Gratitude List:
1. Moss
2. Ferns
3. Skies full of migrating birds
4. Crocus
5. Aconite

May we walk in Beauty!


The Dragon of Solstice

Not the clearest picture, perhaps. One of the riders in my car took it, and my camera doesn’t handle near-darkness very well. This was in the early stages of her metamorphosis. About five minutes later, she was looking more dragonish than ever.

Now we are several hours into Longest Night. Tomorrow, we begin the inward turn again. Now is the time to settle into the darkness. To breathe. To dream. To melt.

In my own sacred calendar, the night of Solstice begins the deepest dreamtime of the year, almost time out of time. From now until the first of the year, or until Epiphany, I will monitor and mine my dreams for the images that will guide me in the coming year. Already, my dreams have been tossing up some powerful images to begin the percolation.

May your dreams in this, the Longest Night, bring you peace and hope. May they invigorate and inspire and challenge you for the work ahead. For there is much work ahead. There will be need of wakefulness and wisdom.

Much Love and Beauty to you.

Gratitude List:
1. This evening on the way home from school, just as the sun was setting, and the day was opening the curtains into the Longest Night, a great dragon swept across the sky, casting its body from east, and around the bowl of sky, into the west. Its head lay directly in front of us, toward the setting sun. It had swallowed the sliver of a horned moon. If you weren’t looking closely, as we were, you might have taken it for a cloud. We decided that The Dragon of the Solstice was offering us a portent or a message for the dying year: Be fierce. Take up all the space you are given. Believe in miracles. Hold the Moon inside you.

2. The geese and little birds are crossing the sky these early mornings and late evening, like mysterious scripts that someone, certainly, will be able to read, but my eyes are not trained to interpret this alphabet. Still, like Korean or Chinese or Hindi or Arabic, it catches my eye and draws me in with the sense of the meaning that is there behind the lines, but to me is only Beauty.

3. I have many friends and beloveds who are perfectly yourselves. Divinely, wondrously, solidly, and delightfully yourselves. Where would I be without you, without your inspiration, without your challenges? You keep me honest. You help me to be my better self. So much of my own shine is reflection from you. You’re the moon I carry inside me.

4. Rage has lessons to teach me. I’ll try to be grateful now simply to know that, although it burns to carry those coals inside. Sometimes, I think I have learned the lessons–the vocabulary, the angles and calculations, the social history, the science–of rage, but then I find myself back in the primary class. It takes some of us a little longer to learn. I will be patient with myself.

5. I have a class of quite energetic, distractible students who have experienced a high degree of frustration with the subject at hand. Often, the most carefully-planned lessons fall flat, but they can’t handle too much spontaneity, either. I really need to work hard with them on writing, and I have been nervous about that for several reasons. One boy often freezes when I ask them to write. Another can’t handle silent, quiet work and creates so many distractions the others can’t work.

Still, I decided that yesterday I would give them five prompts and have them write about one or more for the whole period. With only one exception, they got to work with a will, several of them asking if they could write whatever they wanted instead of the prompts. I had them share their documents with me, and I would check in on them, offering comments and responses on their documents. At the end of the period, they begged for another day of writing.

Today, we wrote again, for the whole period. Some incredible stories are emerging. We’re doing absolutely no editing at this point, and things are pretty raw, but it will give us something to work on in the next step. The only student who couldn’t handle it yesterday came in today with a page and a half that he’d written between yesterday’s class and today. Everyone buckled down and wrote today. They begged for a third day of writing.

I am going to tempt the magic for one more day. Then we may have to move to other things: some more direct work on the basic grammar and sentence structure points, and other sorts of literacy and fluency work.

I am grateful for moments of magic in the classroom.

May we walk in Beauty!

Dial Up the Magic

Today’s prompt is to write a ______ if ______ poem. His examples all filled the blanks with longish phrases, but this came to me:

If I sleep I will speak
Speak if I sing
Sing if I breathe
Breathe if I wait
Wait if I weep
Weep if I dream
Dream if I sleep.


