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!

What Will You Write?

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What will you write on this page,
a blank ocean of white before you,
waiting for your mark?

The words and the images you lay upon this day
you will write with your grandmother’s pen,
with drops of blood from your fingertip,
with the blue quill of a wingfeather
dropped on the wind
from a passing jay.

Will you write joy? Will you write patience?
What will you write when grief
appears upon the page?
How will you work
around the stains of tears and sweat,
of oil and the smudges of your daily labor?

Let your words be beautiful and terrible,
your images shining and crisp,
your actions ancient,
yet newer than the fragments
of blue eggshell in your cupped hand.

Gratitude List:
1. This blank page of a school year beginning
2. My earnest and compassionate colleagues
3. The Shining Ones who will walk in my doorway today
4. The Work: Love and Learning. Love of Learning.
5. Bridges. Every moment is a bridge.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here We Go!

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I can’t remember which of my father’s books this came from. I felt like such a smarty-pants, realizing that I could take a photo of it, rather than interrupting the conversation to write it down, but then I forgot to keep track of which book it was in. I think it was one by John Philip Newell.
“. . .in every human I love something of You.” Such a sense of the Mystery immanent within everyone. Seek and you will find.

Here I sit, in the roller coaster at the very top of that first hill, the very moment of pause before release, and the first thrilling whoosh down the first slope. So much excitement and anticipation. A little anxiety. But I’ve ridden roller coasters before, and this is my third round on this one. This time, I might even be ready to throw my hands up and scream for sheer delight on some of the wild corners I know are coming.

Today is Faculty Day at school, and tomorrow we welcome the Bright and Shining Ones back into the halls. I’m looking forward to this ride. I know myself a little better this year. I’m calmer. Still excited. Carrying Etty Hillesum’s quotation with me into this year, to seek the Source, the Mystery, the Divine, in each of my colleagues and my students and their parents. Hillesum also wrote in her journals that she was seeking to open doors for God in each connection she made with other people. Let’s do that too, shall we?

Gratitude List:
1. Water that comes out of the sky. Soothing rain. Sitting with my parents on their front porch in the rain. Rain on the lisianthus.
2. That dragonfly who zipped back and forth through the heaviest part of the downpour, heedless of the raindrops. I think she was flying between them, actually. And then as we drove slowly away after the rain was gone, she hovered along beside us all the way to the stop sign.
3. The songs. The singing. “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.”
4. Everyone is welcome at the table. Everyone.
5. All those shades of pink and violet on the altar yesterday.

May we walk in Beauty!

Seven Questions

2013 March 168

In the last week or two, I have been studying the chakras again, those energy centers located along the spine. I don’t want to do a discussion of the history or meanings of the chakras here–you can google chakra and find out everything you want to know. What I want to do for the next day or two or more is to change up my Gratitude List for a while to an Examen again, to ask myself seven questions each day for a little while, questions that correspond to the essential nature of each chakra:
Root — Survival, support, basic needs
Sacral — Creativity, joy, desire, compassion
Solar Plexus — Will, resolve, determination, personal power
Heart — Love, connection to others
Throat — Expression of self, voice, speaking highest truth
Brow — Knowing, seeing, understanding
Crown — Connection to spirit (God, Mystery, Universe, Life), divine wisdom

Because of English literacy conventions, we read downward instead of upward, but I imagine my questions actually beginning at the root, the base of my spine, and moving upward until they reach the top of my head. As I do for my Gratitude Lists, I will not try to answer my whole life or even my whole day in one question, but to pick one item from the past day that shines out in response to each question.

(Note: Having worked my way to the end of the list, I see how much extra time and meditation this takes. I may have to limit a Chakra Examen to weekends.)

Daily Examen (as Gratitude List and Chakra Meditation):
1. What has supported you? Jon and the children. I sometimes get frustrated that there are so many distractions while I am trying to work and plan, but this is the bowl that holds me, this home of my three. The busyness and activity are part of the work, part of what makes my work possible.
2. How have you encountered joy? Perhaps it’s more amazement than joy–the way some people just Know how to do a thing without ever needing to be taught. We let Ellis take apart the old Chromebook yesterday to see if he could fix it. I truly expected that we would end up putting it in the trash, but it’s working now. His dad made a stand for it to support it because of some of the broken parts, but the screen is working fine.  There’s a Swahili phrase that my mother uses sometimes that expresses it better than I can say it in English: Nimeshangaa. It means something like, “I am filled with wonder.”
3. What resolve is filling you? Balance and Organization. Okay, two for the price of one here, but my resolve to be organized and focused is part of bringing balance into my daily and weekly rhythms in the coming months.
4. What opened your heart? I handed some cash out the window to a homeless man yesterday, and Joss reached up to add a dollar bill of his own.
5. What do you need to say? Pick up each moment of silence and joy, and carry it with you like a jewel.
6. What did you See? The shift in the children–they are so ready to step up to the coming school year, so eager to be part of their class cohort.
7. How did the Mystery meet you? Here she comes again: Hummingbird. I watched her feed her babies again yesterday.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Only Way In Is In

2013 August 348
The only way in is in.

Here is an old poem of mine. I am not feeling knife-edgy lately, but perhaps you are:

Some days
you feel as though
you have been walking that knife edge
forever,
too afraid
to look to right or left.

