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!

A Woman Must Be Willing to Burn

“A woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it is that she truly loves.”  —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
“I can’t offer justice so I offer just trees.” —Kilian Schoenberger (who photographs trees and woods)
Make it All a Prayer
Beth Weaver-Kreider

make it all a prayer
each motion, each thought, each step
feel the connection
that silver strand that pulls you
to the heart of another
Dalai Lama: “There are only two days of the year in which nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. That means today is the ideal day to love, to believe, to create and to live.”
“We cannot assume the sacredness nor spiritual livingness of the earth or accept it as a new ideology or as a sentimentally pleasing idea. We must experience that life and sacredness, if it is there, in relationship to our own and to that ultimate mystery we call God. We must experience it in our lives, in our practice, in the flesh of our cultural creativity. We must allow it to shape us, as great spiritual ideas have always shaped those who entertain them, and not expect that we can simply use the image of Gaia to meet emotional, religious, political, or even commercial needs without allowing it to transform us in unexpected and radical ways. The spirituality of the earth is more than a slogan. It is an invitation to initiation, to the death of what we have been and the birth of something new.”
—David Spangler

Gratitude List:
1. Rain
2. Bluebirds
3. Fresh berry smoothies
4. Hear/reading people reminisce
5. My friend, the sycamore tree

May we walk in Beauty!

The Girls Who Are Trees

The new Sense of  Wonder T-shirt (my Sycamore is wearing it for the photos), and some of the girls’ weavings

“Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don’t, it may drench itself out in sorrow. You special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person. It’s up to you.”  —Joan Baez
“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
― Leymah Gbowee
“Do not be afraid to include other people in your story, to ask others to hold the light for you in times of darkness and pain. This is a grace and a gift you offer them, to allow another the honor of walking beside you on the path, in silence or in song, no matter how treacherous the journey.”  —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2012
“When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”  —Rachel Carson

Gratitude List:
1. The girls and women of Sense of Wonder Camp. What a lovely morning. After we talked about the life of Wangari Maathai, they each got a tree to take home. They immediately started naming their trees. One red oak sapling was almost completely leafless. I said, “This one needs a lot of love.” A girl next to me said, “That’s the one I am taking. I have a lot of love to give.”
2. Role models, mentors, and heras. Rachel Carson, Leymah Gbowee, Wangari Maathai, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, you.
3. Sycamore, oak, maple, beech, magnolia, redbud, walnut, poplar, acacia, frangipanni, baobab. . .
4. The wisdom of young women and girls
5. This quiet summer morning rain.

May we walk in Beauty!

Death and Temperance, and the Wall


I have hit the poetry wall tonight. I’ve been feeling it coming for a couple days now, the slowing, the resistance in my brain as I approach it. And here, tonight, with Death as the prompt, I don’t know where to go. I want to make it light and fluffy, toss it off without thinking. I don’t have the brain cells for much work tonight, and my will to work is shallow and listless. Then I remind myself that some of the shiniest poems happen at the moment of the wall. Of course, that’s when some of the worst ones happen, too. Sigh.



No, I think she’s a woman in a red cloak
with gentle brown eyes and midnight skin.
Unlike the ferryman, she asks no token,
no proof of passage or confession of sin.

She carries a sickle instead of a scythe,
appearing in fevered delusions and dreams,
and though you may dread to see her arrive,
you will cherish her presence on the journey.

There now. I’ve written something. I honestly can’t tell whether I like it or not. That’s part of the wall, too, the loss of a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Best to just get it down there, and come back to it with a clear head when April is over.

So much of it is about Balance, isn’t it? Justice, a few days ago. Even Death–there’s always a balance between death and life, between the fear of it and the hope for it. The Lovers–they’re all about balance between the opposite parts of our inner nature. Tomorrow, again, is another sort of balance: Temperance. We’re not talking about periods of US history here, but about the concept. Passion and zeal are important drivers, and they can be great when you need to get the chariot moving, but fokeeping it going straight and steady, you’ve got to find the temperate balance. Can the Fool, in her naive and wandering heart, find the deep meaning of Temperance?

