Daily Feather

  
In the lower right, the original photo, of a feather in the clouds. The others are filtered through Dreamscope app. 

“In summer, the song sings itself.”
―William Carlos Williams
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“All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art and nature and life, and the love which that beauty inspires.” ―Edward Abbey
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“They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.” ―Kahlil Gibran
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“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ―Pablo Picasso
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“Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come. Our breath is a part of life’s breath, the ocean of air that envelops the earth.” ―David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature
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“Memory is an invitation to the source of our life, to a fuller participation in the now, to a future about to happen, but ultimately to a frontier identity that holds them all at once.” ―David Whyte
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“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
―not actually Benjamin Franklin, as the internet claims
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Lines
by Martha Collins

Draw a line. Write a line. There.
Stay in line, hold the line, a glance
between the lines is fine but don’t
turn corners, cross, cut in, go over
or out, between two points of no
return’s a line of flight, between
two points of view’s a line of vision.
But a line of thought is rarely
straight, an open line’s no party
line, however fine your point.
A line of fire communicates, but drop
your weapons and drop your line,
consider the shortest distance from x
to y, let x be me, let y be you.


Gratitude List:
1. Not feeling wretched. Sometimes it’s good to have a day of pathetic wretchedness in order to remember how wonderful normal feels. Is that weird? It just feels so incredibly good not to feel awful.
2. Driving Pippi Prius again. In the same vein as #1, I was incredibly grateful that my father let us borrow his car while Pippi was getting her battery cells fixed, and his car is wonderful, but it just feels so good to drive my car again. As a smallish person, I feel most comfortable and safest driving a little car.
3. Following #2, I am grateful that we did not have to replace the whole hybrid battery just yet. The local garage thought that would be necessary, but Sam the Prius guy was able to change the cells instead, and they were still under warranty. We’ll save the big expenses for another time.
4. Long weekend ahead. I have a lovely day of in-service ahead with my colleagues, and then three days of break.
5. The puppycat. Joss and Thorby are playing fetch all over the house.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Poetry as Breathing


“[Ginsburg] was right about the poem being a mind-breath. Each word depends on how your mind breathes.” —Juan Felipe Herrera
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“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” —Sue Monk Kidd
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“Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
your ancestors wandered.
It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.
It will not offer you answers
to the why of war.
Still, the waters may offer
questions, instead. Questions
will create the riddles
that will draw you on
despite the darkness.”

—Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“May your day be bright with sunlight shimmering through the trees. May magic grab your sleeves at every turn you take. May you feel the web that connects you to so many–to oh, so many–loving hearts.” —BW-K
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This one is long, but I think it really needs to be here:
Guidelines for Despair and Empowerment Work by Joanna Macy
“These are not steps in a prescribed order, but guidelines to our process wherever we may find ourselves entering it.
1. Acknowledge our pain for the world. If it is present, we cannot deny its reality. We cannot make it go away by arguing it out of existence, or burying it inside of ourselves. We can acknowledge our pain for the world to ourselves through journal writing or prayer, and if we choose, by communicating our awareness to those around us.
2. Validate our pain for the world. Let us honor it in ourselves and others, by listening carefully and accepting it as healthy and normal in the present situation. To hurry in with words of cheer can trivialize its meaning and foster repression.
3. Experience the pain. Let us not fear its impact on ourselves and others. We will not shatter, for we are not objects that can break. Nor will we get stuck in this pain, for it is dynamic, it flows through us. Drop our defenses, let us stay present to its flow, express it—in words, movement and sounds.
4. Move through the pain to its source. As we experience this pain, we learn that it is rooted in caring, not just for ourselves and our children, but for all of humanity. We rediscover our interconnectedness with all beings. Allow this sense of mutual belonging to surface in whatever words and images are meaningful and share them.
5. Experience the power of interconnectedness. Let us dare to translate our caring into a sense of belonging to all humanity and the web of life. Observe the trust level rise when we expose our vulnerability to pain for the world. Recognize how the realization of interconnectedness results in personal security and economy of effort.”
From Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1983.)


Gratitude List:
1. That big branch that fell last night seems to have avoided even scratching the car. We have been really conscientious about not parking our car under the poplar tree for just this reason, and the branches rarely fall. Last night, we left the car in the driveway overnight, and that’s the night the poplar chose to drop a limb. It woke me up. I thought someone was upending furniture downstairs.
2. I got a LOT of work done yesterday, and I plan to get a lot more done this morning. Here’s to long uninterrupted hours.
3. The way the mind attaches itself to pattern. There’s a perfect circle out in the bushes and greenery on the wild hillside out my window. No camera could capture it because it’s how my eye sees the arc of a bush, fills out the next bit of arc, attaches a curved shadow beneath the vines, fills in a little more and finds another bit of curve, until the circle is complete. It may be that only my eyes can see it, but it is there, as truly as grass or tree or vine. And our minds do this all the time, all day long. I see faces everywhere I turn, in the plaster on the ceiling, in the neighbors’ walnut tree, in a towel tossed on the floor. Our minds are made to seek patterns, calling us to an awareness of greater patterns.
4. There was a moment there when all the machines and appliances seemed to cease their electrical humming, and the house was filled with a profound silence. Nothing, until the wren again took up his incessant holler.
5. Lights at ends of tunnels.

