Cognitive Dissonance

In a way, this whole bit of surreal weirdness that is the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation kerfuffle is the obvious ending to the story of the evangelical Christians’ love affair with politicians who can lip-sync their anti-abortion theme-songs.

Having become ever more entrenched in the language of anti-abortion and anti-choice, evangelicals began their dance long ago with any politician who could repeat their growing rhetoric back to them verbatim. While the community itself may have begun with a tenderhearted desire to protect life as they saw it, the politicians (and many church leaders) with whom they were dancing were wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The church and the world have both operated on the basis of patriarchal assumptions for so long that the time has come when they’ve both had to show their hand. If you’re really against abortion–if that is REALLY and truly the reason that you are anti-choice, then the absolutely only logical choice you have is to make sure that young people are educated about their bodies and about consent, and that predators are held accountable, prosecuted, and given jail time. You must defend the women from the predators, not the predators from the women.

But time and time again, the politicians and the church keep excusing the predators and blaming the women whom their “pro-life” ethic would logically demand they protect and care for. You simply cannot dogmatically call yourself pro-life if you can’t support a traumatized victim of rape, and call her rapist (or attempted rapist) to account. The Kavanaugh nomination has thrown the story into detailed relief: You cannot claim that you are pro-life and support those who commit sexual assault.

And these people–politicians and celebrity church leaders–are not simply denying the credibility of Dr. Blasey Ford’s claims. They’re normalizing sexual assault. It’s one thing not to believe the accusation, however credible, but to go on to say that even if it did happen, it was only “horseplay” or “seven minutes of heaven” or “boys being boys” shows not only ignorance but a depth of cruelty that cannot be reconciled with a sound pro-life ethic, or anything that resembles the way of Jesus.

The only way to interpret the tone-deafness of the evangelical and “christian” political leaders who speak like this is to say that their “pro-life” stance really and truly has nothing to do with a true life ethic and everything to do with keeping women in their places, subject to the whims and power of men. It has always been, at the level of the male leadership, about maintaining the patriarchal status quo–and the teenaged Brett Kavanaugh, thirty years after attempting to rape a girl at a party, has forced them to show their hand. Franklin Graham and his ilk have proven in recent days that it was never really about a pro-life ethic. It has only and always ever been, for them, about controlling women’s sexuality and women’s bodies and women’s agency.

Gratitude List:
1. These young people who are not waiting until they finish high school to become Worldchangers. They’re doing it now, and they’re showing us how.
2. Reminders to get in touch with the primal grief, the primal rage, to converse with these emotions, to learn from them.
3. Cool days.
4. Synaesthesia. I do not have it in any noticeably discernible way, but I have a student who regular tells us what color the words and letters are, and I love to be a listener to that extra-sensory story.
5. Weekend!

May we walk in Beauty!


Rivers of Life

I carefully outlined the significant stages of my life, but somehow forgot to put my 18-22 section on there–and that was a SIGNIFICANT part of my life. It’s where I met Jon, where I met my lifelong friends. Where I learned to hold on to love even through a rough patch. I want to remake it in paint or colored pencils.

I am pretty strongly anti-established-religion. White Christian evangelicals in the US today are complicit with such great evils that I want nothing to do with them. I see people who say they follow the way of Jesus shrugging their shoulders and ignoring the pain of children torn from their parents by a government they support. I see them rabidly calling for more ill-treatment of people seeking asylum at our borders. I see them fighting for systems and policies that further marginalize people who are ill and struggling with poverty. I see them speaking with vitriol and rancor toward people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people from other countries. The list goes on.

There’s a quotation, often attributed to Gandhi (though perhaps erroneously), that goes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m a fan of Jesus, too. I just don’t like a lot of the people who claim him. I don’t think it’s possible to really “get” who Jesus was and support a political administration that tears families apart, that regularly spews such racist and xenophobic and homophobic and misogynist hatred. I sound really judgey here, and I try hard not to be judgey, but I can’t withhold my judgement at times of great injustice and destruction.

