IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

Summer Time Teachings

Monday, June 01, 2015


In the words of the great Alice Cooper, "School's out for summer."  For most of us that is now true. 


But, not for me.  I'll be getting those recent high school grads in just a couple of days.


A few of my colleagues and non-teacher friends moan when I say I am going back quickly after finishing up my yearly semester to begin summer semester.


But really, I don't mind.  I actually dig it.  In the summer, I usually only amass a dozen or less students, compared to the 25 I have to wrangle in the Fall.  In the Fall I teach all the Composition classes you knew and loved, a few literature classes, but mostly writingwritingwriting.


I teach more than English though.  I teach (and study) human nature.  And that nature, although the human does not, changes with every single semester.  Quite possibly, daily.  They would like to tell you that people's behaviors, outlooks, opinions can't possibly change that often or that quickly, but, oh, my friend, they do.


Think about it.  We are constantly globally connected.  We can't go a day without some mention of a political statement, or what some family has been hiding, or even to what extent Kanye smiled.  We are constantly connected to our smart phones, and that is not very smart.


When I was in college (and in grad school), I had a TV but it wasn't connected to anything but an old VCR.  In the mornings, I put on a CD (usually Tori Amos) and drank some coffee (usually French).  If I had down-time at night, I watched a favorite movie.  Smart phones did not exist.  If I needed to research something, I went to the library, the one with paper books, and shelves, and card catalogs, and librarians with an  extensive knowledge on the history of everything.


Smart phones are nice, but so is human interaction, which brings me back to teaching summer school.  Right now I have 6 students signed up to take my Introduction to Literature class.  I will spend 3 hours twice a week with 6 people.  Tell me we won't get to know each other in all the uncomfortable ways.  We're going to talk about words and why someone a hundred years ago needed to write them.  We are going to talk about words and why we need to choose them wisely. We are going to talk about trees and why a tree is never just a tree!  We are going to sit with our metaphors and look at the leaves and the sky.  We are going to listen to birds and probably traffic.  We are going to talk to each other.


If you happen to need Introduction to Literature, or maybe you just want to talk about trees that aren't trees, look me up. I'll be in Room 504.  I have a view of the river, the bridge, and the Farmer's Market.  I have 6  people talking to each other.



Offerings

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Offerings


Private Davis is at the back

of the room, mostly


to mend his mother.  She wants him

free of rounds and shells and sand


on fire.  I watch him:  a boy, crew cut,

T-shirt, fatigues folded at the foot

of his childhood bed.


We practice our yoga, breathe and breath taken

for granted.


He is built for M16s,

blast and calm, dares to do it.


He could kill a man.  Has.

He could offer a cupped palm to a starving dog.


All I can do is offer him a few inches of space

on a rubber mat,


and breath and breathe.


She Bit Me! Or, How to Eat like a Louisianian

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

There are a few truths about Louisianians that settle around who we are as a people and a culture. The saddest part of our truth is that our wetlands are disappearing, and with that our way of life.  Our very boot-shaped map, is losing its steel toe.  Our celebrated truth is that we are mainly of French stock and with that a Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez attitude, oh, and mais yeah, we like to eat.


We have food with names like gumbo, which is from the French gombo, of Bantu origin; akin to Umbunduochinggombo, meaning okra.  We have etoufee, borrowed into English from French as "stuffed" or "stifled."  We use spices called file', which is dried sassafras; cayenne, which is a delightful little pepper; bay leaves from the Bay Laurel tree, which will not soften in the pot and don't you dare try to eat one.


We eat bottom dwellers like shrimp, crab, and crawfish.  Right after shapes, letters, colors, and knowing which bus to take home from Miss Evelyn's Chateau de L'Ecole, we learn how to peel and eat our own serving tray of these delicacies.


While planning my trip home to South Louisiana, I gave my brother a list of things I needed to do (walk around my college campus), see (the muddy banks), drink (Donner-Peltier Distillery), and eat (a Frostop Root Beer Butter Burger).  But, most of all, Blue Crabs.  He assured me I could eat til I fainted.


So, on this day of 101-degrees-in-the-shade-heat, my brother, a blue-eyed, red-headed, freckle-faced boy with a skittish hurricane personality and a knack for collusion, and I acquired a bushel of blue she-crabs and prepared them for under-the-carport crab boil.