May we walk in Beauty!

Seeking Mystery

When you walk into the rooms
where Mystery waits with an indigo hum,
listen for the thrumming
of hummingbird, feel the brush
of moth wings across your cheek,
watch for the scoop and swish
of a small brown bat
through the rooms
of your heart.

Unless you seek her,
you will not find her,
and the rooms where you wander
will appear empty
and devoid of beauty.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“Drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence. Here, where the old ways are crumbling and you may be tempted to burn down your own house. Ask instead for an introduction to that which endures. This place without a foothold is the province of grace. It is the questing field, most responsive to magic and fluent in myth. Here, where there is nothing left to lose, sing out of necessity that your ragged heart be heard. Send out your holy signal and listen for the echo back.” ―Toko-pa Turner
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“A child needs the same things a tree needs: Earth. Water. Sun. Air.” ―unknown
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“What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.” ―Wendell Berry
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“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”
―Barry Lopez
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“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone & every flower, every bird that sings & every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees & the hills & the river & the rocks, in the sea & the stars & the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.” ―Kate Forsyth


Gratitude List:
1. Waking up in the night to the sound of rain. Some of my best memories of childhood are of the sound of a morning rain on the tin roof of our house that overlooked Lake Victoria.
2. Time to organize and prepare. My parents have given me a couple child-free days in which to work.
3. Breath. How deepening my breathing shifts me into a calmer and less reactive space.
4. Weaving stories together. I know I offer this one rather often, but it appears in so many places in my life: in gatherings of friends and family, in the story-telling mornings at church, in the back-and-forth sharing on Facebook, sometimes in spontaneous moments with strangers.  One person begins to string the warp of a tale, then hands the thread to someone else, who maybe extends the story already begun, or adds a new texture and color of her own. Others join, adding contrasting strands of weft. Sometimes someone seems to cut the strands altogether, and we wait, and watch, and then a new pattern begins to emerge, and as startling as it is, it’s often just the right element at the moment. Real and vulnerable sharing allows us to weave our lives together in powerful ways. It’s one of the Mysteries, I think.
5. The blank space. The empty page. The moment of nothing. Note to self: You don’t have to fill up everything.

May we walk in Beauty!

Breathing into the Spine

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Breathe with me. Take a moment and sit quietly, noticing how your breath moves in and out of your lungs and your body. As you let out your breath, feel your shoulders slip back slightly (not clenched), and your spine straighten. Sigh. Yawn. Breathe right into your spine.

I’ve noticed lately that breathing into my spine gives me a new thread of energy, a sustained and quiet extra push. I also feel more confident, less apologetic, readier to engage, somehow. I wonder if I could find a space between each class for a 15-second spinal breath. Even that is a challenge these days. I love my students, but I don’t get much of a break between classes. Still–fifteen seconds might be manageable. I think it will make me readier to engage each class as it comes in.

Gratitude List:
1. I never did write on Sunday about that marvelous moon and the star it held above its horns. That was Beautiful. Satisfying.
2. The poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa (“Rock Me, Mercy”)
3. The Fool, dancing on the edge of the cliffs
4. Shifting perspectives, looking in different ways, Seeing
5. New energy

May we walk in Beauty!

Ode to History in the Hospital

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My grandmother’s hands.

The prompt today is to write an ode or a poem dedicated to someone or something. I’ll do another in my series of History poems. I can hardly bear to remember the last one I wrote, on the eve of the Election. Poor History. She was looking so hopeful that night.

For History in the Hospital
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

She doesn’t look happy to see me.
I place the flowers on her windowsill
between a Get Well Soon balloon
and a giant teddy bear holding a red heart.

“I thought you said I didn’t have to
repeat myself–” she says. (“Repeat myself.”)
Her face is black and blue and she’s missing her front teeth.
She’s been beaten up before, I know.
Left for dead in alleyways,
trampled by the paparazzi,
mugged by dictators and tyrants.
She’ll recover. She will go on to watch it happen
again and again and again.

But this one was so sudden,
such a quick attack, and she didn’t see it coming,
despite her long association with herself.
I feel like I am partly to blame, somehow.

“I should be just a bystander,” she whispers.
“A bystander. But this kind always knocks me down.
Knocks me down.” She looks at me over the top of her spectacles.

What can I tell her? “I don’t know what to do,”
I say, the helplessness catching in my throat.

