You Have Not Been Deserted

Today, teachers who needed to were allowed back into our building–one at a time, of course–to pick up anything we might need for the remainder of the school year and/or summer, just in case. My time slot was 11:30, with another teacher due to arrive at 11:45. I did not take my phone with me, as I wanted to make sure that I was in and out quick-sticks as instructed. But, Dear Ones, it was WEIRD!

Weird to walk into that building that I am so used to being bustling with life. Weird to see the empty halls, the quiet classrooms. Weird to see the lockers that had been covered with hearts and post-it notes so far this semester, expressions of love and encouragement from student to student, now stripped clean out of an abundance of caution. Of the four that were once there, one lone post-it note remained on my classroom door. One that admonished: “Make yourself a priority.” (I tell you, the student who wrote it could not have known that they wrote it for just such a time as this. But that is a whole other blog post.)

It was eerie, empty, and all I could feel was a sense of…desertion. We had deserted these halls, deserted this routine, deserted this normal, and it felt utterly weird. And sad, too, in a way. For roughly 13 years of their lives, students get up and go to school for 7-8 hours a day at least, 180 days out of the school year. For the school to be deserted on the first day of April just felt…wrong. I know many of my students feel that wrongness and, yes, maybe even desertion right now. I think that is where we all are at the moment: feeling that wrongness, that disruption, and, yes, in some sense, that feeling of desertion, of either deserting or being deserted by our lives. We are in the midst of something huge right now, Dear Ones, something without defined borders or dimensions. We have been deserted by all certainty except the most dire in this time, and that is unspeakably hard.

As I bustled about my classroom, gathering what I needed, I spied projects that my students had done that had not been picked up before we had closed, and I smiled. I smiled at their imagination and hard work. These were projects that I had comandeered the downstairs display case to show off during fall semester, as they were done during first quarter. I was and still am supremely proud of those students and their creativity and ingenuity.

That feeling of desertion may be hanging heavy, but there are still smiles to be had. There are still opportunities for ingenuity and creativity. Things have changed, yes; been upheaved, yes; been turned right on their ear, yes. But we have not been deserted. I can assure you of that, Dear Ones. You have not been deserted and nor have you deserted anyone.

I know you. I know that you are being massively kind and caring, shouldering not only your burdens but also those of your partners, children, family, friends, and neighbors. You have taken their cares and well-being onto your minds and souls.

You have put bears in your windows for children to find.

You have strewn your porches with balloons and filled your windowpanes with encouraging messages.

You have sent out hope in emails, Facebook messages, Instagram DMs, and messages of handwritten love.

You have not been deserted and nor have you deserted anyone. We are all still right here. Separate but still together.

When I came home from my trip to the school building, I got on our digital learning platform and started grading assignments that have been turned in. And I smiled again. I got to read wonderful, insightful posts by students about oral tradition and how it translates into our digital age. I got to see others’ creativity in translating and interpreting proverbs from Poor Richard’s Almanac.

We will all have stories to tell when this is over and it makes me smile to teach my students just where their stories fit in to the larger one of life.

You have not been deserted and nor have you deserted anyone, Dear Ones. There are still smiles to give and receive, love to be found in the every day, hope that will crop up in the quiet moments. Peace is still there to be found in what cannot be stopped by crisis or circumstance: sunrises and sunsets, the quiet of early morning and the settling of life in the evening, and the eventual changing of the seasons (did anyone else totally miss that the grass has become green again?).

We have not been deserted. There are still smiles, love, compassion, peace, and hope to be found in the midst of all this, and we can still find each other.


NaBloPoMo Day 15: Write It All

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plathsylvia-plath-quote

A friend sent me that quote after a conversation we had pertaining to creativity and writing. I hesitate to proclaim anyone without creativity, regardless of their protestations. Everyone has a creative touch, whether it be artistic, musical, dramatic, literary, epistolary, physical, athletic, or oratorical.

I tend to write about everything. In way or another, I write it out. I do not always like what I write and I surely do not share it all publicly (the stack of journals speaks to that), but I still write it. My writing is a space of vulnerability for me. My soul flows openly through written and typed words. I’m not a bad speaker, not at all really, but I feel freer when I write. Freer with my feelings, freer with my opinions, freer with my words, and freer with my creativity. Do I still doubt my courage? Yes, sometimes. I fear that my words, however personal and well-intentioned they may be, will cause offense and backlash and whatever else. Do I still write? Yes. Being bold in my art and craft has proven good for my soul, no matter how scary it might be. Even when someone has disagreed with my writings or postings, I have managed to take a moment, express myself clearly, and I am then the better for having had the experience.