Then one day,
you raise your gaze
and there before you
is the green valley
with a blue glass lake
and a silent island
that you have been seeking
in every dream
since you were born.

Gratitude List:
1. Sweet yesterday. The last day of summer for me. Weekends don’t count. Yesterday was a weekday, the last free day of the work week before school begins. Teachers return on Monday, and we welcome the Bright Ones back on Tuesday.  I do love what I do, what we create together at school. Still, these lovely days–no matter how busy they get–of loosely planned rhythm, are sweet and wonderful.
2. Anticipating new rhythms. No matter how sweet the days of summer, something in me also longs for the formal rhythms of the school year.
3. Balance. I think this will be the theme of my school year this year. Particularly with the packs of grading that come in. I have a color-coded calendar all ready so I can visually see when the bigger papers are due.
4. Learning to know my own brain. I know that I am a visual learner, that I often have to see a word or a musical score or a fact in order to “get” it, even if seeing means visualizing it in my brain. When I meet a new person with an interesting name, I spell it out on the screen inside my head so it is easier to remember. Those color-coded calendars are part of my plan to work with the quirks of my brain this year, to give myself the necessary visual cues to get my work done more efficiently.
5. Cicadas. Yesterday, I stood and listened to the concert for a while. When I just move through it without thinking about it, it’s a confusing roar, but when I stop to listen, I can hear one band to the left starting to gear up, while the band in front of me is at full roar at a slightly different pitch. To the right is a third, reedier-sounding gang, trying to meet the roar in the middle, but fading out. What an amazing idea the cicada is–the seasonality (not just annual, but seasons of years at a time), the shells and wings and awkward flight bodies, the roaring.

May we walk in Beauty!

Stand Still

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Garden Peach tomatoes. Sweet, juicy, almost fruity. These two happen to be heart-shaped.

Reading Parker Palmer this morning, I again came across this poem by David Wagoner. I had such a strong reaction to this when I first read it a couple years ago that I can still recall how my skin felt as the words took hold.

Lost
by David Wagoner, from Collected Poems 1956-1976

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.

Gratitude List:
1. She might not be gone. I was certain that the hummingbird had left her nest, either abandoning her eggs as unviable, or getting too skittish about all the activity below her. This is the sort of thing I worry about. Yesterday, I watched her zip up to the nest, and instead of sitting on it like she usually does, she perched on the rim, and stuck her beak down into the nest. I can’t be positive, but this appeared to be the behavior of someone feeding young ones. Holding out hope.
2. Jumping spiders. They’re sort of like teeny tiny puppies, only you don’t have to worry about who is going to take care of them. Yesterday, I encountered a tiny brown jumping spider who kept leaping from finger to finger. It was like she understood where I wanted her to jump to next. She would race toward me across the vast distance of my hand, and then look up at me, and then when the people at the picnic table laughed, she would suddenly stop and twist her body so she could look at them, and then we would resume our little game.
3. The village that raises the children. My kids hadn’t seen Sandra for several weeks, and yesterday when she came, they raced to her and couldn’t stop bending her ear. She listens to them, she converses at their level, but never talks down to them.
4. Also, the schools. Last night was Back to School night at Wrightsville Elementary. I love the teachers and administration and staff at this local elementary school. I love the friendly, earnest culture of the place.
5. Encountering Beauty–in words, in the visual realm, in the aural realm. Sort of like encountering that little spider–there are moments when Beauty seems to say, “I get you. I am here to play with you for this one bright shining moment.”

May we walk in Beauty!

Photobomber

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“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again.
But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description.
You are It.”
—Rumi

Gratitude List:
1. Lemons and limes, which is to say: that which refreshes.
2. Bumblebee photobombers, which is to say: that which surprises and delights.
3. The Sufi poets, which is to say, that which deepens and enheartnes.
4. The great-horned owl in the poplar tree, which is to say, that which awakens and reminds.
5. This fuzzy fellow sleeping here beside me, which is to say: that which trusts and belongs.

May we walk in Beauty!

Praise

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Psalm of Praise
(10 August 2015)

Yours is the music that enters our hearts.
Delight of you enlivens our voices to join in the song.
We are born to worship our Maker.

The world is awash in color and music;
your works are enkindled in sparkle and dazzle.
Every bright bird, each flashing star,
the chirp of the cricket and drone of cicada,
roaring waterfall, quivering leaf–
all of creation sings your glory.

We have only to look up and outward,
and wonder will fill our mouths with praise.

