Hidden Trails


Trail across Cabin Creek, where the foxes and coyotes and deer cross the creek and enter the bosque. That’s poison ivy on the cherry tree at the front left–poison ivy is the protector of wild places.

Gratitude List:
1. Lots of work getting done
2. Sheltered places
3. Sleep
4. Voices of sanity and calm amid the clamor
5. Making plans for solitude and rest

May we walk in Beauty!

A Long Weekend

stones-or-eggs Eggs or stones?

Gratitude List:
1. Hooray! Pippi Prius can be fixed. It took a while to get the details worked out with the insurance company, and the damage was apparently almost equal to her value, but they’ve agreed to go ahead and do it.
2. My colleagues. Yesterday was an in-service day, and much as I always wish I could just have those days to decompress or catch up on work, I always come away feeling energized and inspired for the work ahead–also, grateful for the earnest, positive, playful energy of my colleagues.
3. Our school superintendent, Richard Thomas. Since he announced his coming retirement last winter, it’s been disconcerting to think of the future of the school without him. He has helped this school system to shape a vision of itself as a community, as a place where students and teachers and staff work to become our best selves, to create a place of shalom. Yesterday we had a chance to try to tell him a little bit about what he means to us.
4. The Search Committee, who had a huge task in a short time. They listened well, heard our concerns and our hopes for the future, and found someone who seems to have vision and determination and savvy enough to step into the superintendent’s role.  They have been careful to be confidential when confidentiality has been necessary, while staying as transparent as possible. Yesterday they carefully led us through their process of the past six months and shared the ways in which our new superintendent fits the values and ideals that we gave them.
5. Today. I can work all day to catch up. I didn’t get as much done last weekend as I wanted. I plan to go to school on Monday with no late grading hanging over my head.

Shalom.

Finding the Questions

imag1876
I spent last week quietly anticipating another walk of the Camp Hebron Labyrinth. On my Saturday morning walk own to the woods, I kept thinking how different the paths and the distances seemed in just a week. The thought appeared in my head: “It’s a different journey now.” Even though I am walking a similar path and toward a different destination, the journey keeps shifting and changing. Just moments after I had begun to ponder what I meant by thinking that, I arrived at the labyrinth to find that a tree had fallen across it.

I recently found this piece of paper on which I wrote, in the summer of 2015, a series of examen-type questions. I think I probably have already written these in the blog, but I am going to put them here again so that I can ponder them this week. I wouldn’t use more than five of them a day, probably, and for similar ones, like the first four, I would spread them out over days, to see how the different ways of asking almost the same question evokes different internal responses.

How did Mystery encounter you today?
How did you encounter Mystery today?
How were found by Mystery?
How did God/dess seek you?

What awakened you?
What vision brought your spirit awake?
What nudged you? (Or nudged you forward?)
Where does your heart sit?
What gave you wings?
What do you take on your journey?
What do you tuck into the corners?

What quickened within you?
What brought your senses (or your heart, your spirit, your brain) alive?
What do you take deeper?
What do you take into prayer?

What is the weight that you carry?

And not that I am thinking about it again, I’ll add some more from today’s heart:
What itches? What makes you uncomfortable?
What feels unsettled?
What skin are you shedding?
What muscles are you stretching?

Gratitude List:
1. Bridges, and bridge-building language and actions
2. Gathered Community
3. Getting the work organized, making a plan
4. Treasuring each other
5. Waking up–I am struggling with the actual physical process this morning. How much more intense it can be to wake up in other ways. May we always be open to the pull to wake further, to bring our dreams into the wakeful spaces.

May we walk in Beauty!

Lay Down Your Heart

fins
By Monday, the gills have expanded and developed, the underside of the universe.

Working up a poem that I wrote a year ago:

Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
where your ancestors wandered.

It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.

It will not offer you answers
to the why of war
or end the stench of battles.

Still, the waters may offer you
questions instead, questions
that will create the riddles
to draw you onto the path again
despite the darkness
that surrounds you.

