I have oranges in the dogwood tree for Oriole, but he seems uninterested.  He prefers the sycamore fluffs at the tops of the trees.  The dogwoods have lost their pink in the three days since I took the photo.

Gratitude List:
1. Cool May–whenever I start to kvetch about being too cold, I remember the beastly heat at the end of the year last year, and I am grateful.  I have not started up my classroom air conditioner at all this spring.
2. Deep, flowing conversations.
3. Your heart.  My heart.  The strands of love and compassion that connect those dots.
4. White fluffy clouds in blue sky.
5. Passing on the Flame.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gardens and Islands

Season of the ferns.

Gratitude List:
1. Goethite, those small brown-black cubes we find in the fields.  Remineralized pyrite.  Philosopher’s stone.
2. The Curious Garden.  A small boy came home from school yesterday, inspired by a book/video his teacher had shown him in class.  He wanted me to help him to create a place behind the house where he would put plants he likes.  Then he took me inside to show me the book on the computer.  As we were finding this, he said, “I think you’re really going to like this one.”  I love that, that he is sharing literature with me, thinking about whether I would like it.  And he was right.  I really did.
3. Meeting the challenges.  I’m really living into The Odyssey right now, looking at the islands of Odysseus’s journey, thinking about the things that derail me, that challenge me, that keep from becoming my truest self, and the challenges that help me to become my truest self.
4. Planning my contemplative retreat.  I’ve chosen dates for my monastery trip.  Today I will call and reserve my little room.  I cannot express how deeply satisfying this is.
5. I also heard orioles on campus yesterday–even one in the tree outside my window!

May we walk in Beauty!

Dropping Keys


Gratitude List:
1. This poem by Hafiz, from yesterday morning:

The small woman
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the

2. Hearing oriole’s voice added to the dawn chorus.
3. Becoming more familiar with that inner labyrinth.  Learning to recognize the turnings.
4. Vision.  I complain a lot lately about my glasses, about my shifting vision, but really, I am so glad for my sight: for the ability to read, to see a blue heron in the distance flying across the River, for the way eyes let light in.
5. The rabbits of Palmyra.  They have such personality.  Last night, on the way home from my mother-in-law’s house we saw (again) a game of leap rabbit, where two rabbits square off in a yard: one makes a sudden rush toward the other, who leaps into the air while the rushing rabbit dashes beneath.  They do this repeatedly–I assume it’s a dominance thing, but it’s really entertaining to watch.  But the most engaging story is this: Yesterday morning, my mother-in-law went to open her living room blinds, and there was a rabbit standing with its back feet on her porch couch and its front feet on her windowsill, looking in at her!  It crouched back down on the couch for a moment and then stood up and looked in again.  Then it jumped up on the windowsill and looked in for a few moments before hopping down and away.  I think it was thanking her for all the flowers she has planted for it to eat.

May we walk in Beauty!

Fire Bird is Back!

(Not  my photo–from Wikipedia, labeled for reuse.)

Gratitude List:
1. Fire Bird is back in the hollow. The oriole has returned.  I have been watching and listening for weeks now.  Yesterday, as I was getting out of the shower, I heard his whistle.  I opened the window, and he flew in to sit on the branch of sycamore right in front of me, whistling and whistling.  I felt as though my longing had drawn him here. Later in the afternoon, his lady came, too, timid and whispery, yellow-green like the leaves on the poplar.  And he is such an impossible orange.  Satisfying orange.
2. A bright and shining bird of a boy who is ten years old today.  He is driven by his curiosity, compelled to explore and tweak and consider, to question and create and figure things out.  I can’t imagine anymore what life was like before he was part of it.
3. Drawing to ourselves what we love.
4. My mother.  Mentor and model, thoughtful and contemplative, she has done so much to make the world a better and more just place.
5. Mother Earth

May we walk in Beauty!

Lessons and Bright Wings

My gratitude list tonight is a two-pointer.

First, a challenging situation this morning gave me a chance to practice holding onto my center in the midst of an extremely awkward social situation that might have once caused me either to dither and apologize when I was the one who should have been apologized to, or to get angry and stony and withdrawn.  I think I managed to keep my cool.  There are things, in retrospect, that I wish I had said, things that could have added grace to the situation, had I kept my wits more firmly in place.  Still, I was able to be present in the moment when someone was criticizing me, to let a little piece of myself sit on my own shoulder and observe my emotions, to tell myself, “Now isn’t that interesting?”  I am grateful for the chance to practice, even when the moment itself was difficult.

