Thursday, May 31, 2012

The best gift

This past year I made a private goal to really reconnect to my students in a meaningful way. It's so easy as a teacher to let all the administrative "stuff" get to you - to get in the way of why you took the job in the first place. It's easy to get absorbed into a vortex of emails and committees. This year, my goal was to leave that behind each time I walked through the classroom door. I can honestly say, that this year has been one of my most rewarding.

A week ago, as I was plowing through the stack of paperwork in my box, I came across this book - it was a gift from a student with the lovely quote below. It immediately made me stop, took me out of my anxiety and I took a moment to smile. That smile carried me through the rest of the day and is with me now as I remember that feeling.

"What is the way to look at a flower so that I can make the most of it for my art?" "We should master the art of stopping in order to really be with our friend and with the flower."
Thich Nhat Hanh. from his book Peace is Every Step, The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.

What I especially loved, was that the book was her copy, it had her marks and felt used and loved. Too often we think we need to give something new - but it was the sense of use and history that made this gift truly special.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Meditations on work

Hardly anyone sweeps their own driveway anymore. I do, but it's probably because we're cheap. At this time of year there's more work because we planted a Jacaranda 15 years ago. Every time I sweep I'm reminded of my neighbor across the street, Elizabeth, who warned me not to plant this tree - "they're too messy, too much work, get rid of it now."

When we first moved to this block, Elizabeth was in her 90's and smoked like a chimney. Every day she took 2 long walks with Missy, a dog she'd found abandoned in an alley. You could tell she'd had a hard life. She'd raised 3 children on her own in post-war Germany, pulling a pram up five floors each day. I didn't ask about her politics.

Over the years she'd slowly covered every inch of the property with concrete. The front "yard" reminded me of a miniature golf course...I was dying to play through. In the backyard, she had about 50 pinwheels and green concrete. On one side of her was Alan, a very uptight jeweler who complained about the pinwheel noise. There've been sightings of him sneaking in to oil the pinwheels. On the other side was Hap, an old guy who peed off his front porch on a regular basis.

Anyway, she was right, that Jacaranda is messy as hell, but I still love watching the purple cloud-like flowers rain down on my newly swept sidewalk.

I think there's a line in the sand somewhere - where we decide if we're going to keep sweeping, or are we going to just cover everything in concrete.