May There Always Be Sunshine

“I didn’t need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.”  -Anne Lamott
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“Morning is the best of all times in the garden. The sun is not yet hot. Sweet vapors rise from the earth. Night dew clings to the soil and makes plants glisten. Birds call to one another. Bees are already at work.” – William Longgood
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“Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn — and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb. So, let us drink a cup of tea.”
– Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
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“There is ecstasy in paying attention.”
– Anne Lamott
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Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.

Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.

Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.
–Hal Hopson


Gratitude List:
1. Little Baby Anya examining her Uncle Dick’s face with such intensity.
2. Preparing songs for Anne’s ordination. Making music with Val and Todd.
3. Kids having fun together in the pool. I still watch closely, but today was the most relaxed I have ever been with my children in the pool.
4. Summer morning rain
5. A straight seven hours of sleep, not waking up even once

May we walk in Beauty!

Learning Chess

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Gratitude List:
1. Playing Chess. I am so bad at it. I think of myself as being fairly intelligent, but I am miserable at chess. I do dumb things. But I am loving playing, and loving being schooled by my ten-year-old.
2. Crawling out from under the rock.
3. Long sleeps.
4. The light will return. The light will return. The light will return. Wednesday at 5:44, to be precise.
5. The Great Horned Owl calling in the bosque.

May we walk in Beauty!

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I’m not sure where I am going with this story. I may take more time off. I seem to have shifted out of the voice in which I began it, and it’s becoming tedious to write it without that initial fire. Perhaps its next steps will have to happen during summer vacation.

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Deep in the lower ring of the city, where the bustle of the market lasted from early in the morning to late in the evenings, where the fruit and vegetable vendors set up their brightly-colored stalls along the main street out to the gates, where the shops of the bakers and the butchers lined the ancient walls in a rumble-tumble fashion–there where the press of humanity was greatest, in the back of the shop of Bilhah the Baker, there grew up a secret school for women and girls.

While educating females was expressly forbidden by law, many families saw fit to “teach” their daughters to read and write and do simple sums in order that they might help with the family businesses.  As long as no one pushed against the law and tried to send their daughters to school, the spirit of the law could be bent for the good of the family economy.

In recent years, however, the generals had begun to take a firmer hand. King Astra Djin, they whispered secretly amongst themselves, was soft. He wanted easy living, fine wine, gentle and docile women, and lots of gold. His hardest edges were reserved for the collection of taxes, which he raised in greater amounts with each succeeding year.  The generals believed, to a man, that the city-state of Zammarqand needed a heavy-fisted rule. The king could have his cushy life, and the generals would keep him content, fat and happy, while they set about the careful enforcement of law and order in the city.

Simply Gratitude

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Gratitude List:
1. The musical directors at my school. This evening’s Middle School Band, Orchestra, and Choir concert was really delightful.
2. Diverse music
3. I know the moon is there, even though it’s cloudy
4. I know you’re there, even when you’re quiet
5. I slept until the alarm this morning. It’s always sort of notable, and it feels so good to wake up, knowing I have been really sleeping.

May we walk in Beauty!

More story another night. Tonight I will do my work and then sleep.

Invisible as Wind

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Today’s Tiny Tale:

There once was a boy who could become invisible as the wind. He would vanish without a word, without leaving a trail, and slip through the cracks in the walls, underneath doors, between lines of lazy type across a page.

Gratitude List:
1. Sundogs
2. The robust and muscular figure of a hawk in a skeletal winter tree
3. Stories
4. Snuggly cat
5. Sleeping and dreaming. This is the season.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Healing Power of Story

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I am overwhelmed by too much to do, but if I can find a spare twenty minutes today, I am going to write a letter to the president to ask him to intervene on behalf of the civil rights of the nonviolent protesters who are trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline. In early September, the Obama Administration did step in with a temporary injunction which seems to have been completely ignored. Will you join me?

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You know how sometimes when you wake up in the morning, there’s a fragment of something from your dreamworld swimming around in your brain? A piece of a song, an image of a snake with wise eyes, a voice calling your name. . .  A couple days ago, I woke up with a voice that seemed to be calling me: “Sister!” That was all.  Still, it sits in my consciousness days later. Who is calling, and why?

Gratitude List:
1. The color orange. Spring time is about all the shades of greens and violets. Autumn is the whole range of gold through orange to red.
2. The words of Rumi. This one: “Let yourself become living poetry.”
3. Sleep. I don’t get enough of it, and I don’t want to jinx this long insomnia-free run, but I have been sleeping deeply and well in recent weeks. One of my great pleasures is the moment I can let myself fall into sleep each evening.
4. Circles of friendship and support. The way love flows across invisible lines, holding those who watch and hold the space.
5. The healing and integrating power of stories.

May we walk in Beauty!

Secret River

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Not sure what this is–fragment of dream, perhaps:

I have wandered these hallways, these corridors,
these rooms filled with shadow, filled with light,
since before I knew myself a traveler.

Gratitude List:
1. Poets in the streets. I love reading with the poets under the Poetry Spoken Here tent at YorkArts Fest. Yesterday was wonderful again. Someday, I will be able to just take the whole day and go and plant myself in that tent and let the words bathe and scour me.
2. I know I have seen the book before, but I never sat down to read the whole thing until yesterday: The Secret River, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. It’s a powerful fable/myth/folk tale about listening to your heart, seeking guidance, trusting your intuition, taking the inward journey. I started reading it to the kids and I knew it was going to go long, and I didn’t want to miss the first poet in York, but I couldn’t stop reading. “Her name was Calpurnia because she was born to be a poet.” You must read it.
3. Yesterday the boys were fighting about how to divide the bottle caps because someone wanted to make a project. Finally I took them outside and showed them two siblings who share a room the size of one of their bottle caps, no deeper than two of them. We all saw both babies, their tiny needle beaks poking out over the rim of the nest. Hummingbird babies grow fast!
4. Sleep. Rest. Quiet. Solitude.
5. Vegetables. August and September are such wonderful seasons for just going outside and getting the food that you’re going to use for a meal. I forage on the extras table for squash and peppers, tomatoes and okra.

