Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal Weddings: Love and Hope

I didn't watch the royal wedding in real time.  I knew that yesterday might be a high calorie day, so I wanted to get a walk in before heading over to school for Open House.

Periodically, throughout the day, I went to my office computer to send photos of Open House to our social media person and to keep an eye on Facebook so that I could like the posts that mention Open House.  I noticed how many of my friends were loving the royal wedding, and not just grad school friends, the people I'd have expected to like it.

So, after Open House, as we surfed channels in the afternoon, I urged my spouse to stop on the wedding coverage.  Since there wasn't much else, he agreed.  We tuned in for what I think might have been the opening hymn.

I knew that the sermon would be good, but I didn't anticipate how good it would be, even with the heads up from my Facebook friends.  Even my spouse got teary-eyed.

And the music--oh my goodness, the music.  I knew we'd love the gospel choir, and I suspected we would love the cello--and we did.  I was surprised by the delights to be had from the High-Church Anglican traditions--oh those choirs!

And of course I loved the longer view of the cathedral--what stunning architecture that is so lacking in most U.S. church buildings.

I didn't expect to love the royal couple and the extended family.  I'm not one of those Brit Lit majors who has breathlessly followed every move of the monarchy, either the current one or those in the past.  But I loved the fact that Prince Harry wiped his eyes throughout the service; I love a man who understands the solemnity of the vows he's taking.  And the bride was stunning.

I'm also not a high fashion person, but I love a good hat or fascinator as much as the next person.    I didn't expect to be as approving of the bride's dress--but what a lovely dress!  I liked that it was modest.  I'm tired of form-fitting dresses of all sorts, and my disapproval of the new fashion of plunging--to the navel!--wedding dresses makes me realize that I'm too old for these times.  I loved the tiara and veil.

In the morning as I watched the various posts about the wedding that I wasn't watching, I wrote this Facebook post:  "It is wonderful to see my Facebook feed full of wedding pictures of the hopeful couple and great quotes from the presiding minister at that royal wedding--a nice change from anger and vitriol and heartbreak."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Royal Wedding vs. Sunrise Sightings

Yes, I'm up early enough to watch the royal wedding, but I'll likely go for a walk instead:  sunrise vs. solitary wedding watching.  Sunrise wins.

I'm thinking of other friends, particularly grad school friends, who are going to watch this wedding at some point.  If we lived in the same town and had a wedding watching party, I'd spend the royal wedding with them.  Of course I would:  we would create a fabulous tea, and we'd likely work on our stitching projects and we'd laugh--tea and wedding and good friend time would be better than the sunrise.

I do have a question:  why is Harry six in line for the throne?  Who comes in between him and his older brother?  Is his older brother next in line after Charles?  I'm realizing that all of my assumptions may be wrong.

And why can't I remember the name of the older brother?  I could Google it, sure, but I'm finding it fascinating that I can't pull it up out of my brain right now.

I remember when Charles and Diana got married.  We were at Myrtle Beach, where my family always rented a ramshackle house which didn't have a TV.  We were only mildly interested in that wedding, so we didn't make any efforts to see it.  I do remember thinking that Diana was just a few older than I was at the time.  I wondered what it would be like to go from relative obscurity to that kind of public life.  I had no desire to follow in those footsteps.

I'm thinking of weddings of all sorts, and the various prices they impose.  I've seen Facebook postings that mention that the average wedding in the U.S. now costs $35,000.  Some have pointed out that an undergraduate degree could be bought for that money.  I would think of a down payment on a house.

If the average is $35,000, that means some people are spending much more.  A friend of mine at the gym was recently a bridesmaid, and I was astonished at the cost involved.

But let me not get lost in the weeds of thinking about the financial choices that people make.  If I don't lace up my shoes, I'll miss the sunrise.  Let me get a walk in, because the day ahead will be long.  We've got Open House at my school, which will likely mean lots of activity--unless it doesn't, because of the tropical rains forecast for today.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Apocalypse and Other Upheavals

Seeing pictures of people playing golf in the foreground, with the plumes of smoke from the erupting Hawaiian volcano in the background, makes me want to scream, "Get out of there!"  Sure, they should be safe.  But there were people in 1980 who went camping near the spewing Mt. St. Helens volcano thinking that they'd be safe.  But they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the mountain exploded sideways, which no one anticipated.