The second thing is this: I am in love with a bird, and today he came back to my hollow.  I heard him out there this afternoon, as I was brooding about that first item, and I ran out to see, but he was hiding high in the branches of the poplar.  Later, though, when I went out to turn off the irrigation pump at the pond, and the sun had just set out of the hollow, but the last rays were still leaking over the ridge and hitting the top branches of the sycamore, there he was, shining orange in the light.  Oriole.  I can’t describe how I love this bird, but when I hear him, when I see him, I could weep for joy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Decisions and Vulnerability

Gratitude List:
1.  The way decisions grow and bloom.  You put that seed in the soil there and you say, “Hmmm.  Maybe?”  And then you come back to it a few days later, and–Lo and Behold!–something is growing!  And sometimes the bean you planted comes up, and sometimes something else is there.  Then you decide whether to uproot that or to tend it.  The year we began farming here, we planted watermelons in plastic planting trays.  As we were transplanting them out into the field, I came upon a little square where a tiny nettle was growing instead of a watermelon.  Nine years later, after that watermelon field has been tilled under and re-used for beans, for tomatoes, for squash, for peas, the nettle patch down by the parking lot is growing strong and lush.  Ah, decisions. . .
2.  The way, when you touch the wounded place and say
“This makes me feel vulnerable.  This makes me feel weak,”
the way that makes you real,
the way it makes me less afraid.
When you say,
“This is despair.  This is burnout,”
then all the rest of us can sigh,
then all the rest of us can say,
“So that is what it is.”
Then all the rest of us
can feel so much less alone.
3.  Orchard oriole in the back trees.
Baltimore in the the front.
4.  The bins are washed,
the market room is clean.
Today we harvest.
Today a new season begins!
5.  Possibilities.

May we walk in Beauty!


I have been thinking about you
more than you know, you know?

Here in the mornings when birdsong
enwraps me in a blanket
of messages in whistle and trill,
while the early morning chill
is dissipating as the sun
rises over the ridge,

or when I am out in the field,
or walking up our winding hill,
or pulling out the pans
to make tuna noodle casserole,

my heart will suddenly veer,
shift into a different focus,
and be where you are.

That little sparrow that hopped
along your windowsill
and peered inside
as if searching for someone.
That was my heart,
seeking you out.

The little white puff of cloud
alone in the blue sky
that seemed to follow you home.

The flash of sunlight
as you turned a corner.

I have wanted to give you words
to help you feel less alone.
Something that rhymes with hope,
or sounds like the whisper of the arms
of sturdy friends encircling you
through this slow and vicious storm.

Today, watch for sunlight on a bird’s wing,
look for the golden face of a dandelion in the grass,
the shadow on your kitchen table
as the day leans into afternoon.
Listen for the trill of sparrow
and the knock of a woodpecker
in the distance, from the park.

That vibrant net of color and sound
is woven by watchful hearts,
holding you.


My gratitude lists sometimes get a little birdy.  That’s okay, really.  Sometimes a bird is more than a bird.  Sometimes it’s just a bird.

Gratitude List:
1.  Yesterday, in the low afternoon sun, in a long, low, curving arm of the walnut tree, I saw a bluebird and an oriole sitting within two feet of each other.  Beauty, she just gives us so much color.  And then there was the crimson cap of that red-bellied woodpecker, set off by his black and white stripes.  So dapper and handsome, he.  That long, elegant bill, and piercing, knowing eyes.  I know I am just cheating here, putting at least three gratitudes into one so I’ll have more room, but let’s just pile on the fun: swallows in the gloaming yesterday, swooping low over the grass and up into the last rays of sun, their wings shimmering green-blue-green.
2.  Picnic at Sam Lewis State Park.  The view, the view, the view.  I think I saw all the way to China.  To Virginia, to Vermont, to California, at least.  Panorama, distance, layering of mountains and valleys.  And, of course, the River winding through.
3.  Last night I woke up only once before five o’clock.  No restless twisting, no aches waking me up.  It’s been a couple of weeks, and I was beginning to think that this was going to be my new reality.  Sleep is really a wonderful thing.
4.  Have I said how much I love my new job?  And I haven’t even started yet.  The planning, the dreaming, the idea-making, has filled me with such an incredible surge of fresh energy.  Jon has caught fire, too, and he’ll come down off the tractor with some suggestion or idea, or memory about a helpful teacher.
5.  The way the Earth gives us what we need.  I have been drinking fresh nettle and plantain tea lately to help with the allergies.  It has taken a while, but after several years of almost no allopathic allergy medication, my body has begun to respond to the subtle and gentle relief of herbal treatments.  Some days when I go out to pick the herbs for tea (nettle, plantain and mint), a patch of ground ivy will seem to shine a little more brightly, or a breeze will sift through some violet leaves, like they’re begging me to pick them, too.  Dock and dandelion, catnip, yarrow, chamomile, sweet clover.  Makes a mighty fine tea.  Now, if only I can get my kids to drink it.

