reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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against all odds, teachers teach. [two artists tuesday]

des plaines

“against all odds and despite all the obstacles, we are going to make it.”  (marilyn monroe)

the desk and the chair were connected and under the chair was a metal book rack.  there were 35-40 of them in my tiered room, which oddly doubled as both my choir room and my eighth grade math classroom.  math 8 was the last period of the day and, to give you a sense of the personality of the class, both of the children who were later voted “class clowns” were in my general math class.  a hot day in florida, the air conditioning was competing with the outside heat and trying to keep tired students at-the-end-of-their-school-day awake.

he was sometimes vocal, but mostly quiet.  he didn’t like math; he told me he didn’t really like school.  his eyes were bright even in his sullen face.  every day i greeted him and told him i was glad to see him.

that day, when he came into the room, i sensed he was even more unhappy than usual.  it wasn’t but a few minutes into my math lesson that his desk-chair came hurtling down the tiers at me.  it didn’t hit me, but back-in-the-day hurling desk-chairs was serious stuff and i, a young teacher at the time, was unnerved.

i think back now about that desk-chair being flung, the way it was all dealt with, the intervention and the caring hearts that were involved.  i think about that young man, whose name i still remember.  i knew back then that against all odds and despite the obstacles facing him,  he had a support system and he would make it.

amid a contemporary rise of real scaled-up violence in schools, less and less is about those support systems, for students or teachers.  resources, help – both are short in supply in public schools across this country.  yet, despite all odds, teachers teach.

i shake my head at the any-day-any-school terrifying concern of shootings in the classroom.  with gun-control-be-damned mindsets determining legislation, children must practice active shooter drills.  despite all odds, teachers teach.

i think about the lack of funding, the lack of supplies, the lack of a sustainable student-teacher ratio.  despite all odds, teachers teach.

and then, i think about this pandemic.  a global threat, this country’s leadership has not risen to the challenge and, in mindblowing checkmate moves, it has mandated that children physically return to schools this fall.  in the middle of an urgent and dangerous contagion, caution is being dismissed, putting children and teachers and administration and support staff at absolute risk.  it’s deplorable.

and yet we know, foolishly mandated, that against all odds, and despite all the obstacles, teachers will teach. that’s what teachers do.

“against all odds and despite all the obstacles, we are going to make it.”

against all odds and despite all the obstacles.

but the words “we are going to make it” beg a quagmire of unanswered questions, deeply concerning worries, and matters of life and death.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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andrea’s song

IMG_2711the sound of the cicadas outside brought me back to my childhood home on long island.  we had woods behind our yard and the summer days and nights were a symphony of crickets and cicadas. i would sometimes sit in my poetry tree (a maple outside my bedroom window with perfect limbs for climbing and sitting) late into the day, writing or reading and, although i probably never appreciated the crickets and cicadas as i do now, i would listen as the day would softly pass by. my sweet momma would know where to find me; if i wasn’t riding bikes with sue, at the dive center, fishing with crunch or at the beach, i was likely in that tree.

i wrote a lot of poems in that tree, a lot of reflections, a lot of stories and maybe even a little music…the kind without the music. as i think about the people who encouraged me in writing, one of the first people i think of is andrea. andrea was my high school english teacher. she, along with kevin, were the coolest in the english department. andrea, with kerchiefs in her hair and peace sign necklaces, long skirts and funky glasses, was the epitome of hip. we, painlessly, learned from her teaching style, her quiet wisdom, her laugh, her smile.

andrea was the teacher coordinating the art and literary magazine ‘gemini’ at our high school. i was involved with this annual publication each year, but was the editor-in-chief during my senior year of high school, a job i adored. not only did i get to immerse myself in a lot of poetry and art, but i got to lay out the publication and handle many of the details, all the while hanging out with andrea and having conversations about life and writing and balance.

in the (aaack! many) years since high school i have thought about her often and finally, over the last eight years or so, was able to get back into contact with her.   not only did i want to know how she was, where she was, what she was doing, but i wanted to share with her where i was and what i was doing. mostly, it mattered to me what her thoughts were. during that time we shared snippets of life. i found i could still learn from her teaching style, her quiet wisdom and her smile, even without physically seeing her. at one point she wrote to me, “nothing is idyllic. i think we have idyllic moments. we have to take time to savor what is around us.”   yet another invaluable reminder. how often must we learn these things, i wonder.

when we were planning our trip to boston for this summer, i found myself hoping that we would have the chance to see andrea…meet for coffee, have a glass of wine together. i worried when i didn’t hear back from her; she usually answered email. i was anxious to visit with her, thank her in person for the influence she had had on me, hear what she thought about a project i had sent her. it was about a week before we left, when i was online pondering whether to send her another note, that i saw the very sad news that she had died. i was stunned and (what would maybe seem) inordinately devastated. the connection backwards in time was broken; the opportunity to sit with andrea now vapor.

i thought about extending my sympathies on social media but for some reason that seemed too shallow. there is a loss i feel when i no longer hear the cicadas in the fall…something visceral that i feel inside. the loss of andrea was intensely visceral.

IMG_2708all throughout our home you will find peace signs; each of these signs make me think of this beloved lady in my life, this positive force who, without knowing, kept me writing, thinking, writing.

in my mind’s eye, i can feel sitting in my poetry tree. the cicadas’ song was all around me. as i write now, i cannot help but think about andrea and the things i learned from her, most of which had nothing to do with grammar and punctuation, but instead, with honoring the words within, the emotions, things palpable and things we can’t see or touch.  and so, savoring that learning, in fact, leaning into it, her song is all around me. it’s idyllic.

…peace out…