And there she is, doing what she’s done all along,
since the beginning of History herself:
she comforts me from within her own misery.
“You’ll think of something. I’ve got to get off this
whirling merry-go-round. It’s just not so merry anymore.”

I nod. “Not so merry anymore,” she repeats.

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Some suggestions for myself (and you, if you want to join me):
1. Listen to music. Music heals, as Andrea Gibson says.
2. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before posting and re-posting.
3. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before responding to those who disagree. Remember that we’re here to open doors for the Great Mystery in each other.
4. Check out some Joe Biden memes.
5. Hug someone you love.
6. Look into people’s eyes.
7. Stretch. Actually physically stretch. Often.
8. Breathe.
9. Listen to the pain and rage around you, but don’t take it on your shoulders.
10. Find your anchors, the people who keep you from floating away in the rage and the grief.
11. Re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “You Were Made for This.”

Gratitude List:
1. Soft tacos for supper: kale and broccoli, onions, cheese, beans.
2. The regular chiming of Grandma’s clock. When I cleaned the house, I decided to wind it up and get it ticking again.
3. Sleep. I always seem to need more of it during the dark season.
4. Forging pathways
5. Bridges. All the bridges we build, the bridges we cross.

May we walk in Beauty!

Strain Train Rain

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“The courageous don’t lose their fear. They simply transform it.” –Climbing Poetry

Here’s a poetic form I found on Robert Lee Brewer’s “Poetic Asides” blog. It’s called diminishing verse. The poem is in three-line stanzas with no rules about syllables or metric feet. You choose an ending word that is able to be diminished from the front, one letter or sound at a time. I am going to try strain-train-rain and see what happens:

For ten long weeks, we have felt the strain,
each thirsty day arriving like a dry and dusty train,
but finally–this dawning brings us rain.

There are some interesting possibilities here. I would like to try some with line endings where the thought continues on to the next line.  Strip-trip-rip might be an interesting one to play with. (The str- word-opening is a good one to use because of the series of three initial consonants.)  Cram-ram-am. It’s a fun little game just to make up the word series. I might enlist my children to help me with that part.

Gratitude List:
1. Kate Dicamillo, writer of short-chapter easy-read children’s books. My boys and I have been reading them this week. We have always liked her Mercy Watson books, but she has taken three characters from Mercy Watson’s stories and given them stories of their own. Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon,  and my favorite, Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? They are lovely parables for adults as well as for children.
2. Someone once suggested politely that I should not put coffee on my gratitude lists because it is a drug, an artificial stimulant. But of course, I will put on my list whatever I please, and while I recognize its addictive effects on my body and brain, I am really grateful this morning for coffee because of a tossandturn night. For three mornings running, I woke up at 4:44 on the dot. I took my body in hand last night and told it that it had to wait until after 5 to wake up. It could even have a four if it wanted to and wake up at 5:24. Perhaps it panicked–I woke up repeatedly throughout the night, and I am supremely grateful for coffee this morning to set me on the path to wakefulness.
3. Deep breaths. Another good waker-upper.
4. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. It could rain for days now, and I would be happy. My classroom is a pleasant temperature. The air feels clear and fresh. The gentle sounds of rain are soothing. The land is sighing in relief.
5. The open-heartedness of young people.

May we walk in Beauty!

Oxygen

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One breath.
One heartbeat.
Another.  Another.
The moment between the call of the wren
and the hush that follows.
Strands in the fabric
of your tapestry.

Gratitude List:
1. I can’t yet see that light at the end of the tunnel, but I can sense it if I sort of look to the side and imagine that it’s there.
2. There’s a dad in this house who keeps making little surprises to put into someone’s dollhouse.  I wish I could be here this morning to see a small person notice the newest changes.
3. Seasoning.  This is a great word.  I love perfectly seasoned food–when just the right extra flavors have been added in balance.  I am also feeling my own seasoning develop, bit by bit, in the high school.  No matter how much teaching experience and energy I may have come to this school with, this is my first teaching experience with high school students, and it takes some seasoning to develop myself as a teacher.  I am grateful to have two years under my belt.  Each year adds new and more complex and intricate flavors.
4. Plans to organize and tidy up.  This is born of my current low-grade frustration with the clutter and mess of the house.  May is when I am in the final skid toward the end of the semester, and Jon is in the upward climb into the farm season, and the house is left to take care of herself. Add Little League to that mix, and we’re on a bit of a wild ride.  So in odd moments, I calm myself by thinking of the de-cluttering I am going to begin the moment that my grades are in for this semester.
5. Deep breaths.  They can calm you down, wake you up, give you a moment to gather your thoughts, center and ground you.  Oxygen is a marvelous thing.

May we walk in Beauty!

Never Enough

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A couple weeks ago, we took a ride on a little train, the Ma and Pa–we were in the open car, and our shadows raced along beside us in the leaves.

