Friday at the Farm

This past Friday was my last day of school and my first day of vacation.  I decided to celebrate by meeting my friend, Karen, at a local gardening shop aptly named, The Farm at Green Village.  It has a pond, acres of trails and foliage, an enormous greenhouse, and even a resident peacock.  I am not a gardener, but I love going to The Farm.  It is my Zen place, my place to unwind and breathe; my place to meet a friend and laugh.

When I arrived, Karen was already picking out plants.  She is the gardener. Her home is surrounded by flowers.  I love visiting her; sitting out on her back deck surveying her flowers, watching  bees and hummingbirds pause by the blossoms, and scolding her cat, Pepe, as he tries to catch butterflies in his claws.  It’s like a wonderful summer ballet.

We walked the aisles looking for the right flowers and hanging baskets for Karen’s home.  We marveled at the colors and types of flowers.  Karen knows many more flower names than I do.  I would love to be more garden-knowledgeable. I love reading the names off the garden tags: salvia, hydrangea, echinacea, begonia, petunia, impatience, zinnia.  Lots of lovely rolling syllables. Lots of bright and cheerful colors. We filled up two carts with flowers for Karen’s garden and planters.  I felt my body relax as I roamed the aisles of flowers, taking in their fragrance. It was like spending a morning in Eden with a friend.  It made me so happy.  What better way to start the summer.

My new favorite flowers were the Lantana.  I have admired them but didn’t know their name.  They have delicate little flowers that grow in little bunches in a variety of complementary colors. I especially loved the Sunburst Lantana.  They just make me happy when I look at them.  They remind me of flowers you would arrange for a summer tea party for the fairies or a wedding for garden gnomes.

After a couple of hours, we sat among the flowers and chatted, soaking in the morning sun. Then we headed inside to look for houseplants and planters.  This is another happy place for me.  While Karen, selected two small houseplants, I went hunting for colorful pots with my camera.  I don’t have room to collect such things, but I collect them with my camera, and that means I can keep them forever and never worry that they may break.

I roamed among all the beautiful things, clicking away in wonder of each little object: pots, statuettes, vases, mirrors, and baskets in an array of colors.  If I had a grand mansion, I would fill one wing like this full of plants and light and love.  Instead, I choose two small ceramic objects: a bunny and a turtle.  The bunny will grace my desk, and the turtle will be a present for my husband.  He loves turtles because they remind him to slow down and concentrate on what’s truly important. 

I am glad I slowed down today. I am grateful for this time with Karen, for this day among the flowers. I cannot wait until our next trek, but for now the flowers are enough.

Happy Ending – New Beginning

This week, one of my former students gave me the happy news that he became a father for the first time on May 4th. This is indeed happy news, but especially joyous because Henry’s mom died suddenly when he was three-years-old as a result of a drunken driver.  At the time, I was Henry’s nursery school teacher, and I took care of him full-time for two years following Catherine’s death.  Henry and I were reunited about two years ago, and I blogged about his story here: A Pause for Celebration.

I cannot adequately express the joy I feel that Henry and his partner, Maria, are now proud parents of a beautiful little girl, Catherine Nima Maria.  A big name for such a little girl.  I am so glad that Henry has grown up to be a successful businessman and a loving father.  I had prayed for years that Henry would be safe and live happily ever after.  My prayers have been answered.  His story is both a happy-ending and a new beginning. I am ever-grateful.

I know no other way to express my joy, but to spend the day looking at baby clothes and writing.  I am creating a picture book for Catherine.  It will be the first of many.  This one will celebrate her name and that of her grandmother, who was a good friend, loving wife and mother, taken away too soon.

Introducing Catherine

Embracing the Process

During the last two weeks, I have had the good fortune to get back into the Wonder Studio with students.  The Wonder Studio is a little swathe of space formerly the lobby of an old Victorian building that houses some of my school’s classrooms and offices.  I created the space to give children a place to craft and have agency over their own imaginations.  I gather junk, art and craft materials, and recyclables, and then stand back to see what the girls do with them.  Wonder Studio is not a class, though the girls have begged it to be.  Studio time is granted two days a week during recess on the days that I don’t have meetings at lunchtime.

