The Dragon of Solstice


Not the clearest picture, perhaps. One of the riders in my car took it, and my camera doesn’t handle near-darkness very well. This was in the early stages of her metamorphosis. About five minutes later, she was looking more dragonish than ever.

Now we are several hours into Longest Night. Tomorrow, we begin the inward turn again. Now is the time to settle into the darkness. To breathe. To dream. To melt.

In my own sacred calendar, the night of Solstice begins the deepest dreamtime of the year, almost time out of time. From now until the first of the year, or until Epiphany, I will monitor and mine my dreams for the images that will guide me in the coming year. Already, my dreams have been tossing up some powerful images to begin the percolation.

May your dreams in this, the Longest Night, bring you peace and hope. May they invigorate and inspire and challenge you for the work ahead. For there is much work ahead. There will be need of wakefulness and wisdom.

Much Love and Beauty to you.

Gratitude List:
1. This evening on the way home from school, just as the sun was setting, and the day was opening the curtains into the Longest Night, a great dragon swept across the sky, casting its body from east, and around the bowl of sky, into the west. Its head lay directly in front of us, toward the setting sun. It had swallowed the sliver of a horned moon. If you weren’t looking closely, as we were, you might have taken it for a cloud. We decided that The Dragon of the Solstice was offering us a portent or a message for the dying year: Be fierce. Take up all the space you are given. Believe in miracles. Hold the Moon inside you.

2. The geese and little birds are crossing the sky these early mornings and late evening, like mysterious scripts that someone, certainly, will be able to read, but my eyes are not trained to interpret this alphabet. Still, like Korean or Chinese or Hindi or Arabic, it catches my eye and draws me in with the sense of the meaning that is there behind the lines, but to me is only Beauty.

3. I have many friends and beloveds who are perfectly yourselves. Divinely, wondrously, solidly, and delightfully yourselves. Where would I be without you, without your inspiration, without your challenges? You keep me honest. You help me to be my better self. So much of my own shine is reflection from you. You’re the moon I carry inside me.

4. Rage has lessons to teach me. I’ll try to be grateful now simply to know that, although it burns to carry those coals inside. Sometimes, I think I have learned the lessons–the vocabulary, the angles and calculations, the social history, the science–of rage, but then I find myself back in the primary class. It takes some of us a little longer to learn. I will be patient with myself.

5. I have a class of quite energetic, distractible students who have experienced a high degree of frustration with the subject at hand. Often, the most carefully-planned lessons fall flat, but they can’t handle too much spontaneity, either. I really need to work hard with them on writing, and I have been nervous about that for several reasons. One boy often freezes when I ask them to write. Another can’t handle silent, quiet work and creates so many distractions the others can’t work.

Still, I decided that yesterday I would give them five prompts and have them write about one or more for the whole period. With only one exception, they got to work with a will, several of them asking if they could write whatever they wanted instead of the prompts. I had them share their documents with me, and I would check in on them, offering comments and responses on their documents. At the end of the period, they begged for another day of writing.

Today, we wrote again, for the whole period. Some incredible stories are emerging. We’re doing absolutely no editing at this point, and things are pretty raw, but it will give us something to work on in the next step. The only student who couldn’t handle it yesterday came in today with a page and a half that he’d written between yesterday’s class and today. Everyone buckled down and wrote today. They begged for a third day of writing.

I am going to tempt the magic for one more day. Then we may have to move to other things: some more direct work on the basic grammar and sentence structure points, and other sorts of literacy and fluency work.

I am grateful for moments of magic in the classroom.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Bubble Dragon

I wrote this last year, and it’s even more true today, if that’s possible:
“You know that exercise you do, where you list 12 famous people, dead or alive, that you would invite to dinner? I always loved that, seating Joan of Arc next to Harriet Tubman and Hildegarde of Bingen next to Starhawk. I love to ponder such conversations.

“Still, lately the table I fantasize about setting includes many more than 12, and all of you are living souls whom I know here in this space. Many of you I have never met in person, in this lifetime at least, and some of you I see rarely or never anymore, but I treasure who we have been together, and I am grateful for re-connection here in this place. Oh, how we would laugh and talk and sing and weep and eat until the wee hours if we were to set such a table. We’d need a many-day feast, I think.

“Thank you for being my friends.”
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“One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people – a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lilian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousand of leaves tremble! What a life is ours! Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?” —Mary Oliver
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“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
—John Keats
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“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”
—Rumi
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“My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: ‘We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.’” —Mother Jones
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“Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” —Franklin Roosevelt


Gratitude List:
1. Wise friends
2. Thoughtful teenagers
3. Real, actual compassionate souls
4. Eggs on toast–comfort food
5. Sweater weather

May we walk in Beauty!

