lily

Lily, The Perfect Prayer

The Lily

Night after night
darkness
enters the face
of the lily
which, lightly,
closes its five walls
around itself,
and its purse
of honey,
and its fragrance,
and is content
to stand there
in the garden,
not quite sleeping,
and, maybe,
saying in lily language
some small words
we can’t hear
even when there is no wind
anywhere,
its lips
are so secret,
its tongue
is so hidden –
or, maybe,
it says nothing at all
but just stands there
with the patience
of vegetables
and saints
until the whole earth has turned around
and the silver moon
becomes the golden sun –
as the lily absolutely knew it would,
which is itself, isn’t it,
the perfect prayer?

~ Mary Oliverthe lily

Oh, how I love Mary Oliver and her tremendous ability to weave language and nature and wisdom into a braid of enlightenment.

Her poetry always appears when I need it, whispering to me to pay attention – to be here, now.

Mary Oliver makes me think – makes me work for it. I slide her words around my mouth, swallowing bit after bit of understanding until suddenly, it makes perfect sense.

The ‘patience of vegetables and saints’ – yes, yes, yes.

The perfect prayer.

The realization that I, too, can “lightly” close myself, wind up my thoughts and pain and joy inside and just be content to be here, now, with them, whispering solitary prayers for peace and hope and grace and courage… and patience. Breath. Calm.

And the deep, deep knowing that all will be well.

The blooms spring up overnight, gracing me with their glory, their fragility, and their contentment to just be, to grow, to bloom “until the whole earth has turned around and the silver moon becomes the golden sun.”

One day at a time.

One prayer at a time.

Thank you, Mary Oliver.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Can You See Me Aging?

Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.

Betty Friedan

It’s a winter Saturday morning, dreary and grey and bare. Outside my window I look down on my garden; the trees bare, branches arcing and cascading with delicate, raw beauty. The rose bushes are pruned, the soft flesh of the grapefruits fall with an ugly crash to the grass below. Verdant reen grass, green shrubs, green moss landscape my view, with little other color to brighten my spirits. The bones of the garden are exposed in all their raw and graceful and startling vulnerability, green but not growing. We both are waiting to bloom.

bare branches

Outside my window I set up a new bird feeder this winter, right next to the birdbath. I carefully filled it with seed, positioned it next to the safe haven of a Lavatera bush, under the bare bones of the pistache tree. I’ve followed all the steps, but still the birds flit and fly around it. Not one is perching this winter. They won’t stop where I want them to. They refuse to land. What do they have to fear? Maybe they know something I don’t.

This winter, I’m in my 50th year of this life, fifty years of aging gracefully. I can feel it in my bones, in the sinew of my shoulder, in the crick in my back when I bend down to clip the fragrant narcissus blooming in my backyard bed. It’s hard, this aging. It’s hard when Facebook flashes images of my youth; class photos from elementary school, sixteen-year-old sojourns to Stinson Beach, the goth days that stilled my soul. I click and eagerly ingest the memory, scan the photos for others I recognize in their youth. Sometimes I see them aging gracefully, too.

People see my photos and say I haven’t changed. But it stuns me, really. Physically, maybe not so much- a few pounds heavier, my face a bit fuller, my breasts a bit lower and my body baring the glorious work of motherhood. But inside, sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. I feel the stripping down happening this year, the leaves falling to the ground and in place, my bark, my branches growing and reaching and sometimes fracturing and not caring who sees.

I see my daughter’s face, clean and fresh and smiling. Her friends look just like her, really. Their eyes shine with the wisdom of college freshmen, off and eager and full of the energy that youth and growth offers. Her second decade, her time when the world is brimming with experiences, her mind teetering with the excitement of a new home, a new school, a new love.

My son towers over me, long and lanky and grinning with the kind of smile that makes me wonder. His eyes gaze with an old wisdom yet his body pulsates with the youthful need to move, to skate, to ski. His time when dreams deferred have altered his course, his world changing and he is riding it out, gracefully.

I tell my middle school students that well behaved women rarely make history. I write and read and teach and share my stories, feeling bits of raw bone shining through. I prune and rake and weed and dig, waiting to bloom, to wake up, to uncover the beauty, to expose the substance, to pull off the overgrowth. To strip down to my core, to discover the beauty of aging gracefully.

Fifty years, an indicator of a number of breaths and beats and moments my body as been growing, aging, learning. Can you see the grey and the lines and the wisdom that comes with half a century of work?

I won’t stop. I have nothing to fear.

I have everything to learn.

Can you see ME?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Finding The Teacher-Mom Balance

“You wander from room to room

Hunting for the diamond necklace

That is already around your neck.” -Rumi

from Thrive, by Arianna Huffington

I’ve always been a working mom. I guess I should qualify that – I’ve always been a work-outside-the-home mom. Since I was in my thirties before I had both children, I spent several years teaching before they rocked my world…and to be honest, it was a struggle to figure out how I could balance it all.

I loved being a teacher. In my twenties, pre-kids, I poured everything I had into my middle school English classes. It wasn’t that I necessarily felt that teaching was my ‘calling’-I just wanted to do the best job I could. It’s my personality. I devoured teaching-I couldn’t get enough training. I had my eye on reaching the ‘top’ of my profession as quickly as possible. I volunteered to be a ‘team leader’ of teachers, I worked on district committees, and pretty soon I was selected as the department leader and mentor teacher. I was right where I wanted to be.

And then my daughter was born. Naively, I thought I could jump right back in. I thought that after a few months, the title of ‘teacher-mom’ would slip alongside my other accolades, and life would keep chugging along. Of course, that didn’t happen. Balancing a commute, breast-feeding, and separation anxiety created more angst than I could imagine. Life needed to shift, and as life often has a way of doing, I would up exactly where I needed to be.

It wasn’t easy to get there, and residing in that place between ‘teacher’ and ‘mother’ was a constant state of unsteadiness for many years. I felt like I wasn’t doing the best job at either; on days when the teaching went well, I’d have to rush home to assume child care so my husband could go to work. At night, the babies were demanding when it was time to grade papers, and each morning I would wake, bleary eyed and exhausted, wondering how this was ever going to work. The joy was evaporating from both ‘jobs’. Nothing felt right, neither felt fulfilling. The fulcrum teetered back and forth as I searched for the elusive equilibrium I knew I needed.

I wish I could say it was easy, or that there was some sort of formula I read about that, like breadcrumbs along a trail, I could gather along the way to the end of the rainbow. The truth is, it was nothing like that. And sadly, it involved barrels of tears, volumes of journals, and book after parenting book to discover how I could thrive as ‘teacher-mom’. I’m not sure I would ever want to repeat that process, but I can say that the search for the perfect balance led to the discovery of my self.

I learned that it all goes by so quickly…those words of my grandmother certainly ring true as I’m watching my baby grow up and out of the safety of our space. I learned that  boundaries are vital for both teacher and mom; a life in balance is truly a life well lived. I learned that everything I ever wanted really is right within my grasp-all I needed to do was make a choice. Actually, it was quite simple: I  chose a life adorned with the sparkle of my children first-always.

And that has made all the difference.

This post was inspired byThrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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