SOL Tuesday A gentle reckoning

How many lives will we squeeze into 50 years or 100?

Which traces will we leave below ground?

Whose budgeted affections will we overextend to then regret our hasty indulgence?

Which personal histories are you writing today?

Looking back, how long did you keep your eyes closed?

What do you hear when I call your name?

We were younger but not smarter, where was our mistake?

I’m glad for you, really. For the life you’ve made. I keep saying, it makes sense. What am I not saying?

It’s possible to be happy with less. Who else is ready for that lesson?

What we saw in each other, it’s still visible after all, right?

Memories are untrustworthy. Thank you for remembering me.

We’re not done. We’re still growing. How’s that working out for you?

SOL Tuesday but Wednesday, Nature and its Discontents

Assumptions run my life. No, they undergird my understanding of life, of what I consider life to be. I think I know what I mean when I call myself and you, too, human. But maybe I don’t really. I’m assuming we see human the same way; embodying a bunch of similar characteristics; distinct from animals, and yet we are a form of animal, are we not? Not plants but living and yearning for sunlight, dependent on water. We grow, we bloom, we multiply, we die. We’re not plants and yet we may wish sometimes we were.

Nature does not require an audience. Humans often do.

My assumptions suggest that humans are separate from nature and that’s the problem. Humans, or what I’m guessing humans to be, are a part of nature yet live like its one true adversary. Makes no sense. Nature, the whole of it, is sense itself, no need to make sense extra.

The skies above me are greying. A storm just behind the neighboring mountains is heading this way. The breeze which feels nice now will give way to a wind which will usher in a rain that will douse the ground, cleanse the atmosphere. That’s the way these things go; until they don’t. Recognizing patterns can only take you so far. Nature relates to defiance in ways we are hard pressed to name.

Darkening skies over Milstättersee, Austria

The storm is not in rush. It’s still not here. Nature does not require an audience. Or a narrator, for that matter.

We think humans are a problem for nature. Mainly we are a menace to ourselves. Nature will do much better without human meddling. Maybe nature is egging us on; to be done with us sooner rather than later. As hell bent on destruction and devastation as humans as a species clearly are, who could blame nature for assisting us in our apparent death wish.

One day I will author a whole book of nonsense. This seems like a worthy start.

SOL Tuesday An example

I take the final strides of my mid-morning jog across the invisible finish line. I step into the drive next to my apartment building and bend over to catch my breath. I’m a sweaty mess but a slightly proud sweaty mess. An elderly gentleman with glasses approaches, chuckling. He asks a question in German I don’t quite catch. I ask him to repeat it.

“Laufen Sie Marathon?” (Do you run marathons?)

No, I answer. Once upon a time, but not now.

He tells me how he used to exercise – on gymnastic apparatus into his 60s and then regular stretching and running almost every day for years. He’s the secretary of a local gymnastics club.

Do you know how old I am? he asks with a big smile.

I say No as an invitation for him to reveal it to me.

86! he says with verve. Every day I do a little something. That’s the way I keep myself going.

You are an example worth following, I tell him. He seems pleased with this and begins his trek uphill.

I wonder to myself when I’ll reach that age that I’m eager to quiz people about how old I am. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll be in the same or better shape than my neighbor when the time comes.

SOL Tuesday These final days

These final days of school go on like goundhog Fridays, heading into a weekend that’s slow to arrive but then is suddenly permanent. Serial completions and ceremonies, hikes and walks and picnics and games. Finishing up, finishing touches, finishing at last. There’s one more week, then it’s four more days, one more lesson, a last assembly, goodbye. What matters doesn’t matter as much as it did when it was urgent and pressing and due last week. Report cards and comments and reflections – an abundance of words describing what was, who did and didn’t, where we grew and how we learned – creating threads of remnants we won’t remember a year from now.

These final days that run hot and cold; the kids are wild and inwardly so are we. Conversations about summer plans run aground in my mind, I cannot think of the future. ‘This is our last class’ I have heard myself say 6 times or more in the last two days. Our last class but not the last time we’ll see each other. The final days are full of lasts but who can know the difference? We are preparing for release and rupture, too. Our routines and protocols are already for the birds it seems, but in two days’ time we can officially toss them out the window into the fresh hot air of summer. These final days that dog us with all the things we want and don’t want from ourselves, from our kids, from the thing we call a school year. These final days – the infinite tease – they mark us when we think we are marking them.

