My little old man cat has got me thinking about hugs. He doesn’t like to just sit quietly on my lap. He has to have his paws on my shoulder, like a cat hug. I think he finds comfort and ease in the heart-to-heart contact. And it strikes me that that’s part of the healing power of a hug: For just a moment, your heart and my heart are together, right next to each other. Offering a hug is offering your heart. We help each other to regulate our breathing and our heart-rhythms when we hug each other.

Gratitude List:
1. Watching that moon rise. Last night, we went down to Hellam to watch the moon rise. A bubble of flame breaking free. No matter how many times I watch, I am always sort of stunned by how quickly it rises, how we can see it moving. It sets my heart a flutter. We also saw the space station.
2. Planting herbs. I am expanding my mint bed to include other herbs. The wild St. John’s Wort that I planted last year is flourishing. Today I planted thyme and oregano and rosemary. I need some white sage yet.
3. Cycles of work and rest
4. The lure of words. I am restless, picking up my journals and printed poems, shuffling and browsing. I am ready to edit and reconfigure, ready to settle into a writing rhythm for the summer.
5. This boy bought himself a pair of water shoes today with pink insets. “That’s okay with you, the pink?” I asked, casually, just to be sure that I wasn’t investing my money in something he wouldn’t actually wear. He shrugged: “They’re water shoes.” Righto.

May we walk in Beauty!


The distance between two bodies
may be a word and a word and a word.
The map of the distance between them–
that’s a story sent out like a boat on waves.

We may indeed be islands, separate
in our separate skins, and lonely
as rocky hills jutting from the sea.
It’s words that span and sail between us.

We’re nearing the end now. Some people call it Judgement, that final reckoning before the end of the game, the life, the story. Some call it Karma, or Prudence. Perhaps it’s Accountability. It’s the moment of the Last Look Back, the Assessment, the final Final before graduation. How does the Fool stack up? Can she see what she has learned? Find value in the work she has been doing?

Gratitude List:
1. Lily of the Valley. I can’t get enough of the scent. When Skunk Hollow isn’t filled with the smell of skunk, it’s filled with Lily of the Valley.
2. A good story to follow. Right now it’s Poldark, and it’s breaking my heart almost as much as Downton Abbey did. I love Demelza.
3. Song Sparrow
4. These boys. Last night as I was reading to Joss before bed, at the part where Ma Gasket stands up to Polybites, he stopped me and said, “I like these books where the women are leading, too.” Well, there.
5. That tiny little light there at the way far end of the tunnel.

May we walk in Beauty!

Waiting on Words


Waiting on the words
to do their usual tumble,
I will find instead
a pocketful of golden
leaves, and some scarlet berries.

Gratitude List:
1. Farm friends and farm crew.
2. Bringing the season to a close.  Moving on to a new Season.
3. Yellow carpet of leaves
4. The observations of a six-year-old.  This morning: “Fred’s legs aren’t made like ours are.  It seems like his knees come out of the backs of his legs.”
5. The light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s there, even when I can’t quite make it out in the distance.

May we walk in Beauty!

Many Words for Together

Gratitude List:

1. We do not walk alone.
2. These circles are wide and many and overlapping.
3. International community.  Singing with international community.
4. How I can sense you here when you are so far away.
5. Words from a friend about belonging together even if we do not agree on everything.

I think I may have just said the same thing five times.

May we walk in Beauty!  May we walk singing.

Grace and Wind

Today’s gratitude list is mostly gleaned from our church service yesterday morning.  After a startlingly harsh and jangling sermon from a visiting preacher the previous week, yesterday’s service was one of healing and hope.  I felt much more called to the care and tending of souls during yesterday’s gentle and loving setting than I did during the previous week’s harangue.

Gratitude List:
1. The healing power of words, how they hold and restore.  How healing words fill a space after words have been harsh.  I am grateful for Darvin and Michelle’s words yesterday.
2. St. Hannah/Francis preaching to the birds.  “You should try this at home.”  Ellis did: he came home and stood near the feeder with bird seed in his hand.
3. Breath, air, wind: spirit.  Ruach, one of the Bible’s feminine terms for God, is also the spirit, the breath.  Whistle.  Preach to the birds.
4. Counting time in Chesters.  The oldest member of our congregation is almost 100.  About three Chesters ago, the US became a country.  Eight Chesters ago, St. Francis preached to the birds.  Chester whistles, too.
5. These two hanging ferns that my family gave me for Mother’s Day.  The house finch has been whistling in their fronds, begging his lady love to consider them as the setting for raising their family.

