GNL number 116

a report of doings at meeting #116, Sunday, March 12, 2017

including liturgical items, major themes. and other odds and ends


It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.

—–Rainer Maria Rilke

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?

—–Neltje Blanchen

First a howling blizzard woke us,

Then the rain came down to soak us,

And now before the eye can focus,


—–Lilja Rogers


Nancy opened this meeting on SPRING Forward/Forth/Ahead, seeing it as coming forth, through change, into a new place. Much needed by her, and she thought, by America. She was hearing a voice saying not only rise up out of this wind and cold, but out of our Delirium Tremens national nightmare—can we come through into the daylight of a national awakening, and confront life in present and past America. Sounded like a prayer, and a vow, to become real citizens of the US, and of the earth. A new birth, maybe? See AfterWords for N and Q.

Ann had lots of quotes, 6-wordies too, and recalled a very strong, positive memory from her childhood in Connecticut. The scene she pictured for us was of her and her mother working in her family’s large, well-treed yard in the fresh early spring to clear the way for drainage, and otherwise take care of the land. And she strongly remembered as well how much this meant to her mom, and said it was one of her own fondest memories of mom and home.

Gail was keenly aware of the seasons as change, and said she was reminded of the changes now going on in her family. Just back from a visit in Florida with her mom and dad, who’ve recently had serious health issues, and then learning of her sister’s serious illness, Gail has been reminded that she can help. And as someone who’s spent much time outdoors, and in different parts of the country, she spoke of learning to appreciate subtle changes in season even in the mostly warm southern states.

Sue gave us the benefit of her word research, including spring as water, and as spiral in some tools, and then from her Torah studies, the living waters in the Mikveh purifying rituals. She also brought a Billy Collins poem and one of her own, and read several topical quotes, including some surprising ones about spirals, for instance from Goethe and others, about the progress of civilization, that seemed might be speaking to us in today’s world. See AW for her N and Q.

Marge spoke of how she wouldn’t want to be without the four seasons we have here, even with all this recent cold and wind. And she gave special appreciation for spring’s vernal equinox name that’s explanatory of what happens, with the sun crossing the equator, with day and night equal. And she even sang us a stirring rendition of that wonderful part of the musical Carousel, that celebrates the seasons and culminates in the rousing “June is Busting Out All Over!”

Our offering today was taken by Sue, to be given to an organization for refugee assistance.


Dead my old fine hopes

And dry my dreaming but still….

Iris, blue each spring.

—–Basho Matsuo

Spring: the music of open windows.

—–Terry Guillemets


Sunday, April 9, 2017, at Marge’s home at 113 Prospect St., Cobleskill. The subject is Through the Dark, Into the Light, and 6wordies, if you like.


from Nancy

Music comes from an icicle as it melts, to live again as

spring water. —–Henry Williamson

Every spring is the only spring—a perpetual astonishment.

—–Ellis Peters

Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.

—–Lilly Pulitzer

And some signs of spring I especially love:

the birds, singing and chittering,

the air, so distinctly fresh and new,

the smiles we’re all wearing,

and the clothes we’re not!

from Ann

a kidhood memory:

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz,

I wonder where the flowers is.

Some people say the bird is on the wing,

But that’s absurd,

The wing is on the bird.

Robin in the Late Afternoon

The window’s open, so I hear

each crystal note. Even with eyes closed,

I know a robin when I hear one,

telling the air between us how happy he is

about the soft rain and its summons

to the worms in the dark underground.

A pause. And then he sings again

from a more distant branch, but just as clear.

Or is it his mate? No matter, it’s a robin song,

a shower for the heart. I am no worm.

I do not tunnel under sod. But I am called,

beckoned into fresh hopefulness.

Bless God for birds, their vowels

pure and persuasive as spring rain.

—–Luci Shaw, 5/20/13

Spring verse from the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

One swallow does not make a spring.

Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.

In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.

Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.

Spring-time sweet! The whole earth smiles, thy coming to greet.

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.—–Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring. —–Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

          It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you          don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!—–Mark Twain

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.—–John Muir, The Wilderness World

My seasons:

Autumn is a vividly colorful denouement,

Winter is stripped down bare essentials,

Spring is herky/jerky disappointment/hope,

Summer is bountiful busyness.

Spring is a block of days on the calendar,

Yet it comes in fits and starts.

Our lungs and minds are refreshed with

Hope and cheer, plans and dreams.

Then blustery snow squalls punish us

And winter’s grip lingers to traumatize us.

But the light is changing,

The yellow of the willows is brightening

And we wait for the inevitable,

And it is so worth the wait.

Six wordies:

Spring doesn’t stand still for anything.

We can’t do without spring’s promise.

Molting, shedding, sloughing off is spring.

Spring comes slowly, goes too fast.

from Sue

Entymology–spring (n.2) Look up spring at
“source of a stream or river, flow of water rising to the surface of the earth from below,” Old English spring “spring, source, sprinkling,” from spring (v.) on the notion of the water “bursting forth” from the ground. Rarely used alone in Old English, appearing more often in compounds, such as wyllspring “wellspring,” espryng “water spring.” Figurative sense of “source or origin of something” is attested from early 13c. Cognate with Old High German sprung “source of water,” Middle High German sprinc “leap, jump; source of water.”

