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Make the Earth Your Companion

Nature teaches and is always present for us to learn. When we pause and are present with the universe, we can learn. J. Patrick Lewis wrote this poem as a reminder of lessons available when we take time and make the Earth our companion.

We do not live separate from the Earth and its inhabitants, sentient and non-sentient. We live in relationship with the Earth. This suggests the companionship is direct and active, dynamic and energetic. Companionship is about breaking bread with another. When we journey as companions, we are in communion calls on us to be stewards and serving the Earth and the relationships we live in. Communion is  fellowship and mutual participation, an exchange of energy which is life-giving and affirming.

Make the Earth your companion.

Walk lightly on it, as other creatures do.

Let the Sky paint her beauty- she is always

           watching over you.

Learn from the Sea how to face harsh forces.

Let the River remind you that everything will pass.

Let the Lake instruct you in stillness.

Let the Mountain teach you grandeur.

Make the Woodland your house of peace.

Make the Rainforest your house of hope.

Meet the Wetland on twilight ground.

Save some small piece of Grassland for a red kite

on a windy day.

Watch the Icecaps glisten with crystal majesty.

Hear the Desert whisper hush to eternity.

Let the Town weave a small basket of togetherness,.

Make the Earth your companion.

Walk lightly on it, as other creatures do.

Initiation Song from the Finders Lodge

I did not realize Ursula LeGuin wrote poetry I knew she wrote prose and the poetry was a pleasant surprise.

Besides the last line about always coming home, two other lines stood out. The first was letting my fingertips be my maps. This suggested being in touch with the world I live in; feeling it in a visceral way. When I close my eyes, the world reaches into me through my body. In there, the world lives in my soul which is house which is not a house. That feels Zen-like.

Ted Aoki wrote about bridges which were not bridges. Teachers invite students into learning. In those spaces, anything happens and teachers intuit their way around.

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well-loved one,
walk mindfully, well-loved one,
walk fearlessly, well-loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.

Tewksbury Road

There is something about walking in nature that stimulates all the senses. I come alive in those walks and feel energized. We walked the North Saskatchewan River Valley two years ago during Autumn. The leaves turned colour. Over time, I smelled rich decay as Nature continued in her life-cycle.

Nature celebrates her Sabbath. It is a time of renewal emerging from what was alive. She never wastes.

John Masefield described a pastoral scene I imagined in a multi-sensory way. There is a universality in these scenes that touches the spirit.

It is good to be out on the road, and going one knows not where,

Going through meadow and village, one knows not whither or why;

Through the grey light drift of the dust, in the keen cool rush of the air,

Under the flying white clouds, and the broad blue lift of the sky.

And to halt at the chattering brook, in a tall green fern at the brink

Where the harebell grows, and the gorse, and the foxgloves purple and white;

Where the shifty-eyed delicate deer troop down to the brook to drink

When the stars are mellow and large at the coming on of the night.

O, to feel the beat of the rain, and the homely smell of the earth,

Is a tune for the blood to jig to, and joy past power of words;

And the blessed green comely meadows are all a-ripple with mirth

At the noise of the lambs at play and the dear wild cry of the birds.

The Low Road

I had to read this whole poem as the first stanza is scary, but Marge Piercy provides a message about the way we our Self.  We are never alone in this work even when we are separate in time and space. Humans connect in ways that make the person stronger.

When we care and act, the world becomes a different place. It is one act, one word, one smile at a time. It is a moment of mindful gratitude at a time. It happens when we are attentive, mindful, and present in the world and not as detached observers.

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know you who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

Nature’s Secret

Grace Holmes wrote this poem. I was unable to find a link to the poet, but wanted to share the poem. If someone has a link, I will edit and add it.

The poem reminded me of Alfred North Whitehead‘s thinking. He suggested we only need to look at nature and find general patterns for life. Nature reveals patterns when we take time and observe living in nature.

There’s a secret with these rugged hills, whose slender tops are gray;
There’s a secret with the wild flowers that bloom along the way;

There’s a secret with the roaming clouds that change the changeful sky
A secret have the busy winds, that chant and moan and sigh:

A secret has the moonlight, that touches land and sea,
A secret is between the stars that blink and you and me.

Ah the secrets! can you count them? so numerous are they!
Ah the secrets! can you find them out? can you find them out, I say?

I knew that some sweet secret ‘twixt my garden flowers grew.
But I said, I know, I feel, it is not for me, or you.

I felt there was a secret with the wondrous charming sea,
But again I shook my head and said, that secret’s not for me.

Yea, every where I turn my eyes on nature living show,
I feel there is a secret that ’tis not for me know.

Coyote

As I read this weekend, I found Peter Blue Cloud poem. Blue Cloud subtly describes an interconnectedness quite, often overlooked in daily life, that exists in the universe. When we step away from life’s busyness and impersonality and move slowly, gracefully and intimately we explore and connect in the world instead of being outside it.

Indigenous cultures, through tricksters, understand the world as a space humans live in. Coyote is a trickster in many North American aboriginal stories. Through coyote, Peter Blue Cloud reminded me I live in the world and not outside it or beside it. I made whole in this relationship.

