Lift Up Your Faces

“Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.” —Maya Angelou
*
“With dreamwork, we are endlessly tenderising ourselves to subtletly. When we begin to know its dimensions, pain can no longer envelop us in an indistinct mass. It’s not that we are ridding ourselves of suffering, but rather learning its name, which is the prelude to befriending it.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
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Humility
by Mary Oliver
Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.
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“On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree.” —W. S.Merwin
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“Nature never repeats itself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton
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“All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” —Kabir
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Mirabai Starr said, “Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens. Poets speak truth in a very naked way that bypasses the rational mind. Poetry evokes, rather than describes.”
*
Kathleen Norris writes, “Poets understand that they do not know what they mean, and that is their strength. . . . Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the limits of language, and our knowing, and are dependent on our senses to ‘know’ for us.”
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“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estés
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“Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed can keep millions of people from starvation. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the world’s future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred…”
—His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
*
I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing–
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones–
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.

I want to stay clear in your sight.
I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.
—Rainer Maria Rilke


Gratitude List:
1. Teenagers: Asking open, thoughtful questions. Offering deep honesty. Sharing stories.
2. Cats. I know I am obsessed with the cats these days, but they really are caretakers of the soul of a home, and these two are settling into their role beautifully. (Though it can be a little hard to sleep with one on my chest and the other on my feet. I am a tosser and turner.)
3. Did I say teenagers? The energy of this UNICEF club at school, young people who are eager and intent to make a difference, to help a hurting world. They teach me so much about jumping in with an open heart.
4. October morning mists. Surreal and magickal. Moody.
5. Feathers. Guardian angels. Reminders to fly. Messages from Spirit. Invitations to stand in the presence of Beauty.

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!

Remembering How to Fly

“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
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“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'” –Kurt Vonnegut
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“I know there are people who don’t read fiction at all, and I find it hard to understand how they can bear to be inside the same head all the time.”  ― Diane Setterfield
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“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”  ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
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“A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.” ― Diane Setterfield
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(Yesterday, my friend Christi sent me this exquisite poem)
A Small, Soft Feather
by Joyce Rupp

a small, soft feather,
still warm
from bluebird’s wing,
falls onto the receptive
forest floor.

lightly it lands
under a thick-branched oak;
quietly it waits,
unnoticed, unattended,

until a sister of earth pauses,
beckoned by a flutter
of unseen energy.
she bows her kindled heart

stoops ever so slowly,
and the remnant of the blue bird
comes home
to her generous hand.

days later another earth sister
opens an envelope;
resting inside, waiting,
is the blue of sky
in shape of a feather.

from warm wing
to great oak,
to earth sister
to friend,

comes the soft blue signal,
and in a sparkle of recognition
a woman, weighed down
with too many wants,
remembers how to fly.


Gratitude List:
1. One of the four major projects that 3rd graders do at Wrightsville Elementary is a report on an African American historical figure. Josiah had already decided that he wanted to do his report on Ruby Bridges. But we watched “Hidden Figures” last night, and he thinks he might do his report on Katherine Johnson. Can’t go wrong either way.
2. Goldenrod
3. Saturday morning with a talkative boy and a playful cat
4. Walnut leaves dancing down the wind. Mabon approaches.
5. Words

May we walk in Beauty!

Stargazer

stargazer
Nancy’s stargazer lily will not let you enter the house without Noticing.  She shines in the sun, and her scent grabs you and holds you. I think she likes the backdrop of Nancy’s purple step rail.

Bean Patch Yoga

We will call this asana the suspended downward dog.
Bend at the hips.  Keep your back as straight as you can.
Sweep the bush to the left.
Pick. Breathe. Toss.
To the right.  Pick-breathe-toss.
Shuffle forward, keeping your core muscles tight.
Sweep left-pick-breathe-toss.  Right-pick-breathe-toss.
Shuffle-pick-breathe, shuffle-pick-breathe.
Stop. Drop your arms,
and roll upward slowly,
vertebra by vertebra,
breathing in on a count of eight.
Breathe out and in, slowly, carefully.
Breathe into your back muscles.
Repeat this asana one hundred times.

Gratitude List:
1. Pounding rain
2. Last night, my dreams took me back to Africa and childhood
3. Stargazer lily
4. Synchronicity: In a conversation with a stranger, she spoke of her friendly and caring neighborhood.  Suddenly we were talking about people we know in common.
5. Feathers.  One Small Boy has begun to join me on the daily Noticing of feathers.  “Mom!  Here’s your feather for today!”  Every day.

May we walk in Beauty!

