“Hey Spring, how you doin’?”

Spring.  I am so fucking ready to see it.  Cursing is not a very Spring-like thing to do?  Too damn bad.  Don’t get me wrong, Winter had some beautiful moments, but my turtle side always fears slipping into the warm shell of rainy afternoons and never resurfacing.  In the midst of the hibernatory rest, I also continued (finished?) the transitioning away from school.  As of June 4th, I have one year of middle schooler free life in front of me, to screw up and soar with as I will.  Part of that transition includes some parting odes and thoughts to teachers, parents, and students.  These were significant labors of love and honesty whose texts I’ve included below; the italicized part of “Done to You” was written by a current creative writing student who has an old soul in a tiny, eleven year old body.  When I read them I feel release, I feel hope, I feel Spring.

“Goodbye Ode”

I see you–

crinkle brained desk hunching,

a beautiful stew of

‘tomorrow could be’ beliefs.

You’ve always seen

that it’s magic,

and the tragic and panic

of not enough and too much

stay tucked in the bottom drawer.

I see you rising–

heartsore–

uncaffeinated,

debating what to make your own children

for breakfast,

before you send them out

to test the next day

with the selfsame soldiers

of your own beautiful army.

I see you unraveling

the threads of history–

so they can peer in between–

bringing science and math to reweave,

English and Art and Music to sing

of the beauty we’ve made together,

the beauty to lift and flavor

the body in which we live,

the one PE showed us was beautiful.

I see you with piles and memories,

full bladder and fast clocks,

a teacher face and a soft voice

to sneak into cracks in the armor.

I see all the light that shines on you

from 100’s of pairs of eyes.

Even though some eyes

throw lightning bolts that burn–

you have learned

how to hold

so

much.

But for now,

I can’t hold it anymore;

the scores, the boxes,

the expectation locks that impose

a one-way flow.

I have to go…

In search of co-creation,

liberation of shared humanness,

the juiciness

of not judging the mess.

The quest for me

Is acknowledging my own magic,

leaving habits and ‘shoulds’

In the back of my closet

like ill considered 80’s jackets

with shoulder pads.

But I take you with me

Not in lesson plans or lists

but in scaffolding, laughing, and

“You can do this!”

I take you with me as the ground

that first bloomed,

and the room I needed

to catch up to myself.

 

“Crimes Against Children”

Same as any boring day–

heading to the grocery store

with lists and plans and dates

crowding my grown up brain.
That’s when I saw them,

tired man on cell phone with full cart,

and young daughter of no more than three.
“Daddy! Look! I’m a butterfly.”

She alighted on the curb

with flapping wings for proof.

He slid his credit card away

and checked an errant bag

that somehow gave him pause.

“Daddy look, I’m a bird,” she flapped

with more resolve

while hopping from one foot to the other.

Her eyes spun like dizzy blue marbles

and her laughter was frosted with mirth.

“Daddy LOOK!”

The man finally turned his attention to her earth and shouted,

“You are not a butterfly,

you are not a bird,

you don’t have wings

and you’re going to get hurt

if you keep playing so close to cars.”
As I passed I saw the stars crushed

into dull ash coat her once young skin,

The whole thing took less than a minute.

And I’ve remembered that minute for years.
As a teacher,

parents come to me,

sometimes with tears,

to ask what their children need.

And they’re good questions

like, “How best to educate? How best to discipline?

How do I get them to talk and know I’m listening?”

and my favorite,

“How do I protect them?”

They’re worried about the cruel rejections

of bullies and colleges,

impossibly perfect women polished on

the covers of magazines.

Not to mention the demons

who reach for forbidden parts

in forbidden rooms,

or young loves who assume,

“You owe me,” with fists and threats

and the internet horrors that

haven’t even been conceived of yet

to lure a trusting heart.
“How do I protect them?”
How do I start

to explain that the greatest crime

may have already been done?

The creation fire needed,

that fire from the sun,

was blocked by grown up needs long ago.

“You’re saying acting like a butterfly is going

to keep my baby safe?”

No, but when they’re presented with options,

don’t they need a way to move between them and take the temperature

with more than just pro and con lists?

And when someone brings your son something colorless

and calls it art,

he better know the difference between forgery and color.

And when your daughter gets trapped by rules

made long before you became her mother,

if wings are the norm,

she will launch herself from that place and

FLY.

They’ll already know who plays fair

and wield that fine tuned instinct like a spear

at the gate of sparkling castles

that only princes and princesses can enter.

And you’re right,

it won’t hinder them from ever getting hurt,

but they’ll learn the spells and potions for rallying their army from around the earth

to come to their aid.
And the only work for you in all of this

is to rearrange

your priorities, just a bit,

to make some room for magic.

“Done to You”

I’m sorry it was

done to you.

I didn’t know in my youth

that this life meant

I’d always have to be right…
Or maybe I did.
As a kid there was no control-

maybe that’s why

I seized the godlike role

of “teacher?”

(Or maybe you just scare us

so we make you pay

with the same Kool Aid we drank?)
But so many years later

I can say,

I wanted it to be more

than this.

More than papers and power plays,

letters and lists,

more than us vs. them,

more than…

done to you.
And I often wonder what it would be like

if the roles were reversed.

If the teacher had to sit quietly,

responding so concerned

they didn’t sound like themselves.

Loathing the power of the red pen.

Depressed in knowing that letters on a website

decided their future.
What if the child were the smartest

–the feared–

in the classroom?

