Hold Your Heart


These days, my heart feels a little like a shredded blanket that I am trying my best to hold into one piece, and my guess is that yours might be a little tender right now, too.

When my children fight, and I have to speak sternly, or tell them for the fifteenth time to clean up after themselves, I suddenly get teary: So many mothers have been wrenched from their children. How dare I speak anything but total tenderness to these kids?

Or they show me the projects and ideas they’re working on, or they read out loud something funny in their books, and I suddenly get teary: What must it be like to be torn out of your children’s lives? To wonder if anyone is appreciating their humor and tenderness and genius in the way that only you can? To not know if they will be cared for and comforted?

My arms hurt with ache of the loss, like they did after my own miscarriages. I feel that wrenching in my womb, that sense of not being able to go back to the before, when everything was okay.

In the day since the president signed his grandiose Executive Order to stop the separation of families, I only come up with more sadness, more questions. I am having trouble sorting out the information, and I wonder if this was the intent: To offer an obvious outrage, then set out a “solution,” but a solution with fangs.

These are things that I don’t like, and things that I want to continue to call my representatives about:
1. The 2300 who were torn from their families must be reunited with their parents. Now!
2. Indefinite detention–that doesn’t sound so good. Refugees, asylum seekers–they’re going to be placed in detention indefinitely. How far is this from a concentration camp?
3. I think I understand this new plan correctly: Entering the country without paperwork will now be a criminal offense instead of a misdemeanor. Is that right? That’s getting pretty intense. And that would then lead to children being taken from their parents anyway, right?
4. The language that these folks are using to talk about deterrents and following the law is still pretty brutal and cruel-sounding.
5. The president’s EO feels like a smokescreen, to further obfuscate the cruelty and inhumanity that is occurring. It all feels so carefully orchestrated to me–Like they played with these children’s lives not because they really thought it would even provide the deterrent they claimed, but because they wanted to exhaust our outrage so that we’d be ready to give up and accept this EO as an answer.
6. Blogger John Pavlovitz used the analogy of someone running recklessly and intentionally over people with their car, then blaming it on someone else. When they finally stop running over people, you don’t praise them for stopping. You stand up and speak out.


Gratitude List:
1. The girls and women of Sense of Wonder Camp. I love telling stories to that group. This year, their theme is leadership, and they’re including the collaborative leadership and listening process of The Council of All Beings.
2. On the way home from Sense of Wonder, I saw a foal nursing from a mare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Tender.
3. All the Tree Beings: Sycamore, poplar, oak, pine, walnut, willow. . .
4. These goofy, goofy cat people.
5. Snakes and snakes messages. Snake sightings are becoming at least an every other day occurrence in the holler right now. Time to shed old bad habits and pick up new good ones.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Not intending to be maudlin here. I don’t know quite why the carvings of skull wings on 17th century gravestones is so fascinating to me.

Gratitude List:
1. Doing things. Channeling the unsettledness into working for change. Keep up the writing and calling, folks. Keep your Senators’ and Representatives’ feet to the fire. Demand that they be fully informed of the truth of what is happening. Send them the images and the videos and the news reports. Require them to respond.
2. Hours of professional development this afternoon with a colleague who just retired, and in passing on two challenging but fun classes to me.
3. Listening to a Terry Pratchett novel. I love reading the Tiffany Aching books, but to really get the accents right, you can’t beat an audiobook. I’m listening to Hatful of Sky. Really disappointed I couldn’t find Wee Free Men.
4. Butterflies
5. Colorful stones. I am oiling the collection of stones I found on Race Point Beach. It’s taking a while because I am soaking them for hours in the oil before polishing them. They come out with slightly matte colors compared to the brilliance of being in water, but the colors are definitely brighter than the dry ones.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotes for the Day:
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ―Anne Lamott
***
“[E]ducation is not just about utilizing a particular curriculum, or ensuring that critical reflection in a community follows a particular formula. It is full of intangible and random events. It is not just taught in the classroom, but lived in the midst of the community in ways that are not even fully quantifiable.” ―M.S. Bickford on the educational theories of John Westerhoff
***
“The trouble with trouble is, it starts out as fun.” ―Anonymous
***
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. . .give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard
***
“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
—Leymah Gbowee
***
“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.” —Wangari Maathai
***
“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.”
—Wangari Maathai
***
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
—Joseph Campbell
***
“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
—Ray Bradbury

Back to Gratitude

I need to step back into a thoroughly conscious and anchored gratitude practice these days. The rage and grief that I am feeling over what we are doing to the children at our borders threatens to capsize me, and I need to keep drawing down the energy, grounding, centering, focusing on the beautiful and tender realities that I notice around me.

