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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


"He [God] gives them [humans] the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty, yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme." [from The Screwtape Letters]

There is nothing so sad and so exhilarating as change. If everything stayed the same, a piece of us would die, and yet when the seasons of our lives shift, there is another part of us that dies, but then is reborn.

I find myself consistently choosing a life that is ever melting through my fingers like snow. As agonizing as change is for me, I can't seem to get enough. In fact, some strange part of me isn't well if I'm not a little out of my element, not starting something new, not dreaming of something different.

For example, here at the end of the semester, I see my life getting ready for another big rearrange. Because I'm an adjunct professor, next semester I'll be teaching at a totally different school, among a new set of faculty, and fresh body of students. Not to mention that I'll be teaching a different subject than the one I have grown accustomed to this semester.

The thought makes a small piece inside of me ache. I don't like it. I would avoid it, except that I brought it on myself. Next semester I will surely go through frost bite. I will break down at the beginning of the semester. I will loose a bit of my grounding and become slightly irrational, emotional, and self-deprecating. I will feel like an outsider, a looser, a failure, and then about four weeks in, suddenly I will glide onto the frozen pond of pedagogy like a figure skater.

At some point, relief will set in, and then I will feel light as snowflake. Suddenly, life will be wonderful, my students endearing, my teaching exhilarating. In short, I'll adjust. Then three short months later, as predictable as the changing of seasons, I'll be scrambling for another job, at a different school, teaching to a different demographic of student, trying to balance my writing, and my social life, and my teaching in two hands.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Godric, by Frederick Buechner

"Aedwen named you well, Father," says Reginald in his coddling lilts.
I say, "Father my bum."
"A holy name for a babe born to be holy," he says.
"Fiddle my faddle," I say or nothing at all in words but something instead in the fingertalk he doesn't know. He's better off not knowing, if he only knew.
"The god means God. That's plain as your nose, I mean no slight. The ric is Saxon reign. So God and ric in sum means God reigns, Godric. It means God reigns in you. It means when God comes down at last to weigh the souls of men, he'll not find Godric's wanting, Father Godric."
"Fetch me a bowl to puke in," I tell him. He's got him such a honeyed way I'm ever out to sour it.

And thus is our introduction to the Saint Godric, in Frederick Buechner's Pulitzer-Prize winning novel called, _Godric_. Written entirely in iambic, this novel recreates the life of the real man. He was a rascally man, a skirt-chaser, a pirate, a murderer, who was deemed a Saint by the time he died. My mentor professor has taught this book for several years. He quotes Buechner, "A saint is not a moral exemplar. A saint is a life-giver."

This novel is vibrant, witty, heartbreaking, and profound. I don't know how it took me so long to find it. Now that I've read _Godric_, I want to buy a rich old copy of it, frame it on my book shelf. I want to read it ten more times, teach it to my children, and make it an heirloom of our family. The last time I was this taken with a book, it was written by C.S. Lewis or Tolkien.

It's hard not to write about this novel, without using superlatives, so I will just tell you simply - read it. I'll leave you with this lovely quote, taken from its pages - "What's friendship, when all's done, but the giving and taking of wounds?"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What makes someone interesting?

Tonight after dinner, Dwayne and I put our feet up on the couch and laid on the ground side by side. Our discussion rambled over many topics, but we landed on this question: What makes someone interesting?

"People who are up on current events, and who have ideas outside of the mainstream are interesting to me," said Dwayne.

I thought about it some more. If I had to put it into a sentence, I guess I'd say, "People who embody contradictions are interesting to me."

For example, Anne Lamott is interesting because she's a white woman with dreadlocks. One of my friends was born and raised in orange county, but she chose to live in Los Angeles and works with ESL students. Another friend is a sheek girl from the Valley who speaks her mind like an African American woman.

What about you? What makes someone interesting to you?

Friday, November 03, 2006

"War on Terror"

Yesterday, NPR did a story on the semantics of the phrase "war on terror." The shape of language is fascinating - the way it engages not only our thought but our future, the way it reveals our meaning. I think sometimes, we can fool ourselves and others, but if we listen closely to the words we say, they will tell us the truth.

For example, in March of 2003 Cheney told us that he thought this "war on terror" would go "relatively quickly...weeks rather than months." But if we thought about the enemy "terror" we understood that a "war on terror" is not a war with distinguishable boundaries, a beginning and discernable end.

Bush told us in May of 2003, when Sadam was captured, that the "mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended...The United States and our allies have prevailed." Did he intend to send the message that the "war on terror" was over? I don't know, but if we were thinking about the words "war on terror," we would realize that it was not a war against a man, but a war against an ideal. There is no distinguishable enemy, no army, or conventional opponent to be beaten.

Now Bush says he's not happy with the results in Iraq, but that we have to "stay the course." He says he's looking for a successful way to finish this "war on terror." But if you think about the words, you will find something different. You will think about how on earth it is possible to define success when fighting multiple adversaries. You will wonder if we have been set up for failure. You will wonder if, in the words of the NPR article, "the war on terror is, in theory, an endless war –- a war that approaches something closer to a way of life."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Don't Get My Wrong, Future

Don't get me wrong, Future.
I like you just fine, except I'd like to keep my hands off.
You're too slick for my fingers to hold.
You escape me minute by minute
and just as I gain on you,
you slip into past.
As soon as I know what you're doing,
it seems you change or
you descend on me with your hard rapids.
Nevermind what I think.
Nevermind finding my destiny.

Maybe I should go up stream, go back in time,
and stop you at the mouth,
get you going in a different direction
before you ever reach me.
Had I control over you,
I would lead with my foot moving forward in dance
and your foot moving back.

But I can't.
It's just a slip of a dream
that we could dance in the river,
that we could make water jump at our heels,
make time bend just a little.

No, think I'll keep my distance,
stand back here and watch you
come rolling down the pike,
cutting corners as you go,
and just before you hit
I'll gesture-pose
I'll get in the right place
so we can fit just so,
your waters 'round my waist,
my hands over your eddies.

No thank you.
Think I'll leave well enough alone,
like a geologist looking for your tracks
after you've dried up,
hunting you down
after you've already gone.