On the other hand, I love a lot of Christians. In fact, despite its harsh beginning, this post is really about a church that I love, a place where I–with all my wild, witchy, unsettled, doubtful, defiant, questioning universalism–can feel belonging. We’re all welcome in this place, and questions are blessed, and crunchy feelings are held and observed together. Some people use very specific God-language that I couldn’t bring out of my own mouth, but I don’t feel uncomfortable because my own non-specific and outside-the-box language is accepted, too. I am not the only one who calls the Holy One by the name of Mystery. And I don’t want to be in a place where everyone believes exactly the same thing–just a place like this, where Love is the guiding principle.

And we sing together. And we make art. And we talk and dream and stand up to the powers together. We talk earnestly with each other and we laugh together, and cry. Our children feel safe and loved. It’s Real Church. It’s good community. I am grateful for each of the individuals who make up the circle of us.

Gratitude List:
1. Making collages with Chloe and Monica and the others this weekend at camp. Drawing the Rivers of our Lives with Josiah and Andrea and Maggie. Soulful art-making.
2. Storytelling. Vulnerable, life-affirming, tear-filled, laughter-filled, life-sharing storytelling.
3. Fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. I have severely curtailed my sweets intake in the past month, and I don’t let myself eat sugary things unless I am absolutely sure it will be worth it. This cake was completely worth it.
4. Christine’s Box of Tea. I tried the Stash Chocolate Hazelnut, which was sublime.
5. We are in the Golden Season: Goldenrod, sunflowers, slanting sunlight in the afternoons, Jerusalem artichokes, yellow walnut leaves. Glorious golden! Now for some coolness, please?

May we walk in Beauty!

“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Christopher Walken
“Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.” —David Whyte
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its’ imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” —Annie Dillard
“Forms are the symbols of formless divine principles; symbolism is the language of nature.”
—Manly P. Hall
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.” —C. G. Jung
From Omid Safi:
The great mystic Zol Nun (Dhu ‘l-Nun) met a woman at the sea shore.

He asked her: “What is the end of love?” She answered: “O simpleton, love has no end.”

He asked why.
She said: “Because God, the Beloved, has no end.”
“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.“ —Gloria Steinem
In the silence before time began, in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation,
at the birth of every creature,
at the centre of each moment
is your splendour.
Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the splendour of this moment. Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the blazing splendour
that burns from the heart of this moment. —John Philip Newell
“I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being.”
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” —Emma Goldman




Gratitude List:
1. A field of smiling yellow sunflowers shining through the fog of a rainy morning.
2. Featherbed. Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep for a while because I was shivering so badly. The weather change hit me hard (not complaining, though!). Last night I pulled the featherbed down from the cupboard, and I was warm and cozy. Makes me want to sing this: John McCutcheon singing “Featherbed”
3. When a new idea for a classroom activity gets them buzzing and collaborating without any pressure or pushing from me. This is not always the case. In fact, it is often enough NOT the case that when it happens, it still feels like magic. AND this one meets the goals of the unit perfectly. Win-win.
4. My classroom. I like this space. I loved the coolness of the science aerie up there on the third floor of Rutt during the heat wave, but I have created this space to be somewhere that I want to host groups of students throughout the day, somewhere that we WANT to be, and it’s nice to be here with a cool breeze blowing in the windows. I missed it.
5. Color, texture, hue, harmony, blending, Beauty.

May we walk in that Beauty!

