All Our Children

#resist — I found this in my classroom zen garden last week.

I am sure that I have written this before. Still, it seems to want to be said again.

The first time I was pregnant,
I spent Mother’s Day
with the dawning awareness
that I was losing that baby.

The next Mother’s Day,
I held that one’s brother in my arms.
Becoming a mother was fraught
with much more peril than I’d anticipated,
each son preceded by a shadow child,
a rainbow child.

We talk amongst ourselves
about the lost ones,
and we wonder:
Were they just the first attempt
of these two who made it,
missing the train on the first go?

Were they the vanguard,
the waymakers,
making a pathway
for their brothers to follow?

Were they forces of nature,
faerie children,
unleashed into the world
to watch and protect?

But here in the sun of today
are these two shining changelings,
eyes older than time.
They know they belong here
in these bodies made of earth,
of wind and bone.

Perhaps they sometimes hear
the spirit children
singing in their dreams.

Some random quotations:
“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” ― Bob Marley
“Truth is an agile cat. It has more than nine lives.” ― Joy Harjo
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” ― Mark Twain
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”  ― Fran Lebowitz
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Gratitude List:
1. Wood duck on Goldfinch Pond.
2. Three chittery indigo buntings flitting across the road.
3. The new giving project idea at church. I have never seen such unmitigated joy in response to the announcement of a new giving project. People clapped.
4. My mother. All the wisdom and Presence she offers to so many people.
5. And my grandmothers. And my mother-in-law. And all the women who have been mother to me. And Mother Earth.
6. My children: the two who bless and challenge me every day.
7. All our children, who challenge me/us to make the world a better and a safer place.
8. And Icarus Oriole, who sings to me all day. (I know he is really singing to Her Ladyship who hides herself greenly in the leaves, but it feels like he is singing to me.)

May we walk in Beauty!

The Book


The Twelve Nights are finished. I might have resisted this waking up, resented this leaving of the cocoon, but for the bright surprise of the snow, the sun enlivening it to an almost unbearable shine, the way the Light shone so forcefully on this Epiphany day.

I have a jumble of words and ideas tumbling about in my brain from the past two weeks: Intuition, Birds of Prey (fierceness?), Aunt Lizzie (rampant creativity?), and the Book. As I made my Vision Board last week, the phrases “Unchain the book” and “Unlock the book” came into my head. And last night I woke in the middle of the night, and the phrase “Use the book” was skittering around in my brain.

So this Year my word will be Book. I tell my students that their lives are the stories of their own making. Some parts seem to be written for us, but even so, we write the meaning of the events that occur. We choose how the story is recorded within us, how we interpret our lives. This year, I will be the writer of my story. I will carry the satellite words of intuition and fierceness and creativity with me as well, and let them inform the story I create, both with my life and in my writing.

Gratitude List:
1. The young years. This is a wistful gratitude. With every passing day, I am noticing the baby days expiring on my youngest. I am gathering all I can of each tiny bit of baby sweetness into the jar of my heart to save for later. Here I am, Winnie the Pooh, standing at the edge of the Hunderd Aker Wood, watching Christopher Robin recede into the world. My heart is so full of the pride and the pain of it, the love and the loss of it.
2. I am grateful for their growing up, too. I treasure each new grown-up thing, how they think and wonder. Their curiosity. Their desire to know, to learn, to create.
3. Snow. Wasn’t that lovely? I love snow. It makes the cold feel worthwhile. It makes the winter feel real. It gives the dreamtime a blanket.
4. Those stripey clouds on the way home from school today. My carpool mates and I decided that they looked like the lines on a piece of notebook paper, just waiting for a poem. Or the ribs of a god (we’re listening to The Heroes of Olympus on our journeys). Or the oars of a great flying Viking ship.
5. The relationship of words to music. The musicality of language.

May we walk in Beauty!

Dear Friends

I love this tree

Dear friends, dear friends,
Can I tell you how I feel?
You have given me such blessing.
I love you so.
(Sing to the old tune of “Soul Cake”)

Try this:
Sit in a circle at dusk with people you love.
Let it be when the swifts are flying.
Let there be a catbird with a whiskery voice in a spruce tree.
Speak your stories into the bowl of the space between you:
stories like a rich meal, the bitter, the savory, the sweet.
Let it get dark.  The darkness will listen, too.
You can hear people listening when you speak in the dark.
You may light a candle if you have a candle.
Laugh together.  Cry.
Let there be occasional questions,
occasional grunts, occasional exclamations of oh-I-hear-that!
Make a meal of the stories before you,
and eat your fill. Be nourished.
Be together in your stories.
Know that all these stories are your story, too.
Let there be a benediction,
words sung or spoken into the full dark,
accompanied by the chittering of bats,
good words to keep you always
in this circle where you belong.

