Live the Questions

Rhapsody Part 7 – Mary Oliver

If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with
some small and easy story.
Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, fails, strives again. The world is perfect.
Love, however,
is an opera, a history, a long walk, that
includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep leaved hills.
*
“You either walk inside your story & own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” ~BRENÉ BROWN
*
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
October.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Live the question now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“and if i hear one more time
about a fool’s rights
to his tools of rage
I’m gonna take all my friends
and I’m gonna move to Canada
and we’re gonna die of old age” –Ani Difranco


Gratitude List:
1. Biking by the River, north of Marietta
2. Science Saturday: We made three kinds of slime/gak, and also oobleck
3. Getting enough sleep
4. Inspiring ideas (this time from a TED talk)
5. How cats are like dragons. I feel like we live with little fluffy house-dragons. Inscrutable. Demanding. Condescending. But tender by turns.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Mandalas


A filter manipulation of a bouquet of lisianthus and mint. Not a mandala, but yes, a mandala.

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
—Mary Oliver
*
“Arm yourself with love and knowledge, and let’s work together for justice.” —Regina Shands Stoltzfus
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“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
*
“Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God.”
—Abraham Joshua Heschel
*
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin“
*
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.” —Pearl S Buck
*
“May the sun bring you new energy by day;
May the moon softly restore you by night;
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty all the days of your life.”
—Apache blessing


Gratitude List:
1. This kid, who is taking days and days to transfer our photo files from the old hard drive onto the cloud. I just kept saying I would do it some day, and now it’s just getting done!
2. Storms. Good solid, soaking rain.
3. Meeting another mostly-FB friend, and finding a real kindred spirit
4. Mandalas
5. Looking at old videos of the boys when they were babies. Reminiscing.

May we walk in Beauty!

Wish I Were

Here’s a silly something I wrote during a Creative Writing prompt moment this past spring. The prompt was to write a poem beginning “I wish I were. . .”

I wish I were a buzzard,
I wish I were a mouse,
I wish I were a weasel
in a little weasel house.

I wish I knew the story
of the ancient wise baboon
who sailed across the desert
in a rainbow-hued balloon.

I wish I knew the secrets
of a hive of busy bees
or how a goat walks forward
on her backward-facing knees.

I wish I were an elephant,
I wish I were a wren,
I wish I were a weasel
in a weasel’s house again.

I wish I were an octopus
hiding deep in coral caves.
I wish I were an astronaut
afloat in outer space.

Today I am an aardvark
slipping silently through time,
and everything I write
is coming out in rhyme.


Rob Brezsny ft. Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“Devote yourself to your heart’s desire with unflagging shrewdness. Make it your top priority. Let no lesser wishes distract you. But consider this, too. You may sabotage even your worthiest yearning if you’re maniacal in your pursuit of it.

Bear in mind the attitude described by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”: “All that you are seeking is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.”

Speculate on what exactly that would look like in your own life. Describe how your heart’s desire has been waiting for you, seeking you.”
*
“Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.”
― Robert Hass, Field Guide
*
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
*
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett
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“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”
― Walt Whitman
*
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


Gratitude List:
(based on Mary Oliver’s Gratitude Poem)
1. What did you notice?
The blue eye of chicory everywhere along the roadsides
2. What did you hear?
Children singing, children laughing, birds always calling
3. What did you admire?
The golden shine of those lilies, how they seem to shine from within
4. What astonished you?
That Wren wove a snake skin into her nest
5. What would you like to see again?
The hummingbird darting through the upper branches of the sycamore
6. What was most tender?
A small boy and his elderly cat
7. What was most wonderful?
Oh, all of it was wonderful. The breezes that wove through it all, they were wonderful.

May we walk in Beauty!

Following Your Task

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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?

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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

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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.

6-16-15
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

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“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.
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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!