Worth a Try

Today’s Prompt is a Two-fer: Write a days of the week/weak poem.

On a November Tuesday
you might wear scarves
and long white skirts
to remember how to vote.

You might take your knitting
and stand in a long line
waiting for your chance
to be a part of history.

You might fidget
when they ask your name,
might feel a tremor when you see
that yours is the only Democrat on the page.

You might recall other Tuesdays
in November, when you believed
in the process, when you knew
that your voice counted, too.

(That’s pretty depressing, and I think it went deeper into the sense of helplessness than I might be feeling at this moment, though I definitely cycle into that place where I lose my belief that my voice matters in this “democracy” anymore.)


“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.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” —Mae Jemison
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“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” —Frederick Buechner
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Alice Walker—”Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”
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Found on a T-shirt: I am totally happy and not dangerous mostly.
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“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” —Marcus Aurelius


Gratitude List:
1. I voted. I don’t know for sure how much I believe in it anymore, though I am liking some of what I am seeing in the results today, and the poll-folks are friendly, and the photo-art on the walls of the local high school/polling place is really excellent.
2. The sweet justice of a transwoman beating out the incumbent who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Maybe I will start to trust the democratic process again, just a little.
3. Tea. The sudden shift in the weather has me cringing in blankets and hats and scarves. Tea takes the edge off. And it’s one thing I share in common with a particular student who hates my class, so I am grateful for that.
4. Color. I forgot to take Ducktown over the bridge this morning because I have become so used to going left and taking Valley View while the bridge was out. We turned onto Valley View just as the sun cascaded through cloud behind us and hit the forested ridge off by the River. The colors were dazzling.
5. How people take care of each other.

May we walk in Beauty!

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A Poem is an Egg

“A poem is an egg with a horse in it.” –4th grader, FB post
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“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”

–Rumi
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“There are people who advocate and practice compassionate listening, there are those who embrace voluntary simplicity, who remove the calluses from their hearts and keep them open to feel the pains of others. Seek them out, I urge you, and join them in their compassion.”
–Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalom
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“The moon rose over an open field.” –Paul Simon
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“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” –Fredrick Douglass
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“Love is the strongest force in the universe. We must keep walking in the direction of love, no matter what we hear and see around us. No matter our human failures. No matter what happens, or appears to happen.And if we are thankful for that love, the power magnifies. Forgiveness is a process of love. Love is not bound by religion, belief system, or man-made laws. Our human minds cannot comprehend the immensity of it. We are lit by it, or we would not be here. Some smother the light with fear and acts of fear. Others tend their light and they light the world. Breath feeds the light. Breathe deep today, and continue walking toward that which will enlighten, no matter what burdens you are carrying of shame, grief, or fear. No one can buy their way or push their way ahead of everyone else. We are all in this together.” –Joy Harjo


Gratitude List:
1. Sweater weather
2. What the eyes say
3. Baby steps
4. The deliciousness of sleep
5. That delicate little yellow moth on the outside of the window

May we walk in Beauty!

Going Golden

A couple years ago, I wrote a gratitude note about “Honest anger and its connection to compassion.” This is a continual dance.
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“If we don’t allow ourselves to feel the full range of emotion — deep joy and deep pain — then I think we are less than who we can be.”
―Terry Tempest Williams
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“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”
―Henri Nouwen
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“Be a lamp, a lifeboat, a ladder.
Help someone’s soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” ―Rumi
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“Equality keeps us honest. Inequality creates liars and delusion. “―Rebecca Solnit
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“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” ―Malala Yousafzai
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“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
―C. G. Jung
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“You have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ―Harriet Tubman
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“The forests are the flags of nature. Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten.”
―Enos A. Mills
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“Come, come hither! Leave you and yourself;
Leave us and ourselves! Come swiftly
Come as quickly as possible. Put you and us aside;
Come!
Come until you and we would become extinct!
Come so that Neither you nor we
would exist!” ―Rumi
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“Poetry can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi, The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing
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“Some words will never leave God’s mouth,
no matter how hard you listen.
– – – –
In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.
– – –
All important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers.” ―Mary Oliver


Gratitude List:
1. Libraries. Public libraries.
2. Markets. Town markets.
3. Parks. Community parks.
4. Planning our Halloween costumes.
5. Salted caramel.

May we walk in Beauty!

Trying to Be Found


Here are three tiny poems from my Creative Writing journal. (I usually wrote along with the students on the writing prompts).

Each day
a new story
of finding my way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once there was a little girl
who was trying to be found.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bluebird on a wire
muttering a gentle question.
No one answers but the hawk.