I'm also thinking about the first case of urban ebola.  That's a bad, bad sign.  But at least the actions being taken have been swift.

Still, it's the kind of news nugget that makes me wonder if at some point, we'll look back and say, "We were so upset about the latest Trump debacle that we didn't see ____________."  Readers of this blog know that I've spent time preparing/thinking about the wrong apocalypse.  I scanned the horizon for mushroom clouds, not seeing the oceans steadily warming and rising.

Of course, history often works in circles, not straight lines.  Perhaps all that time scanning the horizon for mushroom clouds are still ahead:  I feel fretful about Iran and Israel and North Korea.

In the meantime, I do the work that must be done:  teacher observations, annual reviews, buying food for both school and home, paying bills, making dinner, washing dishes, washing clothes--these tasks too run in circles, making me feel that I'm never done.

My creative work, too, feels circular, not linear.  I return to the same themes, the same ideas, but execute them in different ways.  I've been writing my Jesus in the world poems for over 20 years now.  At first it seemed scary and subversive to imagine Jesus moving in the modern world.  Now I worry that I've worked the theme to death and have nothing new to say--and then a new idea begins to poke at the edges of my brain.

Being around high school students this week took me back to one of my Jesus in the world poems, my series that attempts to answer that old Sunday School question of how the world would react if Jesus returned again and what would Jesus do and how would we recognize him?

I wrote this poem after reading a biography of Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana fame.  Hard to believe how long it's been since Cobain died, so long since that music which seemed to split the world open.  I remember a few details from that book, chief amongst them that Cobain often played a guitar that was out of tune, a guitar that didn't have enough strings.  Did he not know how to tune the guitar?  Did the missing string habit come from his poverty days and he'd gotten used to playing the guitar that way?  The book didn't have the answer.

Chiron Review published it years ago.  I think it still holds up.

New Kid

If Jesus came to your high school,
he'd be that boy with the untuned guitar,
which most days was missing a string.
Could he not afford a packet of guitar strings?
Did he not know how to tune the thing?
Hadn't he heard of an electronic tuner?
Jesus would smile that half smile and keep playing,
but offer no answers.

If Jesus came to your high school,
he'd hang out with the strange and demented.
He'd sneak smokes with the drug addled.
He'd join Chorus, where the otherworldly
quality of his voice wouldn’t quite blend.
He'd play flute in Band.
He'd spend his lunch hour in the library, reading and reshelving.

You would hear his songs echoing
in your head, down the hallways, across the years.
They'd shimmer at you and just when you thought you grasped
their meaning, your analytical processes would collapse.
Instead, you write strange poems
to delight your children who draw mystical
pictures to illustrate your poems inspired
by Jesus, who sang the songs of angels,
that year he came to your high school.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Inspirations from a High School Awards Ceremony

Yesterday was book-ended by awards ceremonies.  We recognized scholarship winners at the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce at their breakfast meeting, and then, in the evening, we went to Cooper City High School to recognize the winners in that high school's awards night.

I finished our part of the awards ceremony last night by saying, "These students give us hope for the future, and we look forward to seeing what they do with their potential."  As I drove home, listening to the 80's music of my own high school days, I thought about how true it is.

We saw applications from students who have all sorts of plans, many of which involve helping others:  working with special needs children, designing better prosthetics, that sort of thing.  I was also impressed by how many of them have already been working for the good of their communities.

I realize that most of them will not transform the nation.  If we're lucky, they'll continue to work to transform their individual communities.  If we're lucky, we'll get to be part of communities that are being transformed.  If we're extra-lucky, the nation and the world will be full of these communities, full of people, working hard to make their communities better in a variety of ways.