Dear Friends


Lime-kiln on the bike path, and bikes in the truck (no more little kid bikes)
I posted this poem on this day last year, after a magical evening with a community of people who have held each other and listened to each other and played together for thirty years:

“Try this:
Sit in a circle at dusk with people you love.
Let it be when the swifts are flying.
Let there be a catbird with a whiskery voice in a spruce tree.
Speak your stories into the bowl of the space between you:
stories like a rich meal, the bitter, the savory, the sweet.
Let it get dark. The darkness will listen, too.
You can hear people listening when you speak in the dark.
You may light a candle if you have a candle.
Laugh together. Cry.
Let there be occasional questions,
occasional grunts, occasional exclamations of oh-I-hear-that!
Make a meal of the stories before you,
and eat your fill. Be nourished.
Be together in your stories.
Know that all these stories are your story, too.
Let there be a benediction,
words sung or spoken into the full dark,
accompanied by the chittering of bats,
good words to keep you always
in this circle where you belong.”
Beth Weaver-Kreider


“Each of us faces a time when the holy well within needs tending. When we’re no longer able to bestow blessings on others because we’ve overgiven, or when something precious has been taken from us, or life’s demands are too great on our fragile system. But when the moisture goes out of our lives, and we’re no longer able to see beauty or converse with magic, we must ask ourselves how we can replenish our well-ness.” – Dreamwork with Toko-pa
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“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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“We never belonged to you. / You never found us. / It was always the other way round.” –Margaret Atwood
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“Would you like to have an adventure now, or would you like your tea first?” –JM Barrie
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“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Zora Neale Hurston
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“…The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth…” -Carl Jung
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“Listen. . .with the ear of your heart.” –The Rule of St. Benedict
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“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” –Malala Yousufzai


Gratitude List:
1. Biking in the woods with my boys–yes, again. Cool under the trees, cooler crossing the creeks.
2. That new vacuum cleaner! We can see how much dust is picked up when we vacuum a room. Thank you, Linda!
3. Sharing quiet moments in the morning with a smallish boy
4. Peaches! And ice cream.
5. The trees in the holler that help to keep the coolness in

May we walk in Beauty!

Green Tara


Two years ago, I spent some time meditating in an alcove at the Jesuit Center where Green Tara rested beneath a painting of the Madonna. Last year, she wasn’t there. This year, I am going to search for her again.

Today’s Quotes:
Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
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“We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit.”
—Audre Lorde
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“Acknowledging our love for the living world does something that a library full of papers on sustainable development and ecosystem services cannot: it engages the imagination as well as the intellect. It inspires belief; and this is essential to the lasting success of any movement.” —George Monbiot


Gratitude List:
1. (What wakes you up?) Stiff, aching muscles from a 2.5-mile walk with my youngster yesterday. While the increasing aches of aging are challenging for me, this stiff-and-soreness is because of a delightful walk in the evening, where we just kept going. “Shall we see where the road construction began? Why don’t we just walk up Poff Road now?”
2. (What inspires you?) The friend who keeps running, keeps walking, keepings signing up for those half-marathons. Reading last year’s reflections on an educational seminar I took.
3. (What catches your eye?) Daylily, Chicory, and Queen Anne’s Lace are a-bloom again. Contrasting colors of orange and blue, and that lacy white among them.
4. (What keeps you in the moment?) The oriole calling from the honey locust trees by the parking lot.
5. (What draws you into the future?) Yesterday’s conversation with a teacher friend about the past year, about what sort of teachers we want to be. The gangly growth spurts of my children. The anticipation of next weekend’s solitude retreat.

May we walk in Beauty!

Wise Folk

barntreeGratitude List
1.
Today when I got home from school, Joss and I spent some time outside. We played tag: I don’t really run–I just wait around until he can’t stand it and comes in close enough for me to pounce on him. Then he played in the sandbox while I lay down on the driveway and looked up into the trees. I tried some odd-angle panoramas to try to get a sense of the vast feeling of trees and sky above. I like the way this one turned out, with the barn below and that shine above.

2.
Today we had an all-school assembly, a further discussion of race and racism, this one based on students’ (and some teachers’) experiences of racism, both personal and what they’ve observed. Some students and teachers told their own stories, and others read stories written by others. Some teachers reflected on the construct of race and the history of racism in the US. More than anything, I was struck by the deep love and tenderness and vulnerability of the speakers. I am proud of these folks, proud of these students who took the lead and worked together to craft this fine program, proud of my colleagues who created the space for student voices to shine, proud of the polite and thoughtful listeners in the space. May we continue to learn and grow together, to listen, to speak up and out.

3.
Jon made the most amazing re-fried beans tonight. Re-fried beans can sometimes be a tasteless mush, but these are really delicious.

4.
This is the beginning of a three-day weekend.

5.
I have such incredibly wise and compassionate and thoughtful and activist friends. Last night I posted some thoughts on Facebook, wondering whether it’s possible to find common vocabularies across political lines. After school today, when I went to check my page, there were dozens of incredibly thoughtful and wise responses. I am blessed in friends. Many of my friends are people I have never met, but people who have enriched my life deeply through these discussions, who have helped me to keep my mind open and my thinking fluid.

So much Love. May we walk in Beauty!

My Christmas Wish

december-2007b-040

It’s been a while since I have seen a fox. At least a year, I think. My Christmas wish is that sometime in the next week while I am at home, I will see another fox.