“I like sitting at the piano. I like the idea that there are things coming in through the window and through you and then down to the piano and out the window on the other side. If you want to catch songs you gotta start thinking like one, and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects. Once you get two or three tunes together, wherever three or more are gathered, then others come.” -Tom Waits
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“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” –Rafael Campo
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“Which came first, the fear or the gun? The broken heart or the bleeding one? The impulse toward death or the desperate reach for love?” –Mark Morford
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“A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.”
–John O’Donohue


Gratitude List:
1. I think I am homing in on the nest of Our Lady of the Flowers. I sat on the porch for a while last evening and watched. She seems to return to the same general area of the tree. It’s located at a less convenient spot for gazing this year, hidden higher up and further from the house.
2. Weaving stories together. Listening to people tell their stories and talk about who they want to be in the world.
3. How a good stretch that wakes up the spine wakes up the body
4. The people who do good. I get so tied up in knots about the stupid, greedy, and cruel things that the powerful people are doing. It really helps to balance my heart to keep remembering all the good and wise and compassionate things that you and the others are doing. Thank you.
5. Pesto

May we walk in Beauty!

Balancing

      
Doesn’t this just feed your soul? My mother’s windowsill. I passed it through a painting filter, which I like, but really, the beauty of the original colors is rather perfect.


This is not a joyful thing. Perhaps it is a gratitude of sorts. It’s more a simple relief. The man who caused the bus accident has turned himself in. It was an uncomfortable loose end that has been bothering me, not because I want revenge, but because it needed resolution.

In my advisory group today, one young man asked that we pray for the driver (before we knew he had turned himself in). This was the second or third time that this particular young man has asked for us to pray for someone who has done something wrong, or made a bad choice. I am moved by the layered depth of his compassion, and it leads me forward into hopeful spaces. May we all learn to love with such a sense of everyone’s humanity.


Today in an English 101 class, we were talking about the role of the Muses in the Greek pantheon, and one girl who had zoned out looked up and asked, “What about the moose?”

I think there needs to be a poem about the Moose of Poetic Inspiration.


Gratitude List:
1. Our Lady of the Flowers zipped past the window again today. I swear she paused in her humming for the briefest of moments and looked into the house at my boy in his red shirt.
2. Graces: I get teary when I talk about it, but it just needs to be said–All our children survived that accident. They likely have wounds that we cannot see, and some of them may experience flashbacks and anxiety. Others are still healing from physical injuries. But: They are alive. Every time I see pictures of that little bus on its side, I am astounded at the miracle of their survival.
3. The Administrative folks at my school. I think I have mentioned before how grateful I am for them, but today I had another chance to see the principals in action, responding to an issue with grace and firmness, holding the balances of accountability and tenderness. When there is harm, they name it, and then seek to care for those involved. They are true leaders.
4. Cobalt Blue
5. Following the pathway lit by the tender hearts of these young folks.

May we walk in Beauty!

Scattering Prayers

milkweed  lawnlabyrinth
Scattering Milkweed seeds like prayers.

Yesterday I mowed a labyrinth into the grassy patch between the barn and the greenhouse.  The boys and I took a basket of milkweed pods that we had gathered last fall, and spiraled our way into the center of the labyrinth, where we scattered the the fluff like prayers.  Prayers for the monarchs, for the future of these children and the planet that supports them, for the people I carry in my heart.  For you.  For me.  For transformation, and for compassion and for love.  For Beauty, and for fun.

Gratitude List:
1. That wren out there reminding me to keeping listening, keep talking, keep the conversation going.
2. Being in a body.  These morning aches, this slightly blurry vision, this stuffy head–it’s all part of being in the body, along with tastebuds, sensations of cool breezes and warm sweaters, satisfying stretches.
3. Prayers.  I am re-establishing my connection to the word prayer.  I will keep using my other words, too–carrying stones, casting webs, holding the bowl–but prayer is a strong universal signifier for being mindful and concerned, and I am finding that I am choosing it more often to represent what I do, wordless as it so often is.
4. That tiger swallowtail that slipped like a sunbeam down the green slope of the ridge yesterday.
5. Compassion, and all the places you find it.

May we walk in Beauty!

Awakenings

DSCN9094
(Some of them survived!)

Here in the green
where the wren is calling
and earthworms begin their work,
you can sense the great heart
of the whole,
beating,
loving,
aware.

Gratitude List:
1. Awakeners.  People (both the mentoring and the challenging) who wake up something within me that wants to be more whole, more real, more alive.
2. Love wins.  Love will always win.  Put down your stones and walk away.  Love wins.
3. Field Trip.  Today I am taking a personal day to be a mom rather than a teacher.  First graders are going to the Science Factory.
4. Hafiz.  “Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.”  They are, aren’t they?
5. How some people center their wisdom in their compassionate hearts.  That’s the direction I want to go, too.

May we walk in Beauty!

If I Say Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is from a few summers ago, a male, looking a little worn and tired.  Here’s a wish for safe journeys northward this season, and much milkweed.

If I say green to you
when the winds of winter
still carry a chill
over the fields
at the top of the hill,
when indigo pockets of shadows
still harbor small mounds of snow,

will you know what I mean,
how even in these days
of limbo, of in-between,
something rises,
barely seen, a little frill,
a thrill of green
beneath the brown of winter?

