Situated in Time and Place


If you look really closely, there’s a message hidden in there.

I am re-posting this piece I wrote last year on this day. Reminding myself how the gratitude practice keeps me centered:

Working with gratitude helps me to situate myself in time and place.

During these times of reflection, I am often hyper-aware of being here in this moment, right here, where I listen to the birdnews of the moment, the sounds of the day waking up, the thumps and bumbles of the smallfolk upstairs waking up.

This moment, where I look around to see the way the sun leans in or yawns behind grey haze.
This moment when I sit in expectation of the bright yellow falling leaf, the flash of birdwing across my window, the way sun sparkles on spiderweb.
This moment, in which yesterday’s movement is written in the aches and quirks of my muscles, the curve of my spine.

From the anchor of this moment, reflecting on the list takes me backward and elsewhere, to the color and shape of yesterday, to the shining white pebbles of moments past. I can pick them up and examine them, say, this one and I remember. I can watch how those pebbles are spun into golden strands sustained over time: The presence of a tiny impossible bird in this span of days. The season of the tang of tomato and the sweetness of basil. The long lazy days spent with the exploring feet and minds of my children.

The dailiness of the list also takes me forward into time. This has become my homework, the job I carry with me into each day. It is one of the anchoring ropes which I hold as I step into uncertain future, feeling my way in the grey mist as I go. Stepping forward with the search for gratitude on the agenda means I must go with an open heart, an open mind, searching not only for things, for items to check off my list, but for connections. It means walking into the future as into a puzzle, looking for five pieces of the coming day that will help me to shape the meaning of the picture that surrounds me.

I have been wondering lately at how this has become a habit, how I feel anxious and unmoored if I miss my daily list. For years, it was a thing I would do on occasion, as the mood hit, but in the past several months, it has become a deeper spiritual practice. I shift it from time to time, asking myself questions, or writing the list as a poem. Still, instead of becoming boring or tedious, it has become ever more a place where I can talk to myself, remind myself who I am, where I am, what I am doing here.


Nigerian writer Ben Okri: “Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”
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“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?” —Siddhartha Gautama
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“The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, generous service to neighbor and the world.” —Richard Rohr
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“Only hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment.” —Richard Rohr
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From Garrison Keillor: “And it was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in warfare, and only the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. It was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning. It exploded 1,900 feet above the ground. Capt Robert Lewis watched the explosion from his cockpit and wrote in his journal, ‘My God, what have we done?'”


Gratitude List:
1. The voice of Rhiannon Giddens
2. The words of Wendell Berry
3. The wide world of Georgia O’Keefe
4. The enriching thought of Clarissa Pinkola Estes
5. The activism of Jane Goodall

May we walk in Beauty!

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The Breathing of Trees


Blues Brothers are too cool for the storm, at Jimmy Mack’s.

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” – Ray Bradbury
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“How do you think you’ll ever see the fairy underneath the flowers, if you never stop to notice the flowers themselves?” –Marie Winger, storyteller
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I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing Light of your Being. ~Hafiz
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“We do not become healers. We came as healers. We are. Some of us are still catching up to what we are. We do not become storytellers. We came as carriers of the stories we and our ancestors actually lived. We are. Some of us are still catching up to what we are.

We do not become artists. We came as artists. We are. Some of us are still catching up to what we are.

We do not become writers, dancers, musicians, helpers, peacemakers. We came as such. We are. Some of us are still catching up to what we are.

We do not learn to love in this sense. We came as Love. We are Love. Some of us are still catching up to who we truly are.”
~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
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“The need comes on me now
to speak across the years
to those who finally will live here
after the present ruin, in the absence
of most of my kind who by now
are dead, or have given their minds
to machines and become strange,
“over-qualified” for the hard
handwork that must be done
to remake, so far as humans
can remake, all that humans
have unmade. To you, whoever
you may be, I say: Come,
meaning to stay. Come,
willing to learn what this place,
like no other, will ask of you
and your children, if you mean
to stay. “This land responds
to good treatment,” I heard
my father say time and again
in his passion to renew, to make
whole, what ill use had broken.
And so to you, whose lives
taken from the life of this place
I cannot foretell, I say:
Come, and treat it well.”

by Wendell Berry
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“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”
— Desmond Tutu
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“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
— Dalai Lama
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“Something is out there,
just behind that veil of mist.
And why, O Traveler,
should you assume
it to be troublesome?”
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“You were wild once. Don’t let them tame you.”
–Isadora Duncan
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“If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.”
–Meister Eckhart
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“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” –Mahatma Gandhi


Gratitude List:
1.The fun of painting my son’s room yesterday
2. Being done with the painting
3. Dreaming of finding beautiful stones
4. Bridges
5. The breathing of trees

May we walk in Beauty!

