Refocusing My Lenses

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Happy Number 49

49

I am turning 49 today.

Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC, though not, I think, when he was 49.

The number 49 is a square, of course: 7*7. Perfection squared.

And its digits, 4 and 9, are themselves squares of 2 and 3. Kind of cool, that.

I have also learned that, mathematically, 49 is a Happy Number. That’s delightful, and the mathemagic that makes it so is rather sweet: 4 squared (16) + 9 squared (81) = 97. Square and add those digits (9 and 7) for the number 130. Keep doing that–squaring and adding the digits–and if it’s a Happy Number Sequence, you find your way to 1. Wholeness and Unity. Mystery within the mathematical process. So, 1 squared + 3 squared + 0 squared = 10, and 1 squared + 0 squared = 1. Voila! It’s a Happy Number.

The US/Canada border is on the 49th parallel. Good boundary between friendly neighbors.

Many Asian traditions (Buddhism, Taoism, and others) believe that 49 is a sacred number, the number of days the soul hangs around before it moves on after death.

The website Affinity Numerology notes that the number 49 “resonates with focus, conscientiousness, and being realistic, generally with concerns about and directed toward solutions for humanity. The number tends to be both pragmatic and idealistic.”

The site also says that “When 49 decides to do something, it determines the method and steps required to accomplish it, then applies its focus to that method and those steps until the goal is reached.” Now, no matter whether one believes that there is something to this numerology stuff, of that it’s all a bunch of hooey, that’s a nice goal to seek for living in this year labeled 49.

Of course, I am actually beginning my 50th year today, but I will stick with our cultural method of counting and call myself part of the cohort number 49. This year I will wear the Happy Number badge, and focus on systematically accomplishing my goals–conscientiously, pragmatically, and with a healthy whiff of idealism.  May it be so.

Gratitude List:
1. This practice. It has deepened and anchored and changed me. My husband asked me yesterday whether I think it’s been good for me because I write the lists religiously, or whether it would work to just try to inwardly experience gratitude more. I think the latter would definitely be true for a thoughtful and grounded individual. For someone with my tendency to live in the moment, the writing of the list holds me down and keeps me on the ground long enough to look inside and look around. And reviewing my lists regularly adds to the sense of it all being an unfolding journey.
2. Goldfinches. Yesterday, I did the 2-mile Schmuck walk–up to the top of the hill, back down to the very bottom, and back up again to the house, a two-mile loop. As I was approaching the small group of trees at the top of Skunk Hollow Lane, watching four bright male goldfinches flittering through the roadside weeds ahead of me, a big blue pick-up went racing down the street past me, past the little grove of trees. Out of the weeds at the base of the tree, a flock of a dozen or more shining golden birds (along with their quieter consorts) flushed out of the weeds and spiralled up into the trees, like yellow leaves falling upwards, chittering as they flew. It was a holy moment, pick-up and all. I will now call those trees Goldfinch Grove.
3. Also on my walk, I watched our neighbor farmer Donny baling hay. It’s so satisfying to watch the baler pass–cha-chung cha-chung cha-chung, to feel the anticipation build, and then the click and flick of a perfect green bale flung into the wagon behind. And Donny always smiles and waves. Whenever he drives a tractor past our house, he always looks in to see if there are children to wave to, bless him.
4. Crickets and peepers and cicadas. The cicada roar can be deafening at moments, but it adds layers to the sound-texture of the place. Even the birds are silent and listening this morning.
5. I think that perhaps I have Turned a Corner. Two years ago, I was really excited at this moment, getting ready to step back into the classroom. That was a marvelous excitement, but an anxious one, too, filled with worry about whether I was up to the job. Last year was much better, anxiety-wise, but somehow I just didn’t feel very prepared, like I was still off-balance, a little unsure of what I was doing, of whether I was equal to the task. My friend Verlin has been telling me for the past two years that it’s in the third year that you catch your stride, gain your full confidence, feel on top of things. If the preparations are any indication, I think he is right. I don’t know if I have put a whole lot more time into preparations this season, but I think the time I have put in has been much more productive and focused. I need to remember to be humble enough not to assume that things will be simple and easy going forward, but I feel ready to face the tasks ahead.

May we walk in Beauty!

Longest Day

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Happy Solstice!
Here we are at the longest day, the shortest night, the time of fire and of rampant growth.
Where do you find your fire?
This is the pollywog season, when the water creatures grow legs and arms and begin their movement onto the earth.
What is the force that spurs you toward action and change and transformation, that enables you to become a creature of more than one element?

May this cycle be fruitful for you.
May the sun bring you the transformation and direction you seek.
May you green, may you grapple and grasp, may you grow.

I did not post a poem yesterday–my pint-sized party planner was up early and demanding help with the Father’s Day preparations.  Here, for yesterday and this morning, both, is a Cinquain. a syllable-count poem of five lines: 2/4/6/8/2, and a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab, or abccb.  I chose the third rhyme pattern.

Evolve Love

Evolve.
We grow. We move.
We struggle to transform.
We walk together through the storm.
We love.

Gratitude List:
1. That moon, right?
2. Here comes the sun
3. Gina Sue’s red Russian kale.  How that will nourish me this week!
4. A little morning solitude.
5. Now the summer really begins.

May we find our fire.  May we walk in Beauty!