Gratitude List:
1. Bowling with my guys yesterday.  I have been an occasional bowler for much of my life, and I am abysmal, but I love it, and I love how Ellis loves it.
2. The way the future approaches, as if out of a mist.
3. The population of monarch butterflies in Mexico this past season covered 10 miles of forest (compared to less than 3 the previous year, and less than 2 the year before that).
4. The slow and gentle process of awakening.  Every day, a nudge into a new space.
5.  All the compassionate hearts.  I do get terribly weighed down by the brutality and crassness of the language in the public sphere, especially now.  I need to keep bringing myself back to ground, remembering You and You and You and your healing acts of love in the world. How you don’t let the challenges keep you from moving forward and holding the world in your heart.  Oh, how you inspire me, You and You and You and You. . .

May we walk in Love.

Reprise

EPSON MFP image
Someone has been making Valentines.

I don’t suppose it’s plagiarism to grab something I wrote two years ago and put it up here today.  This is an old gratitude list, but as I was looking at it this morning, I was struck by how profoundly applicable it is to my Now, so I am reprising it today.  I need to keep point #5 in mind.  I could extend that one today, to say that when we really believe in the goodness of people, in the truth of their hearts, people rise and reach outward in ways that surprise us all.  I know it’s true for me.  I am always more likely to extend myself out of my self-absorbed bubble when I know that the people around me are expecting the best of me.

With students, I think this is incredibly important.  When we approach a situation or a class with a sense of suspicion, they will respond with defiance.  When we believe in their hearts and minds, and ask them to be authentic human beings, they are eager to share their profound truths and to show kindness.  Yes, there is sometimes a lot of goofiness and cynicism and youthful narcissism to wade through at times, but accountability and trust are powerful offerings that help to overcome some of the prickliness.  And they, of course, often see our own prickliness and harshness more clearly than we do.


Gratitude List:

1.  Strong boundaries
2.  Compassionate hearts
3.  The balance of boundaries and compassion
4.  Morning mist rising from my River.  When I say “my” River, I don’t mean it as mine alone.  Nor do I mean that it is my River exclusive of all other rivers.  But it can be my River and one of my rivers and still belong also to you and to all of us in the way that I can say you are my Friend, and yet you are not exclusively mine, nor are you my only friend, but that I love you in a particular way that is particular to our relationship.  My River.  The mist rises from it in the red morning light, and there is so much magic in it.  And also in you.
5.  And this: Goodness.  There is so much goodness in people, in strangers even.  And I know too many stories, especially in recent days, of people who fell to the lowest pitches of bullyhood and meanness and real evil when left to their own devices.  But this also is true, so gloriously true: that so many people are simply good, simply full of heart and tenderness and compassion.  That you do not have to bang on the doors or scratch very deeply at all before goodness oozes out all over, fresh and raw and sweet like honey.  I have seen it just today, how you can look into a stranger’s eyes and see it and know it is there, and follow it.   The guy who drives your tow truck may be a philosopher to rival the ancient mystics.  The woman who sells you groceries may have some rich wisdom about human nature that even the respected psychoanalysts have yet to figure.  So many wise ones to discover.  So many namaste moments to explore.

May we walk in Beauty.

Fierce Compassion

I have been trying to figure out how, in the midst of my rages and furies, to find compassion, holding it all in the bowl of the heart.  That is my primary practice.

But now, I think that the work moves forward to a discipline more grammatical–in which order shall I place my adjectives and my nouns, my adverbs, my verbs?  It makes a difference, see:

Shall I be a keeper of a grave grace?  Or shall I practice grace within my gravity?  Shall I continue to seek for compassion in my rage and my anger?  Or shall I actively practice fierce compassion?

How will that look when I walk into a story in which I see harm being done? Sharing compassion fiercely rather than sharing anger compassionately?  Being gravely graceful rather than being gracefully grave?  The order matters, and it will happen differently in different situations, I think.

My story keeps beginning again.

(Thanks to The Story for the “Grace in Gravity” reference and to my friend Lisa Walker LeFevre for opening my heart to the phrase “fierce compassion.)

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Tree spirit.  (Photographed with a mirroring app.)

Gratitude List:
1. Fierce compassion.
2. Butterflies everywhere.  They belongs on the list again and again and again.
3. Milo Zen Puppy.  I haven’t written a gratitude list since I met him a couple days ago, and he is likely the cutest person to ever walk on four legs.  Really.  This is not hyperbole.
4. Radiance.  I mean the shop this time–it was such a pleasure to be there again, in the scents and the colors and all of it.  Seeing Sarah again.  Touching all the stones.  Coming home smelling like Radiance.
5. Radiance.  Yours, this time.  Yours and yours and yours. You shine.  You help me want to keep growing and being a better person.  You push me toward Love.

May we walk in Love.