My gratitude list tonight is a two-pointer.

First, a challenging situation this morning gave me a chance to practice holding onto my center in the midst of an extremely awkward social situation that might have once caused me either to dither and apologize when I was the one who should have been apologized to, or to get angry and stony and withdrawn.  I think I managed to keep my cool.  There are things, in retrospect, that I wish I had said, things that could have added grace to the situation, had I kept my wits more firmly in place.  Still, I was able to be present in the moment when someone was criticizing me, to let a little piece of myself sit on my own shoulder and observe my emotions, to tell myself, “Now isn’t that interesting?”  I am grateful for the chance to practice, even when the moment itself was difficult.

The second thing is this: I am in love with a bird, and today he came back to my hollow.  I heard him out there this afternoon, as I was brooding about that first item, and I ran out to see, but he was hiding high in the branches of the poplar.  Later, though, when I went out to turn off the irrigation pump at the pond, and the sun had just set out of the hollow, but the last rays were still leaking over the ridge and hitting the top branches of the sycamore, there he was, shining orange in the light.  Oriole.  I can’t describe how I love this bird, but when I hear him, when I see him, I could weep for joy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Was Winter just particularly ugly and colorless this year?  I know that I had moments of reflection on the beauty of its austerity, the golds and ochres, the many shades of sky.  Still, I cannot remember a time when I have felt such a sense of complete and utter relief at the appearance of the colors of spring.  Most years, the feeling of entering spring has been for me one of coming up from under the earth, breaking out of hibernation.  This year, it’s been more akin to the first breath of real air after nearly drowning.  Every color, every new tendril of viney growth, every spring bird song–like lifelines drawing me back into wholeness.  I don’t think my energy this winter was even as sad or dampened as it can become sometimes in winter.  Still, the colors of these days make me feel like I am coming alive again.

Gratitude List:
1. Flowering trees
2. Pear blossom snow
3. Spring full moon
4. Green
5. Raccoon in the bosque

May we walk in Beauty!

Today’s Prompt is to write a poem titled, “Bury the (blank).

“What didn’t you do to bury me.
But you forgot that I was a seed.”  –Dinos Christianopoulos

So many voices they have tried
to hide under the earth,
hidden within the clamoring din
of newscasts 24/7,
buried beneath the thousand faces
of the pontificators, the experts,
the mad chatter of the talking heads.
Shovelsful of opinions thrown in
and tamped down firmly
to hold the voices underneath.

How could they have known
the seeds would sprout and grow
like vines that wind around the fences
in the meadows, to bring them down?
Could anyone predict the way those vines
would lick along the base of the barn
like flame to burn up the building?

Gratitude List:
1. Poem in Your Pocket Day, and my students reading poems to me all day long: a Korean poem translated to English, Pablo Neruda read to me in Spanish, Shakespeare and Rosetti, Dickinson and Dylan Thomas and Frost.  Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein, and poems of their very own.  I have been in a sort of heaven.
2. Stuffed Shells
3. The twins who appeared in last night’s dream: Fearless and Anna.
4. Everything is suddenly so beautiful.  I have been paying close attention to the seasons for several years now, and I don’t remember the last time I was so desperate for Spring’s beauty to arrive.  Warmth, yes.  But this year, it has been an end to the drear of winter that I have craved, and Spring has given me so much green.
5. Pear blossom snow.

May we walk in Beauty!

Today’s prompt is What Nobody Knows.

Not the trouble I’ve seen,
nor the exact moment blackbird returns in spring,
nor what lies under the blackberry brambles,
nor where vulture rests in the shade
after she has circled the meadow her dozen times.

Not the way to San Jose,
nor the way to make a perfect souffle,
nor infinity’s penultimate number,
nor the hundredth name for God–
except for the camel, of course.

Not which way the wind blows,
nor who is watching the eagle fly above the River,
nor the true purpose of the appendix,
nor the thoughts of the monarch in its jade cell.

With all that can be known blowing about our feet
like the husks of leaves on the forest floor in autumn,
let us wait in the this moment beneath the dogwood tree
while that handsome finch turns his eye sideward to see us,
and embrace each moment of wonder
as if it is a new thing being born.

Gratitude List:
1. Getting a lot of work completed
2. Stretching
3. People who hum happily as they work
4. Blooming lilacs
5. Thoughtful conversations with teenagers.

May we walk in Beauty!

Just a few more days!  I love the challenge of these months, and I am so glad to get the break when they are done.  Today’s prompt is to write a matter/anti-matter poem.  I just let this one run its little free-association course.

Aunty Matter strides into Grandma’s kitchen
in her black stockings with holes in the heels
and a long black velvet dress
with fine lace insets.

She pirouettes.

“What does it matter, Mater,
if I should wander once in a while?
The fact of the matter is:
I’m green only for a day
before my dreams are heaped
in that pile of rubble in the orchard.”

It’s just a matter of time, perhaps
until she’s gone down the anticline,
until she’s reached the event horizon,
the point of no returning.

Still, the young ones are donning
black stockings of our own
to follow her in her dance
as though the dance is all that matters.


Gratitude List:
1. People working for Justice
2. People willing to engage the hard conversations
3. People with hope in their hearts
4. People who sing even when it’s dark
5. People whose M.O. is Love

May we walk in Beauty!

I have been thinking about all my recent Shakespeare raving, and I realize that, in the interest of basic honesty, I ought to mention that not all my students are as excited about Shakespeare as I am.  Some are, in fact, rather un-keen on the Bard.  Still, I hope that some of them will catch a little enthusiasm for the language and poetry and rich thematic content of his plays.

Today’s prompt is looking back.  I have been toying with images of Lot’s wife and the pillar or salt, of two faced Janus, of mirrors and reflections.

