The morning is cooler. I can hear Thursday’s cold front rolling in from the North. I heard it from Crow, who heard it from Mockingbird, who heard it from Cat, who heard it from another Crow, perched at the top of the Australian pine: Hawk, hawk, hawk. Hawk says not a thing, but like this great wise and winged #moment, perched upon my fence, eyeing me with #confidence. She heard it from Me, who heard it from Crow, who heard it from Cat, who heard it from Mockingbird, who heard it from another Crow. The morning is cooler. I can hear Thursday’s cold front rolling in from the North.
something else hidden in the musclesRuth Stone, “The Wound” from Simplicity
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.
Today everything but the soreness from lifting you the rawness in my throat quarrels captured and salty tears everything but triaging our afflictions dressing words and what is not there silence and no quick cures unknowns romance here except this Tomorrow is everything but alienation your rights and rites practiced skills everything but my words once in allodium i stay to suture harm stitches say its my fault, too (& maybe it is) this the unraveling of that once which opened festers repaired itself unto today everything except dusty ghosts & empty bandage wrappers the world of gain and political correctness true to tradition everything but what you ask of my days and I ask of my days yesterday i plunged into trauma headlong and wounds became everything but scars
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All the Elements Came to play Danced and sang And went their way Fire in Moon Moon in Fire The South whispered secrets Of North's dark desire Bring me your frankness Your spices and ice Weave in the lemongrass Bundle this tight Walk all the quarters Crouch on the ground Fill sacred space With a Leo's Moon Sound. All the Elements Came to play Danced and sang And went their way.
In previous incarnations, prior to the imminently eminent momentary unknowns and everyday survival modes of 2020, I was a sloppy #yogawitch. Not a person to methodically organize my life was I, any facet, focused more on the only structure I learned: language. Going through the motions of life while learning the rules through reading and writing #teaching and #practice’s purposeful mistakes, splitting infinitives deliciously aimed at irritating my perceived naysayers. Breaking small rules was an unconscious act of intention awry–a small wickedness and hidden pleasure. Over time, I let this go, confronting and discarding these darknesses hidden to me.
Shadows still dance in my inner realms and these, my familiars, I have learned to organize and call upon to move me past my disorganization and anxieties (I simplify here–there are many helpers involved). I can find these readily in myself and, as such, I began to see them in other places, outside my purview, in the collective. Last night’s full moon allowed these to dance and sing about us in our Full Moon circle. I hear and see those beautiful poetic birds of mystery; you can see them, too, maybe? They are here and here and here and here and here and every morning on my morning playlist (maybe you’ll find comfort and strength here, too?). The sound (not the words), as #memories fills my sight, organizes my Day and Night; my flow feels genuine and intuitively organized.
This is not to say I don’t recognize the sharp oppositions in play in the greater world–only my tiny justification of how presented before I saw my inner chaos. In those “other” roles and realms, those of mother, wife, teacher, daughter, sister, friend, employee, adult, woman, shadows pooled: a stack of dishes; a pile of laundry (clean and folded–or dirty); #practices scribbled down in the wee hours of the morning to do again (as if); a teacher closet with an #abundance of learning unused and a file cabinet of empty files which commiserates; a grocery list with items circled and forgotten; a bottle or two of lotions and perfume I’d never put on (the glass extraordinarily, iridescently filling spaces). Abundance of words and worlds I possess and reflect upon–light bouncing off every corner of my mind; the fast pace of my physicality finally caught up to me, and my body had to slow down, creating a new spaces and organizational flows.
Death is a real thing to me now. There. I said it. I wrote it. Death is a real thing to me now. Understanding comes from experience, I think. What was 2020 but one long catalog of lessons in being alright in the moment while doing what is epically needed to be done? And I understand I get confused, I get things wrong, I make typos, I run around in circles (literally) while I think of what I am doing, and I fucking procrastinate every hard task (as I am doing today), but I understand that each moment is predicated on the words I say to myself–spoken or carried within my thoughts (an element in myself). Beautiful organization takes time, and that same messiness in discovering this, carried me through 2020. Processing in new ways (and historical ways to me on Erika-Standard-Time) allowed me to handle death in the classroom.