SOL Tuesday Tight, snug pants

Tight, snug pants

Tight fitting pants. She wore
Pants that fit. Snugly
over her protruding butt cheeks
those pants, they fit. Those pants
blue, stretchy, expensive, exclusive
but only to the owner. Designed 
for golf, to walk, to swing
to bend - a forgiving material -
signaling, signaling ...
signaling what exactly?


A mirror confirms
what the skin has preached:
the fit is snug,
the seams prepared for
a tension of course.
Those pants, those pants
they fit and they
expose 
a figure reluctant.

So blue blue blue
So smooth smooth smooth
So un-char-act-er-is-tic
So snug snug snug

Tight? Too tight?
Panty lines 
for all to see? 
Trying too hard,
Not trying hard enough?

From somewhere else
These those my your our their 
pants
look great you say

You don't say
I see you wore
those pants.

Take 2

How long does it take to feel the way you want in your skin that is your own and just fine and no one else's? How many times will you shrink and slink and try to hide your fullness that's actually a kind of emptiness but no one is looking but everyone's judging so what difference does it make? What's the balance between your hair gone wild, your hair pressed straight, your hair undone just woke up, no bonnet in sight, your hair as it is, was and ever shall be, amen?
How do you know when you've hit rock bottom of peak middle age right when you begin your disappearing act from the public sphere not because you want to but because you become unseen not unsightly only invisible except when your credit card can do the talking? What's the shelf life of your sorrows buried under unused spices that have lost their smell but not their color, how long do you plan on keeping them? The spices and the sorrows - by now they make a package that cannot be returned.

SOL Tuesday Marley Spoon

One of my agreements with myself for writing on Tuesdays is not to try too hard. Meaning I don’t intend to labor long or hard over what will end up on this page finally. No sweat. That’s the rule. I began drafting a post but it was becoming kind of academic – look at what I’ve been reading and how wise it’s made me. So I stopped and began again. And here I am babbling.

A few weeks ago I started a subscription to a a meal service. Once a week on Monday evenings I receive a box of ingredients for 3 meals, 2 portions of each. A week in advance I decide on which dishes and during the week I do my level best to follow each of the 6-step recipes to completion. So far I’ve tried a Thai shrimp on rice noodles, teriyaki chicken wraps (teen’s fave so far), Wiener Schnitzel, Argentinian Chimichurri, empanadas, and cashew chicken. All of this is a radical departure from my previous standard cooking fare which included variations on rice or noodles with some form of vegetable, ground beef or chicken. I’ve always been dedicated to quick, simple and efficient. What I’m doing now is only some of those some of the time (rarely quick).

That said, my teen is appreciative and encouraging. For my part the jury is still out. I suppose it’s the effort of growing new habits that’s a bit of a challenge. I mostly enjoy the results. I have learned that I don’t have to make all the salads in addition to the main course. It’s fine to use half the pepperoni instead of the whole. The variety of flavors is a plus. But I’m not sure that I really want to spend all that time in the kitchen, although I feel myself getting better at managing several tasks. Stove top and oven at the same time? Getting there.

Tonight I put on Billy Joel’s greatest hits as I boiled the chicken breast and baked the sliced potatoes, placed the chicken into the sweet spicy sauce with onions, pepperoni and garlic in a pan and then then pulled it apart to make tasty sandwiches on toasted baguette.

I didn’t know I had it in me. Not looking to become a real foodie but I’m willing to learn a few new tricks to take me into the next phase.

SOL Tuesday Workshop Proposal Black Out

One common misunderstanding of leadership assumes that it means being above or in front of others. In this session we will consider what it looks like when you lead from right where you are in your organization and community. That might be from the middle or the sidelines, behind the scenes or someplace else. We’ll study examples of school folks who have built sustainable personal and professional networks but who were not holders of titled positions. Participants will recognize ways in which they may already be hosting a community or consider where they might begin. None of us needs to be a superhero to initiate change that matters. Around-the-way leadership helps us think about bringing folks together focused on accessibility and inclusion.

Schools typically reinforce top-to-bottom hierarchies. To advance in education teachers are counseled to ‘move up’ into administration. This session aims to offer a different way of considering leadership that is community and network-based, that relies on peer-level relationships, mutuality and shared growth. As individuals and groups we can initiate activities that benefit and interest others without having anyone confer a title upon us. To lead does not mean having all the answers; it can be about discovering better questions together. Often, as non-white, non-male, non-cis and/or non-hetero folks in independent schools we may find ourselves building and gathering without calling it leadership. Here, we’ll ask both why and what else. Interrogation, validation and celebration best summarize the aims of this highly interactive workshop.

