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20 August 2014

JUST DO IT






“...What you fear will not go away; it will take you into yourself and bless you and keep you. That's the world, and we all live there.” ― William Stafford


People often comment that they do not see how I get so much done. This morning I was asked how I managed to write a blog post every day for three months (something I did this past spring). What advice did I have for accomplishing such a task?

The best advice is always "just do it." And that's not helpful at all, is it? My favorite advice comes from Bill Stafford, of course. (I have no right to call William Stafford "Bill." I met him, of course, and I heard him speak, and I've read his work and watched the TV specials and I've written to prompts based on his poems. But I did not know him or know his son Kim Stafford, whom I have met many times.) Anyway...

Stafford got up early every morning. On alternate mornings he ran a set course, but every morning he lay down on the couch and wrote. He began by writing the date. Then he wrote a boring prose line, a view… Then he wrote a single sentence, an aphorism of some sort that would NOT become a poem. (This is mostly stalling.)

Then he wrote a poem. 

"Start your day on your terms," he advised. "Turn a question into a few words." Surrender to something simpler—what we see—everything is salvation. He advised "a light touch with your students, yourself, the navigation through." And his most famous advice when you cannot think of anything worthwhile to write: "Lower your standards and move on." 

This past April, I wrote a poem every day and posted it. I began with one or another of the poetry prompts from National Poetry Month—mine or one I found online—and then broke all the rules of the prompt writing it. I did this entirely on my computer, not allowing myself out of bed until the task was complete. (My stalling was to find and post the prompts first. I think the stalling mechanism is a critical less-mindful, first step. You can lie to yourself about all you really need to do while accomplishing those opening bits. I also often revised the following morning before posting the previous day's poem. That gave the poem a little time to gestate.)

You have to want to do it. And perhaps you really, really have to want to do it. The obligation is to yourself. Though I used my public blog and my (mostly imaginary) audience as incentive, my blog was all about my goals. The poems were something I wanted to write. I kept the promise to myself and to my rapidly dwindling readers. ("Dwindling" because Americans are afraid of poetry and few of even my more faithful readers read the poems. No one commented on them, not even when I had a good start—and a few of them were not terrible.) I posted and wrote something new every day. I felt enormous energy—the sort right there on the edge of panic. (And fear works as a motivator too.) There are about 30 poems and 60-some essays from the end of February to June. They kept me out of trouble, perhaps. 

When I stopped posting, I felt an emptiness rather than the relief and rest I'd hoped for. 

What I really need to do is set up the same sort of schedule for writing about my mother and what I know about age and grief. It's been on my mind and I have the title: "Loving my mother to death." 

In the mean time, my two fabric big pieces are back from the machine quilter (Astoria Quilting) and I have a new warp on my loom. School begins in earnest on Monday and my college writing classes are now 4-credit classes, plus the fiction class is another three so I can award 11 credits to my seniors who choose to take the series. I am still trying to make my course pack and syllabus work for WR 121 as a four-credit class that includes the Senior Research Paper required for graduation. 

If you are accustomed to working with very long pieces, grand pieces but want to write something new each day, adjust to that goal. Perhaps something shorter? Something easier? But more of it? I always set a goal for myself that I am certain I can manage. (Though once in a while I'm wrong about that, I find that's usually because I didn't really want to do it.) I will lie to myself: Write again today to finish this, even though you wrote yesterday, I will tell myself. Just do this much and you can stop, I reason. And then, write three days in a row. Then, write every day for a week. And then, Well, you could do a month, couldn't you? It goes like that. Posting the work helped and I cross-posted on FB where I had people click "like" and sometimes comment, and that helped me too.

(I used to lie to myself about my running too—Just a short run, a couple of miles—Oh, just a little further… and further… Well, now you might as well run all the way home.)

Public exposure is a strong motivator. The potential for public humiliation can push me past doing nothing. But really, it's the promise to myself and the sense that I can prove it here—that's the trick that worked for me. 

