Beloved Community

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A couple years ago, I had a girl in my freshman class who entered every classroom on high alert, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. She didn’t wait to be bullied or insulted–she was ready to lash out at the least hint of a slight, the least whiff of aggression. Within days, most of her classmates were steering a wide path around her, terrified that they might accidentally look at her the wrong way and find themselves on the receiving end of her wrath.

One of the things I love about my school is the restorative way that teachers and administrators work with students. Teachers kept reminding her to keep her language school-appropriate, to speak more gently with her classmates. Students who felt harmed by her sharpness were cared for and comforted, and she was held accountable for the harm she caused. Still, she was treated like a person herself, not like a perpetrator, not like a problem. The adults understood that she was experiencing an extreme sense of vulnerability, that her social anxiety and the pain she was dealing with in her personal life made her push people away before she could be hurt.

Gradually, she began letting other students and adults near her. She discovered that people liked her for who she was, that we appreciated her quick wit, that she could make us laugh and smile. She began to talk and write about deeper things, too. When she lost someone she loved, instead of retreating to her cave and biting anyone who came near, she wrote it out. She talked about it. She let her friends hold her and care for her.

Now she’s a junior.  She’s finding her voice, catching her stride. She can still make you cringe when she gets into a temper. She’ll always be good at speaking her mind. But the aggressiveness is tempered with gentleness. Instead of masking her vulnerability, she uses her tender heart to find connections with others who hurt. She’s beginning to speak out about issues and causes that matter to her, using both reason and passion. She’s becoming a leader. I am proud of her, and grateful for this community that helped her find her way to her best self. She’s going to be one of the ones who changes the world.

Gratitude List:
1. Beloved community that provides a place for us to fail and try and fail and try and learn and become.
2. The way the sunlight spilled across the fields as dawn arrived.
3. Magenta, Indigo, Aquamarine, which is to say: The clouds at sunrise.
4. The way those five crows flying in a perfect line laced up the clouds they flew between.
5. The members of the Silhouette Magazine staff. They’re witty, earnest, playful, and thoughtful. I’m proud of the assembly they presented this morning.

May we walk in Beauty!

Good Omens

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Skunk is a good symbol of nonviolent resistance.

Gratitude List:
1. The Imbolc sun rising this morning. Before the disk rose above the horizon, a single wide shaft of sun rose up into the higher cloud cover to east, a brighter magenta smudge on magenta and indigo clouds. Then, as we traveled eastward, the sunshaft shifted to tangerine, and then to golden. It felt like a good omen, that dawning.
2. The relief of a less grueling grading schedule this semester.
3. Harvest. Of word and image and story and idea. Picking the bits and weaving them together.
4. The loving resistance.
5. Venus. I am pretty sure that I have never yet seen a star or planet so brightly shining. This past month or so, Venus seems brighter and bigger, so big and shiny I could almost pack up my camel and go searching for a child of promise. And of course, it’s Venus, so that feels like a particularly good omen.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Hat

mockingbird

Today, my act of resistance is knitting my hat for the march.

What is yours?

Gratitude List:
1. Those clouds, which were wings, and the sundog which smiled on them.
2. How the boys get so many things. I was buying pink yarn today for my kittycat hat (that’s what I call it so I don’t have to explain too much to them at this point), and Ellis said, “But if you’re all wearing pink hats, isn’t that sort of playing into the stereotypes about women and pink?” Savvy kid. I said we were reclaiming it. They helped me pick out the yarn, and were both really excited when I found some eyelash yarn to knit into the hat. Ellis wanted to carry it around the store.
3. Belongingness
4. Knitting. Knotting. Making. I feel a little like Madame Dufarge knitting up this hat. I might not be knitting information for the revolution, but I am knitting for the revolution. (And I think I didn’t cast on enough stitches–my needles are smaller than the pattern suggested. I’ll take out these first rows and start again. And this time with magical intent.)
5. Finding new ways to say things. New vocabulary. New structures. New synapses firing in the brain.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Book

winterfarm

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!

“The Women, United, Will Never Be Defeated”

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Two nights ago, my sleep was broken up by an anxious child who couldn’t get back to sleep, so I slept on the floor of his room with him. The broken sleep led me to remember my dreams much more clearly.

The one about the car accident was so real that, on the way to church in the morning, I showed my family an intersection similar to the one where the accident occurred, and when I walked out to the car after church, I experienced a momentary but real dread because I didn’t want to see the scraped-up side of the car. I was relieved when the split second passed and I realized it had been only a dream.

