Finding a Common Language

littlesister
Little Sister harvesting sunshine from the aconite.

This is a lightly edited version of something I wrote the other day (though it’s still a little raw and choppy), modified with the thoughtful ideas of friends who offered me wise feedback:

I want to keep open the doors to healthy communication with people who have vastly different opinions about things than I do. But how can we keep the doors open when we can’t even agree on what a door is, exactly? It’s like we speak the same language, but we use utterly opposite vocabularies. Truth and fact have become shifty, like sand, like smoke. When someone says “wall” and someone else says “door,” where do we find the space in which to begin our conversation?
Sometimes it’s easier just to say we don’t belong together, the ones who say “door” and the ones who say “wall.” But we do seem to have some of the same words for love, for hope, for puppies, for belonging. Can we at least begin to open some of those windows?

I will continue to be alarmed at the actions of the current president. You will continue to wonder if the previous president was a communist. I cannot understand how you could support him and still be a good person. I want to ask you: Can’t you see the hatred and greed at the core of everything this administration is putting out? If you care about Life, if you care about children, if you care about people, if you care about the Earth–how can you support this man and his cronies? My hardest questions are for Christians: How can a follower of Jesus support the separation of families, the turning away of people fleeing for their lives? How can a follower of Jesus accept an administration that is gutting all protections for the Earth, opening pathways to destroy God’s creation? How can you support the brutality against the First Nations people in Standing Rock who are simply trying to keep their land and water safe and clean? How can a follower of Jesus support the bigotry and racism and misogyny that are unapologetically spoken from this man and his representatives?  I need to hear how you reconcile this.

Still, you love your children, and I love mine. We both love fudge and knitting and really strong coffee. You tell great jokes that make me laugh. We can probably both recite the first three lines of “Hiawatha” together, if we think really hard (okay, maybe only two, but I bet you’re going to look it up now, eh?). Neither of us can resist a cute kitten video or the awe-inspiring sight of starlings flying as one creature. Neither one of us is a monster.

(The “you” in that paragraph is an aggregate person, my imagination of someone who is unlike me and yet like me, someone with whom I might probably share a specialized vocabulary for our particular interests although our political vocabularies do not intersect.)

Can we find language that we both can understand? I hope so.

Gratitude List:
1. The Little Sisters are out and about today, buzzing among the aconite, gathering pollen in their golden saddle bags. Welcome, Bright Ones! May you thrive and flourish! (You can see one on the attached image, if you search.)
2. Warm sun
3. I received my first issue of Rattle poetry journal in the mail today! This is the best submissions fee ever! I submitted a chapbook to a contest a few months ago, and the submission fee includes a subscription to the journal!
4. Nuthatches. How can you not just love people who seem to prefer to live their lives upside-down?
5. Playing Tabu with the kids this morning. I would give the clues and they would guess them, with Jon chiming in every once in a while when the answer words got too obscure for the kids.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Gestating Ideas

lichen

What is gestating within you in these days? What ideas and dreams are you brooding on? What seeds are waiting deep within you to break open their casings and begin seeking upward for sunshine and air?

Now is the time to give them secret and tender names, to hold them gently and to imagine what how they will appear when they are full grown. Sing to them, those ideas and dreams. Breathe on them. Look lovingly upon them, with eyes full of wonder. It may even be time to begin to whisper them to the dawn: “I wonder how my life would be if I would. . .”

Gratitude List:
1. Gestating intentions and ideas
2. Time with family, chances to chat and catch up. These fine, fine young folks.
3. The Janus pose–looking forward, looking back. But being in this moment.
4. Figgy pudding
5. The marriage of wisdom and compassion.

May we walk in Beauty!

To Those Who Wander

imag2389

Today’s prompt is to write a Visitor Poem.

Blessing for the Visitor
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

May you who wander, who sojourn, who travel,
may you who make your way to our door
find rest for your tired feet and weary heart,
food to fill your bellies and to nourish your minds,
and company to bring you cheer and inspiration.

May you find comfort for your sorrows,
belonging to ease your loneliness,
and laughter to bring you alive.

And when your feet find themselves again upon the road,
may they remember the way back to our door.

Gratitude List:
1. Coming through a conversation feeling more like myself. I wish everyone could have someone like that, who can ask questions and build upon ideas with you, help you sort things out. I am grateful for the people of my family, who do this for me.
2. Nieces and Nephews, good cousins to my children. The in-laws–my siblings chose their partners so perfectly. My parents.
3. My mother’s question: “How shall we pray for each other?” Reminds me of the sacred question to ask the Fisher King–the one that leads to the finding of the Holy Grail.
4. The art on the walls of the houses I visited today. Such beauty, such rich depth of meaning.
5. Gathering around a table with people I love. As Joy Harjo says, “Perhaps the world ends here.”

May we walk in Beauty!