Here's how you do:

1.  Obtain the bushel of crabs from down the bayou, preferably from a fisherman named T-Boy or Bubba.  Keep the crabs iced and in a Mardi Gras frenzy til cook time.

2.  Get a big ole' stainless steel pot.  Fill it with water and set to boil.

3.  Take the she-crabs out one at a time, still all rustle and bubble and pinching pincers.  Use long-handled tongs.  (I say this with great reverence as one of them sliced my thumb open.  You have to respect those little ladies, with pea-sized cerebron, that will pinch your fingers with Marine sharp-shooter precision).

4.  Get your uneasy ways gone.  You have to pop them in the boiling water while alive.


After boiling those girls up with potatoes, corn, mushrooms, sausage, okra, onions, lemons, garlic, we laid out newspaper on the kitchen table and set the roumelade, which is a combo of mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce, in the center.  It kind of depends on the etiquette of your family as to how the serving is handled.  Some of us just slide the crabs onto the table.  My family lives up the bayou; we are of the elite sort, so we all picked our first serving onto our plastic trays (Purple and Gold, Geaux Tigers!).


I ate more than I would like to tell.  It's how we eat.  We roll up our sleeves.  We wait for the juices to run down our cuffed sleeves and the folds of our best old shirt.  We pull ourselves a good 2 feet of paper towel and stuff it between our knees for easy access.  We keep at least one beverage of choice near our tray.  We eat.  We drink.  We tell stories.


It is no story that the wetlands of Southern Louisiana are disappearing at the rate of 1 football field every 15 minutes.  One more bad-ass Katrina and a whole way of life will be obliterated.  No matter how many Northerners try to tell us to prepare, we party.  We host Hurricane Parties, literally big festive bashes held behind taped glass windows and during the whipping winds of a hurricane.


As long as our land is here to give a place for the alligators to chomp and the cottonmouths to open their white maws, we dance our zydeco.  As long as there is food for someone to get into a boat at 4:00 am and dredge the muddy waters with ancient nets, full of salty bayou weeds, snails, small fish, and sometimes a boot or bone, for us.  We eat.


It's who we are.


Snapshots

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."

 

 

I had this dream the other night. Truth be told, I have dreams most every night. Stairwells, old, empty houses, haunted houses, attic spaces. Hmmm, I see a theme.

 

Well, anyway, I had this dream the other night. I was boarding a jet, one of those big airbus things. My mother was there, my nephew. I had a black, rolling carry-on.

 

I am boarding for my flight to Paris! I am in my seat. I am buckled in. I remember: I don’t have my camera.

 

For me, this is a weird dream. Paris is on my bucket list. I am in my seat thinking, well, I could buy one when I get there. I wonder how much Parisian cameras cost. Should I buy disposable cameras? Should I buy a nice fancy thing with lots of buttons? But mostly I am pretty unconcerned that I have forgotten my camera.

 

I’ve mildly contemplated this dream for a few days. Shrinks, on the whole, agree that dreams are there for your brain to work out a problem. Pickles are pickles. A Rose is a Rose is a Rose (ah, Gertrude, how we love you). This jet is not some sort of Freudian man-issue.

 

I digress. What if you are supposed to go on the trip of your imagination and not record everything you see? What if you are supposed to lock it into your mind, and forget about all the people who will never see the Paris you saw.

 

You know how long the camera has been in existence? The Daguerreotype was built around 1835. That’s nothing. That’s only 179 years of recording things. That means for a gazillion years man has put his memories in that little walnut shaped brain of his. In 179 years, we have not been able to solve poverty, loneliness, hunger, illness, but we sure can take a selfie and call it empowerment.

 

A while back, I broke up with someone, and in my need to shred every ounce of memory, I tossed photos like Nixon shredded audiotape. Then, I started digging deeper, getting into childhood photos. Did I need every image of me in a gingham nightie holding a dolly at Christmas? I remember the dolly. I remember the nightie. Do I need the photo? Do I need to carry this dusty thing with me everywhere I go? Some would say yes. My mother would say YES! But I don’t.

 

We live in this world where we photograph, illustrate, journal every single moment. Here we are reading this via Facebook, we can open a "window," and we can take a quick spin and see everyone’s memory. (Go ahead. I’ll wait). We post pics of our manicured toes, our ice cream cones, and our meal from our birthday, our new car / bike / house / apartment…… None of these are Paris, surely, but do we need to record every moment?

