RSS

Author Archives: toesinthedirt

About toesinthedirt

Teaching and learning, as a family member, science and math teacher, neighbor, friend, writer.

A poem that asks not answers

How can we know the past?
By its tailings, lying by the hole?
Do seasons really come again??
Only higher up, burying the one before

Is it worth saving this bit of plastic by filling it with ink?
I could carry it everywhere
and those I left behind would not know
I had ever been there.

Is this the end of lovely?
It is the universal force, and we
wish the stars above were nearer
to overcome it.

Why does the freeway sound rise in the damp
Riding on the vapor all the way to my window?
What is the hissing in my ears?
Either blood, or memories smashing together.

Why do visitors wait for me to come
to a sound I have not heard?
This one I will bring indoors
to last until I die.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 5, 2018 in Arts, Poetry and Music, My poems

 

Tags:

You see me, but I can’t see you from up here

Why are you too shy to sing around the people who know and love you best
and would rather perform before strangers?

They will see your soul, all bare, weak-limbed, pathetic,
striving and longing after lost, forgotten, and  hopeless things
no longer within reach

but on stage, it will be taken as
part of the act.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 13, 2018 in My poems

 

Tags:

It’s all in the air, except for the chocolate

I’ve put my fall color quilt on the bed–the white with yellow and soft cherry and lime given to me by my mother appeared garish in the golden fall afternoons and rainy mornings, instead of light and cheerful.The rust, rose, and blue green one is sedate and classy, if somewhat Victorian. It was made by my mother-in-law. Our home is blessed with many quilts, several for each person to take when they move.

Also paintings. My father just sent two more, one for each daughter, Newfoundland seascapes. I have more artwork than walls, now. But I may change that, as I have designed some a remodel that would add a porch, a dining bump-out, and a two-story flex room/writing loft expansion. Each will have walls.

Perhaps this is a distraction from my grieving process, but the idea is a very old one in some form, at least fifteen years on hold, and revived because it’s about time, and I need not have anyone’s approval any more. I picture a comfortable chair, wood desk, a view of the garden, and prisms cutting the morning light into rainbows all over the walls. It has been a back burner sadness that I have not had the space to be materially creative and have had no upstairs room. I could take out my sewing machines, card designs, art supplies, even use the space as a place to refresh my guitar skills and repertoire.

That last idea has also been smoldering, now a little more warmly; this afternoon I went to the gig of a teacher colleague at a local tap house. He has been trying to get me to play more. My ukulele is under my desk, but my guitar is at home, happily now regularly played by my oldest daughter, who needed only a few basic lessons to get learning. When I hear performances, especially of someone on a small stage, it motivates me to get back singing and playing again, for a goal, say, of doing a small gig with a few friends in the same little local festival next year. Sharing something people enjoy, facing fear, getting attention, making my children proud, improving my skills, all good reasons. The main obstacle, it seems, is my shyness about playing at home–I feel it so deeply, when I sing and don’t want to be that vulnerable around my own family. Strange. I want to stretch out the berry season as long as possible, can hardly bear to have it end, though my freezer is well stocked.

My days are so full, long hours I work. Early every morning I grind and press coffee, dish up granola, my special recipe, and yogurt, with walnuts, dried fruit, and raspberries from the yard. If necessary I go with a flashlight and bucket in the dark to pick enough, even though I am aware that they contain a significant proportion of fruit fly eggs and larvae. If they don’t taste any different or have any negative health effects, I don’t care–they are a cheap protein source, is all.

I fill a canning jar with soy milk and espresso, grab a container of leftovers for lunch, load up my arms and tuck everything out into my Nissan Leaf, unplug and go, heating the steering wheel and my seat against the foggy chill. Exiting off the freeway and making my way across the north edge of town, I roll along the straight road at 53 mph, letting the V8 pickup trucks roar by me on the straightaways and whipping by them at the roundabouts. The pheromones of their young, male drivers bounced uselessly off my side windows as I pass. Mist rises up off the corn stubble, with the look of holy spirits, and the aroma of fermented cow manure.

I finished my second professional learning day training today, having made a good impression, I feel, on my colleagues in the district, in the discussions about improving student learning. I was aware that I was mainly aiming my efforts at the most interesting and intelligent men in the room. I am a little needy, wanting attention, I told my daughter on our night walk down to the grocery store to buy chocolate and wine. I added that it helped that she and her sister had assured me that I looked really good for my age. I know dating is not right for me now, I said, that it would just be a distraction, but it seemed to be enough to imagine that I was turning heads with my cuteness, astuteness, and, no doubt, pheromones.

The wine we bought was awful, even mixed with lemon and soda. Good chocolate, though. “Down with Love,” I declared. We had watched the movie together, a favorite of my husband and mine, just the other week–the chocolate reference was not lost on her. She too is between satisfying romantic relationships, although she prefers a different brand of chocolate.

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

VSP

I am over you now.
It was dark.

 
 

Your lips

You set your mouth like your grandfather when you write.
Do you know that?
Look at that photo your father sent;
see how he holds the pen
and his lips
stiff in concentration?

And when you sit at the sewing machine, you bite a little of your bottom lip
as if it might fall under the needle
if you didn’t hold it still.

I can see your emotions in the set of your mouth
They are not full lips like magazine women,
not pleased and relaxed
like you see in your reflection

You don’t even know what your mouth looks like most of the time,
except in photos, and that look surprises you,
so you practice photogenic positions,
in case of candid shots

Now relax, release,
and kiss me.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 2, 2018 in My poems

 

Tags: , ,

Another first day, in another first week, in another first year

The first week of school was mainly planning, with only one 5th grade class to teach. The second week started after Labor Day, then another first fifth grade class, my first all day of high school Wednesday, with three different classes without a break, one being my first year ever teaching chemistry and the other two having new curricula. Then came a different 5th grade class Thursday. This week, my third week, was the first full week, including the start of math tutoring all day Tuesday and Thursday, and the first Friday classes.