In the other dream, someone had brought a large cardboard box full of  writhing snakes into some sort of social gathering–I think we were going to have a dance. The snakes immediately crawled out and covered the floor. I was really worried that someone was going to step on them, but they took care of themselves. I held a couple, loving their intent and watchful eyes, their flickering tongues. Snakes are symbolic of regeneration, of the cycles of life. I have personally associated them with rising feminine power, particularly in their association with the Minoan snake dancers.  After a day of processing the magnified disgust, I was feeling at the shameless misogyny of one of our political candidates, I think I needed a reminder of the collective power of women. And I needn’t worry about them getting stepped on. We will take care of ourselves.

“The women, united, will never be defeated.” –Ubaka Hill

Gratitude List:
1. Dreams that wander into the daylight
2. Images that empower and strengthen the will
3. Clouds: I never get tired of clouds
4. Voices of reason amidst the craziness
5. Wild wind. It can be almost unbearable, the way it calls to be followed, the way it makes me long to go journeying, rambling, adventuring.

May we walk in Beauty!

Limber

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Becoming. . .

Several years ago in mid-September, I was sitting in the parking lot at Temple Beth Israel with boxes of vegetables for our CSA pick-up. During the hour and a half that I was there, at least thirty monarchs floated southward above my head. Like the birds and the dragonflies, monarchs are migrating now, too.

We used to go to the beach at this time of year, when most people have gone home for the summer. No crowds to get in the way–only warm water, cool breezes, and all the wingfolk flying south: flocks of a thousand swallows, and dragonflies and monarchs. The Wetlands Institute at Stone Harbor, NJ has a Monarch Migration Festival every September.

It’s the hummingbirds and the monarchs that really get me, such tiny and vulnerable little bodies sailing out over the Gulf to Mexico, to South America.  Dragonflies look like little machines, like helicopters built for the distance, but even they are vulnerable to weather, far out over the Gulf.

Now is the season for refueling, preparing for the leap into the blue, water and air. What will I risk in this space of my life? What void will you leap into?  Like those orange butterflies, we can trust that the long journeys of the past and the knowledge of the ancestors that lives in our own wings will inform our own flight.

Orange wings dip in farewell–
monarch catches a breeze
and wings toward the Gulf.

(I don’t really have a seasonal word as such in this haiku, but the second part of it is about the migration, so that gives the clue.)

Gratitude List:
1. Limber. Jon used this word yesterday to express something to do with fluid thinking. I like that word, especially as I am more and more aware of how the aging process demands more focused work on keeping the body limber. I like to think that my mind can also be limber if I keep it exercised.
2. Clouds: In yesterday’s sunrise, the clouds were first tangerine and indigo. Magenta. Then ivory and indigo and gold against a Maryblue sky. Clouds of mist hung low over the fields, pooling around the ankles of the cows. Clouds hung low over the River. Layers of clouds filled the sky.
3. Monarchs. Yesterday I took a walk and found four large caterpillars munching on milkweed behind the greenhouse. Eat well, little ones.
4. Janelle’s bees. The Middle School Science room has a hive right in the room. The Queen was quietly holding court, the larvae were squirming to get out of their little chambers, and the workers were dancing directions to each other.
5. This year’s Silhouette staff. That’s the school literary magazine. We had our first meeting yesterday, and they are so eager and willing to get right down to work. I think it’s going to be a really great year.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gaga Ball

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Woodland treasure

I want to keep practicing haiku, keeping in mind the concepts of the kigo  and kireji in the poem. It really shifts the brainwork and pondering to begin to imagine the poem more in terms of the two words or phrases that hold the “cutting” and the seasonality. Here is a helpful description, if you want to explore it, too.

a wren breaks the silence–
then returns to stillness
in the morning chill

Gratitude List:
1. Gaga Ball: Every muscle on my body aches today, but it was totally worth it. Between Gaga Ball, hiking, and swimming in really cold water with a kiddo who is just learning, I got a LOT of exercise yesterday. Gaga Ball is a great kids and adults game–surprisingly simple, but challenging. The adults have the advantage of strength, and the kids have the advantage of agility, so it plays to everyone’s strengths.
2. The fleecy patterns of clouds against blue sky last night just before the sun went down. Like a dream of a sky.
3. Thermal delight. I know it’s going to get hot again. I know it’s going to get cold. This weekend, however, has been just what a day should feel like–a little chilly around the edges and warm in the middle without going to any extremes.
4. Opportunities to practice. I have been spending time at the internet site “Abbey of the Arts,” and pondering their idea of being a monk in the world–living with that sort of intention. One of their principles is based on a Benedictine idea that I have been exploring this summer: Radical Hospitality. The more I explore the idea, the more I realize that it isn’t just about being with people, but about being with oneself as well, about welcoming in all the guests, as Rumi says–even the awkwardness, even the meanness. I kind of roared at the kids last night as they were escalating a conflict over back seat territory–how do I welcome that part of myself without judging it? ( I want to change that about myself, but I do think I need to welcome that part of me inside with joy and hospitality before I can really make a change.) I have a long way to go until I feel like this all comes easily for me, but every moment offers up an opportunity to practice.
5. My messy house. Yes, I get frustrated and ashamed about it. But looking around right now, I see so many centers of play and imagination where my children spend their time. Yes, we’ll clean and tidy the slate for them to start all over again–they need that, too. For now, though, I bless the messy spaces that hold their busy minds and hearts.

