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!

Balancing

      
Doesn’t this just feed your soul? My mother’s windowsill. I passed it through a painting filter, which I like, but really, the beauty of the original colors is rather perfect.


This is not a joyful thing. Perhaps it is a gratitude of sorts. It’s more a simple relief. The man who caused the bus accident has turned himself in. It was an uncomfortable loose end that has been bothering me, not because I want revenge, but because it needed resolution.

In my advisory group today, one young man asked that we pray for the driver (before we knew he had turned himself in). This was the second or third time that this particular young man has asked for us to pray for someone who has done something wrong, or made a bad choice. I am moved by the layered depth of his compassion, and it leads me forward into hopeful spaces. May we all learn to love with such a sense of everyone’s humanity.


Today in an English 101 class, we were talking about the role of the Muses in the Greek pantheon, and one girl who had zoned out looked up and asked, “What about the moose?”

I think there needs to be a poem about the Moose of Poetic Inspiration.


Gratitude List:
1. Our Lady of the Flowers zipped past the window again today. I swear she paused in her humming for the briefest of moments and looked into the house at my boy in his red shirt.
2. Graces: I get teary when I talk about it, but it just needs to be said–All our children survived that accident. They likely have wounds that we cannot see, and some of them may experience flashbacks and anxiety. Others are still healing from physical injuries. But: They are alive. Every time I see pictures of that little bus on its side, I am astounded at the miracle of their survival.
3. The Administrative folks at my school. I think I have mentioned before how grateful I am for them, but today I had another chance to see the principals in action, responding to an issue with grace and firmness, holding the balances of accountability and tenderness. When there is harm, they name it, and then seek to care for those involved. They are true leaders.
4. Cobalt Blue
5. Following the pathway lit by the tender hearts of these young folks.

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Doorway of My Cottage


Here I am, stepping out of my little dream-cottage, into the world again, a little at a time.

When the stress of the everyday gets too stressy, I begin to fantasize about what my little witch-poet’s cottage might look like: thatched roof and cob walls, a nice big window, sunflowers and poppies and blue-eyed chicory in the garden, and a bee skep on a bench. Inside, a fireplace and bookshelves, cabinets to hold stones and papers, birds’ nests on the mantel, a comfortable recliner and a writing desk. (Somehow, in the filtering process to modify this photo, my gnome-friend Solomon Shandy appeared in the photo. He’s in the lower left-hand side of the photo–can you spot him?)


“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” –John F. Kennedy


I wear beads on one arm for Beauty,
beads on the other for Kindness.
I need a third arm for Rage.


Some say she was a mermaid or a selkie,
a creature of both land and sea
moving with ease in either element
and graciously bridging the space between.

That is true, of course, but they didn’t know
how on windy days, she rose with wings above the surf,
or how her sudden laugh would often draw her into flame.


Gratitude List:
1. Icarus Oriole–always calling in my treetops of May
2. A LONG afternoon nap, with a warm blanket and a cat on my lap
3. Friends had a fundraiser yard sale today for their nonprofit. We scored the game Mousetrap, and Connect Four, and a novel by Jane Yolen that I had never read.
4. May Day at Wrightsville Elementary. It had to be inside because of the rain. I ran the Color Spin game, and had a blast trying to increase the odds for the littlest kids. The community comes together to make a good time for the kids.
5. Watching ET with the family. Turn on your Heartlight. I’ll be right here.

May we walk in Beauty!

Realignment

It is one of those glorious spring mornings, the dawn chorus almost deafening in the hollow, the sun beginning to chase away the deeper shadows as it tops the ridge.  It is spring, and the world is resetting itself, opening, shifting. This time between May Day and Summer Solstice is a good time to catch that energy, to examine our intentions and dreams and hopes and decide which passions need our whole-hearted focus.

In order to find this space for change and focus in my life, I am going to take a short break from social media and blogging.

You know those little puzzles that used to be so popular, with a picture broken up into sixteen or twenty-five squares and arranged on a five-by-five grid? In order to shift all the pieces into the correct order, one of the pieces has to be removed. Then you have to think several steps ahead of yourself to shift things, piece by piece, until the picture comes clear. That’s where I am at this moment. I am trying to shift and slide things into place, and I need to remove a piece for a time until I get things sorted out. My non-teaching computer time is that piece for now.

