Apache man, 1903, by Edward S. Curtis Apache Blessing Prayer May the sun bring you new energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries. May the breeze blow new strength into your being. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all […]
Dawn provides many beautiful posts and I thought this was one that was appropriate as we change the calendar from 2021 to 2022. It reminds us of the how we are interconnected with each other and Mother Earth. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as inter-being and we are inter-are with all matter, living and non-living.
As we begin and end each day, we might think in terms of how nature provides energy, restores us, washes away our worries, and blows new strength into our very being and brings new life to our spirit. For this to occur, we need to walk through the world gently and be mindful of the beauty surrounding us.
As we move into the new calendar year, I leave you with a Maya Angelou quote to help guide you through each day of 2022:
It has been awhile since I posted. I offer this poem I wrote several years ago.
At Christmas last year, I read an essay by Parker Palmer on On Being that reminds me the miracle of Christmas and the incarnation of God in human form. It reminded me how, as a child growing up in Northern Alberta, Christmas was a time of wonder I could not explain and try not to as a rational adult.
At about the same time, Parker posted on Facebook about an event he experienced the previous year in Nogales Mexico at a house for asylum seekers. Asylum is another way of saying they were seeking refuge. He points out Jesus was likely a person of colour. He was a born into the Jewish faith. In this sense, his birth is an ecumenical event.
Carpenter guiding the way,
Expectant mother riding,
Backs straight; heads held high–
Donkey serving as regal carriage.
Seeking refuge from the night–
Giving birth in a stable,
Swathed and cradled in a manger,
Beasts welcoming the child.
Showering gifts upon us–
Returning each year,
Lighting the way–
Only asking, “Can you open your hearts?”
Source of strength,
Our turn to humbly receive gifts,
For several years, Kathy and I enjoyed Canadian singer and actor Tom Jackson. In pre-Covid times, he toured at Christmas to help food banks. In the midst of Covid, we each have to find ways to share with those in need.
He does a lovely rendition of Huron Carole, which I share below. Again, this points to an ecumenical nature of Christmas, Christ’s Mass, echoing Parker’s remembrance of “the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the warm presence of family and friends.”
For me, it is also food and opening a present on Christmas Eve. The food included traditional French-Canadian tourtière (meat pie), which Kathy and I continue to share with our children and grandchildren.
Purple Rays comes into my feed on a daily basis with wonderful quotes and pictures. One of my favourite sources is Rumi the 13th Century Persian Sufi poet and philosopher. This quote is no exception.
Children provide a genuine sense of hope with their innocence, love, and ability to live in the most immediate world. They can inspire each of us, as adults, with hope we may not feel in a particular moment.
Part of my current writing is about hope. In a book chapter that will published shortly, we each shared a remembrance of hope in our lives and how it comes to inform our pedagogy of hope as teachers. Mine included the line from The Prayer of St. Francis to offer hope where there is despair.
As educator and pedagogue, each adult who interacts with a child has an obligation and duty to offer hope for each child. When we look into the eyes of children and witness their smiles, we are called to be stewards and serve in unanticipated ways. I use the word steward through its etymological meaning, relating it to the Greek word oikos. Oikos means household and is related to economy and ecology, which also come from the same etymology.
The prudent educator and pedagogue might ask the following questions: “How do I leave my corner of the household a better place for the next generation? How do offer hope to each child of the ensuing ggeneration?”
But then the sun came out where I live this week, and I was alive again. Dunno if you’ve noticed this, but it’s been the longest year since records began, and the timing of lockdown restrictions easing this week coinciding with warm weather in parts of England – which the press was more than happy […]
I don’t recall when I began following David‘s blog, but it has been a number of years. He shares wonderful daily posts and this one is no exception. He shares a part of a newspaper article with us about how we might be feeling as the light seems to become increasingly larger at the end of COVID tunnel. Of course, it could be a train hurtling down on us, so we must not let our guards down.
Hope is a recurring theme in my writing, publishing, and the publishing I hope to do as I move forward. It is grounded in reality . COVID-19 sharpened my awareness of challenges others face and made me realize there are taken-for-granted challenges. For example, how we treat our elderly, BIPOC humans, sexual and gender minorities, etc. are real challenges. How do we help lift up others in times of need? How do we help infuse hope in the lives of others?
