Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

So, what's the best thing about teaching at a small, private school nestled in the Redwoods? Other than the fact that I have complete academic freedom and get to fly on the rope swing during my free periods, I get to celebrate Halloween---that most joyous of kid's holidays---like a kid. Each year I dress as one of the students; this year I chose Nate, a fifteen year old punk rocking mischief-maker. The kids loved seeing me, their 30 year old English teacher, dressed in his skinny plaid pants and Misfits t-shirt. We dunked apples into hot caramel, carved punkins, made cookies, and, the crown jewel of the day, had a poetry contest out on the sun-splashed deck. Here is my entry, co-written with my boyfriend, who also happens to teach with me:

Welcome to Nonesuch

Just take a look around, and you'll quickly see,
whatever you're afraid of you shouldn't be

Yes, there are freaks and geeks galore
but I can assure you you'll never be bored

No, that's not big-foot, it's just Victor you see
his padlock is missing so his feet roam free

Oh him--- that's just Nate, he might look mean,
but he only really rages against the Christine

And no that's not the love child of Hugh Hefner and Michael Jackson,
it's Elijah, in a bathrobe, and he'll strip if you ask him

And this little blonde one is smart as a whip
but don't be surprised if Gabe gives you some lip

When it comes to the right word Jora's never stuck
so if you need a verb or an adjective how about FUCK

And Cami's got lots of poetry inside her
but don't be surprised if she kisses a spider

And--no Mindless Self Indulgence there
just a wise cracking Cody who keeps sprouting hair

And don't be fooled by her soft spoken style
Maya's grades show who goes the extra mile

And just because you can't see her eyes doesn't mean she's not there
there's much more to Shara than her bangs and curly hair

And that being over there, on the couch, please don't scream,
it's not a giant multi-limbed monster here to haunt your dreams,

It's just our resident cuddle puddle,

See--there's Luna's new shoes and Amber's jet black hair--
and, wait, is that Brogan poking out of there?
be careful--- get too close and you may fall into the lair

And that one over there who seems to fear none
he used to be Aaron but now he's Kiernan

And when you need some puffy paint or some positivity
follow the sound of the didgeridoo to Mike B's wisdom tree

One Rowan good, two Rowans better
hope you have time to listen forever

And you've met the one who keeps the Barr raised
being a bad-ass is her latest craze

And sometimes two visions will suddenly appear
it's just Angel and Andrea who aren't always here

And no, it's not Barney's daughter on the loose
Wynn has purple hair, purple skirts, even purple boots

So you just talked to Skyler and he showed you the way
but please be patient he has much more to say

A lot of girls think that Nico's caliente
but then he went to Earthdance and became excremente

If you haven't heard her speak yet give her a chance
there's a lot more to Madeline than her sweet subtle glance

Marisa just might kiss ya if you're cute enough and sweet
especially if you don't got no shoes upon your feet

If you hear the sounds of guitar strings cracklin'
its probably just the newest single released by our Jaclyn

And here's our newest student whose come to Nonesuch School
we sure hope that Lucas isn't too cool for rules

You've probably noticed all the sweetness he's bequeathin'
cause there aint no reason to not be loving Ethan

And if our school appears to be somewhat of a mess
as these sloppily written lines surely attest

Don’t blame Nonesuch School:
blame Michael and blame Jess!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Smashing the Printer

Had had enough of this printer. All it caused me was grief.

I'd stay up late working on an essay assignment for my advanced composition class, go to bed wrapped in the warm satisfaction of creative accomplishment. Wake up happy that all I had to do was print the puppy out.

But unless the printer happened to turn on properly, sans blinking green light, and I fed the paper into the receptacle at exactly the right moment, listening intently to its internal workings like a new mother listens to her baby's breathing, and unless the stars were so aligned that God and all his angels were on my side, something would go wrong. It would eat the paper too early, choke on it and spit it out.

I'd try to stay calm but after three or four failed attempts, I'd lose it. I'd cry, scream, curse Best Buy to rot in the filthy flames of hell, and, after I knew the fight was lost, I'd usually try once more, this time with a calm sweet prayer. Dear God. Just please be with me. The printer would bleep and hoot and choke and seethe and I would flee the house in a hot tear-stained rage.

Until the warm June night that I walked the hated appliance over to the steps of the museum downtown. My boyfriend (bless his soul for the idea) monitored pedestrian activity while I readied my aim. When he gave me the all clear, I hurled the ugly plastic beast down onto the concrete. External hardware and little plastic gadgets popped off. Feverishly, I retrieved it, threw it again. And then again. Each time, more noise, more plastic debris, more satisfaction. The eighth toss yielded the total destruction of the motherboard, her shiny metallic innards finally succumbing to the cold raw concrete. My ponytail falling out, my face a-flush, I galloped to the garbage can and tossed the many-splintered printer inside.