Gratitude List:
1. Pink trees
2. Cool breeze
3. Bees
4. (Ack! Now I need to keep going with this.) Poetries (Don’t judge me.)
5. Cheese (Hey now, I do love it, and we had some mighty fine Pepper Jack for supper.)

May we walk in Beauty!

The Birdwatcher

The birdwatcher. Even the arthritis didn’t keep him from a little birdwatching during the storm. (Yes, the chair is getting pretty beat-up. Still, it has a shabby charm that we can’t give up just yet.)

We walk the Coyote Road.
Our eyes are full of night.
A thousand sacred sounds
fill the soft bowls of our ears.

That’s the start of something. I’ll get back to it, find its rhythm. I tend to write poems in snatches and dribs these days, between a stack of student essays, or after reading another chapter to the boys.

Gratitude List:
1. Strengthening–I am adding a little extra exercise to my day. Little but little, I feel myself strengthening.
2. That pasta with cream sauce and spinach and peas that Jon makes.
3. The two-hour delay today was especially needed after last night’s insomnia. I had a craving for some cheese, and that seemed to help me to get back to sleep. Maybe i’ll try warmed milk next time.
4. Tree shadows on snow
5. Passing blessings around

May we walk in Beauty!

Wise Folk

barntreeGratitude List
Today when I got home from school, Joss and I spent some time outside. We played tag: I don’t really run–I just wait around until he can’t stand it and comes in close enough for me to pounce on him. Then he played in the sandbox while I lay down on the driveway and looked up into the trees. I tried some odd-angle panoramas to try to get a sense of the vast feeling of trees and sky above. I like the way this one turned out, with the barn below and that shine above.

Today we had an all-school assembly, a further discussion of race and racism, this one based on students’ (and some teachers’) experiences of racism, both personal and what they’ve observed. Some students and teachers told their own stories, and others read stories written by others. Some teachers reflected on the construct of race and the history of racism in the US. More than anything, I was struck by the deep love and tenderness and vulnerability of the speakers. I am proud of these folks, proud of these students who took the lead and worked together to craft this fine program, proud of my colleagues who created the space for student voices to shine, proud of the polite and thoughtful listeners in the space. May we continue to learn and grow together, to listen, to speak up and out.

Jon made the most amazing re-fried beans tonight. Re-fried beans can sometimes be a tasteless mush, but these are really delicious.

This is the beginning of a three-day weekend.

I have such incredibly wise and compassionate and thoughtful and activist friends. Last night I posted some thoughts on Facebook, wondering whether it’s possible to find common vocabularies across political lines. After school today, when I went to check my page, there were dozens of incredibly thoughtful and wise responses. I am blessed in friends. Many of my friends are people I have never met, but people who have enriched my life deeply through these discussions, who have helped me to keep my mind open and my thinking fluid.

So much Love. May we walk in Beauty!

Vowel Limit

Today’s prompt: Choose two vowels and only use those vowels in your poem.  Y is a wild card.  Kind of fun and challenging.  I am choosing I and E because I was thinking of the word thistle today in the fields as we were planting potatoes.

pick this thistle in this field
its sisters will rise in this site

despite the intent
which desires its demise
the thistles will rise

we fiddle, we fidget
intending the best

yet despite my designs
which inspire difference
the thistles will rise

Gratitude List:
1. Planning adventures.  Off to DC tomorrow to ride the Metro, to explore Air and Space, to walk the Mall, and perhaps to see cherry blossoms.
2. Potato planting.  Good help, good company, good hard work.
3. The trees on the hill with their barely-there haze of new red and green.   When I worked at The People’s Place in Intercourse, we used to sell beautiful etchings by the artist Allan Eitzen that I think of whenever I see the trees like this.  I can only find his children’s book illustrations online.
4. Chickadees’ springtime calls: “Suweet!  Suweet!”  Up, then down.
5. Another nice snake skin, this one twisted almost perfectly back around like an ouroboros.

May we walk in Beauty!


Who will tell us who we are
when the voices of the trees are silenced?
Who will give us direction
when the sentinels of the forest
can no longer tell us the way?