“Daylight saving time: Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.” – Anonymous
“When you drink the water, remember the spring.”  Chinese Proverb
“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”  ~ William Blake

Thinking about springs (as in a tool or machine)–got to googling “spiral” quotations:
“The spiral in a snail’s shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it’s also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It’s the same ratio that you’ll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world.”  ~Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“The stream of civilisation flows on like a river: it is rapid in mid- current, slow at the sides, and has its backwaters. At best, civilisation advances by spirals.” ~Sabine Baring-Gould
“Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.”  ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.”   ~ Vaclav Havel

Talking about the “Living waters” in Torah, and other myths about watering holes inhabited by spirits (demons & gift givers)—–Waters of Life, Miriam’s Well and other Wells in Torah

Jewish uses of the Mikveh– Most forms of impurity can be nullified through immersion in any natural collection of water. However, some impurities….require “living water,” such as springs or groundwater wells. Living water has the further advantage of being able to purify even while flowing, as opposed to rainwater which must be stationary in order to purify. The mikveh is designed to simplify this requirement, by providing a bathing facility that remains in ritual contact with a natural source of water.  ……………..The existence of a mikveh is considered so important in Orthodox Judaism that an Orthodox community is required to construct a mikveh before building a synagogue, and must go to the extreme of selling Torah scrolls or even a synagogue if necessary, to provide funding for the construction.[6]

Read “Water Table” by Billy Collins –

My own poem:

The Wave/Walking on the water

by Susan Fantl Spivack
This is what it looks like:

You are in the water— you

are drowning or you are

struggling to the surface, you

are swimming through yourself—you

are not walking

on the water—you

are pulling yourself

through wetness, you are lifting

your interior ocean

above the other drowning

ocean.  You give a name

to this, you call it

miracle, call it ecstasy,

call it wisdom.  It happens

or it doesn’t happen

every day of your life.


GNL number 115

a report of doings at meeting #115, Sunday, February 19, 2017

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.

—–Mark Twain

If I cannot swear in Heaven, I shall not stay there.

—–Twain, of course


Today’s discussion on Saints/Heroes/Spirit Guides was opened by Gail, and so fittingly in this moment in history, as in noting how inspiring those in her own family have been to her, she also reminded us that local ‘heroes’ are in our midst. She cited her dad first, a war veteran who didn’t want the hero label, and her mom, who is 88 and blind, but has lost none of her curiosity and zest for life and learning. And then how her younger sister had inspired her too, bouncing back from many misfortunes, doing new things. She also cited a friend whose life serves to remind Gail, that yes, she can too. See AFTERWORDS for a bit more

Marge said right off the top that she was not prepared with a list of saints or heroes, but she did bring a show-and-tell: a magazine she gets, called Eating Well. And from a regular feature in it, she told us about a program in a city that uses foods donated by supermarkets and food banks to make burritos to help feed the hungry and homeless. And this sounded to us like a humble but heroic local program that should be emulated. M also gave us each postcards from womens’ for our own HearOurVoice messages to officials

Cynthia began by saying she hadn’t done her homework, as they’d just learned that their son’s next review for parole would be happening next month, which meant lots to do. But she did speak of recent time at her daughter’s, where she rediscovered the latenight comedians, who are doing such a great job reporting on DT, that they inspired her to begin her own artistic version of Comix, on DT’s First 100 Days. Needless to say, we earnestly urged her on, and asked that this be conveyed to us in our need soon. C was also an early fan of Rev. Billy.

Ann read her findings from the dictionary on saint and hero, and named some of her own, like our late, dear friend Jack Daniels—Peacemaker patriarch, Skippy member, and model of a loving life. She also cited not technically human heroes, like all the dogs she’s known (and was it Ann, or Cynthia, among all us bird lovers, that credited birds too as saintly?) And of course she cited Dr. Seuss, especially about the birth of the famous Cat in the Hat, and had some fine quotes, and her own 6-wordies. See AW for all these.

Nancy said the topic took her over, and she’s still finding S/H/SGs almost daily. So far she had 5 bunches to cite, starting with saints Dr. Seuss, Rev. Billy, Kurt Vonnegut, and Mark Twain. Then heroes Bill Moyers, Howard Zinn, Jon Stewart; poets Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver; musicians Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and all the African-Americans who took misery and turned it into beauty, the Blues. Then Spirit Guides, like the Haudenosaunee, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many Buddhist sages. And group heroes, YES! Magazine and the Syracuse Cultural Workers. See AW for the whys


May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

—–George Carlin

Frisbeeterianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.



Sunday, March 12, 2017, at Sue’s house, on Quarry Street, if she feels up to it, or Marge’s, if not. The subject is Spring Ahead. (And we’ve vowed to plan a spring field trip to the Syracuse Cultural Workers’ office/store.)


from Gail:

A bit more on Dad and Mom: Dad’s thought is that he/they are not heroes, just doing their job. And Mom, at 88 and blind, turns on the TV and listen/watches NOVA , about Origami, and how they can use it in medicine and space and protection. I want to be like that and always find the wonder in things.

