She’s not homeless today. She has a one-room place and a landlord who notices if she uses more water. She’s on her usual corner Encouraging her cornermates with kind words chiding them lovingly about not doing their part to pick up their trash. Today is a few weeks after the cop ticketed her For “aggressive panhandling” as she leaned on her walker at the corner and told her she should just go and die. Today her place seems big and empty and hers It’s months since she opened her home to her corner-mates Four women and a cat in one … Continue reading She
Today’s journal prompt was about the ways in which we are smarter than animals, and the ways in which they are smarter than us. Here are some results from my 7th and 8th graders: WAYS HUMANS ARE SMARTER: “Better technology.” “Complicated buildings.” “Written language.” WAYS ANIMALS ARE SMARTER: “Animals don’t judge each other.” “My dog knows what I’m saying when I ask him to take a walk. But I don’t know what he is saying when he is barking. Maybe we just don’t understand their language.” “One thing that is better about animals than humans is disagreements; humans fight and … Continue reading are humans smarter than animals?
I teach middle school, y’all. These kids are full of energy and potential action; they need to be actively taught how to deal with life’s travails, not taught to avoid all discussion of the Big Issues like religion and politics, as my generation was. The way to do this is NOT to show them footage of horrifying things and shame them for not caring enough. (I learned this the hard way). It is to give them ways to engage with tough information, then show them ways to direct their frustrations and energies in constructive rather than chaotic ways. Karneval/Fastnacht in … Continue reading Rosenmontag; Art as Protest
from facebook, February 15, 2017 After decades of struggle with depression, I have spent the past year coming into a sense of personal peace. I felt for many years that I was standing on a tiny, shrinking island of safety in a boiling tar pit of nothingness. I was unconsciously holding onto my privileged, unrealistic delusions from childhood, and the cognitive dissonance was destroying me. I was trying to escape from everything and everyone, thinking that if I could just stop the stressors, I could be safe from the Nothing. One beautiful day last spring I took a long lunch … Continue reading The Nothing.
In an episode of the Simpsons, Lisa is trying to figure out why the bully, Francine, attacks some victims and ignores others. Through a series of experiments she finds that Francine does, in fact, smell fear, and then attacks her nerdy prey as a hawk would. As a middle school teacher, I can attest to the truth of this. Bullies can smell fear like sharks smell blood in the water. Bullies are needy humans; what they need, first and foremost, a sense of self-worth, so they don’t have to suck the blood of others to get it. I can sniff … Continue reading “I smell you.” Meditations on the Simpsons and True Detective.
March 2, 2019 some of my students were calling each other ghetto yesterday a flow of words coming through the door scrutinizing hair and clothing for signs of poverty then we watched Lion , and they saw the ghettos of Calcutta they asked why people washing clothes in the river why that boy wore the same thing every day and I told them how so many people don’t have running water hundreds of people bathing, pooping, washing clothes, all in that same river and my students’ flow of words slowed. ***** When I got home the water was out workers digging through … Continue reading taking water for granted
March 1, 2019 Your attention is valuable. Yes, you. There is someone in your life today who would really value your listening ear or undistracted eye; someone you can learn from. I met an interesting older gentleman today at the coffee shop. He talked of his mother, who he calls a queen of Kinloch. She died sixteen years ago. He was wearing a warm hat and nice glasses. He is gay. He is diabetic and has a number of other ailments. He showed me his medications in his backpack. He said that the doctor said he needed to take better … Continue reading People need to be seen and heard, y’all
There is a relationship between written words and fossilization. It is taxidermy of an idea. Words that have ossified can lose their meaning. Words work best when spoken and heard directly. They carry more of the original meaning. We all know about the game of telephone, which ends up with wild misinterpretations of the original. It is so, to a lesser extent, with almost everything people ever say or write. You could also liken it to making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy; or of a cassette. It eventually gets blurry. We all have had misunderstandings over text … Continue reading Words are like fossils
September 1979 My little birdies cheep so soft that no one else can hear them. They live in a box under my dresser, and when I get them out sometimes there are four but today there are five. I am holding them so carefully so nothing can hurt them while I am checking on them. Rusty comes in and sees me sitting on the carpet by my dresser so he knows what I am doing and he grabs my hands and claps them together hard and says “ you smooshed them!” But I said “Those are the ROBOT birdies you … Continue reading Robot Birdies and Shapeshifting Buzzards
Chapter 1. (novel in progress) Misha examined herself in the looking-glass, frustrated. Her cheekbones were too long and bony, like the rest of her. The powder could not quite cover up her sun-damage. More than ever, she felt like her face was not her own. Misha was fourteen today; the Passing Ceremony would happen to her. She was so grateful Karenina was there to help her get ready. Even though Karenina had to manage all the girls, Misha felt that the kindness in Karenina’s hands was a bit more for her than for the others. Probably because Karenina knew the … Continue reading Misha’s Ceremony
Taxidermy can be beautiful. The essence of taxidermy is preservation of something that is dead, such that it should look alive, and remind us of the life it once had. My father was a literal taxidermist. He mounted the finest deer heads in Troup County Georgia. I took pride in helping him comb the soft fur, applying eyeliner and mascara to their beautiful glass eyes, applying the shiny topcoat to the nose to make it appear dewy and alive. Eating the meat and thanking the creature for giving its beautiful wild life. Almost everything we do is an attempt to … Continue reading The Philosophy of Taxidermy
Please God don’t let it all be pointless I want to understand as much as I can beyond the vanishing point of despair. Help me find some bridges When I am out to sea, staring at the stars, my boat … Continue reading An A.D.D Teacher’s Prayer
An agent of sorrow is what people need to outgrow youth’s anger of happiness decreed You traveled down into abysses of shame and built fortress walls of issues to blame You sealed off your heart with a great rolling stone you strengthened the barricade to “lighten your load” honey you listened but still don’t see light your eyes are still blinded by perfectionist might Give up. Give in. Let them eat your remains. You are less than you think and more all the same Let the reins drop. face up to the end. Count on … Continue reading Stuff I heard Jesus say to me
I drank it with you, that blast of sensory overload. High fructose corn syrup, chemically-induced hazelnut flavor, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil for creamer. But oh, it was the most delicious coffee, because it was with you. Nervous systems charged, we drove to the trailhead, hacked through the briars, and descended into the silky-damp of the cave. As we went deeper, it got darker. The only light was your headlamp. You turned it off at one point, impish, to see if I would freak out, but somehow it made the dark more velvety. My anxiety did not kick in. This … Continue reading Serpents, Spelunking, and Gas Station Cappuccino
Clucky the Two-Spirit Chicken I remember the first time I met a person whose gender I could not determine. I was about ten, and working checkout at the store. This person came in, and I became very nervous, sweaty even, because I HAD TO DECIDE WHETHER TO SAY SIR OR MA’AM! I made the wrong choice, and I watched the person cringe, then shrug, a daily occurrence for them, no doubt. It only occured to me later that I didn’t have to choose. I could have just said “Thanks a lot! Have a nice day!” Why did I get so … Continue reading Clucky The Two-Spirit Chicken
PEACHES Our peach tree was laden with hard green peaches when my friends and I circled around the firepit earlier this summer. It happened to be the last day it was cool enough to abide a fire. The kids ran around playing with shaving cream and the water hose as we watched the fire and chatted. Peaches are among the tenderest of fruits; they do not travel well, so one usually sees them only in season. Then my friends’ little girl Razmi stopped playing and came over to us. She had noticed the fallen green peaches lying all around us … Continue reading peaches, turtles, and trust