☕️ Grey on the Brain

A Saturday Caesura

It is a post-rain grey Saturday morning. On our fence to the south, three fat baby crows sit and preen and pretend to ignore a redwing blackbird who darts in to taunt them. To the east, the sun presses in behind the sheet of grey, adding some tentative texture to the otherwise flat sky. The views to the north and west are predominantly green-on-grey, lightly animated by the breath of a morning breeze.

I am grateful for time to sit and notice these very ordinary things.

The flurry of wrapping up a school year has left me looking wistfully at the apparent leisure afforded those baby crows. I certainly lack the energy of the mischievous redwing. It was an exhausting year, and my mind feels like the sky today, grey and flat and washed out. It was also an encouraging year, and my heart is bursting with the joyful colour my brain lacks. I am humbled by the notes, emails, and conversations with students who said they appreciated my class for all the ways it challenged, stretched, and encouraged them. Teacher-moments to treasure for sure.

But what to do with the grey-brain of fatigue? The brain that has read words and more words, but struggles to craft any of its own into meaningful thought. The brain that can create lists of things that need to be done over the summer, but then fogs in when it sees how long the list quickly becomes. The brain that easily clouds over with the drizzle of doubt and who cares if you feel like you have nothing to say because no one really reads your words anyway. Yes, what to do indeed.

I don’t have a fully defined answer because…well, grey-brain, obviously. But today, I am going to be entertained by baby crows and feel the breeze and listen for yellow warblers and gaze at the miracle of a growing garden and the brilliance of orange poppies and sketch something and maybe read someone else’s beautiful words and simply taste the goodness of the Lord in this oh-so-grey day.

And maybe I’ll do the same again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

Gardens and Graduates

I started my tomato plants indoors weeks ago, initially keeping them in the relative warmth and southern sunshine of a shelf in the window above the freezer in our laundry room. When they outgrew the laundry room, I jerry-rigged a clear-garbage-bag-incubator/greenhouse in the east window of the below-room-temperature upstairs bedroom. The geraniums were similarly situated in the west window by my art table.

Later, once the sunroom by the front door actually felt like a sunroom rather than a walk-in freezer, I put the tomatoes there during daylight hours, and shuffled them inside at night until the danger of freezing was past. Every time I checked, watered, or moved them, I’d run my hand through their leaves to simulate air movement and encourage them to strengthen their stems in resistance. They’d need this strong backbone to withstand the winds that cruise along the south side of the house where they would eventually spend the summer months.

Even with all my care to harden off the plants before finally transplanting them under a homemade wire-hoop-and-plastic “greenhouse,” they weren’t as resilient as I had hoped. The cool nights and early mornings weren’t a problem because of the insulating cover. Daytime exposure to direct sunlight sunburned a few tender topmost leaves, but nothing too concerning. I had even anticipated the prevailing west winds and put a stake on the east side of each of the tallest plants.

But one day a blustery wind whipped at the plastic cover and left the plants brutally exposed. All of the staked plants survived because they had the support needed to keep their still-strengthening stems from bending and breaking. Three of the shorter, un-staked plants were not so fortunate. The wind was too much for their untried youth. They bent and broke at the base of their stems.

I’ve since provided a stake for each of the remaining shorter plants.

Now, a few windy days later, all of the plants have developed thicker, hardy stems. Their roots have found purchase. They are established and growing. A few have even begun to form blossoms.

Ninety-two graduates “walked the stage” at my school last Friday. I fear that there are few of them whose stems are still too thin, too pliable and prone to easy bending and breaking. I wonder if they have the right support in the right places, supports they can lean into, supports that will hold fast. The winds of life can be gentle, but they can also become unrelenting storms. I hope that these young people have deep roots and sturdy supports. I hope their stems thicken, firm and strong and growing. I hope they don’t break. I hope — and pray. ▫️

☕️ A School Week

A Saturday Caesura

Students filled the desks in my classroom again after almost three weeks of emptiness related to spring break and COVID-removals to online teaching. We were happy to be back, to see actual faces and whole bodies, to feel the comforting illusion of normalcy.

On Monday a few students needed a reminder that English class is for English, not for Bio or Math or CALM or Duolingo or searching for truck parts online. But mostly we read our books and experimented with odes and word sonnets and parsed gerunds and crafted truisms and raged at the unjust treatment of Jutta and cried real tears when Werner died and WHY WOULD THE AUTHOR DO THAT ANYWAY!

We talked about iambic pentameter and the plums no longer in the icebox. We practised the art of paying attention to our world and shared grad photos. We vented about COVID and named our aspirations for the future. We wondered why Monday always comes after Sunday and determined that we would never be careless people like Tom and Daisy. We blamed the masks for our shortness of breath after coming upstairs to Room 210 because farm girls could never be that out-of-shape. We made excuses for unfinished work and tried to complain about the sub in another class and satisfied the burning need to talk about how that novel ended.

About mid-week I realized that my plan to retire in three years (maybe?) means I would no longer have this messy delight of teenagers in my life.

I already feel the shape of emptiness forming in my heart. It is heavier than I ever thought it would be.