Tiger Time

If you remember anything about primary school (and I do, if little) you hopefully have a few memories of one or more of the fantastic sort of teachers who were the virtual equivalent of extra aunties and uncles and grandparents, but neatly spun into the form of educators whose wise teaching made you learn things without even knowing you’d worked at it, and want to learn things you hadn’t even known you wanted to know just because they were such fine pedagogues that they made it seem possible, if not easy.

You undoubtedly also have a memory or two of teachers who were quite the opposite. My personal least-fave was the third grade teacher who had no compunction about excoriating and humiliating a student in front of the rest of the class regardless of the infraction or any of their previous achievements or behavior, even cracking a yardstick onto desktops to make a point when she was het up, regardless of whether there might be some small knuckles in the way of the stick. At the very same time, she apparently thought it perfectly logical and beneficial to ‘level the playing field‘ and make all students feel they could accomplish something in her class, lest the PTA or school board think her not supportive and informative enough, and this she would do by sitting and doing the weakest students’ homework for them.

I knew nothing of this until one time when I was the unlucky receptacle for her ire, having failed a penmanship test in the first weeks of school because that school required students to learn cursive writing in the end of the second grade and the one in another state where I had spent my second grade did not. Had she asked us all to sing a song in Spanish, I might have been the star of the class, because my second grade teacher Mrs. Mosqueta let us learn a little elementary Spanish from one Señor Ybarra, who taught by the ultra-newfangled medium of televised classes, and I don’t think my new classmates in Illinois had yet had access to such magicks themselves. But there I was, little miss Goody Two-Shoes, who had never gotten anything but perfect scores because I was too prim and much too afraid to not do my homework to the nth degree—if I had any actual training or homework to prepare in the event—flunking my attempt to make Pretend Cursive when that mean lady in her sausage-casing dress didn’t even ask whether I’d ever been trained to write that way. If you think I still sound remarkably bitter about such a small thing from so long ago, well, I probably ought to let it go but I tend to enjoy my little revenge fantasies more than is entirely good for me.Digital illustrations + text: Tiger TimeThis is all in jest, of course. I wouldn’t be so cruel as to want to give any poor innocent tigers indigestion.


But What of the Camel?

Ha! Once again, I seem to have failed to press the Publish button yesterday. I just noticed that this post was still queued up and not yet available on the blog, so I guess it’s a two-fer day today. Appropriately enough, it’s a post on my natural gift for failing to blend in with the herd. Make of that what you will!Digital illustration: Camel CompanionI think I may have mentioned before that there is a ranch only a short distance from where I live that raises bison, a herd whose distinctive companion is a camel. When my spouse and I were out on a little expedition in the area recently, the bison were even nearer the road than usual, and to my delight there were among them many calves of the season. We are generations away from the time when bison covered the American plains in masses that blackened the grasslands from one edge of the horizon to another, so it’s a pleasure to see even modest groups of them thriving and growing as they do in protected places like this one anymore.

But where was the camel?

It’s possible that the two times we passed the pasture that day, the camel was on its dromedary coffee break in some less visible spot toward the back of the fields. Maybe there is more to the bison herd than I know, and the camel was on duty, keeping the other bovine bunch company elsewhere. A little part of me couldn’t help but puzzle and worry over it, though. Camels can grow old and die like the rest of us, I assume. What a pity if this one camel should have died. I would be sad if I knew that to be the case.

It’s surprising, perhaps, that I find myself thinking about a camel and wondering about its welfare. It’s only partly made clearer by recognizing the seeming strangeness of a camel being at home in north Texas in the first place and the further oddity of said camel being companion and guardian to a herd of American buffalo.

Then again, not so surprising. I am, after all, something like a cousin to this unique camel. As a native Northwesterner who has always lived well north of the Mason-Dixon Line until moving to Texas five years ago, I am by definition a foreign body, an alien, in Texas, no matter how at home I find myself among the locals. As the perpetual listener at the back of  choir rehearsals, unable to make my vocal folds cooperate dependably enough to sing along, I am affiliated with the herd in a way that is very meaningful to me and that I take seriously not only as a source of pleasure but as support for my singing, conducting, and accompanying friends, but I am still not a part of the herd myself.

So it matters to me to know that all is well with that mysterious and slightly humorously incongruous camel. And I’ll keep you posted on the bison-loving camel that is me.

Sing Comfort to Me

Digital illustration: Wild Daisies 1Sweet is the Song

However cold and sharp the wind may be,

As wild and deep as darkness ever falls,

From utmost edges of the storm still calls

A song that stills, that draws and comforts me—

Though battles rage, the world in sorrow drowns,

And trials threaten life and hope and light,

That gracious call still guides me through the night

As long as I will listen to its sounds—

No danger is so great, no ill so dire,

Nor pestilence and terror so extreme,

That it cannot be mended by the stream

Of melody from that angelic choir—

Now when amid the depths of dark and pain,

I’ll listen for that heavenly refrain.Digital illustration: Wild Daisies 2