Before the gratitude list, there’s a small sad thing that keeps getting tangled in my heart when I try to make my list: When we got home from vacation, I looked for Our Lady of the Flowers in her nest of cobweb and lichen on the swingy sycamore branch in front of the porch. The nest is gone. Fragments remain, stuck to the branch, but the little bowl is collapsed and torn. I hope Herself was able to fly free of whatever peril destroyed her home.

Gratitude List:
1. Lovely synchronicities: Today, a friend of mine who I met separately from my family saw a picture I posted on Facebook of my parents on their wedding day 57 years ago. My friend said she recognized my mother’s name, and wondered if she was the same friend she had known for a year when their husbands were both doing medical residencies at York Hospital in the mid-60s. They had had babies within a couple weeks of each other. It was! (My brother was that baby.) A lovely collision of the past into the now. It’s so satisfying.
2. This morning after I had mowed, I stood and watched the afternoon sun playing on the willow tree. A breeze whipped up and yellow locust leaves began sifting down all over the field while the willow danced in the sunlight. No photo, no video, would do it justice. Memory will have to suffice.
3. Little toad in the corner of the wood shop.
4. As wonderful as last week was, traveling, vacationing–still, I didn’t have the clear and unalterable sense of summer. I didn’t have a chance to establish summer routine before we left for Cape Cod. And that was perfect, because now I get to really live into the feeling of being on summer vacation.
5. Family sleeping parties. We’re all sleeping in the living room tonight to be near the air conditioner.

May we walk in Beauty!


I decided that I will try to make at least one phone call or write one letter every day this week, begging our congresspeople to speak out against the Family Separation Policy that the Attorney General has begun to enforce. Today, I called Smucker and Toomey.

Keep up the pressure on your Senators and Representatives. Ask them what their public statements are regarding the Family Separation Policy. Ask them for information about who is caring for the children. Are they vetted? Do they have clearances? How are the children being cared for? Are they getting their nutrition? Do they play? Are they getting education? Ask whether Health and Human Services is responsible for their care, and if so, why the administration is trusting HHS when within the past two weeks, HHS has admitted losing track of children in its care, some to traffickers.

Keep holding out your hands to people who are different from you politically. This is an affront to humanity, not just a liberal or conservative cause. Keep your heart open, keep soft, but don’t let the rage and grief throw you off. Hold on to your own humanity, to your own Love. These are difficult times, and people who would rip children from the arms of their parents in order to keep them out of our country would do anything to solidify their power.


Quotes for the day. I am conflicted about the Garrison Keillor quote because of the several credible accusations against him, but it came up on my feed today, and it felt like it meant to be there.

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
—Garrison Keillor
***
“It’s still a world with plums in it, my loves, & chamomile & lipstick & cellos. It’s still a world with us in it. Find a hand & hold on.” —Elena Rose
***
“The real work of planet-saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding. Its jobs will be too many to count, too many to report, too many to be publicly noticed or rewarded, too small to make anyone rich or famous.” ―Wendell Berry
***
”So many of us feel an agonizing longing to contribute something meaningful to the deficits of our time. But years can disappear in the doing of duties, in the never-reaching of rising expectations, in the always-falling-short of proving of one’s enoughness.

“The truth is that if we really want to make an eloquent offering of our lives, we have to step out of that ‘call and response’ relationship with the external world and locate our source of guidance within.

“To hear the rhythm of your indigenous song, to fall in step with the poetry of your unfolding, first there must be a clearing away: a ‘temenos’ of simplicity in which to dwell.

