The Lotus

On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying,
and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.

Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my
dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.

That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to
me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.

I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this
perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.

—Rabindranath Tagore

May you bask in the starshine and moonbeam of the eve’s radiance!

Our Lady of Compost

Going to Ground

Bygone morning’s coffee grounds

ground further down,

down

to

ground

by hyper worms, all caffeinated.

Leaves of autumn, brittle, perforated,

are integrated

as eisenia fetida binge and purge,

binge and purge,

and binge and purge,

in their castings new lives emerge

from rotten tomatoes, banana peels, cherry pits,

straw covered in the chickens’ shits,

avocado skins, watermelon rinds

strawberry stems and murky brines.

Other bits thrown in the mix:

pistachio shells and broken sticks,

ash from last winter’s fire,

lint from the laundry’s dryer.

In the midst of this debris,

a rotting jack-o-lantern held an errant seed.

A pumpkin vine sprouts from his wrecked grin

as his ghoulish, rotting face caves in.

When human footsteps fall that way,

sunning lizards go skittering into the fray

to join scutigera coleptrata and armadillidiidae

who work the lower strata in some mysterious way.

Above it all Our Lady of Compost stands poised and posed

overseeing all that is composed and decomposed.

Within her purview is order and disorder and

life and not-life at this strange borderland.

Knowing well her own disintegration will nourish

the next generation to flourish.

~~*~~

 

Today’s musings were inspired by my own heap of compost and also very much by Walt Whitman’s “This Compost”, a meditation on Earth’s resilience and ability to turn the nastiest diseased corruption into an astounding flourish of beauty.

In April, I quit the awesome new job I started at the beginning of the year. I had really wanted the job and I was happy to have it right up until the day I sat down in the office and suddenly everything inside me revolted. In a move that baffled even myself, I resigned on the spot without offering advanced notice. That was weird. But it happened. Then I spent several weeks feeling like Alice, wandering about in the wood, growing my right size again, and finding my way back to the garden.

My own garden is usually started in March, but I was too busy helping other people do their work in March that I neglected doing my own stuff. To make up for lost time, I spent much of May sitting in piles of dirt, alternately feeding and slapping mosquitos, tickling worms, scaring spiders, and wishing the creatures wouldn’t be so easily offended. The best laid plans went completely unmade. Still, I awoke with the birds and followed a Cheshire Cat’s advice; letting my need guide my behavior, I did whatever seemed like the right gardenly thing to do at the time. At the end of each day, I wrote it all down in the month’s goal-tracker.

And the lovely garden unfurls its splendor day by day.

“The first thing I’ve got to do,” said Alice to herself, as she wandered about in the wood “is to grow my right size again; and the second thing is to find my way into that lovely garden. I think that will be the best plan.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

I woke up in a “six impossible things before breakfast” sort of mood today,

managing her flamingo

so I took myself on a playdate

to the Memphis Botanic Gardens to chase wonder.

oh my ears and whiskers

She wasn’t hard to catch.

I should like to be a queen best

I wrote this post almost 10 years ago. Today I stumbled across it while looking for something else and had a weird moment with myself – a sense of younger me telling older me what I really needed to remember. Reposting to stay reminded.

My Little Spacebook

“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Live the questions…live  your way into the answer.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

~~*~~

Last year Parker Palmer shined my teacher’s heart when it when was tarnished.  His book The Courage to Teach got me through a teacher’s heart crisis and showed me how to teach (and live) with greater integrity.

Though untarnished this year at semester’s end I figured the teacher’s heart was due for routine maintenance, so I picked up a copy of The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to RenewalPhysicist Arthur Zajonc joins Palmer to bring educators back to the big questions underlying what we do.  In this work lives the question: “How do we promote educational efforts that address the whole human being (mind, heart, and spirit) in ways that contribute best to our future on this fragile planet?”

This and other questions posed in…

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When pandemia became all the rage on Planet Earth in 2020, I took stock and decided I didn’t really need to be around for most of it, so I saddled up the unicorn and trotted off to the Land of Make Believe.

Joe Abercrombie kept me enthralled for many moons of the journey. I’m not sure how I have lived this long without knowing about his First Law Series. There are three books in the series, and I’ll be honest, I don’t recall what exactly happened in which book of the series, so lucky you, I won’t bore you with ALL the details –just the ones I think are important.

The Blade Itself (Book 1)

Abercrombie lifted the title of the first book of the series, The Blade Itself, from a line in Homer’s Odyssey:

The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.

As you might guess, the whole series has a lot of dudes in it and if they aren’t having skirmishes, battles, epic battles, sieges, or wars, then they are either preparing to fight or trying to figure out who they can get away with killing next. Ordinarily, this sort of thing reads like a bunch of “blah-blah-blah” to me, but Abercrombie writes fight scenes with a choreographer’s sense of body awareness that appeals to the dancer in me. Movement details are vividly described, remarkably entertaining, and often hilarious.

Under questionable authority figures, soldiers in the series are as likely to go bumbling and clanging about with “dirty faces, but clean armor” as they are to actually engage in serious combat. Their leaders also tend to be incompetent, often entrapped idiots, who suffer from a range of issues: excessive drinking, lack of authority, plain old heartburn, and poor fashion choices. It makes you wonder what kind of man would go to war dressed “not a uniform, but bedwear with a military motiff”? and also…”if the measure of a man was the size of his hat, then these were great men indeed.” Rest assured, it’s not all fashion faux pas, there are also intense fight scenes that are every bit as disgusting and gory as one might expect. Abercrombie’s world is as brutal as the second book’s title suggests, coming from a quote by Heinrich Heine:

We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.

Before They Are Hanged (Book 2)

Personally, I did not come here for the fighting, but for the fun stuff — the magic, drinking, gambling, revelry, and story people! While the characters are somewhat stereotypical (there’s an ancient, enigmatic wizard of course, and his apprentice, a bunch of inquisitors, a former slave warrior woman with devil-blood, and a sorceress), they come alive through the dialogue, action, and description. The Northman, Logen Ninefingers, was one of the most endearing. He’s a big, bad-ass berserker and battle-hardened member of the Bloody-Nine. He speaks with these little primal spirits, which admittedly sounds pretty lame, if not emasculating, as I write about it now, but somehow Abercrombie makes it all seem like a super cool and perfectly manly thing to do. There is also Major Collem West, in the Union Army who “sometimes felt as if he was the only man in the union seriously preparing for a war, and he had to organize the entire business on his own, right down to counting the number of nails that would hold the horse’s shoes on.” Major West is a bit too full of his own importance to make him likeable, but he has a sister Artee, who is lots of fun with all her sass. She is the kind of woman who gets sloppy drunk at 10 a.m., just because she’s bored and then she reads novels full of “knights with mighty swords and ladies with mightier bosoms.”

Last Argument of Kings (Book 3)

Social commentary is scattered throughout the pages, much of it as relevant and applicable to the mundane world I was attempting to escape as it was to the story’s action. That is just civilization, as Ninefingers muses, “…people with nothing to do, dreaming up ways to make easy things difficult.”

The last thing I have to say about it all is that I experience the series via audiobook. Steven Pacey is the narrator. His wonderfully rich, deep voice and English accent is the sort one may sit and listen to contently for hours. I did, for 71 hours and 58 minutes to be precise, though not all in one sitting, of course. When the series was over, I knew I immediately had to get another book by Joe Abercrombie, which I did. But that’s a different post for another day.

Today’s offering in celebration of Earth Day: Precious moments aboard this beautiful planet with a reading of my favorite poem by e.e. Cummings, #26

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