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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart Archives

teaching the teacher: a roller coaster ride, reprised ~

More than a year ago, I was offered this amazing (but intimidating!) opportunity: write a blog for a national website. On Buddhism. I felt (still feel) woefully inadequate to the task. But I figured, I can just tell folks: I’m […]

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cat videos and joy reprised ~

There are so many ways this seems to me a metaphor for my practice: attachment, stuck, boxed in :). But my real purpose for posting this was far simpler: it made me laugh. And some days, that’s what you need […]

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choosing joy ~

I read a poem today ~ “My Dead Friends.” The poet asks her dead friends for counsel when she faces hard choices. And there’s a great answer from her dead friends: whatever leads/to joy, they always answer,/to more life and […]

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Metta, lovingkindness, & Buddhist ‘prayer’

This is the ‘prayer’ I’m offering each day over my dozen names, during Lent. It’s the first Buddhist prayer I learned, and remains my favourite. Whenever I’m very stressed, this is what I repeat. It  isn’t a prayer in the […]

boxes & wet ink ~

Sometimes, when things really cut deep, I try to compartmentalise. I want to be the oyster: coat pain and irritation w/ something soothing, wall it off. I wish the boxes produced pearls… Other times, everything bleeds together. A bit like […]

giving up disbelief ~

I usually try to keep Lent in some fashion. It’s a wonderful practice, to offer up a piece of your everyday life for good. To think of your everyday life as a kind of, well, prayer. As a Buddhist, I […]

‘why can’t we be friends?’ (a beginner’s heart take on partisan politics ~)

I wish I could persuade politicians to adopt this song as the campaign year’s anthem… I’m not holding my breath. Here’s the deal: I have friends with whom I argue constantly. And a cousin whose political and spiritual beliefs are […]

Happy Tibetan New Year!

It’s a very lucky year — fire softened to steamy gentility by water, dragon fluid instead of flaming. And it’s a cycle, for me ~ a time to revisit goals, map possible futures. It’s also another iteration of Buddhist New […]

teachers, memory, and public education ~

I love this cartoon — I’m sorry I have no better attribution, as it has to have been done by someone intimately acquainted w/ teaching and/or teachers. Because this is the secret about teaching: you can’t prepare for most of […]

death, life, & memory ~

A former student, sharing sad news with me, paid me a lovely compliment this past week. First he told me of his mother’s impending death from cancer. Then he said: I knew you’d want to know. And – I thought […]

love, T-Rex, and being ‘single’ ~

I love the ambiguity of the word love — but I also envy all those other languages their precision: aimer, affectionner, encantar… eros, agape… There are almost as many words for strong affection as there are things to love. But […]

the important thing about comprehensive exams (from a Buddhist perspective) ~

There are a lot of things you expect to learn if you get a doctorate. Primarily, of course, your subject. But there are also things you don’t expect to learn. Like… well, what I realised yesterday in the shower (is […]

Darwin, Jane Austen, & my students ~

I love science. And of course Darwin — like Da Vinci, like Einstein, like Copernicus — dominates it. Yesterday was his birthday (sorry about the tardy Congrats!, Mr. Darwin). So here is a bit of Darwin reflection ~ and bear […]

the holy alchemy of teaching ~

I often tackle a new discipline — or learning more about something I know only superficially — by offering to teach it. Don’t cringe: you’re not in any of my classes :). And it makes me, I’d argue, a far […]

the price of reflection ~

I’m not so good at taking my own advice, she said, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s right. Guilt. That’s what 5 minutes of reflection costs. Well, maybe that’s the price of temper… And the reflection is just… […]

the lives of students ~

My students share their lives — with me, with each other. We have a class listserv, which they’re required to post to several times weekly. It builds community — there’s lots of research on classroom community and its benefits — […]

apex predators & the bigger picture ~

The other day, sitting in the breakfast room & looking out the window to the small-seed bird feeder, I watched as a cloud of birds lifted into the air. Spiraling to a seat on the pecan tree just off the […]

more on blind faith ~

I’ve been thinking about how our faith(s) limit us. How they shape the way we perceive not only reality, but our place within (or outside) it. It seems obvious to those of us who follow science that the young earth […]

evolution & blind faith ~

On my bus trip to work, I visited w/ the young woman next to me. She told me her husband was in the Guard, when I asked about her backpack. She shared the work she does to help pay for […]

a belief in lists ~

Buddhism is a system of lists: the three jewels, the four noble truths, the eightfold path. And there are many more. As an inveterate list-maker, this appeals to me. It makes spiritual achievement seem, well, do-able. As if even this […]

