Saturday, September 19, 2009

Walt Kelly is dead. Long live Walt Kelly.

I've been busy. Too busy.

Too busy to clam, to write, to stargaze, to play my guitar, to get drunk, to chase ghost crabs on midnight beaches, to watch the monarch butterfly migration, to catch sea bass, to carve wood, to watch the ferry come and go, to brew peach melomel, to be human.

Last night Leslie and I stargazed on the edge of the Delaware Bay, chased ghost crabs under the starlight, and today we raked up some clams from Richardson Sound. I will play my guitar tonight for her after an ale (or two), and tomorrow I hope to sit on the jetty and watch the butterflies flutter by. Next week I'm brewing peach melomel, come hell or high water, and I am "wasting" my time writing now.

My hands smell like low tide at the moment--I played, today, and rejoined the universe. Women and cilantro and bay mud all smell like life, and that's no accident. I forget sometimes. If I ever forget permanently, I may as well be dead.

Clamming is serious business--it costs lives. Not just the lives of the clams and, occasionally humans. I rake up bloodworms, tiny blue claws, whelks, and all kinds of critters I cannot see.

Clamming is serious business--it feeds lives, As I stir up the muck, shrimp and kellies and whelks congregate around me, nibbling on the manna, and occasionally nibbling on me (apparently psoriasis is tasty).

Right now 15 clams sit in the fridge--I raked up a few more than that, but Leslie and I decided that 15 was enough, so I put a few back. I scooped up a few small holes in the sound, and placed the clams in my artificial beds. No doubt I killed a few thousand critters to save the few extra clams I dug up. Still, there's something to be said for knowing when enough is enough. (15 clams for two people may be too much.)

I teach, or try to, anyway. I teach about excited electrons, Latinized naming systems, and entropy. It's all very exciting for me, but out of context, I'd bet it's stultifying. If you're 15 years old in our culture, a culture predicated on lies and salesmanship, what I teach is out of context.

A couple of hours ago I was sitting in a kayak, surrounded by water and herons and sea weed and egrets and cormorants and, of course, clams. Context.

If you kill but do not consciously slaughter, you are missing something. It is very hard to live without killing, unless you are a green plant. If you are not a green plant, you have an odd sort of agreement with the universe.

I love Walt Kelly's work, and had I known him personally, I'd have loved him, too.

This is the 2nd time the pogo strip used the phrase "Don't take life too ain't nohow permanent." Walt was alive the first time. He's still alive in my head.

We pretend we're as immortal as the corporations influencing our curriculum, but, of course, we are not. IBM will exist long after my children celebrate my life at a good ol' fashioned Oirish wake.

If I teach nothing else this year, I hope I teach this much.

You are alive, part of a mystery that you cannot comprehend. You will die, also a part of a mystery you cannot comprehend. Enjoy the ride.

(Alas, it's not in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Science Standards. I'm teaching it anyway.)

Addendum: turns out 15 clams was just right.


Jeremy said...

Good to see you back. I've been wondering when your next post would show up. I've finally had a chance to return to my blog after being ridiculously busy. I either need more hours in the day or several clones of myself to do everything that needs to be done.

B Flickinger said...

I am currently taking a grad class that deals with blogging in the classroom. I found your blog page and your topics very interesting. Do you use your topics for students or parents? Who is your audience? Are you currently teaching? I find your opinions and subsequent discussion to be very real and very necessary, but guess that you probably do not post without some opposition (likely part of your purpose). Could you give me some insight how this all came about for you and your motivation?

B Flickinger

Unknown said...

I'm glad you're blogging again. I often feel that the bulk of what I'm teaching isn't on any state standard. Last year we settled on a class motto (not a mission statement for damn sure) of "Learn to Live Well." If I had more courage, I would have gone with what the students liked best, "Learn Well to Love Well" summing up the vast majority of service learning with a word that is far too dangerous in school.

Paul C said...

'A couple of hours ago I was sitting in a kayak, surrounded by water and herons and sea weed and egrets and cormorants and, of course, clams. Context.'

How wonderful. I graduated (?)from the canoe to the kayak this past summer. There is nothing better to grow fibrous roots and tentacles than to paddle in the midst of a struggling, vibrant nature.

Kathryn J said...

Glad to see the post but happier that you found time to be outside. For me, the stress of busy is always reduced when I spend significant time without walls or a roof.

What is in context for today's students? How do we get them to want to be outside?

I miss Pogo. For me, one clam is too much. Are there any scallops in that bay of yours?

doyle said...

Dear Jeremy,

Thanks--in the end, clamming beats blogging. Good to remember that. Wouldn't matter if we were immortal gods, but guess what. We're not.

Dear B Flickinger,

I responded on your blog (as you know); just don't want folks here thinking I ignored you.

Dear John,

How you live trumps canned mottoes--I keep reading your blog, and I even ordered your book. You know what matters. I encourage others to peek at your book as well.

Dear Paul,

I am blessed (and those around me cursed) with my overabundance of pollyanna genes. Individuals struggle, true, but nature just is--for me, that's Great Mystery enough.

Dear Kathryn,

Ah, a fellow Pogo traveler. Even live clams not destined for the gut fascinate me.

We have scallops, but the suckers can swim, and they've got eyeballs even as adults. Catching them requires real work.

So I clam.

My neighbor, though, is a professional scalloper--if ever you're in town and he happens to drop off fresh scallops, you will never be able to tolerate a store bought scallop again.

Kathryn J said...

I'm already ruined for store-bought scallops by my trips to Cape Cod and my knowledge of who meets the boats in New Bedford every morning.

I didn't know that scallops were such difficult creatures to catch. I have even more respect for them now.