The rain has come in earnest. The exhilarated creek is rushing through the canyon, the hills are wet and green, the roads are muddy and now and then impassable. It’s surprisingly noisy…a continual dripping and drumming, the roar of streams and waterfalls, frog songs and cattle bluster and wind through the trees. A dead whale has washed up on the beach, gradually pushed along by tides and currents to its current location where birds and coyotes are feasting on its decaying flesh in a graphic big-screen depiction of the cycles of life. And there were brilliant rainbows late Saturday afternoon when the sun shone briefly in a lull between storms through diamond droplets suspended in the sky.
I love it here in this liquid time, when we are briefly rendered separate from the world beyond the ranch. It’s a time for wonder and contemplation, a time to feed one’s inner life. Lately I haven’t claimed the hours I need to think and read and write. Let’s face it: we are experiencing a national trauma, and every day there’s a new assault, and we are trying to cope and effectively resist, and it’s maddening. But now the elements have persuaded me to spend a few hours helping to clear debris from a creek or diverting the flow of water from a deepening puddle on the road. I am confronted with a different kind of reality, as real as those other realities and more immediate, and it demands something of me, but also releases me.
I long ago realized that if I am not writing, I don’t feel right, and that applies whether or not anybody reads my words. But I haven’t been writing. There’s so much material, but I’ve fallen silent. That was part of the original intent of this blog…it would be a place to write, possibly to connect with others, but mostly just to write. An open journal, if you will. Everyone has a blog these days, and this one is certainly less clever and splashy and important than many of those others, but I feel inclined to tend to it today.
Something I’ve been thinking about lately is what it means to have been a teacher, and the privilege of having had young people in my life. The other day, in the lobby of the doctor’s office in town, I heard someone call out to me, and it was a young man who had been in my sixth grade class more than twenty years ago. I remembered him clearly, right down to a particular green jacket he used to wear, and how kind he was with the children at the Storyteller Shelter, which our class visited as volunteers once or twice. Now he’s in a wheelchair. Fourteen years ago, he climbed and fell out of a redwood tree, and that was that. In the years that followed, I know he’s been in trouble, depressed, and had lots of hard times. But today he seemed in good spirits, and he was embarking on a new chapter of his life and seemed genuinely happy to see me. “I remember our Ancient Egyptian newspaper,” he said at one point, and for some reason, that touched my heart more than anything. It’s the kind of moment when you know that being a teacher was indeed a beautiful and worthy thing to have done.
While we were talking in the lobby, yet another of my grown-up former students stepped out of an elevator and called out my name excitedly. “I’ve been thinking about you,” she said. “I need to talk to you!” Let me tell you, at this point in my life, the idea that a young person is thinking about me and even wants to talk to me is very flattering indeed, and a boost to my morale. She told me that she’s working for a local newspaper, and she was remembering the interviews we used to do. She was with us in fact when we interviewed Jackson Browne, such a memorable day. But she has questions about interviewing and writing and all sort of things…she hadn’t realized how complicated it was, and maybe we could get together and talk about it sometime. I felt special and appreciated. (I’m easy.)
I’ve had chance encounters and conversations with at least five former students in the last month or so, and the importance in my life of connecting (and staying connected) to a younger generation has been a pretty good thing for me to think about. A week ago, I also had the privilege of interviewing an extraordinary young man from South Sudan for The Living Stories Collective, and that was humbling. To me, it all reaffirms the interconnectedness of lives, and how much we have to learn from one another, and that listening, and sharing, and kindness are what matter…still, and always.
Right now, though, the rain has subsided to a mist, and I need to step outside and check things out, so this is a good place to leave off. I’ll be back, I promise, whether or not there’s anyone to read this. In short, I am still amazed…even if dismayed, discouraged, or sad…and I just feel better for having written.