Summer Wishes

  • Chilly jars of iced teas with mint, lemon balm stuffed inside.
  • Watching bees hard a work. Hearing their buzzzz.
  • Sitting on blankets outside for slow hours. Music. Looking up into tree branches.
  • Picking berries and veggies and eat them in the field, still warm from the sun.
  • Tomatoes – small, large, wrinkly, funny, ugly-beautiful, adorable.
  • Standing in the cold creek. Watching crayfish zoom.
  • Practicing the skill of skipping stones across the water.
  • Flowers, flowers, flowers.

These are some of my summer wishes.

Full Pink Moon

Last month’s full moon is sometimes called the Full Worm Moon. The Farmers’ Almanac says this is because around the March full moon the ground is softening and earthworm casts begin to appear, which invites the return of robins – a beloved sign of spring.

I learned that this year and was really excited to see my first robin of the spring just two days after the Full Worm Moon!

Tonight is the Full Pink Moon, which refers to the the seasonal blooming of phlox, also known as moss pink (great name). Above, is some moss pink I spotted a couple days ago.

Happy Full Moon!

How We Move

One of the things I love about the kids I work with is how they respond to music they enjoy. We experience a lot of live music together and often they express their musical-joy so blissfully and purely.

The kids I work with have ‘special needs’ and, for many of them, one thing this means is not being restricted by the endless rules mainstream culture has constructed for how, when, and why we are allowed to move.

I am inspired by the way these children move. I aspire to move as genuinely as they do.

Listening to fiddle or piano music and watching a child feel it with her/his whole body is a beautiful thing. Hands flapping, head shaking, body rocking, feet bouncing. That is music is flowing through a human body!

Think about the specific rules, perhaps unspoken but so very present, we know about how we can respond to music – especially in public. We can clap at the end or rhythmically during the music, but only during if it is a certain style of music, mind you! We can gently nod our heads or tap our feet, but don’t let it get too demonstrative! We can sway side to side, but never rock backward and forward! That’s just the beginning.

What does music actually feel like in our bodies? Is it so frightening that we need rule after rule to restrict our response?

Give me beautiful, blissful flapping and rocking any day. Give me the courage to join these children in their natural, perfect movement.

Spring Wishes

  • Giving more time to witnessing the emerging, unfurling, loosening, growing, and changing that is spring.
  • Looking under rocks for salamanders.
  • Noticing the firsts of the season – dandelion, robin, fiddlehead, dogwood blossom, buttercup, forsythia…
  • Preparing more nutritious meals.
  • Cleaning and organizing our living space. Giving more away. Washing the wood floors and windows.
  • “Love the earth into a luminous, precious stone.”
  • Making offerings to the land.
  • Playing music.

These are some of my spring wishes.

Small Stones: Week One

I’m participating in a Mindful Writing Challenge to write one “small stone” every day in January. The challenge is to “1. Notice something properly every day during January. 2. Write it down.”

I’m writing them daily in a little notebook and I will post each Sunday-Saturday’s stones here on Sundays. Of course, I’d love to read a small stone from you in the comments.

***

January 1

The colors of Canada Geese – the deep black, creamy browns, glowing white. The way these colors form patterns and contours. The necks – long, curving, strong. I want to stand among them.

January 2

Three frogs live inside our library. The sign says their species is tongueless. I watch one floating, eyes above the water. She has three claws on each rear foot. Her belly looks pale and soft.

January 3

In a backyard a few houses down, there are white, twinkling Christmas lights. The breeze makes them flutter and sparkle. Every  year, I look at them from up here – our third floor kitchen window. Such a pretty sight in the darkness. Thank you.

January 4

Sounds: A dog barking somewhere outside. An engine rumbling and growling – maybe a motorcycle? The -crunch crunch- of a cat eating dry food, one piece at a time.

January 5

Directed by a child to examine the underside of a slab of iced pulled from a puddle. I am amazed by its architecture.

2012 Moments – Words

Children, children, children. My year was joyfully, awesomely, challengingly, raucously, quietly, ridiculously, perfectly full of children.

Crunch, snap, squish, crunch – so many walks through the woods.

Very little snow. Very many days of feeling so, so hot, melting.

The fat, glorious abundance of organic food from our CSA farm. Eating more tomatoes than any other year or decade of my life. The thrill of the first strawberries and the smell of them warmed by the sun. Walking into the field to quietly pick this or that at the end of each week. Food, food, food.

Reading, as always. This year, especially reading beautiful picture books and some amazing novels.

Stitching, cutting, sketching, creating. Selling felt ornaments and papercuttings to glow in windows. Knitting the same sock all year long.

Cups of tea and discussion group meetings and conversations that spring up anyplace. Learning more to listen and wait.

Singing, singing, singing, all year long.

Telling stories.

Performing as a silly elf in puppet show after show and knowing, secretly, that there is something profound at the center of all of this. Magic is underway. Watching children’s wide eyes gazing as paper snowflakes fall or a marionette gestures.