This spring, I invited the 5th graders to come back into the Wonder Studio.  They love to make messes. Today, they sang the “Clean-up Song” to me that they learned in Pre-K. They sang so sweetly and earnestly,  however they didn’t quite clean everything up.  Some of them tried to skip out without cleaning brushes or throwing away paper scraps.  I get it.  I was twelve once.  I was, I assure you – and I too loved to make messes, create, build, and imagine. And I still do.

Last week, while Laila was working on yet another new project, I observed aloud that she often created things and then abandoned them.  She looked up at me grinning.

“I know,” she said, “I love the process.” 

I laughed and agreed.  Then I asked her if I could dismantle her massive seashell sculpture so others could use the shells. She gave me her permission.  As I worked ungluing the shells, Laila started looking around the room at my materials.  She often finds things I didn’t know I had.  Soon, Laila held up a small pink plastic bowl, which was serving as a container for someone else’s small project.  I looked at her skeptically. 

“They won’t mind.  It’s not part of the project.” Laila promised. “Here,” she said as she held up a small box, “They can use this.”  And off Laila went with bowl in hand to create her next project. 

The other girls in the group spend time making bracelets, sewing patchwork pillows, decorating small boxes, or making little rooms decorated with paint, glue, and cotton balls.  Everyone is quiet and very intentional in their constructing.  I do not offer advice unless asked, and I help with construction only when the student needs assistance.  I keep my distance and my humor. Wonder Studio time is actually my time to relax and let joy come to me.  It always does, and it’s worth the mess and the cajoling to clean up.

Laila got out her favorite tool, the hot glue gun and began to adhere things to the small plastic bowl.  She found that the plastic forks did not stay on properly and then peeled them off. Next, Laila took some fat pink yarn and began to wind it onto the bottom of the bowl. She wanted to use counting bears from the math lab closet, but I told her that we couldn’t use math materials.  She frowned and began hunting for a replacement.  She found small wooden objects: an alligator, a bear, a snail, a leaf, and a heart.  As I watched this process, I was fascinated by how quick she worked and how undaunted she was when she encountered failure.  In fact, Laila didn’t think of it as failure, she was enjoying the challenge. Laila would just try something new if the first thing she thought of didn’t work.  At one point, I asked her what she was making.

With a smile, she turned and said, “A centerpiece for your desk!”

I laughed and said, “Laila – when I’m old and in the retirement home I hope you will stop by and show me photos of all the sculptures you have on exhibit all over the world.”

“I will,” Laila said cheerfully and got back to work. When it was time to clean up, she was reluctant.  I put the bowl in my office and told her that it would be waiting for her when she returned to the Wonder Studio.

Today, Laila finished her project.  She put a wooden pedestal in the center of the bowl and turned it over.  Then she glued the pedestal to a jar lid and turned it upside down.  She came over and handed it to me.

“The centerpiece for my desk?” I asked, taking it carefully into my hands.

“A lamp for your desk,” Lalia replied.

I laughed, “Of course, a lamp.  It looks just like a lamp. I am going to put it by pink teapot. Thank you.”

And with that, Laila turned back into the Wonder Studio and started another project, this time with beads.  She took hot glue and put it at the end of some string.  “This way, I don’t have to make a knot,” she said.

Human imagination continues to surprise me. After forty-two years of teaching. I’m still not sure how to teach this kind of ingenuity. The only thing I do know is to make space and step out of the way.  I know that I have to be quiet and listen.  My students always show me the way.  They know what they need.  They know when they are stuck. They know how to change their circumstances and make something new. The process is the learning, and they are totally engaged and in the flow of creating. The key is to embrace the process.