 

I am guilty as all of you for recording the splendid moments of my life, but what does it matter? If there were a tornado or hurricane or fire, there it goes. Gone.

 

As I write this I am at a local watering hole, people are chatting, catching up on the daily gossip of who did what, the game is on the TV, the bartender is wiping down a tray, he smiles at the server. He pours a pint with one wrist on the tap, with a laziness like waiting for a pay phone to ring. When he lifts the land line, his pinky knuckle is on his cheekbone. The girls are busy as bees, even in their resting moments their eyes are busy as FBI at a presidential parade. And, I’m ok not recording them, or the Edison bulbs, or exposed bricks.

 

Look. Don’t stop recording your stuff. I like your stuff. I like to know how you are and what you find beautiful. Here’s the thing: if I go to Paris, and I take a pic of the Eiffel tower, is that any different from any other postcard of the Eiffel tower. Of course, it is my moment. In that moment, it is my Eiffel tower.

 

Should I experience the moment fully? Should I just breathe in every forged bit of iron, every pair of lover who ever kissed, the souls who jumped, who cried, who lost their way. Should I smell the grass, the Galoises wafting, should I wait for Gertrude and Anais to shed their love on me?

 

Oui. We should fall in love with the present. It is the only now that matters.

Finding My Center After the Storm

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I'm watching Turkey Buzzards circling over my backyard as I sit and work in my office on this peaceful Saturday morning.  Through the other window I see an intricate spider web attached to the eaves of the roof swaying in the gentle breeze.  My 3 children have spent the morning playing, disagreeing, making-up, and playing some more.  There is such peace and fullness in my heart/mind at this moment.  I'm reminded of the word purnam, or "perfection," which, in this context, does not mean what we might think.  I am full...I am whole...I am perfectly content in my spirit as I observe the fluctuations of the world around me.   


After the longest Winter of my life (which bled into the Spring and even early Summer), I am refreshed to find the ground beneath my feet again.  It felt like a metaphorical hurricane swept through my life and left me completely demolished internally.  

After a month of testing in January, my son was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism.  While I had suspected this for the 5 years prior to his diagnosis, there was still a part of me wishing they would tell me I was wrong on that emotional day.  

The day before I drove to Chicago for this news, I learned that my father was diagnosed with another form of cancer (he had beat Prostate Cancer years before).  My relationship with my Dad has not been a close one, and so I was left with a mixture of feelings, including grief and fear.  

It was a hell-of-a week, and I took a few days to try to assimilate all of this news.  And then...that following Friday as I was waiting in the pick-up line at school I received a terrifying call from my mother.  She was having a stroke!  I spent the next week in and out of the hospital with her...trading shifts with my brother as we worried what would happen next.  Once released, she came to live with me for a few weeks so I could care for her, which included sorting out all of her new meds, helping her learn to give herself insulin shots 4 times a day (for her out of control diabetes), cooking heart-healthy meals, and more.  I was happy to do it, but I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.

By the grace of God, her stroke did not leave her completely handicapped.  While it certainly affected her, with time & rehab she regained most of her speech, balance, and abilities.  It was life-changing for her (and for all of us who love her), and she made incredible lifestyle changes in an effort to avoid another stroke.


Now, months later, we're all doing pretty damn well!  My father & I have become closer than we've been in years, and his cancer is under control at the moment.  My mother lives independently with a helper now who comes twice a week, and she continues to be stronger everyday.  My son, well...of course there is no cure for Autism, but we've been able to get him a 504 at school, which means he is protected for the rest of his educational days.  I've finally been able to talk to him about his diagnosis, and together we are learning how to navigate this unique path God has blessed us with. 


Everyday there are new challenges to face, but this is the nature of human existence for all of us.  For everyone of us life is going to be full of heartache, scary moments, and metaphorical hurricanes that make us feel defeated.  But, the beauty is that there are also moments of deep joy, moments to celebrate, and remarkable miracles which build us up again.  All moments pass, change, ebb & flow.  

I'm eternally grateful for the skills my yoga practice has given me.  Because of these tools I am able to find my center...remember to breathe...and accept that I am not in control of the world around me, but I can control how I react to it.  With a very glad and grateful heart, I am thankful for this moment.  


Namaste

<3 IndigoGrrl


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