How to be a teacher (nota bene)


Gratia plena for the gifts

to show, to share.

You must observe you are

the learner, the listener,

over and over

more than you are they who enter

a world – sharing people,

discomforted and

yearning. Listen to them,

hear their call, the voice

of all our selves.    


Be – with awareness of being

present in the here and now

allow eyes to join.

Listen and keep listening.

Welcome words of the wise;

guard against the self.

Guard against the pretension

that uplifts itself to inspire.

There are no know-it-all teachers

only hesitant beginners

growing in life, the teacher.


Welcome the begin agains.

Receive the moment’s surprise.

From the others the message;

not your own voice, slow and endless

learning to the one who teaches

be a teacher that grasped

always the begin again.

                                                                                                      ~ sonja s

~ an imitation of a poem by Wendell Berry



Retreat means to withdraw, to step outside of one’s normal routine, to linger – but to linger with intent.

A retreat was a gift this change of season.

This life must seek the gift, enter the holiness, accept the wholeness, and find its place in it.

Its mind must remember the snapshots, its heart must remember the cobwebs, so that at the clearing of the soul the woman befriends the child.

Scattered and spent across the seasons, the fruited seeds of desires and possibilities wait and want and wail. The offshoots must be brought together.

Who will know the thistles from the wheat?

The angst of desire brings a restlessness, a lying awake at night. And four o’clock in the morning brings a pilgrimage. A dozen pauses at the edge of life, stripping the self naked – a clearing for the fullness of possibilities in this world of time, a clearing for the possibility of fullness in this world of timelessness.

“If you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time.”

The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and this life not healed. But the season’s change brings the gift. The gift will seek this life, wholeness will enter and holiness will find its place in it.


A reflection on words written by Wendell Berry – What are people for?

Text from Matthew 13:30, The Message

new growth


I tended the neglected vegetable patch last week. Still wrapped in the aftermath of a summer’s holy days, I found home clay-cold, to-do lists long, and knuckle-down difficult. When the sun offered a sudden noon warmth my winter cold body took the blessing. The sweet scent of the jasmine unstifled the air as I dug into the soil, bare hands uprooting the dry and the neglect, open to receive.

Too many times before, and even more so of late, the tasks of hands tending, unearth heart and mind – yearning and seeking for a rhythm of life.  I found some seedlings waving small new leaves. How did they survive? Echoes of dreams, ideas, reflections … sown and watered …  in the wait of the growth it is easy for distractions to take over, for dryness and neglect to settle in … but somewhere, somehow, some do survive.

I raked the soil and removed stones, pieces of bark, and dead wood. I watered the dryness earth and planted again the seedlings – their small new leaves a healthy green. I hope for another chance, another bearable growth. I think about the distractions and the discomfort caused, and I’m grateful for the discomfort – it offers a new beginning.

I saw new growth on old wood. The place where the old growth ended and the new growth began left noticeable scars. A sealed past awakened for a tomorrow … and I’m grateful for the itchy scar, the healing dailiness of new beginnings.

A life in a day.

the cross of must and should


Just the other day a title, The Crossroads of Should and Must, grabbed my attention. A long lately it has been that the English modal verbs played havoc with my mind – in particular should and must. At this cross in the road I’ve been standing – rooted – taking no road.

Modal verbs are used to show likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation. Their functions range from possibility (may) to necessity (must) … for example, must developed after the strong obligation sense, whereas should developed after the weak obligation sense ... Thus said for the English tongue and pen. For my mother tongue, however, another cross of should and must appeared. With a grammar book in hand it’s easy to directly translate and pen the modal verbs. But, in every day conversation, Jan en Alleman (John and everyone) use one word for the two culprits – and that is the word “moet” (must).

At this crossroad I’ve been blaming myself for not being able to interpret some of life’s questions: Should I or must I? Do I have to or could I?  What do I have to? What should I? Might I rather want? Do I know what I want to? My mother tongue only told me one thing: I must.

But the grammar study forced me to ask – If Jan en Alleman, i.e. me, myself and I, out of rule and habit, use only the word must – could or might this use of language be partly responsible for the strong obligation sense that accompanies my every action? Where were all the possibilities hiding? Could I’ve been, have I been, carrying a double cross?

P1060053A not so simple grammar study quieted the havoc in my mind, and for the greater good, my soul. I’m letting go – letting myself off the super-ego should-and-must hook. Allowing myself the other possibilities reveal wants and needs. I’m slowly recognizing what I want to do – even if it’s done badly.

