The last day of April

Lest we forget, when April arrives, "with his shoures soote," I read poetry. Because it is the "cruellest month, breeding / lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / memory and desire..." I know I say that every year, but it seriously strikes me like clockwork: the strange and consuming desire to read poetry this glorious, lush, dynamic month.

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. 


HeidiAnn said…
Hi Heather! I surely do understand your points and your concerns about connection through technology, and yet I am grateful for technology because without it I would not have met you.
And without it, it I would not have the privilege of reading your words and seeing the pictures of your wonderful family and friends, and of watching your adorable daughters grow up even though I have not been able to meet them in person - yet.
And one more note: I was excited to recognize the book the kids are reading! "Rosie's Walk"? Love it - and this is coming from someone who has collected children's books for years, even though I have no kids of my own.
Lastly, I thank you for your blog, Facebook and Instagram posts because I enjoy them all very thoroughly, my dear.
Yes, very thoroughly, indeed.
kate rose said…
Hi Heather....for personal (and similar reasons to your sentiments) I stopped computer browsing for over a year now. Randomly today, I thought I would see if you were still blogging and I just want to say that it is a pleasure to read your words and see photographs of your delightful, growing daughters. You have a gift of writing and however you chose to do so, I encourage you to simply write. Best wishes with your teaching and much love from Devon, England, Kate Rose x
Donna said…
You are truly inspirational and every post you write makes my heart sing & my mind wander. From a frazzled friend in Sussex, England.
polly compost said…
feeling your remorse.

feeling your delving in,
uncovering more..

feeling the hustle of getting children ready for their caretakers and striving to excel at my passions.

beautiful post heather.
Norah said…
I love that you are a teacher now!! It´s a wonderful job! You are the right person for it!
Alicia P. said…
I've been wanting to comment on this for a week or so now, and, ironically, haven't had the time! Har. But . . . what I was thinking . . . what I frequently think here . . . is that you are writing poetry, here. The composition of photos, the compositions in the photos, the angles and perspectives in the photos and in your text . . . I always think this (and also think it of my friend Niina in Finland of the blog Souvenirs, whose blog reminds me of all of these things, too). I think these are poems for our age, ones that provide insight and glimpses of realities that both reflect and inspire our (my) own. I'm grateful for your efforts, and your talents, and your grace here, Heather. You have helped me find a vision for my own days more than once, and I'm just sincerely grateful that Moonshine Junkyard is written. Thank you. Xo.

(Also, suddenly, I can see the entire width of your photos. Yippee! For some reason they were always cut off on the right for me before!)
Alicia P. said…
Oh, and also, I wanted to say -- I know exactly what you mean about blogging. I've felt all the same concerns myself. Going past ten years now. Trippy.
Tera said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tera said…

I got a slide projector, working one, finally, and I saw some images for the first time, ever. Old images from my family's past. I always remember my mom saying,"I wish I had taken more pictures." My grandmothers said that, I have heard other grandmothers and mothers say that. So I feel grateful that photos are easy now, just need a cloud and still need money to print though. But I take full advantage of this technology with photos.

I go back and look at these photos on Flickr with August, just like my mom looked at photo books with me on her lap. These photos have also helped me keep a great, detailed baby book. I also have a baby journal.

My laptop broke last year and I never bought a replacement. So my blogging has almost ceased. But as a child I always wanted to be a DJ and broadcast, this fits into that little slot. I feel like a little am station in a tiny nook in this world broadcasting the poetry of my own little life. Nothing last forever, I blog less because it's from a phone but it could disappear or change... We are always in the good ole days.

Anonymous said…
Your blog is so achingly lovely and real and raw. I thank you from the bottom of my very toes and soul that you write and share here! Many times you have inspired me to think more deeply and to embrace life more fully. Thank you thank you thank you for your words....

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