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

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

Beans and Rice, with a Poem

I recently discovered a new poem. One of the benefits of reading voraciously is that you are constantly learning, traveling, unearthing, sharing, exploring, questioning, wandering, growing, and discovering. And aren’t those some of the best bits of life? Some of the very actions that give us meaning and purpose?

Poet, performer, librettist, and professor Douglas Kearney read the poem in an online course I was taking (“Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop” via Coursera), and I immediately fell in love with its exquisite colors and concrete images, simple–though anything but.  I replayed Kearney’s reading of the poem several times that week and in so doing discovered another poet to enjoy and introduce to my students–Kearney himself.

And then I did the next obvious thing, the only possible choice….I cooked up a hot, steaming plate of beans and rice (tossing in cilantro, chunks of fresh garlic, and Sriracha for kicks) and devoured the delicious simplicity of the dish.

Enjoy this poem, and then go and cook up some beans and rice of your own to relish. It really doesn’t get much better, does it?

“Red Beans” by Victor Hernandez Cruz

Next  to white rice
it looks like coral
sitting next to snow
Hills of starch
border
The burnt sienna
of irony
Azusenas being chased by
the terra cotta feathers
of a rooster
There is a lava flow
through the smoking
white mounds
India red
spills on ivory
Ochre cannon balls
falling
next to blanc pebbles
Red beans and milk
make burgundy wine
Violet pouring
from the eggshell
tinge of the plate.

 

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Back to School…in Two Weeks!

Hello! I am enjoying a peaceful morning here, quiet except for the birds chirping and a distant lawnmower humming. Oh, and a quacking squirrel. Yes! I had no idea until yesterday that squirrels can make noise. I thought a wayward duck had lost its way onto my balcony, but it was a skinny little squirrel making all the racket. I am not sure if that means it is hurt, angry, or just wanting to chat. I will research.

I have been busy as a squirrel myself in the past couple of days, dusting off the syllabi, creating some new presentations in Google (I am loving their Slides as an alternative to PowerPoint), digging through my magic hat for fresher lesson plans…sometimes it’s hard with The Scarlet Letter or The Iliad, you know?

Mimi was in disbelief when she saw me getting back to work….That is the exact expression I will have on MY face when I hear those hundreds of high-schoolers entering the building on that first morning a couple of weeks from now.  Shock to the senses!

Mimi And so now, it’s busy busy busy. Lots to do before heading back, including….staring at this mountain of books remaining from my summer reading list and wondering what to read next. Sigh…life is good.

book pile