April Poem #13: Memory of Spring

Spring is for the birds! I am so grateful I live just on the edge of a large woods.  A wild assortment of fox, deer, raccoons, possum, groundhogs, even the occasional coyote, have frequented the woods and fields that are my backyard.  However, it is the birds to whom I have developed a deep and lasting bond.  The songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors all living under one glorious roof. 

Observing the small birds like the juncos, chickadees, and sparrows, I wonder at their tenacity.  Such small and fragile things, yet they weather winter snows, spring rainstorms, summer heat, and fierce fall winds.  Where do they find their strength?  Are they indeed angels with beaks and feathers? I witnessed one young sparrow, who could easily fit in the palm of my hand, sit under my azaleas waiting for a spring torrent to dissipate. She was patient and mindful.  She didn’t seem to fret and took her situation in stride.  As I watched her, I was conscious of the lesson I could learn from her: slow down, find strength from within, liberate myself from worry, and fly free.

My inspiration for “Memory of Spring” comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. Today,  the writing prompt was to write about good fortune and possibility. And I also received inspiration from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Stacey L. Joy, a poet and National Board-Certified Teacher, suggested we write about joy and liberation.

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Growth Power

I have been watching children grow for forty-two years.  The funny thing, like plants, children don’t always grow in a straight line reaching directly up to sun, luscious and fragrant.  Sometimes growth takes a hard, circuitous route and more time than expected.  With plants, you might need to adjust the proper amount of sunlight, temperature, moisture, air, and nutrients.  You also might want to provide beautiful music to encourage growth.  With children, it helps to be patient, provide encouragement and a positive attitude. Follow their circuitous route and give them the creative space to discover their interests and passions.

Lately, I have been bombarded by teachers with fixed mindsets about student progress.  The words: can’t, doesn’t, won’t, below grade level abound.  They repeat the mantra, “She’ll never catch up.,” over and over again until it becomes their truth. This fixed mindset about student growth has been debilitating to me, and I can’t imagine what it does to the students.  Children, even if they are having trouble learning, have no trouble understanding how their teachers regard them. They know what teachers think of them, and if the teacher’s truth is that the child can’t learn or there’s something wrong with the child, then undoubtedly the child begins to believe it too.

I believe that humans are miraculous creatures. They can surmount overwhelming odds. They can achieve their goals with hard work, encouragement, and burning desire. They can crush any limits with strong will and motivation. I know this to be true. I have seen it. The third grader who struggles to pay attention becomes a poet and a therapist. The second grader who struggles to read, grows up to get a doctorate in education. The first grader who applies an awkward pencil grip and avoids writing, grows up to be a world-class adventurer who sails across the Atlantic. Without some kind of struggle, it is difficult to truly learn. There should be no shame in struggle. We shouldn’t give children the message that if you are struggling to learn something, then you are not quite up to par and that this is the way you will always be.

This idea of children needing to be given space to question experiment and explore reminds me of the story of Gillian Lynne described by Ken Robinson in his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Robinson explains that as a young girl growing up in the 1930’s, Gillian was thought to have a serious learning disorder, and school officials recommended that her mother take her to a psychologist.  Gillian’s mother complied, answering the psychologist’s questions as Gillian sat on a chair listening.  When Gillian’s mother and the psychologist left her alone in the room, the psychologist deliberately turned on his radio.  As the music played, Gillian got up and began to dance.  As Gillian’s mother and the psychologist watched from the doorway, the psychologist asserted that Gillian did not need to attend a school for the learning disabled.  Instead, he proclaimed that Gillian was a dancer, and he recommended that she attend dance school.  Gillian went on to become a famous British ballerina and choreographer.  She is best known for her choreography of the Broadway hits, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. (Robinson, 2009).  It is this shift in perspective that is necessary for connecting children with possibilities. By encouraging risk-taking and experimentation, teachers guide students to explore their personal strengths and passions, allowing children to become authors of creative narratives of their own design. Children begin to see themselves as actors in the true sense of the word.  They are part of a creative growth process, responsible for their own learning. 

