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I Will Keep Broken Things

Alice Walker wrote what appears to be a long poem, but it is a musing we undertake daily, sometimes without knowing. What are we discarding? It could be, as she recites, we look at material belongings in our house. It could be, as she concludes, the spiritual and hidden phenomena make us who we are.

We are damaged goods, but it is our imperfections that make us perfectly who we are. We look at things in our houses, which to others seem damaged, and we recall stories behind and under the surface. The stories underneath, never fully tellable, reveal themselves in their incompleteness. Each story is sharable to some extent, but it is always our story. Like a tree, the story is revealed in the inner circles and, then, incompletely. In the end, the imperfections that make us perfectly who we are we keep because they enhance our beauty from within.

I will keep
Broken
Things:
The big clay
Pot
With raised
Iguanas
Chasing
Their
Tails;
Two
Of their
Wise

Heads
Sheared
Off;

I will keep
Broken
things:
The old
Slave
Market
Basket
Brought
To my
Door

By Mississippi
A jagged
Hole
Gouged
In its sturdy
Dark
Oak
Side.

I will keep
Broken
things:
The memory
Of
Those
Long
Delicious
Night
Swims
With
You;

I will keep
Broken
things:
In my house
There
Remains
An

Honored
Shelf
On which
I will
Keep
Broken
Things.

Their beauty
Is
They
Need
Not
Ever
Be
‘fixed.’

I will keep
Your
Wild
Free
Laughter
Though
It is now
Missing
Its
Reassuring
And
Graceful
Hinge.

I will keep
Broken
Things:

Thank you
So much!

I will keep
Broken
Things.

I will keep
You:

Pilgrim
Of
Sorrow.

I will keep
Myself.

The Bright Field

About a year ago, Kathy and I picked up her mom about an hour away from where we live and drove her to the hospital for tests. She is non-verbal, but it does not mean she does not communicate. It was early morning and the sun lit up fields of freshly cut hay in furrows and bales.

Despite the early hour, about 6:00  AM, the scene was spectacular. Suddenly, I sensed movement beside me and turned to see Kathy’s mom waving her arm, smiling, and trying to form words. I think the treasures of those bright fields lit up the day for her filling her with rich memories reminding her of early mornings on the farm.

R. S. Thomas reminds us we live in each moment, not in dim futures and idealized pasts. There is brightness in moments when we realize that even when something cannot be spoken and words fail us, its essence is communicated and shines like a sun illuminating each field we pas in life.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Talk About Walking

When we were in Waterton Lakes National Park two summers ago, we were able to go down the big lake into Montana’s Glacier National Park and hike. As we got off the boat, we asked one of the guides where a good place to go would be. He asked where we wanted to go and I answered, “Just for a walk and see where it takes us.”

It would be difficult to get off the ‘beaten path as it is pretty rugged country. Despite this, I think some days it is nice just to wander and wonder where the day takes us. Philip Booth does a wonderful job reminding us there is so much outside these walls we think of as our life.

Where am I going? I’m going
out, out for a walk. I don’t
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines. Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for airframes on
today’s flights. I’m taking off
on my own two feet. I’m going
to clear my head, to watch
mares’-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.
I’m going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear. I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I’m going?
I don’t. How long or far
I have no idea. No map. I
said I was going to take
a walk. When I’ll be back
I’m not going to say.

Praying

Mary Oliver writes in uncomplicated ways. It is not simple, but there are elements of simplicity linked to complexity. Her poem Praying is an example of this simplexity. Praying is an entreaty or asks for something and suggests creating space for responses. There is a simplicity in the way prayer unfolds. It happens anywhere, anytime, and with few words. The complex part is being quiet and discerning the answers. This requires quiet spaces that we have to craft out of the busyness of modern lives and days.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

I finished my first weekend of classes today. An emphasis is respectful dialogue in ways that honour the other person. In this way, we to listen and not think of our next response. Perhaps, reaction is a better way of understanding that thinking process.

We critique our work in the group. For example, we share our dissertation statements and, as we are in the early stages of writing, they are a little rough around the edges at times. We try set aside the emotional attachment we form with our work so we can listen to the voices offering help.

William Stafford wrote this poem and the last stanza is profound. When we listen deeply, we move out of the darkness more easily towards the stars we seek.