Holidays, festivals! Singing as wax is poured into the earth, calling forth warmth and spring. Special baked treats, chocolates. Plays and dances. Candles and crystals in the dark.

Little Girl at the Window

I stumbled upon an important book the other day.

I probably found it because K is next to J and when I’m in a used bookstore, I always look for Tove Jansson books.

On this day at Retold Tales I noticed a little book called Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. The brief dust jacket description told me it was a person’s true recollections about a school of “fun, freedom, and love” that met in old train cars.

I started reading it there on the floor and knew I’d buy it. I finished it in just a couple days. Tetsuko Kuroyanagi writes her memories of this unusual and special school in Japan during the time of World War II. It’s a beautiful and inspiring little book.

The school, Tomoe, was created by someone named Sosaku Kobayashi who believed children should learn in freedom with much self-expression. He told his teachers “Leave them to nature. Don’t cramp their ambitions. Their dreams are bigger than yours.”

The author writes many beautiful stories of the small and large ways Sosaku Kobayashi crafted a loving space for children of different abilities, interests, and backgrounds. He and his wife made sure each child had enough food to eat, could find and pursue what intrigued them, and felt valued and good. Tetsuko writes about Sosaku’s habit of telling her many, many times “You’re really a good girl, you know.” and how she kept that message in her heart throughout life.

She first came to Tomoe after being expelled from First Grade at another school. At that school, she endlessly opened and closed her desk, ran to the window during class, and other things her teacher just couldn’t tolerate. At Tomoe, her life changed.

The school was not fancy. Instead, it was full of enthusiasm, creativity, and trust that children will follow their interests and learn well if given the right support and freedom. As John Holt much later wrote “All I am saying… can be summed up in two words: Trust Children.”

Totto-chan is a beautiful book showing one model of a school that doesn’t require students to conform, but instead nurtures and celebrates them.

I think you should know going in that things end very sadly. No one is injured in the event, but Tomoe is destroyed by an American bomber and the children must move on to other schools. I appreciated knowing this before reaching that point in the story. Without time to prepare myself, I think it would have been too devastating. The book ends with more information on what each person went on to do in life.

Totto-chan is a book I missed until now and I’m so glad I stumbled upon it. (Aren’t quirky bookstores great?) Let’s take the inspiration of Tomoe and create more and more opportunities for children to grow up in nature, in love, and with the reminder, over and over, that they are good.

Creating the Alternative

I watched this short video today about a town in Greece that has begun a big barter network (after 5 years of ‘recession’ and 21% unemployment) that allows people without money to exchange everything from food to art to dance lessons.

In the video, someone says “We have reached the bottom…Now, we want to think about things in a different way.”

This is just one example of many, many examples of people trying/doing something differently than what capitalism-consumerism-biophobia dictates. Sometimes it takes a crisis (large-scale economic change, natural disaster, major personal loss, etc.) to make us believe something else might even be possible. (Everything we try may not be perfect, but it’s a step toward something greater.)

People often say “Well, that’s a nice idea, but ____ won’t work in the modern world. People are too greedy/selfish/violent/etc.” I have heard this a thousand times and I think it’s a misunderstanding of our natural tendency toward and yearning for cooperative, exultant, creative living.

But I also think it’s a recognition of the fact that these incredibly powerful systems of thought and power (such as capitalism) actively prevent mass change. They cause harm/abuse at an early age, which leads us to believe humans are naturally bad, greedy, and incapable of self-direction. Then they keep their hold on us through manipulation of the culture, controlling access to life-supporting resources, and more to the point where it is incredibly hard to see another way of being.

Is mass voluntary change probable or even possible without the removal of these harmful systems? As time goes on, I don’t think it is. I think the most helpful path may be creating alternatives to the system (as much outside the system as possible) and choosing to abstain from supporting the system or actively working against the system.

I have absolutely no belief that the same governmental and economic systems that are stripping away our love for life, the world, and one another can be cajoled into doing the opposite. It doesn’t make sense to me and I see no evidence of it.

The path that makes more sense to me (and that my spirit responds to) is the path of creating rich, fantastic alternatives for people to join as they drop out of the system, fall between the cracks, or are forced out by the collapse (or other major change) of the system.

How can we create alternatives? There are probably an unlimited number of ways, but imagine if as we create lives for ourselves based on biophilia, cooperation, community, and nurturing, that we always build in spaces for individuals and families finding themselves with no income or with disabilities or feeling worthless in society. As we gain possession of foreclosed mcmansions and fill them with laughing, barefoot people, we will always keep a couple rooms ready for someone whose medical bills have left them homeless. As we create gardens and farms that grow food while enriching the soil and ecosystem, we always grow extra for the children down the street who aren’t getting enough to eat. As we craft loving schools and unschools for children and adults of all abilities, we make these completely affordable and welcoming to people being rejected by mainstream institutions.

Maybe every failure of the system could be an opportunity to welcome someone new into a vibrant, loving alternative. Let’s create that.

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