May we walk in Beauty!  Breathe.  Whistle.


I need to take my moments of contemplation when I can get them these days.  Only three weeks into the semester, and I have already (at least once) left a piece of my lesson planning to the morning.  And that eats up not only time, but also confidence.  Yet I am feeling an internal sense that not only should I be maintaining my morning reflection time, but perhaps I need to expand my writing practices.  Now, because I am spending my days teaching writing, when I write for myownself, I am keenly conscious of how I am moving around inside these sentences, pulling the ideas of this sentence into being perhaps even while I typed the previous sentence.  Considering whether a fragment here might be well-used to effect.  Wondering whether I can hold onto the depth of the idea that I am working with if I shift for a moment into discussion of the what happens when I explore the room of a sentence while I am writing it.

You and I, we are individual universes, separate in our separate realms, joined by. . .what?  (Meta-mind wonders how I should have punctuated that one and hopes a grammarian friend will give suggestions.) What is the web that connects us in our isolated worlds?  Love and hope, certainly.  Gesture and expression.  Still, we need language to channel those deep rivers of self between us, to make the webs between us glow and shine.  As we build these word, bridges, construct whole rooms and tunnels of sentences, cities of paragraphed ideas, our worlds connect.  I can write to you and you can write to me, and we can say to each other that we know each other, even if we have not seen each others’ faces.  Just because of words.  May all our words bring deeper understanding, more powerful connections.

Gratitude List:
1.  Personal pep-talks, for that is what this has been.  It was a short night, and it promises to be a hot day in the classroom, me yelling my words out over the fans.  Still, I cannot be anything but grateful to for the gift of this opportunity to help this cohort of 90 young people develop and perfect their ability to work with language, this magical tool for human connection.  May it be so.
2.  The great horned owls.  I know I just wrote about them a couple days ago, but their deep and startling voices here in the fall are almost as trance-inducing as my friend the oriole was in spring.  When I am grumbling at the rude voice of the alarm clock, the sudden surprised whooping of the owls in the bamboo forest will make me smile and be glad to be awake in this darkness.
3.  Following my predecessor at the school.  She was well-loved by quite a number of students.  Random students keep wandering in and looking around, a little lost, and introducing themselves as former students of hers.  Some of them even return repeatedly, as though simply the memory of her in that room makes it a haven amidst the bustle of the school day.  Big shoes to fill.  I’ll be my own me, of course, but do my best to keep her light shining in the window.
4.  Word-bridges.  Sentence-halls.  Paragraph-houses.  All these artificial structures and codes that we have created in millennia of human development that enable us to close the space between us.
5.  Annoying as his constant demands for attention, food, attention, and food can be, I love the way Fred the cat meows, his whole face getting into the act.  I love the way he won’t take no for an answer when he wants snuggles and I am wearing a dark blue dress that cannot have orange cat hair upon it.  I had to go get a blanket to cover me because he would have his mama-cuddle this morning, no matter what I said.

May we walk in Beauty!

There Needs to Be a Poem

There needs to be a poem here
something to fill the space
to inspire
to bless.

There needs to be a word
that fills the small green hollows
between the first shy greeting
and the questions
that draw out the hearts
like small burrowing animals
from their safe nests.

There needs to be a song here.
At least a whispered line
with a hint of a melody
and a rhythm
like the chirping of the tree frogs
high in the oak grove.

Let us stand in the moment
shoulder to shoulder
like the deer on the verge
we caught in our headlights,
and listen for the distant unrolling of words.


Gratitude List:
1.  That wonderful woman at OfficeMax yesterday who said that since the Lancaster store was selling notebooks for a penny a piece, she could give me the same price, and then only gulped a little when I said, “That’s so great!  I’d like a hundred for my English classes!”  I quickly realized that I was taking overenthusiastic advantage of a kindness and cut my number back just a little.
2.  Waters of Transformation.  Yes, indeed.
3.  I have a job where people sometimes start the day with a collegial hymn-sing.  Have I landed in a perfect place for me, or what?
4.  Inspiration struck when I needed it and before I was a complete wreck of exhaustion: I have been a little anxious this weekend about preparation for the coming week.  I came away from last week sort of feeling like I had drained my wells of inspiration for lesson plans.  Just like poetry writing, however: When you let go, sometimes the streams begin to trickle back in again, and sometimes they come in as a flood. I hope the students are a tenth as eager for the work I present tomorrow as I am to present it.
5.  Family time.  Meeting Kim’s dear children.  Basking in Craig’s delightful smile.  Listening to the harmonica trio play in harmony.  Discussing recipes for fish.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tomato Sandwich!