Writing about everything is not always so simply done as said. The English language is sometimes woefully bereft of the definite-rich vocabulary I need to accurately (I feel) express myself. But I still try, albeit a bit clumsily, to do so. Sometimes I have to make decisions about what to write about or to let sleep.

The other day, I opened my journal and saw where I had begun to write about an incident the night before and I had to make a decision: finish recording that incident, which honestly had a negative effect on my mood and soul when it had occurred and immediately afterward, or move on and let my writing flow through that day, to live in the now of that moment. I chose the latter for two reasons: One, I had already fleshed out my feelings on that incident with a trusted friend a few days beforehand so, really, I had written out that experience. And two, I wanted to enjoy my day out, my precious little time to myself when I could just let my mind wander wherever it dared to roam without being snapped back on the end of the leash that is often motherhood and adulting.

My lifespace is full of paper (literal and metaphorical), of writings, letters, stories, academic observations, literary reviews, and cards – encapsulated in Skype and Gchat conversations, emails, text messages, blog posts, journals, notepads, marginal annotations, idea books, and letters to the future. I write it all. I always have. And you can’t make me stop, which is a really good thing.

My Sandbox –

Author’s  Note:  This was a discussion post written for my Development of Creative Thinking graduate class in response to reading several chapters’ worth of theories on creativity.

I have a sandbox. This is my sandbox. I like my sandbox because I can do anything I like in my sandbox. I don’t really know why I do the things I do, play the games I play, or pretend the things that I pretend in my sandbox. They just seem like really good ideas and I do them; they often end up turning out to be really great. I love my sandbox.  This was the thought that came to me tonight as I spoke to my husband and we worked through how to voice our creative processes.

Freud noted his theory that creativity is the extension of childhood free play and that creative writing, for example, resulted from the writer indulging in the “playing pretend” of his or her childhood in order to create these fantastic worlds within their fiction. With my larping, I have had people say to me, “You and Ben [my husband] didn’t get enough pretend time as children, did you?” And my response has always been: “Oh, on the contrary, I got a lot of pretend time. I just don’t want it to stop with childhood.” My very first larping game, I fell into so deeply the action of playing my character and interacting with the characters that others played, that the six hours of game flew by for me and I found myself very disappointed that it was over, as I still do at the end of a game.

It was quite a similar feeling to when I saw “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” for the first time. I fell head- and heartlong into that film, into its story, so much so that when a friend leaned over to me and asked, “Did you like it?” as Frodo and Sam crested the hill from which they could see Mordor, I felt my heart sink and I kind of squeaked, “It’s over?!” But I knew I was hooked. I read all three novels in a few weeks’ time, treated my friends to midnight showings of the next two movies over the next two years, wrote nine stories to fill in the gaps where there were things that I wanted to know, and wrote my undergraduate thesis on Tolkien’s language and use of Norse myth, saga, and tradition in the Rohirrim, and my Research Studies paper in graduate school on the Tolkien Hero. I published my papers in Parma Nole, the Journal of the Northeastern Tolkien Society while in graduate school and one of them will be republished in a book by those editors this fall. I worked until I finally exhausted my steam, my flow. I still love Tolkien and his world deeply, though my love doesn’t burn as hotly now as it did then. I still cannot explain what inspired me and drew me into Middle Earth so deeply, but I can tell you that I enjoyed every minute of it.

That’s kind of what my creative process is like. I cannot explain it. I cannot assign it stages of work or lay it out on a linear scale. My mind most definitely has“mysterious happenings”. In grad school, I woke up from a dream one night and had enjoyed it so much that I grabbed my notebook and ran into the bathroom so I wouldn’t disturb my roommate. In there, I sat on the edge of the tub for an hour and scribbled in my notebook until I had the dream down just as I remembered it, what I could remember. Dreams fade quickly for me and, often, I can only hang onto feelings, emotions, or sensations. This one, I remembered plot, causes, and people. It was rare, a white elephant amongst dreams for me. So I hurried to write it down while the “flow” was upon me. I cannot explain to you where the stories come from, where the characters come from, the costuming ideas, or the desire to write letters. “It just came to me” is my staple answer. I had an idea from…somewhere…and I ran with it. I love the process!

I love the writing. I love watching characters and their lives form beneath my pen or by the strokes of my keyboard. I love planning the pieces of a costume, parts from hither, thither, and yon that come together to make up a gorgeous whole with nary a stitch. I am in love with the Process! That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the Product; I do. And then I want a new idea, a new something to work on. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. But, from whence it comes, I could never tell you.