Opportunities for Practice

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Sometimes it seems as though the Wildest One (you might call her God, or the Universe, or Love) is actively meddling in the affairs of mortals, like I am given a thing to learn, and then immediately after am handed the situations necessary for practice and integration.

Last weekend, I took part in a training with the Center for Community Peacemaking on Restorative Circles with Kay Pranis, a thoughtful wise woman who gave us many tools for using the idea of a circle to bring restoration to broken relationships when harm has been done in a community.

In the two days since I have been back to school, I have encountered several situations in using a circle tool in the classroom helps to facilitate the discussion or to ensure that a student expressing a feeling or opinion feels safe. Yesterday at the beginning of class, one student began sharing her concerns about the political process. Other students began to jump in and talk over her, encouraging her and debating her points. She is very soft-spoken, and I was afraid that her moment of vulnerability would disappear into the fray, so I took a stone to her desk, said that while she had the stone, the rest of us were empowered to listen, and she continued. When she was finished, she just naturally handed the stone off to the next person, and a relatively respectful circle ensued.

In another class, the sharing of papers can get tedious, and some of the students tend to be anxious about sharing their writing. I handed a talking piece to one of the boys who seems to take a quiet leadership role in the class, and said that we’d send the talking piece around the circle a couple times. People could share parts of their papers or pass. In the first round, the girls (it’s a very small class) both passed, and I thought that maybe it was a bad choice to do it this way, but in the second round they both shared, and a boy who strongly dislikes English class also shared, making up an answer to one of the writing prompts on the spot–it allowed him to use his verbal strengths in community, so his sense of inadequacy about the writing was suddenly moot. Again, the students seemed to have a natural understanding of the process of the talking piece and turn-taking.

Along with those delightful examples is situation of harm that needs to be addressed. I need to work through with the student in my class who was at the receiving end of a very harmful comment whether a circle might be the place to address the harm that occurred.

So. Along with the learning comes the opportunity to practice. May I be open and ready to use the tools I have been offered.

Gratitude List:
1. The way the mists and fogs hang about the fields in the mornings
2. Practice. Opportunity to practice
3. The shining eyes of my students
4. Poetry. Yes, again. Yesterday after I had read the Dawna Markova poem I had chosen for my opening poem, a boy asked if I had ever heard of Langston Hughes. I told him that yes, I had even posted a Langston Hughes poem to my Facebook page the day before. I will have to bring a Hughes poem to class this week.
5. The hope of restoration

May we walk in Beauty!

Goldenrod and History

lizzie
It has been a least a couple weeks since I have posted a purple lisianthus. I love the complementary colors–purple and gold–pulsing there beside each other.

Here is a poem I wrote last November.

Waiting for History to Repeat Herself
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Waiting for History to repeat herself
is turning me into a statue of salt.

She sits next to me in the cafe,
stirs a load of sugar into her brew:
“It takes the edge off the inevitability,”
she tells me. “Inevitability is bitter, Girl.
It twists my gut into knots.”

She pours the cream,
sloshing it all over the counter,
and grabs a scone from her plate.
Her elbow sends the coffee mug
careening to the counter’s edge.

“I knew that would happen,”
she says, waving her butter knife
a little too close to my face.

I want to grab her, yell,
“Slow down a minute, Hon.
Relax. Take your time to settle in.
Concentrate on what you’re doing
right here in this moment,”

but she seems to be reading my mind.
“Impossible,” she blurts,
scattering crumbs across the counter top.
A dollop of jelly plops off her scone
and into her coffee. “I can’t slow down,
can’t settle, can’t give you time
to catch your breath on this one, Babe.”

Outside, snow curls out of the mist,
and voices call out sharply.
I’ve heard them all before:
Protect the Fatherland.
Eliminate the immigrants.
This is the time to show our
strength, to flex our iron arm.
Be very afraid.

“It’s beginning,” says History,
one elbow in the puddle of coffee,
the other in the wayward jam.
“I’ve heard it all before, Girl.
It’s the same damn grind,
over and over again.”

I sip my coffee black.
“Inevitability, Sister.”
She draws out the syllables
and hands me the cream.

Gratitude List:
1. Goldenrod! Have I said goldenrod? It’s everywhere now, and it shines. How it shines.
2. Those sunrises that seem to cover the whole spectrum of color
3. Commiseration.
4. Father Serafim and his choir of Assyrian singers
5
. Goldenrod. I think the fairies live in patches of goldenrod.

May we walk in Beauty!

Sea Glass

marie
Sea glass: the transformative power of water

Here is to wakeful, cooler days, to that crisp feeling in the air, to a watery slant of sunlight through the atmosphere, to sweaters, to the shushing of leaves, to the preparation for the dreamtime of winter.

Gratitude List:
1. Back to the regular rhythm, even if I am not quite prepared
2. Water
3. Turnings
4. Autumn
5. All the shades of blue

May we walk in Beauty!

Re-Integrating

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Quiet, thoughtful, tired today. So much to absorb from my three days of learning to keep circles. Now the work is to learn to apply and integrate the practice into my work, into my Work. And after three days of circling with twenty-five others, that specific circle itself must settle in like a seed and germinate within. And now, somehow, I must now reintegrate into the world outside the circle.