We have people right here who are the central figures in events of this period or moment.

from Ann:


  • 1 – one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness

  • 2 –  one of the spirits of the departed in heaven

  • 3 – a one of God’s chosen and usually Christian people    b capitalized :  a member of any of various Christian bo1dies; specificallylatter-day saint

  • 4 – one eminent for piety or virtue

  • 5 – an illustrious predecessor


Origin and etymology of SAINT:

  • Middle English, from Anglo-French seint, saint, from Late Latin sanctus, from Latin, sacred, from past participle of sancire to make sacred

  • First Known Use: 13th century

My saints/heros:

Dr. Suess (/Geisel) In May 1954, Life magazine published a report on illiteracy among school children which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. William Ellsworth Spaulding was the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin (he later became its chairman), and he compiled a list of 348 words that he felt were important for first-graders to recognize. He asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and to write a book using only those words. Spaulding challenged Geisel to “bring back a book children can’t put down”. Nine months later, Geisel completed The Cat in the Hat, using 236 of the words given to him       

Jack Daniels – Purpose, in being committed to the 10 commitments for the survival of mankind (although human flaws existed), he was a presence of compassion and  connectedness, showing  joy in all.

Dogs – All I have known have been saviors and saints, with challenges mixed in.

George Carlin – my take is that George is not likely to be in heaven because no one there would understand him, and not likely to be in hell because those souls would be laughing so hard with tears in their eyes that the flames would go out.

Hero – a person of courage.  We all have heroes because we get to define what courage is.


I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.

—–Nelson Mandela 

 Saints are sinners who kept on going.

—–Robert Louis Stevenson

Saint: A dead sinner, revised and edited.

—–Ambrose Bierce

We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself there would be no heroes.

—–Mark Twain’s autobiography

Morality binds people into groups. It gives us tribalism, it gives us genocide, war, and politics. But it also gives us heroism, altruism, and sainthood.  

–-Jonathan Haidt  a social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Six Wordies

Saint/sinner, good/bad, who decides?

Sainthood bestowed on the living burdens.

from Nancy:

And some reasons why all of these uplift and inspire me—


—Dr. Seuss, for so many books that center on fairness, fear of the “other”, like the Sneetches, Horton (“a person’s a person…”), and especially The Pale Green Pants With Nobody Inside Them (…”then those pants began to cry…and I began to see that I was just as strange to them as they were strange to me”)

—Rev. Billy, and his Stop Shopping Choir, for outrageous musical satire/activism on the consumer culture. (New song: Monsanto is the Devil, new book: The EARTH Wants YOU)

—Kurt Vonnegut, for his many novels, but esp. for Slaughterhouse Five, which told the story of our destruction of Dresden near the end of WWII. And esp. for such quotes as “I asked my pediatrician son Mark a while back what life was all about, since I didn’t have a clue. He said, “Dad, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” (Armageddon in Retrospect) And “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was Music.” (A Man Without a Country)

—Mark Twain, for his wit of course, but if he had written nothing other than Huck Finn, and The War Prayer, enough.


—Bill Moyers, for all the years of fine journalism he’s been unable to retire from, esp. for the interviews, and esp. the 3rd in a series, Moyers Journal: the Conversation Continues, in which I was reminded about:

—Jon Stewart, who insisted he was only a comic when Bill said Jon was doing real journalism (Well, say I and Bill, then the best kind of both). Which also led to more appreciation for the inspired, essential job people like Colbert, Oliver, Baldwin and other late night comic/ journalists are now doing.

—and Howard Zinn, for his heroically real People’s History of the United States, which should be required reading in every U.S. high school (and which renewed my admiration for Frederick Douglass, and MLK, among many others).

3—Other Heroes in the arts

—poet Wendell Berry, especially for The Mad Farmer Poems, and the M.F. Manifesto in particular, where among much sound instruction, we’re told to everyday do something that won’t compute.

—Mary Oliver, for all her many volumes of nature-loving poetry, and esp. for the recent collection of prose, Upstream.

—Pete Seeger, whose songs and banjo for so many years “surrounded hate and forced it to surrender”.

—Woody Guthrie, for anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” and many others that sing justice, and then the kids’ songs.

—African-American inventors of the blues, for that original gift and all the blues’ descendants—jazz, R&B, rock and roll, hiphop, and on.

4—Spirit Guides

—Iroquois/Haudenosaunee, for their Great Peace, Peacemaker legend, Condolence ceremony, and daily Thanks-giving Address to all beings. (The White Roots of Peace, by Paul Wallace)

—Dalai Lama, who says “My religion is kindness”.

—Pope Francis, for his fearlessly humane, wise example in a world that so needs it.

—Thich Nhat Hanh, for his many writings, from the wonderful Peace is Every Step from almost 30 years ago, to a recent book, Silence.

5—Group Heroes

YES! magazine, for its monthly inspiring good news

—Syracuse Cultural Workers, for its catalog/store, full of peaceful and ornery calendars, books, posters, bumperstickers, buttons, cards, shirts and more

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