May we walk in Beauty!

Camels on the Brain

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My brain is all a-fuzz this morning.  It wants to keep attaching itself to that image from my dream last night, the one that kept me sleeping through the four o’clock hour (finally), of a camel lying in the bed of a truck, wearing sunglasses.  But I don’t have that manic inner edge on this sleepy morning that would enable me to make such a surreal poem.  Why don’t you try that one?  (Edit: Okay, so I did manage a little of that poem down below.)

Tomorrow is National Poem in Your Pocket Day, though your local town may have chosen a different day, so look it up.  Wrightsville is doing it on April 29.  But if you’re at my school, you need to have your poem ready to read to me tomorrow.  I will bring the chocolate.

I have five minutes for this poem:

The ghost of a dream
will inhabit the foggy
pathways of my brain
for ages.
I will spend today
driving to Kabul
behind a camel
or lurking in the hallways
of a grand hotel,
searching for lost memories.

Gratitude List:
1. Sleeping through four o’clock.  This is a big deal, and I am grateful, no matter how strange the dreams that accompanied that sleep.
2. Anticipating oriole.  Waiting for the orange flash and the whistle in the treetops.  Listen, listen and watch.
3. Inspiration.  Okay, it’s inspiration about how to introduce adjective clauses to the freshmen, but when that’s the soup you swim in, it’s pretty exciting to get a flash of inspiration.
4. Student poetry.  Yesterday the Creative Writers read their poetry out loud in class.  Actually, only a handful were brave enough to do it, but the ones that came out were wonderful, and at one point after one student had read her poem, I saw another student start to scribble furiously on his notebook.  Moments later, he raised his hand to read–he had just written a poem inspired by her poem.  And hers had been inspired by Robert Frost, so we left our own trails in those yellow woods.
5. Compassion.  How heart reaches to heart.  How a moment can suddenly turn to caring, to holding another.  I want to be more and more mindful of how a word or a gesture or a glance can turn a moment among people to an inner watchfulness, a heightened awareness of each others’ tender souls.

May we walk in Beauty!

Sleepy Saturday

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Good morning, Sunshine!

Gratitude List:
1. Purple and Gold.  ‘Tis the season of gold and purple: aconite and myrtle, daffodil and crocus, forsythia and windflower.
2. Sleeping in.
3. Bluebirds.  Just beneath the high and insistent shrill of the Dawn Chorus, the bluebirds and mumbling and muttering.  They always seem to be saying, “It’s okay, Little One.  Everything is going to be okay.”
4. That baby green bursting out everywhere.
5. Curiosity.  Particularly the curiosity of children.

May we walk in Beauty!  So much Love!

Green Willow and Golden Fish

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Infant leaves and developing catkin on the little willow tree.

Gratitude List:
1. Willow trees. The bark of the tiny new willow by the mint patch went a vibrant yellow green a couple weeks ago, and now, all of a sudden, the leaf buds have burst open, and tiny leaves and catkins have appeared.  I love willow trees, and this gangly youngster has begun to stand straighter and more confidently since last year’s wobbly beginning.
2. A great golden fish.  We went walking and exploring by the pond yesterday after school, and had our first spring sighting of Golda, Lady of the Fish.  I am always so relieved in spring to see her, so grateful that she has survived another winter.  Of course, I know she is adapted to live and thrive through the cold, and she will likely outlive me (some koi live over 200 years), but I always worry just the littlest bit.
3. Senior Presentations.  My seniors in my advisory group are nervous about their presentations tonight and Monday.  I gave them a positive and hopeful pep talk yesterday–I hope they couldn’t see how nervous I am, too.  I want these moments to become powerful and rich memories for them.  I want to bless them as they step forward into the next phase of their lives.  I am so proud of them.  I know that they struggle to understand why we make them do this process of presenting their lives and learning to the community, but I love it, offering them this moment to reflect on what has brought them to this moment in their lives.  Fly well, Bright Ones!
4. Not being sick.  I felt so terrible last night, I went to bed at 9:30, hoping to stave off whatever cold or ick-thingie was trying to make a home in me.  It seems (knock on wood) to have worked.
5. Elderberry syrup.  I am following up that good sleep with some of Tabea’s good elderberry syrup.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Found My Way

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Yes, a selfie, a bleary and shaggy morning in my little monk’s cell at the National Conference Center.

I’m at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, VA for the biennial Mennonite Educator’s Conference this weekend.  I am giddier about this than I should be, taking it as a little vacation for the routine.  I do miss my family, but I also treasure times when I only have to think about getting myownself from place to place.  And that actually takes a certain amount of surreal effort in this building.  It was designed to be confusing and unsettling in order to force people to talk to each other.  It accomplishes all that.  I kind of like it.  Being in a building with a distinct agenda gives it a certain personality, like it’s an entity in the work of the weekend.

Gratitude List:
1. I finally managed to get the names of all 196 countries of the world in the Countries Quiz I have been playing online
2. I found my room all by myself
3. I slept until the alarm this morning
4. Spending two days among people where the main goal is to talk about how we can be most effective at caring for the young people in our classrooms
5. Moments of quiet

May we walk in Beauty!