This story came to mind this week, as I waded through ankle-deep stress. Car troubles. Late paycheck. Loud neighbor and too-small duplex. Stubborn tick heads, restless sleep, painful mouth ulcers. Even the minutia seemed big: my tangled hair, papers to grade, Monday morning rain, squeaky bike brakes.

Life was just like that printer, a one-eyed monster mocking me, a piece of machinery that no longer runs well. But understanding my problem has yielded a solution. It's time to shakes things up, make some drastic changes, toss life's struggles from the balcony of my mind and watch them crack open. Time to smash the printer, again, and see what's inside.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I want to do Nothing

For once in my thirty years, I want to truly learn how to be unproductive, idle, lazy, contemplative. Why? Because it is essential to my spirit. And it is my spirit that inspires me to write. And it is becoming ever more clear to me that writing is life, that creative expression is why I am here.

I grew up like too many Americans do: with that most awful nasty concept---duty---pumped into my veins like a bad drug. And now it's beyond addiction, it's as though the need to produce and accomplish is wired into my body on a cellular level. If I don't do enough every day, I start to feel anxious, nervous, dare I even admit it, worthless.

The irony is that I absolutely love nearly all that I fill up my days with: I love teaching, love crafting an exciting new writing prompt, love planning a history lecture on Turkey's revolution, love reading, love riding my bike, love exercising my limbs, love cooking, love going to the library, love spilling my guts to my therapist, love learning new songs on the piano, love noodling around on my lap-top, love courting ideas onto the page, love taking a long hot shower at the end of the day. The problem is that my sense of duty often smothers the inherent fun out of these things, turns them into shoulds and musts and have-tos, until my poor spirit keels over with nervous dread. The problem is that I hold impossible expectations for myself, raising the bar so damn high that I fail to even notice the sky.

It's time to relax. In fact, at this very moment, I am supposed to be at a benefit, wearing a fancy dress and an enthusiastic smile. And up until two hours ago I was going to drag myself there, despite my fatigue and guts urging me otherwise. But thanks to that nurturing impulse that beats louder by the day (and thanks to my sweet love who encourages me to chill), I stayed home, curled up on the couch, and read fifty pages of Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write."

And like magic, like double sixes to win the back gammon game, like a fat yellow moon, like a warm California night, like a forgotten melody from childhood, she spoke right to me, across years and miles and impossibilities, she had this to say to me:

"Do not feel, any more, guilty about idleness and solitude."

"For what we write today slipped into our souls some other day when we were alone and doing nothing."


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Just a Ride

So here I go.

I am starting to blog today, October 13, 2009, a day significant in so many ways, because:

1. It is the very first rain-storm of fall, after months and months of nothing but summer sun.

2. Therefore I spent an hour walking in the rain with my love, near the Santa Rosa creek, watching the brown rapids and long-legged birds, as I got soaked to the bone.

3. It is also the birthday of my best friend, Mel, at whose wedding a month ago I gave a rollicking maid of honor speech.

4. It is an extremely rare day off from school, in the middle of the week, due to Nonesuch's camping and rafting trip over the weekend, where I dove for white egg rocks on the bottom of the cold clear river.

5. It is the day that I have finished---finally! after months and months of revision!---my Balloon Essay, which I will submit for publication to as many places I can find, by the end of the week.

6. When you inverse the number 13 you get 31: which is the date of Halloween, my favorite holiday; which is the date of my birth, in December; which is the age I will turn in two and a half months.

7. It is the day that I finally decided to stand up to my fierce inner critic, who has been bullying me for a year about how I can't start a blog until it is PERFECT, how it will never be PERFECT, and how I should just give it all up. It's the day I realized, while walking in the rain, that all I ever have is right now, and right now I want to write. Even more, I want to urge my writing into the world, where people other than me can read it. I want to stop being so damn afraid of PERFECT, I want to accept and let go, I want to write. I want to stop listening to all the tales I've spun about how everything should be. I want to spin tales about how it is, right now, about how life is far from PERFECT, and thank God, because what a burden perfection is.

I want to make peace with that critic, who cowers on the other side of the couch, hoping I will find a reason to stop before I post this. I want to hug her, hard, and tell her it's all okay, everything is always okay, and look, I'm not free of her, I started my first blog trying to imbue this day, this very experience, with significance and meaning, just like she wants me to do. She desperately wants order, control, because for so long, way too long, she's feared chaos. But it's in the chaos that I am born. The chaos is the rain and the peeling eucalyptus bark and the smoky campfire and the messy gluey collage and the birthday party and the whole wide unplanned day.

I want to blog to escape, if only for a little while, the order. I want to blog to remind myself of what Bill Hicks, that brilliant prophet/comedian said: It's just a ride.