Outside my window the March Hare has played a terrible trick, smothering the landscape with inches and inches of snow. My yard resembles a moonscape, drifts and crater and dunes. Not of sand or soil or dust.
A white coverlet. A snow blanket.
Two days ago, daffodils peeking.
Gone. Gone. Gone.
On the other side of the world.
A Zen Garden. Rocks and stones and grains of sand.
Here in my corner of the world.
My Garden. Snow and what once was, now hidden from sight.
A Zen Garden. A garden that begins with a single grain of sand. Then another and another, a gentle rain. The song of a sonnet raked in lines and waves. A rock, for punctuation, for emphasis, a stress, an accented syllable.
A call to attention.
The busy mind in the Zen Garden sees only the lines in the sand. The solitary rock. The busy mind in the Zen Garden tries to establish order, to fill in the empty spaces.
For the busy mind, the Zen Garden is a solemn sorry space.
The busy mind in my Garden sees only piles of snow. The solitary tree. For the busy mind, my Garden is a blank canvass. One more day to wait, one more day without color, shape or bloom.
For the busy mind, my Garden is a sad and solitary place.
The song of the Zen Garden is a poem. Everything is here, it sings. Everything you need is here. Right under your nose. In front of your face. Under your feet. The waves of the ocean, the mountain rising out of the sea, the hills and the swell of the tide. Nothing is missing. Except you. Loving patient hands sorted and placed each grain of sand, polished and placed each pebble and stone, raked the patterns of the wind and the wisps of the clouds.
The song of my Garden is an anthem. A gentle chorus humming softly. A familiar tune. There is life beneath the snow. Everything I need is here. Tucked in under the covers, waiting for the sun to rise. Nothing is hidden.The patient gardener listens. The faithful believe.
The buds will bloom, the grass will green, the sun will shine.
No matter where you are in the world, the light is shining.
The morning glory is waiting for you.
In the garden, where even a single grain of sand is a work of art.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
You Haven't Noticed....
So said the child.
The child who had yet to learn to tell a lie.
Welcome to the world of continuing education. Where, even at my advanced age, learning new things is still possible. However, while learning is still strongly encouraged, the rules are rapidly changing and common sense has left the building.
The first rule of Writing 101.
Write what you know.
It is important to Give and to Receive.
I have done both.
I have stood in front of the classroom
AND sat in tiny chairs at Back-To-School night.
Progress reports and grade cards. Given and received.
Homework assignments. Given and received.
Failing grades. Given and received.
Certificates Of Achievement. Given and received.
A member of the staff. A parent in the PTA.
I have street incredibility.
I am standing next to a child at the parade as the Emperor strolls by, naked as a jaybird, puffed up with self-importance and smugness, and am waiting for someone my size, my adult size, to point a finger and shout. To point it out. This man is not only silly, but making fools of us all.
Don't you see?
The crowd replies...oohhh and ahhhh
Have you people lost your minds?
This must be IT.
The moment I have awaited with great dread, all of my life.
I have become my Mother. I sound just like her and am somewhat grateful that she is not here to see this.
I must apologize and tell you that I saw this coming. I was there. I participated. I had to do it, because I needed the paycheck. I had to do it, because I wanted my kids to pass Chemistry.
I feel badly. I truly do.
I should have put my foot down and NOT my red pen.
The red pen was the first to go. Red is an "angry" color and makes children feel bad. Seriously.
No exchanging papers when correcting homework in class.
This is an "invasion of privacy".
The little stone that could, started rolling down the hill and before long was so covered with moss, that what was once an innocent little rock was now a huge green boulder.
A boulder that eliminated Halloween parties and metal swings on the playground, Christmas decorations and homemade cupcakes, dodge ball and kickball, honor roll, coined the name "crisscross applesauce", outlawed hugs, and evened the playing field so completely, that no one played on it unless it was a coed game on a surface made of recycled rubber tires and everyone took home a blue ribbon, not for "winning" but for "participation".
I, who am older, and a bit wiser, need to tell you a secret. This is NOTHING NEW. Turn back the clock. Okay, turn over the hourglass, and watch the sands of time, as we reminisce about the late 1960's. Teachers with degrees in hand, could show up on the doorstep of any school in any district anywhere in the country, apply for a job and get it.
