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
*
“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
*
“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
*
“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

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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

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!

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

EWK 4 001
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!