The Fire Has Always Been Burning

On the original collage of this, there was a little strip of text that reads, “The fire has always been burning.” It was lost in the filtering process, but the feeling has been preserved.

Gratitude List:
1. Moment of Surprise: An enormous raccoon scrambled across the road to the creek and up into the bosque just before twilight this evening.
2. William Carlos Williams Moment: So much depends on the way the sun backlights a cloud against an aquamarine sky laced with crows.
3. Dream Moment: I carried with me all day the dream of my little cat. It was so real, I could feel her soft fur again, like angel feathers.
4. Satisfaction Moment: Jon’s delicious everything stew. With habanero sauce and smoked sea salt.
5. Anticipation Moment: I just have a sense that I am going to break the insomnia cycle tonight.

May we walk in Beauty!

What Shall We Bring to Birth?


What shall we bring to birth? What shall we draw into the physical world from the wild and tangled forests of our imaginations?

I never seem to know what I want, what I really want, not exactly. Today my vision is coming clear, forming a picture of what my heart desires, with more crispness and definition than I have been able to muster for quite some time.

I think I will write it down, set it on paper, give it a timeline, an expectation, watch for it, like Advent.  Name it. Let these short days and long nights of Solstice-Christmas-Epiphany offer me images and words to carry with it. Perhaps I will write it on a stone and throw it in the River, or tie it to a feather and throw it to the wind.

Begin. Begin. Begin.

Gratitude List:
1. Long sleeps
2. Interesting dreams
3. Inspiring meditations
4. Time out of time
5. Silence

May we walk in Beauty!


How the Light Returns.

Breathe deep the light-filled air.
Feel how the new sun touches you.
Remember the stars that circled you
through the long hours of darkness.
Sit within the circle of the dwindling dark
and feel the way it bathes you with memory.
Walk the bridge between dream and daylight.

These are the nights of the dreamtime. The tender new sun is born into the hush of midwinter, and we can hold the quiet light within us as we walk, careful step by careful step, out of the labyrinth. The inward journey into the darkness has stripped us of our crucial identity, piece by painful piece. And now, as we step outward, the darkness offers us new gifts, images that come in dreams. As the days gradually lengthen, and the dark nights wane, what words and images will the journey offer you to put into your pockets for the coming year?

Gratitude List:
1. Those really super-bright stars at evening and morning. Sometimes you get those news reports that THIS star or THIS comet is going to appear fifty times bigger than usual, and I look and I can’t discern any difference. But that star in the west last evening, and one in the east this morning were so incredibly large and bright. I wonder if it’s a function of my aging eyesight? No matter. It’s compelling.
2. Driving into the Solstice sun this morning. The sky was like a gentle watercolor painting.
3. Waiting quietly in this space at the edge of the void, a moment between moments. Stepping into time outside of time.  Walking over the Dreamtime Bridge.
4. Approaching a time of rest.
5. The people who get it. Today I read a Jan Richardson poem to my classes, and I posted a picture of Richardson on the Smart Board that included a statement about “Seeking the thin places that exist between heaven and earth.” One of my students, who has some learning struggles, got really wide-eyed and said, “I like that poem-thing you have up on the board there. It’s like when you go to a place with a lot of history, like caverns, that you know have been there since before people were around, and it feels like heaven is right there.”  What a wise, intuitive boy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Invisible as Wind


Today’s Tiny Tale:

There once was a boy who could become invisible as the wind. He would vanish without a word, without leaving a trail, and slip through the cracks in the walls, underneath doors, between lines of lazy type across a page.

Gratitude List:
1. Sundogs
2. The robust and muscular figure of a hawk in a skeletal winter tree
3. Stories
4. Snuggly cat
5. Sleeping and dreaming. This is the season.

May we walk in Beauty!

Questioning the Wolf

Little Red
I am a big fan of reinterpreting the wolf, of finding new ways to look at fairy tales. I think that’s one of the great beauties of fairy tales: like dream images, they can hold so many meanings, so many messages. I need my wolf today to be as big and scary as the messages from last night’s dream. I need Little Red to be little and solid as she confronts the creature. (This image is all over the internet, but I cannot seem to find the author’s name, or I would gladly give credit. I would like to see more work by this artist.)

In recent years, my most difficult dreams have been those disturbing anxiety dreams where I can’t find my classroom or I am totally unprepared or I can’t find clothes that fit. It’s been years since I had one of those dreams that wakes you up, paralyzed and sweating, unable to move anything but your eyeballs, months since I have had one of the ones that leave me with disturbing, haunting images that I can’t get out of the back of my head.  This morning, I woke up with an adrenaline shot and a searing image from one of those.

