A Blessing in Blue

Gratitude List:
1. Around a corner down the ridge, I caught a flash of blue in the road, and an indigo bunting burst into flight. A blessing in blue.
2. The summer’s first monarch.
3. Graduation. Beautiful, earnest young folk.
4. Huge bales of hay in a green meadow, and the evening sun casting their shadows across the grass.
5. My dear friend Marie gave me lots of sea glass that she collected over years on trips to Maine. During the last two days of school, when the seniors had gone, my one Creative Writing class was down to a handful of students. They spread out my sea glass and picked out their favorite pieces–I told them they could take lots. Then they placed what was left in the glass jar in colored layers. This treasure, given to me by a friend, is a treasure I can share with my students. We talked about how appreciating sea glass is about finding beauty in the brokenness. The glass has to be tumbled in sand and waves before the sharp edges are worn down and the surface is worn to softness. Like us, of course.

May we walk in Beauty!


Never Enough

A couple weeks ago, we took a ride on a little train, the Ma and Pa–we were in the open car, and our shadows raced along beside us in the leaves.

It’s never enough
to say that the eagle flies
over the River.
It’s never enough to say
that the River is flowing.

Gratitude List:
1. Den’s Service Center: Thursday at 4, I called them and said that I was on my way home from work with a slow leak in my tire.  They said they’d look at it, even though it would be the last (and busiest) half hour of their day.  I made it safely, they found the nail and fixed it, and they only charged me $13.
2. Harvest hymns in Friday morning hymn sing yesterday.
3. Oaks–less showy than the sugar maples, perhaps.  A rich rusty red.
4. The monarch I saw the other day at school.  I stepped outside in a brief moment, and there it was, dancing through the slanting autumn sun rays.
5. Breath.  (Ellis says I need to include things that I take for granted.  I agree.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Trying to Unsee

You can’t unsee things.  I would not have chosen to see that picture of the baby on the beach, but it popped up on my screen when a well-meaning friend put it on Facebook.  I can’t scratch it out of my brain, and the more I try to unsee it, the more it appears, unbidden.  Yesterday, it appeared in my head as I was playing in the water with my own children. A sudden chill overtook me, left me gasping, barely able to restrain myself from reaching out and grabbing my own laughing children, to pull them both from the water to safety.  When I was in college, I had a series of nightmares about seriously injured children asking me for help, and I couldn’t help them.  I could swear that this very image was in those dreams.

Other layers of worry catch me, too–the thought of all my shining teenagers with their phones, slipping like swimmers through the waters of the images that appear there, stumbling upon horror and gore: the world’s realities that they will not be able to unsee.  How will a photo of a drowned child compound their anxieties, their despairs, their rage?  How will such a picture drown their sense of safety and holiness and wonder about the world around them?

I want to know about the troubles of the world.  I think we need to, if we are to participate in the Work of changing the world.  I think my students need to know that we do not live in a perfect world–they, too, will need the information in order to become participants with us in the business of creating a more just and compassionate future.  Still, I do not want to see them stumbling into these terrifying boundary-lands. I do not want to wander here myself.

Yesterday, during our Staff Development Day at LMS, historian John Roth (our input speaker for the day) told a story of an Amishman quizzing a group of Mennonites about television.
“How many of you own a TV?” he asked.  Every hand went up.
“How many of you think you probably watch too much TV?”  Again, every hand went up.
“How many of you think that your children watch too much TV?”  Every hand.
“How many of you will go home today and get rid of your televisions?”  Nobody raised a hand.

I am not ready to simply accept the inevitability that my children will be witness to murder and tragedy via the screens that surround us.  I don’t want to accept that inevitability for my students, either, though I have less influence on that sphere.

I don’t know how to end this, how to wrap it up.  The loose ends are all over the place.  Pandora’s box is virtual, but it’s been opened, and a host of terrors and rages and sadnesses have been unleashed upon us.