It’s never enough
to say that the eagle flies
over the River.
It’s never enough to say
that the River is flowing.

Gratitude List:
1. Den’s Service Center: Thursday at 4, I called them and said that I was on my way home from work with a slow leak in my tire.  They said they’d look at it, even though it would be the last (and busiest) half hour of their day.  I made it safely, they found the nail and fixed it, and they only charged me $13.
2. Harvest hymns in Friday morning hymn sing yesterday.
3. Oaks–less showy than the sugar maples, perhaps.  A rich rusty red.
4. The monarch I saw the other day at school.  I stepped outside in a brief moment, and there it was, dancing through the slanting autumn sun rays.
5. Breath.  (Ellis says I need to include things that I take for granted.  I agree.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Grace and Wind

Today’s gratitude list is mostly gleaned from our church service yesterday morning.  After a startlingly harsh and jangling sermon from a visiting preacher the previous week, yesterday’s service was one of healing and hope.  I felt much more called to the care and tending of souls during yesterday’s gentle and loving setting than I did during the previous week’s harangue.

Gratitude List:
1. The healing power of words, how they hold and restore.  How healing words fill a space after words have been harsh.  I am grateful for Darvin and Michelle’s words yesterday.
2. St. Hannah/Francis preaching to the birds.  “You should try this at home.”  Ellis did: he came home and stood near the feeder with bird seed in his hand.
3. Breath, air, wind: spirit.  Ruach, one of the Bible’s feminine terms for God, is also the spirit, the breath.  Whistle.  Preach to the birds.
4. Counting time in Chesters.  The oldest member of our congregation is almost 100.  About three Chesters ago, the US became a country.  Eight Chesters ago, St. Francis preached to the birds.  Chester whistles, too.
5. These two hanging ferns that my family gave me for Mother’s Day.  The house finch has been whistling in their fronds, begging his lady love to consider them as the setting for raising their family.

May we walk in Beauty!  Breathe.  Whistle.

On Prayer, and a Poem

Today, the Gratitude List first, and then the poem.  Today’s Gratitude List is both gratitude and prayer.  Two people in my circles are currently on ventilators fighting for their breath, for their lives.  This is one of those times when the impetus of prayer rests on the shoulders of whole communities, when the feeling of the web that connects us all is so real it is almost physically palpable.  That’s the first one:
1.  The awareness of and atunement to the praying hearts of others, this bond, this web.  Returning again and again throughout the day to that open, listening, waiting, connecting state of prayer and energy and light, of dropped and open awareness (as Starhawk calls it).  It is hard work, but it is a place of great grace.  The heart opens, and opens, and opens.
2. For those fragile and powerful bags, the lungs, that carry our breath into rivers, to tiny deltas, spreading outward like roots to feed us with breath.  The Breath of Life, in so many religious traditions, is the Divine One breathing into the human being. . .in-spir-ation. . .re-spir-ation.  May healing air fill their lungs.
3.  The knowingness of our bodies, how we breathe without thinking, how it comes as naturally as life.  May their bodies remember that work and take it up so that they may return home soon to their families.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
4.  The resilience of the brain.  We know how fragile it is, but today we focus our hearts and hopes on its resilience, its ability to heal, to develop, even after trauma.  And gratitude, too, for the protective armor of the skull.
5.  I am grateful for sleep: I wish for them sleep, for healing rest, for the two who are struggling to breathe, for the mothers who must carry their own anxiety as well as that of their children, for the little ones.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

<Prompt 20: Write a poem titled, “Always (blank)”>

Always

After we had buried the little hen
in a nest of soft grasses
between the roots of the old walnut tree
on the hill, sifting soil over the red feathers,
we looked around for rocks to cover the spot.

For a moment we considered
the stone that has always been there,
perched atop the last remaining locust post
that held up the electric fence that kept a pair
of hillside steers from wandering,
years before we ever came to this place.

We saw it there that day we first walked these hills,
looking across the patchwork valley,
across the bowl of the gently spreading hollow
and considered whether we could call it home.
Placed by some previous farmer’s hand,
carelessly, perhaps, or deliberately: this belongs here.

That stone has witnessed winters and thaws
and crackling summer heat,
the tractor trundling past by day,
and the patter of fox feet at night, fleeting
down the hill to cross the stream by moonlight.
The eagle flies above it, and the chickadee,
and mockingbird perches there to tell his histories.

A herd of silent deer will sometimes stand
next to the stone on the post
to catch the messages in scents
that waft down the ridge in the breeze.

It is touched by the glow
of light from the fire circle,
where it presides over murmurs and laughter,
singing and chanting, stories and dancing,
the gathering of friendship by firelight.

We gathered other rocks that afternoon
to mark the spot where the little hen lay
nestled among sweet grasses under earth.
The sentinel rock remains on its post.

2013 November 124