Workshop Proposal 12478

leadership assumes being above
                                          others.
You lead
                from right where 
                                               you
                                      might        be.

None of us needs to be a superhero to initiate change that matters.

bring folks together.


Schools reinforce hierarchies.
To advance, teachers 'move up'
into administration.

we can initiate activities that benefit and interest others without having a title.
ask both why and what else.

This is my proposal.

SOL Tuesday Random Thoughts

Eating strawberries before they go bad is a race we’re not always going to win.

Received recipes require a remarkable repository of receptacles.

Receptacles might muddle a spelling bee champ’s reputation.

6 word memoirs for inanimate objects:

Plumbing - flow following blockage, the great relief; 
Washing machine - knickers in a twist on purpose; 
CD Player - Ha, ha, ha! I still work! 
Hardwood floors - Dust, be not proud, I say! 

I read today that mess is morally neutral.

"Insert poetry" read the instructions.
Use special spacing.
Insert poetry.
Use more special spacing.
Insert poetry.
Specialize the spacing used.
Insert poetry.
       s p a c i n g is special.
Insert poetry.
Wow that was easy!

SOL Tuesday Men stories

M.

He’s no longer in Vienna, been away for at least a decade. Living ‘off the grid’ with no internet connection. I respect that. Keeping a farm going on the southern tip of Wales with a few others. Close to the sea, he tells me. I picture him in my mind’s eye: purposeful, unhurried and at peace, finally. Having cast off the yoke of some key modern conveniences, perhaps he has at last arrived at a life worth calling his own.

F.

Whenever we spoke the last time it must have been brief, awkward even. So many years apart, a vastness of water under the bridge, we were almost shy with each other. I felt guarded in offering too much information from my life. Yes, he should know that I did not fall on my face but how much detail to convey it? Instead, I relied on his desire to impress and let him tell me about his latest appointment at the Uni in Weimar, a few recent publications, a cooperation with an Ivy League professor. He sounded largely pleased with himself and his accomplishments. How could it be otherwise? In the end I didn’t need to reveal much about myself at all. It dawned on me then: he was actually never that enthusiastic about the listening part of conversation.

B.

This guy. His laugh – from a high pitched near squeak to a raspy panting – so typical. How we met: at a road race. Before he came over to chat me up, he pointed out my high calf muscles to his friends. After the race we exchanged numbers. A day or two later we were jogging in my neighborhood park. A week later I was at his place more than my own. The week after that we decided to tie the knot. A month after that we followed through. It was always a good choice. Impulsive, yes. Radical, yes. Just enough of the right stuff to safely untie the knot when it was time. We’re still a surprisingly good team. His laugh remains notorious. I chose well.

SOL Tuesday My Bestie

Let me tell you ’bout my bestie because she’s not likely to tell you about herself. My oldest friend on the earth. She has seen me through two marriages, a host of boyfriends, the raising of two very distinct boys, the whole of my teaching career; through two graduate degrees, the burial of both of my parents, my competitive running streak as well as a couple of knee surgeries. She is the best of the best and we haven’t lived in the same city since 1987; not on the same continent since 1991. See, I told you she’s really my bestie.

Cliche but true – we were college roommates. She was the lanky hurdler/ long jumper from Maine and I was the Black girl from Cleveland – both of us proud to have been accepted into our first choice Ivy League school. We corresponded in that first summer before arriving on campus, exchanged pictures and background stories. I still have those letters – hand written on legal pad paper in legible but not overly neat print. By the time we actually met in person, we had a good idea of what we were getting into. No clicking needed, we were a successful match.

It’s funny to remember that first year, how we hung out and found a reasonably good mix of friends. We ran track together, worked several shifts on the dish line together, shared a unique sense of humor. She was lack, I was luster. While we had some upsets in there too, when we reunited to share a dorm room overlooking the main green our senior year, it was time extremely well spent.

After graduation she moved to pursue her dream of working in public television and I was bent on getting back to my long distance boyfriend in Vienna. Now we’re these middle aged ladies in our 50s who love a good long zoom chat to catch up and cackle. She’s the person I called to join me at the funeral when each of my parents passed away. She’s seen me fall in love, out of love, call it quits and call it a day, counseled me through “I do” and then “I don’t”. It has taken me half a lifetime but by now I know, she has always been my great love, my bestie, Cath.

The way we were, the way we are.