The Stories

Gratitude List:
1. Paint on canvas
2. The power of words
3. Where dreams take us
4. Rain
5. Summer schedules

May we walk in Beauty!


“You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.”
—Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
***
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson
***
“A poem is not a puzzle, even if it’s puzzling at first. Instead, it’s a highly selected parcel or capsule of language meant to burst into your psyche and change you in some way. Poetry is the life blood of our language, and it’s meant for everyone, not just academics or young people in school. Poetry is in a word: consciousness.” —Cathryn Hankla
***
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 10, 2016)
***
“Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.” —Leonard Cohen
***
“I have become convinced that the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare.” —Jimmy Carter
***
Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath:
I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…

As long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.


This is second-draft version of something I wrote at the Writers’ Retreat this past weekend:

It was dark, dark midnight, see. No moon, and clouds between us and the stars, and we’d given everything up for dead.

What else could we do? How could we not? With all that came before, and all we knew was certain to come after.

And the sky was just filled up with midnight, and our hearts were filled up with sky, because we could no longer bear to house that awful stench of despair within us.

And so we danced.

What else could we do? How could we not? Someone started humming there in the cold starless dark, not to fill up the space with sound, you see, because the space was filled, already filled with the indigo darkness of midnight, and with the sense of each other.

And so someone started humming, tunelessly almost, and someone else took it up, almost like a harmony. Another one began to tap a rhythm just like a baby’s heartbeat or the beating of a butterfly’s wings, and then, all around, there were rustling in the darkness, people swaying, shifting, standing up.

Feet took the rhythm, and hands and fingers clapped and snapped, and the humming broke into song. No one now can remember the words we sang, be we all knew they were a prayer. To the Great Mystery that surrounded us, or to some smaller goddess or god, or to the Truest, Best Thing within ourselves perhaps.  All One Thing, that, I suppose.

We felt each other in the the midnight as we sang, as we danced, and the feeling was like seeing, and the seeing was a dance itself. And we whirled on that lost and desolate plain in that place of utter midnight.

And when we had sung and danced and whirled and thundered there, we lay upon the ground, in jumbles and heaps, upon the green, green grass (we knew in our Seeing hearts that it was green) and we breathed the holy darkness around us. What else could we do? How could we not?

And we ourselves were the stars and the moon and the sun. And it was good.

And it was the end.
And it was the beginning.
Holyholyholyhallelujah.

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When You Flew

   

   

Gratitude List:
1. Chicory everywhere! Bluer as sky, blue as Mary’s robe, blue as my beloved’s eye. Joy on the roadside.
2. Cucumber rounds with cream cheese. Perfect. Just perfect.
3. Dragonflies
4. Novels. Stories. Narrative. They teach me who I am.
5. Biscuits and gravy.

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Wednesday:

“While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.” ―Brennan Manning
***
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” —Frida Kahlo
***
Rob Brezsny ft. Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“Devote yourself to your heart’s desire with unflagging shrewdness. Make it your top priority. Let no lesser wishes distract you. But consider this, too. You may sabotage even your worthiest yearning if you’re maniacal in your pursuit of it.

Bear in mind the attitude described by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”: “All that you are seeking is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.”

Speculate on what exactly that would look like in your own life. Describe how your heart’s desire has been waiting for you, seeking you.”
***
“Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.”
―Robert Hass, Field Guide
***
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ―Albert Einstein
***
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ―Terry Pratchett
***
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.”
―Walt Whitman
***
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche

Persephone Rises


Quotes for the Day:
“To survive, you must tell stories.” ―Umberto Eco
***
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
―Henri J.M. Nouwen
***
“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?” ―Wendell Berry
***
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ―Walt Whitman


Gratitude List:
1. The greening. Fields and lawns and grassy patches everywhere. Persephone rises.
2. The sap is rising. You can see the life force in the trees, pushing color and light into the limbs. Persephone rises.
3. Aconite and crocus. Persephone rises.
4. The young ones are rising, speaking their voices, leading the way.
5. We saw a great horned owl today. Harried by crows, it flew into the tops of the poplars on the hill above the pond. It waited where couldn’t see it for quite a while, until the crows got bored and flew off. Then it took wing back to the trees up the the hill.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Dragon of Solstice


Not the clearest picture, perhaps. One of the riders in my car took it, and my camera doesn’t handle near-darkness very well. This was in the early stages of her metamorphosis. About five minutes later, she was looking more dragonish than ever.

