All a Prayer


Gratitude List:
1. Towhee and peewee, and phoebe and wren
2. Hummingbird is still in the hollow. I thought she had gone, or died.
3. Those who accompany the people in vulnerable situations
4. Cucumbers with cream cheese
5. The voices of the people are sometimes heard. Speak up. Speak out. Stand for justice.

May we walk in Beauty!


Thoughts for Monday:
“To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world’s night utters the holy.” ―Martin Heidegger
***
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.: —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
***
“You have to learn to get up from the table when LOVE is no longer being served.” —Nina Simone
***
“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
***
“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” —Rafael Campo
***
“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
***
“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
***
“There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. To say nothing is to say something: The status quo—even if it is massively unjust and deceitful—is apparently okay. The silence of many Christians is used to legitimize the United States’ obsession with weapons, its war against the poor, Israel’s clear abuse of Palestine, politicians who are “pro-life” on the issue of abortion but almost nothing else, the de facto slavery of mass incarceration, and on and on.” —Richard Rohr

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Back to Gratitude

I need to step back into a thoroughly conscious and anchored gratitude practice these days. The rage and grief that I am feeling over what we are doing to the children at our borders threatens to capsize me, and I need to keep drawing down the energy, grounding, centering, focusing on the beautiful and tender realities that I notice around me.

Before the gratitude list, there’s a small sad thing that keeps getting tangled in my heart when I try to make my list: When we got home from vacation, I looked for Our Lady of the Flowers in her nest of cobweb and lichen on the swingy sycamore branch in front of the porch. The nest is gone. Fragments remain, stuck to the branch, but the little bowl is collapsed and torn. I hope Herself was able to fly free of whatever peril destroyed her home.

Gratitude List:
1. Lovely synchronicities: Today, a friend of mine who I met separately from my family saw a picture I posted on Facebook of my parents on their wedding day 57 years ago. My friend said she recognized my mother’s name, and wondered if she was the same friend she had known for a year when their husbands were both doing medical residencies at York Hospital in the mid-60s. They had had babies within a couple weeks of each other. It was! (My brother was that baby.) A lovely collision of the past into the now. It’s so satisfying.
2. This morning after I had mowed, I stood and watched the afternoon sun playing on the willow tree. A breeze whipped up and yellow locust leaves began sifting down all over the field while the willow danced in the sunlight. No photo, no video, would do it justice. Memory will have to suffice.
3. Little toad in the corner of the wood shop.
4. As wonderful as last week was, traveling, vacationing–still, I didn’t have the clear and unalterable sense of summer. I didn’t have a chance to establish summer routine before we left for Cape Cod. And that was perfect, because now I get to really live into the feeling of being on summer vacation.
5. Family sleeping parties. We’re all sleeping in the living room tonight to be near the air conditioner.

May we walk in Beauty!


I decided that I will try to make at least one phone call or write one letter every day this week, begging our congresspeople to speak out against the Family Separation Policy that the Attorney General has begun to enforce. Today, I called Smucker and Toomey.

Keep up the pressure on your Senators and Representatives. Ask them what their public statements are regarding the Family Separation Policy. Ask them for information about who is caring for the children. Are they vetted? Do they have clearances? How are the children being cared for? Are they getting their nutrition? Do they play? Are they getting education? Ask whether Health and Human Services is responsible for their care, and if so, why the administration is trusting HHS when within the past two weeks, HHS has admitted losing track of children in its care, some to traffickers.

Keep holding out your hands to people who are different from you politically. This is an affront to humanity, not just a liberal or conservative cause. Keep your heart open, keep soft, but don’t let the rage and grief throw you off. Hold on to your own humanity, to your own Love. These are difficult times, and people who would rip children from the arms of their parents in order to keep them out of our country would do anything to solidify their power.


Quotes for the day. I am conflicted about the Garrison Keillor quote because of the several credible accusations against him, but it came up on my feed today, and it felt like it meant to be there.

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
—Garrison Keillor
***
“It’s still a world with plums in it, my loves, & chamomile & lipstick & cellos. It’s still a world with us in it. Find a hand & hold on.” —Elena Rose
***
“The real work of planet-saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding. Its jobs will be too many to count, too many to report, too many to be publicly noticed or rewarded, too small to make anyone rich or famous.” ―Wendell Berry
***
”So many of us feel an agonizing longing to contribute something meaningful to the deficits of our time. But years can disappear in the doing of duties, in the never-reaching of rising expectations, in the always-falling-short of proving of one’s enoughness.