“Strike a holy grove of silence where you can listen as you long to be heard, see as you long to be seen, acknowledge where you long to be relevant, needed and necessary in the ‘family of things’.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
***
“One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.”
―Henry David Thoreau
***
“We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalized. We hold the line.” ―J.K. Rowling
***
Rumi: “Ours is no caravan of despair.”
***
“I profess the religion of love wherever its caravan turns along the way; that is the belief, the faith I keep.” ―Asma Kaftaro, UN Women Advisory Board
***
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.”
―Wangari Maathai

Open Letter to Attorney General Sessions

I’ve been on vacation, and I will post some photos and reflections of a lovely time away in a day or so, but today I want to post reflections of a different nature.

This is my Open Letter to Attorney General Sessions. I sent a copy to the DOJ today:

First of all, Mr. Sessions, This is not a theocracy. Observations regarding the rule of law offered by members of the administration need to be backed by the Constitution, not a religious book.

Second, If you do want to discuss Romans 13, you need to get to verses 9 and 10 if you want to be true to the apostle’s intent: 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

You cannot claim that tearing children from their parents in any way fulfills the law of love. So even were we to call ourselves a theocracy, you’ve got it all wrong.

Further, in Matthew 19:14–Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

He also said, in Matthew 18:6–“But whoever hurts one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Your draconian policy of ripping children from the arms of their parents is far, far away from the Good News Jesus preached. You take his name in vain when you try to use Christianity to justify this policy.

I believe that the verse which you quoted from Romans 13 was also used by brutal slave masters to justify their hold over the people they enslaved. After all, human chattel was a lawful economic system in the early United States. It has been used throughout history by leaders who wanted to justify their evil deeds.

Germany, I might remind you, was a country of law and order in the 1940s. People followed the law and did what they were told, and a madman and his henchmen used that “lawful” trust to create a genocide.

Do not use God to justify your brutal policies.

Some Day. . .

    

     

Gratitude List:
1. The interesting visitors continue: On the way to school the other day, I saw a groundhog that had climbed into a pair of bent-over saplings. It was contentedly chewing on the leaves of one, about three feet above the ground.
2. Re-reading my January journals about my vulture dreams gives new depth for contemplating healing, transformation, and grounding.
3. Tomorrow is the last of the school commitments–then finish grading and sail into summer.
4. Senior dedication and Commencement ceremonies were beautiful and tender and inspiring. Now they fly on their own. This was a sweet class. Solid. Steady. Earnest.
5. Companionship. Hospitality. Warmth.

May we walk in Beauty!


Sunday’s Notes and Quotes:
“I feel like I’m binge-watching the fall of the Roman Empire set to the music of Benny Hill.” —Bill Maher
***
“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.”
―Ursula K. LeGuin
***
“Each of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm. When we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.” ―Maya Angelou
***
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ―L.M. Montgomery
***
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ―Jorge Luis Borges
***
TS Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
***
Resignation
by Nikki Giovanni

I love you
because the Earth turns round the sun
because the North wind blows North
Sometimes
because the Pope is Catholic
and most Rabbis Jewish
because winters flow into springs
and the air clears after a storm
because only my love for you
despite the charms of gravity
keeps me from falling off the Earth
into another dimension
I love you
because it is the natural order of things.
***
“The third near enemy of compassion is idiot compassion. This is when we avoid conflict and protect our good image by being kind when we should definitely say ‘no.’

“Compassion doesn’t only imply trying to be good. When we find ourselves in an aggressive relationship, we need to set clear boundaries. The kindest thing we can do for everyone concerned is to know when to say ‘enough.’ Many people use Buddhist ideals to justify self-debasement. In the name of not shutting our heart we let people walk all over us.

“It is said that in order not to break our vow of compassion we have to learn when to stop aggression and draw the line. There are times when the only way to bring down barriers is to set boundaries.” —Pema Chodron

Messengers


I’m setting up the FB page for Skunk Holler Poetryworks. I think I need to get out the better camera and a tripod to try to make it crisper.