After all that, I need a
Gratitude List:
1.  That box of yarn that came in the mail today.  Watching how the boys couldn’t keep their hands off it, how they immediately developed projects and plans for the different balls of yarn.  One small boy is planning to weave many, many little patches that he will sew together into a woven blanket.  The other made me show him how to crochet.

2.  Music.  One boy is learning cello for the orchestra and trombone for the band.  And after my rant about technology, I must also note that I am grateful for the ability to use a computer program that helps him to listen for the pitch.
3.  Monarchs. I saw two adults today, and two caterpillars.
4.  Yesterday’s John Roth lectures on Teaching to Transform.  His final point of the day was an eloquent examination of a spiritual practice that I call Holding the Bowl of the Heart, and that he called something like Being Attentive to the Beauty of Holiness.  It’s about expansively opening oneself to wonder and awe, compassion and love, while recognizing that for humans, these experiences are intermixed with death and grief and shame and anger.  So one holds them all together, with an attentive awareness that both sides of experience inform and shape each other. Beauty is another of my names for God.
5.  Quartz and kyanite, garnet and serpentine.

May we walk in Beauty.

I am safe. It’s only change.

Gratitude List:
1. This song I found in my “stack of random papers,” one that I remember Tabea teaching me a few years ago: “Doors closing, doors opening.  Doors closing, doors I’m opening.  I am safe. It’s only change. I am safe.  It’s only change.”
2. In all  of my yesterday-celebration of teeny-tinies, I didn’t mention the monarch caterpillar on the bottom of a milkweed leaf, so small it was almost still just a dream.  But I think I felt it looking at me, asking what I am doing to make the world safe.
3. Also, the teeny-tiny snails that Joss kept stopping to pick up and place at the side of the trails so no one would step on them.
4. Pie!  Well, see, there were leftovers.  And tomorrow, still, there will be more pie leftover.  And this makes me happy.
5. This practice.  Sometimes I need it more than others.  Some days are sad or morose, some are angry or confused.  Often, my days are satisfying and comfortable, or busy but pleasant.  Today was a grumpy sort of day.  I grouched at and interfered with my children.  I made commands and demands.  I was not the most pleasant person to live with.  Not mean or shamefully spiteful.  Just a grouch.  Finding five things on a grouchy day is a challenge.  Fortunately, I had a little overflow from yesterday in #2 an #3.

Thank you for listening.  May we walk in Beauty!

Walking Up the Hill


Gratitude List:
1.  Walking up the hill, hand in hand with One Small Boy
2.  to see if we could find the female monarch we had seen earlier on the milkweed,
3.  which was a city a-buzz with pollinators,
4.  when we saw a bluebird, and I started singing, “Bluebird, bluebird, through my window,”
5.  and One Small Boy sang it with me because it was one of his school songs.

May we walk in Beauty!

Language Event

A friend of mine gave me a book of poetry a few months ago. Titled Shaking the Pumpkin, it is a rich and careful compendium of traditional poems from Native North Americans, edited by Jerome Rothenberg.

Several of the poems are simply rituals recorded verbatim and translated into English. They appear almost more as linguistic research than actual poems, and magically, it is in this almost lab-like recording of the words that they begin to take on some of their poetic power for me.  Here, for instance, are selected lines from my favorite poem in the book:

Language Event 1

Use the language of shamans.

Say 	the leash				& mean	the father
“ 	a road 					“ 	the wind
“ 	soup 					“	a seal
“ 	Big Louse 				“	a caribou
“ 	what makes me dive in headfirst 	“	a dream
“ 	what cracks your ears 			“	a gun
“	a jumping thing 			“	a trout
“	what keeps me standing 			“	your clothes
“	the person with a belly 		“	the weather
“	the person with a belly getting up 	“	the morning
“	the person with a belly goes to bed	“	it's nightfall
“	the little walker 			“	a fox
“	walker with his head down 		“	a dog
“	a person smoke surrounds		”	a live one
“	a floating one 				“	an island
“	a flat one 				“	a wolf
“	a shadow 				“	a white man
“	another kind of shadow 			“	a person
“	the shadow-maker 			“	the shaman
“	he turned my mind around 		“	he told me something

I had planned to write my own this morning before the children woke up, but it’s too late for that now, because I took so much time trying to figure out how to format the poem. Meanwhile, I learned a tiny little thing or two about HTML formatting, so there’s that, and I’ll work on my Language Event poem another day.

