I Am a Verb


“Self care is not an individual act; it is a collective act.” —Yara Sallam
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“The enemy of a love is never outside, it’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.” —Anaïs Nin
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“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” —Frederick Buechner
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“To live by a large river is to be kept in the heart of things. ” —John Haines
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I haven’t yet read The Shack, but this passage makes me think I oughta:
“I,” she [the Holy Spirit] opened her hands to include Jesus and Papa, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active and moving. I am a being verb. And as my very essence is a verb, I am more attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing, and on and on. Humans, on the other hand, have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules. Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless ‘I am’ there are no verbs and verbs are what makes the universe alive.” —Wm Paul Young, The Shack
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Thomas Merton:
“There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist. . .most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work. . . . It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her). . .work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
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“I can’t control the world, but I can control myself. And you are not going to coerce me into hating.” —Ruby Sales
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“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.” —Mark Strand
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“A characteristic of feminism is to think twice about what you know.” —Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi
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“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”  ―Iain Thomas (not Vonnegut, as everyone says)


Gratitude List:
1. Chances to breathe, to catch breath, to sigh, to yawn
2. Sunflowers, seeds, and pollinators
3. Little nap with a cat on the lap
4. Cheese
5. Reading with the kids. Right now it’s Patricia Wrede’s Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Small Paper Lanterns


“I went down in the river to pray. . .”

‘When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power.
We shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.’
―D.H.Lawrence
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“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
―Rabindranath Tagore
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“Every day look at a beautiful picture, read a beautiful poem, listen to some beautiful music, and if possible, say some reasonable thing.”  ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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“Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?” ―Christine Valters Paintner
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“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we shall harness for God energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world we will have discovered fire.” ―Teilhard de Chardin
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“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
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“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


Gratitude List:
1. This, from a song in church this morning: “Not by your finger, not by your anger, will our world order change in a day, but by your people, fearless and faithful, small paper lanterns lighting the way.” I am grateful for you and you and you, for being my small paper lanterns.
2. The young people of my church, who are small paper lanterns for me.
3. Community dinners, sitting out on the lawn, eating together, laughing, talking, remembering.
4. My tender-hearted children.
5. Anticipation of a new year.

May we walk in Beauty!

We Be Many

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” –Helen Keller
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“Be kind to yourself while blooming. I know sometimes it feels like your soul doesn’t always fit. It’s all a part of the process.” ~ Emery Allen
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“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laughter broke into a thousand pieces,
and they all went skipping about and that was the beginning of fairies!”
– Peter Pan
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“We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to be threatened by the presence and success of women.” ~Barack Obama
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“Every drone strike and every natural disaster and every shooting death is a child. Whatever else defines one’s existence, a person’s first identity was as someone’s child. It is never okay to kill someone’s child.” –Melissa Ressler
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“If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.” ~William Stafford
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“Remember this: We be many and they be few.” ~Arundhati Roy
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“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
~Wendell Berry
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“If we go down into ourselves, we find that we possess exactly what we desire.” –Simone Weil
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”When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles.”
~Naomi Shihab Nye
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“Stranger! awaken
the guitar more! Delay our tomorrow so our road
may extend and space may widen for us, and we may get rescued
from our story together: you are so much yourself … and I am
so much other than myself right here before you!” ~Mahmoud Darwish
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“I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.”
–John O’Donohue
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“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.
We must be hatched or go bad.” ~C.S. Lewis
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“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ~Aldo Leopold
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“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”
–Wendell Berry
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“For [mystics,] contemplation and action are not opposites, but two interdependent forms of a life that is one–a life that rushes out to a passionate communion with the true and beautiful, only that it may draw from this direct experience of Reality a new intensity wherewith to handle the world of things; and remake it, or at least some little bit of it, ‘nearer to the heart’s desire.” –Evelyn Underhill


Gratitude List:
1. Naked Ladies in everybody’s garden. Such a spring-like beauty here at the height of summer. (Some people call them Resurrection Lilies, and that might be a nice name for a contemplative person to use, but I am attached to the racier version of their name.)
2. New fur friends in the house. (How long will it take until they start to come out from under the furniture?)
3. Sunshine caught in the branches of the trees. (It’s beginning to happen already: the tilt, the slant, the hint that autumn is coming.)
4. Chances to catch up without the boys at home, but mostly: Having them back! (Absence makes the heart grow fonder.)
5. Sitting in the doorway to a new year, a new half-century.

May we walk in Beauty!

River Has Her Pathways

 
River has her many pathways.

Dear Shining Girl,

You stand poised in the limbo of doorway, and the light nearly shines through you, prisming the water in your eyes.

The hallways have emptied, but for that cluster of your friends who can’t quite say goodbye.