Now we are several hours into Longest Night. Tomorrow, we begin the inward turn again. Now is the time to settle into the darkness. To breathe. To dream. To melt.

In my own sacred calendar, the night of Solstice begins the deepest dreamtime of the year, almost time out of time. From now until the first of the year, or until Epiphany, I will monitor and mine my dreams for the images that will guide me in the coming year. Already, my dreams have been tossing up some powerful images to begin the percolation.

May your dreams in this, the Longest Night, bring you peace and hope. May they invigorate and inspire and challenge you for the work ahead. For there is much work ahead. There will be need of wakefulness and wisdom.

Much Love and Beauty to you.

Gratitude List:
1. This evening on the way home from school, just as the sun was setting, and the day was opening the curtains into the Longest Night, a great dragon swept across the sky, casting its body from east, and around the bowl of sky, into the west. Its head lay directly in front of us, toward the setting sun. It had swallowed the sliver of a horned moon. If you weren’t looking closely, as we were, you might have taken it for a cloud. We decided that The Dragon of the Solstice was offering us a portent or a message for the dying year: Be fierce. Take up all the space you are given. Believe in miracles. Hold the Moon inside you.

2. The geese and little birds are crossing the sky these early mornings and late evening, like mysterious scripts that someone, certainly, will be able to read, but my eyes are not trained to interpret this alphabet. Still, like Korean or Chinese or Hindi or Arabic, it catches my eye and draws me in with the sense of the meaning that is there behind the lines, but to me is only Beauty.

3. I have many friends and beloveds who are perfectly yourselves. Divinely, wondrously, solidly, and delightfully yourselves. Where would I be without you, without your inspiration, without your challenges? You keep me honest. You help me to be my better self. So much of my own shine is reflection from you. You’re the moon I carry inside me.

4. Rage has lessons to teach me. I’ll try to be grateful now simply to know that, although it burns to carry those coals inside. Sometimes, I think I have learned the lessons–the vocabulary, the angles and calculations, the social history, the science–of rage, but then I find myself back in the primary class. It takes some of us a little longer to learn. I will be patient with myself.

5. I have a class of quite energetic, distractible students who have experienced a high degree of frustration with the subject at hand. Often, the most carefully-planned lessons fall flat, but they can’t handle too much spontaneity, either. I really need to work hard with them on writing, and I have been nervous about that for several reasons. One boy often freezes when I ask them to write. Another can’t handle silent, quiet work and creates so many distractions the others can’t work.

Still, I decided that yesterday I would give them five prompts and have them write about one or more for the whole period. With only one exception, they got to work with a will, several of them asking if they could write whatever they wanted instead of the prompts. I had them share their documents with me, and I would check in on them, offering comments and responses on their documents. At the end of the period, they begged for another day of writing.

Today, we wrote again, for the whole period. Some incredible stories are emerging. We’re doing absolutely no editing at this point, and things are pretty raw, but it will give us something to work on in the next step. The only student who couldn’t handle it yesterday came in today with a page and a half that he’d written between yesterday’s class and today. Everyone buckled down and wrote today. They begged for a third day of writing.

I am going to tempt the magic for one more day. Then we may have to move to other things: some more direct work on the basic grammar and sentence structure points, and other sorts of literacy and fluency work.

I am grateful for moments of magic in the classroom.

May we walk in Beauty!

Every Day, I Am Remade


Today’s Prompt is to create a Remix of a poem from earlier in the month. I had already planned to re-work my construction/deconstruction poem, so this gives me a little more incentive to give that one a little creative attention. I wrote an initial stanza and then ran it through a Whisper-Down-the-Lane series of Google translations.

Re-De-Construction
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Every day, I am remade,
every day, I’m reconstructing,
every day, I’m rebuilding,

reborn from the husk,
retrieved from the waters,
regenerated from the shell
of yesterday’s creature,
from the body of tomorrow.

I’ll give you another day.


I did another one of these the other day, using a form of the last line of my Day of Reckoning Poem: Now we must reckon with women.

Now we must reckon with women.
Now we must count on women.
Now we must trust women.
Now we must rely on women.
Now we have to believe in women.
So, we must believe in women.
Therefore, we believe that women should be.
Therefore, we believe there should be women.
That is why we believe that there should be a woman.
We should have women to think.


