This April was the first time I got to share my love of poetry with a class of college English students. Mostly they just stared at me, But a few of them got it; I could tell. "Much maddest is divinest sense," I told them. Don't worry if anyone thinks you're crazy. Read Thoreau and study ants. Read Mary Oliver and study grasshoppers. "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" I ask them, and I think they hear me; her words are not hard to understand. They are writing research papers about rebels. I guess I've made my point pretty clear. Oftentimes I leave class with thoughts racing through my mind, invigorated.
This April has been particularly dazzling because we've had thunderstorms. Real thunderstorms. Three evening displays in the last week alone, coming in just after dusk. I feel like I live in a different region; this stuff just doesn't happen here. Last Sunday when the girls were still awake we bundled up and went out under the patio cover to watch the jaggedy violet lightning bolts streaking sideways across the sky just beyond our oak tree. Polly would cling tighter to me when the thunder crashed, but we all looked up and out and went "AHHHH!"The sky was dark and light at once. The rain turned to hail and back to pouring rain. We've had gracious, greening, enlivening rain on and off all month, here in our land of little rain. It's been true spring.
We've had naked babies and splashing water this April, though, too. We've already had hot sun, sundresses, bare legs and barefeet and long warm evenings with screen doors only. We've had mosquitoes, cold beer, and picnics.
Also, we've had long frustrating afternoons where I try to read student papers and grade their quizzes before I have to leave at 5:30, which is the precise minute Darin walks in the door. Usually around 3 pm when I'm starting to panic and my girls are being needy, my dad walks through the back gate and saves the day. "Papa! You're here! Can you swing Polly? Can you hang out with them on the trampoline? Can you go fill this water bottle for them? I just need to focus!" And he does what I ask.
It's all so new to me and I work as I go. I figure it out and I think about what I'm going to do in class just hours before it happens; I plan it out and get my mind into it and try to figure out what they need. I never thought about the fact that teachers don't have some kind of lesson book that tells them everything they need to know and explain and do in class. I have not found a magical resource of composition activities appropriate and helpful for college students, along with texts they should tackle and pertinent lesson plans. I have to create my class as I go, completely from scratch. It's empowering but also nerve-wracking. The students are paying for their education, and I am being paid by the administration. I want to do right by everyone. I have to help them write better. I can't just rhapsodize about poetry all day.
Still, I am not serious. I am not dogged or determined or rigid by any stretch. I approach both my classes like I approach everything in life: a little bit capricious, but cheerful and confident. I try to be smart. I try to keep my intellectual brain turned on and my mama brain turned off, but really they are one. I have learned so much about young people. And yes, they are completely, sadly, utterly addicted to their phones.
There's too much I could say about that, so instead I'll say: poetry. You hear the phrase: be in the moment. Be here now. BE HERE NOW. That kind of rootedness really has so little to do with the moments that we find on IG, on snapchat, twitter, or facebook. Truly being here now is at odds with those presentations of the here and now, and yet, just like our journals and our scrapbooks and our all our documentation as memory keepers, we do it anyway, and we find more, newer ways to record our mundane details. Do these technological versions of record keeping take us away, more and more, from the real? I wonder that sometimes. In the old days, we immersed ourselves in collages in our journals, with pressed flowers, snippets of poems, drawings and prose. Hand written, time consuming, photographs from a film canister printed in three or four days by a processing department somewhere. You never know what you're going to get. I sometimes feel a massive shift in me. I am a person who fights against regret; I consider myself extremely adaptable, and yet i feel remorse. I miss the 90's. I miss leaving notes on my friends' cars with little sprigs of flowers, in the same parking lot where I now park my minivan to walk to a room where I will be the teacher. I miss not knowing what anyone was thinking, or who they were thinking about. I miss the mystery.
I am wary of connection through technology, and yet I've connected in ways I never dreamt possible. I guess, like my teaching, like mothering, it's a learning curve. There are always unexpected possibilities, and there are also ways that feel instinctively wrong. Sometimes I wonder if I should keep a public blog like this. I want to crawl into the sweet, simple past and be private: keep my memories in scrapbooks only, keep my family's names unknown. I wonder why I ever started this blog? I guess it coincided with my growing strictly-digital photography; I couldn't have all those pictures just sitting in folders on my computer. I needed to post them somewhere with their stories. This blog has been my record of my very messy, silly, sentimental life.
Poem Left in Sourdough Mountain Lookout
I the poet Gary Snyder
Stayed six weeks in fifty-three
On the ridge and on this rock
& saw what every Lookout sees,
Saw these mountains shift about
& end up on the ocean floor
Saw the wind and waters break
The branched deer, the Eagle's eye,
& when pray tell, shall Lookouts die?
I hope we can all look at the world with the eyes of a poet. I hope I can be a lookout without distraction, clear eyed and strong. I hope our brains can still focus (for generations to come) on the words and lines and pages of a book, a real true book that we hold in our hands, open and offering. I hope I will be broken open every April from now until my last.