If the child wielded their power ruthlessly,

leaving the teacher thinking,

“Do they even care who I am?”
But I DO WONDER!
I expected adventures–

and in truth there’s been

more than a few

with youth

that radiate

passion

in spite of it all,

I’ve traveled mountains,

broke through walls,

unlocked puzzles and

judgment calls

that can not hold us anymore.
As a child, I expect nothing other than

teachers shoving information down my throat,

and asking me to regurgitate it onto a test.
We all go to school.

Learning from a teacher

whose years consist of being conformed the very same way.

Learning from these have-been kids.

Learning to bury our imaginations

And bury ourselves.
I guess even for those who soar…

it was done to you,

How did symbiotic creatures–

parents, students, teachers,

not remain teammates?
But, were we ever?
I thought we could’ve been,

but maybe it’s too late.

I’m sorry I waited

so long

to challenge

what was done to you.

They kept saying ‘almost’ and ‘just wait’

and soon…

soon you can teach it the way you want to.
Could we do

better?

Send you into the world with gifts,

not fetters of passive regret?

the debt accrued with vanilla pudding IV’s?

the degrees linked by no degrees

to your freshly beating heart?
I try to start and yet,

the language of co-creation

seems a foreign tongue.

We’re both so numb.

And while some of the things I’ve done

bring me pride,

some I’d most definitely

not want done to me.
I’d like to think

you’ll outgrow us,

what was done to you,

and live delirious lives

courting passion and purpose,

but the truth that hurts is–

it can’t be so for all.
We’ve lost some of you.

Hopefully, you’ll lose us too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting the Wanderer…

I’ve been reading about archetypes for more than a year now.  Thus it didn’t surprise me when I bumped up against the topic again in Women’s Spirituality: Power and Grace, by Mary Faulkner.  Not only is this a brilliant primer on issues that snuggle close to the heart of what it means to be woman and a spiritual being (feminism is not the opposite of patriarchy?!? give me a sec’ to digest that one Mary), but in the chapter on archetypes she advocates talking to yourself.  You don’t know how long I’ve waited for official permission to do something I already do!  Granted she calls it meditation, and something else I can’t remember without the book in front of me right now, but it’s talking to yourself.  Within a circle, you map the archetypes that are present in your own life, and then look to see what each has to say to you.  What do they want?  What do they offer?  How do they balance the other stories that run right alongside them?

This seemingly simple process quickly fascinated me.  It became more and more my own as I worked on it, and then I reached a final blank space that I wanted to fill.  “Wait, what goes here?”  I didn’t know the answer, but I felt something more than OCD asking me to pause with the uncertainty.  Around and within the circle already were child, lover, creatress, Miss Delaney, mother, philosopher, pleaser, and hermit.  Some of these stories I know quite well, and some are just unfolding.  But still the empty space wouldn’t be filled.  I felt a familiar sense of panic in my chest as the word finally kicked its way out: wanderer.

“NO!”  was my automatic and unequivocal response.  “How about rebel?” I bargained.  “The author uses rebel, that’s a good word.”  I couldn’t commit to the anger that word implies for me.  “How about daydreamer?”  Well, the lover and the child in you really do most of the daydreaming.  “Shit, I guess wanderer is the word.”  But why the strong reaction?  I couldn’t figure out if I was still worried about becoming my hippy dad, living in his car at 70 and protecting his boo boo’s like a wounded Brontosaurus.  Or maybe it was my fear of flying?  Doesn’t a wanderer have to get on a plane fairly frequently?  Again, the answer came in simplicity.

You don’t like her because you don’t know her.

Ahhhhhh…oh man.  Of course.  And not only that, but she is probably going to want to be more in charge next year in the land of unteacher.  So I’m asking myself to travel with a relative stranger.  No wonder I didn’t like the word.  You never know when traveling with strangers if they’re going to pull out pictures of their grandkids or their pets, and if their grandkids look like their pets are you going to have lie and say they’re adorable?  Are they going to have foul breath?  Radiate an inordinate amount of heat if you’re seatmates?  Want to get up early if you’re sharing a room?  It’s a definite problem.

So I took it to my therapist, as the perseveration prone do, and once again basked in the brilliance of someone who can look in my head without actually being in my head.  “Could it be okay that you don’t know the wanderer yet?  You should at least give her an interview.  You wouldn’t turn down a candidate for a job because you didn’t know them before the interview, would you?”  No, no in fact I wouldn’t, and the prospect of writing an interview between myself and this archetype seemed like a spiritlicious way to spend the evening!  Funny thing is, when I got home and set to writing, the wanderer flat out wasn’t having it.  She didn’t want to be interviewed, but she did want to leave me a resume of sorts.  Her comments below do nothing and everything to ease the tumult around next year’s uncertainity…

The wanderer longs for a boundary crossing language.  “Velvet crunch cherries in clean white bowls,” instead of, “My day was fine, thanks.”  Or, “Shriek toned spotlights at the base of my skull,” instead of, “I am afraid, and no, I can’t tell you why right now.”  The wanderer crosses boundaries, not to get somewhere, but to gift lovers back to one another.  The wanderer wants to invent for them new ways of kissing, counting, and silence–and each time she swivels to the shelf to grab for them, she’s curiously disappointed that they aren’t there yet.  Her thoughts drip like hot wax on an untended table–you’ll never again be able to scrape that rebellion off of it.  The wanderer looks so long that her eyes become tongues–much longer than is proper–to lick spring dirt and ice cream and…other things.  She makes men blushing, virgin kings and cracks the Crone-room door for queens.  The wanderer asks us to bring another way, mixed with good earth greens, in a casserole dish to her table.  Don’t expect her to tell you her stories for free.  Don’t expect her to beg to be in charge, but expect her to be ready to play when you give her the keys to dreaming.