(active) sitting ~

I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog — more than once — that I’m a lousy traditional meditator. I suspect a lot of working American Buddhists are. It’s hard to find time to sit on a zafu and meditate. Dinner, work, […]

mind poisons, anger, & desire ~

Anger. Greed. Delusion. Ignorance. Attachment. Aversion. The three root Buddhist mind poisons. The first time I heard them, I knew immediately which one was mine. (Anger, just in case you’re wondering — this will come as no surprise to friends, […]

the gratitude journal ~

I keep a gratitude journal. It’s actually a tire grateful for a 2nd life as a journal cover, a gift from my younger son. Since it still smells, even now, of the tire-it-used-to-be, it became a journal I use, but […]

Happy Tết/ Chinese New Year!

When I was a child, living in Việt Nam, Tết (Việtnamese New Year) was celebrated with Chinese New Year. We (children were welcome — even American children!) burned clothing for the dead, brilliantly red  dresses and robes and hats and […]

teaching, politics, & Buddhism ~

I couldn’t tell you which came first: my concern for folks on the margins, my belief that we’re all connected (a kind of nascent Buddhism), or my didactic teacher-self. I remember teaching my 2-year-old younger sister to ‘read’ by having […]

resolutions, new years, & new cycles ~

So you may be thinking: New Year’s resolutions? It’s the middle of January! But it’s also (almost) Chinese New Year (January 23rd, just FYI). And this is a big one for me — my birth cycle returns. Born in the […]

living in the present ~

For a number of reasons, this is my last semester teaching the class I’m teaching now. Which entirely changes the dynamic. Teachers know that every class — every class period — is different. But we often attribute this to our […]

Is the Middle Path a Buddhist myth…?

The other day I was ranting about some injustice, and the way people were so unbalanced in their perceptions, and my husband stopped me cold. “You know the Middle Path is just a Buddhist myth, don’t you?” he asked, only […]

Happy (Buddhist) New Year!

In Buddhism, it’s about the moon. At least for New Year’s. Mahayana Buddhism — the Buddhism of Vietnam, India, China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet, among other countries — celebrates New Year’s  Day the first full moon of January. This year […]

An American Buddhist New Year ~

Few Americans are Buddhist — between 2.5 and 4 million, according to at least one source. A similar number are of Chinese ancestry — a scant 3 million. This makes the celebration of Buddhist New Year in the US a […]

phosphate-free dishwashing detergent and post-holiday clarity ~

We don’t use phosphates in our dishwasher. They cause algae bloom, and lower the oxygen in water, suffocating fish if the bloom is excessive. But their replacements — phosphate-free detergents —  transform your originally clear and/or white dishes into cloudy, […]

Happy New Year! (and a clean slate to you ~)

I love clean slates. I love a morning which is unencumbered by the mistakes of yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. The idea that it all begins now, today, this very moment… It’s intoxicating. Just the […]

Happy Kwanzaa!

It’s the 5th day of Kwanzaa, the day of purpose, if I’m not mistaken. I love the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). […]

a box full of belief ~

I believe in Santa. He laughs — he’s jolly and dresses in red and he brings presents and candy and joy. He brings presents to the deserving. Often, even when there seems no way for presents to arrive, Santa still comes […]

another take on Happy Holidays ~

Today I heard the only argument that could convince me there’s another side to the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas controversy. As you may know, I’ve come down on the side of Happy Holidays in earlier blogs, more than once. […]

‘happiness runs in a circular motion…’ ~

There are good things happening, and as the days continue to lengthen, moving inexorably to year-end, here are a couple that made me smile yesterday and today. First? As I walked through the cutting wind to my classroom the other […]