In fact, posting on my blog and FB might be the way to go for my nonfiction project I've been avoiding. Hmmm… that would commit me, for sure. I was teaching at the time last spring during my diligent posting, just as I was both running and teaching full time when I worked on my MFA. Perhaps contrary to Stafford's example, I have found that sometimes the best way to get busy on a project is not having enough time to do it.  

TOP: The "Flamingo" quilt is classic self-deception. This was supposed to be a super-simple twin-sized batik quilt but as I worked on it turned into something a bit more—larger and more complicated than I'd "intended".

18 August 2014

VEGAN 4-LAYER CHOCOLATE CAKE

Our oldest son is vegan and so was his birthday cake. By request: 

4-LAYER VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE for ALAN
This is the best vegan chocolate cake I’ve managed so far. The cake is impressively tall, dark, and moist. (You were expecting “handsome”, weren’t you? Well, it’s that too.) Though I find the cake itself is relatively tasteless compared to the buttercream, it is very tender and the brush with Irish Whiskey makes a huge difference. We wanted to licked the bowl with the buttercream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 7” X 3” springform baking pans with vegan margarine and parchment in bottom, then oil again + dust with flour

2 c. + 2 T. whole wheat pastry flour 
1 1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt (I think 1 t. next time?)
Whisk together all of the dry ingredients, set aside.

1 1/2 c. lo-fat coconut milk
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. strong brewed coffee
2/3 c. melted coconut oil
2 t. pure vanilla extract
Add the rest of wet mixture ingredients and beat until JUST blended. (Next time, reduce applesauce to 1 cup and add 1/4 cup Irish whiskey)

Fill pans 3/4 full and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. This takes longer than you might expect—allow an hour or more. Cool completely and cut each in half horizontally, splitting to make four layers.

vegan buttercream:
2/3 c. vegan margarine, softened
2 1/2-3 c. powdered sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
6 ozs. dairy-free semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 T. Irish whiskey
1-2 T. coconut milk
Beat together all ingredients until light and fluffy, adding the powdered sugar in small amounts until you reach your desired consistency and sweetness. If it becomes too thick, add more coconut milk. If it's too thin, add more cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Beating for a few minutes will create a light, fluffy frosting. This makes enough buttercream to put between each layer + sides and top, but I prefer to leave the top plain and dust it with cocoa powder because the cake itself has an interesting texture.

Brush cut sides lightly with Irish whiskey. Put first layer on plate, spread buttercream, repeat twice, settle the last layer, leaving it plain on top. Spread buttercream around sides of cake and dust the top with cocoa powder.


Serve garnished with leaves and perhaps a scoop of dairy-free ice cream. 

NOTE: I use all organic ingredients, except for the the whiskey.

14 August 2014

THE TRUTH ABOUT TEACHING


It's the middle of August and this morning I discovered that Season 5 of Parenthood is available On Demand through my cable company. It's even free. So I've been watching while I wind a warp for my next weaving project, a risky combination of smokey colors that might end up glorious or merely muddy. I'm winding a long warp of three hundred yarn threads of eight yards each while enjoying the Braverman clan. (Hooray for happy endings!) Kristina Braverman is running for mayor in the show, hoping to fix Berkeley schools that are variously described as a mess and criminal and so forth. 

So I am watching and thinking about my goals for the school year that is coming on fast, and more than a little worried about classes I have that are nearing 40 students. I'm hopeful that those numbers will shake down, but it seems likely that I will have mostly big classes this year since I teach the entire junior class and a large group of seniors for two terms as well. I'll have three terms with over one hundred students each term. I worry a little about that because, strange as it might sound, my struggle to remember names is right up there with being a bad speller in terms of personal flaws that impact my teaching. 

I've printed off record sheets that have the names and photos of my future students. I've studied the photos, but I'm not hopeful it will help me remember. I've been watching Parenthood for almost four hours this afternoon and I love the show, but I still had to look up Kristina Braverman's name in Wikipedia because I couldn't remember her name. 

