I’m in a mammoth cathedral whose halls dwarf any concept of modern architecture, or some holy space, listening to Gregorian chants and choirs singing: men, women, children. I can see their faces up close with such intimacy and detail–the large pouched cheeks of an Italian man, his throat puffing out like a frog, producing the deep tones of an alto. A small child, harmonizing perfectly with him. It is a place, regardless of religious background, that one is in awe. One can forgive the problems and corruption of organized religion and find the goodness and purpose in faith or spirituality.
Airplanes are amazing; humans can fly while watching movies and accessing Wi-Fi. Emphasis on the flying part, because we are literally defying the limitations of our own biology by doing that. How freaking cool. These are my ever-so-eloquent thoughts as I sit staring out the window, watching the other planes dance a spiral in the approach to Heathrow; I’ve grown up in a family associated with planes and the airlines, and regardless of how much I fly, I am still very much in awe of these flying machines. The moments at dusk when you cannot tell which direction the sky is in. The descent through layers of clouds. The curve of the earth.
Just weeks after moving into a house for the first time, we had to take down a massive Sweet Gum tree that stoically stood in our front yard. It’s large branches stretched across the front of the house, providing shade and privacy. While previously, my sense of appreciation for the forest was tied beauty and ecosystem support, it was now tied to utility: cooling the house in the summer heat, shading the office, creating a sense of seclusion from the streets.
‘The Learning process is something you can incite, literally, incite, like a riot.’ This is what happened that year. We read and talked and disagreed, and the world, so very much world, began to shake inside us as we found our humanity in all this inhumanity, found empathy and compassion, found moral compasses, as we learned to hold history accountable, to hold the newspaper headlines accountable, to hold each other accountable. And all this in English class, not at home, not at church or temple or mosque, but from reading novels with Ms. W. In one year, she turned us into thinkers. I began to understand reading and writing as a revolution, thinking as being a profoundly active verb. I began to understand that a person writing quietly in a room might be burning down the world. And then rebuilding it, word by word, into something magnificent.” -Audre Lorde
It’s a damp, muggy, beautiful July morning in Charleston. I am doing yoga beneath the ancient oak tree that sits by my apartment. From my twisted angle, the sun flickers a honeyed-yellow light between the pieces of Spanish moss. I inhale slowly and close my eyes, forgetting the last of the moving boxes I have to pack. Imagining myself at the front of a high school classroom–finally achieving my purpose: making a difference. I love my college kids, and I am still so passionate about teaching them, but the mentality of the ivory tower drained my idealism within my teaching philosophy.
It’s 6:30 a.m. and I am standing in an open pasture. The grass, coated in dew, makes my journey out to its center all the more difficult in my damp sandals.
But regardless of difficulty, it is beautiful, and as I slide from side to side in attempt to keep my ankles from rolling, I cannot help but admire the peace of the mornings here. The earth coated in natural glitter, which reflects and dances as the summer breeze swims through. Outside of the morning doves cooing, there is a still silence in the air. In the distance, a black and white mass gazes in my direction, flicks her tail, and puts her head back down to graze. I approach slowly, put my hand out, and wait. She walks over, and presses her nose into my hand, her large nostrils inhaling deeply and breathing steam into my palm. I rest my head on hers for a moment, before we make the trek back to the barn to start our day.
If aliens, thousands of years from now, looked over the data we place on the internet each day–I think they would all agree upon the theory that the world ended in 2016.
“Look at all of those Facebook posts,” they would scoff empathetically at our misery.
“The tweets,” they would say. “They literally destroyed themselves from within.”
And there, within the reflection of us, will lay pessimism alongside fear, anger, and hatred. Gone will be our great inventions. Our ability to forget the shackles of our feet and fly. To break barriers and tear assumptions asunder. Oh no, we did nothing. We have no grace. Humans are barbarians. Cannibals.
I write this stricken with a tinge of guilt on my shoulder, wondering if I still can. Wondering if I should. And then ultimately realizing that the wondering is simply a manner of coming up with excuses not to.
“Don’t compose this sentence,” the backspace beckons. My finger reaches for the key. It’s impulse. You haven’t written anything in a while. You’re not a writer anymore. Probably not good enough.
The mind can be SUCH a jerk sometimes. So can whiteout. And the backspace key. And those really chalky erasers. And fights against the Arkham Knight in the Bat Mobile. Moral: lots of things are jerks.
Though despite my guilt, I write this in happiness and contentment. I’m starting to grow and snuggle into a career field I see myself pursuing for the long-haul. One that I am optimistic and passionate about. I am also in a place that allows me to be in nature, work with wildlife and horses again, and open up to the idealistic identity I thought I lost for a little while; though, I think I prefer the term under-construction as opposed to lost.
It’s been ages since I’ve written in this blog, or really written anything outside of a class syllabus. It’s been ages since I’ve poured my time, experiences, memories, and moments into something that was both professional and personal to me. Teaching, in many ways, can be personal, but it is also inundated in connections and social interactions. Teaching at this point, consumes most of my thoughts. How will my lesson plan go tomorrow? What creative activity can I have my kids do to emphasize a point? What do I want my kids to learn? How can I help those who need more assistance? Does this material make sense for multiple intelligences? How is this going to tie in later on? How can I make sure my students are learning at all? What do I need to grade? How can I grade fairly? These questions are never easily answered, and when they are, their answers change. I love dwelling on these things, in the space of ambivalence and creativity.
But I think I’ve gotten to the point where I need to take time to separate my life from my career–a concept that I think is foreign to most who are in or have recently finished grad school. And ideally, that’s what getting back to writing will help me do. Reflection is sometimes the best of teachers… and as an English and writing teacher, I feel like I should probably practice what I preach. So my goal, is that once a week, I will have a piece up on this blog again. It might be an article I’ve recently published, an interview, a reflection, a story, an idea, a blurb, a recipe, an independent clause. I can’t guarantee what it will be, but it will have words. Beautiful, meaningful, fulfilling words.*
*I’m not saying I write beautiful words, I’m saying words in-and-of-themselves are beautiful, and might actually be made less beautiful in the context of this blog (RIP words: thanks for being useful). But it’s still pretty mind-blowing to me that symbols can carry emotional meaning with them. Carl Sagan uses them real good.
The thing I love about most breads is that you can add whatever your little (or big?) heart desires. Here I used whole-grain flour, as I think it often compliments breads like banana and pumpkin by giving it a richer flavor. I also added honey, extra cinnamon, brown sugar, and apple sauce (substitute for butter/oil)…. and semi-sweet chocolate chips because it’s freaking chocolate.
There is an older gentleman who lives in my neighborhood. We normally cross each other’s path in the early morning–me, trying miserably to turn a morning run into a habitual action in attempt to stabilize my life; him, walking his gorgeous lanky German Shepard down the side walk. I don’t know who he is, what he does, or even his name. But each morning we make eye contact and nod our heads in greeting.
Do we hyphenate Snickerdoodle now (what up AP style changing up email all the time)? As much as I love grammar I don’t even care if we do or don’t now, because hyphenation doesn’t affect the taste of these grammatically and semantically perplexing cookies of deliciousness.
I will give you ten dollars if you can discover how these scrumptious cinnamon-ly soft cookies received their name, without using your Googling power. As I tell my students, in this context, Google is cheating.