Thursday, March 11, 2010

September light...

Location: W074 11, N40 48

Daylight March 12: 11 hours, 47 minutes
Daylight September 30: 11 hours, 48 minutes.

St. Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of the earth on the sow,

and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell

Almost September light again. Close enough.

Mucking season. Life everywhere, everywhere. Spring breezes warm up tidal flats and fields of mud, and souls rise up again where clay meets breath.

Not generic souls. Not metaphorical souls. Nefesh--living souls, some human, most not. The sun's energy feeds us again as we repay our debts in our lust and ecstasy, as we chase what even words cannot betray.

I am a teacher, a civil servant in a public institution. I cannot, of course, start spinning in a maniacal dance during class, spewing on about souls and life and mystery. We have more serious things to attend to--NCLB, NAEP, HSPA's and SRA's.

I can do this, though. I can ask a student to watch a tree. And I have. I call it The Perennial Project. (The word "project" covers a lot of ground in edumacation circles.)

Some of the children have become attached to their trees. It's been a rough winter, and the trees have been acting pretty dead. A few students are worried that their trees will remain dead.

Now the buds are forming--thickening, succulent, ready to burst. Last year's sap rises again, from the ground towards the sky, botanical resurrection.

If you pay too much attention, you may become useless, intoxicated by life, staring with an idiot smile at a bud about to burst. Life's addictive that way.

Beats staring at a Smart Board.

I do not have formal permission for Galway Kinnell's poem, but I do have a story.

Way back in the late 70's, a few of us studying in Ann Arbor got together and formed the High Spark of Low-Heeled Boys,
and "sponsored" a poetry reading by Galway. Despite a decent crowd, we came up a bit short,
but Mr. Kinnell was gracious throughout--I probably still owe him money.
Go buy a book or two. You will not be disappointed.

The daylight hours provided by the U.S. Naval Observatory.


John Spencer said...

I dig the project idea. I just might steal that one from you.

I'm re-reading Walden right now and I'm struck by the balance. Thoreau believed in hard work and he worked really hard for a small amount of time and then he stayed in the moment, reading, writing, thinking, yes, but observing, looking, enjoying.

I still think he's a little too systematic and a little too preachy. He's a man of his times. I still think he misses out on the relational aspect of life.

And yet . . . I go back to "Walden" every once in awhile, because its message can feel almost like reading a prophet in scripture telling me words I don't necessarily want to hear, but need to hear.

Kathryn J said...

This might be my favorite post ever! It is September light here too. On the southern-most part of the northern tundra, we are not as far along in spring's reawakening but... there are signs of life.

There is crocus next to the leaky basement foundation. The glacier has receded enough to reveal snowdrops in less protected spots. I love the tree project! I think I will do this with my students next year - barring layoffs and if the creek don't rise.

doyle said...

Dear John,

I react to Walden in contradictory ways--one year I think it's wonderful, other years I think it's a piece of arrogant drivel, but I always go back to it.

I think I need to keep it in context--it's by one man, a real person, in a real time, a man who captured what he sensed.

We might consider sharing a post on the other site discussing this.

Dear Kathryn,

Thanks for the warm words.

The creek will always rise, sooner or later, but the crocuses always return anyway.

We just lost a bunch of trees around here with the storm--I don't know yet if any of the kids lost their "projects." Be curious to see how they react.

Kate said...

I love this poem. It speaks of possibility and of the truth that is in each of my students if I just pause and look at them. Really look.

The sugar maple behind the house is dripping. The squirrels are loving it. The sap is rising in my students as well.

Berlioz tonight. (the Lyric's production of the Damnation of Faust) Seems a pity to spend the evening indoors, beautiful music or not.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

"Really look" is the key to, well, just about everything.

I was talking to my supervisor today about photosynthesis, and about how it's silly to expect my kids to care about the equation if they do not internalize air and water forming wood.

And if they internalize that the stuff of our breath makes up a good chunk of plants, then they might be curious enough to care about the equation. Or not.

But even if not, they know more about life if they internalize the concept than if they just memorize a thoughtless equation.