So. I'm an English teacher who is not naturally a strong speller and who can't remember the names of her students until halfway through the school year. That's a fact. On the other hand, I know how to check my spelling and I get to know my student's character long before I know their names. 

Getting to know my students is the best part of teaching. That's the truth. I don't know any good teacher who has retired and not looked, quite distinctly, a decade younger within a few months of leaving the profession. My dentist assures me that all his teacher patients have stress damage to their teeth. I also don't know a good teacher who, once retired, doesn't miss students. That's the truth. We love our students. 

We also work hard. Most of us work hard all the time. Not just forty hours a week—everyone knows that teaching isn't a 9-5 job. We work fifty or sixty hours during the week. We work on weekends scoring papers and designing lessons and when we read the newspaper or a novel or a good essay online, we're thinking about our students. I know teachers who takes classes at their own expense, who read YA novels all summer, who take students on field trips, and who plan curriculum—all while they are on vacation. And the honest truth is, that almost always we are enjoying every minute of that time. I know I do. 

Teachers who aren't having fun are among the 40-50% who leave the profession within five years of beginning teaching. 

The ones who leave never get the memo—must love students, must enjoy working hard, and must believe education is the most important thing in the world. 

When I first decided that instead of relying on selling my art I would teach, my reasons were naive. I knew I was good at teaching, or at least that I wanted to be good at teaching. And I thought education was the most important thing in the world. But I was scared about full time work—and that's pretty naive since I'd worked my way through college, and though that never meant a forty hour a week job, it did mean a half time job on top of going to school full time and showing dogs on weekends. I was young. I hardly noticed how hard I worked. 

What I missed about my future profession was the part in the memo about love. I didn't know about that. I didn't anticipate it. It blind-sided me. I didn't know how much I would love what I do, how thinking about teaching, even as I type this, can make me choke and tear right up. 

That's the truth. 

There's a lot coming up in education: less money for teachers, poorer students who need a lot of support accessing technology and time and faith in themselves, homework that I complete along with my students, new State of Oregon requirements, new tests, new schedules. Paperwork. Forms. Meetings. It's a lot to wrestle with. I look forward to working with my students, but not to the rest of it. I am glad to leave all the busywork behind for the summer. 

I worked on visual projects this summer: piecing quilt tops and weaving and hanging out with my husband and walking the beach every morning, but there was the other work I geared to do just for myself, that I didn't get done this summer. I didn't have a book accepted for publication, I didn't revise poems, or put together a nonfiction proposal. 

A former student cheered me up the other day about how even I hadn't been doing any personal writing this summer, not even blog posts, "It's good to take a break from one creative outlet." He assured me, "It sounds like you haven't lost your rhythm, you've merely changed your rhythm," and, "An essay a day sounds superfluous. What on earth did you write about?" 

Yeah, what was that about? I needed to prove something maybe, and as the year wound down and became more and more stressful, I looked for something beyond teaching. My blog posts usually came about like this: I woke up at 5am and wrote about something I'd read the day before. I argued or agreed, gathered information, looked for supporting evidence, pursued objectivity, and tried to play fair with an issue. That's what I did every single morning for three months. I looked for things to get excited about and then I shared my excitement. 

It's the middle of August and my students won't be in my classroom till September, but in some ways I have never left. I've worked off and on all summer to figure out how to be as demanding as I possibly can be of my students without killing any of us along the way. They are better than they know, and it's my job to help them understand what they are capable of. I am weary of hearing how bad our school are. I am sick and tired of it because I know that what's going wrong isn't about schools but a sickness in our society that allows very few to thrive and the families of most of my students must struggle. 

I'd like to prove to my students that that can do more than they think, that they can think more deeply than they know, and that what they know matters. 