Gratitude List:
1. I have been given this day in which to do my work.
2. How emotion settles in the body. I know this can be unsettling, too. I read something yesterday by Darshana Avila, about sensing the way that happiness and sadness settle in the body, noticing where they are, what they do in the body, not judging them or their presence as “good” or “bad.” She noted that when we reflect on the way emotions are sensed in the body, happiness and sadness don’t always feel that different.  They just are.  It reminds me of Rumi welcoming all comers to the guesthouse.
3. New questions. I have to ask Anne Marie sometime to remind me of the entire list she offered in church on Sunday, a series of questions that comes from the peacebuilding work of the Great Lakes Initiative in eastern Africa.  The ones that stick with me are, “What do you lament?” and “What does joy look like?” I like the way the questions are phrased, instead of simply asking what makes you sad or happy–which are equally valid questions.
4. This one feels a little petty because it’s so material, but it has wider implications for me: Yesterday I found some dresses at Columbia Re-Uzit, and then I drove past my friend’s farm stand, and she was also having a yard sale, and I bought some of her clothes. So now I feel like I have the outfitting necessary for the coming school season. It’s one more thing off my plate, accomplished with minimal effort and thought–that’s the piece I am grateful for. That, and the lovely colors and textures, and the thought that I will be wearing some things that my beautiful and gracious friend has worn. In that context, clothes are more than just clothes, you know?
5. What shall I pull out for this last one? I do not yet have a Thing of Beauty on the list, other than my lovely new dresses. Oh, here it is: the bouquet of lisianthus blossoms my mother brought to me yesterday to have on the table today as I am working on my class preparations. Deep purple-violet and vibrant red-violet. (My parents brought me flowers, AND they are caring for my children for a couple days so that I can focus solely on the preparations for school.)

May we walk in Beauty.

My Candidate

josiah for president
Finally, a candidate I can really support!

Gratitude List:
1. Co-thinking discussions.  I love conversations in which the unstated premise is that you are taking the information or idea offered by the other/s and building upon it or re-interpreting it in your words, then leaving your piece out there for someone else to mold and shape and build upon.  I always feel like I come away from such conversation with a deeper understanding of the world than I went in.
2. Just doing the tourist thing.  We spent yesterday morning with friends being tourists in Lancaster County.  Despite the “touristiness,” it was fun to watch people and to consider what about this place makes people want to come here.  I love Lancaster County.
3. Those phoebe babies getting ready to fledge from the forebay rafters.  Nobody can look madder than a baby bird.
4. Moving into the next stage of summer.  There was the finishing up and recovery time, and then the relax a bit and play time.  Now comes the get down to business time.  It’s true that the second year of teaching in a new place is easier than the first.  It is also true that the difference can be sort of minimal.  But now, preparing for my third year, I feel much more energized for the preparations.  I can see the planning all mapped out in my head much more clearly, as opposed to simply hopefully.
5. We are not alone.  The world gets so heavy sometimes, but it’s at the heavy times that you can look around you and see all the people who are stepping out to the front to get the Work done. Sure, there’s a lot of fluffy and ranty clamor that distracts, but keep your eyes and ears open.  They’re there, stepping into the fray, holding people, presenting clear and thoughtful ideas, loving their neighbors and the world.  Often, they’re keeping their mouths shut, though sometimes they are the ones writing cogent and articulate pieces that help to shape the conversation.  Listen and watch.  The Workers are out there.

May we walk in Beauty!

Say Their Names

Sycamore

baby phoebes

I am a little obsessed with the panorama function on my camera lately.  Yesterday, I realized it just might help me to portray a little bit of the glory that is our friendly Sycamore, the way she shades the house, the way the light shines in, the way she seems to fill the hollow.

And three infant phoebes try to manage the heat.  Their parents are incredibly attentive, so I am not worried about their survival in this heat wave–they have plenty of insects and lots of water.  This is the second phoebe brood this summer in the barn.

We have such Work ahead of us in these days.
We cannot afford to sacrifice ourselves to the whirlpools of despair and rage.
How can I–today, in this moment–respond to my sadness and anger in ways that help to create healing?

I will say their names.  Alton Sterling.  Philando Castile.
And then I will say my own name, in response.  I will pledge to show up.  I will listen to the voices of those who have the most at stake in this story.  I will stand, at least in spirit, with those who stand.  I will listen more than I speak.  I will keep looking inside myself, to notice my own unacknowledged biases and stereotypes and fears. I will not make excuses for myself.  I will own my role.  I will use what power I have to amplify the voices that must be heard.  And I will not lose heart, not lose hope, not lose will.

If you are finding it hard to cope with the news, listen to Mr. Rogers talk about helpers, or read Clarissa Pinkola Estes on what we were made for (click on their names).

May we do what we can to be part of the solution rather than a continuing part of the problem.

Gratitude List:
1. Voices that lead with wisdom and compassion.  Listen.
2. Communities of people who seek a better way. Participate.
3. Webs that hold us together through prayer and concern.  Connect.
4. Shining moments of Beauty.  Observe.
5. The possibility of a more just future.  Envision.

May we walk in Beauty.

Panda and Panther

Panda and Panther
I am rather proud of these two paintings which I managed despite the fact that the canvases constantly twitched and squinted.  Panther requested that I paint green eyes on his eyelids, which meant that he went around with his eyes closed for a while.  When he smudged his paint, he touched it up himself.  He has requested that we buy ourselves a family set of face paints. I think I will.