Gratitude List:
1. Long, long friendships
2. Strangers working together to help a frightened dog–we stopped on busy Route 30 this afternoon to help a German Shepherd who was running back and forth between the lanes. She was terrified, and didn’t know what to do. Eastbound traffic stopped, but the westbound folks couldn’t seem to get it together. When she saw me coming toward her, her ears perked up and she ran to me, but even so, Jon and I had to sort of herd her off of the road, she was so scared. Two other cars stopped, and they called the vet number on the tags and one very level-headed woman who lived nearby took her home until she could get in touch with her owners.
3. Making Christmas. Making Yule.
4. All the goodness that is being born into the world
5. Highway hawks, the sun on their feathers

May we walk in Beauty!

Helpful Friends

imag2122
Poor little Pippi encountered a deer in the morning gloaming on Ducktown Road yesterday. She’ll be out of commission for a little while.

Gratitude List:
1. Neither Ellis nor I were hurt in the collision. I am not so sure about the other guy, a large (8-point, perhaps?) buck. I thought he was dead. He just lay there where he had fallen, under the guard rail, but just as I had collected myself enough to think about getting out to check on him, he leaped up and dashed into the woods. Poor guy. I hope he survived.
2. Friends who help in a time of crisis. Julie Flinchbaugh, for comforting us and giving Ellis some apple cider. Erin Darby, who drove the carpool to Lancaster on a moment’s notice. Jon, who was my telephone anchor–I kept calling him because I didn’t know what to do. My parents, who gave us their second car while Pippi Prius is at the Dentist. (This is one of our favorite puns. Not only is she having her dents repaired, but the owner/operator of the garage that takes care of our vehicles is our neighbor, Den.  Den-dent-dentist: get it?)
3. Restorative conversations. This morning I get to help with a restorative conference at school. I went into the Restorative Circle training a couple weeks ago with a little trepidation, worried that my anxieties about conflict would keep me from really being able to do this kind of work. This morning, I feel really ready to participate, to ask questions, to help facilitate this conversation. I am eager to be part of this kind of work.
4. Flaming trees. They say that the color will be sort of “meh” this season, after the summer’s dry weather, but the maples didn’t get the memo. They’re pulling out the stops.
5. Yesterday’s singing in chapel. We sang “Tu Eres Todopoderoso,” a song from Mennonite World Conference. I love that song.

May we walk in Beauty!

Waiting for a Heart

Heart

My friend Kyla was to have heart surgery today to implant a ventricular assist device, but she’s developed an infection, and will have to put off the surgery. Meanwhile, she waits for a new heart for a heart transplant.  Today her friends are wearing purple to support her.

Gratitude List:
1. Laughing with friends gathered on a hillside. Children (and adults, too!) whizzing down a waterslide. Good food and conversation.
2. Singing together. Blended harmonies.
3. Community conversations. Bringing up the topics that we’re sometimes too uncomfortable to talk about.
4. Feathers. Every day a feather or two or three.
5. Waking up.  And waking up.

May we walk in Beauty!

Almost Paradise

almost paradise

What a gift it is to have lifetime friends, people you can sit with and say, “Remember when you said. . .?  Remember what she did. . .?  Remember how he used to always. . .?”

People you can look in the eye and see not only a reflection of who you are in this moment, but also a reflection of who you have been–a year ago, five, ten, twenty.

People who know too much about you, who remember you before you settled adulthood’s masks into place, and they still love you, love you more for who you’ve been and who you’ve become.

People you can look at and see the butterfly of the now, but in whom can you identify the caterpillar of the past–and you love the butterfly, and the caterpillar, too.

People who know just which questions to ask.

People who help you live in this moment–with their laughter, their thoughtful eyes, their conversation.  People who draw you into the realm of memory.  People who help you envision the future.  People who help you to live in all those layers at once.

Gratitude List:
1. Living in those layers of time (past, present, future) with people I love and trust
2. People who know my warts and rough edges and love me anyway
3. The way the next generation at reunions also gathers with ease and comfort, enjoying each other
4. Peaches and ice cream
5. Crisp, cool mornings

May we walk in Beauty!

Livin’ in an Amish Paradise

Amishparadise
Spending the weekend with college friends at the Amish Paradise Vacation Home in Leacock, PA.  I feel like a tourist in my own territory.  It’s like we’re all one family gathered at Grandma’s house for the weekend, only there’s no common Grandma.

Gratitude List:
1. (What do you hear?) A rooster singing morning matins. Chickadee.  Cars out on 30.  Whoosh of an early morning biker.
2. (What is satisfying?) Sitting around the dining room table like we used to do, how the conversation just gets going, the serious ideas, the laughter, the kids.
3. (What do you see?) Coppery leaves of maple, shining green eyes of my early morning companion.
4. (Where does hope reside?) In re-framing the conversations.  In holding willfully and fiercely to hopes and ideals and dreams of what-may-be.
5. (What are the words for the day?) Memory, laughter, love, children, conversation, listening, friendship, family.

May we walk in Beauty!