I think it would be good for me, sometime in the next two months, to sit in circle with people who are planning to vote for Trump, people who are planning to vote for Clinton, and people who are voting for Stein or Johnson. Perhaps some non-voters should be in there, too. I could not be the Circle Keeper, but I think I would come out of such an experience a much healthier person, hopefully less anxious, less furious.

Gratitude List:
1. Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit
2. Autumn is in the air
3. The circles expand out and outward
4. Poetry, how it says things that cannot articulated in didactic words
5. We are more alike than we are different

May we walk in Beauty!

My Voice and the Owls

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Now is the time of the seed-fall, leaf-fall.

“No single voice will be able to take control if everyone in the circle has a voice.” –Kay Pranis

I am learning, these days, about Circle Keeping, holding a space for powerful and intense conversations to occur, where every voice has a chance to be safely heard and listened to. It’s hard work, emotional work, vulnerable work. My school believes in the importance of restoration of relationships during times of conflict, and is spending the resources and teacher time to make sure that a cohort of us from the school become familiar with the process, so that it can be used in times of conflict. I hope that I can begin creating a stronger Circle culture in my classroom. I’ve read about it, and participated in many variations of circles over the years, and even implemented elements in my classrooms, but I know this experience will be very helpful for me.

I needed to leave circle early yesterday in order to celebrate a friend’s wedding. We were in the middle of some very hard work, and I left with quite a lot of anxiety. The topic at hand was about definitions of spirituality, which is a topic close to me heart, but also one that has been difficult for me because of the ways in which my own path diverges from the traditional forms of the faith community where I have situated myself. I didn’t feel that I could be truly, deeply, honest about myself. I was able to speak in one round before I left, but I felt inarticulate and bumbling, and weepy.  And then I had to leave, which should have been a relief, but I think something within me felt a need to engage the topic more head-on, in the way that someone had brought it to the group.

This paragraph right here. I have written parts of it and deleted it six or seven times now. This is the forest where I cannot find words. I wander through and pick up little stones, but none of them feels right to express the dance of distancing and belonging that I do in spiritual circles. Perhaps it is because this is a public forum, and I should write the words in secret. Perhaps it is because the words are like little birds that fly away when I try to catch them.

Gratitude List:
1. Hard conversations that help to bring clarity and deepen understanding
2. Dancing. The wedding last night was beautiful, and the dancing was delightful.
3. Owls. Last night when we got home, three or four screech owls were calling and calling, all over the hollow. This morning, the great horned owl is the one doing the talking. We almost never see them, but I love knowing that we live among owls.
4. When I haven’t found the words I need to express my own truth, but then someone across the circle speaks the very words that I needed.
5. Listening. Listening. Listening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Circle Keeping

seed
Same tree as yesterday, another pod beginning to let her seeds fall.

(Totally off-topic: Joss just said, “Mom, you know why my socks go to church?”
Me: “I don’t know. Why?”
Joss: “Because they’re holey.”)

The Circle Keeper places a canvas bag of small pieces of driftwood on the floor beside the center table. One by one, around the circle, the people come to the table and arrange wood. Everyone is silent, except for occasional chuckles and shuffling.  We are not to speak, not to stop until everyone in the circle passes and accepts what has been set up in the center.

First round. We’re tentative, building on each others’ ideas, adding a piece or two at a time. Suddenly someone dumps the bag on the table, and pieces scatter. What to do now? Are we angry? This is just a game. Still, someone has shifted the balance, upset the order. Some people are looking relieved that the order that was being enforced upon the pieces is now freed.

Second round. People re-build, tear down, rebuild. Set pieces under the table. Put them all in the bag but one. Dump them out again. Put one back in the bag. The floor comes into play. We gather and separate the wood. We build bridges and destroy them. We make patterns and sweep away patterns.

Third round, or maybe fourth by now. A circle of wood forms. Shifts, becomes almost a spiral, then a yin/yang. The table is set aside. We’re entirely on the floor. A smiling face emerges. Laughter. Clapping. Everyone passes around the room.

It’s not the meaning I would have chosen. It’s too orderly, too specifically a sign for me. I think it’s way too orderly for the Chaos and Loki folks on the other side of the circle. It’s not the fluid beauty that some of the other folks wanted. Still, I am left feeling like I had my part to play in the creation of this. And it does represent us as a group–in the process of the exercise, we HAVE become a group. We have made choices together, we have made assumptions about each other and shattered those assumptions or shifted them to something deeper. We have laughed together, grinned at each other, watched each other carefully, thought about our own internal reactions. The final image in the center is a wobbly circle, representing us, and with a quirk of a smile that adds a little mischief, which is who we are, too. This is who we will be for three days together.