May we walk in Beauty!

Where Wonder Enters the Soul

Here is a re-post of a poem I posted last April 14.  I can’t believe that Oriole was here already in mid-April last year.  But this may have just been me hoping for their return to the hollow.  I don’t know.

Through the Door

These are the doorways.  The passages
where wonder enters the soul on tiptoe.
Here is the speedwell,
up from the earth and smiling through snow.
The breath of the wind
on the ice-white wing of the gull.

Gull’s feather,
the beating heart of the honeybee,
and the black lace veil of the monarch.
The moment of hush before sunrise.

These are the liminal spaces.
The cocked arm and quiet face of a sleeping child.
The birth of a new idea.
The rousing of thought to action
and action to hope.
The hope that is borne
on the wings of the wren.
The way the weight of sadness
will slide away from your eyes
to make a little room for joy.

This is the breaking news of the heart.
First the aconite and speedwell,
then windflower and crocus.
These are the vanguard, the silent scouts.

For the purposes of this poem
I will be equating gratitude with wonder
and wonder with spring.
Wonder enters on tiptoe.

A flash of impossible orange
flickers high in the sycamore.
From the newest leaves
on the highest branch
comes a rustling, then a whistle
like calling a dog.
The oriole returns to summon the summer home.

And you–you may stand in the doorway
as long as you like.
Let that bright bird
open spaces for new joy
to fill the rooms
where sadness used to be.

Book Cover
That poem appears on page 18 of my new book.
Buy it here.

Gratitude List:
1.  A wonderful job interview today at a place where I can happily imagine myself.  I know better than to assume anything, but if I do not get the job, I am still extremely grateful for the chance to talk about things that matter to me, and for the boost that this has given to my confidence.
2.  The way dreams work their way into daytime realities and help to navigate the emotional landscape.
3.  Robin’s eggs.  I have found three or four already this spring, and I can see where the careful pecking from inside opened them.
4.  Sunlight through ferns.
5.  The Birds of Fire.  This morning, thinking I was seeing a pair of blackbirds squabbling in the poplar tree, I was amazed to see that they were actually the rusty glowing embers of the Orchard Oriole.  A few minutes later, trying to find where the Baltimore Oriole was singing way at the top of the poplar, I suddenly saw that dancing orange flame of a bird, flitting from branch to branch.  Then Beauty, she said, “But wait!  There’s more!”  And this evening after supper, she showed us the dazzle of a scarlet tanager burning away in the pear tree.  And whose heart can encompass all that color–all that fire–in one day?

May we walk in Beauty!

Fire Bird is Back

Gratitude List:

1. Wisteria blooming on the balcony railing
2. Ferns all over the place.  They’ve gone from fiddleheads to waist high in less than two weeks.
3. Some neighbor up the street neatly mowed a grassy area, but left a big circle of grape hyacinths un-mowed.  Sometimes I just love people.
4. The moon in blue afternoon sky, caught in the branches of the walnut tree.
5.  My fire bird, my weaver bird, my oriole is back.  I have not seen him, but I heard his notes dropping like molten gold from the high branches of the poplar tree.  Soon I’ll see that flash of flame high in the green.

May we walk, may we fly, in Beauty!

Fledging and Farming

Gratitude List:
1.  Phoebes are fledging.  I am grateful for the close-up, firsthand connection we get with the natural world.  (I am also stressed out about needing to watch over more young and vulnerable folks in the world.)
2013 June 050
2.  We found where the orioles have their nest.  Just a woven bag of strings and plant fibers hanging out at the very end of a branch.
3.  A wonderful first harvest day.  Again we have a delightful and energetic crew, lots of good energy, and a great community of vegetable-lovers stopping by all afternoon.  The shares were on the small side, but full of delicious goodness.
2013 June 072
4.  We’ve had good rain, but it didn’t rain today.
5.  The way the village raises the children.

May we walk in Beauty.