How You Get There


I am signing off for a few days. I am going to the woods with some of my beloved community, to sing and laugh and play together, to walk the labyrinth in the woods, to listen for birdsong and look for tiny fungi in the leaf litter, to breathe and to wander. I will see you here in a few days.


“I remember nothing more about that night, except knowing that the enchantment of that moment would be with me forever, how what was burning so intensely in my heart could manifest itself in all of nature and how a song could thread itself through a needle, and stitch it all together, for one other-worldly, soul-aching, heart-breakingly hopeful glimpse of Nirvana.” –Excerpt of blog by Gloria Talcove-Woodward
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“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
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“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” –Louis C. K.
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“Never apologise for your sensitivity. It is the thinness of your skin which makes you brave. You are willing to live. You are willing to be alive.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
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“Acknowledge your mission. Trust your path. Become your chosen destiny.” –Jamie Sams
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“You are what you eat eats.” –Michael Pollan


Gratitude List:
1. Fridays: Week’s end, Faculty Hymn sing, the anticipation of rest and time in the woods with beloveds
2. Yesterday’s clouds, which were dragons and caves of flame and featherbeds
3. Teenagers and their enormous hearts
4. Monarch and dragonfly
5. Sharing laughter. What warmth of human connection when someone says, “Hey! Wanna hear a joke?” The social connection of good, healthy humor, how it bonds people together
6. (I am breaking the rules today and adding another) Playing with sentences. In a couple different classes right now, we are playing with sentence structure, copying the forms of professionally-written sentences, writing poems based on set formulae of absolute phrases and participial phrases. For some, it’s a bit tedious, but it has been delightful to watch the twinkle in the eyes of others when they begin to get it, to feel what it’s like to write a really elegant sentence.
7. (while I am at it. . .) Yesterday’s chapel talk by Brenda Martin Hurst. She reminded me of how much work has been done by so many to create a world and a church in which girls and women are valued as much as men and boys, and how much work there still is to do. I am grateful for my mother and others who worked with such love and courage and sheer will to begin to pave a way for women’s voices to be more fully heard in the Mennonite Church. This, more than anything, gives me great hope that some day we, too, can break through the wrongs against which we raise our voices.

May we walk in Beauty!

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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!

Words

 

“The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”  ― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
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“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
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“I hold the most archaic values on earth … the fertility of the soul, the magic of the animals, the power-vision in solitude…. the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe.” ― Gary Snyder
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“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
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“The study of silence has long engrossed me. The matrix of a poet’s work consists not only of what is there to be absorbed and worked on, but also of what is missing, desaparecido, rendered unspeakable, thus unthinkable.” ―Adrienne Rich
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“Be ready to be surprised by the crazy, wonderful events that will come dancing out of your past when you stir the pot of memory. Embrace those long-lost visitors.” ―William Zinsser
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Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. ―Bob Marley


Gratitude List:
1. Fridays
2. Owl calling in the pre-dawn
3. Artists
4. Dreams
5. Words

May we walk in Beauty!

Beloved Community

tree1

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

skunker
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”

bird

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

imag1908
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

mushroom1
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!