My day-to-day as a teacher in a hybrid classroom during the pandemic is predictably challenging; we all do the best we can in our levels of awareness to #balance and ground and survive. I return to language here–mostly poetry (in all Her forms) and runes (ancient communication). And then, I enter our classroom and continue to practice the appropriateness and preciseness which convey the standards as equitably and compassionately as I am able. This is #goodwork, and this is happening all over our building–some teachers have multiple areas to teach (#gratitude for how they still do the same in separate spheres of realities). As I, too, run for the bigger classroom for my bigger face-to-face classes with my computer screen projecting my shirt and lanyard, with mouse and sheets of paper in tow, always one dropping to the floor), I’m learning to quell the words of self-doubt in mind which causes us to waffle in indecision at the most critical time for language–6th period!
I know I am not alone. I feel the energies move through me as shadows, pooling and accumulating in great abundance; warnings to be careful what type of #abundance one calls. This organization destined to fail: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. The pace is harried and my husband reminds me at home I don’t need to run to bed, and in his calm way, guides me to see my organizational spaces work both ways: to let out as well as in.
Here I linger on a blog. I let my mind get lost in those words that bounce around and catch in the shadows’ dark pools. I let the greater picture captivate my inner sight, the soft rhythm of a needed day off (one which I promised would involve grading). I am no longer a sloppy #yogawitch; today’s plans include my abundance of #dreams and #goals. This, the continued practice of letting Death’s presence remind of Life’s import, helps create and maintain #irresistiblecircumstances wherever I go.
In the great stilling of the year, we walk in woods, marked with evidence of winter who, like a tourist, visited and departed in a great sky river I witness above last night's fire out under the great Moon and Clouds unfolding stories: the cow jumping over the moon the speed of a cargo plane landing the bite of a wolf a lesson in what is uncontrollable and perfect just so. We move counter-clockwise and step into tomorrow, just a step between continents. Between action and inertia the ice thaws the sun cools the shade lingers delicately not necessarily as from oak branches adorned in great Spanish moss and fallen pine needles nestled within a moment's warmest hug. Though we wake, sleeping still among the thorns of 2020, the point is we wake remembering the moment where spiders find such irresistible haunts delightfully full of prospect. Today's Lesson was in how to link a live video from FB in EMYoga to my YouTube Channel and add captioning (access to all). I have not perfected this task yet, but small steps...The first video in a series for January can be found below (another step in 2020 to rebuild professional competence).
Dæg byþ drihtnes sond, deore mannum,
mære metodes leoht, myrgþ and tohiht
eadgum and earmum, eallum brice.
We are almost 16 weeks into this 2020 edition of a Covid school year; school is still more about adrenaline than passion. As drive myself through adrenal fatigue and increasing #pain cycles, there is still much comfort in seeing students participate in all the various forms. There is routine in examining the old texts, seeds of our Constitution, and discussing fresh perspectives of Enlightenment. Inequities present themselves, easily imagined as we live the reality of our ancestors. Rich and poor, the work of school is useful to all.
Self-management hangs heavily in a synchronous learning environment, from discussions of leaving something on the stove (when working from home) to managing the impossibilities of impromptu Internet glitches and patches while all at once some magic learning happens. In any case, there’s hardly a time to pause unless we make time for this release. And, just like physical pain, mental anguish and stress takes a toll. Were our forefathers (and foremothers) not the same in their dreams, fears, and internal dialogues? Did they take a moment to seize an opportunity for gratitude (the mindfulness strategy today)? Did they trace the Night’s path across their backyard sky, or take a nap in the emerging sunlight on a cool day, or savor a hot cup of tea in quiet contemplation, and find hope there?
Of late, without much ease in movement, I find myself processing the words, words, words, in a such way I never anticipated in my half-century. Could the younger me have envisioned a day I wouldn’t remember vocabulary or concepts or need the constant reminder of my stumbling and bumbling access to the more common areas of my brain? Likewise, did I intellectualize the day I couldn’t lift the weight of the world and a barbell locked and loaded to squat beneath or push overhead?
School becomes a challenge, tripping over the next item to do, procrastinating the great and honorable task of grading (and grade-entering to create irresistible mixed-media digital content); however much I love to craft a lesson, the sheer amount of energy to make any decision has taken flight to darker realms, suspended.