Living Into the Questions

stone
Circle of Stones

You there
in the center of the circle
and all of us gathered around

Silence
within the weight of the moment
and stillness in the bowl of time

We breathe
waiting, holding you inside us
and watching for what yet may be

Gratitude List:
1. Blessing each other in our transitions
2. Living into the questions
3. Holding the paradoxes
4. Preparing for winter
5. Listening for the messages

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding the Questions

imag1876
I spent last week quietly anticipating another walk of the Camp Hebron Labyrinth. On my Saturday morning walk own to the woods, I kept thinking how different the paths and the distances seemed in just a week. The thought appeared in my head: “It’s a different journey now.” Even though I am walking a similar path and toward a different destination, the journey keeps shifting and changing. Just moments after I had begun to ponder what I meant by thinking that, I arrived at the labyrinth to find that a tree had fallen across it.

I recently found this piece of paper on which I wrote, in the summer of 2015, a series of examen-type questions. I think I probably have already written these in the blog, but I am going to put them here again so that I can ponder them this week. I wouldn’t use more than five of them a day, probably, and for similar ones, like the first four, I would spread them out over days, to see how the different ways of asking almost the same question evokes different internal responses.

How did Mystery encounter you today?
How did you encounter Mystery today?
How were found by Mystery?
How did God/dess seek you?

What awakened you?
What vision brought your spirit awake?
What nudged you? (Or nudged you forward?)
Where does your heart sit?
What gave you wings?
What do you take on your journey?
What do you tuck into the corners?

What quickened within you?
What brought your senses (or your heart, your spirit, your brain) alive?
What do you take deeper?
What do you take into prayer?

What is the weight that you carry?

And not that I am thinking about it again, I’ll add some more from today’s heart:
What itches? What makes you uncomfortable?
What feels unsettled?
What skin are you shedding?
What muscles are you stretching?

Gratitude List:
1. Bridges, and bridge-building language and actions
2. Gathered Community
3. Getting the work organized, making a plan
4. Treasuring each other
5. Waking up–I am struggling with the actual physical process this morning. How much more intense it can be to wake up in other ways. May we always be open to the pull to wake further, to bring our dreams into the wakeful spaces.

May we walk in Beauty!

Lay Down Your Heart

fins
By Monday, the gills have expanded and developed, the underside of the universe.

Working up a poem that I wrote a year ago:

Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
where your ancestors wandered.

It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.

It will not offer you answers
to the why of war
or end the stench of battles.

Still, the waters may offer you
questions instead, questions
that will create the riddles
to draw you onto the path again
despite the darkness
that surrounds you.

Gratitude List:
1. I have been given this day in which to do my work.
2. How emotion settles in the body. I know this can be unsettling, too. I read something yesterday by Darshana Avila, about sensing the way that happiness and sadness settle in the body, noticing where they are, what they do in the body, not judging them or their presence as “good” or “bad.” She noted that when we reflect on the way emotions are sensed in the body, happiness and sadness don’t always feel that different.  They just are.  It reminds me of Rumi welcoming all comers to the guesthouse.
3. New questions. I have to ask Anne Marie sometime to remind me of the entire list she offered in church on Sunday, a series of questions that comes from the peacebuilding work of the Great Lakes Initiative in eastern Africa.  The ones that stick with me are, “What do you lament?” and “What does joy look like?” I like the way the questions are phrased, instead of simply asking what makes you sad or happy–which are equally valid questions.
4. This one feels a little petty because it’s so material, but it has wider implications for me: Yesterday I found some dresses at Columbia Re-Uzit, and then I drove past my friend’s farm stand, and she was also having a yard sale, and I bought some of her clothes. So now I feel like I have the outfitting necessary for the coming school season. It’s one more thing off my plate, accomplished with minimal effort and thought–that’s the piece I am grateful for. That, and the lovely colors and textures, and the thought that I will be wearing some things that my beautiful and gracious friend has worn. In that context, clothes are more than just clothes, you know?
5. What shall I pull out for this last one? I do not yet have a Thing of Beauty on the list, other than my lovely new dresses. Oh, here it is: the bouquet of lisianthus blossoms my mother brought to me yesterday to have on the table today as I am working on my class preparations. Deep purple-violet and vibrant red-violet. (My parents brought me flowers, AND they are caring for my children for a couple days so that I can focus solely on the preparations for school.)

May we walk in Beauty.

Asking the Questions

Emerson

Gratitude List:
1. (What do you notice?) That wren calling, tiredness in my bones, a sense of being past the most overwhelming parts of the end-of-semester skid
2. (What do you hunger for?) Solitude, quiet, sustenance, sustainedness, time to write and edit, time to ponder, decluttering
3. (Who has been helpful?) Those 12-year-olds in church yesterday–how they are growing!, the ones who create rites of passage and rituals to mark changes, the many names of God
4. (What are the themes?) The table: Alain’s sermon, Neruda’s poem (“For now, I ask no more than the justice of eating”), Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here”)
5. (What draws you forward?) The rest that is coming, the rising sun–the way light filters in to the hollow, the calling of birds, the good Work to be done

May we walk in Beauty!