Isn’t that the funny thing about dreams? The lovely ones, the weird ones, the ones that feel like they have thoughtful messages–those I need to capture and hold onto with pen and paper the second I open my eyes, or they’re gone like frost crystals in the morning sun, dissipated like a mist. But the ones that pierce and hurt, the images that haunt and ache, that tell you the stories of your deepest, most panicky fears–those live on like a bad smell, like a poison ivy rash.

I know last night’s dream had messages for me. I used every technique I could think of to erase the image, and it isn’t holding such power over me as it did in the panicky moment of waking, though it’s still there, lurking. Now is the time to look back at it from this slightly safer distance and ask it what it wants to tell me. I am Little Red Riding Hood talking to the Wolf, Vassilissa in the house of Baba Yaga.

Gratitude List:
1. The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen.  How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.
2. History. How we live into it today, wear it like a scarf over the clothes of this moment. Not just our own personal history, but deep history, the history of our ancestors, our nations, our idealistic and philosophical and spiritual pathways.
3. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s revolutionary stuff. I keep coming back to it, seeing it with fresh eyes. One of my favorite poems. One of my favorite spiritual growth essays. One of my favorite revolutionary treatises. It’s all in there.
4. Butterflies! Everywhere. They’re just everywhere. Monarchs flit along the highways and down the River. The swallowtails drift across the hollow all day long. I wish I could see a residual image of their pathways. I bet they’ve flown an intricate dreamcatcher across our life here, a web. (Perhaps it was that dream catcher that caught this morning’s fearsome nightmare before it could settle too deeply.)
5. Cooler days are coming.  Which is a thinly veiled complaint about the current heat. It bothers me so much more than it used to. So I will live with the happy thought of cool autumn days and chilly nights with a warm quilt.

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.

Encountering Mystery

lily pond

Today’s gratitude list is unashamedly entirely based in the natural world, though perhaps I am speaking of other things as well, as is so often the case, even when I don’t know it.  I find that often the things that catch my attention in waking life are not so far distant from the mythic images and ideas that meet me in the dream world. There are layers of meaning in those images, ideas reaching out to be met and understood. What if we were to see the wakeful, open-eyed world in the way we looked at the dream-world? As though it were a place to encounter Mystery, as if each moment were an opportunity to be spoken to by the sentient soul of creation, which some people call Goddess or God, which I often call Mystery or Beauty (I recently discovered that naturalist John Muir did the same).

In this recent post on her blog, psychologist Sharon Blackie quotes James Hillman: “Psyche, Hillman said, is not in us; we are in psyche. And I believe that if psyche is shaped by myth, by mythical images and symbols, then myth is not in us: we are, in some deep and indefinable sense, in myth. ‘It is not we who imagine, but we who are imagined.’ What if we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us?” I love this.  Can you sense Myth, Mystery, God/dess, Beauty, imagining you, offering you a hand at every turn, inviting you to See, to Experience, to Encounter?

The dream worker Toko-pa Turner, in this blog post, titled “Courting the Mystery” (in which she, too, quotes Hillman) writes, “I believe one of the great challenges of our time is our coming back into relationship with mystery. Rather than making an expectation of our needs being met, let us make a courtship of that which we admire. Let us make our lives alluring enough that the mystery might become curious of us! Let us stand with a respectful distance and make an invitation of ourselves, such that wildness might decide to approach us. Let us find ways to pray ourselves to the forest, even when we hear nothing back. Let us keep returning to that silence and allow ourselves to be shaped by our yearning for answers.”

Sometimes prayer is simply the act of paying attention, of noticing the way the world calls out to us, begs for us to respond and interact and participate.  Yesterday was full of those moments for me, those callings, those shining yearning standing-in-the-doorway holy places. And I didn’t go out searching. There they were to be grasped, between the moments of bickering children, of making plans for my coming year, of getting the quotidian work done.

Now the trick is to find them even when the butterflies aren’t flying, even when the hummingbird is not dipping her head to look at me from her nest, even when the day is grey or hot, even when I am emotionally drained or angry or frightened. Beauty is still there.  Mystery is always surrounding us, just waiting to be noticed.

