.

I know why you choose your perch,
there, on the doorstep.
I know why you watch them so carefully,
tending the crowd like a garden,
why you believe yourself safe,
you, with your books and your flowers.

I know, too, how you belong there,
in that waiting crowd of restless people,
how some days your flowers turn lifeless and ashen,
how the words in your volumes, on grayest of days,
run down the pages like ink-bled tears.

Pick up your mat, I say, now before the gates open.
Turn your back on that archway.
Follow the pathway of bright white pebbles
that I laid there myself one gray day.


Gratitude List:
1. The way words come together to make meaning
2. The holiness of the everyday
3. Tomato sandwiches
4. Cool summer morning breezes (“. . .blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”
5. This web that we belong to.  And I don’t just mean the www, though that one has its contribution.  Can you feel how the strands connect us, how the energy runs between us?

May we walk in Beauty!

Some of my favorite moments of poetic creation have been when I take seemingly unrelated images and ideas and pack them together into the same poem to create a new thing.  It’s like the satisfaction of making a really good collage or a quilt–when you put together things that don’t seem to have any relationship to each other, and suddenly when they come together, a kind of alchemy occurs.  A shiny new layer of meaning is created.

Yesterday was a collage of a day, a quilt of a day, a poem of a day for me.  In the morning, as I was cleaning out the market room and setting up bins of vegetables and bustling about in the morning work of the day, I kept getting that feeling you get when you know someone is looking over your shoulder, or watching you from a distance.  I actually turned around–several times–to see who was there, but everyone was still up in the fields harvesting.  At one point when I turned around, I thought I saw someone slip behind the sycamore tree, but when I looked in the reflection of the shop window behind the tree, no one was there.

A few hours later, when the harvest rush was over, my children came running to tell me that they had discovered a “milkweed moth” on the swing set.  (Last year, we had seen a Luna Moth resting on a milkweed plant–it made quite an impression on the boys.)  They showed me, and there she was, fresh as the beginning of the world, wings still unfurling.  We watched her over the course of the next couple of hours as her wings filled out to their full glory and she opened them up.  She was still there, in the rain, when we went to bed last night, but this morning she is gone.

Luna1 Luna2 Luna3 Luna4Luna

Gratitude List:
1.  Luna
2.  Magic and wonder
3.  Presence
4.  Listening deeply
5.  Meaning

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1.  Rain
2.  Drizzle
3.  Mist and fog
4.  Creek and River
5.  Growth

May we walk in Beauty!

Smell it in the air,
feeling of impendingness,
a sense of silence,
broken moments of birdsong.
Everything is listening.


Gratitude List:
1.  Yesterday’s music
2.  Smell of rain in the air
3.  A clean house
4.  Solutions
5.  Words, gestures, language

May we walk in Beauty!


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