Mondays and Wednesdays are just as packed and challenging as ever, with this year featuring an extra large Algebra 1 class that has to meet in the dim, chilly foyer. So I have to get the tables and chairs set up beforehand, tote all my stuff down and then upstairs after, including laptop, cords, handouts, books and projector cart. I did get a helper in the form of the Social Studies teacher, with whom I’ve become good friends but have yet to figure out how we’ll work out our team teaching. He doesn’t really know the math, he says, but we’ll figure something out. The challenge is that all but a handful of students don’t remember much of their pre-algebra skills, so we have to do a few weeks of review, all with custom photocopied material because we can’t order the texts yet.

We are also short a full class set of Chemistry texts, so I have to decide which alternative I’ll base the course on–an open source text, my own hodgepodge, or something I can scan for those who opt for online text access. Apparently the approval process for the real online text is too expensive and costly. I do like a challenge, but I can’t seem to find the time to nail down a better plan now that things are in full swing, unless I put in extra days on the weekend. Which I’m sure I’ll do this weekend, as last.

But Fridays this year are easier to manage, less stressful and with more margin, thanks to the new principal with a new plan. She’s all about trusting us, being flexible and creative, and making things less stressful. So she changed four preps to two (one repeated class), plus a supporting/tutoring role for me in an Algebra 2 hour I don’t have to plan (much). Most classes are smaller than last year, and we are not obliged to put up with shenanigans from certain rascals only there because their parents wanted a break and they want drama.

I’m using a well-designed boxed curriculum for the two middle school classes, at the urging of my principal, to further simplify my life as I adjust and support my family after the death of my spouse. It teaches the basics of physics, the history of scientific discovery, and the scientific method.

But I couldn’t resist custom designing a fresh course. Environmental Leadership is a high school elective, and as I made the proposal for it, I found that I’ve become much more practical and efficient at laying out a year plan and blocking out the elements. It should, if things go well, culminate in a final public event where the students show their stuff and change the world a little for the better. Some of the rascals from last year have become freshman, though, and for some reason, they still like my classes.

So I’m back to full time. I had planned to take Fridays off for the first semester, but now I’m down to maybe trying to take more sick days so I have margin. Getting a sub is more work than teaching, so unless I have a good video…okay, so I get it now, with the videos for the subs. I used to complain as a sub that all I got to do was show videos. I’ll try to find the time to plan some easy days so I can vacate a little, with advance notice, because subs, let alone good subs, are almost impossible to find in our district without advance notice.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Education

 

Tags:

The man inside the boy

I don’t know what happened with my youngest son, but it’s good. I have been urging, reminding, cajoling, conniving, and ganging up on his to either do more physical activity of the ordinary kind such as biking to school, running, or swimming at the local pool, or join a school or club sport or team, to please, please choose something, and I’d support him. But he only dabbled, while his newly developed height with doubled number of muscle cells puddled in a chair as he played computer games for hours a day. I got into it with him the other day–he could see from my intensity how heartfelt my concern was, how serious a thing I felt it was to neglect one’s health that way, how he would be giving up the good feeling of strength, balance, and sense of accomplishment, even while his brain was tricked into thinking that the levels or perks of his gaming were some kind of real achievement. It was a hijack of his innate evolved dopamine reaction that didn’t pay the same dividend as REAL challenges, REAL risk, REAL conflict, trouble, and overcoming, I said. And no, I said, when he told me he needed me to “make him” exercise, I just couldn’t, with a full work schedule and disciplines of my own to fit in. I said he had to make himself, or sign up for something where he would be made to do the work. I acknowledged the reality of the temptation to yield one’s time and attention to those clamoring for it–the games, or movies, or social media for some. I told him it was too much–I had been willing to make athletics mandatory, but there was supposed to be an eventual owning of it, and it was past time.

He wasn’t planning to swim again this year–said he’d had too many ear infections. Last year, with lots of encouragement from his parents and his siblings, he chose to swim on the high school team, after years of unenthusiastically participating in summer league and improving each year, though never enough in his own mind to pay more than grudging acknowledgment to his gradual drop in race times. He felt nowhere near as good a swimmer as his brother and sister before him, though she assured him that his times were about the same as hers when she started. His brother had started much younger and so had immediately made varsity in his freshman year, going on to be count Swimmer of the Year and then almost make college nationals (in Canada). We assured him it didn’t matter, that it was about fitness and fellowship, and that we loved watching him swim, along with his grandparents. Also, he was becoming a bit of a specialist in backstroke, unlike his Freestyle/Fly siblings. So much for an easy choice –excellent coach, good group of boys, great fitness, and fun to watch for us. But it seemed to be over. His sisters had invited him to go for climbing and to the gym, but nothing was happening.

Then today, he burst out of his garage bedroom and said, one, that he was really glad his drum teacher had got him listening to jazz it was so amazing (he never listened to music before this, despite several years of piano lessons and now a few months of drumming), and two, that he wanted me to sign him up for swimming.

So I guess the exhortation with tears got to him where the gentle reminders and reasoning didn’t. He’s a heart guy, like his dad. He’s owning it, too–he doesn’t do things just to be compliant, but he does have a desire to do what’s right. He’s manning up, I think. I’m so proud of him Dare I hope that he’ll also heed my pleas to say no to first person shooter games, to protect his imagination, or to do real live work with his hands, like helping me build a new compost bin, or splitting some firewood, instead of virtual digital building and tearing down?

 

Tags: , , , ,