September Sketchbookery

Happy September, everyone! Someone told me yesterday that September is the new January, which makes sense to me. New notebooks and pencils. New shoes. A new season on its way (hooray, Autumn!!!).  And if you’re a teacher like me, new classes with new students. A fresh new start!

This past summer I also plunged into a new hobby, which I look forward to continuing as a respite from long school days, adjuncting at night, the constant research and reading required of an English teacher, as well as those mountains of papers to grade:

sketching and watercoloring.

Thanks to Mary Ann Moss, over at Dispatch from LA, I splashed around with paints and water and a bunch of different inks and pens all summer long. Each morning I enjoyed another segment of her online course “Sketchbookery,” happily sketching and coloring spoons, shells, heirloom tomatoes, marbles, trees, toes (don’t ask).  Even poor Edith Piaf got a turn.  Letting loose under Mary Ann’s tutelage also reaffirmed a few lessons much more important than the accuracy of my fledgling artistry:

  1. Playing and having fun clears the head and feeds the soul. Play and have fun daily!
  2. Laugh at yourself.  Then laugh at yourself some more.
  3. It’s okay to make a mess. In fact, making a big splashy mess is quite fun.
  4. Color outside the lines. Unabashedly. Wildly. Frequently.
  5. Keep your eyes open to catch all those simple joys and beauties around you.

Repeat.

So off I go to begin the new school year with over 100 freshmen, sophomores, and seniors. I will be teaching a freshman course called Leadership, Honors American Literature to my sophomores, and Honors World Literature to the seniors. Lots of challenges, as well as moments to look forward to, ahead.  And lots of breaks to breathe, rest, and sketch and color it all.

I hope you also make lots of time for yourself this September to rest, play, and take some time to look around.

Here’s a peek at some of my sketchbookery:

IMG_2101 (2)
Enjoying my balcony garden as summer fades

IMG_2104

IMG_1776

IMG_E2027

IMG_2022

 

 

 

A Morning Walk, and Back to School I Go

My father has always been a man of ritual. Such constant structure did not always float my boat as I was growing up, especially as my own little wings began to blossom. Even to this day I work hard to strike a balance between routine and spontaneity, always being highly organized and prepared with a little more flying by the seat of my pants. Some days, for example, I wish I could just “wing it” in my classroom like a few of my teaching colleagues do or hit the road on a Friday afternoon for a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Woodstock. Alas…

One of my dad’s rituals that I still hold dear and practice now that I’m a teacher is taking a long walk on my last day of summer vacation. It feels like yesterday on a late August afternoon, around 4:30 like clockwork, that he would find me wherever I was, galloping around the backyard or lounging on the deck with my nose in a book, to take me on a walk, either around our property a couple of times or up to the park at the top of the hill.

I was a shy kid, an awkward teenager. A quiet introvert through and through, even with my dad, who worked and commuted to and fro the city more than I saw him. To be honest, there were moments in the high school and college years when I sort of wished we could just forgo the whole annual walk thing. I don’t feel like talking today. I barely know this guy. He doesn’t know me, that’s for sure. Maybe I have something better to do at 4:30. And then he would put his arm around my shoulder and start to talk as we walked along…about his own memories of school, the big questions he had struggled to answer, his faith, his parents, his wins, his losses, all the different roads he had walked along. And I gradually realized the thing I have come to cherish, especially in these winter years, when we both know there is a lot less road ahead than there used to be: we’re the same, he and I. He has known me all along.

And so I took my walk this morning in a nearby park to celebrate an amazing summer (albeit ridiculously sweltering) and to reflect upon the year of teaching that awaits me tomorrow morning. A blank slate, a snow-white piece of paper on which to start fresh and anew–perhaps the greatest gift of this vocation. I breathed in the woods, drank in the quiet, spotted a little friend sitting under a tree, walked and walked. And then, though I could imagine Henry David Thoreau and John Muir cringing from the big woods in the sky, I took my iPhone out of my pocket and texted my dad a photo of my morning path.

Here is a link (HuffPost) you may enjoy:  17 Literary Quotes about the Joy of Walking

IMG_2068

IMG_2078
A spotted friend staring me down
IMG_2081
A tiny swamp along the way…
IMG_2076
A fresh new school year ahead…