Ecologically and ideally, classrooms, students, and teachers are nodes on vast interconnected webs across time and space. Seen this way, education is a reverent, holy space binding us together as it holds stories across cultures and generations. We hear the voices of all, particularly those who live on the margins.

by starlight hush of wind the owl’s voice,

the campfire embers glowing inner universe

by firelight smoke curls weaving faint the voices,

coyote voices faint the pain and smell the pitch,

fire, I sing you stars,

fire, I breath obsidian

& again the owl’s shadow voice leans back

into times past

slinging firs fire,

brittle spine bent bowed toward the fire,

voices low to murmur a child whimper,

deer fat sucked upon to gentle dreaming,

the mother her song the night cradles,

child, the owl, too, has young,

tiny hears and warmth of down,

& old man coughing guttural spit to fire,

young people giggle beneath hide fondlings,

soon to sleep,

again coyote voices drown the mind in a loneliness

of deep respect in love of those who camp

just up the hill,

& tiny crystals of tears spatter the dust,

my people,

legs cannot every carry me back to you,

soul that holds you

forever.

Bellhouse Bay

Yesterday, Stephen posted this wonderful poem on his blog Grow Mercy. Normally, I re-blog, but Stephen uses another platform and I have not figured out how to re-blog across platforms or, for that matter, if there is a way. The poem and post were profound and I wanted to share.

Dorothy Livesay wrote this as a reminder we inherit Earth from our children and grandchildren to paraphrase Chief Seattle. There is a great interconnection that extends beyond what is present to the generations to come. We are surrounded by sentient and inanimate parts of the world that connect us to each other and to the world we live in. We should soak it in and leave more than the pictures behind. We should leave what is real and tangible so our children and grandchildren might touch its beauty and be touched by its beauty, as well. We share this Creation today with what is revealed to us and what will be revealed to others yet to come.

Last night a full silver
moon
shone in the waters of the bay
so serene
one could believe in
an ongoing universe

And today it’s summer
noon heat soaking into
arbutus trees blackberry bushes
Today in the cities
rallies and peace demonstrations exhort

SAVE OUR WORLD SAVE OUR CHILDREN

But save also I say
the towhees under the blackberry bushes
eagles playing a mad caper
in the sky above Bellhouse Bay

This is not paradise
dear adam dear eve
but it is a rung on the ladder
upwards
towards a possible
breathtaking landscape.

What Have I Learned

I engaged in several virtual and face-to-face conversations over the past week about what learning and education should look like today. Gary Snyder summarized some of this in this thoughtful poem. I believe we need to focus more on the tools children need than the content. That is not to say content is not important.  It must stretch, challenge, and allow growth.

Curriculum has narrowed, become content, and the use of tools. It does not always focus on the proper use of tools and development of habits, skills, attitudes, practices, dispositions, etc. What role does discernment play in today’s schools? What eloquent questions, with no presumption of answers, are teachers and students alike asked? Content, in the form of knowledge and information, becomes the currency of the realm and wise application is often pushed aside. 21st Century education requires a mindful approach. An approach that recognizes the changing of the flowers in each moment.

What have I learned but

the proper use for several tools?

The moments

between hard pleasant tasks

To sit silent, drink wine,

and think my own kind

of crusty dry thoughts.

–the first Calochortus flowers

and in all the land,

it’s spring.

I point them out:

the yellow petals, the golden hairs,

to Gen.

Seeing in silence:

never the same twice,

but when you get it right,

you pass it on.

I Am Much Too Alone in the World, and not Alone Enough

Today, I talked with students whose main concern about school is they do not like it. One thing I gleaned was a reluctance to accept personal responsibility which should be something students learn in school. There are reasons for this lack of responsibility. One that is overlooked is responsibility is taken away from children.

What made this an interesting conversation was some of these students are ‘special needs’. In many ways they are bright, articulate problem-solvers frustrated by a system that has failed them leaving them to feel as if they were failing. They see school as a place they have to go and not a place of learning.

What was disconcerting is I am told just get them these students through the system. These children are someone else’s problem next year. We shuffle these students from school to school in this fashion, in effect sorted out of the failed system. Educators, politicians, and bureaucrats fail them daily.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote this poem and it reminded me of one thing humans want in life: free will and to be part of conversations about them in honest ways. School is not  a game played with unrevealed rules, but a place of learning. What if adults took time, listened to children, and helped them find the path where we each learn new words each day?

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everyday jug,
like my mother’s face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

Elegy in the Classroom

Anne Sexton wrote this wonderfully provocative poem. I am unsure of her context for the poem, but an elegy is a lament or a mourning for something past. As with anything, when we grow past the love and passion for what we do and the compassion for the people we do it with it is time to take our leave. I want to be remembered as ‘gracefully insane’ or eccentric. I love learning with my students and their families the second greatest reward I can receive. The first is learning with my family. I think, in both cases, I could be called somewhat ‘disarranged’.

Teaching is a place of great creative for me and fills a whole in the hole of my soul.

Oh my, Anne Sexton discovered and chose great words for teachers.

In the thin classroom, where your face
was noble and your words were all things,
I find this boily creature in your place;

find you disarranged, squatting on the window sill,
irrefutably placed up there,
like a hunk of some big frog
watching us through the V
of your woolen legs.

Even so, I must admire your skill.
You are so gracefully insane.
We fidget in our plain chairs
and pretend to catalogue
our facts for your burly sorcery

or ignore your fat blind eyes
or the prince you ate yesterday
who was wise, wise, wise.

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