Thursday, June 25, 2015

Starting at the southern tip: six weeks of poems and Olympics from Africa

As I mentioned yesterday my 23 days of vacation is coming to an end, which means that for 22.68 days I had passing thoughts about teaching an English class for six weeks. I also am wise enough to know that my students will be a groggy mess after sleeping in for 23 days.

My goal is to give my students a tour of Africa through their poets and their athletes. And if you know me there will likely be some music involved, possibly jazz. And don't be shocked if you hear me giving dramatic readings of African myths.

I will start the summer off with the video posted above, then we will read a NY Times article that talks about whether it is fair for a man born without lower leg bones to compete against men who have them.

Breathe in....
Breath out...
Breathe in....
Breath out...
Breathe in....
Breath out...

This is the rhythm of a poem I found. For me it took me to Sundays following the Eucharist, but I am thinking I need to breathe more than once a week
Where does it take you? I want to see where it will take my students.

Here is where it took Julia Martin.

A Small Wind, Breathing

Breathing in, cold sky enters the chest
Breathing out, steam puffs white

Breathing in, the smell of buses in the morning
Breathing out, the late roses are pink and yellow

Breathing in, the roots of the trees grow under the house
Breathing out, each leaf exhales

Breathing in, sun rises over the power station
Breathing out, golden clouds

Breathing in, fear holds the belly
Breathing out, grey seagulls

Breathing in, pain opens in the heart
Breathing out, someone is making breakfast

Breathing in, the touch of hands is warm
Breathing out, a smile

Breathing in, cool space
Breathing out, warm

Breathing in, the skin is porous, receiving light
Breathing out, a small wind moves
previously published in: Leon de Kock & Ian Tromp, eds.
The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry, 1990-1995
(London: Penguin, 1996) 224.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Reflection on Luke 24: 36b-48 featuring thoughts on strudel and crows

Making cabbage strudel

This sermon was inspired by reading sermon notes by Kathryn Matthews (Huey), who posted them for this very day; and a recorded sermon by Richard Rohr.

Alice Walker, 21st century "Wake up and smell the possibility."

I wonder if the disciples would have been less shocked if the spirit of Jesus would have returned in the bodily form of a bird. Soar on the wings of a vulture or mingled with the masses as a pigeon.

Nearly twenty years ago I was birdwatching before heading to a middle school in Urbana Illinois. It was a haven of migrating birds who traveling over corn and soybean fields found a place of respite, a place to refuel.

My hope that spring was to identify 100 species by the school year’s end. Migration would be over. Mosquitoes would be furious. The weather steamy. I would rather not outside. I remember seeing the 100th bird. I remember getting into the school filled with joy to have seen so much beauty, and then I found a note in my mailbox to call Margaret, who tells me my grandmother had died.

I took a flight home with a book in hand. I turned the page to a new chapter and there was a poem by Emily Dickinson. It was short. It was about the souls of the dead returning to us in the bodies of birds. I thought about the 100th bird. My already strong connection to birds grew.

Today we read two passages written by Luke. Rich Rohr highlights : “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” from the books of Acts. What Rohr makes these points: The forgiveness echoes Christ from the cross; the spiritual truth that when we do evil, it is done in ignorance, and that if we were fully conscious we would never do wrong. How often do we wish some wisdom from God had flowed into our brain faster than words flowed out of our mouths? Richard Rohr talks about a spirit that could lead to such forgiveness and connects it to what Luke wrote in today’s Gospel.

Jesus is at least in two places at once. He is walking on a road. He has appeared in a locked room, we get to hear the locked room story. The disciples know a spirit that is everywhere and just pops up to say “Hi.” Rohr’s translation of “peace be with you.” A spirit that will dine with us and will reflect on scripture with us.

But what Rohr and many other focus on is the physical aspect of the resurrection. As Stephen Cooper puts it, "To insist on the reality of the resurrected body is to demand that we accept our present reality as the place where transformations of ultimate significance take place." Christ is not a spirit only, but is flesh that we may not recognize. God is not just the one who creates, but is also the one that resides in creation. Jesus asks the disciples to touch his hands. Hands that fed the hungry, cured the ill, and chased evil spirits.

I think of hands. Barbara Taylor Brown does as well, ”Not our pretty faces and not our sincere eyes but our hands and feet – what we have done with them and where we have gone with them.” Hands make us human and when we are conscious they do amazingly lovely acts. Imagine for a moment hands that have loved you.

