(This was last year’s photo)

It has been a few days since I have tallied gratitudes or written a poem.  Between the mounds of end-of-semester work and the needs of the kids and the haze of allergy season under a tulip tree, I haven’t been keeping the open awareness and daylong focus that is usually necessary for me to prepare a meaningful list for myself.  Some days I can toss off a list off the top of my head, but part of the purpose of writing these lists is that it puts me in the noticing space throughout my day.  Here are some of the things that have been in noticing-space the last few days:

Gratitude List:
1. Peonies.  How old are they?  Forty years?  Sixty?  These come from Jon’s mom, who got them from his grandmother.  They have the most perfect scent (and smelling anything these days is a real challenge for me)–why isn’t there peony perfume?
2. The seniors.  I have fewer of them in my classes, but somehow I’ve gotten sort of attached, and now they go, and I am going to miss them, but I am so proud of them, so eager to watch them try their wings.  Fly high, Bright Ones.
3. Summer is coming.  Long break with a change of pace, a chance to prepare for the next season, to get life in order again.
4. Ingenuity.  We have fewer chances today, perhaps, when we have already invented so many things to do everything we need.  Still, there are opportunities to make and design, chances for the children to learn to invent and create and develop tools and ideas.
5. Flavor.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:

1. Using gratitude lists as a prompt in school today.  Why haven’t I done this before?  It felt like a gift I gave myself–such bright and deep and thoughtful responses.  I am going to miss these people.
2. That poem that a student handed me today to fulfill a class project.  May you thrive.  May you live deeply.
3. How the Earth provides the medicine.  The tulip tree is blooming, which is beautiful, but suddenly the allergies are going haywire.  So, more plantain and wild chamomile and catnip and mint and nettle and lemon balm tea with honey.  I will try one more night without the allopathic remedy.
4. New haircut!  I always feel like a work of art when I have been to see Kristen.
5. Mockingbird, as I was walking out to gather herbs this evening, sang to me in Ovenbird, “Teacher-teacher-teacher!”

May we walk in Beauty!

Perhaps the reason that my body wakes me so early in these mornings is that my spirit knows it needs significant time in each day when no one needs me, and the quiet pre-dawn moments are some of the only time I will get when I am as utterly alone as I can be in these days, when I wear–like ornaments on my psyche–small children, a cat, a few dozen teenagers, papers that need grading, vines that need trimming, corners that need vaccuuming.  When it is just me and the dawn chorus, I am the one who gets to need, to seek, to demand attention.  I am grateful for the clamor of the community that surrounds me, all the voices, all the reminders that my role in the world is interwoven with others, but I am also grateful for the balance of occasional solitude.  I have planned my silent retreat for mid-June, and I am anticipating it almost as much as if I were going abroad.

Gratitude List:
1. Stories
2. Ritual
3. Temporality
4. Contemplation
5. Cool night air

May we walk in Beauty!

Today was bookended by two powerful stories about language, how it differentiates, how it connects.  This morning in chapel a colleague of mine spoke thoughtfully and reflectively about her own life story, about the Tower of Babel–how we build complicated structures of our lives, placing our hopes and expectations into them, and how we can be blindsided when they crumble.  Her stories were affirming of those who struggle, acknowledging the struggle, and offering the hope of transformation, not only of the pain, but of inner prejudices and stereotypes.

On the other end of the day, in Faculty Meeting, was a presentation on resilience, particularly for women (and others) who have been marginalized and excluded from leadership roles in the church and its institutions.  The framing story was Pentecost, another tale of people of many languages trying to communicate.

Language helps us to classify and analyze and differentiate.  It’s an intellectual tool.  It also helps us to connect and weave together and integrate.  It’s a psychological/heart tool.

Gratitude List:
1. The scent of the honey locust tree blossoms wafting through the window just as I am falling asleep.  Blessings on the bees.
2. Yesterday, Jon spotted a box turtle on the driveway, wandering off into the yard.  I was sort of afraid that thee’d become too rare to spot anymore, but there is at least one living on Goldfinch Farm.
3. Rain, rain, rain.  Slow and deliberate and steady.  Free of high wind and hail and flooding.
4. Chasing rainbows.  After supper we drove down to the Rt. 30 bridge to see the new girders that were just put in place last night above the highway by Wrightsville.  We have some engineers in the family who just couldn’t wait to see them.  As we reached the crest of the hill, we saw the rainbow, looking like one foot was in the hollow and another was at Sam Lewis Park, but the nearer foot kept shifting as we neared the park.
5. We parked by the River at the John Wright restaurant boat launch, and Ellis and I walked down to the water, standing between the two bridges in the rain.  I found a shining 2015 penny there on the threshold between the land and the water.
6. Language, the gossamer thread of words that we send between us like trees, our conversation the webs cast by a spider.