“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
“Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions,
beneath our religion or lack of it,
we are all vulnerable both to the storm without
and to the storm within.” ―Frederick Buechner
“The vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence.” ―Simone Weil
Here is how we make the world:
I will say fire and mean wisdom.
I will say wisteria and mean my thoughts are tangled.
I will say the river is flowing and mean that time is passing.
I will say grandmother’s quilt and mean that the work is love.
I will say house and mean your heart.
I will say spiderweb and mean the prayers are holding you.
I will say the eagle flies and mean my thoughts are with you.
I will say the daffodils are blooming and mean you are healing.
I will say song and mean dream.
I will say dream and mean prayer.
I will say prayer and mean poem.
―Beth Weaver-Kreider
“When an elder dies, a library burns.” ―African proverb
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ―Anne Frank
“But how could you live and have no story to tell?” ―Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Gratitude List:
1. The Women’s Trio this morning at church. Blending of voices, colors, textures, rhythms.
2. Feeling the bass rumbling through the back of the pew.
3. Rain: Making it not-hot
4. Rain: I get to walk around with my cheery yellow duck-headed umbrella
5. Rain: Lying on my parents’ couch, wrapped in Uncle Henry’s red-violet blanket, watching the rain and listening to the murmuring and laughter between my parents and my children in the garage.

May we walk in Beauty! (And may all your basements stay dry!)

Cool Air


Gratitude List:
1. The large list of students who signed up to take the ASL Club that our deaf student is leading at school.
2. Breaking through the walls. People wear walls on their faces, and the walls are meant for protection, but they hinder belongingness and tenderness and community. I don’t think I am good at knowing the exact thing that will break through a wall, but yesterday, two of my attempts were successful, and the joy of those moments of connection with hidden souls made my day.
4. Kind words.
5. The Resistance. Keep resisting, keep pushing for kindness, for goodness, for compassion, for community, for humaneness. You give others heart and hope whenever you stand against the tide of unpleasantness and crassness and greed. You may not always feel it, but thousands are standing with you.
6. (Did I mention cool air? I can think better in cool air.)

May we walk in Beauty!

“Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.” —Naguib Mahfouz
“Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of meaning.” —Joy Harjo
“Everything I love most happens most every day.” —Howard Norman
“I was just thinking
one morning
during meditation
how much alike
and baking powder are:
getting what is
best in me
to rise,
the hint of eternity
within.” —Macrina Wiederkehr
The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth
“Death is an ascension to a better library.” —John Donne

Gratitude Questions


Gratitudes, in Question Form:
1. What brought you sudden joy? Walking the labyrinth I mowed into the parking lot, and hearing the screech owls begin their whinnying conversation as I was on the outward laps. What do I take with me into this season? Screech owls calling in the bamboo.
2. What was a relief? Coming home to the air conditioned room.
3. What made you smile? Hearing a boy, as he set up a puzzle in the living room: “We can call ourselves puzzle people, can’t we? We’re puzzle people.”
4. What made you think? Reflecting on the themes and ideas in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” And Michael Booth’s words in chapel about owning our stories instead of letting them own us.
5. What challenge did you face? Heat. Being exhausted from heat. Talking over the sound of the fans and air conditioning unit. I made it through, faced the challenge. I can’t do this for too many more days, but I think I can do another day.

May we walk in Beauty!

I’m Still Here

It’s been a good start to the school year, but the focus and exhaustion of beginning a new year has kept me away from the blog for a couple weeks.

Gratitude List:
1. Owls calling in the bosque.
2. Cats that sleep on their backs. Such soft bellies.
3. Strong community everywhere.
4. An earnest and bright-eyed crew of students.
5. Earnest and intentional colleagues.
. . .and monarchs. . .and sunflowers. . .and de-stressing decisions. . .and air conditioning. . .and the indigo throat of the morning glory. . .and long weekends. . .

May we walk in Beauty!
You get to choose the names that you wear, like you choose the clothes you wear. I am going to stop wearing Messy and Disorganized. I have too much to accomplish to be held back by those old rags. I will be She Who Walks Rooted. I will be Seeker of the Open Door. I will be Re-Sister and Per-Sister. I will be Snuggler of Cats.

Enter the Portal

Two crow feathers in one week. The world is full of messages, if we know how to look,
if we know how to read the text of the landscape.

