The Questions of Others to Hold

“Each moment from all sides rushes to us the call to love.” -―Rumi
“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves
into the rhythms of the human heart.
The earth is not outside us; it is within:
the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”
―John O’Donohue
“There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”
―Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively; go to the side and do it differently. Don’t waste time with oppositional energy.” ―Richard Rohr, writing about the thinking of Dom Helder Camara
“The heart of faith is the call to love one another. . .” ―Avis Crowe
A Gift
by Denise Levertov

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

Gratitude List:
1. A tiny cow and a little mouse who were entranced by the big kitty in my trunk during Trunk or Treat. Ellis was a wild panther we had caught, and he pushed candy through his cage bars to the children. Mouse and Cow kept coming back just to stare, open-mouthed, at him. Finally, after fifteen minutes of gazing, Little Mouse opened his mouth and belly laughed. Cow joined him, giggling.
2. Fun, friendly community events that get people out and talking to each other, and blessing each others’ children.
3. The tender hearts of certain teenage boys. They may present as goofy and crusty, but they’re as sensitive as anyone.
4. Getting it done
5. Playing dress-up–Happy Halloween!

May we walk in Beauty!


Hearts in the Trees

(I have a friend who takes pictures of hearts that she finds in the world, and another friend who takes pictures of trees that she loves.  Here is a heart.  And I love this tree.)

Gratitude List:
1. Hearts.  Trees.  Hearts in trees.   The friends who draw them to my attention.
2. All this blooming.  Everywhere.  You’re blooming too, I think.
3. A day off and hanging out with my muchachos.
4. Arts.  I have been thinking a lot lately about how the arts make us more fully human, more compassionate with ourselves and others, more able to deal with and comprehend our secret inner worlds.  I want to do more to incorporate more art into my teaching, to encourage my students to incorporate more art into their projects.
5. Stories of Holy Week.  I have always thought of Jesus as a revolutionary, but somehow this year I have been struck in a more powerful way with the way the stories of Holy Week portray him: the street theater of the donkey ride into the city, the anarchism of the temple cleansing, the subversive answers to the establishment, the way he turned everybody’s expectations upside-down. (How sad that this story is so often used instead to enforce the status quo.)

May we walk in Beauty!



Gratitude List:
1. Inner vigilance.  Not panicky hyper-attention, but calm and thoughtful dropped and open attention.  So much to learn about the world.
2. The sun-limned cloud on the journey home from school yesterday.
3. Making art with  a small person.
4. Watching a small person dive headfirst into the world of literature.  (Now to make sure he can get anything else done.)
5. Honey.  Those bees know what they’re doing.  As Ellis said once when he was about three: “Honey is my favorite medicine.”

May we walk in Beauty!

Re-Building Bridges

We watched a couple videos of Turkish Ebru painting, Boy and I.  In Ebru painting, the artist drips ink on to the surface of the water, then manipulates the surface to create beautiful designs which cling to the paper the artist rests on the water’s surface.

Afterward, “Can you get down my painting box?”

“I think we’re out of painting paper.”

“That’s okay.  I’ll find some cardboard.”


Gratitude List:
1.  The wild creative imagination of children.  How one thing suddenly becomes another thing, which morphs into a totally different thing.  Well, now.  Isn’t that sort of like life?  Maybe the Divine Source of all Being is a Child playing with colors:  “This one looks like a farmer.  But if I twist this brush a little bit this way, she turns into a teacher.  See?”  Capricious, maybe.  But magical.  Just let this one dry a good while please, Kid, before you go shifting this part of the design again.
2.  Ends of tunnels.  Beginnings of bridges.  Spanning the distances.  Breathe, baby, breathe, while you cross that bridge.  And don’t, whatever you do, hold your breath in the tunnels!  Look for the light–it’s really there.
3.  Re-built bridges, diamonds, rust.  A couple days ago, I heard Joan Baez singing “Diamonds and Rust” on the radio, and it took me back 25 years in one instant.  It took me right back to the happy times before the burning of a bridge, of a friendship.  The bridge has been re-built, of course, and this new one is as beautiful as my bridge that arches over the Susquehanna when the sun hits it just so in the mornings.  But that long-ago burning still sometimes haunts me with the shame of my pettiness and selfishness, despite the great grace of my co-re-builder, despite the years that have passed.  Sometimes I just have to go back and look at the old pilings where the old bridge used to be, to see how there’s moss growing there, and small trees, how the wreck sets off the incredible grace of the new bridge, how the sun shines on it all as Beauty.  This is one of the big gratitudes of my life, one of the constants: the Grace of friendship.
4.  Oh, that slant of light in the mornings in the hollow makes me almost as giddy and obsessed as my oriole did in springtime.  I miss it most mornings these days because I am gone before sunrise.  See, we sit down here in the shadows of the bowl, and we know that it is day because the sky has brightened up above, but then the sun slants down and hits the tops of the trees with a golden shimmer that moves down the trunks.  There comes a point when the sun just spills down the hillsides like liquid gold.
5.  Both.  And.  I like those words.
6.  (Because sometimes you need more than five.)  It’s a long way away, but I am planning my self-care moment, anticipating my Time of Silence.  The thought of my own retreat fills me with energy.