Survival depends on Day and Night, a marriage of predictable opposition. I am held by spaces between polarities, and Day’s quiet appearance transforms Night’s #abundance into actionable steps toward the future. And while little of life outside of school setting presents itself in the traditional way, each Day has offered fresh #perspectives. Brought into a classroom, our community is light of hope itself–we will survive. Rich and poor, the perspective of familiar cycles is Hope.
I hear them all.
The voices of my students
past and present
echo in this circus
stripped from the natural place
where learning should go
into the words of best practices
and waivers and emails, and wait!
don’t move from your computer (like that’s healthy),
and here’s a 100 page document to read yesterday, and
we have your back (we’ll work together)
if (not when) you die (Shouldn’t we always have people’s backs?),
but don’t be dramatic because we’re all in the same boat,
even if the student don’t know what an idiom, metaphor, or simile is.
That’s my job. I know.
But I hear them all.
For days now, I’ve hobbled around, tears falling on every inch of our yard and house, crying with great fury and despair or just weeping over some huge emotion working its way through my already too tired mind and body. How do I wrap my head around each day? each hour? I cry at songs, at lines of poetry, at words in the pages of a book. Yes, I stand in today’s presence and yes, the “lions hunker down/in tall grasses/and even elephants/lumber after safety.” The emotions are immense; anger, fear, and grief pummel gratitude and compassion. Love feels lost in Her very own ocean. Being injured and adrenal-compromised, I’ve turned to Nature and poetry.
I don’t know much about lions and elephants other than what I’ve learned in school and reading, but I’ve been watching all the little birds who reside around my house. In these moments, I have much gratitude for having the privilege of even having a safe place, a home, much less the time for creation or quiet observation. I know I could fill it in other practical ventures. I could be planning next school year and ALL the possibilities, or thinking about it (which I do way too much). I probably should do that more than writing poem, painting on fences, and writing blog posts, but not over watching all the little birds. I am mesmerized.
The backdrop changes every moment (how could you not appreciate that?) and each morning (before dawn), I sprawl out on looking up at the sky in the middle of my backyard, and hear the little bird’s good mornings (what sweetness). Everything is slowly waking up. Nothing rushed until Sunrise comes in Her usual hurried way, and the little birds make preparations. Within 10 minutes, the Little Birds are flying formations, zipping down the street, setting up watch posts (very specific locations), and calling to each other in staccato–all well-placed and efficient.
In come the crows (because crows do what they need to do) and a small airborne war ensues while the Muscovy ducks, ibis, woodpeckers, and doves chime in (all sort of little birds). Every few days (I started counting two days ago), a bird of prey swoops in and around and all the Little Birds and the Big Birds shut up. There’s a stillness that is intense. What will happen next?
Yeah, that’s the point. None of us really know, but based on the natural cycles, not statistics (although statistics can be a pretty good indicator of how things are going, depending). Wait, and see. And here we are in whatever week and condition we are in, but do we have clarity?
My last poem (last night) is about grief (I’m not even sure what tense to use anymore). If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s how to identify an emotion in myself. The tricky part for me is how to separate that emotion from reality AND whose emotion is it…I’ve spent a lot of time working this as part of mindfulness and practice. I’ve learned how my mind flitters and sings, like a little bird, and then flies into action with all I’ve got. It’s intense. It was a normal way of going about my life for a long time. It’s familiar, and because of this familiarity–I know it–I can make myself move toward the bigger picture.
I’m not a participant in the War of the Birds any more than Maya Angelou was a zoo-keeper or hunter on a safari. For the most part, I’m a worker of words and a processor of emotions. A teacher. Whether I go back to school virtually (a reason for practicing with the resurrection of my blogs and other backburner type of Erika projects–there are many) or face-to-face or much more demanding (a mixture of the two), I still am a worker of words and a safe holder of the dreams and fears of my students (and their parents). I practice. Poetry helps me process and brings clarity.
Essential to any change in public education is our understanding of what is essential to learning at all. Familiarity. This takes time and dedication and shared commitment. Familiarity is knowing, remembering, and identifying (at that moment or later with reflection) what emotion you are feeling and what triggered it. Learning comes when students (and teachers and parents) feel safe. Safety should be the norm, not feeling safe, but the conversation starts here for me. What makes us safe? What can we do right now to move that way?