Gratitude List:
1. I just found out that the monarchs are on the move in Mexico.  Spring is on its way, and the cycles of life continue for this year again at least.  We’ll set the table with all the local milkweed we can manage.
2. Labyrinths
3. Messengers, guides, crows
4. Markers, maps, cairns
5. Lent, the contemplative season

May we walk in Sunshine.

Entering My Prime

Today I turn 47.  Forty-seven is a prime number.  According to Wikipedia, it is the 15th prime number, it’s a safe prime, the 13th supersingular prime, and the sixth Lucas prime.  It is apparently a highly cototient number, and it is “strictly non-palindromic.”  Wikipedia also tells me that 47 is a Keith number, a Carol number and a Thabit number, related somehow to the amicable numbers 17296 and 18416.

Well, anyway, I seem to be entering my prime today, and it looks like I have a lots of mathematical research ahead of me if I really want to understand fully what that means.  But here I go.  Whee!

Gratitude List:
1. Aging.  I wouldn’t want to stay one age all the time.  As my numbers go up, it can occasionally be a little startling to me to see how fast they seem to be rising, but I wouldn’t want to stay in one place.
2. Silver hairs.  My friend Elizabeth calls them Unicorn Hairs.  I will wear mine proudly.
3. Fire circle on the hill.
4. Monarchs flitting about.  Fly well, Bright Ones!
5. Great Horned Owl calling in the trees.
6. That moon!

Season of Orange

Gratitude List:

1. Jon Weaver-Kreider, who tends the milkweed
2. Monarch in the milkweed.  I’m sure it must have been a female, there to lay as many eggs as monarchly possible.  Please, I want to live in a world where this is cause for gentle seasonal joy rather than a wild, fretful hope.
3. Refining the systems
4. Laughter
5. Day lilies–Ah!  This is the season of orange: monarchs and lilies.

May we walk in Beauty!

Jiggetty Jig

2013 September 162

Home again, home again, from a lovely five days in Stone Harbor, NJ.  Instead of trying to whittle my Gratitude List from all those days down to five, or even ten, here is a list of general joys from the trip:

1.  Getting the Farmer off the farm.  Watching him relax.
2.  We got there in time to see the massive flock of swallows snapping up insects on a short pit stop on their southward journey.  By mid-day Friday, they’d gone south.
3.  The full moon over my right shoulder, and the sun leaping out of the early morning waves in front of me, and the season changing (certainly at that very moment) to Autumn.
4.  Monarchs.  So few, so few.  But still.  Some.
5.  Sitting.
6.  Trash scavenging treasures: a beach rake, another beach umbrella in really good shape, a boogie board.  Call me a vulture.
7.  Josiah opened the screen door on Friday morning: “Now we’re open for love and business.”
8.  Dolphins!
9.  Dragonflies!
10.  Sylvester’s Fish Market, Nemo’s, Tortilla Flats, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.  In other words, good eating.
11.  There were no more throwing up incidents after we got there.  We needed to get rid of that old car seat anyway.  Now we have a nice new booster.
12.  Big shovels to dig massive holes with.  As soon as they had a good hole, the boys would start nesting, creating sand shelves for their tools, making roads for the construction equipment. . .
14.  Making drip castles with Ellis.
15.  The way the boys hum quietly to themselves as they play in the sand, as they swim in the pool.
16.  Ellis jumping off the sand ridge into the water, into the sun.
17.  Watching my child’s eyes when he realized that he had just kept himself afloat in the pool.
18.  You know what I mean about the sun-road on the waves?  I love how it always appears to lead directly to me.

May we walk that road in Beauty.