Following Your Task


A little poem after reflecting on Mary Oliver (“You do not have to be good.”) and Caitlyn Siehl (“[Being pretty] is not your job.”).  This is an interesting draft to begin, but I definitely want to craft this one and perfect it.

When you crossed the threshold
into the indigo shadows of the Old One’s hut,
she took hold of you with her bony claw
and gave you three impossible tasks.

But none of them were beauty.
None of them were goodness.
She does not demand of you
what your stepfamily expects,
out there beyond the forest’s reach,
in their comfortable cottage
covered with vines and flowers.

The crone can see that your path leads
away from pleasantries and loveliness.
She knows the world will demand your strength,
the full force of your determination.
She knows that sometimes the most arduous task
is to turn your face away from the mirror
the others have given you,
the one in which you see
what they want you to see.

Seek the needle in the haystack,
catch the wind in a bag,
find the golden flower that grows
on the farthest mountains
beyond the lands of comfort.

When you return,
the mirror will be truly yours,
to see yourself as only you can see.
Then you will sit in the quiet shadows
waiting for a young one to coming humming
along the forest path to ask you for fire.

Gratitude List:
1. Students performing Shakespeare.  I knew they could manage the comedies with flair and finesse, but I had no idea they could do Julius Caesar with such incredible power.  A gender-fluid cast.  Brutus stayed male, but Caesar and Antony were female.  As always, they made it utterly accessible.  This could definitely be an award-winning performance.
2. One of the little jobs I get to volunteer for at school is Apple Pie Judge (I came back to this to capitalize it).  And the teacher in charge actually thanked ME for participating.  Heh.  No, that was all my pleasure, thank you.  These kids can bake a mean apple pie.  And it’s just one more way for students to get recognition for their abilities that go beyond the traditional boundaries of sports or music or academics.  Those were some fine pies.
3. Remembering this: You don’t do it all at once–you go step by step by step.
4. The baby green on the sycamore and poplar trees.
5. Today is Wrightsville’s Poem in Your Pocket Day.  I am going to rush home from school so I can go with the family around the town so the boys can read their chosen poems at participating businesses.

May we walk in Beauty!

What is Attention, but Love?


I wrote this after reading Mary Oliver’s poem, “Of Love.”

It’s a process repeated everywhere you look:
the way the beech tree catches and holds the wind in her hair,
the way the meadow grasses gather around the tentative feet of the fox,
the way the hands of the clay hold and guide the flow of waters.

What is attention, but a kind of loving?
Living in awareness is a constant tumble into loves.
The way your eyes twinkle when you tell a story.
The way your listening hands reach outward.
The way a new thought is born in your eyes.
The hearty abandon of your laughter,
the caress of your voice,
the shine that surrounds you.

Gratitude List:
1. The way a tenor line can turn a song from sweet to sublime.
2. The lessons we are here to learn, even when they are tough.  I am finding that I need to step back from trying to protect my children from the pains and problems of life, so they are more free to learn from the things that approach them.  This is hard, hard work, and it is a lesson of my own.
3. The buffy fluff of that mockingbird hunched out there in the brambles.
4. The sense of smell.  Most subtle of senses, I think.  I sometimes realize that I have been reacting to a scent even before I am consciously aware of it.  Like a dream, where you don’t always grasp what is happening until just after it has happened.
5. Persephone rises.  She always does.  Her purple footprints are singing aves in the flowerbeds.

May we walk in Beauty!

Inner Examination

Inner Examination, a la Mary Oliver’s “Gratitude”:

What brought you joy?
Community, family, hiking in the woods.

What did you learn?
That words of peace lose their meaning when the writer is violent.

What did you see?
Queen Anne’s lace, chicory, and day lilies.

What was your work?
To sing, to watch, to breathe, to pray, to walk, to play.

What was sublime?
The tender cod with oranges and tomatoes.

What did you appreciate?
Stories of earnestness, intention, and powerful dialogue.

What makes you anxious?
Time: I feel it racing by.

For what are you grateful?
1. Spiders: they remind me to hold my place in the web
2. Birdsong
3. Mulberry/Strawberry/Cranberry Juice smoothies
4. Sleep
5. Imaginings. . .

May we walk in Beauty!

More from the Monastery

Featured image

Gratitude List:
1. Those clouds after the storm.  Everything glowed golden.
2. Veggie quiche.  I can’t believe how those boys ate!
3. Playing Pokemon with Ellis.  Yes, I bought myownself a deck. He wins more than I do.
4. Getting more sleep.  My body lets me sleep until 6:30 now.
5. This circle.  You and you and you and me and you and you.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here are some more things that I wrote at the Monastery:
6-15-15, Wernersville Jesuit Center

When I left the beech tree, I thought I would go sit on a bench beside a cobbled patio to put on my sandals, then find the labyrinth on my map.  The patio turned out to be the labyrinth.

Thinking about the animals that have come to my visions this year.  Lynx came to me at the year’s turning.  Macaw dropped me a feather.  Lioness and jaguar have both been reaching me in dreams and waking dreams–their messages are about leadership and impeccability.  This morning as I left the boys, a swallow flew low overhead.  And here in this place, catbird seems to be following me around.

In the main stairway, every time I go up and down the steps, I feel a need to greet the statue of Jesus with the open heart every time I pass him on the first floor landing.  “Hi, Jesus!”

This morning as I walked away from some contemplative time in the Cathedral of the Weeping Beech, I thought I saw a bird dying, thrashing in the grass a small distance from the gazebo.  A soft light caught the twitching, and as I walked closer, the energy did not seem to be about distress.  Suddenly it resolved in my vision into a fawn–the twitching wings were ears.  It was a small one settling in to wait for the mother, shaking the little bugs out of its eyes.