Gratitude List:
1. Listening to the bluebirds welcoming the morning, the song sparrow, the surrounding chorus of birds, the various clubs of cicadas powering up their drones from several corners of the hollow, and suddenly, like a shift in air pressure, the dzip-dzip-thrrrim-dzip of the hummingbird finding the perfect angle into her bottlecap of a nest.
2. Indigo buntings calling to each other across the fields.
3. Monarch and swallowtail and buckeye. Did I say monarch? Yeah, I saw one, dipping her fiery wings as she surfed a breeze over the pear orchard toward me, and it made my heart happy. So happy.
4. So many tiny frogs on the lily pads on the pond, yeeping in terror when we walked too close, croaking in the rushes. The air above the pond was electric with the movement of dragonflies and damselflies darting, and tiny frogs hopping across the lily pads.  And further up, the swallowtails made lazy lines and loops in the sunshine, spiraling all the way to the top of the tallest poplar.  I must have seen two dozen or more yellow swallowtails at the pond yesterday.
5. Watching the bat again, darting impossibly fast in her circling beneath the poplar and sycamore trees. She was so quick, my eyes couldn’t scan her. I could imagine she was winking in and out between worlds. At one point, she came and circled twice around Joss and me where we were standing snuggling. So add to this one the wonder on a small boy’s face at being recognized by a bat in flight.

In Beauty may we walk.

How He Sees Himself

How he sees himself
How he sees himself. (The children have been experimenting with the Dreamscope app.)

Today is going to be a departure.  I’m going to post a recipe.  The idea was that I was going to use whatever I could find from our farm share extras table to make a pasta dish, and I wanted to use up the leftover bechamel sauce from an experiment.  I think you could easily mix and match whatever veggies you have on the counter or in the freezer.  This is a good way to work with the veggies in a CSA share. Had I know that someone would leave their broccoli share, I would have added some of that, too.  The only vegetable that did not come from Goldfinch Farm was the onion, which was an aromatic and juicy vidalia.  I have been chopping my vegetables quite finely lately, because the children find it more of a bother to push them to the sides when we are eating.

Jon has been buying hearty pastas: orecchiette and casareese have been our favorites.  I chose the casareese for last night’s supper, but any favorite pasta would do, I think.  I did like the sturdiness of this pasta in last night’s dinner.

It takes three different pans, which is the biggest drawback to this, but they all cleaned up quickly. The process sounds a little complicated, but it did not take long.

Here is what I used:
2 Tbsp. butter, for sauteeing vegetables (you could use your oil of choice instead)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. cumin (or whatever amount you want)
2 red peppers, finely chopped (green would do)
1 generous handful green beans, chopped
2 summer squash, chopped (I used one green and one yellow)
salt, pepper

2 garlic scapes, minced (garlic cloves would work, too)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour (I used white bread flour for this)
2 c. milk (I tend to use less milk than it calls for)
3/4 c. cheddar cheese, grated
salt, pepper
dash of chili powder
dash of paprika
leaves of three sprigs of fresh basil, minced

1 box casareese pasta (or another favorite)

Large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (we use sungolds, or chopped fresh large tomatoes would work, too)

Chop and prepare veggies.
Cook the pasta according to directions. While the water is heating, begin cooking the veggies.

In a large, sturdy frying pan, heat butter. When bubbly, add onion.  Sprinkle on a bit of salt, and cook until fragrant and almost translucent.  Add peppers and cumin.  Stir and cook a minute longer.  Add green beans and continue cooking on fairly low temp.  When green beans are softening, add squash, and cook until squash is just beginning to wilt.

For sauce, heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a small pan until bubbly.  Add garlic scapes, and stir until aromatic but not scorched. Add a little salt and pepper. Add flour to absorb the butter, and cook on low temp until it turns a gentle beige.  Slowly add milk, stirring after each quarter cup or so, smoothing and thickening at each step.  When all the milk has been smoothed in and sauce is thickening, stir in the chili powder and paprika, then the basil.  Turn off the burner, and fold in the cheese until it is melted throughout.

Toss pasta and vegetables with sauce.  Top each serving with several halved cherry tomatoes.

Gratitude List:
1. Bats! Flitting around in the gloaming, eating up those mosquitos.  Bats. They have changed their roosting spot this year, and I haven’t been able to see them almost daily like I have for the past couple summers.  But they’re still here.
2. Mimosa trees.  The colors keep coming.  I always think of Dr. Seuss when I see a mimosa tree in bloom.  I think the faeries are particularly fond of mimosa trees.  I know the pollinators are, and perhaps that’s the same thing.
3. Pollinators.  I have been sighing at the loss of the honeybee hives this year.  Both hives died out over the winter, and because we had initially planned not to farm this year, we did not rent another set.  I have noticed the scarcity of the Little Sisters this season.  Still, there are many others pollinators, busy in the flowers and the fields, happily abuzz.
4. Wings, feathers, flying things.  Which is to say, healing, on its way to so many whom I love.
5. The Dreammaker.  I think I will make a new doll to personify the dream-vision process.