My grief poem was like a reminder on how to get there. In schools (and at home), we don’t talk enough about grief, about loss, about what follows. And it is true I have students who don’t experience a crippling grief, but loss is still familiar, and if it’s not–maybe that’s the challenge to what happens next.<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">In the classroom (virtually or otherwise), I invite discussion. Still, I am vigilant. I'll sing the morning song, but I won't let you rob our nest, even if it is a part of your role. A crow's going to do what a crow's going to do, but when even the lions and the elephants mute themselves…
What will happen next?
Today for my 2nd week of summer, I have puttered around the house, straightening and cleaning, fidgeting mostly, like I have some business to do with school or something I wrote down that I need to remember (but I did all those things earlier). I’ve been thinking a lot about Dido, and many other players in literary words about how life is supposed to work and for whom. I don’t have very many of my original text books, but I do remember reading Book IV of the Aeneid three or four times. And, now, I’m hopeless lost in looking at my translation and notes, delighting and celebrating inside that I wasn’t that kind of student who, piously as Aeneas, took the notes they think they should take…
Anyway, most of my students have never much like Aeneas–more like the unseen, unheard, and unwritten heroes and heroines in any epic. Still, there’s part of me that wants to post pictures of the love notes I’ve found on Cornell notes, close reads, and classroom desks and books from my students (I keep them). You learn a lot from what students (who typically don’t write for assignments) have to say (evidence that they are “writing to learn.”). It’s not very expansive, but there is a certain recognizable pattern from elementary to middle school to high school, and a small evolution happening. Few words start blossoming into more words, and then…
I’m lucky though. I can look at my notes from all three times I read with someone else: the stilted awkward translations sprinkled with small epiphanies of an 17-, 19, and -21 year old. Archaic writing with traces of me in it, next to Dido, in Book IV, in different color ink and handwriting (when did I stop experimenting with how I take notes? what did I mean by MEDEA! ?). The book is falling apart, the binding is coming loose (how many times did I conjugate loose in Greek only to forget now?), there are holes (which seems appropriate as this book is where I learned lacuna–holes and holes)…
It was a rabbit hole that put me here today…a question I posed myself about something that popped up in my head: fama volat. Many things fly, but rumor above all travels and lingers…gets all mixed up in the elements and our emotions. Dido’s downfall, witnessed and carried by Fama, is purely elegiac, but there’s a lot of beauty in that meter. Maybe, if Dido was given a chance to use her own words–Didn’t she build her city after leaving her childhood?–those words might say something like…
Ovid constructed his Fama as the middle of the world, where the sky, sea and earth meet together; she lives in a house on a peak with no doors and 1000 windows. She has feathers to fly, eyes to see everything, ears to hear it all, and a mouth to spit it out into the wind. She is a monster. However, the thing is, with me at least, is that I can’t believe she is actually a monster, no more than I believe in Charybdis and Scylla. When I listen to the news, I can hear all those dusty forgotten monsters speak. What words are valuable to us as society? Does turning women’s power into something otherworldly and frightening to behold or something beautiful and raw and real? As if, in America, we didn’t perpetuate the same injustices on people of color, as well as women. Was this written in the stars…
And the question for my research became this exploration of differences and similarites of then and now. Even my copy of Vergil’s Aeneid is old (first published in 1930–how much has scholarship and reading changed). It’s definitely not the oldest book I own or most unique, but I just love it. The book still smells like college, like the old, asbestos-filled building where the Classics department was located (in the Religion building next to the chapel) near the mens’ dorms (we didn’t even have co-ed dorms). I linger a bit remember all the cozy afternoons with my advisors (husband and wife team) combing through Book IV in their office–but oh! the notes…
Scribbles. Calligraphy. Drawings. English words (jejune is in there!) identifying Latin grammar and precise definitions; there are references to Euripides, the world tree, and the Odyssey…
To quote one of my students, who scribbled in the class read aloud book, Refugee: “this fuckng grate!” As I work on cleaning and ridding myself of stuff today, I wonder if the student who wrote that (I’m pretty sure I know which one) will even remember that book or maybe some theme in the world will set them off down a rabbit hole, even after 10-, 20-, or 30-years…