(For some reason, the quotations from last year on this day all seem to be intended to comfort myself from some great sorrow)

” ‘They kept going, because they were holding onto something.’
‘What are we holding onto, Sam?’
‘There’s still good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.’ ”
—J. R. R. Tolkien
“Somewhere deep in the forest of grief
there is a waterfall where all your tears may flow
over mossy rocks, under watchful pines.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
“But this moment, you’re alive. So you can just dial up the magic of that at any time.” —Joanna Macy
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” —E. B. White
“Love imperfectly. Be a love idiot. Let yourself forget any love ideal.” —Sark
“Everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything exists, only because I love.” —Leo Tolstoy
“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong
“Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don’t stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even galaxies.” —Frederic and Mary Ann Brussa
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
—Carl Sagan
“There are certain things, often very little things, like the little peanut, the little piece of clay, the little flower that cause you to look WITHIN – and then it is that you see the soul of things.”
—George Washington Carver

Gratitude List:
1. The way the large flocks of little birds line the electric lines when the pause to take a rest in their migrations, making the lines look furry
2. The way the color just keeps coming, keeps deepening, keeps astounding
3. The way the year has turned, from despair and rage to a kind of hope
4. The way the Open Secrets of Hollywood and Political Power are being blasted open so that powerful men can no longer hide their predations
5. Kale with dried tomatoes for supper

May we walk in Beauty!

The Rivers and the Bridges

Nag Hammadi and Susquehanna (via Dreamscope app)

Being able to weave together two different photos gives me the chance to blend my obsessions. Here, the Bridge over my River, and a piece of ancient Coptic text on a papyrus. I don’t have much time these days for personal researches, but when I have a free moment, I often turn to texts from the Nag Hammadi Library. Right now, I keep a page of The Thunder, Perfect Mind open on a tab on my Chromebook. Those texts are both a bridge and a river for me. I love how this mash-up placed text where the leaves of the sycamore would be in summer, and how there seems to be the suggestion of a greater arch in the sky above the arches of the bridge.

Gratitude List:
1. The willows are putting on their shiny green dancing clothes for spring.
2. The way flocks of little birds connect the dots across the sky.
3. Three crows in a field in the dawn, bobbing their heads up and down, doing obeisance to the sunrise.
4. Tea. It has been such a non-frigid winter that I haven’t often felt the need for tea to break the chill. Lately my students have been making tea in my room, and I enjoy a couple cups a day with them, and then some in the evening. It takes away the craving for the second cup of coffee and leaves me feeling warmed from the inside out.
5. Teenagers. I don’t know why I used to be anxious about the idea of teaching in a high school. The brilliant minds, the bursting creativity, the great hearts, the developing critical thinking skills. I love them. I am learning so  much. They are also my rivers and my bridges.

May we walk in Beauty!

While You Were Sleeping


A quickie little tanka this morning:

While you were sleeping,
small birds were calling outside
the sun was knocking
hard on the bedroom windows.
Messages were delivered.

Gratitude List:
1. Rice and Curry.  Anne and Todd’s East African meal last night, and the people who bought seats at the table in order to support my school.  What a lovely group of people.
2. The way the porch light shines through the ostrich ferns in the evenings.
3. The ferns.  One day they’re little fiddle heads, and then I blink, and they’re almost as tall as I am.
4. That moon last night, rising golden above the horizon.
5. Fortitude. Will. Determination. Grit.

May we walk in Beauty!

Poem: Advent 5

640px-Candle (1)

Birds are flying
in the quiet light
above the altar.

Our tears fall with the sound  of rustling wings,
the child sleeps in his mother’s arms,
and an old woman prays for the light to dawn.

For weeks now
we have walked
through our burning cities.

We have stepped carefully
among our shattered shards,
pieced our brokenness together,

and held the birds of despair and rage
captive in the cage of our hearts.

Our pens have bled anguish
onto the page.

Herod will go on
to murder Rachel’s children.

A sword will pierce your heart.

Where is the comfort
promised in the ancient songs?




There is light.
There is breath.

Our pages have taken wing.
The birds fly between rays of sun
shining through sea glass
falling upon the altar.

The mother hands her baby
to the old ones for their blessing.

“Now,” sings the old man,
“now I can depart in peace.”

Gratitude List:
1. The impossible green of the moss on the bricks
2. Epiphany is coming
3. A Sunday afternoon without the Monday-ness that usually encroaches
4. Taking it one step at a time
5. Holding stories in the bowl of the heart

May we walk in Beauty!


I have been thinking about you
more than you know, you know?

Here in the mornings when birdsong
enwraps me in a blanket
of messages in whistle and trill,
while the early morning chill
is dissipating as the sun
rises over the ridge,

or when I am out in the field,
or walking up our winding hill,
or pulling out the pans
to make tuna noodle casserole,

my heart will suddenly veer,
shift into a different focus,
and be where you are.

That little sparrow that hopped
along your windowsill
and peered inside
as if searching for someone.
That was my heart,
seeking you out.

The little white puff of cloud
alone in the blue sky
that seemed to follow you home.

The flash of sunlight
as you turned a corner.