Gratitude List:
1. The Circle Keeper. Circle Keepers, formal and informal. Wise women.
2. Holding paradoxes. Leaning into ambiguity.
3. Looking through the others’ eyes. Shifting perspective.
4. This boy, who watches and notices, who sees when another child is being mistreated, who cannot help but speak up. Such a balance in him between the technological and the human. He loves his numbers, but he loves people, too.
5. Omelet for lunch yesterday. I think I’ll reprise that one today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Say a Blessing for Seeds

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And now is the time for seed to burst forth.

We have arrived at Autumn Equinox, one of those exquisite balance points of the year cycle, the moment of shift in the whirl around our star. The light has been shifting, coming in at a slant that sets everything atwinkle. Every dusk, hundreds of robins sail into hollow and set up a clatter and cacophony in the bamboo grove. The geese are going, cormorants winging their way, thousands of feet above us, or angling down to the River for a rest. Seeds burst forth.

Say a blessing for the seeds, those packets of potential that burst from the ripened fruits of the flower buds and fall to earth, some to be trampled by passing feet, some to be eaten–fuel for the journeys of the little birds or stocked up by small animals as fat for the coming cold.  And some to fall into the rich soil to wait through the winter until it is time to Become.

How has your own ripening been? What is the seed within you at this moment? What is the hopeful little bundle of potential that is waiting to fall, to be carried by the winds and the waves and the creatures that pass, to tumble into the soil of your future self? What has ripened within you, and what will you release, knowing it may grow and bear its own fruit, or may become food for others? What of yourself to you give to this season?  Say a blessing for the seeds.

Gratitude List:
1. Little things. A little help at just the right moment. Little things are sometimes big things.
2. Commiseration. I cannot walk these coming days alone. I do not want to give in to despair or complaining, but having others who share my worry, who hold the bowl of these days with such tenderness, helps me not to feel alone in my angst. Let’s help each other to hold this one. Sigh together. Be the people for the moment–together.
3. Blue. I keep noticing the cobalt reflection beneath the clouds these mornings, not the Maryblue that shines through from sky, but a shining cobalt underneath, mingled with the Prussian Blue and Indigo of the shadows. I think it must be light reflecting in an autumnal slant onto the water of the cloud.  Whatever creates it, it’s a new way to experience blue, and I am grateful to see it.
4. Crows. I want to be a crow, diving fearlessly into wind, wings akimbo and a shout of joy in my throat.
5. New things to learn. Today I am beginning a three-day workshop/class with the Center for Community Peacemaking on Restorative Circles, a way of working with conflict in communities. I love that I work in a school that is putting forth the resources to train its teachers in this work, and I am honored to be doing this.

May we walk in Beauty!

Medicine for the Moment

cairns

Where is the medicine for this moment?

These are crass and ironic times, when the tragedies of millions of lives, of people fleeing their homes in terror, are reduced to a simplistic candy analogy. Where is the medicine?

When day after day after horrific day, another black man lies dead in the streets, the evidence of his murder caught on camera, and no one is brought to justice.  Where is the medicine?

When the nations of people who first lived upon this land call for a halt to the destruction of the land and water, and the response is to bulldoze the graves of their ancestors. Where is the medicine?

The tides of hate and selfishness and division have risen, and those who See must come together in these times to pray, to hold council, to stand against all that tears at the fabric of our common humanity. When history looks back at us, let it not be said that we sat quietly by while our sisters and brothers were subjected to hate and horror and terror.

Today is the International Day of Peace.  What will be your prayer for peace today? How will you put hands and feet on your prayer? What medicine will you be for this moment?

Gratitude List:
1. The praying mantis who hung upside down with her hands held way out before her, like she was waiting for high fives.
2. Those golden clouds at dusk last night.
3. Young possum with a pink nose and white mask and black twinkly eyes, out searching for late night snacks.
4. Daily practice.
5. The peacebuilders. You. All of us together, working it out, watching, working. We are not alone.

May we walk in Beauty!

Open Heart

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Last week, we met this teeny tiny turtle–a snapper the size of a half dollar–on the sidewalk into the school. We set him in the grass where he would be safer from the many feet that would be thundering through during the coming day.

“It can hurt to go through life with your heart open, but not as much as it does to go through life with your heart closed.” –Jim Doty

The bud always opens toward decay,
toward falling, the fragile bits within
slipping off their tiny moorings,
sifting downward, petals drooping,
dropping to the ground below,
offering beauty and a lingering aroma
in the briefest span.

The bud which never opens
also lives toward decay and rot
but never senses sun-warm petals,
never knows the draw of butterfly,
the tickle of the bee, never feels
the moment of release, of
settling to earth.

Gratitude List:
1. Teeny tiny turtles
2. Having enough: enough sleep, enough love, enough time, enough of what we need to get by.
3. Spoken word poetry–always inspiring
4. Crickets, heartbeats
5. Believing in the good

May we walk in Beauty!

Here Comes the Rain Again

2013 August 339

Today’s gratitude list brought to you by song titles, in honor of that water coming down from the sky. It has been nearly two months without appreciable rain in the holler. The began at 3:30. May it continue.

Gratitude List:
1. Here comes the rain again
2. Early morning rain
3. Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
4. Buckets of rain
5. Rain down

May we walk in Beauty, in Rain!