“The truth is that if we really want to make an eloquent offering of our lives, we have to step out of that ‘call and response’ relationship with the external world and locate our source of guidance within.

“To hear the rhythm of your indigenous song, to fall in step with the poetry of your unfolding, first there must be a clearing away: a ‘temenos’ of simplicity in which to dwell.

“Strike a holy grove of silence where you can listen as you long to be heard, see as you long to be seen, acknowledge where you long to be relevant, needed and necessary in the ‘family of things’.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
***
“One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.”
―Henry David Thoreau
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“We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalized. We hold the line.” ―J.K. Rowling
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Rumi: “Ours is no caravan of despair.”
***
“I profess the religion of love wherever its caravan turns along the way; that is the belief, the faith I keep.” ―Asma Kaftaro, UN Women Advisory Board
***
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.”
―Wangari Maathai

Messengers


I’m setting up the FB page for Skunk Holler Poetryworks. I think I need to get out the better camera and a tripod to try to make it crisper.

Some days, some weeks, the visitations come so clustered and thickly that I simply can’t ignore the fact that Someone has something I need to hear. Hummingbird is a regular. Snake was a startlement. Vultures are pretty common, like hummer, except. . .

A couple days ago, I wanted to return to my meditations at the beginning of the year, to revisit the idea of matter, enmattering. I read through my blog posts from early January, and jogged my memory about the dreams I had been having. Among them, a startling dream about an encounter with the child-spirit Ellegua of Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions.

While I want to be careful about not assimilating and taming and taking over the religions of other people groups (as white people are wont to do), I have been fascinated by the spirit world of Afro-Caribbean traditions and have studied them somewhat extensively, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Ellegua appeared to me in a dream. There were vultures (six, I think) in a field, and Ellegua took my hand and pulled me toward them. I didn’t want to touch them because I thought their feathers would be matted with dried blood and offal. Instead, they were soft as down, and the vultures bobbed their heads at us.

So the day after I renewed my memory of the vulture dream, Ellis and I encountered a pair of black vultures, one flying low over the road in front of us, and the other alighting on a telephone pole and looking down at us curiously as we passed slowly beneath it. That was yesterday. Today, on the way to school, we slowed down beside a field to watch four turkey vultures in a field. They eyed us closely as they hopped over the stubble, and for the first time in my years of watching them, I noticed the pronounced black and white “spectacle” marking in front of the eyes.

I was marveling at the triad of vulture visitations (noting that there were six vultures in real life now, like there had been in the dream) when I had to slow down again for a small creature running across the road ahead of me. Long, low, thin, and blondish, I thought, “Weasel!” and that’s what it was! I’ve never seen one in the wild. Otters. A mink. But this was my first weasel. Vultures and weasel.

This afternoon, as I was helping out with group activities for ninth graders outside the school, a ruckus of feathered folk burst out of a tree nearby: a really large crow followed by three smaller birds, flickering orange like little flames in the sun. Orioles! Three males chasing a crow. Perhaps it was after their little ones. But it felt like a message to me. Three flames. One great big mystery.

In my list of messengers, do I include the great blue herons that flap across my field of vision every day or so? They’re definitely on the move. The early butterfly sightings? The groundhogs standing on their hind haunches, surveying their fields like the farmers they are?

It’s a lot to ponder.

Do you get visitations, too? Periods of time when the animal- and bird-realms, and maybe plant- and tree-realms, or stone-realms, seem to come in clusters and chunks, with messages that you can decipher if you only take the time to meditate and contemplate their meanings?

I write this in the moments before I head upstairs to dream-time. Perhaps I’ll find more images there to enrich the story.


Gratitude List:
1. Visitors
2. Reminders
3. Messages
4. Dreams
5. Meditation

May we walk in Beauty!

Visitors

   

   

I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks, finishing up my semester, caught in the whirlwind, keeping my head above water. I haven’t been making gratitude lists, but I’ve been noticing. Instead of the long sustained gratitude practice of noticing several things in a day and keeping them in my memory for evening’s contemplation, I’ve been a grateful butterfly, slipping from flower to flower on a breeze, noticing in the moment and passing on to the next shining thing. I think it’s good to practice this kind of immediate presence as well as the deeper holding of a daily meditative contemplation.