Gratitude List:
1. Teaching the spectrum. I have begun teaching college-in-the-high-school courses this year, and I am loving the conversation, the determination, the bright-eyed desire to LEARN of these soon-to-fledge upperclassfolk. I also have much younger students just coming in as ninth graders, both the 101s, and the students coming into my Foundations class to get some more literacy skill-building to prepare them to succeed in high school. This latter group tends to be more shy, more uncertain about school, but they’re ready and shiny-eyed in their own way, and eager to learn. I saw stirrings of deep understanding in this group on Tuesday when I showed them Kendi Ibram’s speech about what it means to be an intellectual. My heart is full.
2. Monarchs. Every day on the drive to and from school, I can count 3-5, and sometimes more, flitting across the road or in the roadside wildflower buffet. Sun in their wings, dancing in the breezes, determined wings setting a course for the beach. My heart is full.
3. Joe the Duck and the Cat Clan. Now that school has started, we pick up ED every morning and drive down the road where Joe the Duck lives, and where a colony of half-feral cats lives. We pause at Joe’s personal paddle pool to say hello, and drive slowly through the territory of the cat colony. There are new kittens: black, ginger-and-white, and a greyish-tortoise-shell. My heart is full.
4. Learning New Messages. “I am an organized person.” Ellis and I are reminding each other of our Organized Person identities, and I’m at least beginning to override the old story I habitually told myself about being unable to remain organized. And I see him doing the same. My heart is full.
5. My children are excited about school. Ellis has been advocating for himself to take Spanish 2 when it looked like he wouldn’t be able to fit it into his schedule. In the end, he and three others got permission to take a computer course in the library during the time others are taking Spanish 1. He’s taking charge of his learning, and that makes me proud. Right now, he’s downstairs on a Friday night doing his Algebra homework. (I think he knows it’s Friday.) And Josiah had three extra days off this summer because of mold in the school district, and while that was exciting, he is chomping at the bit to get back to school. My heart is full.

May we walk in Beauty!

Friday’s Meditations:
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.” —Hafiz
“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.” —Christy Ann Martine
“Every word you utter to another human being has an effect, but you don’t know it. If people began to understand that change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then, they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” —Howard Zinn
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” —Leonard Bernstein
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ―Elie Wiesel
“All forms of racism must be rejected directly and openly.” —bell hooks and Cornel West
“Our mission was to make a beloved community in the world where everyone would be free to live well.” —bell hooks

Repairing the World

My parents are part of a group of people in their retirement community who are doing their part to save the monarch butterflies. A couple years ago, they asked us to bring them some milkweed pods from the farm, and they planted them in their garden. Now, two years later, their back patio is lined with a wall of milkweed plants as tall as I am, and the monarchs have thoroughly colonized it. They’ve begun bringing the caterpillars inside and raising them in mesh cages. “Cats” is the term some people on their email list use, as in “I don’t have enough cages to house both the big cats and the tiny 1/4″ cats. Could someone take my big cats off my hands?” I’ve started to think of them as the Monarch Posse.

Today while several of us were eating lunch at their house, we were twice interrupted by the miracle of a cat casting its skin and becoming a chrysalis (the plural is chrysalides, we discovered). Young cats go through five growth stages between egg and pupal phases, molting between each phase. When a 5th instar-phase cat is ready to pupate, it climbs onto a branch and hangs upside-down in the shape of a J. After a short while in this position, it begins to rhythmically pulsate–it looked to me like labor. The J lengthens out, and the skin at the back of the head cracks open, revealing the jade green casing of the chrysalis. If this is labor, the cat is giving birth to itself as it pushes itself out of itself, jigging and wriggling until the skin has shriveled up around its “ankle,” where it gives one last emphatic twist of its body and casts off the skin. Another fifteen minutes and the top of the chrysalis (what was once the back-end half of the cat) has shrunken into the cap-like top of the chrysalis. The notion seems utterly preposterous that in a few days’ time, a winged creature three times the size of that gold-flecked jade emerald will emerge from within the gem. Still, it’s only a little more preposterous than the miracle you’ve just watched, of this short, squat stone emerging from the long and agile body of the caterpillar.