Gratitude List:
1Such a stack of grading I completed this weekend!
2. Elderberry syrup
3. Fire cider
4. Crafty afternoon with the kiddos listening to Ellen Nesbit’s dragon short stories
5. My children love old-fashioned stories with old-fashioned diction. I’m proudly raising them to be nerdy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Wear Gratitude Like a Cloak

Following your bliss, as Joseph Campbell put it, doesn’t mean knowing where it might lead. Bliss beckons us every single day. At first, it may come in a small voice, out from under a great heap of rubbish, but it definitely knows your name. It starts with a dream that you may not even remember, and it grows into a déjà -vu, a surge of emotion, an inexplicable familiarity in a stranger’s face. Rather than getting caught up in finding “your purpose,” take the risk to talk to that stranger, follow your feeling and trust your dreams, and before you know it, as Rumi says, “your living pieces will form a harmony.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” —Rumi
*
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
—Annie Dillard
*
“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet. “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet. “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.” —AA Milne
*
“The aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
out of their leaves.”
—Mary Oliver
*
“Why struggle to open a door between us when the whole wall is an illusion?”
—Rumi
*
“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”
—Danny Kaye
*
“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”
—Maya Angelou
*
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
—John Muir
*
“I started going for long lone country walks among the spendthrift gold and glory of the year-end, giving myself up to the earth-scents and the sky-winds and all the magic of the countryside which is ordained for the healing of the soul.”
—L.M. Montgomery


Gratitude List:
1. The Holy Moment of telling story, of powerful vulnerability, of the hush of listening, of voices found and reclaimed, of grit and resilience. How our stories bless each other.
2. Blessing the babies. I love the way my church blesses the babies. I think that part of my pastors’ job must be the best job in the world.
3. Spicy Korean noodles for lunch
4. Now we go from golden to orange and red
5. The Water Protectors. Lancaster Against Pipelines. People who stand up, speak up, put themselves on the line.

May we walk in Beauty!

Blessed Be Your Longing

“Why are you so determined to keep your wild silently inside you? Let it breathe. Give it a voice. Let it roll out of you on the wide open waves. Set it free”
―Jeanette LeBlanc
*
“Lots of people talk to animals…Not very many listen though…that’s the problem.” ―Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
*
“When war is our only industry, the only crop is blood.” ―Will Giles
*
Plant
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,
“Ahhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh
Because that is the purest
Sound.
—Hafiz
*
“My journey has taught me that I must learn religion as the mystics learned it, through the inward quest that Jungian psychology has helped me with so much. Banding together in institutions, whether religious, academic or professional, helps some feel secure and able to look down on the unenlightened. But I’ve clearly learned that the inward quest must become one’s own before it’s any good at all.”
—Bud Harris, Ph.D.
*
“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” —Gabrielle Roth
*
“Blessed be your longing. Your endless ache. Your sharp crystal shatter. Your sea glass heart.” ―Jeannette LeBlanc


Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs drifting down the wind.
2. Murmurations. On the way home today, I saw, suddenly, in the windy sky ahead of me, two great black shapes like lungs in the air. It was a flock of starlings on a group maneuver. A second later, they banked and separated, and flickered out of apparent existence. When I drew underneath them, I could see a long and ragged flock flying north to south across the road. Only in their communal aerial acrobatics were they visible from a distance.
3. Driving beneath golden walnut leaves twirling earthward.
4. Singing together, and speaking poetry, and telling stories.
5. All the thousand names for God.

May we walk in Beauty!

Bless the Seeds

A Blessed Autumn Equinox to you.

“We have arrived at Autumn Equinox, one of those exquisite balance points of the year cycle, the moment of shift in the whirl around our star. The light has been shifting, coming in at a slant that sets everything atwinkle. Every dusk, hundreds of robins sail into the hollow and set up a clatter and cacophony in the bamboo grove. The geese are going, cormorants winging their way, thousands of feet above us, or angling down to the River for a rest. Seeds burst forth.

Say a blessing for the seeds, those packets of potential that burst from the ripened fruits of the flower buds and fall to earth, some to be trampled by passing feet, some to be eaten–fuel for the journeys of the little birds or stocked up by small animals as fat for the coming cold. And some to fall into the rich soil to wait through the winter until it is time to Become.

