A Yankee's Musing

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Just some musings

Finally it is above 32 degrees today, and I hear there is lots of sunshine. Of course I am here, in my office, no windows, no sense of the world beyond these four walls. Before me are two stacks of papers, writings by my students. They were to capture a moment in their lives, a defining moment, either with a person or an event. In writing about that moment, they need to visualize it, and help the reader enter that moment through their imagination. This was an exercise to help them understand more fully what Momaday was saying when he spoke of how words are magic, the foundation of good storytelling.

The students, both classes, took on this challenge, many at first with reluctance, but all finally in powerful silence that reverberated. So now I have the privilege to read these moments and in doing so, gain a real sense of the individual behind the words. Powerful for me still, after 46 years of teaching I am in awe. And then suddenly, about five minutes ago, I stopped responding to each of them even though I am only half-way through. Clearly I will not finish them for classes tomorrow. But that's not what is aching in my chest right now, gathering pressure behind my eyes, blurring my vision, making me breathe each breath slowly, precisely.

It is this, these two classes are the last here in Brooklyn, NY. The last at the crossroads of the world where I learn more than I ever could give. My hands start shaking on the keyboard saying this---I will miss the voices I will never meet after this semester. I am retiring after 46 years of teaching...oh, I will always teach in some form or another, some place or another, but not here. I will never hear about a child, her mother, and grandmother, Palestinians picking olives from what is left of their trees on land that has been severed on the West Bank, once theirs, now guarded by automatic weapons that press against a grandmother's bosom and an Israeli soldier's hostility that says, "Give me what you've picked or I will kill you," and the old woman refuses. I will never hear about a child who hides beneath a stack of unburied dead bodies in a cemetery just across the boarder from Sierra Leone. She hides there three days before escaping the genocide that erased her entire family.

There are things, so many things, I read and see in the news. But my students bring fresh eyes, an open mind, and an aching heart to these stories: I see faces so like those who have names. My perspective has changed. I have learned not to make assumptions and judgments. I have learned from my students. Will I be the same without them? Will, upon my return to a world so very separate from the rest, in the White Mountains, lose more than I will gain? I hope not. But I do know my patience with bigotry, anything that begins with "they" or "them" will send me into the red zone. I hope I can quiet my anger.