Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween hike to the beach

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


good morning,
I found this image waiting for me in my inbox from Katie's parents, who I had the pleasure of talking to on conference night. Katie is a remarkable artist and one of many interesting small people I have the good fortune to be teacher to at Waukazoo Elementary.  I also think Katie is well on her way to being a great spiritual teacher!

A new issue of The Sun has me taking respite this morning in my chair with my small dog snoring on my lap, instead of heading for the gym.  I found this quote in an achingly beautiful essay called "Lost" by Elana Zamen:

The writer Andre Gide relates this experience fo a trip he took into the Belgian Congo:

    My party had been pushing ahead at a fast pace for  a number of days, an done morning when we were ready to set out, our native bearers, who carried the food and equipment, were found sitting about without any preparations made for starting the day.
Upon being questioned, they said, quite simply, that they had been traveling so fast in these last days that they had gotten ahead of their souls and were going to stay quietly in camp for the day in order for their souls to catch up with them.
So they came to a complete stop. 

I wonder how far removed I must be from these native bearers in my ability to feel my soul lagging behind me in my business, moving ahead with this sense of self-importance I so often feel.  How do we listen for those footsteps? How do we know when to stop and turn around?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

7 secrets

I have been tagged by organicsyes....
here are the rules.
1. link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog
2. share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3.  Tag 7 people at the end of  your post by leaving their names as well as links on their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Remember chain letters? 
They were letters that we wrote and sent to a set number of people (was it seven? that seems right) and then each person sent to seven more, etc, etc, but also back to you, and the idea was that you were going to get a dollar or something from everyone and be rich. The other kind was that you had to do it or you were going to have to endure some awful fate if you didn't keep the chain going. (come to think of it, maybe I can attribute whatever bad luck I have ever had in my life to broken chain letters --or maybe broken mirrors. 
here are my seven facts (I am only doing this because it is a chance to talk about myself)

1.  I am a teacher and doer and lover of all things art.
2. I have a fabulously diverse, interesting, irreverant and delightful group of friends.
3. I have a tiny little dog named Bella.
4. I lost an eye earlier this year.
5.  I love books about maritime disasters and great adventures.
6.  My first name is Frances.
7.  I was named after a little girl with a terminal illness that my doctor dad and nurse mom took care of before they got married. (I love that one.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008


One of my favorite books is WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, by Maurice Sendack. It is a story about a little boy who goes to a place where there are monsters roaring at him, showing their claws, rolling their yellow eyes and doing their best to terrify him. Max, however, being a true six year old, is not intimidated by these theatrics, and tames them by "staring into their yellow eyes without blinking....and they were frightened, and called Max the wildest thing of all...." I have the great pleasure of reading this book to my first graders every year, and presiding over the creation of some pretty awesome puppets, like the one you see here. You can imagine the roaring and general wildness that ensues during this class!
This morning I reread another favorite story, from Pema Chodron, about facing the things that scare you. My monsters look like political figures, my retirement fund, my wrinkles, cancer....
maybe there is something to this taming of the monsters by looking them in the eye.
Here is the story:
"When I was about ten, my best friend started having nightmares: she'd be running through a huge dark building pursued by hideous monsters.  She'd get to a door, struggle to open it, and no sooner had she closed it behind her tan she would hear it opened b y rapidly approaching monsters.  Finally she would wake up screaming and crying for help. 
One day we were sitting in her kitchen, talking about her nightmares. When I asked her what the demons looked like she said she didn't know because she was always running away.  After I asked her that question, she began to wonder about the monsters.  She wondered if any of them looked like witches and if any of them had knives.  So on the next occurence of the nightmare, just as the demons began to pursue her, she stopped running and turned around.  It took tremendous courage, and her heart was pounding, but she put her back up against the wall and looked at them.  They all stopped right in front of her and began jumping up and down, but none of them came any closer. There were five in all, each looking somewhat like an animal. One of them was a grey bear, but instead of claws, it had long red fingernails.  One had four eyes.  Another had a wound on its cheek.  Once she looked closely, they appeared less like monsters and more like two-dimensional drawings in comic books.  Then slowly they began to fade. After that she woke up, and that was the end of her nightmares. "

In an interview with WTWTA author Maurice Sendack, he confided that the inspiration for his wild things came from childhood memories of his relatives coming for dinner. When I read the wild things' pleading with Max: "oh, please don't go! We'll eat you up, we love you so!" I am again delighted  by the similarities between the two.

Have a beautiful day, and look 'em right in the eye.

Friday, October 3, 2008

good news from Thich Nhat Hanh

Woke up this morning once again with this heaviness in my heart over the way of the world. It seems like it is painted in such dark hues these days. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk from Vietnam who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. They worked together in another turbulent time-the 60's.  Offered here to you:
"Store consciousness, your thoughts, your speech, and your actions bring about the fruit of karma, which is comprised of yourself and your environment.  You and your environment are one and create your karma.  It is possible for us to assure a beautiful future by taking care of our thoughts, our speech, and our actions.  You have the power of changing yourself within, and you have the power of changing yourself by changing your environment.  Taking care of yourself means to take care of your body and to take care of your environment.   It is not true that the genes determine everything.  Through produc ing your thoughts, speech, and actions, you create your environment.  You always have the opportunity to arrange yourself and arrange your environment in such a way as to water the positive seeds in yourself.  That is the secret of happiness."
Good news for those of us who feel a little powerless in the face of all of this turmoil.
Sending wishes for joy and peace to all of you out there...
with love,
PS: Buttberry update: in a previous post I mentioned my attempts to emulate my friend Mark by developing a personal organization system for keeping me on track.  Yesterday, I not only dumped water all over my paper but proceeded to accidently rip it and then lose it somewhere between work and home. 
Lamination? a waterproof planner to put my buttberry in?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

from Pema Chodron

"Every day we could think about the aggression in the world, in New York, Los Angeles, Halifax, Taiwan, Beirut, Somalia, everywhere  All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever.  Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, " Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?"  Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, " Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?"

This reading resonated with me this morning. Everyone is talking about our dire situation on Wall Street, and those of us who grew up with parents who survived the Depression and World War II and Korea, who came into adulthood during the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon, can be reminded that it is not the world that needs to change, but our response to it.
Peace out, brothers and sisters. Each one of us contributes or contaminates...