Around the corner of the building at SJSU this morning comes a pair of legs with two strong hands clasped around a stack of boxes. It looks like a homemade robot as it lurches to a halt round the turn. A large backpack, a coffee and a bag dangle from arms and a hand. Boxes of medium and small-size fit loosely together, and are piled up above the face. But I recognize the hair. Trigger happy, I’m unzipping my camera case and pulling for the lens cap immediately,
But, no, an assistant rushes over to help the box lady.
“Don’t help her!” I urge, getting closer and focusing. “Hey, step back!”
But he’s a good man who ignores me completely and helps Ms. J. by taking half the load. There’s her smiling face, so, as they head upstairs, I walk along side, admitting my human depravity. “Hey, that was a portrait! It was teacher. Yes, I’m bad. I cared more for an image in that moment, than for helping a fellow human being.”
She shrugs and takes the stairs to ready for Power & Poetry, her class at SJAWP Writing Workshop.
I’m still seeing her arrival. Boxes. A pile almost as tall as she is. Prep for today’s discovery and deep thinking for her class. It’s a portrait in my mind.
“You looked so peaceful out there,” Mom commented when I came in from reading on the front porch late afternoon. Picture me getting dinner and chores done hurriedly, so I could return to reading my book. I glanced at the drawing pad on my desk, got my water bottle and propped myself up on a big pillow in bed to continue The Hate U Give.
Don’t want to put it down. I’ll make two sketches tomorrow.
Since I spent the better part of my day cleaning and organizing in my garage, this is what I drew with the sepia pen when I finally sat down to sketch. It doesn’t look exactly like this, but it feels like this.
Boxes of books and curriculum. Boxes and boxes. Art supplies. Creative camp unpacked. With a new carton looming front stage left.
Walking 4.2 miles with my girlfriend in Westgate Shopping Center one night was exercise with the benefit of air conditioning and fun talk. K.’s one of those friends Elbow refers to — “that’s why it’s so magical when you have a friend who actually understands much of what you are trying to say. It makes you want to say things you never thought you had in you.” [pg 122] We get each other. So, we were laughing and talking, in our typical style with five or six open incomplete threads, sentences that would be picked up after other anecdotes or comments.
For me, this walk was an art tour of the high-end handbags in various name brand stores, partly because K, had just attended a graduation where her ex was invited. For some reason, her way of making him “eat his heart out” was for her to be dressed super fashionably with all the right labels. I surmised he’d always required that kind of class of her. Now K. was my docent.
My theme was trying to articulate why one purse got my attention or some repelled me. We were in yet another a store, stopping in agreement that the best handbag was an unusually textured Ives St. Laurent. It was softly illumined on its own shelf high on the wall. K. wanted to know the price, so an obliging saleswoman opened it and found a card.
My friend realized that, in my inattentiveness, I hadn’t gotten it. To help it register, she said “nine grand” in an aside with teeth in her words. Just to let me know. Which was maybe information for her, but I went on mute. Underwater, into the fog. There was something to say I couldn’t articulate. I could do the math: ten times less expensive would still be $900. Who would spend that on a purse? And ten times less again would put it down to $90, a lot for one at Marshalls.
So, I will try to finish the cartoon of the incident in more sketches this month.
Today I finished with two productive meetings and noticed I was eager to pull out one of my sketch pads. With the pad open, two words were repeating in my mind and I began to pencil sketch a figure with them, thinking it might morph into a cartoon.
However, it became a study of a feeling, a mood in a youngish woman.
I found it interesting how the words and the implications of conclusions, both as insights and as ends, kept me at the task of developing the woman. It has been a long while since I studied human figure drawing and ink pens are quick and rather unforgiving.
I had no awareness of time while I sketched today. That was lovely.
A fellow teacher/artist and I came up with this plan to hopefully re-instill a drawing habit in our respective lives. Today, when I wrested my mind from household chores and the work-in-progress in the garden, I decided to take my new sketch board to the patio. Drawing outdoors with my art pens. What could be more delightful?