‘All-American Muslim’ & religious (in)tolerance ~

So once again a so-called Christian family values group (the Florida Family Association) is attempting to use money to trump Constitutional rights. And tolerance… FFA successfully urged home improvement big-box Lowe’s to pull its advertising from the TV show All-American […]

‘save me from my righteous doubt…’ ~

One of my favourite Christmas songs isn’t really about  Christmas. At least,  not just about Christmas… It’s about “I want to buy in to the benevolent,” and “So goes the prayer if for a day peace on earth/ And good […]

Bodhi Day, Rohatsu, or Waking Up ~

Bodhi Day — or Rohatsu, as it’s known in Japan — is the day the Buddha awakens. It’s the day he finds enlightenment, sitting under the pipul tree. December 8th, traditionally. A dear friend asked me the question I’m usually […]

teaching the teacher: one teacher’s practice ~

You all who read this blog may well be tired of hearing about my wonderful students. So you may want to get up and go get a cup of tea; come back in a few paragraphs. Because this is another […]

woodpeckers and beginner’s heart ~

I have a confession: I’m nuts about birds. Bugs too, for that matter, but we’ll stick to birds for now. Specifically, I think any woodpecker is wonderful. Which means our deck is a way station for starving woodpeckers. This one […]

“as common as grass” ~

“…in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass.” ~  Gary Snyder Yesterday my students asked me to read what I had written […]

laughter, turn-around & beginner’s heart ~

This photo made me laugh out loud. And it’s not simply because I find moose one of such wonderful creatures. They’re just loveable, but not wimpy. Doughty warriors for their chosen, the males crash those huge palmate antlers and go […]

nieces … & beginner’s heart ~

The movies featuring family holidays are all disturbing, even when comedy is the intention: Thanksgiving stress, Christmas dysfunction, loud drunks and childhood grievances. So that’s all too often what we expect. And sometimes we don’t even realise it until it’s […]

‘even air is political’ ~

In my life, I’ve had a lot of jobs. But my current one — teaching at a state university — is by far the one with the most impact. And the one thing I’ve learned in the 20+ years I’ve […]

the Buddha was a teacher, too ~

Yesterday in the undergraduate class I teach, everyone was quiet. Working. Drawing and colouring.  Thinking. I often use ‘childish’ tools and practices in my classes, even though I teach university students. Or retired adults. I do this because of the […]

an Okie girl finds the Buddha ~

Occasionally people ask me how (why?) I became a Buddhist. And the deal is… I didn’t, actually.At least , not until quite late, and then only if you count my bodhisattva vow a few years ago. Long after I identified […]

the study of letters ~

I’ve always wondered what those of us w/ degrees in the letters — language arts, some folks call them — should call ourselves. History has historians. Science has general scientists, as well as botanists, biologists, micro-biologists, physicists, chemists, etc. We […]

suffer the little children… or, the consequences to bullying ~

I will caution you right now: if you believe it’s okay (for any reason whatsoever) to be mean to children in the name of religion, you should find to do other than reading further. Because this is my bit for […]

serving art ~

Alice Walker, in her wonderful essay In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, reminds us that for many women the only creativity they could manage was useful. A garden — like my grandmother’s, like my great-aunt’s — of fragrant sweet pea […]

animism, my car and beginner’s heart ~

I used to run. When I needed to escape, I would hit the pavement. But first my knees and then my feet rebelled, and running passed from my life. Now? I go outside. Or I write. And while I love […]

what goes around ~

Usually when people say this, they mean bad guys get theirs :). But today I had  lovely news: a former colleague, one of the nicest people you can imagine, was given a prestigious award. I won’t name him, only because […]

what I learned today ~

For my students, writing a personal narrative — even armoured w/ attendant scholarship — is walking on verrrry thin ice. Their toes curl up, I suspect. They go oh-so-slooowly, each word a careful footstep forward. Each sentence almost too much […]

questioning death and impermanence ~

My students are struggling with death. This has been a week where two have lost childhood friends — close friends — within 48 hours. Their grief, disbelief, and questions fill the classroom. Why? they ask me. It isn’t fair. I’m […]

beginner forgiveness ~

In my relatively happy life, I have had to learn to forgive. Fragile creature I am not, but people have still stabbed right through me — sometimes intentionally, sometimes w/out malice. And there were times I felt I could not […]

why I write ~

In honour of the National Day on Writing (October 20th — just  FYI), and w/ respect to my day job for National Writing Project, this column is dedicated to why I write. And what that has to do w/ beginner’s […]

Buddha dogs ~

Dogs (and sometimes cats…) are the best Buddhists. They really get ‘letting go.’ Well, except for treats…and toys you’re tugging on…But that might just be bulldogs. Seriously — every day I learn something from my dogs. Something about beginner’s heart. […]

why would you disavow your happy life?