I make strudel. Often with help. For decades my grandmother made strudel, with no help. When I moved back to Pennsylvania, I felt a desire to learn how to make strudel. I have a photos of that day. My Mom Mom’s hands were old and would never touch strudel dough again. Not long after teaching me the art of strudel, a stroke would prevent that from happening and also prevent me from ever making strudel for her. My parents have one request of me before they move to NC. My dad wants strudel. Can I do anything more loving than to use my hands to stretch a ball of dough to be paper thin?

And then there are crows. Do you love them? Hate them? Fear them? Consider them wise? They are like us in many ways. John Marzluff’s work at the University of Washington has proven that crows can recognize human faces, remember the face of one who has annoyed them, and then teach other crows including their young to fear that human. (video where I discovered his work and much more about crows) The author Lyanda Lynn Haupt knows this and experienced angry crows when she took an injured fledgling into her home to splint a broken leg. A day later she returned the crow to its parents. Then something happened. The crows have gone out of their way to both provide long term care for their grown child and to daily come with their child to visit her. The crows know she cared. How? She has named her Charlotte.

She writes, “I cannot help thinking that some communication has taken place, that is somehow clear to the crows that my grievous offense was accomplished in good faith. We all experience such times—— don't we? —— when our guarded separateness breaks down.”

God returns to be part of creation and the disciples respond with fear, their guarded separateness needs to be broken. Then they feed Jesus. Ms Haupt believes that no other wild animal has so much contact with humans as the crow. Can we see Jesus in the hands of others? Can we see Jesus in the flight of a crow. Is it an unconscionable act to attack a crow? Is the crow announcing to all creation that we are against it?  A young girl has taken to feeding the crows of her neighborhood. The crows have taken to bringing her beautiful objects. Are we cursed to have been followed by crows? Have we been blessed? Has God sent us a wild creature to help us to remember we live on a planet filled with the creation?

Was it all coincidence 20 years ago or did my grandmother visit me in a small patch of woods in the midst of a university town surrounded by farms? We need a community to share our moments “when our guarded separateness breaks down.” Maybe it is our doubts of what we experience more than the faith in what we believe, which brings us here on Sunday mornings.

"When author Madeleine L'Engle was asked, 'Do you believe in God without any doubts?' she replied, 'I believe in God with all my doubts.’"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Night Quilts: Myra A Nevius Jazz Night at The Apollo

Quilter Myra A Nevius Jazz Night at The Apollo

And more...

Quilter Myra A Nevius Jazz Night at The Apollo






Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Year of Birds starts with a Blue Jay

Blue Jay stained glass mosaic designed and created by Wayne Stratz

In the midst of 2014 a few things came together to inspire me to focus on my passion for birds in 2015.

  1. On my silent retreat I read a book of essays on birds.
  2. I finally bought a bird feeder.
  3. I ended the year with making a white-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch stained glass suncatcher designed and created by Wayne Stratz

So I hope to be productive in the studio. The Blue Jay returned. The Goldfinch design needs to be grouted; and a brand new celebration of female cardinals has been designed.

And I hope to see 100 species by graduation.

See all my animals for sale here




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The final in this series of poetry at my feet -- On The Anniversary of My Death by W. s. Merwin



And so it ends...


For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day

When the last fires will wave to me

And the silence will set out

Tireless traveler

Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer

Find myself in life as in a strange garment

Surprised at the earth

And the love of one woman

And the shamelessness of men

As today writing after three days of rain

Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease

And bowing not knowing to what



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Poetic Feet Selfie 6 ~~~> Biopsy by Patricia Roth Schwartz

Not sure of all the bricks to catch my eye, why this one did, but it did. It took me to a poem where I was reminded that after news arrives, life can be familiar. Seeing the sun always helps as well.


After three leaden turns on no-sun, it comes;
one call splits the rest of your life off
from the whole like a calf from a glacier. Even
so the kitchen's full of light and the scent
of vanilla and apple. The dog's dancing at
the door ahead of her walk down the neighboring
road where she's got a friend, another dog whose
name you don't know. Along the ditch at the cornfield's
sere edge, where silver-bellied birds gorge on fallen
stalks, you watch the two of them mock/ growl, leap,
play/ fight, frolic, as if there were no before or after.

By Patricia Roth Schwartz



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