A few weeks ago it was Teacher Appreciation Week. Several students brought me things, home made cookies, something orange–my favorite color, a gift certificate. However, two notes written by the students themselves caught my eye. One especially made me smile a lot. Here they are:
“Thank you for improving my language skills and being such an amazing teacher.”
“Thank you for making all of us laugh every single day! Your craziness and how you stay true to you, even when we say stupid things, and make you angry. We have not known you for very long, but we hope we can keep you here at LEAST until we graduate!”
I do not think I am one speck funny. However, for years now, students keep telling me I am super funny. I have no idea what I do to make them think this, but guess it does not matter.
It is a beautiful spring day, exceptionally green for the Panhandle of Texas. Papers are graded. Now, I am going to read, cook cod with lemon and fennel, feed horses, and watch the moon rise.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall
Gelada in Simien Mountain National Park, Ethiopia
Recently, my students read a poem where the eggs in a carton expressed terror at being removed by human hands and a Pablo Neruda poem about his socks–hand made, blue wool with a golden thread running through them. Their assignment was to also write a 20 line poem about something ordinary which they love or appreciate. One student wrote about my hair.
16 degrees, windchill 2, flurries.
Keep warm, reflect, remember, don’t relive,
forgive, move on.
Work hard to become the change you want to see worldwide:
At exactly 8:28 this evening, after returning from dinner and Christmas light viewing with my daughter and grandson, I threw my purse and antique, red, flip top phone on my bed, and let Athena, my dog, out. Shortly thereafter, I inadvertently knocked the phone on the floor between the foot of the bed and my grandmother’s (the one I never knew because she died long before I was born) cedar chest. Rather than moving the chest, I retrieved a long handled duster and gave it a swipe, thinking the phone would fly out intact. Unfortunately such is not the case. First, the back of the phone removed itself from the rest and flew out. I tried once again and the rest of the phone flew out. I picked it up and the notice read, “Insert Sim Card”. I looked at the phone. Sure enough, no Sim Card. Subsequently, I moved the cedar chest, pulled out the bed, retrieved a larger duster and totally cleaned under the bed. I even went to the garage, got the flash light, and looked under the bed everywhere. Still no Sim Card. Finally, in disgust, I went to the kitchen, poured a glass of zinfandel, The Seven Deadly Zins to be specific, and continued to read “There Will Be No Miracles Here” by Casey Gerald. How apropos, except I have never suffered like he has (or if I have, I have conveniently forgotten), I am not black, nor male, nor gay, nor poor (he probably is no longer either), and, comparatively speaking, I am very old.
This is he house where I grew up north of Fillmore, Missouri. My dad lived here in this house from 10 year old to 90. He died in the month after his 90th birthday. The house stands on the land my great grandfather established after he arrived from Switzerland in the mid 1800s.
This is the only building left at the site of my grandparents original house and barns. It is an old carriage house. In this photo my daughter and grandson are taking a look. One of the original stained glass transome windows from the house hangs in my own house. My grandparents were Lilliebelle Werth and Pleasant Lightle.
When I was a child, this was once a chicken house but mostly the farrowing house for our registered Hampshire hogs. Later I learned that when first built during Prohibition, Dad held dances here which the sheriff checked to make sure there was no alcohol.
This is corn and soybean country. The view reaches across the land from the back of the home place. We met the young couple who own the house now. They keep everything spic and span just like my parents did. I am grateful.
Antioch Christian Church where we attended church when I was a child. My mom’s fruit pies were famous here.
Usually at the library I checkout and return books. Because my grandson is taking art classes at a nearby college for three hours in the afternoons, I go to read and observe. The same older men show up everyday. Some, acquaintances or friends, quietly chat. They look scruffy with dirty, stringy hair. Are they homeless? Does the library provide an air conditioned refuge? They read, look at magazines.
One man in a tan Alaska cap takes notes from a large book. He appears well groomed, clean, with a sculpted, small beard. Another alternates reading and checking his cell phone. At a separate round oak table a man sits in a dark heavy coat–it said 102 on my car temperature gage when I arrived. He never looks up, concentrates on the black laptop in front of him. The white earbuds stand out against his heavy dark beard. His fingernails are dirty. A white haired man approaches the round table I occupy and asks if he can sit there. I reply, “Sure.” His dark skin shows the heavy creases of outside work and age. His fingernails are clean. He focuses on filling out an application for a commercial driver’s license.
In the several days I have stayed here to read and wait, I have seen only one woman where they allow adults to sit. Do these men, day after day, come here because they have no place else to go?
Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one fearless, controlling woman. Long after Mother’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one and nothing.” They married late: 34 and 38. He adored her unconditionally. She filled my life with horses, music, love, cornfields, hay rides, books, ambition. Whatever she felt she had missed, I was going to possess: piano lessons, a college education. Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses. So did she. During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing with stories of run aways horses pulling her in a wagon. With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.
Note: this poem is in my book “On the Rim of Wonder” and was also recently published in “Inside and Out”, a collection of writings by women. It is available on Amazon and published by the Story Circle Network.
Addendum: My mother loved horses and flowers. When I look at the flowers around my house I think of my mother. And, yes, I have horses. The following photos are dedicated to my mother’s memory.
My mother’s mother and father.
A busy time of year, this holiday season. Here is what I will be doing this week on Thursday. Now I have to decide which poems to read, the Puma Poems, Hot Pink Toenails, Star–the sad one about the death of my grandson’s horse, poems about aging, death, what?
“Most people are about as happy as they
make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln
When I was twenty something, I chose happiness, not the sappy, syrupy, cheery, but a deeper joy of cherishing the small, the unique, the everyday, smiling with sunsets, the song of the mockingbird in spring, horses running free, the nearly invisible bobcat climbing the canyon wall, the taste of fine coffee at the first wakeful moments in the morning, cooking for friends, taking a “property walk” with my grandson, laughing with the teenagers I teach. I am driven to do little–obsessions, compulsions do not run me. I choose. Choose life, choose joy, or choose whining, choose lamenting. Choose!! Be who you want to be; do what you want to do.
Note: this is a poem from my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.