Thursday, February 28, 2008

In the Bag

A simple list to tell you something about me... What's in my bag? I dumped it the other day and took inventory.

My daily journal notebook
A draft and observation notebook
A collection of cryptic crossword puzzles
A collection of Pablo Neruda poetry
A Bic Accountant fine point pen
A letter from a friend
A cloth bandana
My father's leather card case
A change pouch
A small ebony wood owl
A small flashlight

And to think with this I feel ready enough to take on the world...


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Of Late

The week before last was a challenging one at work. The most challenging, in fact, in several years. It was not pleasant, not fun, and above all, tiring. Sunday came and I argued with myself as I began waking up in the burrito of blankets my bed had become... to go to liturgy or to sleep? To travel the 68 blocks or to stay put? My need to connect with people outside of work got the upper hand and off I went.

I got there and sat on the opposite side from where I usually do. I was choosing good, deliberate, company. But, as I have written before, I was first alone. For about five minutes. Then a woman approached to tell me that she loved the way I proclaim the Word. She always wishes I'd just keep on telling the story and not stop at the end of the reading. That was gratifying! A shot in the limp, tired arm. I went into the back and was stopped by a member of the choir who asked me if I was aware of the Spirit moving through me when I proclaimed and he just had to thank me and thank God for sharing my gift so freely.

When I left, the priest who'd presided stopped me, saying "You have a pensive you could take on the world and challenge it with wisdom."

Yesterday I got a call from someone inviting me to preside at a reconciliation service in March. Today, a woman told me that there was only one other person she'd ever heard who so inhabited the Word when she was proclaiming.

I also saw evidence this past week that the students really do listen and attend when we pray as a school community during morning meetings. Lo, things do sink in...even those things not overtly taught but rather simply modeled.

I am in the midst of this confluence, pen in hand, asking "What, my friend, are you saying to me?" Not on the surface, but in the freshness deep down.

Can't wait to find out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Harmonious Unity

Harmonious Unity

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth*-
all that is seen and unseen.
Mine the Word that darkness
shall never overcome,
And the angels, and the Mother of God , Mystical Rose,
who prays for us now and at the hour of our death.

The elephant, eagle, platypus, and daffodil—mine.
Mine the Wisdom who danced first with God.
Poets, taletellers, the Story itself,
all for me.

Mine the wind who brushes her hair
while wending through the pines,
and bottles of ink celestial, stirring
to shower stardusted syllables
on unsuspecting fallow fields.

The mockingbird weaving new life
into borrowed measure and verse—mine.
And mine the humid hint of freshness
borne in the morning fog.

Mine are the sonnets, the rain, and the symphonies—
mine is the moonrise, the sunset, the waltz.
Eclipses, atoms, tempests, and flame—

The planets, the fossils, the rivers, and tides,
the questions, the glory, the unknown mysterious—
mine and all for me. And I am all for them.

And I am all for them- because I have in me
the expanse of the universe and in the expanse of the universe-
which includes the perfection of a plum-
is the form, and substance,
and beauty of God.

And I am all for them- because I have been given
breath and insight, hope and wonder, by God
who burned in a bush that was not consumed
so as to be seen by one attentive enough to notice.

And I am all for them and they are all for me
because God is all for them
and God is all for me and so

May we each reflect in the ocean of our actions and being
the harmonious unity of Creation,
brought forth by a God of love,
fostered or hindered by our behaviors and attitudes,
necessary for justice, for peace, for the health and integrity of all.

*This line taken from John of the Cross-The Sayings of Light and Love


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Home, Caffeinated Home

I ended my workday today by going to a coffee shop that magically appeared to me sometime before Christmas during a major downpour. For a variety reasons, that afternoon I was walking home instead of taking a bus. While under an awning enjoying a respite from rafting, I noticed a sign advertising “Coconut Coffee and Caffeinated Company.”

Three or four steps down, next to a larch steamed up window, was a weathered wooden door with a brass thumb latch. Alice saw “Eat me” and “Drink me.” I heard “Open me!” With no further thought (of caterpillars, hookahs, queens, cats, or otherwise), I entered—and was indeed transported.