I've finished winding my warp and tomorrow I'll start putting it on the loom, my second warp of the summer. On Monday morning, first thing, I get to pick up the two quilts I pieced this summer from Linda Pinkstaff, who machine quilted them for me. I'll get the binding on quick enough. But also on Monday I am back at school meeting with my department. 

We have a lot to talk about. 

05 August 2014

CALIFORNIFICATION?


Hello Matt Love,

I am writing in response to your post about the proposed smoking ban on Oregon Beaches, specifically your the-sky-is-falling warning about where this might lead: 

"Mark my words, this is just the beginning of the Southern Californication, Sanitization and Babysitting of Oregon’s ocean beaches. Tobacco products first, then: no campfires (fire hazard); no Frisbees (collision possibility); no kites (visual pollution); no driftwood fort building (too dangerous); no dogs (feces and risk of attacks); no alcohol (potential for mayhem); no horses: no trysts in the dunes; no weddings without costly permits; The Moda-sponsored Oswald West State Park; more law enforcement to uphold the ban; additional fees, fees, fees. 

"I do not deny that cigarette butts on the beach present a substantive ecological problem, although in 17 years of living here I have never seen a single person discard a cigarette butt on a beach.  (While I see drivers and boaters toss butts out their windows and overboard all the time.) Moreover, I think in all that time, I’ve maybe seen a couple people actually smoke (tobacco) on the beach."

Since you have taken the time to establish your credentials, I will begin with mine. I was born in Oregon and moved back here to live in the family beach house after college and my husband and I have raised our children here. They are the sixth generation of my family who have lived here on the Oregon coast. We could not afford to live here if the house hadn't been in the family for more than a hundred years. We walk the beach daily, and we pay attention. 

My father and my father in law, not to mention five neighbors have died from lung cancer. My husband and I have never smoked. 

I teach high school and college English in Seaside, Oregon. My MFA in writing is from Pacific University.

tobacco products? let them become illegal everywhere and my poor students (because it is the young and poor demographic in the NW who begin smoking) will suffer less from the health and financial impact of tobacco.

campfires? beach and camp fires are banned during periods of high fire danger... nevertheless a nonresident built a fire 18" from the hedge separating his yard from the ocean and my house, in August, and then went indoors to his party. I had to train a hose on his sliding glass doors for five minutes before he noticed, but he assured me he was "watching" his fire… tourists do not have the advantage that my husband and I do of choosing an evening without wind for a beach fire; they are here for three days or a week, and they light huge camp fires on the beach despite the stiff winds and then find it's not comfortable in the cold so they go off and leave it burning… Do you need more examples? How about the weekend visitor who built a tower of small to full size drift logs a dozen feet high and despite my elderly neighbor begging him not to light it, he torched the pile, and then, of course, got bored after fifteen minutes and left it to burn for hours unattended. Locals took turns standing by to ensure it didn't get out of hand. AND he burned a summer's worth of beach firewood in one day… I really could go on for days about this one.

frisbees and kites? I've been hit more than once and so has my house, but I still defend their use.

driftwood forts and dogs? both can be dangerous and common sense should prevail. Dogs are required to be on leash in many places, and we build our "fort" in front of our house and clear path through the rocks every year. But our dog has been bitten several times by loose dogs owned by visitors and we keep her leashed and out of the way of visiting dogs. 

drinking alcohol? I've always thought it was illegal on most of the coast to drink on the beach. [It's not.] Though my husband and I have had the occasional glass of wine on the beach, we don't appreciate visitors leaving beer cans all over the shore, especially when they are under-aged. 

horses on the sand? Sadly, horses are already banned from my beach (and many others). So are motor vehicles in many areas, for which I am grateful. 

trysts in the dunes? seriously? You think that's okay now to have sex in a public place? Is that what you mean? Sure, people do it, but it's probably not legal and it's probably not wise.

beach weddings? There is already a fee for park weddings, though I believe you could have one in front of my house for free. 

private sponsorship? I agree, it is a monster, but that's something we seem already to be fighting across our nation as we increasingly value private profit over public power in our country.

rare smokers on beach? "Rare"? Really? I have seen many people smoke on the beach and discarded butts are not rare, though not as common as bits of plastic junk. I live here. I have seen it all. 

