Saturday, January 31, 2015

Imbolc, again

Imbolc, again, in less than an hour.

An Cailleach Bhearra wandered around back in the 10th century in western Ireland,
eating "seaweed, salmon, and wild garlic" (my kind of woman), looking for firewood.

If the day was bright and sunny, beware--she had gathered plenty of wood and was set for many cold days ahead.
If the day was gray, she didn't bother, and she will make the days warm up again. Sound familiar?

Imbolc again.
The daffodils have broken through the earth. My words shrink as the sunlight grows.
Groundhog Day has always been a favorite of mine.

We are trapped by words.

This week my lambs are being tested. They sit silently as they analyze stylized marks on paper, then fill in 90 bubbles on a piece of paper holding 500.

This is serious business, this thing we do with words. Outside a gull glided by lifted by the unusually warm mid-winter breeze. No one else in class saw it.

What's the use of knowing the word gull if you have no use for the animal?

We pretend our words make us safe. We pretend our words give us control. We pretend that words make us special, and that these words separate us from the bacteria, the fungi, the jellies, and the gull.


A few days ago I watched a crow at the ferry jetty caw caw caw at a gull sharing a light post. The gull did not respond. The crow then swooped down, picked up a piece of paper, then returned to its perch near the gull.

The crow carefully ripped up the paper, piece by piece, dropping each piece, one by one, watching each piece until it hit the ground, looking at the gull between pieces as if to say Hey!

When done, the crow cawed once more, and this time the gull squawked back. The crow, now seemingly satisfied, nodded, then flew to a trashcan and cawed at a few humanfolk, one (not me) who cawed back.

I have no idea what that was about, nor could I justify discussing it in my classroom. So I don't.

Curriculum stops at the point where humans are besides the point.

That makes sense if you live in a world of words. It makes less sense at the water's edge.
A child can parrot the Calvin cycle without knowing a thing about a seed, about food, about the billions, trillions of other organisms teeming around him.

If we keep ignoring things where humans are besides the point, we will become just that.


I teach biology, the study of life, in a culture that fails to recognize death. The children spray themselves with Axe, yet shy from the pond water and the mud brought in from outside.

I can hardly grade a child on her ability to keep a plant alive in a public building . I cannot ask a child to slaughter a calf in class. I can ask her to tell me how many NADH molecules are generated from one molecule of glucose during the Krebs cycle.

With the return of the sun comes the return of my sanity, when I feel comfortable letting go of the words again, learning (again) that what I thought was besides the point is the point.

Photos by us.


Kate said...

It is snowing like a snowy day here in Chicago, I am fighting some bug my students shared with me, and I have homework - but I KNOW that spring is coming. I could see this week that I was doing things in the LIGHT and not the darkness at the beginning and middle of my day. I also know that 18 years ago my youngest daughters were born during this time, at this turn of the wheel of the year.

How I love Imbolc. I wait for it. I hold my breath until it arrives. I know it is coming before it arrives.

Yesterday we saw the daffodil shoots. Today they are huddled under a blanket of snow. Spring is coming.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

Every year now I look forward to your Imbolc comment.

How I love Imbolc. I wait for it. I hold my breath until it arrives. I know it is coming before it arrives.


Mary Ann Reilly said...

Today is Imbolc. Spring is just ahead.
Your post is almost too thoughtful on an evening when snow is predicted again.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

True, the snow reminds us we're not there yet, but the light, the light!

(The plants emerging now even through the snow help. too.)