Listing

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I am planning my end-of-year mini course for seniors, a Writer’s Contemplative Retreat.  I am thinking that I will begin each day with a gratitude list.  I have been reviewing Mary Oliver’s questions, and also trying to watch my mind as I make my own morning list.  I don’t necessarily think conscious questions into the open space of my brain, but there are trails down which I wander when I am thinking up my morning list.  Here are some questions I might ask my students to get them thinking:

* What is beautiful?  What fills me with wonder?  What images have slowed me down and caused me to pause in the past day?  What slows me down?
* What people do I appreciate?  In the past day, what people have I noticed being extra shiny?  Who does things to make the world a better place?  Who helps me?
* What satisfies me?  What makes me say, “Yes, that’s right”?
* What has surprised me in the past day?
* What helps me make it through?  What helps me to cope?  Life can feel downright difficult and wearisome sometimes.  In those moments, what helps me to hold on and face the challenges?

This last is the one that compelled me to write that list this this morning.  I realized that sometimes when I get to the last point or two–especially during times of high stress–I struggle to finish the list.  My mind begins to drag and complain and remind me that I’m tired and exhausted and crotchety.  But the discipline of the list kicks in–I have to finish the blasted thing, even if I’m grumpy.  So my mind goes to the question of what will help me to get through the challenge and the stress.

It makes me think of the fairy tale archetype of the mentor who tells the lost child what to look for: “There will be a signpost that will show you the way.  When you see the road passing between two hills, you know you are nearing your journey’s end.  Ask the old woman who stands at the crossroads for a crust of bread, and she will feed you.”  If I am feeling stressed, spending a moment in the morning to imagine the signposts that will help me to make it through the next portion of my journey helps me to find my way through without becoming overwhelmed.

Gratitude List:
1. Synchronous connections.  As I plan my mini-course, I contacted a local church with an outdoor labyrinth, and I discovered that the deacon who works with the labyrinth is someone I have met and deeply admired.
2. The music teachers at Wrightsville Elementary.  On Tuesday, The strings teacher couldn’t be there for the concert, and the music department head just leapt in and led the orchestras.
3. Blue herons flying above the highway.
4. Raccoon and deer in the hollow.
5. Making lists.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Have Written This Before

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We have been doing some found poems and redacted poems in Creative Writing, magazines strewn about the floor and students sitting on the floor, quietly cutting out words or lying on the floor coloring the parts of the page where the important words aren’t.   Yesterday a student from another class walked by and said, “Ms. Weaver-Kreider, it looks like a day care in here.”  Everyone grinned.  They knew the secret of our creative moment.  Here is one of my redacted poems from a National Geographic.  I haven’t completed the art part of it, so I’ll type it in instead:

I’ve used my years
of good rain
and there has never been
a bright green field

I quickly turned my head
I was too close to feel it all
to know that feeling of gravity

I consider myself
a power line
an unusual oasis
a land where the Hoodoo Mountains stood.

This is a reprise of a blog entry that I wrote in 2013.  Because yesterday was our school’s Day of Gratitude and the idea has been floating near the surface for me these days, I wanted to listen to an earlier version of myself.  On that day, I had written 6 gratitudes, but one was very specific to the day, so I omitted it for this redux.

“I have written this poem before.  The one about the Open Bowl.  How I will hold the circle of my heart to encompass it all.

Not just the little birds singing the dawn into being or the silent toad under her litter of leaves, not just the achingly beautiful green of the fields in spring or the blue eye of the speedwell, not just the snugglesome child or the soft feathers of a hen.

Not just that.  Not only that.

But also the brooding ache of estrangement, and the dull thud of the impossible choice, the anxiety over an ill child, the grieving of a friend.  Also the deaths of the bees, the scarcity of monarchs, the oil-covered ducks.  The deep sadness of all that we are losing so wantonly.  The rage, the helpless and blinding white fury at the destroyers, the greed-mongers, the war-profiteers, the glibly malicious purveyors of illness and oppression.

This is why I write gratitude lists.  I will hold all of these stones in the Open Bowl of my heart.  Some moments, the bowl is so brimming with the rages and the despairs that I don’t know if I can bear it.  And then comes a moment of pure numinous wonder and delight, not to erase the other things, but to ease them.  To make the bearing of them bearable.

These difficult ones, they are there for a reason.  I hold them, too, because they demand my soul’s attention.  They call me to my work here in the world.  I refuse to walk the world with blinders on.   But there is also so much joy to be found in the midst of it all.  So much joy.  So much love.

I have written this poem before, and I will write it again.  Perhaps every day I will write it, until I understand what I am writing.

Here are five shiny stones for your consideration:

Gratitude List:
1.  Green, green, oh the green!  Green says, “Have you been watching?  Have you been paying attention?  Surprise!”  Oh, yes, yes, and. . .
2.  Hello, Little Daffodil, whose name is full of goofy whimsy and whose cup overfloweth with sunshine.
3.  The spaces between.  I will gaze into them, breathe into them.
4.  Doubt.  And the places where faith and trust and safety rest even within doubt.
5.  The Navajo People, whose sacred phrase I have borrowed for my little daily prayer:

May we walk in Beauty.  So much Beauty.

All Our Children

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Gratitude List:
1. I am grateful that my friend’s surgery seems to have gone well.
2. I am grateful that we were able to get a much better interest rate for our mortgage (more of a mundane concern than I usually write about perhaps, but this is a grace that comes at a good time).
3. I am grateful that there are always enough hours in a day, even though it sometimes doesn’t seem like it.
4. I am grateful that the sun will return again.
5. I am grateful that my children have safety and comfort.  My prayer is for safety and love for all our children.  They are all our children.

May we walk in Beauty!