Perhaps you don't think the proposed legislation goes far enough and since you complain it fails to address other issues, such as butts tossed off boats and from vehicles? Who's getting all legislative now? Putting more trash receptacles along the coast fails to address the reality of what smokers do with their butts. My dad, who was a devoted hiker, used to pack out butts for miles, but I guess I don't know many smokers who will carry butts twenty feet. 

More annoying than smoke smell from smokers on the beach, according to my husband, is the people who smoke other places and the scent comes to us on the beach while we walk early in the morning to avoid the visiting crowds. But smokers do not smell their own stink and have no idea how annoying it is for the majority who can. 

But I guess I am still not sure why you oppose this legislation. Can't enforce it? Is your quarrel with the legislation or the fact that it doesn't go far enough? Do we legalize murder since we can't seem to stop it? Do we legalize burglary until we get robbery under control? Perhaps we agree: let's address it all. Let's just ban the use of tobacco in our state. How about that? I think we'd be ahead of the curve on that one.

I find your post strangely inconsistent and out of touch with Oregon values. Oregon communities have pioneered deposit bottles and bans on plastic bags and many other forward-thinking ideas. Banning tobacco on the beach isn't a Californification, it's common sense. It's a classic Oregonianism. Legislation is the tradeoff for making all our coastline accessible to the public. My conservative grandmother was horrified when the law passed, claiming "the public will make a mess of it," and perhaps she was right. But I have never thought so, not even when I see people making a mess in front of the house my family has lived in for 100 years. 

My students who work in businesses are completely frustrated by tourists asking "How do you get to the beach." I have to explain that Oregon offers access to more shoreline than all the other lower forty-eight put together. That's one reason I have always been proud of Oregon's public shoreline. It seems to me the right thing to do.  

For myself, I would go a lot further in controlling use of public beaches. I think that when you pass someone on the beach and they smile and say "Good morning" you ought to respond in kind. I think the use of headphones and other electronic devices should be banned from public places all together. If you are walking the beach you should pay attention because it's glorious. You should notice. (And no one should smoke. We all have people who will eventually grieve if we do.)

I guess it's a good thing I'm not in charge either. 

19 June 2014

RUNNERS' HIGH

for Joe [an old essay, updated & posted because he asked]

Whatever they told you, this is what I know about runner’s high.  It happens for different people at different times, and it’s more than something runners feel.  It’s the same rush of overwhelming satisfaction that a writer feels when he finally gets the story right, the same as the painter when the brushwork reflects the vision she held in her mind at the start, like when someone you adore calls you at the end of a hard day, and pretty close to watching your children laugh in a playground.  It’s glory, it’s a gift.  After twenty years, I know runner's high is more than the satisfaction of a job well done, the unconscious pay back for effort and control and for hard, hard work.  I know you have to earn it.  

At the beginning I knew nothing.  Twenty years ago I could not run a full block without panting.  I was middle aged and out of shape.  I had to take it slow.  But as soon as people learned I was running I began hearing about runner’s high.  It was supposed to be an endorphin rush, an intoxicating sensation of well being, something runners felt every time, or maybe you only felt it sometimes, or once you’re in shape, or maybe it’s a phantom, an illusion, an invention of runners.  I heard all kinds of stories about what I was supposed to feel once I’d run enough.  And I wasn’t getting it.  What I felt was out of breath, odd twinges here and there, and tired even though my muscles were beginning to feel firm even when I relaxed on the couch.  Shelley Reece, a poet I know, told me I would feel runner’s high when I could run a mile.  I increased my runs very gradually and had built up to about three quarters of a mile when Shelley told me that.  