Hope is essential to our dreams. Despite this, what we each dream for is not guaranteed. There is a realistic side to hope that suggests to get to the other side or the end of the tunnel we each need to be resilient. Like passion, which includes suffering for what and who we love, hope has an element of potential failure and suffering. Passion moves to compassion when we share the suffering of others and accept their lives and experiences are different than those we experienced. Hope has a similar collective feel to it. We find hope in community, what we have in common with one another, which is our humanity, how we communicate the common and disparate features of our lives, and how we live in communion with each other.
Hope and its relationship with resilience remind me of the Zen proverb: Fall down seven times, get up eight. How do I compose myself as I get up each time? Is it with grace, compassion, and kindness or do I lash out at others? I find Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes‘ poems meaningful in days like these, so I share them again.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard – And sore must be the storm – That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land – And on the strangest Sea – Yet – never – in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.
Mother to Son
Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on, And reachin’ landin’s, And turnin’ corners, And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light. So boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
I wrote this while sitting, feeling tired, waiting for a connector flight home in Vancouver International Airport. Despite being tired, I was grateful and able to reflect.
At the time, I was experiencing dis-ease. What got me through was people who reached out to me, sensing my unhappiness.
At the retreat I attended, forming relationships with people I had not met before was essential. In the midst of this, I was able to be vulnerable and drop a shield of invincibility. In the space provided. we were able express a sense of caring for each other and bring one another into the fold.
This type of experience raises questions, often without easy answers. What makes each of us who we are? It is scary, but rewarding. It is in the slow cooking of a crock pot in which intimacy can be born. In the slow brewing, we explore identity and masks of personae we wear, gazing into relational mirrors. But, it often sneaks up on us without us being aware the mirror is there.
In wondrous spaces–
Dropping one’s guard,
Hoping to fulfill hopes.
Informing new forms–
Shedding carnival mirror images,
Revealing being vulnerable;
Experiencing a new love.
Allowing intimacy to bloom–
Glimpsing who I am,
As if for the first time–
Revealing one’s self in an other’s presence.
I listen to the blues a lot. The blues have a quality of life about them that reminds me there is more than me in the world. Willie Dixon said “the blues is the roots and other musics is the fruits.” This resonates with me.
Shemikia Copeland is a superb singer/songwriter who reminds me of the plight of others and how much hope they have in the face of systemic injustices. This song is from her most recent album.
Over the last few years, I have increasingly exlored how we use language. For example, we use the word organization as a noun for places where we work, learn, and play. It grows static and lifeless Yet, its root, organ, suggests life and interacting with one another. John Dewey and Ivan Illich referred to interacting and communicating as intercourse. This suggests we engage in intimacy and love as we communicate with one another.
As well, an organ, as a musical instrument, needs a human touch. At our best, we organize, work, and learn, through a common purpose, like in a jazz ensemble, and what calls each of us in some meanfinful way. In a neo-liberal and neo-conservative world, organizing, working, and learning fall short of the common good (common weal) and what calls each of us to feel fufilled, perhaps self-actualized.
Out of this reflecting emerged the following poem.
When cold, aloof–
As a frigid lover–
Pushing us away;
As an anxious lover–
Giving no room to breath.
As a capricious lover–
At its best–
Not on life support!
Exuding hearty warmth–
Touching in human ways.
Gentle lover embracing–
Inviting and holding close;
Letting us breath.
Wanting to be.
Calling, giving voice.
Drawing us each closer;
To our common humanity.
Yesterday, I heard the following song by Mavis Staples. It reminded me, regardless of how things are going, there are always high notes in life.
This is a great post by Shobna. We each have a responsibility to our part, our small part. We can only change the world we are immediate with.
For me, Michelle Obama‘s quote points to Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” How often do I critically examine my actions, my words, my life? What privileges run below the surface and privilege me in my life? Where can I go without worry of being stopped and interrogated?
Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh remind me of the intertwined nature my life of as part of a larger garment of inter-being. What have I done to make the threads that link me to others stronger, healthier, and more whole?