And now perhaps I’ll be able to ponder a few writers’ insights:

there are have to shoulds and choose to shoulds … shoulds and have to’s belong to someone else, wants belong to me… decisions are easily made when based on wishes rather than shoulds … shoulds produce a stable life but can deaden spontaneity … shoulds can rule one’s life …  eventually shoulds and abstract idealizations replaced wants and personal values… *

Dear reader, are you puzzled by should and must?

(I added a few thoughts for my mother tongue readers) …

… nou moet ek, hoekom moet ek? hare kloof tussen al die moete wat nie eintlik moete is nie … wil ek of wil ek nie. nee, ek moet… dan vra ek, hoekom moet ek, dan antwoord ek, ek weet nie, want in engels kan jy besluit tussen should, could, would, must. en ons kan nie. dis hoekom ons so strak, eng, pligsgetrou en bedonderd is… ons moet die heel tyd… en ons wil nie want ons weet nie wat ons wil nie…en wanneer ons weet wat ons wil word ons platgetrap deur deur hoewe, moere, ekskuus moete en moese – wat hare kry. en ons vertel onsself – ek MOET nou….en die woord MOET word so lank en deurdringend uitgespreek…soos iemand wat al badkamer toe moes gaan…of is dit wou gaan … wil wou. moet, moes, kan kon mens nou so vasgevang word in die moete van die self, die modale van die self? dat die wil nie kan of kon nie? maar kom ons eindig  – die moet is gebreek.

ok. ek weet dis nie perfekte skryf nie. ek’s nie perfek nie. en dis ok.

  • the thoughts were taken from a variety of books and articles I’ve read and not my own.

How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives


In the slumber of a season’s change, the lament of a past Lent, a 40 days to and fro mountain walk … in this space time rolled days, weeks and months over and into each other … and left me hiding, in furlough.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives … a life sentence bared by Annie Dillard caused a heels over my head brooding lately…

… the waking up to new blessed feeling glad morns battled against the storms of guilt-ridden nights … the habitual hammer hit this head twice too many times weakening the hand to write from the heart … but the more I hid from reality the more the pangs of a pulling force prodded, nudged – to drop the guilty feelings, to breathe in the present … that accepting the present, resting in the present reality, is to be the moment’s gift.

(how many momentary gifts lay unopened, unnoticed?)

So, here I am – trying to be true to a want to express myself with words …on connectedness, on relatedness, on resonance…  a (loch)ness with myself, with you dear reader, and with reality.

How I go through my days, is of course, how I go through my life

How I impoverish my days, is of course, how I impoverish my life

How I frivol away my days, is of course, how I frivol away my life

How I settle my days is, of course, how I settle my life

(what is reality now?)

Hiding, locked in set boundaries, in struggles between the ideal and the real, constantly in some kind of reaction to the present moment … I accept that the meaning of the word has an inherent rightness. Its meaning now is reality. And its unfolding meaning now is perfect. That life is unfolding … perfect in its Presence.

Autumn – a time for winding down

think I while the sun warm on my neck

and on the washing

invite to stretch out hands and

scratch the ears of a much neglected pup


the present

like a deer panteth for the water

accepting the soul’s disquiet

not blindly following, but trying to understand

releasing …

How I spend my days, is of course, how I spend my life

a reminder

of a gift moment by moment taken unconsciously


Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror

up to where you are bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,

here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes,

if it were always a fist or always stretched open,

you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence

is in every small contracting and expanding,

the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated

as birdwings.

~ Rumi

i have a friend suffering – do i understand the meaning of this word? no
i have a gentle friend,  he suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease

this poem is for him … in his presence i understand the meaning of presence

dear reader, i hope you too find your gift
to remember, and to share


A day, not long ago, I read

… I chose not to get my driver’s license … I walk every where. In walking I find freedom and creativity. Sometimes I find peace. I live in my head – except when I walk … I am not walking away from my head; I’m walking through the disconnect between head and body … I walk because I have to …

… and I felt the brushing of a slight disconnect between head and body … and wondered, am I thrown off-balance?

On that same not long ago day, I read

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

~ Lin Yutang

And I thought of past experiences and the future open full with possibilities… and wondered, am I conscious of this day?

Two seemingly disconnected readings. But a time glimpse of the past captured life’s ebb and flow; a seesawing between the easy and relaxed known, and the hard and excited unknown. The epitomes of my soul?

And I feel a brushing, a connect between head and body, a balance … and I hope to be able to hold gratefully, but also lightly; to be able to embrace but also let go… this new given moment.

~ s.s