When I could run a full mile and felt nothing special except strength and optimism, I thought maybe all that talk about endorphins was just one of those stories after all.  And then I hit my stride, I achieved condition and made the stretch to over two miles.  I ran to the end of the beach and most of the way home and arrived triumphant and glowing, blowing air, wisps of hair stuck to my forehead, my running clothes stained with sweat.  Nothing hurt, but I didn’t think it was runner’s high.  For the rest of the summer I had a great time increasing my distance gradually to six miles.  I found my pace and pushed for distance, paid attention to the placement of my feet, the angle of my head, the use of my arms.  I counted breaths and relaxed the muscles I wasn’t using.  The ocean breeze brushed my skin, damp and chill like a lick of the air brushing the tiny hairs backwards.  I focused my attention deliberately on relaxing the tension in my fingers, dropping my shoulders, pushing out just that little bit further with each stride.  I watched for birds and and surf and I learned to bind my hair tightly to my head so it wouldn’t slap the back of my neck.  It felt terrific to be out and running, but intoxication wasn’t part of the pay off. 

In the fall I began running with the local high school cross country team and found that teenagers never talk about runner’s high.  Some of these kids were in their fourth year of cross country, had trained all summer, and would complete their season at the State meet, a few had been too busy working all summer or were new to the sport.  I had the disadvantage of thirty extra years and the advantage of a summer of hard training.  My endurance was better than most, but my cross training and hill work were weak.  I’d been running on the flat wet sand in front of my house all summer, and I could go the distance, but the games the team played chasing Frisbees and chasing over rolling ground wore me out.  I came home after practice, my legs heavy as lead, my brain blurry from exhaustion, fell into bed early each night, and dropped fifteen pounds in the first nine weeks of the season.  Still, I was proud of my conditioning and  I was looking for a challenge.    

I decided to participate in a community run organized by the local health club.  Five miles through town, up to Ecola Park and back to the health club.  The other runners were adults, mostly male, mostly taller and younger than me.  The morning was chill and gray, bright under high clouds, a light wind playing the scent of the ocean across my face.  I was nervous, wriggling my toes inside my shoes, readjusting the ties, and tugging at my stretchy running gear.  I didn’t want to look foolish.  But this was not a race and I didn’t need to prove anything on this “fun run”.  Everyone was on their own, no one was keeping time.  A dozen of us hopped around and stretched while the organizers described the route before we headed off.  We began on the beach along the tideline, my favorite footing, reliable and forgiving.  During the first mile I ran carefully past the familiar early stabs in my right shin until I was completely comfortable, striving to run light with little sound.  “Quiet feet are happy feet,” said a varsity member of the high school team I had been running with for weeks by then.  

When the route turned back into town I struggled through the loose dry sand, swung my arms wide, and cursed the footing, but soon we crossed to stable, if harder, pavement.  Nearly two miles into our run we headed up hill onto the Ecola Park road, a steep incline which wound through trees high above the town, and abruptly it began to rain.  Over the sound of my own breathing I could hear water dripping from branch to branch, the patter of drops on patches of roadway open to the sky.  The wet brought up the smell of hemlock and spruce needles, the final sweet hurrah of blackberries dropping from the vine.  I listened for the distant thunder of the sea, but all the sound was the rain and my own body working.  I had to pause the rhythm of my breath in order to swallow, breathe deeply afterward to make up the lost oxygen.  On the wet sand at the beginning of the run, the sound of my feet had been muffled, but now on the pavement under the trees my heels struck with a sharp clunk, a faint grit as I rolled my foot off the tips of my toes.  My shins did not hurt and I tried to keep my feet quick.  I remembered to drop my shoulders against increasing fatigue, but though I had already stripped off my jacket, even as the chill autumn rain became a downpour, I was working hard enough to stay warm.  