May we walk in Beauty!


I don’t fish in the actual sense, but I have been thinking about poetry and fishing for the last few days, and this morning I read something about how poetry is both art and craft, both inspiration and work.  Sometimes, it’s like the fish are just jumping out of the water, waiting for me to hold out my net and catch them.  I love it when that happens.  Sometimes I have to have two nets available to be catching them all as they rain past.  It’s important not to get too attached to every fish I catch in this manner.  Some are real stinkers, but occasionally I can catch a nice rainbow trout this way.

But more often than not, I just have to show up at the river, day after day, with my fishing rod, and sit there in the hot sun or under a shady tree, and wait and wait and wait.  Lots of times, I’ll hook an old boot or funny piece of wood.  Most of these things I’ll toss back, but some of them I can use.  It’s particularly rewarding to catch a beautiful fish this way–the wait and the work of it makes it especially satisfying.

When I first started writing poetry as a teenager, I didn’t have time for revising or perfecting.  I ended up throwing away most of that stuff when I reached my twenties.  Then I got into a phase where I didn’t believe anything was truly good until it had been worked over and wrangled repeatedly.  I sucked the life out of many a good poem that way.

I think sometimes really good poems do just drop out of the sky with little need for change.  Most of the poems I write need a little more tweaking, though.  During those times when they’re just jumping out of the lake, I need to just write it down like dictation without thinking about whether this is the perfect word, or whether the sounds work together or the rhythm is compelling.  Then, when the rush and whoosh is done, I can go back and see what I have, and organize it into a more complete form.

The other night, half a poem jumped out at me that way.  Had I not been on my way to an appointment, perhaps it would be complete, but now that I’ve lost the moment, I need to go back and sit by the river with this one, wait for inspiration to strike on the next line.


Gratitude List:
1.  Milkweed everywhere
2.  Quiet mornings
3.  Super moon, though it does cause some sleeping difficulty
4.  How inspiration strikes
5.  Crafting

May we walk in Beauty!

Make it all a Prayer


make it all a prayer
each motion, each thought, each step
feel the connection
that silver strand that pulls you
to the heart of another

Gratitude List:
1. Those planets snuggled up to the moon at dusk yesterday.  Any of my star-folk friends know who they were?
2. Making art with my RVRGRL and my Animalboy.  In the time of the beginning, there was a cave. . .
3. Yesterday someone I love anointed my head with oil.  We were thinking more of protecting the crown chakra than of the 23rd Psalm, but I think it was kind of the same thing.  I was tenderly shepherded.
4. Reading about reading.  To say that preparing for teaching in the fall is a stimulating experience is an understatement of vast proportions.  I love to feel The Teacher re-waking within me.
5. How have I not yet had a gratitude dedicated to tomatoes?  Summertime tomatoes!  Red ones!  Pink ones!  Stripey ones!  Golden sunshiny yellow ones!  Deep purple and indigo ones!  Wintry grocery store tomatoes taste like styrofoam and sawdust and the people who pick them are not given fair wages or healthy living conditions–don’t eat them; please, don’t eat them.  Summertime tomatoes are luscious and wonderful, and they’re usually harvested by your local adorable farmer.

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Hall of the Disappearing Creatures

<Prompt 30:  Last One.  Write a Disappearing Poem> An interesting piece of synchronicity: someone declared today (Nov. 30) to be the International Day of Remembrance for Lost Species.

One black rhino falls on the Savannah.
Deep in shadowed jungles,
the Formosan clouded leopard
winks out of time.
Poor old Lonesome George,
the last Pinta Island Tortoise,
slowly ages to stone.  And gone.
Celia, the last Pyrenean Ibex, taking
one last breath beneath a quivering acacia
on a windswept, sunset plain.

The Japanese river otter.  The Liverpool Pigeon.
The Eastern cougar.  Javan Tiger.  Golden Toad.

The Ivory-Billed. . .don’t say it.
The Ivory. . .no, not yet.
Keep that door open yet a little longer.
Listen for the wheep and cluck
deep in the swamp.  Watch
for that flash of white through the mosses.

2013 November 210
From the State Museum of PA

Gratitude List:
1.  Hope
2.  Warmth
3.  Light
4.  Art
5.  This moment.

May we walk in Beauty.

For Glee

The list poem for a March Monday.  It will suffice for my gratitude list for today:

For glee
for giggle
for grin
for glow
for making snowmen in the snow

For dare
for desire
for delight
for dream
for things not always as they seem

For hilarity
for hope
for honor
for heart
for touch, and healing, and grace, and art

For breath
for blanket
for blessings
for birds
for building stories with our words


This is Ellis in 2009.  Today’s snowman is much smaller than this one, and today’s brother looks exactly like the boy in this picture.