May we walk in Beauty!

In Lowland, the Jhumpa Lahiri book I just finished, Gauri seems to have been born with a sixth sense about the movement of time, an awareness of how time moves into the future and into the past.  And preparing for tonight’s poetry reading, I have gone back through most of my poems from the past year and a half, and I am realizing how much my own writing deals with my relationship to time, to living in the moment and letting time sort of slip around me.  As I think about Gauri and her incredible philosophical grasp of time, of Stephen Hawking and his scientific understanding of time, I realize we need Jhumpa Lahiri to complete the triangle–you need the emotional perspective, too, to study the psychological and spiritual implications of time.  Philosopher, scientist, artist.  All three.

Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird is back in the hollow.  Last night while we were finishing up that tuna noodle casserole, she came and closely inspected the dining room window, maybe trying to get to Ellis’ red shirt.  “Maybe she’ll bring the rain,” I said.  As we were going to the car a little later, it was drizzling.  “Thank you, Hummingbird!” yelled Ellis.
2. This one probably ought to be a secret, but groundhogs.  I love the way they stand up on their hind legs with their hands over their hearts, looking around at the landscape, like farmers.  Only that’s why this needs to be a secret.  Because farmers.
3. Singing hymns.  After the reading tonight, Freiman Stoltzfus said that if there were so many Mennonites in the gallery at once, we might as well sing some hymns together.  So satisfying.
4. Channeling Mary Poppins.  I read a poem this evening about remembering how to fly.  As I was leaving, someone pointed out that I was carrying a carpet bag and a duck-headed umbrella.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
5. Sleep.  I am only an occasional insomniac, but since the birth of children, I have become an incredibly light sleeper, so a nine-hour night like last night is a rare pleasure.

May we walk in Beauty!

Today’s gratitude list is mostly gleaned from our church service yesterday morning.  After a startlingly harsh and jangling sermon from a visiting preacher the previous week, yesterday’s service was one of healing and hope.  I felt much more called to the care and tending of souls during yesterday’s gentle and loving setting than I did during the previous week’s harangue.

Gratitude List:
1. The healing power of words, how they hold and restore.  How healing words fill a space after words have been harsh.  I am grateful for Darvin and Michelle’s words yesterday.
2. St. Hannah/Francis preaching to the birds.  “You should try this at home.”  Ellis did: he came home and stood near the feeder with bird seed in his hand.
3. Breath, air, wind: spirit.  Ruach, one of the Bible’s feminine terms for God, is also the spirit, the breath.  Whistle.  Preach to the birds.
4. Counting time in Chesters.  The oldest member of our congregation is almost 100.  About three Chesters ago, the US became a country.  Eight Chesters ago, St. Francis preached to the birds.  Chester whistles, too.
5. These two hanging ferns that my family gave me for Mother’s Day.  The house finch has been whistling in their fronds, begging his lady love to consider them as the setting for raising their family.

May we walk in Beauty!  Breathe.  Whistle.

2013 April 156

Those are the first words of Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation.  It was a call to action, not just to American mothers, but to all women in all nations, to come together to create peace between our countries and to repudiate the wars and violence that were being caused and prosecuted mostly by men.

I know that this day is difficult for many people for many reasons.  The word Mother is a difficult word for may people.  Mothers can be cruel or absent or distant or controlling.  Mothers can feel inadequate, captive, unappreciated (but for one day a year), shamed.  Motherhood may be elusive or greatly desired but seemingly unattainable.  Beloved mothers may be gone too soon, too soon.  My first memory of my own experience of being a mother was the Mothers Day ten years ago when I learned that my first pregnancy was failing.

Today, if this day is difficult and painful for you, I wish you a quiet place away from all the cultural glitz and holler of the day.  I wish you healing from difficult or grief-filled memories.  I wish you freedom from the expectations that clamor about you.  I wish you people in your life who nurture you and who help you discover you how strong you really are.  I wish you at least one person in your life who believes in you no matter what, who trusts your inner knowledge and ability to succeed. I wish you opportunities to mentor and care for others. I wish you the fire and power to bring to birth your own ideas and creations, to watch your dreams and projects and plans come into being as surely as any child is born into the world.

