Scattering Prayers

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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

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(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

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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

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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.

Are You Dancing?

“Is the wind at your back?” asked my friend Saheeb when I saw him today.  “Are you dancing?”

What a marvelous greeting!
How is the universe conspiring to show you your truest self?  
Is the sun shining on your face?
Have you answered the invitation to heal the world?
What does the rhythm of the cosmos tell you?
Is the wind at your back?
Are you finding the keys to your desires?
Are you dancing?

Gratitude List:
1.  Helpful questions from a compassionate heart
2.  Reminders that sometimes it’s okay to stall, to rest, to wait, to pause: this is different from paralysis or stagnation, though it’s hard for me sometimes to tell the difference.
3.  Playing with the stones at the shop.  I named one large piece of iron ore The Stone of the Waking Dragon
4.  Staying attuned and awake.  This is a blessing and also painful, but still I am grateful to be awake and awakening, to be part of it all. 
5.  Two five-egg days in a row!

May we walk in Beauty.

Presence

I have been seeing a lot on the internet lately about compassion and empathy, about empathy and sympathy.  That makes me happy.  I’ve been reading Judy Cannato’s Field of Compassion, which posits that these times we are living in are marked by a new upwelling of compassion energy.  And that makes me happy, too.

Today I looked again at that little cartoon video that accompanies Brene Brown’s TED talk on empathy and sympathy.  I love in-depth semantic discussions, the sharp and precise clarification of terms, and part of what I like so much about Brene Brown’s work is that she gives us precise language for feelings.  It’s like those feelings charts that people sometimes use for helping children understand their emotions, but on an adult scale.

So I do not intend to critique Brown’s view of empathy and sympathy here, really.  Nor yours, either.  But it struck me that part of what is moving about the presence of the Bear in the video (go up there and click that link and watch it now, please) is just that: his Presence.  He witnessed the Little Rabbit’s pain, and when the Rabbit fell in the hole, he climbed right down in there with her.  Aside from the label of his approach as empathetic rather than sympathetic, he was Present.  He gave her the gift of witnessing her pain.

I haven’t had much experience in my life of terrible pain and trauma, but in the places and times when I have been hurting, I know that empathy was a great help when it was genuine.  “I know how you feel,” can feel like a great comfort, or a violation: How dare you presume to know how I feel?  “When I went through this. . . ” can be a relief to hear (You walked this road and you survived!) or it can be patronizing.  Sometimes a sympathetic “That must be so hard” is as refreshingly Present as an empathetic “I know how it is.”

I wish I could say I get it right all the time, this business of being Present, being a Compassionate Witness.  It’s hard to be awake enough to one’s self and the Universe to know how to muddle through this bog of the heart.  It’s a challenge to be present when the Little Rabbit is lashing out in her sadness.  I love that the meta-conversations lead us into the discussion.  I’m grateful for the people, like Brown, who are working at the semantics, drawing us all to a deeper understanding of the compassionate heart.

Gratitude List:
1. The sweet, soft brush marks of wings on the snow
2.  Satisfying mechanical tools: my apple peeler corer slicer, for example; an efficient non-electric tool that does its job well.
3.  The way Jon hums to himself all day as he’s doing his daily tasks
4.  Two people whom I love a great deal were in an ice-related traffic accident this morning, and emerged mostly unharmed.  I am so grateful that injuries were relatively minor, and hope for a speedy and complete recovery from the aches.
5.  Napping.  This afternoon, as I was dozing off for a much-needed nap, a small person of the house came and snuggled up beside me and fell asleep too.

May we walk in Beauty.

Song of Opossum

<Prompt 6: Write a Perspective Poem about a person who works at or visits a place you like to visit.  I don’t really go anywhere much at all.  I like to be at the farm, so I am writing my perspective poem about someone who visits Goldfinch Farm.>

I walk when grey dusk is upon us
night–grey as my fog-colored fur

quietly creeping
stealing so silently
through the dried grasses
over the hill

Dusk, when the day-folk have gone away
out of the fields and away from the woods edge

night-folk come foraging
searching for sustenance
gleaning the harvest
left in the fields

What is that?  Scent of cat
up a tree, suddenly
whisk foot, white foot
I stand frozen in moonshadows

The owl is hunting over in the oak grove
raccoon rustles through the last field of corn

eyes agleam in moonlight
silver fur like starlight
sniff and scratch and nibble
homeward I wander

 

Gratitude List:
1.  Editing and revising
2.  Compassion
3.  Perspective
4.  Eating with friends at the picnic table under the sycamore
5.  Listening

May we walk in Beauty.