It is narrower than our kitchen and perhaps two and a half classrooms deep. There is jazz music overhead—and it is always jazz music overhead (a pleasant bit of consistency). Some tables are for one, one is for four. The couches each have a humorous, though mandated, occupancy sign encouraging everyone to share the space. The ceiling is low, the temperature warm, and the smell…ah, like a little bit of heaven.

It is small enough to feel intimate, lowbrow enough to feel like loose, broken in jeans, and tucked away enough (They’d actually been open for five years!) to make it feel a bit like the lost island of Atlantis.

Or, as I found this afternoon after a day that did in fact go straight downhill after a promising beginning correction to waking up with the grumps, a bit like a place where there’s an extra touch of air to breathe as I rock in a me sized hammock being pushed by the wind while she hums a lullaby just for me.

Alice went home. So did Dorothy. And so did I.

That’s the thing—a little healthy escape is vital. So long as we again come home.

Valentines Day

It’s Valentines day. Contrary to a day typically associated with love, friendship, and good feelings, I woke up feeling grumpy, stuffed up, and way too sparky for my own good. It seemed a day destined to be one of those rare “Don’t Mess With the Nun” days.

I got to school and received my first Valentine as I was putting hot water into my oatmeal and the caffeinated elixir of goodness and life in my mug. I went upstairs to the library and did some work until the rest of the students began arriving a half hour later.

They arrived in their pinks and reds, professing their affection for one another up and down the hall. One of them returned a library book to me as I was walking down the hall with my mug of coffee. Another put a chocolate heart on top of the book. I popped into a classroom to give a message and a seventh grader noted, “You have a book, chocolate, coffee, and a pen!! What more could you ever want?”

I am still stuffed up, still a little too sparky, but not so grumpy anymore…

All it takes, sometimes, is a word or two. Or three. Happy Valentines Day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I have been caught thinking about two different contrasts lately.

No surprise to those who know me, I place a high value on my facility with language. I love combing my trove of vocabulary to find the word(s) that most accurately surround(s) the feeling or idea I wish to express. Words enflesh, they fill out, they render tangible and visible/conceivable ideas that otherwise might be lost in the ether of unknowing. I have said many a time that I think best with a pen in hand.

And yet... I had a different experience entirely during a class last period on a recent Friday. Because of the wan, limping affect flopped across the faces of my students, I opted to tell them a story instead of having them engage in research for a major project they have. It is a story I wrote nearly ten years ago. It stays the same basic story each time, but because it is a story I know by heart and not by memorization, there are tweaks, additions, and deletions each retelling. One thing always remains, however. And one of my students latched onto it immediately when the story ended. "What was her name??" She was asking about the main character. I smiled. "I didn't give her one." "Didja forget it? Didja mean to leave her without a name??" "Yep. It was an intentional decision." By this time, other kids were thinking about this and had hands raised to offer their considerations on this. We talked about how names immediately conjur images that stick around whether we really want them to or not. By her not having a name, she could be anyone and everyone and she could change. I told them that she has changed for me over the years. The picture I have in my mind now is certainly not what it was ten years ago.

When people or things or experiences are contained by language, a little of the elasticity is gone...and yet, how else do we know a thing? A person? One of the quickest ways to dehumanize someone is to never use their name. Yet, as I wrote in my journal that evening, "there are those things that suffer at the imposition of language."

The other contrast I have noticed of late is one of space.

I was at a recently at a reception after hearing a speaker and was approached by someone who was friendly enough but sent every vibe in my psyche haywire. In the midst of the seventy or eighty people gathered in a small space, I needed immediate distance from this person. Behind me was a group of friends who were talking with someone else. In my attempt to achieve distance, I felt myself moving backwards and tucking myself behind one of them. I could not have been closer to her. My shoulder was wedged behind hers and I was backed into the midst of their grouping. They didn't object--they are friends--it's NYC--everyone is always smashed together.

What a contrast that physical/mental distance from one can be achieved by proximity to others. Safety in distance and safety in numbers.

Much to contemplate.