Walking this afternoon: “What makes you sad?” ask the trees.  I ask this question of myself, but somehow, it takes on new shades of meaning in their language.  I tell them all of it, how it hurts me when natural disasters happen, but that the things that make me saddest are the things the people do to hurt each other and the Earth.  Not just the intentional hurts, but the hurts born of people’s greed and lack of desire to know and to notice.

“What makes you angry?” the trees asked me then.  And many of the things were the same.  Perhaps I need to learn to differentiate better between my emotions.

Something in these questions from the trees unlocks doors within myself that I couldn’t seem to open before.

I was carrying the weight of these things with me when I reached the Mary statue, and something profound happened to me there.  I suddenly felt as though I knew about how her heart is broken again and again and again.  How she holds it all.  There she is, holding the Babe of wonder, her face filled with love for this Child of Promise.  There she is, holding the body of the young man, her son, her face filled with love and grief.  The serenity of her face holds within it the extremes of wonder and grief, love and anguish, that she knew.  She pondered these things in her heart: was she pondering how the act of opening herself to great love also opened herself to great grief?  But choosing to do it anyway, joyfully, because love is always worth it, and our hearts were made large enough and strong enough to hold it ALL.  I wept and wept and wept, holding on to her feet and looking out with her over the valley.


I need to keep making the story my own.

Waking Up

Today’s Writing Prompt from Auto Writing Prompt is to write a two sentence story with a mood change.

I have been walking through this fog, in this wood, since before there was a before.  Today I saw a shimmering silver light above the trees.

Gratitude List:
1. Deer on the hillside
2. Sharp-shinned hawk in a tree
3. Snowflakes
4. Baby wombats (google “baby wombat images”)
5. Mary Oliver’s “Starlings in Winter” (you can google that, too)

May we walk in Beauty!

Wild and Precious

P1020146 P1020132

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

–Mary Oliver

I woke up this morning with this line from Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” running through my head.

Gratitude List:
1. The new bright gold of the freshly re-painted Goldfinch Farm sign.  Sometimes a pop of color can be intensely satisfying.
2.  Yesterday when I walked around the front of the house, I was caught by the shoulders and wrapped in a huge hug by the scent of the lily of the valley out back on the hillside.  I love the smell of lily of the valley.
3. Listening to Joss singing his pre-school songs as he played in the sandbox yesterday.  I want to cherish and respect his shyness, but I have worried that it might lead him to loneliness or a sense of being disconnected from others.  Instead, his quiet observation of what goes on around him seems to give him a sense of belonging and participating.  May it always be so.
4. The gravid peonies and poppies, buds like eggs, waiting, swelling, stretching.
5. Mary Oliver.  Her words inevitably lead me to deeper places.  Secretly (not anymore, I guess) I think of her as my–as our–priestess.  Her words mediate a connection between the mundane me and my deeper self, between me and the Universe, and Beauty.  Oh, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?

May we walk in Beauty!

If I Were to Read a Poem to My Mockingbird

Today’s Prompt is an If I Were. . . poem.

Mockingbird growls.  In between riffs
of cardinal and killdeer, of phoebe and wren
and some feathered neighbor from the south
whose name I don’t know, in between all that,
mockingbird growls at me.

He growled tonight when I started to read to him:
Mary Oliver’s Mockingbirds.
I was certain he’d be flattered,
but he growled at me
and fluffed his feathers,
twitched his tail,
and when I got to the part
about the old people dying
and the gods clapping their great wings,
he opened his own and took flight,
off up the orchard into the twilight.

He’s not such a good listener, that one.
But we often forgive our loquacious friends
their lack of listening skills
because they entertain us with such gusto.

But the hens.  The hens listened, rapt,
clucking like fans at a jazz fest.
And when I bowed, and walked up
to close the coop for the night,
they all asked for my autograph.


Gratitude List:
1. My sweet hens
2. Comfort food
3. Gathas
4. Sun-kiss
5. Learning from uncertainty.

May we walk in Beauty!

Song for Poets: A Poem for Brighid’s Day

Today we look for that jolly rodent, and also we commemorate Brighid, triple goddess and patroness of Ireland, Saint of Kildare.  Smithcraft, poetry, and healing arts are her realms.  Sacred wells, undying flame.

We forge our words on your anvil,
listening for the sweet ping
of hammer on metal,
watching the sparks fly outward,
shaping and crafting.

We seek them like wild herbs
found only on the side of a mountain
for a short season each year.
We search under bracken,
through briar and thorn,
stepping through bogs,
listening for the birdsong
that tells us we have arrived
at the proper place.

We give ourselves to words,
not waiting for inspiration,
but chasing it like skuthers of fog
over the misty hills.
Seeking the solace and healing
that words offer,
and turning our minds
to do that healing work.
Crafting our words
into tools and enticements.

A year and a day
the old ones would pledge
to your service.
So may it be.
One year of poetry,
making it, reading it.

Oh Lady, give us poetry.


Gratitude List:

1.  Another day of no fighting.  This is like a miracle.  Really.
2.  Ground beef rolls with cheese roux like Odongo used to make.  With kale.
3.  Choosing my own path.
4.  Mary Oliver and synchronicity and magic.
5.  Stars.

May we walk in beauty.

2013 February 024
Red Russian kale in the snow.  Before I ate it.

Gratitude List, Christmas 2012

1.  More lovely family time, this time with Jon’s family.  I love the way that people care for my children.  We are truly in a village.
2.  Mary Oliver’s poetry
3.  Musings.  Amusement.  The Muses.  Bemused.
4.  Finding a typo in the dictionary.  Nerd, nerd, nerd–why does that feel so satisfying?
5.  Jim Howell’s Lemon Sponge Pie.