I am not going off in a huff, and I am neither sad nor angry. (No, that’s untrue. I am both sad and angry–but no more than usual, and still in the balance of delight and love and pleasure. And neither sad nor angry at my online community.) I will continue to write, to process, to contemplate and ponder. I am not sure how long this is going to take me. Probably a week or two. Perhaps until the end of May. I want to end my school year with a strong and healthy focus, and begin my summer with a new set of good habits.

Perhaps the thing that reminded me to step into the moment of this shift was that weaving in the photo. On Spring Equinox, I made myself a little prayer bundle/wish bundle of random papers and strings and fabrics. I was in a hurry and didn’t spend a great deal of time choosing and processing the items I put in the bundle–I just made sure that they represented the ideas I wanted to bring to birth in the next cycle of my life. I left the bundle in the elements, in my little faerie circle, where the ferns grew up around it in the six weeks that it waited. On May Day, I brought it inside and opened it up. Yesterday, I cut the fabric into strips and began a weaving, using the items from the bundle, and some extra yarns. As it started to take shape, I began to feel a sense of the first steps that I must take in order to find my way toward myself. (I wasn’t sitting in a quiet room with peaceful music for contemplation–I was at the table, where my husband and one son were making a diorama of a train in a landscape and the other son was creating props for a spoken word poem he is preparing for class. There was a lot of chatter, but at one point, all three guys were thoughtfully humming different things to themselves. This is the sort of space I have for contemplation these days, and I love it.)

That little puzzle game with all the pieces of the picture? Right now, I have several parts of the teacher to shift into place, while keeping the mom and partner pieces as steady as possible. The various writer pieces have been terribly scattered, never actually assembled into a cohesive whole. That’s the part I really want to shift into place. The reader and wild woman and farmer and monk-in-the-world pieces will shift and re-shift as I figure out what the final picture looks like. I trust them to know that they belong.

Perhaps you want to join me? You don’t need to drop the ethereal world of the internet to shift the picture. What are the elements in your own life that you want to reassemble? If there’s a habit piece that you need to set aside for a moment while you gather the others into focus, is it possible to set it aside, to make a fast from it for a time?

If you need to contact me during the month of May, you will need to email me at 4goldfinches@gmail.com. I have been terrible about keeping up with emails in the recent weeks, and my social media fast will help me to re-develop an efficient relationship to email.

Here is a poem I wrote last year. I think it might be my theme for the coming realignment:
You are the Dragon, You are the Cave
By Beth Weaver-Kreider

The thing you learn, of course,
before you strap your sword belt on,
is that the princess you pledged to save
is only yourself in another guise,
that the dragon you swore to smite
is simply your own roaring ego
belching flame in the mouth of the cave.

You are the villagers rioting in the streets,
and calling for the dragon’s blood.
You are the bells that pealed from the towers
when the dragon circled above the town.
You are the sword,
the shield, the very cave,
the small frightened mouse
trampled in the fray.
You are the village.
You are the mountain.
You are the day itself,
quiet witness to the story.

Some quotations for your Saturday:
“Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.” ―Stanley Kunitz
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“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
― Jane Goodall
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“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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“The challenges in our world can’t be solved by individualistic thinking. These challenges must be tackled by groups of individuals who understand that collective strength and selflessness is the only way out. Sometimes the craziest ideas can give you the most impressive change.” ―Leymah Gbowee

And a Gratitude List:
1. Realignment
2. Intention and manifestation
3. These boys playing together
4. The way that leaf twirls gently down the spring wind
5. You. Always You.

May we walk in Beauty!

Refocusing My Lenses

elephant

Friends, I am taking a week off in order to refocus my lenses. I want to eliminate some of my distractions, concentrate on my work and my Work, get a little more exercise, and practice Presence. I’ll be back by February.

Practice gratitude.
Keep marching.
Move the Movement forward.
Write poems.
Stay awake and aware.
Keep your eyes on Standing Rock.
Follow the lead of women.
Hug your kids.
Dismantle the patriarchy.
Nourish your body.
Love your neighbor.