During the last two days, I have been feeling the tug toward the sustained contemplation again, so here, again, is a Gratitude List:
1. This is the season of peonies and foxgloves and naked ladies: The flowers of the Grandmothers. I feel as though the Grandmothers are reminding us that they are still among us. They support our Work.
2. Today’s sermon, and the image of Godde as a child, holding our faces in her dimpled little hands and gazing into our eyes, looking at our wounded parts in awe and wonder, seeing the beauty and tenderness in the parts of ourselves we reject or hide or minimize.
3. Yesterday’s visit from a black rat snake. Such a magical creature. Ellis petted it. We got to watch it slither through the long grass, tasting the air with its tongue.
4. Our Lady of the Flowers is sitting on a nest of lichen and cobweb in the sycamore tree, right where we can watch her from the porch.
5. Changing of season. School is almost over. The grading will get finished. We will go on vacation. I will write. I will share tea and conversation with friends. Green will keep happening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Handle With Care

  
Gratitude List:
1. The teachers and staff and administration at Wrightsville Elementary School. They create a safe and friendly community space in which the children love learning.
2. Hummingbird is home.
3. Friday’s really thoughtful Teacher Appreciation moments from a couple of students.
4. The passion of learning for oneself. Ellis knows so much about electricity, and he taught himself through Youtube videos. We bought him a breadboard and a knock-off Arduino and a Raspberry Pi for his birthday (I do not even know what those things are, really), and he’s just going to town creating ideas.
5. My memorykeepers.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Visible Soul of a Home


We are saying goodbye to Fred today. His confusion about his sudden blindness and the constant pain despite medication have made his life one of endurance rather than contentment. Fred is a mensch of a cat. He’s been quick to express his needs and wants, quick to respond to those of others. He took his work seriously, whether it was upping the harvest of mice and voles when we brought babies home from the hospital, or patrolling the perimeter of the farm for irregularities, or welcoming visitors to the farm, or monitoring the feasts at break time. He gave the best kitty hugs and head boops. We will miss him terribly, at the same time that we are feeling relieved that he will no longer suffer.


“First things first, but not necessarily in that order.” —Doctor Who
*
“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” —Tay Hohoff
*
“I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul.”
—Jean Cocteau
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“A little drowsing cat is an image of perfect beatitude.”
—Jules Champfleury
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“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”
—James Herriot
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“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.” —Albert Schweitzer
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“Be wary of any influence in your environment which dismisses or judges your enthusiasm. Without it, we would become anaesthetised to life itself. Anyone who demands this smallness of you is in danger themselves and may have contracted this insidious, deadening monotone. Enthusiasm is the vitality of spirit expressing itself through us and its grace in our voice should be welcomed and cherished. The word originates in the early 17th century, from the Greek enthousiasmos meaning ‘possessed by god.’ Now, more than ever, the world needs your enlargement, your weirdness, your fiery crescendos of rebellion from boring.”
—Dreamwork with Toko-pa


Gratitude List:
1. Spontaneous moments of joy: Little voice in the next aisle over in the grocery store: “HAAAAA-we-yu-ya! “HAAAAA-we-yu-ya!” A little bit of Handel, and pitch perfect.
2. Purring, the sound of contentment
3. The way cats teach us Presence
4. Our family in Campbelltown have been visited by a white hummingbird–magic is all around us, if we would care to look.
5. Clearing spaces. We gave away the piano yesterday, and we’re setting up a bedroom for Ellis in the “little room” upstairs. Now other things can shift, and other kids of clearing will follow.

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
*
“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” –Rafael Campo
*
“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
*
“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!

Weary

Today was a hard day. No one was able to adjust well to the heat in Room 206. We just lived through it. The allergy sufferers (including myself) are all in a bit of a pollen haze. But mostly we were in shock today. We heard early in the day that one of our buses had been in a bad accident, and we didn’t know for quite some time how our friends were doing. Kids were extra tender with each other today, quiet and thoughtful, concerned. Anxiety, heat, and sniffling made it a difficult teaching day.

I am left with layers and layers of weariness. Still, in the middle of it all, in the heat that has continued after the sun went down, there are things to be grateful for.