In this time of graduations and bright hope that students evoke in us, let us remember that it's not up to youth alone to do this transformative work.  It's a time when many of us may be feeling despair about political events on the national and international stage, but it's urgent that we not let that despair paralyze us.

In every action, we move our various communities more towards good or more towards evil.  That's true even of actions we might think of as mundane, like how we treat our colleagues, how much we donate to charity, what we choose to eat.  I think of my Fitbit that shows me how my little actions are moving me closer to my health goals or further away.  Let's also think of our daily lives in the same way:  are we moving ourselves and our communities closer to good or closer to evil?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Administrator Work Week: Film Shoots, Cermonies, and Open Houses

This is a huge week at work, a week that doesn't end until after Open House on Saturday.  On Monday, we had a film shoot at our school.  It sounds glamorous, doesn't it?  But no, we weren't a site for a new movie with traditional movie stars.  A company that makes a software program that we use wanted to use our school for the promotional film they needed to create.

I spent weeks before their arrival figuring out how to move classes so that they'd have space available and looking for volunteers to be in the film.  They needed to film about 30 scenes, so there were many ways that it could have gone wrong. Happily, it was a successful day, and the impact on classes was minimal.

Our Open House is also requiring a lot of advance planning.  We're serving food, and we decided on a Mexican fiesta theme.  Yesterday I went on a scouting mission for food--to make sure that our plans for all-you-can-eat tacos will work.

I am here to report that there's a whole world of prepared food that I only sort of knew existed.  Not only can we get cooked and frozen taco meat, but also canned.  I'm now envisioning a marketing plan that can help Admissions numbers and retention both: free taco Tuesday every week! Or maybe Free Flan Friday!

And I'm only partly joking.

Today is another huge day.  My school is part of the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce, and the Education Committee gives out scholarships today.  Since I was part of that committee, I'll go to the breakfast awards ceremony at the Chamber and the evening awards ceremony at the high school.

These are all events that I'm happy to be part of, but I do confess to wishing that they weren't all happening in the same week.  But my larger emotion is gratitude:  it's weeks like these that remind me again and again that I'm surrounded by a great group of colleagues and students.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I feel like we're in a threshold time.  Will we look back on these days as the beginning of the Israel-Iran war?  Will we look at May 2018 as the beginning of a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula?  Will this be the beginning of a new intifada?

I think of all of the poetry of liminal spaces, especially of Yeats' "The Second Coming."  Are we seeing the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem?

This morning I wrote these lines:

In the afternoon, over cups
of cooling tea, we think of our ancestors,
the ones who could have told
our fortunes with those tea leaves
or a glimpse at our palms.
Embassies move, and the world burns.

And then I wrote up my idea that I thought might be poem or might be short story, the idea of the FEMA interview and what's kept us from full recovery from our Hurricane Irma damages.  It works well as a poem, with each possible multiple choice answer growing more complex.

This post is unfinished, but I'll publish it anyway.  I lost Internet connection as I was writing.  But I like the fragment that is here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mother's Day: Memorial Stones in the Butterfly Garden

Most churches have a variety of ministries.  Some require lots of human effort:  a soup kitchen or a food pantry, for example.  In my younger years, I'd have said that those ministries that helped people in distress were most important.  But in my later years, I've come to appreciate those ministries that are every bit as necessary, even if they're not the ones that non-believers think of, when they think of the usefulness of church.

Over the past decade, our church's front grassy area has slowly but surely been transformed into a butterfly garden.  Along the way, it's also become an area for memorial stones.

When my mother-in-law died in 2005, we were members of a different church.  We knew that she wanted to be cremated, but she hadn't specified what to do with her ashes.  She had talked about having a space in a garden in a Memphis funeral home where people could come visit, but that was prohibitively expensive.

Through the years, my spouse has felt that it was increasingly important for her to have a stone in our church's butterfly garden.  And yesterday, on Mother's Day, the stone was blessed and laid in the garden.  It's near the door that my spouse uses when he arrives for church or choir practice.

I know that many people share the sentiment of my spouse:  everyone deserves a stone to say that they were here and important.  I'm glad that our church can offer a beautiful space for those stones.