Didn’t They Know?

My family dubbed me.
"Stop being Sara Bernhardt,"
My mother declared.
Didn’t they know?
Didn’t they know
That I cut my teeth
On words and sounds,
On the sharp crackle of
On the soft chew of
I was born a poet,
Didn’t they know?

Sensitive dreamer,
My family called me.
"Get your head out of the clouds,"
My father demanded.
Didn’t they know?
Didn’t they realize
My mind was made
For curious, impossible things?
To wander and wonder
To dance with the breeze
Weave words into poems
And poems into stories
And stories into a rich, wild life.
Didn’t they know? 

Comes in Threes

To make writing interesting and strong, we are told to describe things in groups of threes. I wonder what the origins of this Rule of Three is from.  Maybe it stems from Christian doctrine of the trinity.  Maybe it predates Christ, since the triangle has long been a symbol of stability and strength. Think ancient Egyptian pyramids. With a little research, I found that it is also rooted in the Latin principle known as omne trium perfectum – everything that is three, is perfect.

Eight years ago, shortly after my mother died, I had a powerful experience that came to me in a group of three.  The first event came in the form of a present.  One of my colleagues, Sue, gave me a small rectangular box wrapped with a beautiful, iridescent silver bow.  I looked at her in surprise. It wasn’t my birthday or any other holiday.  And we didn’t normally exchange presents. I looked up at her in wonder. 

“Open it,” she said, “I hope it will give you peace.” 

I untied the bow and meticulously unwrapped the paper.  I opened the box to reveal a small figurine of a serene standing angel, her hands clasped in prayer.  She matched the two other angels I had on my desk next to a silver-framed photo of my mother and me walking to school one sunny day.  I am four-years-old wearing shorts and sneakers.  My mother has on sunglasses, sandals, and a sundress.  When I was a toddler, my mother went back to school to become a teacher.  As a young child, I attended the university nursery school, so we went to school together – the best part of my early life.  On either side of the framed photo I had put two angels one sitting and one kneeling.  I looked at Sue and thanked her. 

She said, “I noticed you had the angels on your desk, and I thought you would like a third one.”

 I rearranged the angels around the frame.  I said a silent prayer and went on with my day.

Later that week, I met my friend, Angela, for dinner after work. Angela is a fun-loving Brit who never fails to make me laugh. She is deeply spiritual, believes in crystals, auras, and angels, and is open to all manner of heavenly phenomena.  I parked nearby the restaurant and started walking down the street. 

Angela was waiting for me outside the door, and when she saw me she shouted, “Stop!”

I immediately stopped. 

She smiled and said, “You have an aura all around you.  It’s all around you.  Angels are surrounding you.”

 I felt an immediate calm and happiness wrap around me. 

“What colors are the aura?” I asked. 

Angela said they were white, blue, and lilac.  Lilac was my mother’s favorite flower. I hugged Angela and we went inside for dinner.  We laughed and talked for hours.  My body relaxed into the old worn wooden booth. 

I looked at Angela and pointed above me, “Are they still there?” I asked. 

“Yes,” she replied, ‘They are with you.  Who do you think they are?” 

Without hesitation I said, “My mother, my Grandpa Charlie, and my Uncle Julie. They are looking out for me.”

“Yes, they are,” Angela agreed. 

When we left the restaurant, we hugged and promised to get together again soon.  I drove back home, speaking to my angels as I went..  I told them I loved them and that I would never forget them and how grateful I was to have had them in my life.  I vowed to continue to keep them in my heart.

A few days after that, I was in New York City.  I was going from the train station to the Upper East side to work with a tutoring client.  I hailed a yellow cab and hopped in.  Immediately, my frantic commute grew calm. The smell of coconut and pineapple filled the space.  The friendly driver with a Jamaican lilt to his voice asked me where I wanted to go.  I told him “Madison and 80th.”  He pulled out into traffic and asked me how my day was going. 