I love my car. And I love the few times I’ve been able to ride in it w/ my BFF. I’ve had it for 10 years this month, and I still love it. Strangers drive up next to me and […]

an impersonal universe: when bad things happen to people we love ~

I wish I thought the universe granted personal requests. That what I want matters in the huge scheme of things. If I knew of a sure-fire way to get the universe to pay attention (short of violence, which always triggers […]

how many Unitarians ~

Today a student in one of my classes sent me a Unitarian joke (thanks, Terry!). I’ve heard variations on it before, but this one — the best — struck me as worth sharing. Here it is: How many Unitarian Universalists […]

the way home ~ faith and the trouble with poets…

I’m an expat brat — raised from the age of 8 overseas.  Spending those years when experts say you ‘attach’ to a place somewhere else. Then somewhere after that, and somewhere after that, and somewhere else after that. I can […]

at the fair ~

You can see almost anything at the State Fair. Cakes that look like Chinese porcelain, fried butter (really), newborn lambs so wobbly they fall over, grown men carrying giant stuffed animals, Golden Driller bottles of beer… And more. Lots more. […]

what we’re ‘meant’ to be: a story of changing lanes ~

This is, ostensibly, a dog story. Of a dog — Ricochet — who was born & bred to be a service dog, but disappointed. And what happened afterwards… Buddhism talks about letting go. The opposite of letting go is attachment, […]

what art has to do with it ~

There are so many things right with this saying… I wouldn’t be alive today without ‘art.’ At a time in my life when even my two beautiful sons couldn’t make me want to go on — when the entire world […]

the teacher is the web is everywhere ~

Lately it seems like everywhere I look I learn. I’m learning from the poems on the lists I subscribe to. I’m learning from the birds feeding on the deck (the much-maligned sparrows line up to take turns at their saucer […]

beginner’s heart, moral outrage, & finding a balance ~

He doesn’t look 94, does he? And in fact, he probably shouldn’t even be alive. Much less 94. So I’m hopeful. Because Stephane Hessel is not only alive, but still outraged by what’s wrong with the world. And he should […]

the Buddhas in the front row ~

True confessions: I actually don’t have rows in my classroom. We sit in an old-fashioned circle, and I don’t let the students put the chairs back after class. ‘Everyone,’ I tell them, ‘should sit in circles. You can see each […]

tea & beginner’s heart ~

In my next life, should I have one, I’m willing to come back as tea. A nice, comforting China black, preferably. Keemuns — Hao Ya — Panyangs — even a Muscatel-fragranced Darjeeling, although I like milk and raw sugar in […]

Robert Pinsky, “Buddha-goo,” and meditation ~

…One hates the sanctimonious Buddha-goo But loves to meditate. To think one word And the breath balanced on its floor of muscle … Falling and rising like years. The brain-roof chatter Settling among the eaves. …  ~ Robert Pinsky Sometimes, […]

go home!

There’s an article on the Tricycle website about ‘original nature,’ and the Buddhist saying ‘return to your original state.’ I like to think the admonition is more like ‘Go home!’ Because that’s what it is, our original nature — whatever […]

‘doubts and loves’ ~

I ran into an old poem-friend today — Yehudi Amichai’s “The Place of Right & Wrong.” I’m thinking about the images — how ‘the place where are right/ is hard and trampled/ like a yard.’ But doubts? ‘doubts and loves/ […]

poetry, memory & 9/11 ~

Sometimes only poetry suffices… When my mind refuses to comprehend hatred, murder, war and profound grief, poetry is a map to somewhere out of fire and ash. A map through the darkness to a light that may still be a […]

kindergarten teacher bashing ~

Okay, now I’m just mad. And I’m trying — as always! — to do something other than just fume. Here it is, my attempt to address grievances.  It’s far too late in the game to redress them….:( Here’s a link […]

sportsmanship, homeruns, and infinite good ~

This is one of the more moving videos I’ve seen. It’s about a player who hits a homerun, an injury, and the big-heartedness of a very special couple of opposing team players. This is beginner’s heart in action. And here’s […]