And you, like a forest doe, still pause on the threshold, ready to bolt at hint of danger.

It has been a season of words, and I the purveyor, the pusher, the cataloguer, the demagogue of vocabulary.

But I have no words for this transparent glimmer of invisibility you wear, for the way this grief has caught you by the shoulders, the way your words suddenly lock themselves into that golden cage of your throat.

Your giddy group of comrades bounces down the hallway and you take a step out of the shadows. Their joy is a distorted mirror of your misery.

When you go from this woodland of words and the solace of chums, who will See you? Who will know who you are?

Take heart, Shining Girl. Let those words that have caught in your chest like a trapped bird beating against the windowpane–let them fill the hollow spaces until there is no more space to fill, and then they will burst forth, radiant as your name.

I will be listening for that moment.


The last day of school is so exciting for so many of us. For some, however, it is a return to uncomfortable places, long stretches of loneliness, days of not being Seen. I need to remember that not everyone is experiencing this riot of joy.


Gratitude List:
1. Dedication for the seniors this evening. Glorious group of young people, about to be unleashed upon the world. They’re a force to be reckoned with.
2. Last day. It’s a big relief for me.
3. Icarus oriole still sings from his treetops, often enough that in my short forays into the pollen-infested world, I can hear him sing.
4. Empanadas–somebody’s mother left us empanadas in the Faculty Lounge. Oy. My.
5. Lunch was Vietnamese food provided by our wonderful principals. Delicious, and a great chance to connect with colleagues before separating for the summer.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Rivers and the Bridges

coptic-bridge
Nag Hammadi and Susquehanna (via Dreamscope app)

Being able to weave together two different photos gives me the chance to blend my obsessions. Here, the Bridge over my River, and a piece of ancient Coptic text on a papyrus. I don’t have much time these days for personal researches, but when I have a free moment, I often turn to texts from the Nag Hammadi Library. Right now, I keep a page of The Thunder, Perfect Mind open on a tab on my Chromebook. Those texts are both a bridge and a river for me. I love how this mash-up placed text where the leaves of the sycamore would be in summer, and how there seems to be the suggestion of a greater arch in the sky above the arches of the bridge.

Gratitude List:
1. The willows are putting on their shiny green dancing clothes for spring.
2. The way flocks of little birds connect the dots across the sky.
3. Three crows in a field in the dawn, bobbing their heads up and down, doing obeisance to the sunrise.
4. Tea. It has been such a non-frigid winter that I haven’t often felt the need for tea to break the chill. Lately my students have been making tea in my room, and I enjoy a couple cups a day with them, and then some in the evening. It takes away the craving for the second cup of coffee and leaves me feeling warmed from the inside out.
5. Teenagers. I don’t know why I used to be anxious about the idea of teaching in a high school. The brilliant minds, the bursting creativity, the great hearts, the developing critical thinking skills. I love them. I am learning so  much. They are also my rivers and my bridges.

May we walk in Beauty!

Simple List

stump

Gratitude List:
1. The shining eyes of my students. I am carrying some of them a little heavily these days, as I become aware of the weighty anxieties that some of then hold within them.
2. Last night’s dinner. Jon cooked small shells, and mixed them with peas and spinach in a cream and parmesan sauce.
3. My new pen. I finally did it. I ordered myself a real fountain pen. It is sleek and shining and beautiful. (Unfortunately, the ink I ordered is coming in a separate package, so I need to wait a little while to try it out.)
4. Challenging and respectful conversations. I really like when people respectfully challenge my ideas. It helps to keep me honest, for one thing, but it also helps me to hone and define the ideas which I do find most compelling.
5. I know I say this one often, but it is two of my daily moments of delight: Crossing the Susquehanna on the way to and from school. I love this River. I love how it holds not only the idea of place but of time, how you can see the remnants of the ancient fishing weirs that the Susquehannocks used for catching fish.

Sun and Sunflowers

sun-and-flowers

This river keeps rolling
rushing beneath me
even when my small boat
rests still on the water
quiet and open

Gratitude List:
1. Good Parenting is alive and well. Yesterday at Hersheypark, in the claustrophobic middle of the masses, where exhausted, grouchy parents are trying to deal with exhausted, grouchy children, I did not expect to so consistently witness such tender and attentive parenting. The whole point of going to an amusement part as a family is to have fun together, and mostly I saw adults eagerly sharing and creating a fun experience for their children.
2. Watching a child conquer his fears by going on a slightly scary roller coaster. “Let’s do that one again!”
3. Oak and sycamore and larch. The beautiful old trees at the park.
4. Seeing the world from high above. Perspective.
5. Doing the inner work. There is always a new challenge, a new practice, a new perspective to incorporate.

May we walk in Beauty!

What Is the Message?

