Afterthesolsticeday’s Childe

Most days I manage to write in my notebook, daily pages, morning pages, whatever you will. The only way I can manage this is to sit down really early, 6AM or earlier, and stumble my way through the sentences. I can tell there’s something wrong by the way the sentences don’t flow, as they stutter and totter like an uncertain person just awake, eyes adjusting to the light.

A while back I wrote an essay I wrote for Love in the Time of COVID: A Chronicle of a Pandemic a collaborative project dreamt up by Michelle Elvy and Witi Ihimaera. This is one of the few pieces of writing I’ve managed to bring to fruition in the last nine months, since the start of this whole nightmare.

Pandemic. Ideas to alight upon: Christmas, beach, sunshine, no ICU beds.

School is a brutal day-to-day realization of how this ongoing crisis is battering everyone’s wellbeing, everyone’s capacity for focus and followthrough. Students are struggling to connect with their peers, trying to unearth their motivation, and I’m constantly examining what we do in an attempt to somehow pour a salve on their wounds.

Serial television shows bring some relaxation: Professional Masterchef, Seaside Hotel, The New Nurses, and the remake of All Creatures Great & Small. The problem is once you’ve watched one episode it’s time to switch to another episode, and suddenly it’s midnight and any chance of a decent sleep routine is destroyed.

The other thing keeping me sane these days is learning the guitar. Man, what a humbling experience, to be learning an instrument at the same time as my 8yr-old, and to see the speed with which she picks up things compared to me! Chords, fingers, strumming. Still, there’s a great sense of creativity in seeing even the smallest progression and I’m chipping away at the Blaze Foley song, “Clay Pigeons,” and Luka Bloom’s “Sunny Sailor Boy.” These small bouts of creative energy are what I have to fall back on to keep me going in this pandemic-wrecked school year.

And the vaccines are coming in waves, albeit slowly, the first workers at Cottage Hospital and Sansum already inoculated. Allegedly, the CDC says teachers are in the second wave, so that’s good news, and the sooner we can get back to the classroom the better. Here’s to a brighter 2021!


Hope Like a Hangover Coiled: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

I always re-read on this day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the essay I published at Litro Magazine a few years ago. The link is here. Not easy being away from home so long, the Pandemic keeping our travel plans in check. Here’s to brighter and safer days ahead.

Mutteringsday’s Childe

Darkish mornings, the winds strewing leaves and downed branches over the road, I’m driving through the murkiness to the gym. So much easier to stay in bed, take an extra hour and fifteen to sleep, wake and get to work in plenty of time to be organized for the new week. Instead, I push my body to the limits, or at least what I think are its limits at 5.25am on a Monday.

My head is filled with plans for the week—teaching a cross-disciplinary workshop on Elie Wiesel’s Night, conferencing with freshmen about their essay drafts, how to integrate vocabulary and grammar instruction into the classroom in an organic manner, whether to ditch the ratty blue sectional sofa the kids sprawl on—forgetting that it’s also Halloween and everyone is bound to be on a different wavelength this week.

Letters of recommendation need to be written this week, the November 1 deadline looming, as well as the kick-off to FlashNano, a thirty day exercise in writing process and discipline. I need the structure, the daily prompt that’ll spur me into action to get something creative done in my life. Last year it was the genesis of my 365-days of the Bird project, which lingers at around 265 pages, a good forty days behind schedule, and I excuse myself because of moving house, starting a new school year, all the stresses of life that interrupt the creative path.

I heard from my friend, David, today, and might plan a writing group to meet once a month beginning in a few weeks. This is not something I’ve had since the days at LSU, when my weeks were defined by workshop schedules and performance studies’ projects. And yet, there seems little chance of balancing everything just-so and making such great strides. The layers of stress and overwhelm, the social-emotional burden, the collaborative cycle of inquiry, the thousand small demands of the workday, all make the world a place where “one step at a time” has to be the watchword.

And yet, one step at a time won’t get us closer to where we need to be in this devastating and beautiful work we engage in as teachers. Students are stressed out in a way I’ve not seen before, their family lives and struggles bring layers of trauma that interrupt and many times derail the learning process, yet we carry on; we carry on teaching, listening, understanding, advising, cheerleading, modeling, motivating, and creating.