How has your own ripening been? What is the seed within you at this moment? What is the hopeful little bundle of potential that is waiting to fall, to be carried by the winds and the waves and the creatures that pass, to tumble into the soil of your future self? What has ripened within you, and what will you release, knowing it may grow and bear its own fruit, or may become food for others? What of yourself do you give to this season? Say a blessing for the seeds.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.” ―Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
*
“Stories,” he’d said, his voice low and almost husky, “we are made up of stories. And even the ones that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.”
― Jane Yolen, Briar Rose
*
“Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps. It must be fed; it cannot be ignored.”
― Patricia A. McKillip
*
“Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.” ―Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
*
“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” ―Paramahansa Yogananda


Gratitude List:
1. The morning sky. Sundogs. Woven clouds. Golden pathways of the sun.
2. Those young hawks sitting everywhere, learning to make it on their own. Buffy bellies high in the trees.
3. Walnut leaves fluttering down through afternoon sun. Cherry blossoms of autumn.
4. A tidy house. Well, sort of tidy. Tidier, anyway.
5. Singing with people

May we walk in Beauty!

There Was an Old Woman. . .


The Haines Shoe House, in Hellam Township, just a few miles from Goldfinch Farm. We finally took a tour yesterday. If you live near here, you should go there, get some ice cream, and take the tour.

“. . .my grandmother would get very annoyed when anyone would talk about “the power of love.” Love, she insisted, is not power, which she considered always coercive. To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
*
“Stories beget understanding,
Understanding begets respect,
Respect begets justice,
Justice begets peace,
That is the power of story.”
―Antonio Rocha
*
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.” ―Vincent van Gogh
*
“When we share our stories and dreams, we are accepting help in the shouldering of responsibility and despair. By extension, our windfalls and triumphs belong to us all. In witnessing each other, we are cross-pollinating our wisdoms and broadening our storylines, moving the locus of our attention from competition to collaboration. No longer governed by personal lack, we begin to make decisions as an ecosystem would, from the appreciation of our indivisibility.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past.” ―Robert Holden
*
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Gratitude List:
1. June bugs making lazy drunken circles in the tall grass by the walnut tree. There must be hundreds of them this year. They seem so ancient, so impossible.
2. Yesterday’s lower humidity
3. The roller coaster flight of the goldfinch. It feels like joy.
4. Fun coincidences. FB tells me that we went to the Shoe House on July 16 last year, too. That must be our Shoe House Day. And what a historical gem it is. What a quirky and delightful story of Mr. Haines, the philanthropist who built it. And they have good ice cream.
5. How people gather ’round. How people hold each other, even strangers. It makes me believe that there is a will to goodness within us.

May we walk in Beauty!

Trying to Be Found


Here are three tiny poems from my Creative Writing journal. (I usually wrote along with the students on the writing prompts).

Each day
a new story
of finding my way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once there was a little girl
who was trying to be found.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bluebird on a wire
muttering a gentle question.
No one answers but the hawk.


“I like sitting at the piano. I like the idea that there are things coming in through the window and through you and then down to the piano and out the window on the other side. If you want to catch songs you gotta start thinking like one, and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects. Once you get two or three tunes together, wherever three or more are gathered, then others come.” -Tom Waits
*
“The poem, I’ve always felt, is an opportunity for me to create an integrated whole from so many broken shards.” –Rafael Campo
*
“Which came first, the fear or the gun? The broken heart or the bleeding one? The impulse toward death or the desperate reach for love?” –Mark Morford
*
“A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.”
–John O’Donohue


Gratitude List:
1. I think I am homing in on the nest of Our Lady of the Flowers. I sat on the porch for a while last evening and watched. She seems to return to the same general area of the tree. It’s located at a less convenient spot for gazing this year, hidden higher up and further from the house.
2. Weaving stories together. Listening to people tell their stories and talk about who they want to be in the world.
3. How a good stretch that wakes up the spine wakes up the body
4. The people who do good. I get so tied up in knots about the stupid, greedy, and cruel things that the powerful people are doing. It really helps to balance my heart to keep remembering all the good and wise and compassionate things that you and the others are doing. Thank you.
5. Pesto

May we walk in Beauty!