I replied unconvincingly, “Okay – it’s good.” 

“Well, I hope you have a blessed day,” he said.

He went on to tell me how much Jesus had made a difference in his life.  I nodded my head as he spoke.  I loved listening to other people’s stories.  Then he asked if I was a believer. I got quiet for a few seconds before I responded that yes, indeed, I was.  All of a sudden, I poured out what had happened to me about a year prior, when I got sick and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me.  I talked about being in constant pain for over a year, and how close to despair I became.  I turned to Jesus and began to pray, which made such a difference in my life, and I began to heal.

Soon, I arrived at my destination.  I took out money to pay the fare and tip.  The driver turned around and faced me.  He had close-cropped silver hair, dark skin, and the most crystal-blue eyes I had ever seen. 

He caught me in his kind gaze and said, ”Don’t you worry.  You are blessed.  There are angels all around you.  I can see them. They are right here with you.  You are loved.”

I was so surprised and happy at the same time.  I felt that my mother was sending me a message.  She would never leave me.  She would live in my heart forever until my time on this Earth (which, coincidently, is the third planet from the sun) was done.

And so yes,  if you were to ask me, I would not hesitate to say I believe in Jesus and angels, and all good things that come in three.

Much thanks and gratitude to TWT: Slice of Life and SOS: Sharing our Stories.

Invitation to Joy

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy

in creative expression and knowledge.

– Albert Einstein

I think that my major role as an educator is to invite joy.  I have always thought this from the beginning of my career over forty years ago.  Maybe it’s because I started teaching in a nursery school.  You can’t help to be joyful when teaching two, three, and four-year-old children.  They actually exude joie de vivre and happily invite adults into their world. It’s a great place to dwell.

When I began teaching elementary school, I found that older children also respond to joy no matter their gender, socio-economic status, race, or academic progress.  Indeed, children who struggled with academics or behavior were even more in need of joy and became more motivated when their teachers found a way to invite them into joyful learning. It’s amazing what a little happiness will do.

These days, joy-filled learning is crucial.  Spreading joy is easy.  You just need to listen to children and take an interest in who they are and what they like to do.  This morning, I started my day in my favorite place, the school library.  As I chatted with our librarian, children drifted in to return books.  Riley, an artistic and creative fifth grader, wandered in. I greeted her enthusiastically and asked if she would like to create a comic strip for our school literary magazine.  For years, Riley has shared her drawings and handmade books with me.  Riley grinned from ear to ear and nodded her head enthusiastically.  I immediately knew that I had done the right thing by asking her.  She came closer and asked what kind of comic strip she should make.  I told her to use her imagination.  Maybe she’d like to include her llama or frog characters.  She smiled, dug in her pocket, and showed me a tiny notebook she created.  She promised to work on the comic strip and show it to me when she had it sketched out.  Then she skipped away, and my heart felt lighter knowing that I had added a little joy in her day.

Next, Naomi walked in.  Naomi is a tinker-master.  She loves building things with her hands.  For several years, she has signed up to create crafts with me in our Wonder Lab. And when Wonder Lab was closed because of COVID, Naomi created projects at home, taught her little sisters, and sent me videos of her work.  I marveled at her initiative and ingenuity.  I felt remorse that Wonder Lab had been closed for a year and a half.  This year, it reopened in a smaller space with a new name, Wonder Studio.  I can take only a limited number of children in the Wonder Studio at a time, so Naomi has not had as much time creating at school as she had in the past.  I called over to her and asked her if she’d like to create a crafting page for our school magazine. As soon as the words escaped my mouth, Naomi’s whole body started to vibrate.  She literal bounced up and down.  I looked over at our librarian and we smiled at each other.  “I guess that means – yes,” I said.  Naomi continue to bounce and nodded her head.  It was not even 8:30 in the morning and I had made two little girls extremely happy. And it was easy to do, and it was fun, and it made a difference. If nothing else positive happened today, that was okay with me because I had spread some joy and encouraged creativity. My work was done for the day!