Wendell Berry in his poem, Be Still in Haste, speaks to the need to pause. In each ensuing moment, I begin anew to set the world right. This moment is always the first.
How quietly I
from this moment
looking at the
clock, I start over
so much time has
passed, and is equaled
split-second is present
moment this moment
is the first.
Find a place where you are comfortable and reflect on life. For me, it is a walk in nature. I took the following picture in Jasper National Park several years ago. I could sit on the edge of this lake, soaking in the majesty and reflecting on how I made life better in the next first moment.
I was going to post another of my poems and Balroop’s poem came through my reader. It fits with my recent thinking about the role of elders as guardians of what is to be passed on. Take a few minutes to read her wonderful poetry posted at her blog.
Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote “youth demands images for its imagination and for forming its memory.” I extended this, in my dissertation, to elders offering those images. Without the stories elders provide, youth are left without any sense of where humans have been and the accumulated wisdom. As well, this demand is a question for our youth to offer them something tangible.
Balroop captures this sentiment in the following stanza from Guardians:
Ask the village elders
Their valor shines in their faces
They earned your freedom
They exemplify human values.
Like mountains act as guardians in nature, elders act as guardians through stories shared with youth to pass on wisdom, not information.
Several years ago, Kathy and I drove through the Crowsnest Pass to Spokane. I stopped at an overlook in Brocket. The Pikani Nation (Aapátohsipikáni, Piikáni, and Pekuni) people live there. The sight was awe-inspiring with a contrast between Nature and a wind power farm designed with precision suggesting humans control the environment. How different this idea is from farming in tradtional ways. Nature humbles me when I pause to understand and be grateful for my place and role in it, not as an outsider colonizing and domesticating.
Progress creates an illusion we control Nature. It humbles me when it reminds me that is not a true picture. It is humbling when I pause to understand what a small place I hold in its complete picture, a picture too large to be fully grasped by individuals and collectives.
It is times such as these, not limited to the pandemic, Nature holds the upper hand. It is a Creator, which can be understood in religious terms and in spiritual terms.
Acting as backdrop;
Mountains, sky, clouds,
Providing depth and breadth,
Contrasting our progress.
Made by mortal hands,
Marching winged machines,
Small, almost indistinct on this canvas.
Without pattern, yet poetic
River meandering a perfect line,
Finding its way,
Unseen hands guiding,
Winding its way home.
“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.” Chief Seattle
What are each grateful for at this time? We live in unusual times. As I go through my daily routine, I read articles and posts about how this is a time to rethink what we value and what we are each grateful for in our lives.
Tanya wrote a haiku about the symbiotic relationship between a monarch butterfly in its larval stage and milkweed. I often overlook how nature provides a sense of harmony I have to look deeper to see. When I look past the monarch butterfly’s beauty to its larval form I understand it exists by taking bites out of the milkweed flower’s beauty.
In that vein, when I read the comments, I realized it was “dueling haiku” between Tanya and Stephen. I appreciated what lay beneath the surface of the post and was grateful for their poetry skills. After all it is National Poetry Month.
Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me to find the extraordinary, I look past and beneath the surface of the visible to uncover hidden beauty. Yesterday, it snowed and was cold, below 0 Fahrenheit (about 20 degrees Celsius), and there was beauty. I took this picture of a tree in our front yard with the clear sky in the background. If it had been January, not the end of March, it might have been easier to see beauty. I remind myself we need this snow to melt and add to a needed water table so we might grow and harvest later in the year.
I recently wrote about challenges of being unable to teach in a university setting. At my age, the doors appear closed. As I reflected and wrote, I realized my days, as a teacher in some formal way, might be over. Quite frankly, we do not value the wisdom elders have to offer. Emerging from this sense of frustration and despair was a sense something else was calling me: to write in various ways. This is a form of teaching perhaps and a gift I had not been grateful enough to have.
Yesterday, a colleague and I were advised we were accepted to write a peer-reviewed article for a special edition of a journal. This is asecond peer-reviewed article in several months that has been accepted. For that, I am grateful. In being grateful, I need to look past how things appear superficially and re-cogize there is more I am becoming.
I leave you with this beautiful video from the late Israel Kamakawiwo`Ole or IZ as he was known.