If you don’t know the kind of person I am

and I don’t know the kind of person you are

a pattern that others made may prevail in the world

and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,

a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break

sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood

storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,

but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,

I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty

to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,

a remote important region in all who talk:

through we could fool each other, we should consider–

lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,

or a breaking the line may discourage them back to sleep;

the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–

should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Delight in Disorder

Dissertation topics emerge, move to the fore, sink back, and are always a process. Mine is no different. I found material this week on the way K-12 curriculum comes to be. One of the books is about a post-modernist perspective on curriculum. Teachers and students co-create the learning within a matrix or frame provided. There is no expectation of clear and definable products at the beginning. Learning is messy. It is a rich conversation.

Robert Herrick, an 18th English poet, provided a metaphor for learning with a rushed dressing of a person, in this case a young woman. Learning is an art, an imprecise art which requires mistakes along the way and continuous refining that is never quite finished. It seems to get better with time. In that disorder, learners and teachers merge.

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness:

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction,

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthrals the crimson stomacher,

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbands to flow confusedly,

A winning wave (deserving note)

In the tempestuous petticoat,

A careless shoe-string, in whose tie

I see wild civility,

Do more bewitch me, then when art is

Is too precise in very part.

Vocation

I re-read Parker Palmer‘s Let Your Life Speak. It is the one time of the day I don’t take notes I just read. Last night, I began Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s Life Together.

Parker Palmer wrote about the shared etymological roots of vocation and voice. William Stafford expressed a similar message. We find our way through life as we make meaning out of life. It comes with the good and the not so good which sometimes, when we look back in the rear view mirror, we realize the reverse is true.

I am reading on my dissertation topic: curriculum and technology use. I chose a couple of books which say the same thing about schooling and it would be a radical departure. Education is about conversations, integrates roles of teacher, student, and subject. We find our stories, our voices, and our calling in life in and through circles of conversation. Here we let the silence speak as well. It is a mindful way to live and requires our full attention.

This dream the world is having about itself
includes a trace on the plains of the Oregon trail,
a groove in the grass my father showed us all
one day while meadowlarks were trying to tell
something better about to happen.

I dreamed the trace to the mountains, over the hills,
and there a girl who belonged wherever she was.
But then my mother called us back to the car:
she was afraid; she always blamed the place,
the time, anything my father planned.

Now both of my parents, the long line through the plain,
the meadowlarks, the sky, the world’s whole dream
remain, and I hear him say while I stand between the two,
helpless, both of them part of me:
“Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.”

The Coffee Shop

I spend time in the local coffee shops, read, and write. I did a lot of my blogging in that venue; however this summer I rearranged my schedule and blog at home. I notice a gentle energy in these settings and in a busy world it is a place to take time and just be.

The coffee shop;

Misnamed I think–

I sip tea

I try just be present.

We gather;

It is about talk–

A communal space,

Congregate and converse.

Companionship’s richness;

Found in quality

I cannot assign a number

It is a fool’s errand.

It is in laughter,

The reminiscing,

The sharing,

We find ourselves.

The Niagra River

Gary sent me to this poem after I posted Test by Kay Ryan. I seek meaning in my life for those things around me. Other times I don’t pay enough attention, take things for granted, and do not realize the substance of what is there. Even something as large as the Niagara River can go unnoticed and blur into the background. When I pull it forward, its meaning is there, not explainable, but there. I am reminded that meaning exists even when I cannot explain it.

For those who have not visited Gary, you will enjoy his poetry. I do.

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As though

the river were

a floor, we position

our table and chairs

upon it, eat, and

have conversation.

As it moves along,

we notice—as

calmly as though

dining room paintings

were being replaced—

the changing scenes

along the shore. We

do know, we do

know this is the

Niagara River, but

it is hard to remember

what that means.

 

http://ivonprefontaine.com/2013/07/21/test/

Messenger

Today, I scooped an article entitled “Why Questions Are More Important Than Answers.” I added a short piece: “Questions keep us moving. Answers end conversations and their messages.”

Being present and mindful exposes the extraordinary on life’s canvas. I ask only to be astonished with eloquent questions which I am unable to answer, because the next question reveals itself playfully in front of me; again to go unanswered.

I love Mary Oliver‘s poetry and this poem resonated today.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

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