Books on Joy for Kids

  1. Black Boy Joy by Kwame Mbalia
  2. Grandma’s Joy by Eloise Greenfield
  3. Olivia Dances for Joy by Natalie Shaw
  4. Sparkles of Joy: A Children’s Book That Celebrates Diversity and Inclusion by Aditi Wardhan
  5. The Joy in You by Cat Deeley
  6. The Little Book of Joy: 365 Ways to Celebrate Every Day by Joanne Ruelos Diaz
  7. This Joy! By Shelley Johannes

Books on Joy for Adults

  1. Awakening Joy for Kids: A Hands-On Guide for Grown-Ups to Nourish Themselves and Raise Mindful, Happy Children by James Baraz and Michelle Lillyana
  • Joy in Learning: Making it Happen in Early Childhood Classes by Leon Burton
  • Joyful Learning by Alice Udvari-Solner and Paula Kluth
  • Rediscover the Joy of Learning by Don A. Blackerby
  • Start with Joy by Katie Egan Cunningham
  • The 4 Habits of Raising Joy-filled Kids by Marcus Warner
  • The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
  • The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play by Laura Bland
  • The Joy of Learning: Finding Flow Through Classical Education by Jason Matthew Barney
  • The Joy of Teaching: Making a Difference in Student Learning by Gene E. Hall, Linda F. Quinn, and Donna M. Gollnick
  • The Joyful Child: A Sourcebook of Activities and Ideas for Releasing Children’s Natural Joy by Peggy Jenkins, PhD
  • The Joyful Classroom: Practical Ways to Engage and Challenge Students K-6 by Responsive Classroom

Much Loved: Stuffed Animals & Their People

I am a lover of stuffed animals. I collected many as a child and even more as an adult. My husband didn’t have many stuffed animals growing up because his parents thought stuffed animals were not a “boy thing.” They were not bad parents, just very misinformed. We began our animal collection soon after we began dating. At one point, we had a menagerie of seventy-two stuffed animals. As we moved from place to place, we had to narrow down our tribe, and I made many a child happy with my animal gifts.

A few years ago, when I was at my favorite bookstore in Manhattan, The Strand, I came across Mark Nixon’s book, Much Loved. Mr. Nixon took photographs of people’s stuffed animals and wrote about their origins and stories. It was such a sweet and comprehensive look at the importance of stuffed animals in people’s lives, both young and old.

Four years ago, I created community writing project to celebrate my school’s Young Authors’ Week. The project asked students to write about and take a photo of their favorite stuffed animal. I then compiled all the submissions into a big book that we keep in our school library. Both children and teachers loved this activity.

I thought I would immortalize some of my own personal collection. I realize that many of my stuffies are getting up there in age, as am I, and I want to make sure I preserve their memories.

Thank you to TWT: Slice of Life and SOS: Sharing Or Stories
for inspiration and encouragement.

Problem Solver

Problem solver. That is who I am.  That is who I am at the core of my being, of my soul.  I’m not sure if that’s because I faced daunting problems in my childhood that I felt compelled to fix.  Fix my father. Fix my mother.  Fix my sister.  Fix my family. Fix my friends.  Fix my father.  Fix my father.  Fix my father.  I was destined to be a teacher, a helper, someone to step in and find a solution. I became a learning specialist to help children fix their problems:  problems with reading, with writing, with numbers, with attention, with organization, and most importantly, with self-esteem.  I think I excel at solving problems.  I love problems and like the challenge of mulling over pathways that slowly materialize into solutions. 

When I saw How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi, I knew I had to sit down and read it immediately.  First, because of the its problem-solving nature, and second because it was written by a teenage, female rock-climbing champion.  I couldn’t pass it up.  In his youth, my husband was a rock-climber, and we have spent many an afternoon watching climbers, both young and old, tackle the boulders and rock walls in New York’s Shawangunk Mountains (The Gunks). I was interested to hear about how this young athlete tackled her climbs.  Teaching in n girls’ private school, I knew that it would be a great mentor text for talking to our students about the importance of embracing failures and failing forward.  This is just what Ashima describes.

