Charming Gardeners


My parents nurture beauty in their gardens and in the lives of people around them.

I love this first quotation by Marcel Proust. Thank you to so many of the charming gardeners who help to tend and nurture my soul. Let’s all take up this work.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
~~Marcel Proust
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Naomi Shihab Nye: “You are living in a poem.”
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“Every woman must own her story; otherwise we are all part of the silence.” ~~Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International
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“Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.”
~~Joss Whedon
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“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”
~~Abraham H. Maslow

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“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.

But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
~~Margery Williams -The Velveteen Rabbit
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I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night. ~~Tony Campolo


Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs everywhere–more than I have seen in several years. It is the season of butterflies and moths. How are you experiencing transformation from a creature of earth to a creature of air?
2. All the people who are charming gardeners (as Proust said) of my soul.
3. Cool morning
4. Purring and inquisitiveness from Fred this morning. One day at a time.
5. The start of a new week. Always we begin again.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tiny Wonders

portrait
This is the family portrait that my friend Kris Miller (Art of the Brogue) took of our little family of hummingbirds. I love this photograph so much. It’s still hard to believe that such a miracle exists in the tree outside. It is such an honor that she chose our spot for her family.

Gratitude List:
1. Family
2. Community networks of prayer
3. Tiny wonders
4. Stories
5. The way the day always branches outward with so many possibilities

May we walk in Beauty.

Let Wonder Be Your Guide

kindness rock

Gratitude List:
1. The Little Engine that Could: “I think I can!” Always the subject of the first chapel, since I was a sophomore at my school. This story has been a bridge across my own shift from student to teacher.
2. All those Bright and Shining faces yesterday. Lots of shyness and lots of nervous energy all ’round. So sweet.
3. My own 2nd and 6th graders both had marvelous first days as well.
4. Cool mornings. My brain gears up more quickly on cool mornings.
5. The fierce mothers. My friend Sarah has been putting this one on her list lately, and I copy her as an act of prayer. Mara and Lisa have been holding their daughters with such fiercely loving hearts in these days. I will stand in these circles of mothers and others as Katie recovers, and as we hold out every shred of certainty that Kyla’s new heart will come soon.

May we walk in Beauty!

Interlocking Prayers

Ent
I want the strength and comfort of this tree these days.  She is one of the ent-folk, I am sure of that, with a gnarled and twisted trunk and veils of leaves.

Oh, Turkey! Friends, we have such a big bowl of hurt to hold these days.
It helps if we all hold it together, I think.
Interlock our prayers like fingers, like bright threads.
This one for Turkey,
this for Nice,
that for your friend who is caught in a cycle of despair,
this for my friend who is waiting for her new heart,
for our cousins and companions who are anxious and worried
as they tend to their loved ones who are ill,
for those who lead us in the fight against racism every day,
for Baghdad, for Bangladesh, for Istanbul again.
For those baby birds who are fledging.
I will add some bright stones that I found in the bean patch today,
some feathers that found me on my walk,
the bright yellow faces of toadflax.
Will you add your rainbow, your twinkling eyes, your hopeful smile?

Gratitude List:
1. (What has awakened you?) Keeping my heart focused on the Noticing, in inner and outer worlds.  Also, laughter.
2. (How have you encountered Mystery?) In the calling of the young red-tail–the cycle of life always continues.
3. (What has given you cause for wonder?) Watching children create ideas in their heads and then make them with their hands.
4. (What has nudged you forward?) The constancy of work to be done, in many different places.  Learning to juggle the work.
5. (What do you offer the day?) More holding, more noticing, more listening.  Laughter.  I will find laughter in the day.  Also, twinkling eyes–I will seek out twinkles.

May we walk in Beauty!

Where Do You Find Hope?

