Activities

Action #8: Grow Some Wonder

It is still miraculous to me that you put a seed in the dirt and after a bit, it grows into something edible or beautiful or determined or tall as a redwood. I am not known for my green thumb. My greatest achievement to date in plant management has been to keep some bamboo alive, just barely, for the past ten years. But I am ready for more.

I mentioned awhile back that we signed up our backyard as part of an urban cooperative farm, but sadly, the organization went belly up. It was a brilliant idea, but somehow paying their farmers a living wage in San Francisco was not a sustainable business model (imagine that!). We were left with a garden set up to grow things, which my neighbor with whom we share the yard promptly took over, as I was busy tending to a newborn. Seeing what she has accomplished (tomatoes galore! kale, arugula, brussel sprouts, oh my!), and now that I have a toddler who can “help” me or at least busy himself in the dirt while I garden, I decided it’s time to try my hand at cultivating a small corner of our yard.

I have no clue if this is a good time to plant or if I am doing it right at all, but I planted green beans, strawberries, pumpkins, watermelon, cabbage, broccoli and beets. It’s only been a week and I’m already seeing little sprouts popping up. I helped to create life! Now, we’ll see if I can keep them alive.

What would you like to grow?

Ample Time and Money: Transform your yard into a garden. See how much of your food you could grow yourself, like Barbara Kingsolver did for a year (she wrote about this in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle).

Limited Resources: Start out with a few pots or an indoor herb garden. Get a hanging tomato planter. Plant a tree. Watch butterflies grow, then set them free.

Busy and Broke: Try putting a seed from something you ate into the ground and see if anything happens on its own. Or grow something you don’t have to pay much attention to, like a cactus, or bamboo. Just remember to stop and wonder at its tenacity every once in awhile for inspiration.

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Activities, Books, Uncategorized

This World is Not Just a Little Thrill For the Eyes

Have you memorized anything yet for this week’s action?  I have not yet learned To Begin With, the Sweet Grass in its entirety (but recalling bits of it during the day reminds me to “look, and look again” and to forget myself and love the world).

I can, however, recite The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton in the dark while rocking a wriggling toddler. Like I said, my brain only has so much available space right now, and you can see who gets top priority.

For anyone who has a little more space or time in their lives for documenting their family’s stories so they will be remembered for generations to come, some interesting resources serendipitously found their way to me this week. The California Council for the Humanities has a grant program called the California Story Fund, which is seeking project proposals by November 15, in particular for stories that address the meaning of democracy. StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit that encourages everyone to share and preserve their stories. You can bring someone you would like to interview into a StoryCorps location to record it, or you can follow their DIY guide. Think of what an amazing keepsake it would be to have a recorded conversation with a beloved family member.

Go, learn wonderful things, and talk to people who matter to you about what matters to them.

Activities, Books, Uncategorized

Action #7: Write Some Wonder on Your Heart

As a society, it seems we have lost the art of committing things to memory. If we need to remember something, we Google it. In the old days, people could recite sonnets to their lovers. There are stories of prisoners of war staying sane throughout their captivity by holding onto great swaths of Scripture they’d memorized. I was in awe of a professor in college who could quote poems and passages from literature as if she had written them herself. What a wonderful thing to make something beautiful and uplifting your very own, to lock it away inside so that it becomes a part of you no one could ever take away.  You could bring it out at will in your greatest times of need, or even just in moments of boredom.

What would you like to have written on your heart? How could you go about committing it to memory this week?

Ample Time: Become an oral storyteller. Learn the stories of your family and your ancestors and pass them on to your children and to your community. My great grandmother’s second husband was the most amazing storyteller I’ve ever known. Granted, I was a young, impressionable child when I was his audience, but I remember being utterly captivated by his stories. They ran the gamut from Native American folk tales, to nursery rhymes, to stories of his own youth living in both Alaska and Mexico. Of course, I don’t know if even the ones he told about himself were true. It wasn’t until I was a teenager long after his death that I discovered the tale he told me of a mongoose saving his life from a snake when he was young was actually Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling.

What made him great was that he completely owned the stories. He was totally blind when I knew him, so he couldn’t read books to me or write his stories down. It was like he had an entire library inside of him, and could pull up the most fascinating yarn for any occasion. And it breaks my heart that that library disappeared along with him when he died. I wish I could remember everything he told me. I wish someone had the foresight to record him speaking. The oral traditions of our cultures are dying out, if they haven’t already. If you can make the time, learn the stories of your heritage and your culture. Use the technology of today to record them, but try to keep them in your mind as well and learn how to pass them on in the oldest of human ways to communicate, orally.

Limited Resources: In high school, an English teacher made us memorize “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Back then, I swear I had a near photographic memory. I rarely had to study anything for very long before I could recall the entire page and read it in my mind as if it were still in front of me. I don’t know what happened since then, but that skill is long gone. There is now a No Vacancy light blinking in my brain, and if something new crams its way in, something old gets shoved out.

I am currently getting into poetry. Probably because I only have the smallest windows of time in which to read, and I can actually finish a poem. I am absolutely enamored with Mary Oliver. I would love to have command of some of her words that resonate for me. I think I will try to memorize To Begin With, the Sweet Grass from her 2009 book, Evidence. Ok, maybe pieces of it. It’s long and I have many other things on my mind, but I’ll try. What will you try to remember? Here are some good tips on how to go about it.

Busy: Write out a short prayer, simple mantra, scripture passage, or inspiring quotation and tape it to the back of your phone, on a post it on the edge of your computer, on your bathroom mirror, in your car, on an index card in your purse, wherever it will be in your face often. Look at it whenever you have a spare moment. Say it out loud until you can say it without looking at it. Make it yours and draw upon it this week for wonder.

Please come back and share with me what you’ve written on your hearts.

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Poetry Friday: Halleluiah

I have not had the chance to post an action to create wonder this week, but I hope you all get a chance to do something wonderful over this long weekend. I am hoping to recharge my wonder juices out in nature, holding these words by Mary Oliver in my mind.

Halleluiah

Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway that I’m not where I started!

And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.

Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.

-Mary Oliver, from Evidence