Where Do You Find Hope?


Gratitude List:
1. (What inspires you?)  A child I know.  This morning, I was watching video of President Obama placing a wreath at Hiroshima, and Joss asked what it was about.  I told him a little about the end of WWII, and how this is the first time a US president has visited that site.  “I’m kind of glad he went there,” he said.  I think children often understand these things better than adults do.
2. (Where do you find relief?) Change of schedule, end of year.  There’s sadness in saying goodbye to the seniors–but we know and they know they they’re ready, that they’ve been working toward this coming moment for years.  And I need this summer that I am heading into.  I am looking forward with great relish to sleeping in until past 6, to playing with my children every day, to preparing for next year’s work.  There are a few loose ends to wrap up in the next two weeks, but without the constant pull of classes, I can manage the loose ends.
3. (What fills you with wonder?) The view from Mt. Pisgah near Sam Lewis Park, with mist in the folds of the valleys and mist caught in the trees on the other side of the River.
4. (What will you do for yourself?) I am going to get a haircut today.  Some people have a regular appointment to keep their hair looking a certain way.  This has never been my way.  It usually feels like “an event” when I get my hair cut, like I am treating myself to something special.  I like to do it that way.
5. (What gives you hope?) I need to keep answering this question for myself these days.  I look at the ways of the world and I get rageful or cynical or filled with despair.  And there are good reasons for all of those responses.  But there are also good reasons to be hopeful.  Right now, one of the places I turn for hope is the work of international women’s groups.  These women look into the teeth of the beasts of war and displacement and terror, and they raise their voices and their arms and their hearts.  UN Women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Isis-WICCE, Women in Black, TreeSisters, Carry the Future, Code Pink, and many others.  (Which women’s groups inspire you?)

May we walk in Beauty!

Making Way for New

Sad that so many of my ferns have been killed by the cold, I am hoping that the lilies of the valley fare better.

Each of my sons is preceded by a shadow child.
Something calls my children to a time before they were.
And yet they were reluctant–both–to leave the womb,
resisting the raging tides that expelled their siblings early.

Or perhaps my body just refused to give them up,
these two it had managed to hold onto for the count.
My body said, “I’ve got this one.  I’ve got this one!”
Forty-two weeks, and the child was knocking at the door
and still the body wasn’t ready to let go her charge.

Sometimes that which is lost makes way
for that which is to come, creates a space.
That first one would be ten now half a year,
but my eldest celebrates that mark one month away.
That year, I labored twice, in May and May.

How often do we plant a tenuous seed of hope
in fields laid bare by grief and loss?
When you look in the eyes of the past
can you see where sorrow ends
and something new begins?

Gratitude List:
1. Book Sale scores: Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language, three Italo Calvino (gonna be surreal summer of reading), a Milan Kundera, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rushdie, Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea, and Reading Lolita in Tehran.  (I haven’t read Lolita myself–the premise creeps me out–but I have heard good things about Nafisi.)
2. Josiah got a book of 365 crafts a year, and has already made a cardboard gnome house in response.  He thinks there should be many more giant craft books like this.  I showed him my collection, which he says is boring.
3. Ellis got a book on science fair projects and spent the afternoon researching home-made solar cells, which is the topic of his science project this year.
4. Weekend breakfasts
5. Those geese calling out by the pond.

May we walk in Beauty!

What Does it Matter?

Just a few more days!  I love the challenge of these months, and I am so glad to get the break when they are done.  Today’s prompt is to write a matter/anti-matter poem.  I just let this one run its little free-association course.

Aunty Matter strides into Grandma’s kitchen
in her black stockings with holes in the heels
and a long black velvet dress
with fine lace insets.

She pirouettes.

“What does it matter, Mater,
if I should wander once in a while?
The fact of the matter is:
I’m green only for a day
before my dreams are heaped
in that pile of rubble in the orchard.”

It’s just a matter of time, perhaps
until she’s gone down the anticline,
until she’s reached the event horizon,
the point of no returning.

Still, the young ones are donning
black stockings of our own
to follow her in her dance
as though the dance is all that matters.


Gratitude List:
1. People working for Justice
2. People willing to engage the hard conversations
3. People with hope in their hearts
4. People who sing even when it’s dark
5. People whose M.O. is Love

May we walk in Beauty!

Poem: Advent 1




This morning, church was about despair and hope.
The altar table was covered with the shards of a broken pottery vase.
There was space for grief and rage and confusion,
and also for healing and hope, and good singing, as always.

This poem happened:


On the table
the bowl is shattered,
the shards are scattered
across the torn cloth.

A city inside me is burning
and the sky is torn by fury
or by the hand of God
and who is to say
which of those names
we shall give it today?

Where shall we go now?
Where shall we find
the threads of the tale
when the wind has blown,
through the window?
Will the mystery matter
within the wreckage?


into the silence
a bird on the windowsill
sings a brief note
that sounds for the moment
like hope.

Back to the Basics

Today’s prompt is Back to Basics:

It’s the original kit:
everything included,
just add water.