‘God is Not a Christian’ & other universals ~

I’ve written about this quote (his book‘s title) from Biship Tutu before. But in the mania ‘remembering’ the horrible nightmare that is the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, it’s good to hear. Unlike some, I see nothing good that has […]

fear and procrastination ~

I have a presentation tomorrow. To a possibly large audience. Actually, we have no idea how many will be there. And here’s yet another confession: I haven’t really begun to write… What is it with procrastination? I’m thinking it’s what […]

Labour Day, workers, and my grandmother ~

I love Labour Day. I love the history of it, the idea that we honour our working class roots. That we at least still pay lip service to those of us who work (hard) for a living. This is about […]

holy fools ~

I used to practically sleep w/ my Tarot cards. Yup — one of those :). I actually taught Tarot for several years — along w/ several other arcane disciplines. But Tarot, beloved of Jung and several other honest-to-gosh scientists, has […]

voting, anger, and finding balance ~

Voting is, to me, the ultimate American right. When I turned 18, you still couldn’t vote until you were 21. And like most of my peers, I wondered about the fairness of a country where you could be drafted to […]

September 1st ~

We must love one another or die… ~ September 1, 1939 by W. H. Auden He’s an unlikely mentor for a middle-aged female writer & teacher, this fiercely cynical, battered gay British poet. Yet every September 1st, I take out […]

love and war and faithful friends ~

War, my father once told me, never changes. It’s the same for every generation of men (and now women) who fight it for those of us who remain here, waiting. He told me this when he was about my husband’s […]

mermaids, furries and other dreamers ~

No, it’s not a real cat. It’s also not, according to the owner, merely a costume. It’s a fursona. A human being who has taken on the identity — at least sometimes — of a furry. I only learned quite […]

‘Mom, you’re sooo depressing’ ~

On the phone the other evening, my beloved younger son told me that while he reads my posts on Facebook, I am sooo depressing. (And yes, there was drawn-out emphasis on the so. :)) It’s true. I post news stories […]

‘Know your name’ ~

There’s a song I like, w/ a refrain that goes: Hold on. Know your name. Go your own way. That seems like such great advice.   I figure it has to apply to most of us, most of the time. Know […]

scattered brain syndrome ~

Today is a blond/ senior/ scattered day. So far, I’ve sent out my course packet for this semester’s class to last semester’s class (they were highly amused :)). I’ve forgotten why I had to go to the store, and left […]

poetry & star-stuff ~

This week’s New Yorker carries an article by scholar Stephen Greenblatt on the Roman poet Lucretius, and his poem On the Nature of Things. Who remembered that it’s Lucretius who brings atomism — the theory that we are all made […]

music as lingua franca ~

This came from a friend. I’d seen it a while back — it’s been making the rounds. But every time I watch it & listen, I feel happy. It deserves a bigger audience, making a better case than I can […]

stringing a harp… or, can anger be righteous?

Anger is my mind poison. In Buddhism, there are three — greed, anger, & delusion. Once you hear of them, you pretty much know which is yours. Although often I have to work against a kind of negative cocktail effect […]

mistakes, learning, & paying attention

I buttoned the duvet cover wrong today. I’m sure you’re wondering why this is news… But as I unbuttoned the entire length of buttons (because of course the one I skipped was at the other end…:)), I thought about mistakes. […]

Dan, the couple in the car beside me, and seeing with new eyes ~

On my way to pick up groceries for a family-full weekend, I pulled up to a stop light. As is my usual habit, I watched the people around me (I’m a die-hard people-watcher :)). In the car next to me […]

clean slate/ past ties ~

This is my current journal — nothing fancy (I’m being a bit stingy using the beautiful rose-pink Italian leather journal a former student gave me :)). Just a black Moleskine. I like the blank pages — they beckon to me. […]

weddings and dreams ~

Our family doctor’s son married in June. I wouldn’t know this, but he was talking weddings to my husband after our return from our son’s wedding. And what Dr. X said seemed rather sad, to me. Digression — are doctor/patient […]

public education & teaching teachers ~

This is how teachers learn best: caffeine & reflection :). Well,  at least the teachers I know ~ This week I helped with a two-day workshop with teachers in a town near here — one of the many small Oklahoma […]