I have wanted to give you words
to help you feel less alone.
Something that rhymes with hope,
or sounds like the whisper of the arms
of sturdy friends encircling you
through this slow and vicious storm.

Today, watch for sunlight on a bird’s wing,
look for the golden face of a dandelion in the grass,
the shadow on your kitchen table
as the day leans into afternoon.
Listen for the trill of sparrow
and the knock of a woodpecker
in the distance, from the park.

That vibrant net of color and sound
is woven by watchful hearts,
holding you.


My gratitude lists sometimes get a little birdy.  That’s okay, really.  Sometimes a bird is more than a bird.  Sometimes it’s just a bird.

Gratitude List:
1.  Yesterday, in the low afternoon sun, in a long, low, curving arm of the walnut tree, I saw a bluebird and an oriole sitting within two feet of each other.  Beauty, she just gives us so much color.  And then there was the crimson cap of that red-bellied woodpecker, set off by his black and white stripes.  So dapper and handsome, he.  That long, elegant bill, and piercing, knowing eyes.  I know I am just cheating here, putting at least three gratitudes into one so I’ll have more room, but let’s just pile on the fun: swallows in the gloaming yesterday, swooping low over the grass and up into the last rays of sun, their wings shimmering green-blue-green.
2.  Picnic at Sam Lewis State Park.  The view, the view, the view.  I think I saw all the way to China.  To Virginia, to Vermont, to California, at least.  Panorama, distance, layering of mountains and valleys.  And, of course, the River winding through.
3.  Last night I woke up only once before five o’clock.  No restless twisting, no aches waking me up.  It’s been a couple of weeks, and I was beginning to think that this was going to be my new reality.  Sleep is really a wonderful thing.
4.  Have I said how much I love my new job?  And I haven’t even started yet.  The planning, the dreaming, the idea-making, has filled me with such an incredible surge of fresh energy.  Jon has caught fire, too, and he’ll come down off the tractor with some suggestion or idea, or memory about a helpful teacher.
5.  The way the Earth gives us what we need.  I have been drinking fresh nettle and plantain tea lately to help with the allergies.  It has taken a while, but after several years of almost no allopathic allergy medication, my body has begun to respond to the subtle and gentle relief of herbal treatments.  Some days when I go out to pick the herbs for tea (nettle, plantain and mint), a patch of ground ivy will seem to shine a little more brightly, or a breeze will sift through some violet leaves, like they’re begging me to pick them, too.  Dock and dandelion, catnip, yarrow, chamomile, sweet clover.  Makes a mighty fine tea.  Now, if only I can get my kids to drink it.

May we walk in Beauty!

May Fever

I don’t see how I can
be expected to participate
in this conversation

when bluebird, carrying his piece of sky,
has just flitted past my field of vision
and into a bough of pink dogwood.

How can I focus on these plans
and preparations and good ideas
when redwing has settled into the foxtails

and calls to me with his buzz and click,
making the grasses sway and dip?
When oriole’s bright flame

is setting fire to the treetop?
When the red-bellied woodpecker
shirrrrrrs and clucks

from the little pear tree?
When the carpenter bee hovers
in front of me, people-watching?

How can I listen to human conversation
when all these voices call incessantly,
whistling and chattering, begging my attention?


Gratitude List:
1. The wild, rampant imagination of a five-year-old
2. Bridge of Hope, and its commitment to building communities which protect children and end homelessness.
3. The subjunctive mood (google “Phuc Tran subjunctive” for a great TED talk on the subject)
4. My articulate sister Valerie, and the way she weaves words.
5. So much is dawning.  So much is greening.  So much is coming to birth.  Unfurl!

May we walk in Beauty!


Fire Cider

Gratitude List:
1.  Birds.  Kestrel on a Wire.  Snow geese in a corn-stubble field.  Bluebirds muttering in the chestnut tree: “There now.  Everything is going to be okay.”
2.  Music.  So much good music yesterday and today.  Indigo Girls’ CD: Nomads, Indians, and Saints–for some reason I came back to it all fresh again yesterday.  Then the Blossom Hill String Band.  This morning’s singing and tears.
3.  Holding it all in the Bowl of the Heart.  It all has to go in there together, and somehow the mix of it all, all the beautiful and difficult and tender and angry and wretched stories, all in there together–somehow it feels right.  That is how it is meant to be.
4.  Spring, She rises.  The footsteps of Persephone are visible now everywhere I turn.
5.  Fire Cider, Elderberry Tincture, and Kombucha.  Good Medicine.

May we walk in Beauty.