And so I started.  And so I fell.

And so I climbed again,

Listening to what the fall had told me –

Ashima  lives in New York City with her father, who is a dancer and her mother who designs Ashima’s climbing pants. At the age of fourteen, Ashima became the first woman in the world to climb the Horizon boulder in Mount Hiei, Japan.  She was the second person ever to solve this climb.  At the age of fifteen, she won the IFSC Youth World Championships for the third year in a row.  Throughout the book, Ashima explains how she solves the problem of finding her way up and across giant boulders. Untangling these boulder routes were very hard and she fell often. The falling helped Ashima to see the problems in a different way, and to finally solve them.  She has been climbing since of the age of six, and I believe there is no stopping her. She falls and falls often, only to ascend into greatness.

How to Solve a Problem

Take a deep breath in and out -
Slowly ask yourself:
Can I?
How about?
What if?
Why not?
Set your imagination free,
Dare to dream,
Invent and innovate,
Put your ideas into action,
Watch them take flight,
Watch them plummet
To the ground,
Pick them up,
Dust them off
And try again
And again, and again.
Revise them –
Add something,
Change something,
Take something away
Until it’s brand-new.
Put it into action,
Watch it sputter... pause...
Stop and start again,
Watch it take shape
And become the reality
Of your wildest imagination.

Sacred Rest

Walking through the winter gauntlet that is January and February, I have been on the hunt for rest, not just sleep but rest – physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and sensory.  I have found some inspiration these past weeks from a book recommended by a colleague who is also seeking rest. 

Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith skillfully explains the  need for rest to restore not only physical health, but emotional and spiritual health as well. The book is formatted in a way that allows the reader/patient to easily pick the chapters they want to focus upon according to what type of rest they are seeking. Dr. Dalton Smith provides her readers with supplemental materials to guide them towards a healthier, restful lifestyle.  Through her website, she provides quizzes, podcasts, playlists, and prayers to help readers on their journey towards a restorative, happier life.

Indeed, the author explains the medical reasons behind the need for rest and sleep, and meticulously gives information on recent studies in each area of rest.  However, the most beneficial information that Dr. Dalton Smith provides is her insight as a fellow human, woman, wife, and mother. She is walking this road with us and has good news to share.  I was comforted by her approach that includes the importance of spiritual rest for the complete healing of the mind and body, and her inclusion of creative rest to bolster the spirit.  My own way of seeking rest has always been through poetry, which are prayerful reflections. They hadn’t always been this way, but they are now.  Poetry helps me connect with people and with God.  It connects me to nature and to myself.  It centers me and comforts me and provides the rest I so deeply desire.

Sacred Rest

Each night, I seek sleep.
Electronic devices are put to bed.
Vivaldi plays softly in the  background,
Chamomile tea steeps in a favorite cup.
I stretch and breathe and stretch,
Brush my teeth, wash my face –
Seek sleep.
Don comfy pajamas and toasty socks,
Sip the tea, inhale its calming aroma,
Snuggle into bed beneath layers of blankets,
Arrange my pillow such so –
Inhale – one… two… three… four…
Exhale – one… two… three… four…
My muscles relax,
My mind seeks peace,
I am drifting in the darkness,
Held by invisible hands.
My mind is empty, my body is still.
I am at rest, asleep but not yet dreaming.
My eye pop open in the darkness.
Two a.m. and all is quiet, but my mind.
I rearrange myself under the covers,
Plump the pillow, consciously breath –
Inhale – one… two… three… four…
Exhale – one… two… three… four…
I let the rhythm take me once again,
Drifting up into the infinite sky,
Rolling in the unfathomable ocean,
Waves take me far out past everything known.
I am held in a dark embrace
Till morning.