Saturday, October 16, 2010

Melomel, cosmos, and teaching biology

Yes, I know, same old same old...I write for Leslie.
When I walk, I walk with Leslie.
When I eat, I eat with Leslie.
When I sleep, I sleep with Leslie.
When I share melomel, I share it with Leslie.

This morning I watched a couple of bees trying to suck nectar from pink cosmos flowers. The breeze was topping 25 mph. I suspect the bees were spending more calories than they were getting, but they keep trying to get to the flowers, because that's what bees do.

And now I am writing stories about the bees, because that's what humans do.

And it's all good.

I'm drinking peach melomel--peaches from 2009 fermented with honey made from flowers in Michigan. A few dormant yeast rest in the bottom of the bottle, poisoned by the ethanol they created.

I took a walk on the today--October beaches have more carcasses than life. The light is fading, and life fades with it. We forget this when we pal around with modern 21st century humans. Except when we don't, and make a formalized ritual out of dying. Which is OK, I guess, but I think I can manage it on my own. I hope I die under the sun, and I hope I'm alone. But we don't talk about this in polite company.

We started farming about 10,000 years ago. It's why I can sit in a permanent structure sipping wine made from cultured peaches and cultured yeast.

I get a little sad when I reflect on the culture we pretend can be sated. It cannot. I get a little sad when I think about my death, too. Contemplating either, however, reflects an ingrained narcissistic and very human attitude contrary to this life thing.

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself.

-- D.H. Lawrence


I like being outside. Even when I think I won't, I always do. I have never regretted a single moment outside. And yet I teach my lambs inside.

I like walking barefoot. I am barefoot almost always, except when in school. I have rarely regretted a moment barefoot (though I have had the occasional spectacular bleed). And yet I wear shoes when I teach.

I like making bread, making beer, growing plants, singing, dancing. I have been sneaking parts of all of those into class. That I have to sneak them into the curriculum instead of trumpeting their presence in my classroom speaks to my cowardice and to my role as a government agent. It also speaks to a very weird social situation where I may talk more to a particular child than her parents.

I teach biology. It's messy. Always has been. It's wet, and chaotic, and real, and scary, and, ultimately, about death.

And life.

And what do I do?

I wear shoes in class.
I avoid death so I do not disturb my lambs.

But each and every one of us grows plants.
And every day, every day, I remind my students that the plants make stuff from their breath.
And in a few months, we will eat the fruit from the plants.

I do not, of course, call it communion, and would not for a whole lot of reasons.

But I will say this much. Though I have long given up on the Transubstantiation of the Host (but not the miracle of CO2 and water to food), and though I will teach what I am hired to teach, I am closer to death than birth, and I will not lie to my students.


You want a biology teacher? Someone who will put the logos (λέγω) of life in the classroom?

I'll do it.

A good biology course will change your child. If your child has not changed in my classroom, I've wasted her time.

The photos were taken today in North Cape May.
The cosmos were as alive as I'll ever be, and the crab as dead.

1 comment:

The Science Goddess said...

I was well known for going shoeless in my classroom (but not the lab, of course).

The first day of school, kids noticed but politely declined to comment.

Later in the year, if I had shoes on, one of them would be brave and ask "Why?"

Why, indeed.