Sparked by Words

Archive for January, 2019

The Color of My Blood

If you bury your head in the ground, you’ll never glimpse the cosmos. The sounds you hear so deep in the earth are muffled and distorted by distance. Snowdrops hammer threats. The words I love you morph to I mug you. No wonder you’re terrified.

It’s natural to drop to the floor at sudden assaults. Earthquakes, landslides, fiery smoke, gunshots. We’re told to stop, drop, and roll, a dance step scarier than the junior high prom. Our heads tuck under our arms, huddling in fear as a safety strategy.

Soil pressing into your palms and the soles of your feet drags you deeper into the chasm. It takes heart muscle and cranial strength to chuck the dross and hoist the body. It resists change.

It’s even more frightening to remain in the dirt, ears stuffed with clods, hands clutching grass by the roots. The nature of fear is that it’s deaf and blind.

Raise yourself, hair by hair, toenail by toenail. Step upon the crust. Open your eyes to look further than a vulture’s flight. Cup your ears to detect vibrations. Turn slowly and stare. Be silent and listen. The universe is addressing you. The drum beat booms. Words screech. Snowfall crackles like breaking glass. Still the stars spiral.

The universe wheels and rolls around you. Be part of it, as you were at its inception. The darker the sky, the more you see. The quieter your voice, the more you hear.

This planet is too tiny to divide into barbed parcels. Hold hands with the stranger and work together. It doesn’t have to be a wall. It could be a bridge. What you build will shelter your grandchildren.

The world is not flat. You have to muster courage and that starts with pulling your head out of the ground.

The cosmos courses through all of us. By genetic heritage we are 99.9 percent alike. The color of my blood is the same as yours.

 

 

Just a Thought 63

 

Tortoise image courtesy Commons Wikimedia

 

 

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The Best Little Kid in Class

I finally found my calling in my senior year of college. Of course I intended to be a writer but before I started signing autographs in copies of my runaway best seller, I needed a job to pay the bills. I’d suffered enough soul scorching gigs to know I didn’t want to wait tables, work the phones on an answering system switchboard, burn plates for a printing company, or even manage a tiny art store on a street no one ever walked so no one ever entered. I’d done all those and a few more, earning enough to pay for plates of fried rice and cups of stale coffee.

So when my university offered a temporary teaching assistant position for students in their last semester of college, I took it. And there I found kids. Lots of sweet but very poor and sometimes very hungry kids. I hated the school system, a plodding curriculum that was certain to deaden any glimmer of affection for learning in any child, but I loved the kids. I’d found it, thank heaven, a goal for a career.

A few more divots snagged my steps along the way to teacherhood. I found myself newly married and working in a Detroit podiatry office (oh my God,) then newly pregnant and working in a Denver computer center (oh my Lord.) As a mom of two young sons, I supplemented our family’s meager income as an art teacher in the city recreation program, teaching little kids to paint pictures of trees and turtles and tide pools (oh yes.) I became an assistant resource teacher in an elementary school (on the right path,) then an artist in a commercial fabric design company (oh no.) Finally my chance came to gather my skills, invent a few others, and serve as the art specialist at a tiny private elementary school.  I’d arrived: I was a teacher.

No one, especially school administrators, knows what an art curriculum should look like so I was trusted to create my own. Fortunately for every school where I ever worked, I was ambitious. I took more college classes, intending to earn a master degree in studio art and a teaching credential. From all these experiences I built an art curriculum that exposed my students to a range of media and techniques and taught them that the journey was everything, the finished artwork merely a byproduct of their explorations.

Despite all the skills I learned and all the classes I taught, every day was a frontier of unexplored territory. One of a small school’s best assets is that a teacher gets to work with the same students year after year, helping them find their strengths and interests, developing their proficiency. As a teacher I got to know the kids as individuals, to encourage their talents and dreams, sometimes to witness their foibles and peccadilloes.

Rhys was a beautiful child, at seven all giant eyes and peachy cheeks. He was also a handful, the center of every fracas. Gia was another little seven-year-old beauty, all long curls and sweet grin. She was the classroom angel, no matter what room she was in. At seven it’s hard to find a child who isn’t a baby-faced beauty, snaggletoothed smiles, matted hair, and all.

One day the commotion in art class centered on Rhys and Gia, a mess of paper, brushes, and pencils strewn on the floor around them. I called both kids to the front of the room and asked Gia what had happened.

She pointed at Rhys, her injured feelings as palpable on her face as the red juice stain on her blouse. “He threw all my stuff on the floor.”

I turned to Rhys and asked if he had dumped Gia’s art supplies on the floor. He nodded. Struggling to keep the irritation out of my voice, I asked why he’d done such a thing.

“Because she threw my things on the floor first.”

I asked Gia if she was the provocateur. Innocence blazing on her face, she nodded. Little Miss Angel had made the first naughty move, and Rhys the Imp had simply responded in kind. I told them to apologize to each other and then clean up the mess.

Rhys and Gia taught me something that day. The best little kid in class misbehaves at times, the little troublemaker gets labeled with an undeserved indelible mark if we’re not careful, and a seven-year-old is an adorable, endearing, mischievous person who benefits from adult moderation. Sometimes they point fingers at each other; sometimes they tell the incriminating truth. We teachers had best be alert.

There’s a lesson in all that: the little surprises we bring to our stories, making them true at heart.

 

Photo of child creating art courtesy Pixabay

 

Who Tells Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell. To traverse across a chasm while balanced on a thin silver string. Gaping crowds below, pearlescent clouds above, the wire shuddering in the wind. Few have touched down safely on the other side.

But you have. With pluck, determination, and courage. That’s your story.

Not everyone knows how to write. It isn’t just paragraph and spelling knowledge. It’s character development, plot construction, writing craftsmanship. Sequence, judgment, vision.

Some may be able to learn. Schools, online courses, writers’ conferences, self-help books all offer opportunities. Computer programs and lined paper pages stay open late. Practice and critical review always meet deadlines.

Probability of failure despite effort.

Possibility of an audience.

Others must learn to be grateful to share their story with those who can write. A minute on a high wire is a moment to contemplate. The one trembling on the wire, those on the ground looking up.

The choice is to insist on writing your story so poorly that few will read and praise it, or to hand the idea to the master who will craft your story so that many will turn the pages.

Or a third choice. Learn to write well, a demanding journey of effort and failure and potential success, its own act on a high wire. The ultimate achievement.

Probability of story well written.

Possibility of glittering stars on Goodreads.

Brilliance evolves when someone reads the story and is transformed. Yes, it began with you, your ballet on the silver string.

Whose life is important? Whose balance on the wire is exciting enough to write it in a story?

Maybe anyone’s. Probably everyone’s. Possibly yours.

 

Says she who has yet to be published.

 

Just a thought 62

 

Painting Seiltanzerin* 1913 by August Macke, courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; *Tightrope Walker

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