True Names

2013 April 004

I gave my students in Creative Writing an assignment to create a collage and then write a short story or poem or essay that was sparked by the images that came together.  The idea was to begin the semester by unhitching the horse of the brain from the writing process for a moment–letting the creative urge impel them–and also to get them working with images right away.

I haven’t taken a photo of my collage yet, but here is the poem I wrote in response to them (I always seem to make two collages at a time).  A friend of mine recently turned me on to Francisco X. Alarcon’s poetry (he died a couple days ago), and I am finding the simplicity of his work to be incredibly powerful.  I cannot quite get myself to simplify enough to really be Alarconesque, but it was a powerful poetic experience to work in his style.  Also, we have been working with models of professional writers as a way to spark creativity, and we were working with an Ursula Le Guin short story about True Names, and that also found its way into my poem:

fire and flight

after the fire
has kindled
within you
patient gestation
of coals beneath
your heart
between
your ribs

fire within you
fire in the earth
fire in the fruit
the egg
the seed

flames will burst forth
and you will rise

you will know
your wings
you will
open your feathers
catch the breezes

the old world
of magic and monsters
will fall away
below you

you will dance
on pillows of cloud
you will swim
in rivers of air

you will hear your
true name
in the voice
of the wind

Gratitude List:
1. The promise of snow.  (I know, it causes anxiety, too, not knowing what will happen, but I look forward to being cocooned in the house for a time.)
2. Making collage.  Perhaps it was an entirely personal agenda to give that assignment, but I had fun making my own collages.
3. Lights at ends of tunnels.
4. Taking root.  Taking flight.
5. True Names.  One of your True Names is Beloved.

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding Time, Staying Challenged

Not so much time for poems these days.  Hardly time to catch my breath for the gratitude lists.  All is well.  All is growing and changing.  Moving.  I am tired, so weary.  I am energized, so excited.  I feel competent and capable, but I am also humbled by the fact that I have so very much to learn.

Gratitude List:
1.  More feathers.  Two days ago, as I was walking out of school, I was thinking to myself that I hadn’t found a feather yet that day, and I thought perhaps the daily feather find was at an end.  I had it in my head, the actual words “There will be no more feathers.”  But there, on the sidewalk in front of me was yet another feather.  I have been telling my students that they get to make the meaning of their stories, and I told some of them about the feathers.  I can be the scientific naturalist and say that I find a feather every single day because there are owls in the trees at night eating little birds and crows fighting as they fly above my house and school.  I can say that the Universe is offering me little gifts to remind me that I have wings, that I can fly.  I can say that I just have keen eyes for feathers.  Whatever it is, I am really glad that they keep finding me.
2.  This is a weird one for a gratitude because it’s a difficult story.  But I learned this story this week about how a group of Prussian Mennonites, during WWII, actually sent a letter of support to Hitler.  It was chilling to hear how they unquestioningly thanked the fuhrer for his dedication to the “Fatherland” and to Christian principles.  So sobering.  And a good reminder to myownself to pay more attention to my commitment to my spiritual work than to the work of politics, to keep the political in the perspective of the spiritual.  I am grateful for reminders to be true to the deeper realities.
3.  The laughter of my new friends, my new colleagues.  Belly laughter builds community.  And after the in-breath of focused work together, we need the out-breath of laughter together.
4.  How sleep brings answers.  I went to bed last night anxious about the chapel service I have to prepare for school on Tuesday, not sure what I would say or how I would present my own story.  I woke up this morning knowing exactly (sort of) what I am going to say.
5.  Small kindnesses.  At the end of the day Thursday, I put two bags of trash at my classroom door so I would trip on them and remember to take them out to the big bins.  A student I have never met stopped and peeked in the room and asked it he should throw them away for me.  Little thing, but it made my day.  Probably my week, too.  Or semester.  

May we walk in Beauty!

Sentinels

Who will tell us who we are
when the voices of the trees are silenced?
Who will give us direction
when the sentinels of the forest
can no longer tell us the way?

 

Gratitude List:
1. Trees
2. Sushi–I am still enjoying the memory of Sunday’s lunch
3. Yesterday’s feathers.  I found three yesterday.  One on the ground, another simply resting in mid-air, caught between a spiderweb and a ray of sunshine, and the third a tiny feather floating down from the sycamore tree.  I caught that one before it hit the ground.
4. Easing into the transition
5. Yesterday’s visit from Mindy and Willow.  One of the children went off in a sulk, and when small Willow saw him again, she peered up into his face and said, “Are you better now?”

May we walk in Beauty!

Bats and Feathers

An extra bonus gratitude today.  Just because.