IMG_0468

The bluebird told me, and I told the wren.
The bluebird got it from someone on the ground,
a vole, perhaps, or field mouse,
who’d caught the gist from the catfish
who lives in a corner of the pond.
She’d heard it from the turtle
who was scratching a hole in the bank
where she could lay her clutch
of pearly eggs, and she said she had learned it
from the black snake looping its way
along a branch of locust, careful of the thorns.
Who knows where that old slitherer
came upon the information?  Perhaps
she heard it on the wind
as it whispered through the valley.

I regret I cannot tell you what it was–
it has gone on now, beyond me
and beyond this poem’s edges.
Ask wren, perhaps, but he has already
told the thing to bat, who’s given it
to a thoughtfully grazing groundhog
who keeps her springtime quarters
across the field there by the little oak,
right where a sprinkle of sunshine
sparkles in the dew most mornings.

Gratitude List:
1. Earth: The view from the top of the ridge of Mt. Pisgah, looking down to the Susquehanna River always lifts my spirits.  How did I get so lucky, to get such a view almost every day?
2. Air: Poetry and Stories spoken aloud.  Last night’s Spoken Word Play (the 14th) was profound and powerful.
3. Fire: Making fire with the boys yesterday.  Ellis finally drew flames from a pile of sycamore fluff, using the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass.  Joss wanted a fire, too, so we built two small fires on bricks on the driveway, and the boys spent hours feeding them with sticks (it cleaned up the yard, that’s certain).  Joss toasted a piece of bread, and they each roasted potatoes in the hot coals for our supper.  I recently read, “They won’t remember their best afternoon of television.”  That’s the truth.  But I think they’ll remember the day they made fire.
4. Water: The River.  Did I say the River?  I cross her twice every day.  She runs through our lives like a thread that weaves us together with the lives of those who live all along her shores, and with those who have ever lived here in this place where she runs.
5. Spirit: That which enlivens and animates us.  Love that connects and weaves us together, like the River.

May we walk in Beauty!

Where Such a River Runs

DSCN8974
What a wonder of a tree.  I am so grateful to live here in this place where such trees stand sentinel, where such a River runs.

Gratitude List:
1. The woman who reads bedtime stories to her little dog, and it settles him in to sleep.
2. Stories of people who stood up for what they knew was right, no matter the personal cost.  These days, Sophie Scholl and Wangari Maathai are on my mind.
3. The work of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.   Currently, laureates Rigoberto Menchu and Jody Williams are in Guatemala, witnessing the Sepur Zarco trial to bring justice for Mayan women survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the Guatemalan military.
4. Blessings on the seeds!  Jon started planting in the greenhouse yesterday.  We will be selling some tomatoes and their friends throughout the mid-season, and doing a short late-season CSA.
5. Vocation

May we walk in Beauty!

Rain and River

Today was bookended by two powerful stories about language, how it differentiates, how it connects.  This morning in chapel a colleague of mine spoke thoughtfully and reflectively about her own life story, about the Tower of Babel–how we build complicated structures of our lives, placing our hopes and expectations into them, and how we can be blindsided when they crumble.  Her stories were affirming of those who struggle, acknowledging the struggle, and offering the hope of transformation, not only of the pain, but of inner prejudices and stereotypes.

On the other end of the day, in Faculty Meeting, was a presentation on resilience, particularly for women (and others) who have been marginalized and excluded from leadership roles in the church and its institutions.  The framing story was Pentecost, another tale of people of many languages trying to communicate.

Language helps us to classify and analyze and differentiate.  It’s an intellectual tool.  It also helps us to connect and weave together and integrate.  It’s a psychological/heart tool.

Gratitude List:
1. The scent of the honey locust tree blossoms wafting through the window just as I am falling asleep.  Blessings on the bees.
2. Yesterday, Jon spotted a box turtle on the driveway, wandering off into the yard.  I was sort of afraid that thee’d become too rare to spot anymore, but there is at least one living on Goldfinch Farm.
3. Rain, rain, rain.  Slow and deliberate and steady.  Free of high wind and hail and flooding.
4. Chasing rainbows.  After supper we drove down to the Rt. 30 bridge to see the new girders that were just put in place last night above the highway by Wrightsville.  We have some engineers in the family who just couldn’t wait to see them.  As we reached the crest of the hill, we saw the rainbow, looking like one foot was in the hollow and another was at Sam Lewis Park, but the nearer foot kept shifting as we neared the park.
5. We parked by the River at the John Wright restaurant boat launch, and Ellis and I walked down to the water, standing between the two bridges in the rain.  I found a shining 2015 penny there on the threshold between the land and the water.
6. Language, the gossamer thread of words that we send between us like trees, our conversation the webs cast by a spider.

May we walk in Beauty!