Saturday, August 29, 2009

Walt Kelly and August light

August is a silly month--we gorge on the harvest while the sun swings wildly to the south in its death dance. Few of us notice.

Tonight Leslie and I feasted on eggplants from the garden, cooked over charcoals coaxed to flames by olive oil from Italy, a country I pretend to know something about, though I've only been in its airport in Rome. The flames were fueled by sunlight almost half a world away

Leslie and I spend half our lives near the Delaware Bay, Jersey side. We can watch the sun set on the water on the beach a few blocks away. In June we look to our right--now we look slightly to our left.

I was invited to three wakes this week, I went to two. I was older than the person in the casket in all three.

Our economy, our culture, depends on the illusion of immortality. If it did not, who would spend a Saturday afternoon watching golf on television?

I make melomel, honey fermented with fruit. It's the closest I come to playing God. I throw honey sent by a friend in Michigan in with water from Cape May with blueberries from northwest New Jersey. I add yeast, though I do not know its source. I stress the yeasties enough for them to make ethanol. (Happy yeast, dancing in oxygen, do not make alcohol.)

I just had a bottle from 2008. The blueberry bushes that provided the fruit are likely still alive, the yeast are not. The vintner who gave me the yeast nutrients still breathes.

I lost both my parents in Augusts past. I lost my sister in November a few years ago. The fading sun makes me nervous. No way to know who will be around when August rolls around again.

As you know, I teach biology.

As you know, we live in a linear culture. More. Brighter. Bigger. Better.

The dominant culture is wrong, of course. We live and we die, so others may live and die. The sun fades, the sun returns. We reap what we sow. I plant seeds in March so I can feast in August. As mysterious as it is, it is not overwhelmingly complex. (OK, the particulars are overwhelmingly complex, but the big picture of cycles is not.)

I was rock hopping on my jetty this afternoon--it was high tide.

The tide rise and falls here twice a day. The water rises and falls about four feet, an incomprehensibly large amount of water. The state wants the child to be able to tell important strangers that the reason the tide rises and fall is because of the moon, because of the sun. And that much is true.

But I ask--how much can a child who has never seen a beach know of the tides ?

This was supposed to be a post about Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo. I got permission from Carolyn Kelly, Walt Kelly's daughter, to use a personal favorite panel of Pogo here.

On a good day, maybe 100 people take a peek at my blog. I write for an audience of one (Leslie), and am flattered by the attention of a few dozen other souls.

I sought permission from Ms. Kelly to use her father's cartoon. She granted it. This may be the highlight of my blogging efforts. My post on Pogo may be my last.

I teach. I have taught over a hundred souls a day in my classes. Most are there because the state of New Jersey deemed that they were required to take a science course in order to get a diploma. A few, a very few, choose to take science out of joy, out of love.

September is coming, and my energies will be focused on them for a long while.

I'll continue to write, of course. I've been writing in journals for years, and I have the joy of living with a woman who's a real writer who was foolish enough to fall in love with me. I'll probably continue to throw my thoughts out here, but the tone may change.

Stay tuned for Pogo.
"Don't take life so serious, son . . . it ain't no how permanent." - Porky Pine


Derek said...

I too am a science teacher (Bio, Physics, Chem depending on the need). Wanted to let you know I appreciate your blog.

As a side note I just lost a close relative to a sudden heart attack at the age of 57. As a scientist/educator it's easy to talk about life cycles until they hit close to home.

Kathryn J said...

I have several markers - either a shadow or light through a window - that I use to monitor the track of the sun as it "moves" north and south. We are only a bit more than two months post-solstice so the rate of change is nearly at its peak.

I am sorry for your recent losses. August, with its waning light, has not been kind to you.

doyle said...

Dear Derek,

Thanks for the kind words.

I am sorry for your loss.

Just talking about life cycles, or talking about anything, really, rarely hits close to home. I think seeing the cycles does, though, and as hard as death may be on the living, I suspect that as you lose people close to you, you may become more effective when sharing life cycles with your class.

Does make it harder, though.

Dear Kathryn,

Isn't it amazing how fast the shadows swing around the equinoxes? A lot of kids don't see it, but are surprised once they do. Until the kids see the sun "move"--and there's no better word for it--as the seasons progress, learning about solstices and 23.5 degree angles and all that is just drudgery.

nashworld said...

As I tap these keys, it is just about 6:00pm. I sit here in my classroom, where I will be with 18 students from 7 to 9pm tonight. We are studying marine biology. Tonight, in fact, we learn about tides. Serendipity, my friend. Some of my students have never seen the ocean. Some have never been on an airplane.

If I wasn't stuffing them into an plane for a trip to the subtropics in April... I'd sure have a hard time lobbying for the significance of this phenomenon (even though it is- massive).

The approaching autumn has always had a stronger pull on me than the other seasons. Reading your blog this time of year makes that feel even stronger.

I remember a day this past year when that I remarked to you how I wish you had a little bloggy checkbox so that I would get a heads-up each time you posted something here. (I have given up on RSS- too hectic for me.)

You know, I've come to realize over the past three or four months that I don't think I would like that quite as much. Your frequency x depth is too much for my busy life. I wait on your blog. I wait until I have a bit of time to actually breathe deep, and then read for...... (not sure what word to use here, please doesn't work, but it will have to fill in for now). I wait, and then I read. Sometimes this amounts to two posts- even three. Three of your posts awaken more brain cells than days worth of reading in other places.

As I sit here waiting for my room to fill with kids who really do want to be here, I think about the ebb and flow of not only the ocean but of human emotion.

I'm not really sure which is deeper.

nashworld said...

"pleasure"... read for pleasure. two fingers and a keyboard.

perhaps it reacts to be tapped at repeatedly by two middle fingers so often.