A Circle of Beloveds


Interesting coincidence. I am in a hurry this morning, and I quickly found this photo to represent the feeling of being held in a circle of beloveds. Then I saw that I had used the exact photo on my blog on this day two years ago.

“God is not a celestial prison warden jangling the keys on a bunch of lifers–he’s a shepherd seeking for sheep, a woman searching for coins, a father waiting for his son.” ― Clarence Jordan
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“You think you are alive because you breathe air?
Shame on you, that you are alive in such a limited way.
Don’t be without Love, so you won’t feel dead.
Die in Love and stay alive forever.” —Rumi
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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.” ―John Dewey
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“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner
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“O Earth, that hast no voice, confide to me a voice!
O harvest of my lands! O boundless summer growths!
O lavish, brown, parturient earth! O infinite, teeming womb!
A verse to seek, to see, to narrate thee.”
―Walt Whitman
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“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ―Nelson Mandela
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“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” ―Stephen Jay Gould


Gratitude List:
1. A circle of Beloveds
2. The certainty of rain
3. Being ready to let go, but being given a little more time
4. Wisdom from the ages
5. A circle of Beloveds

May we walk in Beauty!

Make Your Own



    
I have heard of people having a make-your-own-pizza night, but last night was our first try. I set out a regular store-bought tomato sauce and a store-bought pesto, and I made up a sort of tapenade of black olives, dried sungold tomatoes, and basil. We chose which of those three we wanted, mixing and layering if we wanted. Then we had little bowls of chopped peppers, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, dill, basil, halved sungolds, slice black olives, and we topped them with shredded cheese. We will definitely be doing this again.


Another poem from last spring’s Creative Writing prompts (write about an element):
Golden
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

You’re golden, simply golden,
sunshine on a stick,
a priceless prize,
the treasure in the middle of the map,
a glorious X marking the spot,

which is you,
which has always been you,
just waiting patiently,
a box of surprises:
golden


“In order to arrive at what you are not you must go through the way in which you are not.”
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
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“We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.” —Richard Rohr
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“Whatever gets in the way of the work is the work.”
—Jason Shinder
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“An agricultural adage says the tiny animals that live below the surface of a healthy pasture weigh more than the cows grazing above it. In a catalogue selling composting equipment I read that two handfuls of healthy soil contain more living organisms than there are people on the earth. What these beings are and what they can be doing is difficult to even begin to comprehend, but it helps to realize that even though they are many, they work as one.”
—Carol Williams
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“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” —Flannery O’Connor
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“I don’t know about you, but I didn’t become an environmentalist because someone made a rational argument that convinced me that the planet was in danger. I became an environmentalist out of love and pain: love for the world and its beauty and the grief of seeing it destroyed. It was only because I was in touch with these feelings that I had the ears to listen to evidence and reason and the eyes to see what is happening to our world. I believe that this love and this grief are latent in every human being. When they awaken, that person becomes an environmentalist.” —Charles Eisenstein
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“You can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools.” —Audre Lorde


Gratitude List/Examen:
1. (What has awakened you?) The increasingly familiar ache of muscles and joints, the streaming of sunlight into the hollow, the comfortable presence of a small boy, love
2. (How have you encountered Mystery?) The communication that happens between humans and animals. The moment of awareness, of recognition.
3. (What has given you cause for wonder?) Roadside flowers: toadflax, mullein, St. John’s wort, Queen Anne’s lace, purple clover, vetch, buttercup, chicory. So many colors and textures to the weaving.
4. (What has nudged you forward?) Past pains, not wanting the future to be like certain parts of the past. I struggle with this answer. I know it finds me in a caught and immature place. Still, part of what helps me to be a better person is acknowledging past failures so I can amend them for next time, and in these days as I prepare for the coming school year, I need to think about what I managed poorly so I can prepare myself to manage well.
5. (What do you offer the day?) More holding, more noticing, more listening. Laughter. I will find laughter in the day. Also, twinkling eyes–I will seek out twinkles. (This was last year’s answer, and I find it good for today as well.

