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.


All through the verdant season
the nest-builders have concealed
within the thick cover of leaves
their great treasures, crafted
of vines and twigs, cobwebs, grasses:
their work of the season’s passing.
Then, mystery and secrecy–
the eggs, dappled and speckled,
and suddenly, ravenous nestlings.
But now, all is revealed.  The trees
have dropped their golden skirts
about their ankles, and the secret is spilled.
There, in the yellow maple,
a random twiggy pile of mockingbird nest.
A bedraggled clump of matted grass
at the furthest dangling limb of the poplar
is all that remains of oriole’s art.
In the tree at the top of Ducktown Road,
a gray orb, nest of a colony of paper wasps.
“Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke
In the sky, those rippled clouds,
ribs of the gods, and birds gathering,
riding the sky-road south for winter.
2013 November 001

Mockingbird’s secret

The People Seemed as Beautiful as Birds

2013 September 013

Gratitude List:
1.  This vanilla ice cream
2.  That blooming Rose of Sharon
3.  The screech owls that woke me this morning
4.  Coming home to myself,
which is to say,
becoming the person I think I want to be,
which might be sort of like saying,
starting, perhaps, to sort of grow up,
which could be a little like ripening.
Perhaps tomorrow I will feel differently,
and start to doubt my truth again,
but today it feels pretty satisfying.
5.  My children’s teachers, both the official ones and all you others.

May we walk in Beauty.

Mockingbird Says

Mockingbird says:
“Listen well, and your own speech will be enriched.”

Gratitude List:
1.  The trees, those people who grasp the Earth between their toes and grow down toward the heart of the mother, who dream their leaves and needles and nuts and flowers and fruit into the air, who breathe for us.
2.  The spiders, those people who fling themselves with abandon into the air and drift on their own silk to a new anchoring place, who make the connections, who spin and weave.
3.  The birds, those feather people who dash from tree-branch to tree-branch or rest on a hammock of sky–treading wind currents, whose very speech is music, who range in size from the hummingbird smaller than my open hand to the eagle whose wingspan is greater than my own.
4.  Margaret Atwood, who is tearing at my heart with her book, The Year of the Flood.
5.  Fresh corn for supper tonight.

May we walk in Beauty.

Where is the Moon?

This is pure play, loosely based on a game we made up during supper tonight.  I think I might want to come back to it at some point and re-work the idea.  It reminds me a little of Ted Hughes’ “Amulet.”

Where is the moon?
I think it is in the pond.
Where is the pond?
I think it is under the mountain.
Where is the mountain?
Inside the eye of the dragon.
Where is the dragon?
In the dreams of the fox.
Where is the fox?
In the egg of the hummingbird.
And the hummingbird?
In the shimmering colors of the sunset.
And the sunset?
In the spider’s web.
And the spider?
Oh, the spider is on the moon.

Lura Lauver Slabaugh and a baby
This is a photo of my grandmother Lura Slabaugh.  I wonder how old she was in this picture?

Gratitude List:
1.  All the birdie love in the air today.  A bluebird feeding his sweetheart.  Grackles mating–he did such an elaborate dance with his wings in fans while he sang her a sweet song, and watched her so intently with his bright white eyes.
2.  The way the sun suddenly shone through the clouds when my boy and I were out checking the chickens this morning.
3.  The way the big carpenter bee at the barn swims through the air to check me out–eye to eye–whenever I pass, and then zzzzez away.
4.  Words, resplendent words, audacious, precious, unique, absurd, fetching, delightful, breathtaking words.
5.  The way the Earth feeds us, even beyond what we can plant.  There’s food out there, in the dandelions, the poke, the soon-to-ripen Juneberries, the dock and thistle and plantain.  I use most of these mostly for tea at this point in my learning.  Still, they nourish me.

May we walk in beauty.