So I find myself on the other side. Weeks of work and travel and endings and goodbyes and then that long day that culminated in a standing ovation for our students who had finally finished, who had done it all and wore caps and gowns and red medals I placed around their necks. It was over. The hugging and the racing and the planning and the doing. At my desk in the next morning I was bleary, puttering through simple tasks, talking nonsense with Amelia as we struggled to stay in the office long enough to look respectable. And then I headed home. By the mailbox, gulf fritillaries hovered near the Gregg’s mist. The air was thick, the winds gusty with another storm blowing in. And yet this butterfly landed on the lavender flower and stayed. And then, when it had its fill, it fluttered away.
May 19, 2015
When I woke in the morning, 6am, I thought, It’s a free-for-all. It’ll never work. This is the year it all implodes. Maybe I think it every year, the tiny pieces impossible to hold all at once. How many platters of cheese? Are the programs on the seats? Do the medals go on the podium or a table to the side? Will there be parking? Will we overflow? Will no one show? So many things to go wrong that I forget what can go right. Here are 21 graduates on the stage: black gowns, mortarboards, red tassel hanging to one side. Here are the people who came out to cheer them. Here are music and applause and a hand to help us up the stairs. Here are speeches and congratulations. Here pride. Here accomplishment. Here such joy. Really, such joy.
May 18, 2015
I call it the chute, these last few weeks of the semester with final classes and faculty meetings and graduation to plan and a four-day trip to Bard amid it all. I enter the chute and it spits me out on the other side. Truth is, there’s no time in the Free Minds year that I love more. Everything we work for culminates here. And I became fierce about quiet. Greedy. So Tuesday night, no place to be, I gather to myself cat, book, couch, silence. I hold on selfishly. Just for this moment, mine.
May 5, 2015
How alive the vote when you cup one hand for privacy while the other writes. One name scratched on a slip of paper, folded tight, then held in the air. Praise the old coffee can that contains the choices. Praise how after nine shared months, there is affection, respect, and the wish for a voice to speak for all. Praise the act of unfolding each slip of paper in another room to tally, the counting and double-counting just to be sure. Praise Todd, who won the night, who will stand at the podium and do it right.
April 23, 2015
After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. — Philip Pullman
In front of the wood wall at Malvern Books, they brought their stories. The girl next door seen anew. A pit bull in the back yard. A return to Antibes. Two sisters and their swagger. A photo of a father. Daddy, cleaned up and beloved. Poodles and a Mercedes Benz, elders in song. Praise the courage to stand up and say your truth. Praise the audience overflowing the chairs. Praise laughter and listening and cheese cubes eaten from toothpicks. Praise the thoughtful way Charlotte affirmed those stories for all of us. Praise community, generations, the tinkering with a phrase to get it right.
April 19, 2015
It’s true, each day I found something to praise. The focus of students writing around a table, the sweetness of the restaurant where we held our rehearsal dinner almost seven years ago. Amid an endless headache and doctors’ appointments and traffic that didn’t want to release me from its hold, I snapped pictures of the CSA baskets and the dinner I came home to and kitchen shears on a wrinkled towel that deserve a song for the satisfying snip that they make. I found what was tender and worthy in a week that tested me. So praise the practice of praising, even when it’s hard. Praise three meals a day and a husband and friends who look after me. Praise three years of Amelia at Free Minds and how proudly the writers read their work on Tuesday night. Praise a headache subsiding and a blog still alive and how I took those kitchen shears to the garden, Saturday afternoon, and clipped a small bouquet for the kitchen.
April 18, 2015