Joplin, a tornado, an Arab emirate, & good neighbors ~

Those of us who live near Joplin, MO will never forget the tragedy of the May tornado. Such devastation that, as the photo shows, there was a scar where the tornado tore through the earth. But the thing about tragedies […]

poetry and the new Poet Laureate ~

There’s a new US Poet Laureate — Philip Levine. This may not be earth-shaking to many, but to a poet, whose vanity plate gives her ‘POETIC’ license, it’s HUGE :). And I like Levine’s work. I never like all of […]

rain, Ramadan, love & peace ~

It’s raining in Oklahoma. This is good. We had the hottest July of any state, any time, in  US history. August didn’t look a lot better, at least until last night. Wildfires have swept much of the state, causing evacuations […]

gentle spirits ~

I grew up with batik, buying it, wearing it, loving it. I have pillows made from batik my mother bought in Thailand when I was a teenager. I might save them over books, in a fire :). They remind me […]

just for fun ~

You owe it yourself to go the link for photos of Baby-Girl Rhino. She’ll make you smile, I promise. We all deserve that ~

a love letter to Portland ~

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love the city of Portland, Oregon. But this trip — #5? #6? — was especially lovely. Of course much of that has to do w/ my son’s wedding :). And […]

Ramadan ~

It’s Ramadan, and I’m remembering last year’s Ramadan, working in an office w/ a dear friend who is an observant Muslim. Trying to juggle my own need for lunch (I am sooo cranky when I don’t eat!) and my respect […]

the history book in the seat next to me ~

People talk to me. Like Mr. Mills in the seat next to me yesterday. We started with the fact that it was his 91st birthday. (He took as his due that Southwest Airlines gave him a bottle of Korbel Brut […]

heroines, news and if a tree falls…

Here’s a news story I’m betting you haven’t seen. I refuse to speculate (at least in print!) as to why not. But a good friend and colleague reminded me I could remedy that. So here’s the story: It’s a story […]

tea & happily ever after ~

I confess: I am indulged (there’s a reason this blog begins w/ a queen bee :)). My husband spoils me to the nth degree :). Today, for instance, I made reservations for my sister-in-law & I to have tea. You […]

falling on your butt & other vacation mishaps ~

I’m on vacation. And when I’m on vacation, I wear comfy shoes. Not that I wear killer stilettos at any time. But on vacation? I wear my favourite New Balance slip-ons. Because I can :). The other day we went […]

what I’m learning on vacation ~

I’ve been spending time w/ a five-year-old. It’s been enlightening — literally :). Alysia is one of the best Buddhist masters I know ~ she is teaching me how to see. I think I’m pretty observant. Writers — especially poets […]

lost journals, Alzheimer’s and hope ~

I lost my journal yesterday. Now, in the spectrum of griefs, on a day when almost 100 people lost their lives in Norway, this is a very tiny blip. It’s just paper, w/ some words and drawings and pasted-in ephemera. […]

invitations ~

For those who wonder — this post has nothing to do w/ my son’s upcoming wedding :). For which I’m currently far from Oklahoma home, in Oregon. Nope, the blog is all the fault of my horoscope. And yep: I […]

from the outside ~

My life has always felt more like chaos theory than organised geometry. I seem, far more often than I’d like, to be a pinball careening off of surfaces already constructed than an arrow unleashed by some omniscient archer :). But […]

the Christian left, words of faith and love and hypocrisy ~

A short while ago, a Facebook page called ‘The Christian Left’ asked its members to help support a FB ad. There was an innocuous ad: Are you a Christian? Are you a Liberal or a Progressive too? Do you feel […]

