What Now?

I have heard others wonder, many a time, a thing that I have speculated on myself, namely, what the animals we look at so quizzically in nature, home or zoo think, in turn, of us. Do they even think of us at all, and if so, is it with curiosity? Is the curiosity limited to what we could feed them or whether, in point of fact, we could be fed to them–or does it go beyond this into realms we cannot even begin to guess?

As the calendar year trickles toward its end, many of us turn our inquiring minds toward the future and ask ourselves what lies ahead, and whether we can have any influence on it. We long to be happy and healthy, rich and free, but are often puzzled when directed to think not about how the universe can confer these delights upon our undeserving heads but instead, how we might earn or attain them by our own efforts.

For some reason, all of this recently began to merge in my own head, coalescing into an odd and perhaps contorted mystery of a related but new variant. Thanks to my appallingly unscientific mind, I suppose I have often pondered the universe in the same way that I do animals in relationship to humans, imagining the universe’s workings as some sort of parody of Baroque stage machinery. We occupy a stage on which we animals and plants and other living things act out a madly unscripted play amid the apparently clumsy clockworks of our artificially constructed container and wait for the deus ex machina resolution to clarify all that is, was and ever shall be therein.digital collageSuddenly, though, I’m struck by a further thought that if there is indeed any such power running the show, perhaps the universe is looking at us, at me, in great consternation and mystification, wondering when and how I will be explained. It makes me feel smaller than ever in the grand scheme of things, yet somehow comforted that I may not be entirely alone in my wondering. Will the year ahead, or the decade or lifetime, see my questions answered? Will the universe get its answers? I can’t even begin to imagine. But I like the thought that whatever is waiting on the other side of New Year’s Day may be just that much more miraculous than all of the exciting and surprising and wonderful stuff that went before it. I, for one, plan to stick around until the curtain falls.digital collage

The Power of Being Well Behaved

When I was teaching, I thought it useful to devote a bit of the informational materials I handed out at the beginning of every term to basic issues of classroom decorum. The idea that so-called common courtesy has to be taught, not just to children but to all ages, is no less ridiculous than understanding constant the need for training and refreshing what is called common knowledge or common sense. Generations have passed since people saw a need to comment on or complain about the uncommonness of all of these virtues.

More significantly, as a teacher I knew that if I didn’t encourage, if not demand, attention to such virtues in my classroom there was little hope of any other sort of learning happening in there. I’m old-fashioned that way. The silly thing is probably that it was only after leaving teaching that I thought very clearly about how much these attitudes mattered in any and every kind of cooperative venture, not only in the classroom but in the boardroom, the living room, and certainly in the places where politics, religion, health care, social activities and civic progress are in progress. At least, if we want actual progress to occur.

And that’s how my two cents came out as a personalized set of ten ‘commandments’. Ah, well. I’m kind of a megalomaniac, and I did feel the need to keep my eyes on what was happening.pen & ink

THE BIG OL’ HOW-TO LIST

for getting along with Kathryn

I   Come to class unless you are dead.

II   Show up on time. Lectures don’t always begin on the dot of the class-starting time, but if a deadline is stated as “beginning of class, 18 March” and you  arrive one minute late, technically I can tell you that you missed the deadline and so your project is rejected. Flunked. That’s harsh. But trust me, it’s fair. Besides, it’s a safe bet that if the lecture does start on time and you miss part of it, I’m not going to be terribly enthusiastic about repeating myself and your classmates who have just heard the stuff will definitely not be amused to have it reiterated. Be in place, cell phone and watch alarms and headsets off and fully participating in class, and we’ll all get along famously. Hurray for good manners!

III   Bring all assigned materials and have them in ready-to-use position when class starts. Written tests, especially pop quizzes, are uncommon in my classes (they do exist), but notes and written critiques can be required at any time. Be ready. Write down everything, and date it. Even if I don’t say you have to. Then you have documentation of what I told you (and when) if I should change plans inexplicably or you have a question. Also, it makes you look attentive and enthusiastic whether you are or not.

IV   Flattery will get you places. Forget that baloney about it getting you nowhere. You lose nothing by Making Nice with people and attempting to impress them with your admirable and outstanding qualities; they might even enjoy buying into the whole idea. It’s an excellent tool for impressing others, this making them think you find them worthwhile and fabulous. Conversely, the quickest way to turn a potential ally into a pain in the neck is to belittle, ignore, challenge the primacy of, argue with or antagonize her. Diplomacy and tact mean that you can frankly say, “I disagree,” or “what do you think of _____,” and get a respectful hearing. We are only human (if we’re lucky).