Four years later, I stood in line with EIGHT THOUSAND applicants for the same ONE AND ONLY job. In those four years, education revenues fried up and withered away. 90% of the education students in my graduating class, never ended up teaching.
I was one of the lucky ones. In the right place at the right time.
And definitely not a good time to question authority. So I did as I was told. And I was told if I needed to discipline a student, I was to take said student into the hallway, out of earshot of the other students, and in a quiet and non-threatening voice, explain in detail my concerns, then comfort the student if I caused any sinking of self-esteem. Meanwhile, my thirty-five remaining fifth grade students, were left unsupervised and by the time I stepped back into the classroom MY self-esteem was out of control and so were they. The offender simply slid back into his seat and gave a thumbs up to his pals.
I think it was his thumb.
It was this same class of thirty-six students, I carefully collated into eleven separate reading groups based on ability, from 1st grade level to 9th, and taught by myself, simultaneously, without any aid. I take that back. This was an "experimental" year and the district encouraged parent volunteers. I had one. A parent partner. She was very nice. I gave her a red pen. (Remember these were the "good old days". Red was not angry, yet.) Her job was to correct papers. I was ahead of my time and did not let students grade one another. One small problem. My parent could not spell well. Math her weak suit. Therefore, every night I would cross out her red slashes and replace them with purple corrections in the margins until the papers resembled abstract art.
There is a moral to this story. Where many educational morals are found.
On the playground.
I asked each of my eleven reading groups to give their team a name. An amorphous title. The Eager Readers. The Phonic Frenzy. Etc. Etc. I was absolutely sure, as I stuffed my arm into my Emperor's New Clothes, that no one, no one would be able to tell which group excelled and which group struggled to learn. I paraded onto the playground for my day of duty, and to my surprise and dismay, a First grader pointed her finger at her older brother, a student in MY class, and said, "The Phony Frenzies Are Dumb". He looked back at her, smiled and gave her a thumbs up. Yup. Same thumb.
As I the Emperor surveyed my kingdom, it was very clear, that I was the fool. That in less than five minutes, these kids, these wise and unpretentious kids, looking at the world the way it IS, had it all figured out. Without a red pen. Or a teacher's aide. That world, that world from long ago, is exactly the same today. I know it to be true and so do you. From the first play date, to the first pick up game of soccer, to the size of your stroller, the brand name on your shoes, your address, apartment or home, who picks you up, who rides the bus, kids have it all sorted out. Give 'em a Rubik's cube with all your personal data, and a click click click, they know who you are. Where you stand.
Who's better or worse. Rich or poor. Bully or pal.
They size each other up.
Children can be very discerning. Foolish but not easily fooled.
Children are toddlers who fell and banged their heads and bumped their shins learning to walk.
Children are babies who babbled and cooed and made funny noises learning to talk. Children do not catch the ball the first time it is thrown. They practice. Children do not build muscles standing still.
They run and jump and leap. They want to read. To learn. To grow.
To do it all by themselves.
Children walk a tightrope.
Between wanting to fit in and longing to be unique.
Children know the Emperor is naked.
They speak the truth until we teach them otherwise.
We should speak the same language.
The world is NOT fair. That's the bad news.
No two people are the same. That's the good news.
The best news is that competition is healthy.
Because no one ALWAYS wins.
And everyone LOSES at something.
When a child succeeds, his hands are free to help another up.
When a child fails,
our job, is to let him know, show him how,
to get up and try again...
Thursday, March 14, 2013
When I Was Eight...
The heroine's name was Victoria. She had a trusty sidekick, whose name I forget, as Victoria stole everyone's spotlight. A diva, a delicate morsel of a girl, full of wit and loved by all.
Page after page of Victoria's grand and epic, perfectly perfect life.
You may have forgotten, but Victoria was the number one bestseller of a childhood fantasy.
I kept the notebook pages in a doll suitcase with a heart shaped lock, the key taped to the underbelly of the right hand drawer in my secondhand desk.
I cannot recall the day I stopped writing or the exact day I pushed the case into the furthermost corner of my closet. I do not know the precise moment Victoria went missing, but my best guess is just about the time I had to move from HERE to THERE.
It happens to everyone.
If they are honest.
If they are true.
Trustworthy about their past.
One day HERE and the next day THERE.