Who gives birth to all this? You? Your parents? The school system? Your breadth and depth of reading? A teacher? Some of this? All of this? The neuroscience of your physical humanness? Don’t we learn when they experience the struggle, like Dido? We (the teacher “we”) often take the struggle out of reading and school (and most kids never even notice). I could give some examples…
So much experience in institutions come from writing and reading; even rules we teach in school (and life) are written down (in fact, catalogued and curried each school or legistated year–you can thank the Romans for that one). I love that my students ask why, but I have to force myself to remember this (it catches me off guard somewhere in the first hour of my teacher talk). Don’t we all struggle with our rules in society, those words that others use to describe us (most of us don’t even choose our names), the characters we identify with, the resources we carry with us? And, isn’t fucking epic (and great), but filled with potential. It’s scary. In my opinion, it’s COVID-scary. I’ve seen the rabbit holes people go down in the name of public education…
What kind of individual choices would lead Dido to commit suicide? What are we missing? What kind of decisions does a person make in survival mode? That’s how I know it’s not Dido talking; What great woman couldn’t handle herself with pious Aeneas after her brother killed her husband (also not of her choosing) and she fled from the Middle East to Africa? All because Venus placed Cupid in disguise on her lap as Ascanius? Convenient. Love made her do it…
What does that say about Roman Love? Anyway, I never did buy the epic storyline, but I am captivated by it. That’s the point. In the game of civilization, there feels like there’s some chance involved. Is that chance written in the stars, and read and carried by Fama, Herself? or does She hear it from her 1000 windowed house without doors from the ships that set sail from Her shore? are these the men that carried our alphabet and shackled the us to laws about our person, our body, our roles? do those echoes sound the hegemony of today? An idea that the unread, unwritten, unheard characters are powerless (even with words)…
The whole morning has been spent staving off discomfort and gnawing fear (does Fear fly, too, because it sure feels like it?), cleaning up messes I’ve left behind over the year: what to keep, what to throw away, what to use for school, what to move past. Too much stuff. Lots of notes written in lots of books (and I’m only on the school-related shelves right now)…
Just like public school: what to keep? What to rid? What is is necessary for us to feel safe? If we are digital, I think we’ll all feel safer, but it sucks for some of us (it’s a struggle). If it is blended learning, many will have some adjustments to make for the new kind of normal (I’ll be working 1000 hours a week in a room with a 1000 doors and no windows except the ones I make). If it is traditional brick-and-mortar….
A handful of kids over the years have ask to hold this book (it was, just before the end of the year, on my classroom bookshelf with some other really special books). As if magically enchanted, all of the students have asked permission (which never happens in a middle school setting) to look at it. What is this magic of a book, of a teacher, of a classroom, of an institution that begs any question? Is it the action that forms the question or the question that forms the action?
If I could ask for one truth (or wish) for my students (for anyone actually), it would be for them to have the power to see their world as it is, not as someone else paints it or writes it to be. The caveat is if, and if they don’t like what they see, visualize that change. I pose this to classes from time-to-time, but I’m a little afraid I’m not up to the job (professionally, like). It’s good discussion, fertilizer for what might have come, but now…
I’m not writing for them though, but I’ll try to give them tools to see and express themselves, tease it out (that’s best practices). I find it the most rewarding thing about teaching multiple grades and subjects and exceptional ed. Given time (and I mean a lot of time–not mathematical time on some IEP, tied to dollars and services), students will learn to write this for themselves (writing probably being one the hardest ways to express yourself for me). I don’t mind if they write it on a napkin (definitely is epically upsetting to some teachers). I really don’t mind if a kid has to take a nap, go to the nurse, get a drink, cry because they are overwhelmed or really mad (even if they are 220 pounds and 6 foot tall), or eat a snack (they are 220 pounds and 6 foot tall in 7th grade–they need a snack), or go down to the uniform closet (although I probably harped way too many times over the year about it). Mind, not care. I care a lot about their time out of class and the fact they aren’t reading, but until they realize the power of their choice and the magic of books, there won’t be any notes or rabbit holes…