Gratitude List:
1. Circles
2. Swifts and bats
3. Children obsessed with the game that they have created between them.
4. Stories.  All of them.  Holding them together. The inspiration of stories.
5. Circles.  Did I say circles?

Much love.  May we walk in Beauty.  May we walk in Love.
May we live in the center of our stories

Fire Bird is Back!

(Not  my photo–from Wikipedia, labeled for reuse.)

Gratitude List:
1. Fire Bird is back in the hollow. The oriole has returned.  I have been watching and listening for weeks now.  Yesterday, as I was getting out of the shower, I heard his whistle.  I opened the window, and he flew in to sit on the branch of sycamore right in front of me, whistling and whistling.  I felt as though my longing had drawn him here. Later in the afternoon, his lady came, too, timid and whispery, yellow-green like the leaves on the poplar.  And he is such an impossible orange.  Satisfying orange.
2. A bright and shining bird of a boy who is ten years old today.  He is driven by his curiosity, compelled to explore and tweak and consider, to question and create and figure things out.  I can’t imagine anymore what life was like before he was part of it.
3. Drawing to ourselves what we love.
4. My mother.  Mentor and model, thoughtful and contemplative, she has done so much to make the world a better and more just place.
5. Mother Earth

May we walk in Beauty!

All Our Children

EWK 4 001

Gratitude List:
1. I am grateful that my friend’s surgery seems to have gone well.
2. I am grateful that we were able to get a much better interest rate for our mortgage (more of a mundane concern than I usually write about perhaps, but this is a grace that comes at a good time).
3. I am grateful that there are always enough hours in a day, even though it sometimes doesn’t seem like it.
4. I am grateful that the sun will return again.
5. I am grateful that my children have safety and comfort.  My prayer is for safety and love for all our children.  They are all our children.

May we walk in Beauty!

Created to Create

Gratitude List:
1. Talent show.  Belly laughs and tears in one evening.  “It is Well.”
2. Those boys laughing into the face of the Wolf.  I don’t mean any wolf–that laughter would be rude.  This is the Wolf, and that laughter is about survival, and friendship.  I don’t know how else to say this, but I was grateful to witness it.
3. How all these children are becoming who they are, growing into themselves.
4. Conversations about writing and inner landscapes.
5. Collage–all afternoon: images and scissors and cutting and pasting, children and adults, humming and singing, laughing and talking, making.

May we walk in Beauty!

Spiders and Space

Gratitude List:
1. Watching children wake up.  They’re like spiders, beginning all curled in on themselves, and then there’s the release of the limbs and suddenly they’re all elbows and knees and long limbs flailing and twisting.  I think there are only four limbs per kid, but I wouldn’t be surprised some days if there were eight.
2. August suppers: corn on the cob and tomato sandwiches and blueberries.
3. Making spaces: I spent yesterday in my classroom, puttering and making spaces, getting ready for my students.  The excitement is beginning outweigh the worries about not being ready enough.
4. Sweaty little hands in mine.  I feel time passing, feel their childhoods slipping by at a rate that makes me uneasy.  I want to hold onto those little hands as long as I can.
5. Butterflies everywhere.  The flowerbeds are alive with all manner of swallowtails and commas and question marks (English teachers have their own butterflies!), and I keep seeing monarchs whenever I am driving anywhere.  Fly safely, little ones!
(6. Bonus: In last night’s dream, Billy Collins came to visit, and we recited his poetry together.  I even recited some Mary Oliver for him, and he was impressed.)

May we walk in Beauty!

The Scrooge of Thanksgiving

Everything I write today feels like it needs a qualification behind it.  I feel as though I should be a sort of priestess of Thanksgiving, carrying my gratitude practice into this day like it is my High Holy Day.  Instead, I feel more like the Scrooge of Thanksgiving this morning.  I start to write “Happy Thanksgiving!” but I feel like I need to discuss that in terms of the history of genocide in the US and in terms of the weight I am feeling about racism and injustice at this particular historical moment.  I want to write about how grateful I am for the unaltering yearly shift from growing season to harvest and then to winter’s rest, but I feel like I need to discuss that in terms of climate change and the anxiety I feel about human alteration of the planet’s weather.  I want to write about how excited I am to spend time with my family, but I am still caught up in the whirlwind of papers to write and plans to make and the sense of guilt that rides me about how I am neglecting my own children.