2011 June 190
This wasn’t today’s sandwich.  I ate that too fast to even think of a photo.  I think that is a Cherokee Purple tomato.

Gratitude List:
1.  The first tomato sandwich!  That crusty, yeasty brown bread and an Iron Lady tomato with sharp cheddar and mayo and salt.  Oh my, oh my, oh my. . .
2.  Was it Andrea who said something at break today about a man who said that when he was a boy he could hear corn growing?  Like a whistling sound, he told her.  I love that so much.
3.  Life force.  That corn up there in #2, and the mung bean sprouts that Ellis grew this week, how they pushed up the lids, and then grew an extra half inch in a hour this morning.
4.  The old, old woman from my dream last night.  Her name is Grafa.  “Sometimes I wake up in the night and fling off the covers,” she tells me.  “I wake up in the middle of the night just to tweak the energy a bit.”  Grafa–writing or drawing?  From Old Norse or Proto-Germanic (according to Wiktionary), means to dig, to bury, to engrave.
5.  The random way that Joss throws words together or sings a word repeatedly while he’s playing, just for the fun of the sounds.  “My teeth are devious!”  “My foot of God.”  “Nairobi, Nairobi, Nairobi!”

May we walk in beauty.

Song of the Joyful Beads

A poem, again, and another prompt, and a gratitude list.
Song of the Joyful Beads
for Susan and Mara and Nicki and Suzy

“Toss me your words right over the bridge,
I’ll string them like beads,
not jewels, but amulets emitting joy,
and one of the beads will spell peace,
and one will spell joy, and one,
oh, no, I dropped one out near the garden
and a migratory bird carried it back to you.
The word was gratitude.” –Susan Mull

I keep remembering your beads strung up
like bright birds on a fence,
like dewdrops sparkling on a blade of grass

and that last, lost bead
coming in my open window
on the bill of a tiny hummingbird.

I keep remembering the joy, the hope, the joy,
I keep remembering my heart, how the doors hung open,
how the sun poured in, a blinding light.

I keep remembering how the golden scales of her arms
twinkled in the dappled sunlight of the creek
as you opened your hand and a garnet, blood-red,
tumbled into the waters. How it settled there,
gently, the shadow of a pearl, in her hands.

I keep remembering the envelope you handed to me
that golden day in December.
On the card, in green pen,
you had written my name.

I keep remembering what is compounded
in this present moment, how the past
yearns to break free within the now.
I keep remembering tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Prompt–for January 4
Tomorrow, I will write a found poem. Join me in any way you choose, but I will follow the guidelines in William Stafford’s book Getting the Knack, in which you choose a compelling text or several, of 50-100 words. Examine it carefully, find the words that must be there and excise the ones that don’t belong. Shift and tidy. Make sure to credit sources. You can post in the comments here or on my FB page, if you want!

Gratitude List
1. Angels of mercy on a trip bringing soup and lunch to the sick-house. Thank you, Mimi and Pawpaw!
2. I am going to work tomorrow, getting out of Dodge.
3. Jon’s newly tidy basement play-space for the children.
4. Grey hair.
5. The ways words weave us together.
May we walk in beauty.

Yesterday, I said Winky was dramatizing a T.S. Eliot poem. I was wrong. It was W.B. Yeats’ “Second Coming,” about the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.

Gratitude List

1.  The 30 bridge seems to be totally free of construction blockages.  How long has it been?  One year?  Ten?  Here’s to Bridges!
2.  Words.  Isn’t it amazing that a series of aural bits strung together can signify something that can create meaning that both you and I understand?  And then we can translate that into visual symbols?  And build whole philosophical concepts and relationships around them?  Hmm, #1 was also about bridges. . .
3.  Goldfinch Farm Customers.  They’re the greatest.  I love the people who buy our produce–community.  Umm, bridges.
4.  Salmon burgers.
5.  Beads.