Some days, some weeks, the visitations come so clustered and thickly that I simply can’t ignore the fact that Someone has something I need to hear. Hummingbird is a regular. Snake was a startlement. Vultures are pretty common, like hummer, except. . .

A couple days ago, I wanted to return to my meditations at the beginning of the year, to revisit the idea of matter, enmattering. I read through my blog posts from early January, and jogged my memory about the dreams I had been having. Among them, a startling dream about an encounter with the child-spirit Ellegua of Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions.

While I want to be careful about not assimilating and taming and taking over the religions of other people groups (as white people are wont to do), I have been fascinated by the spirit world of Afro-Caribbean traditions and have studied them somewhat extensively, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Ellegua appeared to me in a dream. There were vultures (six, I think) in a field, and Ellegua took my hand and pulled me toward them. I didn’t want to touch them because I thought their feathers would be matted with dried blood and offal. Instead, they were soft as down, and the vultures bobbed their heads at us.

So the day after I renewed my memory of the vulture dream, Ellis and I encountered a pair of black vultures, one flying low over the road in front of us, and the other alighting on a telephone pole and looking down at us curiously as we passed slowly beneath it. That was yesterday. Today, on the way to school, we slowed down beside a field to watch four turkey vultures in a field. They eyed us closely as they hopped over the stubble, and for the first time in my years of watching them, I noticed the pronounced black and white “spectacle” marking in front of the eyes.

I was marveling at the triad of vulture visitations (noting that there were six vultures in real life now, like there had been in the dream) when I had to slow down again for a small creature running across the road ahead of me. Long, low, thin, and blondish, I thought, “Weasel!” and that’s what it was! I’ve never seen one in the wild. Otters. A mink. But this was my first weasel. Vultures and weasel.

This afternoon, as I was helping out with group activities for ninth graders outside the school, a ruckus of feathered folk burst out of a tree nearby: a really large crow followed by three smaller birds, flickering orange like little flames in the sun. Orioles! Three males chasing a crow. Perhaps it was after their little ones. But it felt like a message to me. Three flames. One great big mystery.

In my list of messengers, do I include the great blue herons that flap across my field of vision every day or so? They’re definitely on the move. The early butterfly sightings? The groundhogs standing on their hind haunches, surveying their fields like the farmers they are?

It’s a lot to ponder.

Do you get visitations, too? Periods of time when the animal- and bird-realms, and maybe plant- and tree-realms, or stone-realms, seem to come in clusters and chunks, with messages that you can decipher if you only take the time to meditate and contemplate their meanings?

I write this in the moments before I head upstairs to dream-time. Perhaps I’ll find more images there to enrich the story.


Gratitude List:
1. Visitors
2. Reminders
3. Messages
4. Dreams
5. Meditation

May we walk in Beauty!

Where Are the Children?

Post #2 for today. This is a re-post of something I have been working with the last two days. I’ve been hearing about the nearly 1,500 children “lost” by the US Department of Health and Human Services in the past five years, and when I read the National Public Radio article about it, and some thoughts began to swirl around.

Here is what I’ve been thinking.

Friends, what if we were to call this last week of May this year “Advocacy for Immigrant Families Week”? What if we would commit ourselves to contact Jeff Sessions or John Kelly or the Department of Health and Human Services, or the President, to advocate for immigrant children? What if we would write letters to our local papers? Speak up on social media? Donate money to organizations that are helping the families who are being torn apart? PRAY?

All week, whenever we have an extra moment, we call, write, pray, donate, speak up.

We avoid name-calling. We let our rage and anger give wings to our words, and let our compassion and tenderness be the guiding force. We avoid partisanship, calling on people of any political persuasion to work with us. Join me.

1. It sounds like the 1500 are primarily unaccompanied minors, and that some of those children may have been placed with family or family connections and simply never attended their immigration hearings.

2. It seems pretty clear that some of those children were released directly from the Department of Health and Human Services to traffickers. (How does this happen? Who is accountable for this? Whoever was in charge of what happened here should be out of a job and prosecuted.) This has been happening since at least 2014–during the previous administration.