Gratitude List:
1. Trees
2. Sushi–I am still enjoying the memory of Sunday’s lunch
3. Yesterday’s feathers.  I found three yesterday.  One on the ground, another simply resting in mid-air, caught between a spiderweb and a ray of sunshine, and the third a tiny feather floating down from the sycamore tree.  I caught that one before it hit the ground.
4. Easing into the transition
5. Yesterday’s visit from Mindy and Willow.  One of the children went off in a sulk, and when small Willow saw him again, she peered up into his face and said, “Are you better now?”

May we walk in Beauty!

I Shouldn’t Be Here

<Prompt 23: Write a Poem: “I Shouldn’t Be Here”>

Today we took the children to the Hans Herr House and took the tour through the Longhouse.  The Longhouse at the Herr House was recreated as closely as possible to the remains of one unearthed in Washington Boro, where we used to farm.

So this is on my mind as I look at this poem prompt tonight.  I am stealing my friend Natasha’s ceremonial refrain for the ending of the poem.

I Shouldn’t Be Here

And neither, perhaps, should you.  Or you.
How shall I place this shame in context?

It wasn’t my pigs who brought the plague
that wiped out the thousand Caddoan villages
along the Mississippi.  Nor my gold-lust
that cut off the hands and the tongues
of those who would not yield me tribute.

I did not rush in with the unrighteous mob
when the Paxtang Boys tore down the doors
and killed the last Conestoga villagers.

How have we come to speak so glibly of genocide?

They had no concept, see, of land ownership,
and our own greed had built into a towering need.

They helped us live, you know,
when our own were starving.
We could not have been so bad,
if they helped us then.
And we have immortalized them
with gratitude, so that makes up
a little of the difference.

I shouldn’t be here, but I am,
here in history, here in this place.
And beneath my feet, the bones
of the People Who Came Before.

What can I offer as a token,
as my plea for forgiveness?

A small piece of quartz tossed
into the River which fed them,
Three seeds in the soil
which grew their livelihood:
a bean, a corn kernel, a gourd.
A feather tossed into the wind,
like the eagles who flew above
the myriad villages of the People.

I am sorry.
Please forgive me.

Gratitude List:
1.  A lovely afternoon of learning with friends, honoring the People Who Came Before.
2.  The faery oak tree on the corner of Water and James in Lancaster.
3.  The sentinel dawn redwoods on Ducktown Road.
4.  Popcorn
5.  Center

May we walk in Beauty.

People in Trees


<Prompt 11: Write an ekphrastic poem>  Ekphrastic poetry is based on another piece of art.  Brewer posted several evocative images on his blog, and I can’t get “People in Trees” by Mikola Gnisuk out of my head.   And also, today, I have been looking up photos and videos of murmurations of starlings.  Did you know that a flock of starlings is called a murmuration?  Here goes:

At the start of it we traveled through a fat mist,
a couple dozen of us in the thick soup,
and all was silent except for the light drip
all around from leaf to leaf,
and our footsteps on the ground,
and then the huff and shuffle of our breath
as we sped faster through the trees.

It was not fear that drove us on,
I know that now.  Nor just the thrill
of what we knew must come.  Still,
on we moved, and faster, through the birches.

And then the murmurs of the others,
the shift and scrape of feathers
and the whoosh of the wind,
and we were flying, a body of starlings,
twisting and whirling as one through the trees.
Like separate atoms of one single bird
we flew through the morning
and into the day.


Gratitude List:
1.  Light rays through the clouds.  Yesterday, we watched a vulture sliding between those rays, like shifting between worlds.  When I was a teenager, I spent part of a summer in Venezuela.  One afternoon, we were riding in the back of a pick-up through the Caracas barrio, when the clouds opened up and let down glittering rays.  Our host, who was seated next to me, suddenly began singing, full voice.
2.  Even with his razor claws, this warm purring kitty on my lap.  Those poor arthritic paws can’t quite retract the sharp bits, and my shoulders are constantly scabbed.
3.  Setting up a puzzle in the living room.  The kids are finally old enough that it won’t be a total mess, and Farmer Jon is feeling free enough to sit and work on it!
4.  Hot tea
5.  That moment when I am making a doll or an animal when it becomes itself, when I can see the sort of character it will be.  I finally finished my horse today.
2013 November 067
Blessings on the Roots.