The pupa stage of the monarch lasts 8-15 days, and as I was pondering these little upside-down folks hanging from their cage roofs today, I had a vision of the god Odin, who sought the secret of the runes in ancient days. He experienced a magical ordeal to receive the runes, which were destined to become a human alphabet, holding the meanings of our words and thoughts–he hung upside-down from the World Tree for nine windy days and nine windy nights, and on the final day, he looked below him, and there were the runes. He fell from the tree, gathered them up, and gained great wisdom.

Like Odin, the creature that is caterpillar/pupa/butterfly hangs between worlds, upside-down, for something like nine days, and in the process receives the transformational wisdom of the truth of itself.

Today while we were talking about what this group of thirty or more Protectors of the Monarchs is doing, my father mentioned an idea he’s learned from reading about Judaism: tikkun olam, repairing the world. They take their work very seriously, this small and tender act of raising tiny caterpillars safe from predators and accidents and then releasing them to the winds. They’re doing their part to repair the world, boosting the chances that their grandchildren will be able to show their own children the miracle of transformation.

Gratitude List:
1. The miracle of transformation. In monarchs. In children. In worlds.
2. People who show tenderness for all living things.
3. Re-programming. Ellis bought a CD set on Time Management at the Bookworm Frolic, and we started listening together. A lot of the testimonial stuff at the beginning seemed like bunkus and snake oil, but the basic principles are pretty standard: affirmations, visualization, behaving “as if,” modeling your behavior after someone who is successful in the area, and then processing how you would teach or pass it on. We’re going to be each other’s allies and begin to affirm to ourselves and each other that we use time wisely, and that we get our work done.
4. A couple good days of good exercise.
5. Words. Runes. Alphabets. Books.

May we walk in Beauty!

Notes from the Week’s Adventures

Notes on the Adventures of the Week:

My parents came on Tuesday morning when they heard that the tree crew was going to be able to come and take down the old poplar. They brought a friend from their garden: a monarch caterpillar. She wandered around and explored the milkweed all day, but did not eat.


They took the tree down in stages. By the end of the day Tuesday, a sweltering, humid rain swamp of a day, they had taken it down to the central trunk. The caterpillar had begun hanging from a leaf by her foot, and occasionally swaying or twitching as she began to get comfortable for her transformation.

By ten on Wednesday morning, the trunk was down, and the crew commenced to saw it into sections, carting away several dump truck loads. The lawn was completely torn up–they clearly tried very hard to be careful, but it was impossible on that wet ground not to make mud.

I came in the house at about 1 in the afternoon to find the caterpillar’s skin (that black thing on the leaf above the chrysalis–I put it there so I could have both in one picture) on the counter, and the emerald jewel of the chrysalis hanging there. How is that possible, that this oblong jewel was inside that caterpillar skin? And now for complete transformation: Her insides will dissolve into goo while her wings form and she takes her new shape.


This is the stump. I haven’t checked the measurement on its diameter, but you could put a little table and a chair up there. I posed the feather.

Notes from the tree guy:
1. He thinks it’s one of the tallest trees they’ve ever taken down.
2. It was still strong, but a couple more years and it would have been too much rot (see that big spot?) and would have been really dangerous in the taking down.
3. He thinks it was about 90 feet tall.

We counted the rings–it’s hard to be sure you’re getting them all–and got somewhere between 67 and 71 years. Some of the rings are really thin and some are really wide. This is the story the tree is telling.

The porch is now a sunny spot in the mornings.

I did not plan to reseed a yard this week, but that’s what I did today. Satisfying work, and it needed to be done before another big rain washes all the exposed topsoil away.

I’m going to miss the shade and the people who lived in the city of its branches, but seeing all that early rot in the middle of every large branch made me realize that it was a really good decision.

Gratitude List:
1. How the work gets done.
2. Painting. I have been loving my morning painting practice, and I am sad to see the time of relaxed morning painting coming soon to an end.
3. Clouds and blue sky.
4. Wind chimes. I bought myself a nice set of metal ones today to replace the clunky old bamboo ones.
5. Ferns and Morning Glories

May we walk in Beauty!