May we walk in Beauty!

We’re Not Alone


I haven’t seen any toads this year.

I wrote this on a Gratitude List last year:
“We are not alone. The world gets so heavy sometimes, but it’s at the heavy times that you can look around you and see all the people who are stepping out to the front to get the Work done. Sure, there’s a lot of fluffy and ranty clamor that distracts, but keep your eyes and ears open. They’re there, stepping into the fray, holding people, presenting clear and thoughtful ideas, loving their neighbors and the world. Often, they’re keeping their mouths shut, though sometimes they are the ones writing cogent and articulate pieces that help to shape the conversation. Listen and watch. The Workers are out there.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“To disobey in order to take action is the byword of all creative spirits. The history of human progress amounts to a series of Promethean acts. But autonomy is also attained in the daily workings of individual lives by means of many small Promethean disobediences, at once clever, well thought out, and patiently pursued, so subtle at times as to avoid punishment entirely.” —Gaston Bachelard
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“Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” ― Linda Hogan (Always a favorite)


Gratitude List:
1. Being in a body. Sensory experiences. I think we have more than five senses. I remember talking about this with Ellis when he was five. I think he came up with twenty or so. Sense of direction. Sense of individual self. Sense of heat. Sense of impendingness. . . What other senses have you honed?
2. Ice Cream. Even while I am trying to be a little careful in my middle age about what I eat, I cannot give up ice cream, especially when it’s Turkey Hill’s Natural Homemade Vanilla. This sounds like an ad. Sorry. But there are only four ingredients! I could eat it for breakfast.
3. Tomatoes. And basil. And dill. The flavors of summer.
4. Having too much to do is better than being bored.
5. Speculative fiction: how it makes me look at what it means to be human, what it means to exist in the context of human society

May we walk in Beauty!

Wish I Were

Here’s a silly something I wrote during a Creative Writing prompt moment this past spring. The prompt was to write a poem beginning “I wish I were. . .”

I wish I were a buzzard,
I wish I were a mouse,
I wish I were a weasel
in a little weasel house.

I wish I knew the story
of the ancient wise baboon
who sailed across the desert
in a rainbow-hued balloon.

I wish I knew the secrets
of a hive of busy bees
or how a goat walks forward
on her backward-facing knees.

I wish I were an elephant,
I wish I were a wren,
I wish I were a weasel
in a weasel’s house again.

I wish I were an octopus
hiding deep in coral caves.
I wish I were an astronaut
afloat in outer space.

Today I am an aardvark
slipping silently through time,
and everything I write
is coming out in rhyme.


Rob Brezsny ft. Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“Devote yourself to your heart’s desire with unflagging shrewdness. Make it your top priority. Let no lesser wishes distract you. But consider this, too. You may sabotage even your worthiest yearning if you’re maniacal in your pursuit of it.

Bear in mind the attitude described by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”: “All that you are seeking is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.”

Speculate on what exactly that would look like in your own life. Describe how your heart’s desire has been waiting for you, seeking you.”
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“Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.”
― Robert Hass, Field Guide
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“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett
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“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”
― Walt Whitman
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“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


Gratitude List:
(based on Mary Oliver’s Gratitude Poem)
1. What did you notice?
The blue eye of chicory everywhere along the roadsides
2. What did you hear?
Children singing, children laughing, birds always calling
3. What did you admire?
The golden shine of those lilies, how they seem to shine from within
4. What astonished you?
That Wren wove a snake skin into her nest
5. What would you like to see again?
The hummingbird darting through the upper branches of the sycamore
6. What was most tender?
A small boy and his elderly cat
7. What was most wonderful?
Oh, all of it was wonderful. The breezes that wove through it all, they were wonderful.

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!

Now We Begin Again


The secret of the Universe.