3. I looked up Steven Wagner, the Acting Assistant Secretary for the HHS Administration for Children and Families (ACF), who answered senators’ questions about how these children were left unaccounted for. He actually served with the agency’s anti-trafficking program in the past, and that program won an award for anti-trafficking work.

4. The current head of the HHS ACF’s Office on Trafficking in Persons is Katherine Chon.

5. This is the Address for the HHS ACF: 330 C Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201.

6. The Contact Information for the Department of Health and Human Services is: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201, Toll Free Call Center: 1-877-696-6775 The current head of the HHS is Alex Azar.

7. This is the contact page for ICE: https://www.ice.gov/contact

8. Now that Attorney General Sessions has stepped up the prosecutions of people attempting to enter the country illegally, more children and parents are being separated at the border. Without structures in place to protect them, these children are clearly endangered, too. At this point, it appears that they are being released to HHS (even while the HHS is under fire for apparently releasing children to human traffickers).

9. This is the contact page for the DOJ: https://www.justice.gov/contact-us

10. I think we need serious public outcry here. I think we need careful and reasoned expressions of our outrage. We need to avoid name-calling and shrillness, but we need to be intense, and we need to hold the people making the decisions accountable.

11. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called this new policy of AG Sessions a “tough deterrent.” I cannot find specific contact information for Kelly, so it might work to write to him at the White House.

12. Less than two hundred years ago in the United States, we had similar policies of separating children from their parents: separating enslaved African children from their parents, separating Native American children from their parents.

13. Rachel Held Evans has also called for action on behalf of the voiceless children this week. Look her up on FB, and read her suggestions as well.

14. Sign the ACLU petition (look it up on FB).

I would be grateful for any other ideas about effective responses.

Visitors

   

   

I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks, finishing up my semester, caught in the whirlwind, keeping my head above water. I haven’t been making gratitude lists, but I’ve been noticing. Instead of the long sustained gratitude practice of noticing several things in a day and keeping them in my memory for evening’s contemplation, I’ve been a grateful butterfly, slipping from flower to flower on a breeze, noticing in the moment and passing on to the next shining thing. I think it’s good to practice this kind of immediate presence as well as the deeper holding of a daily meditative contemplation.

During the last two days, I have been feeling the tug toward the sustained contemplation again, so here, again, is a Gratitude List:
1. This is the season of peonies and foxgloves and naked ladies: The flowers of the Grandmothers. I feel as though the Grandmothers are reminding us that they are still among us. They support our Work.
2. Today’s sermon, and the image of Godde as a child, holding our faces in her dimpled little hands and gazing into our eyes, looking at our wounded parts in awe and wonder, seeing the beauty and tenderness in the parts of ourselves we reject or hide or minimize.
3. Yesterday’s visit from a black rat snake. Such a magical creature. Ellis petted it. We got to watch it slither through the long grass, tasting the air with its tongue.
4. Our Lady of the Flowers is sitting on a nest of lichen and cobweb in the sycamore tree, right where we can watch her from the porch.
5. Changing of season. School is almost over. The grading will get finished. We will go on vacation. I will write. I will share tea and conversation with friends. Green will keep happening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Discover

I wrote this poem this afternoon before I heard the news from Gaza.

I don’t know how to seek gratitude amidst the pain of this day, knowing that my government’s bombastic embassy move to Jerusalem precipitated the violence of the day. Or coincided, anyway. The photos of the US/Israeli celebration of the new embassy location were a kick in the gut.

May each peaceful gesture we make bring more peace into the world.

Handle With Care

  
Gratitude List:
1. The teachers and staff and administration at Wrightsville Elementary School. They create a safe and friendly community space in which the children love learning.
2. Hummingbird is home.
3. Friday’s really thoughtful Teacher Appreciation moments from a couple of students.
4. The passion of learning for oneself. Ellis knows so much about electricity, and he taught himself through Youtube videos. We bought him a breadboard and a knock-off Arduino and a Raspberry Pi for his birthday (I do not even know what those things are, really), and he’s just going to town creating ideas.
5. My memorykeepers.

May we walk in Beauty!