Gratitude List:
1. A day of play
2. Public spaces that are created specifically for children. (Yes, I know it’s a lucrative business.  Still, the Hands on House is particularly well done.  My boys were some of the older ones there, and they became obsessed with keeping the factory room tidied and organized.)
3. The determination of a small child to participate in the cleaning of the garage, the preparation for the first share of the season on Monday.
4. Mist in the mornings.  Makes me want to hike to Rivendell.
5. Courage, which I think is different than bravery, because the courageous person recognizes that she is terrified, but she takes the next breath anyway.  I have friends who are deeply courageous, though perhaps they don’t realize how deeply courageous they are.  (Root is couer = Heart.) I want to start a poem like Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese,” only to say:
You do not have to be brave.
You only have to fill your aching lungs with one more breath.
You do not have to wait until you no longer feel afraid.
You only have to step from this moment into the next one.

May we walk in Beauty, in Couer-age.

Surprises

P1010973

Gratitude List:
1. When we all work together. . . There is just something about coming together with a group of people to accomplish a specific task that creates a sense of community and tribe.  I’ve experienced it in various ways this week–a listening committee, a group helping a friend move, being part of a web of people holding someone in prayer/love/light, classroom work, collegiality.
2. Mockingbird is beginning to welcome everyone back to the hollow in their own languages.  (Okay, I know he’s actually establishing territory, but the effect on my grateful ears is the same either way.)
3. Chocolate. Especially fair trade chocolate.  It is almost impossible for us in the US to extricate our pleasures and our luxuries from the economic and trade systems that oppress others around the world.  May we keep edging our way toward freedom and justice for all people.
4. This coming week.  I don’t know who to thank for the incredibly brilliant idea (whether it’s principals or superintendents)–padding the potential snow days into Easter Break, just after the switch to the final quarter–but it feels like I have been given extra days in the world, like I can slip between times for the next couple of days, get my work done, catch up on my rest, prepare for the coming month, and get back to work reinvigorated.
5. Needle felting.  I started making a couple teeny tiny totoros for a small boy’s upcoming birthday, and his older brother has become obsessed with helping with the needle felting.  I’m a little anxious about a nine-year-old and those tiny spears, but it is perhaps a good exercise in intent focus, and I love doing handwork with my kids.
6.  Hmmm.  I worked hard on this list just now, but I missed this one: new life, birth, how the heart is constantly being resurrected.
7.  Oh, and this one: My favorite Jesus stories are coming up, beginning today: Jesus surprises Mary in the garden. (My friend’s daughter also loves this story: he surprises”his best best best friend,” she says. Yes.)  Then he surprises Thomas and his terrified friends.  Then he surprises the walkers on the Emmaus Road.  Life-transforming surprises.
8. I’ll just keep going: The poetry of David Whyte, particularly Sweet Darkness and Easter Blessing.

May we walk in Beauty!

This is How It Begins

This is how it begins:
each year, each week, each day,
each golden shining drop of moment
approaches,
full of expectancy,
dawning,
ready for our use.

How will I inhabit the house
of the now that approaches?
How will I wear the cloth
of the day that is given?
How will I wander the story
of the year that has just now
leapt into shining view
through the gray clouds of winter?

I will face this year with resolution
(this week, this day, this moment)
not to wait until this whirling planet
has danced around the sun
to make the new thing new,
but to step into each freshly-birthed now
with eyes that see the golden shine of possibility
and ears that hear the note of each plucked strand of moment.

DSCN8884
Dew on Mullein.

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday, the family together celebrating a woman of wisdom and compassion.  Some families celebrate the New Year.  We celebrate a birthday.
2. More conversations with the beloved community, with wise parents and in-laws and out-laws.  How listening well and sharing ideas becomes more than the sum of all the conversational bits that appear. How ideas build upon ideas, and shape the ones that came before, and open up spaces for new thoughts to appear.  How iron sharpens iron.  How certain conversations at certain moments prepare me to do the Work that approaches.
3. Three golden rays of sun yesterday before the sun set, shooting through a rift in the grey cloud.  The sun, the sun, the sun: I saw the sun!  And now, here in the crisp morning, nothing but blue above, and golden shine now slipping over the ridge and into the hollow.
4. I have been listening this week to Mindy Nolt’s Movers and Lovers, deeply and intensely, grateful for each phrase.  Move. Love. Listen.
5. The Work.  I am learning, slowly and in tiny little ways, to stop asking myself what I can get from each moment, but instead what my Work is here in the moment.  And realizing, ever so dimly, that when I am really doing my Work (really doing my Work), I am also receiving what I need.

May we–in each dawning moment of this coming year and week and day–walk in Beauty!