Yet daily our hands reach out
for wealth and power and fame,
instead of rising to praise you.

Our eyes are set on the glitter and shine
of all the distractions that we have made,
and not on your grace and your beauty.

Our voices turn to bitter complaint,
to quarrels and bluster and grumbling,
instead of joining creation’s constant hymn
of praise to the Creator.

O God of wonder and beauty and grace,
open the eyes of our hearts,
awaken our senses to all you have made,
that our spirits may rise in wonder,
that our voices may open in song,
that our days may be filled with praise.

Gratitude List:
1. Symbols. The way images act like bowls to hold ideas.
2. Words. The way they act like bowls to hold ideas.
3. Blue. Is there are greater range of blues in the sky these days?
4. Rain.
5. Crape Myrtle. I saw so many on Chincoteague, but then since we have been home, I have been noticing them all over here as well. Sometimes you need to leave home to notice something you appreciate about it.

May we walk in Beauty!

Desire

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As you read, you can use your own name for the Great Mystery, the Force of Life, Beauty, Love:

Psalm of Desire
(14 August 2016, revised)

O God of Beauty,
God of Marvel,
God of Wonder,
the whole universe that you have made
is built upon desire:

the force that holds electrons in atomic orbit,
that keeps the planets in their dance around the sun,
and wheels the spiraled walk of galaxies
is that same force which holds us to the earth,
which pulls the tides up the beach and back,
and calls us from complacency
to yearn for something more.

Not only do we hunger for you,
but you are the very force of our longing,
the Magnet which draws us ever outward
from the limiting walls of our own egos
to seek your face in all that surrounds us,
to seek your heart in the hearts of our neighbors,
to follow the pathway that leads us homeward.
You are the Magnet which draws us, finally,
into the home of our deepest selves,
where we are most truly
what you have made us to be.

Our yearning for you is an echo
of your own yearning for your children.

May we carry the knowledge within us,
deep in our cellular constellations,
pulled with the tides of our blood,
that our own deepest longings
are the echoes of your voice
calling us to you.

Draw us ever closer to your Center,
as the sun holds the planets in constant orbit,
as a mother draws her child to her heart,
that our longing may lead us always to you,
our Truest Home.

Gratitude List:
1. Preparing the heart space. So much work remains to be done, but the work on the heart moves on apace. (I copied this from last year’s August 15 list.)
2. Memories of luna moth. I haven’t seen any this year (yet), but I love looking at photos from other years.
3. How Love will always trump dogma. Generous spirits.
4. The wise and loving community.
5. Feathers. Wings. Wind. Flight.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Worried

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Like Mary Oliver, I can worry a lot.
Will the hummingbird eggs be viable?
Will the bats return every summer?
Will the children be safe?
Will the people like me?
Will I be sufficient to the tasks before me?

Have I given birth to children in the era before the end?
Will their adult lives be spent in a constant effort to survive the heat?
Will elephants become extinct in my lifetime?

Will courteous discourse die out?
Will fascism rise again?

Sometimes I can make my way to her last stanza, to see that it all comes to nothing. Simply giving it up is harder. But some days it helps to write it out. I go back to that Little Red Riding Hood image I posted a few days ago. As long as those worries are lurking out in the dark woods behind me somewhere, they could be anything. They become monsters beyond all proportion. Even if they’re big and scary like the wolf in that image, or like the looming monsters of terrorism and climate change, it’s somehow a comfort to finally look them in the eye. “You might be big, you scary old thing, but you have no power over me as long I can see you.”

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s Reiki class. My cohort of co-students. Sarah, who teaches with such love and grace. Love and Life Force and the prayerful laying on of hands.
2. One more family hurrah before the end of summer. My marvelous siblings and their spouses. Their kids. My parents. I think that is probably a blessing not to be taken for granted. It’s not just that I love my parents, and my brother and sister and their spouses, but that I really like them. I like to spend time with them and converse with them. And the same goes for the nieces and nephews.
3. New stretches. I am adding some new stretches to my daily yoga movements. They’re harder than they were 20 years ago, even when I was thirty-five pounds heavier than I am now, but in just a week, I am feeling more and more comfort in the new stretches. I may be talking about yoga here, but I think this applies to quite a lot of the middle-aging process. I hate to sound slogan-y, but I think Use It Or Lose It might apply here. So yoga stretches and geography quizzes will be part of my regular established routine now.
4. Racing down the home stretch. Getting the papers and the space and the ideas all in order. Opening the heart to receive the new people and ideas who come my way. Developing and organizing the plans.
5. Sorting tomatoes. The tomatoes were late this year, but when they came in, they exploded off the vines. I haven’t done a lot of the sorting this summer–it used to be one of the tasks I owned, but now others often do it. Today might be the last time I sort them for the summer. I love lining up the colors, putting the paste tomatoes into their own bin, setting the ones with a little disease or damage in their own beautiful rows over on the extras table.

May we walk in Beauty!