Refining the Questions

I have been refining my questions today, and thinking about this process.   I have been reading about education in the last few weeks–about educating the intellect and the spirit and the emotions.  I realize that when I phrase questions like, “What do you feel?  What do you sense?  What do you think?”  I understand the surface meaning, but there’s a boxy feel to it.  I feel like those questions will trap my words, somehow.  I want to ask myself those questions, but they need to have a more fluid grace, an ability to slide and flow into many boxes.  These might work better.  I’m still connecting a bit to some of St. Ignatius’ questions, but sliding sideways into my own.

How have you been met by Mystery today?
Walking into the room of myself.
Exploring names for God.

What awakens you?
A golden finch flying across my path and upward into blue.

What sits in your heart?
The satisfaction and anxiety of holding vigil for people I love.  Being a watcher.
Hope.
Reverence.
Frustration at the work it took to complete an assignment today–that can build in me compassion for my students in the coming year.

What nudges you forward?
Plans, projects, art.

How will you step into tomorrow?
I will write my goals for the rest of the summer, and include play and art on the list.

May we walk in Beauty!

Burning Through

Sometimes a new thing catches me on fire, and I just have to let it burn through me, so I can see the trail it leaves, follow the glowing embers.  This poem by Mary Oliver–“Gratitude“–has taken hold of me.  First, I had to copy it, using her questions, and then I had to create my own, while still adding my own regular 5-point gratitude list at the end.  Tonight, more of my own questions.

And I am lifting my nose to sniff the air–there’s an aroma there of something lodged in my memory.  Here it is: I have been feeling compelled to call this emerging process an Examen.  I have been looking it up, and I think that perhaps it isn’t so far from the Examen of St. Ignatius.  His process, according to the Loyola Press website, is to:

1. Become aware of the presence of God.  (I like to call God the Mystery, or Love, or the Source, or Mama.)
2. Review the day with gratitude.  (That’s the part I have been working on for the past three or four years.  It has been transformative in ways I could not have predicted.)
3. Pay attention to your emotions.  (Sometimes I stop at the second step.  This is a good reminder.  Also, I think I would add, Check in with your energy, because that is part of my practice, too.)
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.  (For me, the noticing is prayer, the gratitude is prayer.  Still, I get what this is about: take one thing deeper.  Oh, I do like that.)
5. Look toward tomorrow.  (Bring the past and the present and the future together in this moment.  How does the past [the work of #2] inform the present [#1, #3, #4]?  And how can the past-imbued present inform the future [#5]?)

How is the Mystery present to you?
In silence.  In the space between my breaths.  In the night sounds of crickets and peepers.

What visions brought your spirit awake?
Three crows flying above the fields into morning.
A white heron flying over the city in the afternoon heat.
The hard work of preparing an essay.
What words awakened you?
“Prophetic listening,” transformation, kairos, dialectical hermeneutics
What awakened your senses?
Rice and peas, garlic, squash, long thin green beans, broccoli, and fat slices of pink tomato with coarse salt.

What does your heart say?
There is anxiety here for friends who are suffering.
Contentment, which is sometimes better than wild joy.
I am tired.
Anticipation.
New ideas flitting through the rooms of my brain excite and exhaust me.

What goes deeper?
I am one spider on this humming web,
surveying the movement from strand to strand.
We all weave and spin together,
no longer simply waiting for the Morai
to measure and cut, but being ourselves the spiders,
tending the web, minding the movement.

Where does this go tomorrow?
Tomorrow is a clearing day–
get things accomplished.

May we walk in Beauty!

Questions

You say you don’t believe the stories the moon was telling
last night as she rose among the sparkling stars
over the rim of your feather pillow?
You say you’ve forgotten the song she sang,
the way her voice wrapped your heart
in a blanket made of spider silk?
You say you never find yourself lost and alone
and deliriously satisfied in the meadows of a dream?

Surely you have heard the singing when the rainbow arcs the sky?
Surely you have seen the pattern of the swallows’ dance above you?
Surely you can’t have missed the feel of the moon’s fingers
as she caresses your forehead on a summer night?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Friends, I am on the cusp of a big change, standing at the very edge of the cliff now, remembering that I have wings, but not sure that I am ready to fly.  Oh, I know the wind will catch me, and I know all will be well, but it is right and proper, I suppose, for butterflies to fill the belly in the moments before the leap.

Today is my last Friday of farm harvest for the summer.  While I will continue to fill in the cracks as I am able, Tuesday will essentially be the day I take off the farmer’s hat and put on the teacher’s hat.

I am going to try to continue to be present here on the blog through the changes, to continue to write gratitude lists, and hopefully poems, too.  But the space may get a little dusty and cobwebby from time to time as I work to figure out how my new morning schedule works, and where I can carve out writing time in my new world.

Gratitude List:
1. The morning’s rosy sky
2. Creative community: currently, this postcard project, and how one word or phrase or idea on a postcard I receive becomes the thread I grab for the next two or three poems.
3. Wings.  The fierce feeling of the wind in the eyes in the moments before leaping.
4. Last night the hamster cage was left open.  I am grateful that Jon found Afil before Fred the Cat did.
5. Shuffling.  How the pieces can fit together in many different ways.  Sometimes I get afraid to shift things around for fear I’ll set the whole thing crumbling, but new patterns begin to emerge instead, new ways of making it all work.

May we walk in Beauty!