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Gratitude List:
1. (What inspires you?)  A child I know.  This morning, I was watching video of President Obama placing a wreath at Hiroshima, and Joss asked what it was about.  I told him a little about the end of WWII, and how this is the first time a US president has visited that site.  “I’m kind of glad he went there,” he said.  I think children often understand these things better than adults do.
2. (Where do you find relief?) Change of schedule, end of year.  There’s sadness in saying goodbye to the seniors–but we know and they know they they’re ready, that they’ve been working toward this coming moment for years.  And I need this summer that I am heading into.  I am looking forward with great relish to sleeping in until past 6, to playing with my children every day, to preparing for next year’s work.  There are a few loose ends to wrap up in the next two weeks, but without the constant pull of classes, I can manage the loose ends.
3. (What fills you with wonder?) The view from Mt. Pisgah near Sam Lewis Park, with mist in the folds of the valleys and mist caught in the trees on the other side of the River.
4. (What will you do for yourself?) I am going to get a haircut today.  Some people have a regular appointment to keep their hair looking a certain way.  This has never been my way.  It usually feels like “an event” when I get my hair cut, like I am treating myself to something special.  I like to do it that way.
5. (What gives you hope?) I need to keep answering this question for myself these days.  I look at the ways of the world and I get rageful or cynical or filled with despair.  And there are good reasons for all of those responses.  But there are also good reasons to be hopeful.  Right now, one of the places I turn for hope is the work of international women’s groups.  These women look into the teeth of the beasts of war and displacement and terror, and they raise their voices and their arms and their hearts.  UN Women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Isis-WICCE, Women in Black, TreeSisters, Carry the Future, Code Pink, and many others.  (Which women’s groups inspire you?)

May we walk in Beauty!

What Have You Done?

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Just a little morning riff here:

“What have you done for color?” –Henri Matisse

What have you done for color,
for light, for dancing?

What have you done
for the quiet journey of the sun
over the ridgetop at dawn?

What have you done for the line,
for the eloquent curve,
for the circle?

What have you done for the pure note,
the perfect A that hangs in the air above you?

Gratitude List:
1. Pie night.  I didn’t write about that when it happened, but when I got home on Friday, Jon was making pie crusts.  He made an out-of-this world vegetable pie, and with the leftover dough, we mixed up a lemon sponge pie.  I think we will have to do this more often.  Of course, it brought to mind the cherry pie that he made for me once when we were dating.  He told the boys that he would help them some day if they want to make pies to impress their dates and their families.
2. How getting rid of things makes the things you hold onto even more real.  We gave away a rather large stack of vinyl records the other day, and suddenly I find myself playing the ones we kept.  My ears are still filled with Abba.
3. Watching a child become a reader.  Literacy is a magical thing.
4. Miracles and wonder.  These are the days. . .
5. Learning the new script for how I speak about myself to myself.  (This is a constant process.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Lullabies and Wake Up Calls

Before you knew it
you were halfway across.
You had thought each step
would be an ordeal,
that you’d wrestle
the fear away
with every buck and sway
of the bridge.

But that bright butterfly
slipped along ahead of you
through the mist, the cloud,
and you followed it
until the cloud parted
and the valley lay out below you,
full of wonder.

The bridge,
you know,
the bridge itself
is the journey.

Gratitude List:
1.  Family camping-in-the-yard night.  Didn’t get much sleep, me.  But lots of snuggles and an great-horned owl lullaby and a crow and cuckoo wake-up call.  Worth it.
2.  Anticipating hearing the Africa stories this afternoon.
3.  Church.  I know.  But I love these people.  I can’t wait to get there and sing with people, and listen to the ideas and the stories.
4.  Kitty snuggles
5.  Bridges.  Made of language, of the future, of dreams, of feathers, of steel, of anxious wishing, of people, of hearts.

May we walk in Beauty!

Changelings

Yesterday morning, I was pondering how my children have entered another of those changeling phases, when they suddenly look and act like changelings that the faeries have swapped for my little ones.  Suddenly, their teeth seem to be too big for their mouths, their chins are pointy, and their knees and elbows stick out at all angles.  Their shoulder blades stick out of their backs like they’re about to sprout wings.  Their hair seems to grow an inch a day.  They seem to have lost some hearing: they don’t come when I call or answer questions when I ask them.  They get a faraway look in their eyes.  Wild creatures.

Then I noticed that the Faerie Ring mushrooms had popped open in the night.  This is only the second or third year that I have noticed them out by the shop, and there are more now than there have ever been, about ten, in an oblong ring.  I told my youngest changeling that he might want to make a faerie garden down by the ring.  He spent most of the afternoon and evening creating an elaborate faerie village among and around the toadstools.  At one point, he set up four chairs down by the ring and invited the whole family to come sit and watch him work.

My friend Marie Winger, who is a powerful storyteller, and who was here at the CSA to pick up her weekly share of vegetables, told me how someone had once interviewed her about how people can preserve their capacity for wonder and imagination.  She told him, “How can you hope to see the faeries under the flowers, if you don’t notice the flowers themselves?”  That was the third time yesterday that someone had told me very earnestly that noticing, paying attention, is an important practice.  My children might not be very good right now at noticing when I call, but they’re very busy noticing the minute details of their world.

