Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
        Landscapes plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
                And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

A Thankful Heart

Today is Thanksgiving Day.  I'm supposed to be on my way to a friend's house for dinner.  Well, in every other year of my life save one, I would be on my way to a family member's house for dinner.  Instead, I am home with two cats and 3 dozen birds...counting my blessings all the same.  I'm in Arizona instead of Massachusetts because I went home in September and October and am going again in December.  I'm not a millionaire and you almost need to be if you are going to fly across the country once a month.  So, I stayed put in the Valley of the Sun this year.  I'm in my own home instead of a friend's because I succumbed at the beginning of the week to a barrage of germs that came forth from my hacking and sneezing students.  I was hoping to escape this year, but now I'll have to hope it's just this one time...and that it is short-lived.

So, as I said, it's just me and the cats...and the 3 dozen birds swarming my bird feeders.  Nothing exotic, just house finches and sparrows and juncos.  Oh, and the doves.  Three varieties of doves....  Still, there is much to be thankful for.  I don't need any Facebook statuses, text messages, TV commercials, or days off from school to remind me that I have more than my share of things to be grateful for.  Tuesday in my last class, one of my students asked me to share with the class one of the most exciting things I've done in my life.  She was jut trying to make conversation, and thus avoid having class, but she caught me up short.  I really didn't know what to tell her.  I couldn't think of anything...not because there's nothing, but because there are so many things...literally.  I ended up saying that I've been very lucky, that my life has been very exciting, at least by my definition.  She just looked at me, thinking, I'm sure, that I was just trying to avoid her question...which I kind of definition of exciting probably wouldn't match that of a 17 year old girl's.

Still...I come back to being grateful...grateful for all the things that have gone on in my life to make me who I am, imperfect as that being is.  I have an amazing family that's full of beautiful, smart, funny, vibrant people spanning several generations and two continents.  I have scores of lovely friends spanning decades in age and length of friendship.  I have a job I love, I work with people I like and respect.  I belong to a church that feeds my spirit and soul.  I live in a place that, while not my beloved New England, is at least tolerable most of the time.   I can't complain.  I am, in fact, most grateful...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Curious Conincidence

It was rather cool in my bedroom this morning when I woke up:  50 degrees on the "out" side of the window and 70 degrees on the "in" side of it.  My cats' noses were literally cold to the touch!  I actually had to get out a blanket to take the chill off while I watched CBS This Morning's tribute to Andy Rooney, who passed away Friday night.

As usual, I was multi-tasking while watching TV later and it occurred to me to check the weather where the rest of my family was this morning.  What I discovered was rather surprising.  Even though we are scattered to four corners of the continent, almost literally, we were mostly all within 9 degrees of each other, and all in the 50s!  My parents in Maine were at 53.1; my nephew just outside of Boston was at 53.4; my sister, niece, and brother-in-law in Charlotte, NC were at 58; my other niece in Loma Linda, CA was the coldest at 50; and I was the warmest at 59.

My nephew in TN, however, broke the 50s barrier, coming in at 64.  My other sister, along with her husband and in-laws, is in Florence, Italy today.  And guess what?  The temperature there was 59!!!  I thought that was such a curious coincidence.  I can't imagine that there will be too many times when we'll all be at roughly the same temperature at the same time.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

An Autumn Evening

Here's a lovely autumn poem by a favorite childhood author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, mostly known for her "Anne of Green Gables" series.  I have read her books countless times, even know parts of them by heart.  I recently discovered her poetry.  Anne would be pleased.  (The pictures are autumn in Phoenix, from my back patio this week.)

Dark Hills against a hollow crocus sky
Scarfed with its crimson pennons, and below
The dome of sunset long, hushed valleys lie
Cradling the twilight, where the lone winds blow
And wake among the harps of leafless trees
Fantastic runes and mournful melodies.

The chilly purple air is threaded through
With silver from the rising moon afar,
And from a gulf of clear, unfathomed blue
In the southwest glimmers a great gold star
Above the darkening druid glens of fir
Where beckoning boughs and elfin voices stir.

And so I wander through the shadows still,
And look and listen with a rapt delight,
Pausing again and yet again at will
To drink the elusive beauty of the night,
Until my soul is filled, as some deep cup,
That with divine enchantment is brimmed up.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Red Sky at Morning

"Red sky at night, sailor's delight.  Red sky at morning, sailor's warning."

Living in a hot dry state like I now do certainly brings its share of weather adventures.  In the year plus that I've lived here, I've experienced a "freak" hail storm that literally poured down tennis ball-sized hail stones, national-news-making dust storms, rapid and dramatic temperature drops, and multiple rainbows in the midst of sun showers.

This morning, when I opened my blinds, the sky was red.  So red I had to take a picture.  Then I listened to the news and weather.  Everything was about the powerful wind and dust storm that was going to take up much of the day--from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.  

Even now, they are talking about thunderstorms and rain.  I've not seen or heard the rain/t-storms, but I did see the dust and felt the wind.  This is so foreign to me!  And interesting.

The pictures show this morning at about 6 a.m. and this evening at about 5:30 p.m.  Big difference!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Because it is my Name!

I'm between classes right now.  Actually, I'm done with teaching for the day, but still have 3 more hours before I am finished with work for the day.  It's the last day before I get my final class back and will be teaching fulltime again.  I've had a student teacher this semester.  She's an excellent young teacher and we've had a good experience together.  I've kind of enjoyed the relative freedom that comes when you aren't teaching fulltime, but I've missed the students...and I've particularly missed teaching some of my favorite literature.  She had complete charge over all my classes for much of the past several weeks and only just started handing them back to me, one each week.  Next Monday, I will be back to full time teaching.

Still, it's been a good experience--for both of us I think.  She handed over the juniors and seniors in the middle of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a play I have always enjoyed teaching.  We both read and watch the play, and as is always the case with something that's meant to be watched instead of "just" read, their response to the movie has been very positive.  I finished with the seniors this morning and thrilled to hear for the second day in the row (the juniors finished yesterday) John Proctor refusing to compromise himself any further by signing his name to a confession that was a lie, just to save his life.  You understand why he almost did it.  The scene between him and his wife is so sweet, so beautiful really.  And you want this couple to have a second chance, for them to experience a profound love they had only just realized.  But you also know that they could never enjoy their life knowing it was based on a lie, and knowing that their friends had gone to their death without that lie.

John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis acting the part) crumbles up his confession and cries out that he can't do it "Because it is my name!  Because I can't have any other on earth!"  So powerful, that acknowlegement of what his name--his reputation--means!  And even though this means he dies for something he didn't do, at least he's not living for something he didn't do.  A fine line, but a clear one all the same.  I love working through things like that with students.  They always want the happy/easy ending at first.  But on second thought, they always come around to what is right, to what has to happen if we are to learn the lesson that was intended.

And so it goes with our own lives.  We want the easy way through things, but deep down we know that we need the lessons.  We need the consequences.  We need to work things through and out if our lives are to mean anything.  If our names are to carry any weight--for our present and for our future.