And then, the search for my drawing pads began. It continued for a span that was dangerous to my fledgling intention to actually sit down and draw. I opened the garage door and peered among the boxes and made my way to the drawing table. Nope, just school stuff. I looked through the armoire in my room where drawing stuff usually resides.
Then I sat down anyway, with some grid paper I found and drew.
Looking forward to Day 2.
I enjoyed sampling from among the hundreds of posts and reading what others wrote during the SOL2018, the March Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers (link) , I enjoyed writing responses to a half dozen or so blogs each evening, sometimes as much or more than I enjoyed writing mine. This was a new experience in the five (six?) years I have participated in SOL.
I appreciated the range of people who teacher — the variety in what they were doing, background, age and experience. Some were retired, some working in school leadership, and some starting their careers. They offered daily poems, letters, memoir bits, snapshots, anecdotes and occasional rants. They wrote of families, books, moments with students, of weather, weariness, and realizations.
Some were timid new participants who wrote with hesitation and some were seasoned, adept writers. There were posts on the level of I-got-to-the-desk and that’s all I have left to give, but I wrote and then there were inspired, artful pieces of writing.
Maybe what I enjoyed most was tuning in to the voice of each. Unique.
It was also nice to get comments on my writing, empathetic and sympathetic words that let me know I’d been read and heard. I hope that is how people felt who read the comments I wrote on their blogs.
Having an audience for writing is at once daunting but also energizing. This year being a reader and listener has been delightful for me.
Out of a full day of SST meetings, preparing for new students and subbing for a kindergarten teacher this morning, the thing that stands out is
[Omigosh there is a ruby throat hummingbird sipping the Japanese lantern flowers right outside my desk window. In the late evening light the red looked rich and exquisite!]
Um, the thing that stood out was read aloud. After the kindergartners did two rounds of Daily 5 while I assessed a couple students, there wasn’t enough time before brunch to do another rotation.
I scanned the row of inviting books on the white board sill and couldn’t resist picking up a story about a pig and an egg. This sliver of my day is my recall of how much fun I had getting into the feel of a read aloud, doing character voices, and having the children get swept up in the story too. The story was funny because all pigs friends are birds — they can fly and lay eggs, and he feels left out a good deal of the time. Pig sees a turnip in the barn and decides to hatch it. Oddly enough something comes boring out a hole in the turnip….
This book won’t win medals or prizes, but it was great fun to see that the worm who came out made a nest and then hatched as a butterfly. This time it was Pig’s turn to say to his friends that he had no time because he was busy watching his baby fly.
My sliver, or teensy slice of life today was being caught up in the story for a few minutes with a group of rapt kindergartners. Then we lined up and went to brunch.
The days are warming up in San Jose, CA and the dirt is producing voluminous quantities of grass, weeds, suckers and shoots. Also pushing out of the tended ground in my backyard are flower seeds.
This is a new thing to give over more of the gardening energy to growing annuals and perennials. On beyond tomatoes. Of course, I have two heritage tomatoes, which are fuzzy, cute looking little things like puppies right now, sitting demurely in the bottom of their big metal cages. Like puppies, these varieties, a Mortgage Lifter and a Brandymaster Pink, will grow into enormous dogs, huge mutts dropping tomatoes everywhere.
But flowers. Cultivated. One sign of order and art in my house is when I make a flower arrangement. The care it shows and the life it brings to a space, whether the kitchen table, the dining or the living room, is a nice touch. So, this year, since I have the gray water system, I thought I’d try varieties of cut flowers, most of which are not so drought tolerant.
To think it all comes from the dirt. And the temperature. When the dirt is still cool, the lemon cucumber seeds will not sprout. But the red chard is growing by inches daily. With the temperatures expected to be in the low 80’s for the rest of this week, I can expect more seedlings to appear, along with the usual weeds and unwanted grass.
Some people don’t dig the dirt. But I find it very therapeutic to tend garden spaces and watch. Yes, the best part of gardening may not be the hand to hand combat with the clumps of grass that got started during winter rains. The best part may be sitting here at my writing desk, tipping my chin up a bit to peer over the windowsill to see the well manicured round, raised bed that is the main garden in my backyard.