Gratitude List:
1. The way people focus on the important things during a time of crisis. The self-absorption of the daily disappears, and everyone focuses their hearts on the hurting.
2. Most of the students appear to have escaped the bus accident with minor injuries. I suppose one can always say, “It could have been much worse.” Still, it could have, and I am grateful for the grace of so many at home tonight with their parents. We continue to pray for the two who remain in the hospital.
3. Refried beans. That’s true comfort food.
4. Citrus. It’s therapy for an allergy sufferer.
5. Hummingbird! During supper this evening, she came twice to hover outside the big dining room window and look in at us. She has done this for the past several years in her first days back to the hollow. I like to think that she is checking in on us, announcing her return. The first time I was aware of how she (or her mother and grandmothers) seems to look in the windows was the spring eleven years ago when I was nursing a tiny new baby, and a tiny hummingbird repeatedly hovered just outside the window. Perhaps she was seeing her own reflection, but it has always seemed like a greeting.

May we walk in Beauty, in Wonder.

Meet Me at the Bridge

bridge
This photo of this bridge feels like a place of meeting between worlds. I come to it when I am holding people I love, and two of my Beloveds are in the hospital today. If you, too, are holding someone tenderly in the nest of you, meet me here today, and we will spread such a web of care and love that the strands will sparkle around our Beloveds.

I have been thinking. . .
(I think I should rename my blog I Have Been Thinking. . .  So many of my posts include the phrase.)

I have been thinking about how caring for our bodies is a holy task: Feeding and nourishing. Washing and tending. Stretching the spine and walking and exercising. I have been thinking about how this body I inhabit, familiar and creaky as it seems to me, is no less a miracle or wonder than the body of the tiny hummingbird in the nest of cobweb out there on the sycamore branch. How the rhythm of heartbeat, the vast deltas of the lungs, the moving and shifting of muscle, how all of this is miracle.

If I believe–and I do–that my own body is part of the body of Earth, and so is part of all bodies that inhabit the Earth, then each act of self-care–each shower, each stretch, each bite of food–is an act of tending to the whole, caring for this one part of the larger whole that is all of us.  And so self-care can be a prayer. I see to the needs of my own body, and send out energy for bodies in distress.

Gratitude List:
1. Yellow walnut leaves spiraling down breezes, down sunbeams.
2. Doing the thing when the time is right. Second Hummingbird still has not taken flight, more than a day after First Hummingbird flew up a sunbeam. She sits on the rim of the nest, holding on with her claws, and tests her wings, like she’s planning to carry nest and branch and tree away with her. Then she settles back into her cobweb pillows. Not time yet. Today. Perhaps today.
3. Holding the bowl. Casting the web. Chanting and rocking and praying and sending energy and holding the Beloveds in the light. Whatever name it goes by, it is a privilege to one of many people on a web.
4. Staff Development Day. Is that weird? It’s still a work day, but a shift of rhythm, and a chance to be with colleagues.  We spend so much of our time in our rooms with our students (as it should be) or skating past each other in the halls with a quick greeting. It’s nice to have a day every once in a while when we do something different, even if the work ahead seems hard or confusing.
5. Those hours when the boys get so involved in an imaginary game that they can’t stop telling each other the story of it, even when they come to the table for supper.  I want them to enjoy each other’s company, to be gathering these memories for the future.

May we walk in Beauty!

Making a Circle to Hold a Heart

heartstone
A safe circle for a heart.

Is it cold in the house of the hummingbird,
when raindrops patter softly on the sycamore leaf-roof,

when one small bird has dared the day,
flown upward through sunbeams,
trusting to wings insubstantial as mist?

The other no longer sits more quiet than breath,
but turns her head to the thunder,
hunkers deep into her mattress of cobweb,
waits for her moment to fledge.

Gratitude List:
1. One small hummingbird has dared the day and taken first flight. Safe journeys!
2. Anticipating a weekend and time with friends
3. My wise and earnest colleagues
4. A fine collection of Maine island stones, each with a single white line across, each one a little message about pathways, direction, and destiny, about joining up and making a way where none seems to be
5. English grammar. I happened upon a really fun sentence modeling exercise, which I did with a couple of classes yesterday. One student, who struggles to understand the structure of a complete simple sentence, read out the sentence he’d built, which included carefully placed adverbs and adjectives, two prepositional phrases, an appositive phrase, a subordinate clause, and three absolute phrases. He sounded so elegant and well-spoken, but most delightfully, he sounded proud of himself.  Here is an example of a sentence using all of those pieces: In the classroom, one laid-back teenager, a young man who often has no time for grammar, proudly read an elegant sentence from his writing journal as his delighted teacher listened, the words flowing like water, the ideas sparkling in the air, the class electrified by language.

May we walk in Beauty!