Wednesday, June 9, 2010


She wrote, simply, "hi mike."

I assumed I was the Michael she meant, but it does not matter, berries are for all of us, so I am using the photo. The hand belongs to Jessica Pierce, the berries to whichever mouth gets them first.

Along my walk to school are several cherry trees--the cherries are ripe now. I get to school with a tongue stained purple.

I found two blueberry bushes three blocks away yesterday. The mulberry trees are about to give up ripe fruit in the next week or two. It's a great time to be a mammal (or a bird).

The cherries are small and dark, full of bitter tannins countering their ridiculous cherriness.

When I eat a cherry, I believe in God. Not the wordy omega John God--I keep Him in my pocket in late autumn. I mean the atavistic, prehistoric sun god, the Ra, the one who sets off week-long dancing and unpardonable ecstasy. The mysterious one. The unknowable one. The one found in a June-warmed cherry.

Most of the year, I can talk myself into anything. In June, I simply cannot talk. No need. Life is bursting around us.

When I was still young, I feared dying in spring or summer, feared missing what was to come, dying in the midst of plenty.

Now I fear dying in winter. I do not wish to die, few of us do, but when I do, I want to be surrounded by possibility, by sunlight, by berries.

I want to be the bee found nestled in the flower at dusk, her last day spent exhausted and resting on clover petal, a life well spent. I do not want to die in the hive. Even a 5 star accredited hive full of well-intentioned bees trained to transition me to the next life.

I am not transitioning anywhere. In June I am here, and no other "here's" exist. In June William Blake makes sense. W.B. Yeats makes sense. Even death makes sense.

The school year is winding down. And what have we learned?

I live in a good town. I teach in the same town. I am paid through taxes given up by my neighbors. I work hard, and so do they.

The least I can do is teach their children the ecstasy of June berries, pursuing the happiness of sweet stained lips instead of the demands of a petulant man-child dictating education policy several hundred miles away.

The least I can do is show them our local lichen and hawks and bees, instead of just words in books written by strangers who know nothing about the pair of mallard ducks who slumber on the Bloomfield Green.

The least I can do is show children why I still get excited when the sun rises over our town, our gardens, our homes, and why so many of us choose to stay here. The sun worth knowing is not the one in the textbooks, the one of fusion and distance and solar storms.

The sun worth knowing is the one that keeps us alive, the one that we can feel on our faces, the one that pulls the bay over my clams, the one that blesses the cherries with sugar.

If you want to teach science, start with joy. If you cannot tie joy to wild berries, go play on Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue. Real education starts on Bloomfield Avenue.


Amanda said...

You say you are a science teacher, but are you sure you are not really a teacher of spirituality and religion? ;-)


(as we say in Facebook-land)

Gregory Sams said...

You remind me of the Galileo Galilei quote I reproduce at my website:

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."

I'm not sure why we came to the opinion that sun worship was primitive and ignorant, but suspect it had more to do with a jealous Church than it did with scientific discovery.

doyle said...

Dear Amanda,

No, I teach science--I'm a bit more circumspect in the classroom. If kids know what it is to know something, they will realize how little any of us know about anything.

I'd be interested on your take on the dirt beneath our feet--soil is one of those everyday mysteries we pretend we "get"--but now I am sounding like a serious fart, so 'll just shut up.

Dear Gregory,

Great quote, and I suspect you're right.