I’m not depressed.  Just grumpy and out of sorts.  I had a moment this morning when I thought, Maybe it’s time to give up the Gratitude Practice and pick up a different tool for a while.  Maybe it’s time to pick up the practice of the Flaming Sword of Justice again.  Perhaps it’s time to become a Holy Curmudgeon, giving the world a good hearty dose of Harsh Reality.  (Yes, I realize it’s too late–I’ve already done so here.)

Here is the part of the short, thoughtful essay where the writer is supposed to take a sense of ick and discomfort and turn it around into something thoughtful and witty, something hopeful and positive and enchanting.  I don’t have that to offer you today.  Not quite.  Just this: that today, of all days, is not the day to give up this work of Gratitude.  That today, of all days, is the day when I need it most of all.  Perhaps on some sunny spring morning when I cannot bear to write only five things, when my heart is overflowing with gratitude, perhaps that is the day that I can say I am ready to move on to explore another practice.  And of course, I won’t ever actually abandon this tool.  I’ll keep it in my box, along with the Flaming Sword of Justice and some of the other tools I have worked with over the years, and bring it out on days like today when I need it most.

So here is my attempt at today’s gratitude list, unqualified by doom and general grouchiness:

Gratitude List:
1. Coffee
2. Coats
3. Chocolate
4. Children
5. Already the gloom is lifting.  Already the energy of the day begins to enter.  Already the sense of possibility begins to shine over the shadow of too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time.  Already the medicine of this practice begins to do its work.  You don’t know, sometimes, if you’re going to get there until you get there.  And sometimes that is the story that needs to unfold.

May you have a moment of peace today.  May we walk in Beauty.

So here, qualified as it is by a thousand things, from the depths of my curmudgeonly soul: Happy Thanksgiving! (And I mean it this time.)

All Our Children

How would it change things if we saw them all as our children?  A friend of mine asked me this this morning.  She’s a wise woman, with a kind and strong heart, a foster parent.

What if we really believed in that web of all connection, really treated them all as though they were our own?  What would happen if I let my heart break for my kidnapped daughters in Nigeria?  For my refugee children in Syrian?  For my son, the baby crying in the car-seat while his desperate mother gets high?

I am not talking about giving our hearts over to despair.  I wonder if we can train our hearts, intentionally, like athletes who train for a marathon, to bear the load without crumpling under the weight.  I think that’s what the children need from us, for us to bear them, bear the stories, hold them as though they were our own, to be prepared to act at any moment for any one of them within our reach.  I think the times call for hearts strong enough to be tender, to bleed without weakening, to rage and protect and pray and hope without numbing out.

I don’t think it has to be a choice.  We don’t have to choose between the closed heart and the broken heart.  We can be awake and yet not despair.  It’s worth a try.


Gratitude List:
1.  Good, heart-awakening questions
2.  Jim’s good words this morning about filters, about seeing
3.  Bright red cardinal in morning sun
4.  The flowers my mother has in little bouquets all over their house
5.  Breathing.  In, out, in out.  This moment.

May we walk in Beauty!

Song for Brigid’s Day

Song for Brigid’s Day

Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?

Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.

The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”

As you move out onto the road,
Brigid’s sun upon your face
will trace your outline full behind you,
defining you in the Shadow
which will be your soul’s companion
into spring.

Gratitude List:
1.  Thaw.  Mini thaw, if only that.  Gets the flow in motion.
2.  Ceremonially welcoming children into community.
3.  This moment (usually in late winter or early spring) when I suddenly notice how the children are shifting into their next developmental and growth stages.  They’re starting to look spidery, all legs and arms and teeth.  Their faces look pixie-ish, like changelings.  I remember this from when I taught school, how there came a point each year when it seemed that all the children had grown just a little beyond their boundaries, like their skeletons had suddenly stretched, how their language and expressions changed.  Today, on the backs of their shoulders, I can see their wing-buds popping.
4.  Mimi’s Banana Bread
5.  All the many different ways we are, how sometimes our challenges actually hide our truest gifts, how the One Thing that is all of us together is enriched and deepened by the individuals who are so varied and diverse.

May we walk in Beauty.