At what point do you decide that you have reached
the edge of the chasm of all the collected moments,
that it’s time to look back and see how far you’ve run?

The end of the month, semester, year–
how have the seasons added up?
What do they add up to?

The real question is,
when I turn my face again
to face the leap before me,
will I feel upon me the gaze
of a future self
looking back upon me?

Gratitude List:
1. The Guard Dogwoods are settling into bloom.
2. Dinner with colleagues.  Good folks.  Good singing.  Good food.
3. Shifts in routine–adding freshness, and pushing me out of my comfort zone
4. That curious little hamster
5. Hosta

May we walk in Beauty!

How appropriate!  The prompt for today–and I am not making this up–is to take a word or phrase that was coined by Shakespeare, use it as the title, and then write a poem.  I am in a sort of Shakespeare heaven right now.  Just a couple weeks out from Julius Caesar with the Sophomores, in the middle of Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Freshmen, and just finished a weekend ushering for an excellent student production of The Tempest.  I love being back in academia.  Again, this is a quick poem at the end of a long weekend, a placeholder until I find my way back to these in another couple months.

Strange Bedfellows

Misery acquaints a man–
acquaints a woman, too–
with the oddest of companions,
a fishy-smelling monster
to accompany you through thunders
or a drunken butler
singing to his ukulele.

No matter, there are lessons
in the associations, and sadder
to miss the chance to learn
how much we have in common
than to wander the island alone.


Gratitude List:
1. Shakespeare.  I know.  I am obsessed.  I am compiling a list of reasons why your child needs to study Shakespeare to put into an article the next time I have some breathing space to research and write.  Meanwhile, after having watched the LMH production of The Tempest with me last night, Joss (6yo) corrected my Shakespeare reference.  I thought I was quoting Stefano as I drank my smoothie, “That’s a scurvy tune to play at a funeral.  Well, here’s my comfort!” But Joss interrupted me: “No, Mom.  It’s ‘That’s a scurvy tune to play at a man’s funeral.'”  Can you see me smiling?  We’ll work on the sublimer references another day.  For now, they want to play Stefano and Trinculo.  And no wonder.
2. Every single song Lynn led at church this morning, and Michelle’s reminder to consider what it means to be a community.
3. The children have neighborhood friends to play with.  It’s a dangerous hill between us, so we have to walk or drive them to each others’ houses, but they’re making friends in the community, and so–I guess–are we.  That’s a good feeling–to know more of the neighbors.  This is because they go to the local public school.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I am not an outsider at their school, but it’s good to be getting to know some people, and at least two families within a mile.
4. Rumors of a snake in the attic.  I know, but I would love to have a black snake keeping down the potential rodent populations.  The two kindergartners came downstairs today with a story of having seen a rattlesnake.  I figured they must have seen a black snake.  The more reasonable dad-figure supposes it was wires and cables.  Still, it’s a lovely little witchy idea, to imagine one has a snake in the attic.  Feels like a blessing.
5. This breath.  And this one.

May we walk  in Beauty!

Today’s prompt is to write an across the sea poem.  Here’s a haiku:

Alas!  I’m awash
in this sea of a season.
I’ll drown in that green.

Gratitude List:
1. Ferns unfurling
2. YWCA and its anti-racism work.  I was proud to support it by joining the Race today.
3. Shakespeare.  I am awash in his poetry.
4. The way the streetlight turned the new leaves on those trees by the Rutt building to a fairy golden.
5. Reading books with the kids in the new fort that Jon built out by the United Melvin Hall.

May we walk in Beauty!

The prompt for today is to write a poem about a moment.

Stand still within this single moment,
inhabit this room in the house of time
encroached upon by other rooms,
as water approaches an islet in a stream,
or grasses lap against a meadow rock:

a gathered space around which
other spaces gather,
a struck bell,
a plucked string.

And breathe it in.

Gratitude List:
1. The gold that leaked between the layers of cloud this morning just after sunrise.
2. Creativity
3. Shakespeare
4. Stepping into myself–this is one job I never seem to finish.  I guess that’s part of the human journey of becoming.
5. Baby bats

May we walk in Beauty!

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a historic poem.  I have been listening to 1776, by David McCullough lately, and it has been bothering me that even today, a book like this can be lauded as a great addition to our understanding of history when it is another basic description of battle after battle after stratagem after battle, with occasional mentions of the atrocities of plunder and rape and murder that went along with it.  Perhaps this is more of a rant than a poem.  It feels unfinished, too, but I need to move on.

The British blamed the Hessians and
the Hessians blamed the British and
the Rebels blamed them both for the atrocities
and probably the blame was on them, too.

The generals and captains moved their armies
through the cities and the orchards,
through the villages and through the towns.

Such constant disappointments
for those in high command,
such fear of wrong decisions,
of losing face and looking weak.

What if the reinforcements don’t arrive?
What if the soldiers run in fear?
What if the enemy has better guns?

But this is just the surface of the story.
The real tale is told always in the shadows,
the oblique or marginal reference
to ravishment and pillage,
cattle slaughtered, villages displaced.

The commanders and the generals
were quite disgusted with the plundering
performed by other armies in the war.
Always mentioned as atrocities
with a sigh of the scholar’s pen,
before we move along
to battle plans once more.

As long as we keep writing history
as a necessary chess match,
writing the real costs into the margins,
giving the scholar’s nod to the horrors
before moving on to further tactics
we can excuse our appetite for war,
and ignore the real story.

Gratitude List:
1. The Tempest.  The play.  The Bard.  Those incredible student actors.
2. Affirmation.  Reminders that I have stepped on to the right path.
3. The gentle sounds of morning.
4. Good coffee.
5. The rhythm of work and rest.

May we walk in Beauty!


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