May we walk in Beauty!

Season of Owl

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This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .
Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s really lovely start to the new semester.  Nobody, including myself, is very squirrelly yet (we’ll get there, I’m sure).
2. The energy of teaching a new class.  Like being the newbie again.  I’m a little terrified, but in a good and energizing way.
3. Clouds.  Whole fantasy worlds and landscapes there above us.  This is the time of year when the clouds are tinged with sunset as I drive home, and tinged again with sunrise on my way to work.
4. Snow.  Just a dusting.
5. How a hot drink warms hands and face.

Blessings on your day!  May you find Beauty.

DSCN8315  DSCN8296  DSCN8368   DSCN8380  DSCN8412  DSCN8438  DSCN8445
Jon holding the mastodon vertebrae and rib, directions, my boy shows his wings, weaving light at the science museum, Kalamazoo Promise, Jon’s great-grandfather’s tractor, boys and their new stuffed animals (where am I going to sit?)

Gratitude List:
1. Safe home from Michigan
2. Snuggles from a happy cat
3. The Wind in the Willows–good travel reading, but my voice is hoarse (I think I read aloud for about six hours today)
4. Screech Owl whinnying a welcome when we arrived home
5. Clouds

May we walk in Beauty!

More from the Monastery

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Gratitude List:
1. Those clouds after the storm.  Everything glowed golden.
2. Veggie quiche.  I can’t believe how those boys ate!
3. Playing Pokemon with Ellis.  Yes, I bought myownself a deck. He wins more than I do.
4. Getting more sleep.  My body lets me sleep until 6:30 now.
5. This circle.  You and you and you and me and you and you.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here are some more things that I wrote at the Monastery:
6-15-15, Wernersville Jesuit Center

When I left the beech tree, I thought I would go sit on a bench beside a cobbled patio to put on my sandals, then find the labyrinth on my map.  The patio turned out to be the labyrinth.

Thinking about the animals that have come to my visions this year.  Lynx came to me at the year’s turning.  Macaw dropped me a feather.  Lioness and jaguar have both been reaching me in dreams and waking dreams–their messages are about leadership and impeccability.  This morning as I left the boys, a swallow flew low overhead.  And here in this place, catbird seems to be following me around.

6-16-15
In the main stairway, every time I go up and down the steps, I feel a need to greet the statue of Jesus with the open heart every time I pass him on the first floor landing.  “Hi, Jesus!”

This morning as I walked away from some contemplative time in the Cathedral of the Weeping Beech, I thought I saw a bird dying, thrashing in the grass a small distance from the gazebo.  A soft light caught the twitching, and as I walked closer, the energy did not seem to be about distress.  Suddenly it resolved in my vision into a fawn–the twitching wings were ears.  It was a small one settling in to wait for the mother, shaking the little bugs out of its eyes.

Walking this afternoon: “What makes you sad?” ask the trees.  I ask this question of myself, but somehow, it takes on new shades of meaning in their language.  I tell them all of it, how it hurts me when natural disasters happen, but that the things that make me saddest are the things the people do to hurt each other and the Earth.  Not just the intentional hurts, but the hurts born of people’s greed and lack of desire to know and to notice.

“What makes you angry?” the trees asked me then.  And many of the things were the same.  Perhaps I need to learn to differentiate better between my emotions.

Something in these questions from the trees unlocks doors within myself that I couldn’t seem to open before.

I was carrying the weight of these things with me when I reached the Mary statue, and something profound happened to me there.  I suddenly felt as though I knew about how her heart is broken again and again and again.  How she holds it all.  There she is, holding the Babe of wonder, her face filled with love for this Child of Promise.  There she is, holding the body of the young man, her son, her face filled with love and grief.  The serenity of her face holds within it the extremes of wonder and grief, love and anguish, that she knew.  She pondered these things in her heart: was she pondering how the act of opening herself to great love also opened herself to great grief?  But choosing to do it anyway, joyfully, because love is always worth it, and our hearts were made large enough and strong enough to hold it ALL.  I wept and wept and wept, holding on to her feet and looking out with her over the valley.

****

I need to keep making the story my own.