I love these changeling children and their wild wonder, their startling imaginative worlds.  If this cycle goes as the last one did, they’ll soon start to grow back into themselves.  Their feet and hands will seem to match their body proportions again.  Their fighting will become a little less fierce for a time.  They’ll listen better again.  They’ll come to terms with the space around them.  For now, I hope the faeries let me keep these little feral things a while longer.

Gratitude List:
1.  The faerie toadstool ring and the magic that it brings us.
2.  Virginia Sweet tomatoes, golden yellow streaked with pink, and almost two pounds each.  Sweet and juicy.
3.  Noticing.  Paying attention.  Being Here Now.
4.  My wise, wise friends.  That includes you, Bright Ones.
5.  The smell of good bread toasting.  Isn’t that a sort of iconic scent?  It’s more than it is, you know?

May we walk in Wonder!

Something from a Dream

You know about the woman
who walked through walls, right?
Her long-eyed gaze.
Her straightening of shoulders.
Lifted chin.
Deep breath.
Then

she’d slide right through.
A shimmering.
A sucking sound.
And then a ringing in your ears,
like a chime.

I don’t know if this
is story or poem or dream.
You saw her go,
you knew the distances
she’d traveled to get here.

I will never forget
the color of her eyes.

 

(That one needs a Dali clock in it somewhere.  Not sure exactly where it came from.  Sometimes those are the most delicious to write.)

Gratitude List:
1.  Wild weather.  Yes, I am anxious, too, about the possibility of flash flood, especially here on the farm.  But something King Lear-ish in me wants to go wander the hills in it.  It makes me feel so alive.
2. A lovely morning yesterday with my five-year-old.  He likes to shop.  So we went shopping.  Spent a long time at Hinkle’s just looking at all the little Schleich animals.  I fell in love with a chimpanzee mother and her baby.  He liked the alligator.  This is bittersweet.  In the fall, he and I will both be in school, and we will both be older and wiser.  May he always access his powerful ability to marvel and wonder.
3. Doodling.  It releases some sort of blockage in the brain, doesn’t it?  Makes you able to walk through walls, perhaps.
4. Bats.  They’re back in the hollow or out of hibernation, if that’s the story.  May they thrive here.
5. Did I mention the weather?  This wild rain.  It evokes.  Remember the sound of it on a tin roof?  Ooooh, wild rain, wild green.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitude for the Open Bowl

I have written this poem before.  The one about the Open Bowl.  How I will hold the circle of my heart to encompass it all.

Not just the little birds singing the dawn into being or the silent toad under her litter of leaves, not just the achingly beautiful green of the fields in spring or the blue eye of the speedwell, not just the snugglesome child or the soft feathers of a hen.

Not just that.  Not only that.

But also the brooding ache of estrangement, and the dull thud of the impossible choice, the anxiety over an ill child, the grieving of a friend.  Also the deaths of the bees, the scarcity of monarchs, the oil-covered ducks.  The deep sadness of all that we are losing so wantonly.  The rage, the helpless and blinding white fury at the destroyers, the greed-mongers, the war-profiteers, the glibly malicious purveyors of illness and oppression.

This is why I write gratitude lists.  I will hold all of these stones in the Open Bowl of my heart.  Some moments, the bowl is so brimming with the rages and the despairs that I don’t know if I can bear it.  And then comes a moment of pure numinous wonder and delight, not to erase the other things, but to ease them.  To make the bearing of them bearable.

These difficult ones, they are there for a reason.  I hold them, too, because they demand my soul’s attention.  They call me to my work here in the world.  I refuse to walk the world with blinders on.   But there is also so much joy to be found in the midst of it all.  So much joy.  So much love.

I have written this poem before, and I will write it again.  Perhaps every day I will write it, until I understand what I am writing.

Here are six shiny stones for your consideration:

Gratitude List:
1.  Green, green, oh the green!  Green says, “Have you been watching?  Have you been paying attention?  Surprise!”  Oh, yes, yes, and. . .
2.  Hello, Little Daffodil, whose name is full of goofy whimsy and whose cup overfloweth with sunshine.
3.  The spaces between.  I will gaze into them, breathe into them.
4.  Doubt.  And the places where faith and trust and safety rest even within doubt.
5.  An afternoon with my parents and uncles and aunts.  Putting puzzle together with Mom and Uncle Henry.  My father and Aunt Ruth and Uncle Harold playing harmonica trios to old hymns while the rest of us sang and hummed.  (“When through the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the birds and feel the gentle breeze. . .”)
6.  The Navajo People, whose sacred phrase I have borrowed for my little daily prayer:
May we walk in Beauty.  So much Beauty.

2013 April 016