‘speak truth to power’ ~

 It’s an old Quaker saying — one I’ve always loved. The saying hearkens back to the 1950s, although it has taken on a life of its own. It goes well w/ a poem I read today, “Albatross in Co. Antrim,” […]

the wind, ventifacts & advice to a young teacher ~

I’ve been trying to spend time outside each day, even if it’s only to sit and watch the birds jostle each other at the various feeders. And I’ve been thinking about wind — always a presence in Oklahoma. If I’d […]

another tree, a different lesson ~

This conifer grows in front of where I park at my mother-in-law’s assisted living wing. The complex is situated on the outskirts of a suburb of the city where we live — in other words, pretty much surrounded by fields. […]

cows, vegetarianism & tangled ethics ~

America has a love affair w/ meat. We eat — literally — tons of it a day. About 1/2 pound per capita. Considering how many of my friends are vegetarians and vegans, that means someone is eating a LOT more. […]

summer in a tote ~

I love farmers’ markets. When we go on a trip, I try to find out where the local farmers’ market is. In Portland, for instance, the Saturday Farmers’ Market is on the Portland State campus. And it’s amazing. You go […]

a tree, a pencil, an hour ~

Meditation is hard for me. I’m not good at sitting still. I’m not particularly good at walking mindfully. What I do best is be in nature. Want someone to watch birds with? I’m your girl. Sit and watch a mountain […]

fireworks, patriotism & the Fourth of July ~

It’s a shameful confession, for an eco-nut (a friend’s husband once called me an ‘eco-terrorist’ because I’ve supported Green Peace since the get-go :)). I love fireworks. Yes, they’re probably horrible for the environment. Yes, they’re totally ephemeral. (I think […]

open mouth, exeunt bees ~

You may well be sick of bees. I, on the other hand, see them everywhere. At the botanical gardens we visited as a field trip last week (see photo, attached :)), there were bees. And they make a lot of […]

down time ~

This is my past few months: the sands of time in a huge gritty mess :). Complete w/ the occasional glass shard. But yesterday my largest summer project ended (successfully!), as did another project, and a third the week before […]

labels ~

Each year, in the summer graduate seminar I help direct, we do a roundtable about the cultures students bring with them into our classes. We try to invite different perspectives, highlighting cultural and social differences that may not be familiar […]

do-overs ~

Sometimes I want a do-over. You know – start from scratch: no mistakes, no mess-ups, no baggage. Like the class I taught once, that went awry from the first day. They didn’t gel. They didn’t really talk. They just kind […]

what’s important ~

So, following a night spent boring everyone w/ whining about my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, reality asserted itself today. Funny how a night’s sleep, a beautiful morning of bird song and great tea will do that :). And […]

horrible, difficult, challenging very bad days ~

Some days just suck. They may even start well — today did. Soft blowy morning, a chance to write a grant for a project dear to my heart. Great salad already  made for lunch, and a bird w/ a teasingly […]

baby step enlightenment(s) ~

I believe in baby enlightenments — little things that illuminate your day, your practice, change some profound (although possibly small) piece of you and/or your life. Kind of hard to put in words! I even wonder if that’s the whole […]

beginner’s heart and piggies, all the way home ~

I have a complicated relationship w/ vegetarianism. I’ve been vegetarian at several times during my life, sometimes for as long as a year or more. But my best beloved is a die-hard meat eater (Lady GaGa is lucky there wasn’t […]

Slytherin, Parseltongue and integrity ~

A couple in Idaho know more than anyone other than a crazed herpetologist should have to know about garter snakes. For three months, they apparently lived dead centre, on top, of a hibernaculum, where snakes hibernate in thousands during winter. […]

Warning: poetry follows ~

Sometimes when bad news comes, all that helps is writing poetry. Even the stronger, most eloquent poetry of others isn’t enough. That upwelling has to be voiced, and poetry is all that helps. This was one of those weeks: a […]

becoming an elder ~

I have grand-nieces. And a grand-nephew. They are, of course, amazing children. Funny, beautiful, smart and terribly entertaining (emphasis sometimes on the ‘terribly’ :)). Last weekend they came for tea. We sat down to the table, where plates of small […]

believing outside the box ~

There’s a lovely excerpt from Desmond Tutu’s book on the ‘Net, titled ‘God is not a Christian.’ It gets to the heart of something I’ve believed since I was a child, but only had a name for in recent years. […]