Gratitude List:
1.  My postcards have begun to arrive!  I joined a postcard poetry project for August, writing a poem a day on a postcard and sending it to some random person on a list.  And I get postcards, too.  Feel like I need to up my game a bit.  I wrote a few early so that people get theirs on or near the beginning of the month.  The ones I received yesterday were so brilliant!  I’ll probably share a few of mine in September.
2.  The feathers.  It happened last year, too–for at least a month, I would find one feather almost every single day.  This week I have begun finding them again, like they’re placed there for me to find.
3.  Summer suppers: corn and homemade bread and tomatoes and peach cobbler and watermelon.
4.  Visiting with friends I haven’t seen for a long time.  Shared memories, new stories, figuring out the world.
5.  Fidelity
6.  Bats flying overhead in the twilight, like a physical representation of the conversation happening on the ground.

May we walk in Beauty!

Five Sacred Elements

<Prompt 17: Write an element poem>

I call upon the air,
the breezy inspirations,
the winds that bring ideas,
that cut through the muddle
like a sword of sharp steel.

I call upon the fire,
the passion that ignites,
creative force that excites
the Muse and drives
the enterprise, the energy
that awakens the spirit.

I call upon the water,
deep peace and dream seeking,
realm of the heart, and
keeper of intuitions.
The flow and the flood,
the ocean around us.

I call upon the earth,
the ground of our being,
the rocks and the stones,
the caves, and the bones
of the ancestors.

I call upon center,
great mystery and spirit,
the hub and the wheel,
the home and the fulcrum,
the life-force, the bringer
of balance and union.

Gratitude List:
1.  That lunch.  Wow.  Good friends, never enough time for conversation, food from all over the world.
2.  Lifetime friends.
3.  Good singing
4.  Old Turtle
5.  Feathers.  No, stones.  Both.

May we walk in Beauty.

Word Play

I love anagrams.  You know, where you take a word, scramble the letters, and come up with another word?  Most of the times, there’s something poetic about the juxtaposition of two words that seem to be unrelated except for the accident of their having the same letters in various combinations.

VILE, EVIL, LIVE–that’s a simple trio, but isn’t there a funny little magic to it?  Why is it so satisfying?  Those first two are similar, and then *poof* you neutralize them with the third.  It’s sort of like a good haiku: Here’s an idea, here’s a similar idea, here’s a little bit of a surprise.

Just a vowel-step away, you have LOVE, VOLE, and that’s just cute.  And you can play a little with that because EVOL is the beginning of evolution, so there’s a whole new way to start a poem. . .

I’ve always been attached to the SANTA, SATAN acronym, because it feels sort of iconoclastic in a naughty schoolchild sort of way.

And I love the little ones that can just be twisted and turned inside out in all sorts of ways, RATS, STAR, ARTS, TARS, for example.

In longer words, I have a particular love of the ones that switch just a letter or two in the middle.  PRENATAL, PARENTAL, PATERNAL.  The first gives way to the other two.  I have slightly uncomfortable associations with the word paternal because it’s so close to paternalistic, but my own pater is a really amazing and wonderful person, so that redeems the word.  What I find really super-satisfying in this one is that prenatal makes use of a prefix, so it significantly reduces the possibility that they’re actually related in some obscure ancient Latin or Indo-European language.  Of course, it switches more letters than the others, so maybe it loses elegance points.

The next set does have some root relationship, but only in their prefix and ending.  CONSERVATION, CONVERSATION.  And we really do need to make sure that we’re having that particular conservation in these days, eh?  I had to pause before I typed that word to make sure I was getting the right one of the two.  Conserve, Converse.  Verse, Serve.  I should probably be less lazy and look up those roots.

I went to an Anti-GMO rally the other day and carried a sign I had made.  It reads: “Label GMOS: Our Food is Sacred.”  At one point during the rally, it hit me that an uncareful reader might think that I think our food is actually frightened of what is being done to it in labs.  Hmm.  SACRED, SCARED.  Are they opposites?  Not really, but they do sort of throw each other into relief.

(This last one feels like it wants to be a whole post itself, or a poem.  It’s what got me settling these words into the computer this morning.  Instead of a piece of inspiration, though, today you get a little glimpse of the classroom part of my brain.)

I wonder if there’s a term for this sort of anagram, the kind that just switches a couple letters in the middle, sort of like an internal Spoonerism.  I’m looking for others for my collection, if you have any to suggest.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  Lost is found
2.  Playing with words
3,  Sourdough bread (I have no Off button for sourdough bread, and may end up eating the whole loaf before my family wakes up this morning.)
4.  That marvelous Afghani supper my mom made for us last night.  (Hmmm. Perhaps I’ll stop with the sourdough bread and eat some of that for breakfast instead.)
5.   Feathers

May we walk in Beauty.