I cannot say that I missed her. Or even thought much about her.
I just plain forgot.
I simply grew up and packed away my childish ways.
Until one day, Victoria popped in like a long lost friend, sat down beside me, crossed her arms over her chest, looked me straight in the eye and said...
" Well, where have YOU been?"
I stared right back with equal pomposity and in my grown up voice, replied...
"That's not the problem, smart ass. I know where I've BEEN, and right now i am terribly busy trying to get a fix on where I am GOING. "
"I no longer have time to play."
Victoria smiled back at me sweetly, clad in her delicate and diva demeanor...and in a voice uncannily like my own...shouted...
"Why not start right where you ARE?"
So I did.
Victoria can be very convincing.
She scares me.
just a click away
Thursday, March 7, 2013
The Entire World
I want you to imagine that you are a child.
I want you to put yourself in a Time Out.
You have done nothing wrong. There is no shame or guilt.
This is a gift.
A precious and necessary pause.
For yourself and all who inhabit this life.
Five minutes of absolute, resolute, universal silence.
No cell phone.
No Internet or Google or Skype.
We could set a time a date, a moment...
Pull the plug, stand perfectly still and take a very deep breath.
I can imagine what might happen next.
I can imagine people looking all around themselves, to see if they were alone. If others had entered this folly as well. If there were any doubters or cheaters or snitches or peekers. And the inclination to be slightly embarrassed to have fallen for some trick. Some hackers hoax.
In those thirty seconds, in looking around, you were not alone.
The man in the elevator, with his hands in his pockets, standing next to you, looked over at you and smiled. Or the woman behind the desk at the DMV glanced up at you and simply folded her hands.
Or the young woman with the tattooed sleeve pulled her ear buds out, rubbed the back of her neck, and met your gaze.
Then in the next thirty seconds...
The angst of disconnect.
The what am I missing?
The, is anyone missing me?
How will I know when the five minutes are up?
What if something terrible occurs and I don't know about it?
What if something wonderful happens and I am not aware of it?
Is someone still watching?
Is anyone paying attention?
No one is moving. No one is talking. No one is making a sound.
I should take a picture of this.
This is remarkable.
This is a flash mob moment.
I need a camera.
How will I remember this if I don't photograph it and post it or film it or record it or tell someone about it, because I want it known that I was there, that I participated, that I was a part of something...
Minute Number Two...What is that sound? What do I hear?
My breath. My heart. The wind.
Minute Number Three...What do I see?
I see a blue cap on the man to my right. His neck is red from being in the sun. I wonder what he does for a living. If he has a family in my neighborhood 'cause he rides the subway with me everyday. We get off at the same stop and I never speak to him, we just nod, but he's standing there so still and I wonder if he's feeling foolish or if he's thinking the same thoughts I am.
Minute Number Four...Is it possible?
Is it possible that people in other hemispheres, different time zones, across oceans, near mountains and rivers and streams are standing perfectly still? Or because of all the time and space continuums, is this more like a gentle rolling wave of silence, a tsunami generated by the simultaneous shut down. Is it silent everywhere? Are they wondering about me, as I am wondering about them?
Is this what peace feels like?
Minute Number Five...Toe tapping, head scratching, nervous foot shifting, eye twitching claustrophobia, how many seconds are left, I am not sure I can trust this much longer, out on the edges, the users are needing a fix and watching for a sign...
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
A sigh of relief.
A sigh of regret.
But if it worked. If everyone was true in their intention.
Then for five minutes...
Some one somewhere died.
Some one somewhere gave birth.
In the space between Here and There,
And it was good.
While it lasted.
A round of applause.
For believing, just for five minutes, in the unbelievable.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Garden Power to the nth degree...the garden of the mind.
The story begins...
And everything in between.
In the beginning you have no choice.
You simply are.
In the end you have no choice.
You simply are not.
In between the beginning, HERE, and the ending THERE,
is whatever you choose.
Chapter by chapter.
The beginnings and the endings.
Real or imagined.
This is my life.
This is my story.
My journey from HERE to THERE.
From A Not Yet A Yeti
A Yard Yeti Extraordinaire.
...the Yard Yetis appear...
...in the light that never sleeps...
...the light that shines from the inside out...
during a state of suspended disbelief...
(click here or click the story page link
at the top of this page to begin your journey)