May we walk in Beauty!

A Little Satisfaction


One of the words that came flying through the air to me while I was at the monastery was satisfaction.  One morning, I went out into the western cloister to write and watch the day.  I began brainstorming for a project that has been waiting within me like a seed, like an egg, like a cocoon.  The words and ideas started to come in a rush, then a flood.  I rode the wave for a while, and then I sat back and took a breath, and said, “This is so satisfying!”  Later that afternoon, it happened again as I was working on a series of collages.  I got so deeply involved in piecing images and words together that I stopped paying attention to what was in my head.  When I came back to myself, I again felt the word satisfaction bumping about inside my spirit.

What makes you satisfied? It’s not the same as happiness, I think–though being satisfied makes me happy.  For me, it’s the feeling of being in tune with my purpose, of being so involved in the moment that the voices are stilled, the voices that beg me to be this or that, to do more and better, to appear to be something I am not.

May some moment in your day bring you real satisfaction.  Let’s nurture those moments.

Gratitude List:
1. Memory
2. Dream
3, Vision
4. Aspiration
5. This Moment

May we walk in Beauty!

Pity Party

Leonardo da Vinci cat sketches.

In one dream, I am looking at a pile of wooden bits and pieces, sort of frustrated at the mess, when I realize that it’s all the parts to a spinning wheel, and a really fine wheel at that.  All I have to do is put it together.  (I think I should get out my spindle this summer.)

In another dream, I standing outside with friends when there is a shimmering in the air nearby, like some tiny creature slipping through the veil between worlds.  “That’s a hummingbird!” someone says.  We keep watching it flitting around.  It still looks more like a creature of faerie to me.

Today is a challenging Gratitude List.  I have been having an allergy-stricken pity party for the past 18 hours.  It’s hard to create a Gratitude List in the midst of self-pity.  I considered not even doing this this morning because this one–wracked as it is by self-pity–feels self-absorbed, but it is also part of my process of growing.  Perhaps this will help me to move beyond myself.

Gratitude List:
1. (What is comforting?) A snoogly kid next to me in the big chair.
2. (What is comforting?) Seven hours of not sneezing.
3. (What is comforting?) While the day ahead has lots of work, I can schedule it myself.
4. (What pleases you?) The green light of morning touching the tops of the trees in the hollow.
5. (What do you anticipate?) Rest, solitude, clear sinuses

May we walk in Beauty!

Camels on the Brain


My brain is all a-fuzz this morning.  It wants to keep attaching itself to that image from my dream last night, the one that kept me sleeping through the four o’clock hour (finally), of a camel lying in the bed of a truck, wearing sunglasses.  But I don’t have that manic inner edge on this sleepy morning that would enable me to make such a surreal poem.  Why don’t you try that one?  (Edit: Okay, so I did manage a little of that poem down below.)

Tomorrow is National Poem in Your Pocket Day, though your local town may have chosen a different day, so look it up.  Wrightsville is doing it on April 29.  But if you’re at my school, you need to have your poem ready to read to me tomorrow.  I will bring the chocolate.

I have five minutes for this poem:

The ghost of a dream
will inhabit the foggy
pathways of my brain
for ages.
I will spend today
driving to Kabul
behind a camel
or lurking in the hallways
of a grand hotel,
searching for lost memories.

Gratitude List:
1. Sleeping through four o’clock.  This is a big deal, and I am grateful, no matter how strange the dreams that accompanied that sleep.
2. Anticipating oriole.  Waiting for the orange flash and the whistle in the treetops.  Listen, listen and watch.
3. Inspiration.  Okay, it’s inspiration about how to introduce adjective clauses to the freshmen, but when that’s the soup you swim in, it’s pretty exciting to get a flash of inspiration.
4. Student poetry.  Yesterday the Creative Writers read their poetry out loud in class.  Actually, only a handful were brave enough to do it, but the ones that came out were wonderful, and at one point after one student had read her poem, I saw another student start to scribble furiously on his notebook.  Moments later, he raised his hand to read–he had just written a poem inspired by her poem.  And hers had been inspired by Robert Frost, so we left our own trails in those yellow woods.
5. Compassion.  How heart reaches to heart.  How a moment can suddenly turn to caring, to holding another.  I want to be more and more mindful of how a word or a gesture or a glance can turn a moment among people to an inner watchfulness, a heightened awareness of each others’ tender souls.

May we walk in Beauty!