V   By the way, if your death prevents your attending class, call and let me know in advance.

VI   If you have big plans, talk to me. It’s possible that your previous experience with and knowledge of this topic mean you can quickly “test out” of the class requirements and go forward into a more challenging and personally fulfilling independent project. If so, let’s work together to get maximum use out of your time and energies.

VII   If you feel out of your depth, it’s okay to swim over to the shallow end and meet with me privately by appointment. Probably all you need is a bit of individual coaching beyond what’s available or comfortable in class time. Of course, if you’ll kindly risk asking the question in class, there are always others who benefit by having their identical question answered, and probably your learning it together will make it simpler.

VIII   Ignorance shouldn’t embarrass you. Holding on to ignorance should. You’re in class, presumably,because you don’t know Everything yet, same as the rest of us.  So ask your “stupid question,” please. Real stupidity is avoiding or refusing to try or doing something wrong because fear of lowering yourself prevented your asking the question that would’ve resolved the problem.

IX   Be patient. Spend the time. Attempt the highest levels of craftsmanship and professionalism. Pay attention to the tiniest detail.

X   Be bold and adventurous. Climb out of ruts. Seek a new perspective on the familiar and become familiar with the alien. Look for connections. Expect the infinite.

Closed/Open

Windows and doors

Are metaphors—

But also real

Gateways.

So: are Yours?photoHow open to change?

How closed in fear?

Do you throw them wide

When a friend

Comes near?photoYou can bar the way

And lock out

All storms—

But have you

Barred Chance in all

Its forms?photoAre your windows sealed

To stop the rain

So tightly that

No light can gainphotoEntry anymore?

Is your door of steel

Holding off

New joys

For fear you’d feel?photoThrow open the sash!

Swing wide the door!

Adventure is what

This life is for.photo

The ABCs of Me, Episode 3

The Awesome Blog Content Award, Courtesy of HRH ‘Nessa of the Stronghold, requires that I provide you with an entire alphabet of Me-itude in response, so in order to prevent your eyes from snapping back in your head like the cylinders in a slot machine and your brain going into hibernation, I have subdivided the alphabet into three parts. I will reiterate only the award rules–to get the rest of my response to it you should head back to Episode 1–and share the second series of letters in today’s post.

Rules of this award:

1. Pass this on to unlimited fellow bloggers.

2. Share some things about you, using the alphabet.

photo

R is for Rascal

Rascal, riffraff or rapscallion, I’m not such a naughty Nell,
but I am enough subversive that I think the faintest smell
of a smokescreen is escaping with me on my escapades;
hope nobody’s looking closely ’til I up and close the shades.
Smithereens and splinters and microscopic mites
are all that’s left of language when I’ve mangled it in verse
and twisted it and tangled it and murdered it; by rights,
I should be stopped from writing, for it’s only getting worse.
Tangential thinking takes my mind
and leaves my plots and plans behind
to visit wildly different fields
and see what each new tangent yields.
Uxoriated by my man I be, if any woman can,
but never fear, I shan’t abuse by whipping him whom I did choose
as much as he chose me, for I would fain have no one else nearby,
since his uxorious love for me remains a perfect mystery.
Volare Wagon, with your fine faux-paneled sides,
the way your heavy-duty shocks put such smooth-gaited glides
on my great cache of tools; how virile your slant six
that took me where no other car could do such tricks!
Why, O Why? The question best to ask
no matter what the moment or the task,
for none can learn the magicks life brings by
more quickly than the man who questions Why.
Xeriscape my garden–that’s the mandate I have got
for making up the most of every inch of my small plot
in weather short of water and in heat too high for hope
except if I can make dry art upon my garden’s slope.
Yikes! is such a handy shout
when trial and trouble are about,
when great surprise occurs–and when
I’m overjoyed, now and again!

photo

Z is for Zymurgy

Zymurgy–musical, this word,
whose other music we have heard
when from the tap a creamy head
yields cheers for joys from A to Zed.
ABC Blog Award Logo

The End. You’ve survived, my friends! Hope I haven’t worn out my welcome in home, laptop and email inbox, but I trust you all know where the Delete button is by now. Forthwith, Back to Our Scheduled Programming. Whatever that is! Tomorrow will tell.