And perhaps to make it right,
a little soil,
a little sunlight.

Nothing more basic,
more primal,
more holy in its simplicity
and its intricate complexity
than a seed.

Strew them wildly.
Blow dandelions,
break open milkweed pods
and send them wafting
wantonly over the fields.

Scatter the seeds of the plantain,
joe pye, and stinging nettle.
Broadcast your wild oats
like hope,
like joy,
like a revolution.

Gratitude List:
1. Seeds, especially the apple seeds that are sprouting, the ones the boys wanted to plant.  I started to tell them how it would be useless because apple trees do not grow up true to type, blah-di-blah, and then caught myself: It is never useless to plant a tree with a child.
2. The Affordable Health Care act keeps coming through for me.  I realize it will not necessarily be so for everyone, but we’re certainly in that majority of users predicted to benefit.
3. Magic.  We started reading Jennifer Murdley’s Toad tonight.  When Ellis realized that Mr. Elives and his Magic Shop, from Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, appeared in this book, too, he jumped over and hugged me.
4. The gift of sincere apology, and my children reaching the age of reason when they can begin to make sense of the social language of apology.
5. Open hearts.  So many open, compassionate, winsome hearts.

So much love.  May we walk in Beauty!


Abandon Hope

Today’s Prompt is to use a standard phrase for the title of your poem, and then to respond to that.  I have to start working on these earlier in the day, before my brain starts to shut down.

Abandon Hope all Ye Who Enter Here
with apologies and thanks to Pema Chodron and Margaret Wheatley

“Hope. . . is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense regardless
of how it turns out.”  –Vaclav Havel

I have a fierce attachment to hope,
to that inward knowing
that this boat will stay afloat no matter what.

I have a deep-rooted, heavy-booted fear
that in this moment
we are in the very act of sinking.

Like they say, the hope keeps me living,
living in the middle of the fear,
and paralyzed to move,
lest my shift cause this bark to sink.

Perhaps the future demands not hope,
but willingness to sleep with uncertainty.
That we lay our heads on pillows of rock,
and though we know not whether the day will dawn,
sleep soundly through the storm.

Though we know the fight is likely useless,
onward we fight because it makes sense
to hold our ideals no matter what we face.

Oh, I’ll hold hope in my pocket–
uncoupled from its sticky twin–
like a shiny copper penny,
like a talisman.



Gratitude List:
1. Mockingbird is back on stage, in rare form, full of gossip and outlandish tales.  He got me this morning–I started to say, “Killdeer!” before he was off on a riff about cardinal, before I realized it was him.
2.  Chickweed pesto
3.  Windflower and speedwell
4.  Cloud constellations (a term coined by my younger child)
5.  Joss found my glasses in the field when I was sure that they were gone for good.  No scratches.  Whew.

May we walk in Beauty!


Yellow Leaf, White Horse

Yellow leaf
The evening breeze
A white horse is walking between the sun’s rays
Cloud on a hill

Because as goodbye approaches
my heart is practicing the hole


Gratitude List:
1.  Ellis, our resident picky eater, ate ten green beans for supper.  And we only asked him to eat two.
2.  Conversations about this thing that is and isn’t faith or belief or religion
3.  Cicadas lulling me to sleep
4.  Getting my hair done.  I do it so infrequently, and it feels SOOO good. It’s therapy.  Really.
5.  Hope.  Even if Pema suggests I abandon it.  I can’t.  Won’t.

May we walk in Beauty.

Mistakes and Hope

Gratitude List:
1.  I didn’t hit that button to send my final proof off to the printing process before I noticed a major omission.  Whew.  (“Where’d they put the page numbers?  Oh right.  They is me.  Forgot ’em.”)
2.  The tides may be turning in favor of small and local and real and authentic.
3.  Kindness.
4.  New ideas.
5.  Dreaming.

May we walk in beauty.

Hold Your Heart

Here’s a poem I posted here back in January.  It’s in the chapbook that I sent to Finishing Line Press for their Emerging Women’s Voices contest.

I spent some time today thinking about not knocking people over the head with hope, especially when they’re walking in the wasteland and the hope-talkers can even appear threatening.  I have so much to learn about being a compassionate presence, about acknowledging pain without trying to shift it, to fix it.

Still, I don’t think that a poem about hope by a random blogger can go amiss.

Sing You Gently Joy

Here in the house of exhaustion
Here in the place of retreat
We’ll sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope

Here when your way is weary
Here where your heart is uneasy
We’ll sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope

Here when the day closes over you
Here when your sighs bring tears
We’ll sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope

Here where the way seems hopeless
Here where the rage overflows
We’ll sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope

Here where the No overcomes you
Here where despair abounds
We’ll sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope

Here in the birthplace of fear
Here in the abode of loneliness
We’ll sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope

Each morning a new sun rises
and the stories are always renewed
As we sing you gently joy
and hold your heart in hope.

Slides 097Todd and I were about the ages of my children today.