A somewhat random assortment of quotations for a Monday morning:
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ― Anne Lamott
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“[E]ducation is not just about utilizing a particular curriculum, or ensuring that critical reflection in a community follows a particular formula. It is full of intangible and random events. It is not just taught in the classroom, but lived in the midst of the community in ways that are not even fully quantifiable.”  ―M.S. Bickford on the educational theories of John Westerhoff
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“The trouble with trouble is, it starts out as fun.” ―Anonymous
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“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time…give it, give it all, give it now.”
— Annie Dillard
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“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
— Leymah Gbowee
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“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.” — Wangari Maathai
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“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.”
— Wangari Maathai


Gratitude List:
1. First CSA Day of the Season! Today is First Harvest. We spent hours yesterday getting the market room ready. I took a mop to the walls. I need to make an offering to Athena again–the poor spiders had their lives severely disrupted. I actually need to run out somewhere this morning and get a new drive belt for the vacuum cleaner, which I severely overworked. But we’re essentially ready! The curtain is rising on the 2017 production of Goldfinch Farm CSA.
2. Good exercise. Every day, for the past three days, I have awakened with a much greater level of stiffness and ache, but it’s all from the increased exercise of summer. I should plan now for how to maintain that in the coming school year.
3. I am holding someone else’s good news like a secret and precious gem. Not my story to tell, not yet.
4. Feeling like I am getting organized. I am a conundrum. I love to be organized. I love spaces and datebooks and thoughts that are carefully and neatly arranged, but my world tends to fall rapidly toward chaos and mess. Right now, I am finding energy for the creation and maintenance of organized datebook and thoughts. Perhaps the physical spaces will follow, too. getting that market room ready yesterday was a help.
5. Weaving stories together.

May we walk in Beauty and Love.

Work, Bread, Water, and Salt

Quotes for the day:
“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”
~ Nelson Mandela
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“The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people.
The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.”
— Eric Hoffer
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“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
— John Muir
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“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”
— Walter Lippmann
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“There is a geometry of art as there is a geometry of life, and, as the Greeks had guessed, they happen to be the same.” — Matila Ghyka
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“We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of this world — as far as we can grasp it…”
— Albert Einstein
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“One of [the brain’s] functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary, and turn the unusual into the usual.
Otherwise, human beings, forced with the daily wondrousness of everything would go around wearing a stupid grin, saying “WOW” a lot.
Part of the brain exists to stop this happening. It is very efficient and can make people experience boredom in the middle of marvels.”
—  Sir Terry Pratchett


Gratitude List:
1. One boy loves to browse antique stores. While shopping isn’t my most favorite thing to do, I love walking through antique stores watching him discover old things. Yesterday the fun treasure was a coffee table someone had made from a ship’s hatch found on the Ocean City beach in the 1970s.
2. The Westitute. It’s really the Wetlands Institute, but once a small boy transformed it into the Westitute and the rest of us refuse to say it any other way now. Purple Martins with the sun on their backs, lots of osprey (three hatchlings on the ospreycam eating their fish dinner), white egrets, big sandpiper-shape, little sandpiper-shape, redwing blackbird displaying his epaulets.
3. More Westitute: diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs, and my new friend Nelson the Octopus. I love octopuses, and Nelson really wanted to connect with the people on the other side of his glass.
4. Ice cream for lunch at Springer’s. Half a waffle (the real thing, just made, not a cone) with a two scoops of ice cream on top. Prohibition Tradition is a kahlua-based ice cream with a fudge swirl, and Cease and Desist is a coffee ice cream with Heath bar chunks.
5. The things people are doing to save the world. The folks at the Westitute, distressed by the high numbers of female terrapins hit on roads, rescue and rehabilitate the ones that can be saved, or perform eggectomies on the ones that are dead or dying and incubate the eggs to release new terrapins to the wild. People who plant trees. People who fight pipelines. People who study the natural world.

May we walk in Beauty!

Seymour Dabs

    
 This friend on the left appears to be a Sweetbay Silkmoth. We’ve had cecropias visit, and lunas (who always take my breath away). On the right is Seymour. On Saturday after friends visited, we found Seymour dabbing on the piano, looking mighty pleased with himself.


In the classroom zen garden: “Bury me at the bottom of the river, that my soul may flow into the sea and I may travel the world with whales.” Have I said how much I love my students?

Gratitude List:
1. What seemed unimaginable and impossible now seems possible.
2. When both cars break down at once, we have the possibility of a loaner from my parents.
3. The singers, the poets, the artists, the dancers, the dreamers. They’re rising. They’re making. They’re working. They’re resisting.
4. Pleasant weather. May it hold out for the rest of this week, so that the classroom isn’t beastly hot.
5. Turkey Hill Homemade Vanilla ice cream. It’s got five ingredients, and it’s the best ice cream this side of an ice cream freezer that I have ever tasted.

May we walk in Beauty!