Shortly before reaching the official entrance to the park at the top of the hill, we found the three mile turnaround marker and I reached out and tagged the rough bark with my cold fingers.  “It’s here!” I shouted to the runner a hundred yards behind me.  I grinned because I knew most of the next mile would be downhill.  I had been keeping pace with a man who was close to my age, and he had been a good motivator to me to keep up my pace.  Ahead of him for most of the run uphill, I had decided I wanted to keep it that way.  Nothing hurt, everything was working.  I was feeling the workout, not so much for the distance but for the challenging incline, but I felt strong, and when I broke out of the trees near the bottom of the hill, just before coming in sight of town, I realized two things:  the rain was a full-bore storm, blowing like crazy, rain so thick I could hardly see where I was running, and I was laughing like a crazy person!  I felt great and I knew, This is it!  runner’s high!  I’ve got it!  I was still tired and my fingers were stiffening from the bite in the air.  I was breathing like a cart horse and my feet weren’t quiet any more.  I was running in huge strides down the center of the road while every sensible person had found shelter to wait out the weather, and absolutely none of that mattered!  If anything hurt, I wasn’t noticing.  I grinned for the rest of the run, thudding across earth trails to clack on pavement and back to trails, increasing speed as I went.  When I arrived at the end of my run, I bent at the waist and breathed twice deeply before turning my flushed face to my husband.  He reached his arm around my back and I felt the heat of his warm arms around me, his voice asking if I was okay, and I laughed with my overwhelming feeling of joy, just like I did on my wedding day.  

That gift of bliss and absolute, intoxicating well being happens for me sometime after thirty minutes of very hard work.  That’s when I catch myself grinning.  I can’t help myself.  Glee rushes around behind my eyes and ripples all the way down to my toes.  Usually I’m not anticipating that because I’ve focused on what I’m doing, monitoring my pace, the way I’m setting my feet, using my arms.  And then it happens.  I’m grinning like a fool.  I might be near the end of a workout or nearer the beginning, but I feel it.  It is real.  

I don’t know exactly what runner’s high is, I don’t even care.  But I guarantee you that when it happens for you, you’ll have earned it.  

31 May 2014

TAKING A BREAK

It's possible that I will become restless in a couple of weeks and begin posting regularly again, but that is not my intention. I have posted daily for three months and it's time to do something else. 



Perhaps I will be back in September. In the mean time, thank you for reading. 

30 May 2014

MY WEIRDNESS


My weirdness

I believe deep down that I should not step on cracks, even though my mother's back was broken long ago and I had nothing to do with it. I only held her hand for hours while she was dying. I have a secret confidence that life will balance itself out despite the reality that it never does and some people suffer too much and others, I fear, will not suffer enough to teach them a damned thing. Suffering, however, does not make us stronger or in any way better and I wish no one harm. That is the ultimate cruelty, to wish suffering on another, so I amend my previous concern about those who do not "suffer enough." We all have too much and most of us soldier on anyway, though hobbling and sore from the effort. 

I believe if I fail to make time to create something, I will succumb to madness. Touching with my hands the wool and cloth, these keys under my fingers; designing plans and imagining new lessons for my students—making new things—is necessary. The making of things is essential to my mental health. No one will convince me otherwise. Without creation, I would fall prey to sadness and depression, and a lifelong struggle to be a better person would die. I would become the other thing: the whining, self-absorbed, depressed, and useless artifact. 

I would never collar an alligator or eat raw chicken or expect someone to take my place… though for this latter I am occasionally grateful when it happens. 

It is past dawn and the birds sing. The ocean drags its tongue across our sand and rocky shore. Though my students sometimes behave as if their education were a competitive sport, I know better. It's my job to teach them. 

I believe teaching keeps me moving. 

ABOVE: I know nothing about Andréa Balt. If she's a great writer or philosopher, I'm thankful to have found her, but even if she's no one I would like to know, I still thank her for the words on the meme above. It is close to my current birthday wish. I also thank Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio for their poetry book, The Poet's Companion, which is my inspiration to keep going at this time of the year. Two more weeks...

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