Gratitude List:
1.  Peregrine flying over the farm today.  What a gift.  The Wanderer winging across the ridge.
2.  The healing power of story.  Unexpected story of intense pain and tender joy and hope.  From the man who fixed the tractor.  What a gift.  What grace.
3.  The tractor is fixed.  A little less stress for the farmer I love.  What a gift.
4.  Wild chamomile.  What a gift.
5.  Learning what my work is.  What grace.

May we walk tenderly, in Beauty.

Let’s Get Down To Business

First, some mulling drawn from today’s Facebook conversations.  Then a poem.  Then a Gratitude List.

Sometimes I don’t know if I can bear the weight of the problems of the world. I get so furious, not just at the military-industrial complex, but at the way corporations have become the ruling classes, the way Monsanto has taken over the USDA, the way our consumer culture is balanced on the backs of slaves and oppressed people elsewhere in the world. I don’t know if we can turn things back. But I know that there are lots of like-minded people out there who want to turn things back. I’m not sure how we do that, but I want to start by putting as much love out there as possible in the meantime.

I don’t mean for that to sound childish or like I am ignoring the problem. I bring it back to the metaphor of the bowl for the heart. I used to think that I could only have one thing in there at a time, either the joyful things full of wonder, or the angry and despairing things. But recently I have pledged to just sit with the bowl open and let it all fall in together. And the whole crazy mix belongs there. The love I have for butterflies and songbirds is precisely why I hate Monsanto so. The delight I take in my children is precisely why the military-industrial complex terrifies me.

How can I maintain the balance in my head when I get so furious and despairing and tired and sad about so much that is happening in the world? Sometimes it feels so schizophrenic to speak of beauty and wonder and delight when something in my heart is cringing in fear of what the future holds for my children. I know that remembering what I love, remembering what holds my heart, reminding myself why I fight, all this helps me to keep doing my work.

If we who care deeply enough to walk the cliffs of despair, if we let ourselves get frozen or lost or broken on those cliffs, then whatever it is that we’re fighting against has begun to win. Maybe that’s it. Instead of just using my rage and despair to fight this thing, I want to find ways to use my love and wonder to overcome it.

Perhaps my work of late has been too passive, too much in the realm of prayer and contemplation. What is the next step, I wonder?

These Are the Words
These are the things that I tell myself, over and over again.
These are the words I use to remember.

Don’t forget to do your soul-work.
Don’t stop because it seems like no one is watching,
because it seems like no one else is doing their work.
They are working.
Ask around. Tell your own story.
Suddenly they pop up like mushrooms,
all over the yard,
like fairy rings that fairly sparkle in the moonlight.

I always say, Be the web. Throw the lines from one to one to one.
Today I say, Be mycelium.
All those underground signals racing through the soil,
through the roots, through the fine hairs so tiny,
so tiny they are more energy than matter.

But that’s what matters.
That’s the heart of the matter.

We’re all doing our work, sending messages to each other,
invisible like energy,
like the sermons of the fungi
traveling those invisible underground highways.

Something is going to pop up.
I say, Something is going to pop up!

One morning you will wake up
and they’ll be there,
not just hiding underneath the leaves
with the shy toads and salamanders,
but spiced throughout the lawn
throughout the lawns
all over the world,

We are here!
We are doing our work!

In the meantime, keep hoping,
keep praying,
keep making magic spells,
like the one my son made today
from dandelions and Virginia Creeper
to bring peace among the chickens,
and from them to their eggs and to us
and then to the whole world.

In the meantime,
keeping speaking the names of the captives.
Your words will set them free.

Keep singing and dancing,
praying and hoping.

Be the Underground Laureate of The Poetry of Waiting.
Be the One who Sings to the Dark Moon.
Be the Dancer in the Sullen Crowd.
Be the Painter of Speckled Eggs.

Oh, I have to say it, though the activists have said it a thousand times,
like Gandhi said it:

Be the change you wish to see.

Until the twining vines of the sacred squash
grow from your heaving heart,
until the song of the whale echoes through your deserts,
until the world is born afresh.
Until the world is born afresh.

This is the song. This is the poem.
This is the story that will heal the world.

Let’s get down to business.

Gratitude List:
1.  A pair of indigo buntings feeding in the dandelions before the rain.  (Perhaps some day I will write a gratitude list without the wing-folk.  Or perhaps not.)
2.  Ferns.  The ones I transplanted today from the barn wall to the house and walkway were taller than my children.  I think I may just keep adding and adding until the lawn is gone and the children can walk beneath their waving fronds like hobbits.
3.  The feeling of something being released in my spirit as the air pressure changes before rain.
4.  The way people care for your spirit when you ask for help.  That’s what I mean by asking around.  All that good work is being done, all that hopeful energy, all that intentionality, all that tremendous love waiting to spring into action, springing into action even before it is called upon.  Oh, I believe in angels, and some of them take human form.
5.  Conversations about the grandmothers that bring them into the present moment.

May we walk in beauty.  May we walk in love.