Sunday, August 5, 2018

A handy guide to teaching

I take more pictures of things in my hand than I do of selfies.
Not sure where I am going with this, but few things as miraculous, as sensual or sensuous, as our hands.

Blueberries from the yard.
I like to hold things in  my hand, things that matter to me. My hands are scarred from my carelessness, and I am better for the scars.

Some people in my class fidget, need to hold things. I am one of them.

Basil pods, each one holding a few tiny basil seeds, each one dependent on a honey bee's work
Most things I hold are in some stage of edibility, stuff weaved mostly from the air, fueled by the sun, stuff to stuff, energy to energy.

Many of my students do not know where their food comes from, nor where their shit goes. Same is true for many of my colleagues. "Knowing" the answer to this in an intellectual sense is not knowing at all.

So we plant in class, a lot, and continuously.

A live sea horse, Delaware Bay
Unexpected surprises--a live sea horse just cast on the beach, a yearling horseshoe crab scuttling along the shore, and seeds, so many thousands and thousands of seeds, most which never see the light of day.

The sea horse surprised me by wrapping its tail around my finger. I put it back. 

Young horseshoe crab.
The critter above, put together from organic stuff lying along the bottom of the bay, sitting on metal forged in a nova, now sitting on a warm finger, until the finger turns cold. Grains of sand, broken and driven down from mountains hundreds of miles away, each one still exists--some on the beach, some in my home, some, no doubt, now nestled in the Atlantic.

We come from mud, the Bible gets that much partly right, but mostly from the same air that plants weave for us. I like the way warm mud wraps around me when I dig for clams in summer. I do not eat every clam I dig up--these guys went back, and may outlive me.

Staking the beans
I like using my hands, most of us do, though not all of us are as aware of this as we might be. Before we learned to harness electrons, before we knew how to tame petroleum, our hands made our worlds.I stake with jute, plant fibers woven together. 

Over the year, the jute will become thinner, weaker, easily torn off the stakes when the time comes, then tossed into the compost.

Fossil shark tooth, found on the beach, North Wildwood
But there were conscious worlds long before ours, and will be more worlds long after we are gone. 

I fear our compulsion to prepare our kids for the future when they do not have enough to do with their hands now. 

If you do not know your hands now, what possible use could you have for them in the abstract future? 

And if you have hands that work (not all of us do), and you have no use for your hands (beyond banging on a few keys to change the screen in front of you), then I suspect you will become unhappy before the rest of your body becomes as useless as your hands.

Somewhere in the above nonsense is why I teach...but I still have a few weeks to sort that out. =)

1 comment:

Kate said...

I've been trying to cast on a pair of wool socks onto a round needle as my cousin showed me at the family reunion. I've ripped it out three times. I'll keep working on it. A pair of hands, working.
Today my daughter and I cobbled together a rain spout away from the rain barrel that was overflowing and couldn't get the water away from the house. Two pair of hands, building.
Every day we pull a weed or two from the garden. Get the mud under our nails. One pair of hands (mostly).
As Emerson said: "We will walk on our own feet, we will work with our own hands, we will speak with our own minds."