Blessings and love. May we walk in Beauty!

Prayer and Rage

imag2090

What can we give besides our prayers and rage?
And what will that avail?
Send out the story on October winds.
Fling it high, where crows are flying.
Send the message echoing into earth
with every pounding step you take.

Listen.
Let the shells of your ears gather the story.
Reel in the gossamer strands of the tale
and weave them into the veil you wear.
Listen for the stories of those who weep,
those who rage, those who only speak
with the shrug of a shoulder,
with a sigh, with a shudder.

Listen, too, to those who walk right in,
who step into your circle without invitation.
Listen to the voices that are hard to hear.
Offer only the bread that is yours to give.
Be like the old gods, with the raven Wisdom
on one shoulder and Memory on the other,
and Reason perched upon your hat.

Offer what is yours:
your rage,
your prayer,
your watchful quiet heart.

Gratitude List:
1. Rage and prayer
2. Memory and Wisdom
3. Reason
4. Listening deeply. Being listened to deeply.
5. Graphic novels. I know this one is rather out of the context of the others, but the boys and I are really into graphic novels these days: the Amulet series, Zita the Spacegirl, Knights of the Lunch Table, and Mouse Guard. We really love Zita and her poor friend Randy who has a case of the squeaks.

May we walk in Beauty!

Needing the Practice

treelabyrinth
The tree at the center of the labyrinth. Camp Hebron.

Today is one of the days that I really need to do the gratitude work.  I know this because it was hard to make the list today. I’m not falling apart and I am not depressed. I’m just huffy and grumpy and a little stressed out. When I go inside myself to seek the things that I am grateful about, and all I can find is little orts of shame and grumbliness, then I know I need to breathe into it.

I used to walk away from those uncomfortable feelings: “I shouldn’t be feeling shame. Brene Brown says that it is unhelpful! I don’t like grouchy people. Negativity brings us all down.” But they’re there. If I growl at them and walk away, they always grow.

So I’ll sit down a while with them, roll out a few marbles of gratitude that I find tucked in my pockets, and play a little while, see what happens.

As my wise mother tells me: “It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both/and.” I don’t have to be a calm and grateful person OR a grouchy bear. This morning, both apply. At least the grateful bit can help to tame the grouchy bear so she doesn’t go around mauling people.

Gratitude List:
1. Dragonflies. I don’t think I am being too whimsical when I say that I think they like to people watch.
2. Stroopies: Perfect little waffle snack with a sweet caramel center. A local company with a mission to hire refugees. May they grow and thrive.
3. Getting to try again. This one is a little shame-based, perhaps. I brought a child to tears last night with my program to get the homework and music practice done. I was a bit of a bully, even if I was trying to be friendly about it. I think he forgives me. I treated him like a problem to be solved. We’ll figure it out. We’ll try again, and I will go in next time with more self-awareness and compassion.
4. Growing into the roles.
5. Reaching the little goals.

May we walk in Beauty!

A Hole in the Fabric

IMAG1844
And a blue true dream of sky

There’s been a change in my noticing, a small hole in the fabric of my attention. What used to be an alive and vibrant node in my awareness is now an empty expectancy.  I experienced a little zing every time I walked beneath the sycamore tree, even if I did not take the time to pause and look up, to find the tiny nest, to focus my aging eyes on the spot where two tiny birds were growing. Now the nest is only a shell, a remnant. It’s a wonderment all the same, that tiny house of cobweb, but it is empty.

Yes. Empty is a cutting word.

No, this is no grief akin to the great griefs. It’s just a little hole, a shift, an empty place where my attention and sense of wonderment flowed for weeks, but which is now an empty space like other empty spaces. There is other wonder to seek. There are other places for my deep attention to flow. The dog of my brain is sniffing the air for the next impossible beauty, the next whirring of wings, the next impossible thing that exists.

Gratitude List:
1. New ideas that keep the mind alive
2. The people who are welcoming the refugees
3. The people who stand up for justice
4. The voices of my friends the owls, calling from the bamboo forest
5. You. How we hold the world together, together. How our hands are joined across time and distance to form webs that carry and comfort, that heal and make whole.

Blessings on the Work!