Gratitude List:
1. My mother, whom I would seek out as a friend were she not already my mother, who has been my guide as I find my own way into the land of motherhood, who believed I could do fly and sometimes sort of nudged me off the cliff’s edge a little, who has taught me the importance of firmly speaking truth to power, who has provided a motherly presence for so many people, who showed me how to pay attention and to look at the beauty of the world around me.  I love you, Mom!
2. The Motherline:
I am Beth Weaver-Kreider,
daughter of Ruth Slabaugh Weaver,
daughter of Lura Lauver Slabaugh,
daughter of Mary Emma Graybill Lauver,
daughter of Elizabeth Shelley Graybill,
daughter of Lydia Gingrich Shelley,
daughter of Elizabeth Light Gingrich,
daughter of Mary Dohner Light,
daughter of Anna Landis Dohner,
daughter of Fronica Groff Landis,
daughter of Susanna Kendig Orendorf Groff,
daughter of Elsbeth Meili Kundig,
daughter of Anna Barbara Bar Meili,
daughter of Barbara Biedermann Bar (born 1580 in Hausen, Switzerland).
3. All you who have been mentors and muses and fire-lighters and hearth-keepers for me.
4. My own two children (and perhaps also the two who did not come to be) and all they have taught me about who I am in the world, all the joy they bring.
5. Seed. Womb. Birth. Fire. Earth. Source.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1. The life of Sophie Scholl, (9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943).  One of the founders of The White Rose, a student organization organized to resist the Nazis.  She was executed at age 22 for her activism.
2. The life of Ruth Kasl.  I just found out today that my friend and former colleague has died.  An inspiring teacher, committed to her students’ development as people, Ruth was/is a shiny soul.  So many people, both human and animal, will miss her.
3. Asparagus
4. May Day fun at Wrightsville Elementary
5. Getting it said

May we walk in Beauty!

Here are some stories.  The author requests anonymity, so it’s probably best not to talk to him about them.

“ther was a liyin. ther was a mce. the liyin was chasing the muce. the liyin chast the muce up the chrey.”

“Waunts apon a tim thir was a chicin. the chicin codnt lia ene eggs. the uther chicins laft at him.”

“If cows came into my bedroom they wod eat my sox. the wod dschroy my desr. they wod poop on my machris.”

“thir was a dog. the dog’s gob is hrding the shep. a lam was mising. a caing roo was coming to the frm. in its pawch it was ciyreing the lam.”

“Thier was a froge. the froge lived in a ran foriest. one day the froge mit a maucee.  they wre frens. they lived happule evr aftr.”

Gratitude List:
1. One year ago today, I interviewed for a job at Lancaster Mennonite High School.  I am grateful that they hired me, and that it has been as good a fit as I imagined.
2.  I am grateful for my colleagues and the way they care for the students as much as for the subjects they teach.
3.  I am grateful for my students and all that they teach me.  Today, a student announced our new Unicef Club in chapel.  I was hoping that at least five or six people would respond and sign up.  By day’s end, over thirty had done so.  I am thrilled that so many kids want to get involved in humanitarian work, and delighted that the student who hatched the idea is getting so much support.
4. Not being in labor–9 years ago right now, I had already been in labor for about 20 hours, and I still had a whole night to go through.  I am grateful for the medical technology that ensured we both survived.  I’m inexpressibly grateful for this child, who amazes and delights me every single day.
5. The way the sun is shining over the ridge.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude List:
1. Music.  What a concert at the school tonight!  It puts the arts into a liberal arts education.  I am so proud of these young people.  And of my colleagues who lead with such heart, such professionalism, such a striving for excellence.
2. The birds are back in town, birds are back in tow-ow-ow-own.  Chipping sparrow.  Sparrow.  Kingfisher.  And my bright bird of fire: Oriole.  And the goldfinches have put on their brightest vests.
3. That view from Mt. Pisgah over the valley in the mornings, light on the hills at the gap where the River runs through.  The bridges spanning my here to my there.
4. Lily of the Valley.  And lilac.  What an aromatic duo.
5. Grace.  Apologies.  Earnest civility.

May we walk in Beauty!


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