scarlet women (parrots) ~

The eclectus parrot has it right: you can easily tell males from females. Because the males are bright green and the females are scarlet. Yup — so different in appearance that folks used to think they were separate species. I’m […]

epeleolatry (and the worship of words) ~

I confess. I’m a total word nerd. I was that kid you hated in 4th grade, who begged for spelling words, and won the spelling bee, and had her nose in a book so often that even my grandmother – […]

bees, democracy and grace ~

A friend who knows my fascination with bees sent me a cool link the other day. It was about  ‘democratic bees.’ Bees divide into new hives pretty frequently. But it’s not done, the article notes (and I’d read this before), […]

teaching, practice and love ~

The muse Terpsichore is known for many things: dances, the harp, education. But  most amazing is that all these things come together in one Muse: supposedly Terpsichore invents them all. Think about it: all of those coming from one head. […]

reassurance ~

This is the kind of reassurance I need, sometimes — just an enfolding hug… You have to watch the video the whole way through to get the hug part :).

just a little human touch ~

I hate college classrooms. Everything we know about the impact of softscape on learning — lighting, seating, groups, etc. — goes out the window when we work w/ adult learners. So each class period, my students (at my request) form […]

a poem to savour ~

Here’s a poem from Muriel Rukeyser, an excerpt from Elegy in Joy. I love the stanza ~ Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in […]

creature comforts ~

What is it about chocolate? Especially coupled w/ sweet, juicy, just-picked strawberries? How can something so easy seem so special? So decadent? Confession #1: I’m crazy about chocolate. Confession #2: not just any chocolate. I don’t particularly care for candy […]

when tragedy strikes ~

Each of these stories from the Tuscaloosa tornado is enough to make you cry. But what’s more important? How each man and woman found a way to go forward, to help. To be there for others…

two years after ~

When I tell people — sometimes even close friends — that I miss my father-in-law at least as much as my own father, they react in two ways:  Some flat don’t believe me. Others want to know why, as if […]

Louder Than a Bomb review ~

A mic. A stage. A pen. A page. You don’t have to be a poet to love Louder Than a Bomb, a documentary of the 2008 Chicago Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry slam competition. Although it’s certainly a poet’s […]

“Landscape of the heart” ~

A lovely website that has beautiful, whimsical drawings and inspirational short ‘stories.’ This one helps as I miss my father-in-law today ~ Landscape of the Heart (Masculine) It is still so new & all we see is the empty space, […]

a moment in the rock’n’roll sun ~

Here’s a video that literally brought tears to my eyes. I’ve always loved Paul Simon. In his earlier incarnation (Simon & Garfunkle) he got me through one of the hardest summers of my life. Later, his music got me through […]

‘A Wedding at Cana’ ~

Here’s a lovely poem from poet Tom Sleigh, a wonderful poet who writes about war, its impacts and the terrible beauty of the human heart. I especially like this one, ‘A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007.’

BFFs ~

I don’t remember when I first heard the term ‘BFF’, or learned what it meant. I do know I had a visceral recognition: I knew – immediately – who my BFF was. Actually, who they were. I have the BFF […]

‘meet and talk and listen’ ~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is a funny guy. He can even find humour in his unpopularity w/ the Chinese (“I give them a little bit of trouble… People who create trouble for you… give you opportunity to practice tolerance,” he said […]

cat & dolphins ~ role models?

So here’s something that’s just fun. But it’s also kind of lovely… Think about it: a cat playing w/ wet dolphins… I want to be that trusting…

indigo buntings and multiple truths ~

Warning: if birds don’t make you think of infinity, then you may not want to read further… This week I saw an indigo bunting feeding at the bird feeder. Nothing fancy in the feeder — just the usual small seed […]

Beginner’s Heart and the Army ~

So what is beginner’s heart? I actually Googled the term. Not many results apply. I came up with it like I do poem titles ~ it seemed like a good idea, and like it would lead me somewhere. It’s how […]

Beginnings ~

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I’m not good at gentle. Once, when my older son was still in elementary school, I apologised to him. I’m sorry you don’t have a mother more like Dirk’s, I told him. You deserve a more nurturing mother – someone […]

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