☕️ Hope is a thing with leaves

A Saturday Caesura

It’s been cold here lately. Cold enough that all school buses were cancelled one day, several buses refused to start on other days, and most days my truck tires thump thumped squarish for a few kilometres before they softened to round again. Cold enough that the number of layers I had to wear outside and the number of times I had to refill the bird feeder in a day were roughly the same. Cold enough to earn the ranking of Extreme Cold by those who are officially tasked with determining such rankings.

It is an extreme act of hope to think about gardens and flowers and seeds and greenery when it is February and bitterly cold and there is not a patch of rich brown earth visible anywhere. Thanks to the recently repaired greenhouse that is attached to the science wing of our school, the hopeful thinking has turned into hope-in-action for a few of us who are particularly fond of gardens and flowers and green growing things.

So, in the middle of the day, after teaching writing craft and grammar and literary analysis, after supervising my portion of the lunch break, after processing emails and recording attendance, I escape to the greenhouse, incubator of summer, oasis from the cold and the flurry of the day.

First, the planting: tomatoes, peppers, herbs, rudbeckia, lupin, soapwort, geranium. I hold the seeds, tiny shades of brown, in my hands and taste sun-warm sweetness, see splashes of blossoming colour. I smell moist soil, feel its earthy coarseness, watch as bitter winds shove pale drifts of snow against the glass window-walls.

Then, the watering — a careful and faithful misting done with far more anticipation than a simple daily routine usually merits. And then on a particularly cold day, there is sprouting and green and jubilation. A cadre of icicles clings outside, peering in and perhaps wishing they could have contributed to the party, while we possess the evidence of our planting and watering as if the resulting growth is our doing alone: “My tomatoes are up! Look at my herbs! My lupins!!”

But of course, every sprout is the miracle it has always been, and we are blessed to be part of nurturing a life we can in no way create.

This week’s lunch caesuras in the greenhouse have been devoted to transplanting — moving seedlings from tiny pots into bigger ones where they can grow deep and tall and strong. It is gentle work, this handling of tender shoots and tentative roots. One more step in the patient acting out of a hope for what can yet be in a month, two months, a summer, next year.

I return to class with dirt under my fingernails. The weak afternoon sun slants through the classroom windows, slips across the desks where even more tender shoots with tentative roots sit, ready, needing all my hope-in-action efforts, too.

☕️ Adventures in Learning

A Saturday Caesura

Cold settled to the bottom of the sky this week, left glitter hanging in trees, spread a generous helping of white over autumn’s abandoned and decaying glory. The night the cold arrived, a stray kitten found a warm hideaway shelter, curled its baby tail around its pink baby nose and settled into that deep, world-abandoning sleep recognizable in babies of all shapes and sizes. In the early(ish) morning, the little kitten, a soft-grey tabby, went on an unplanned, very un-kitten-like adventure — to school.

The stowaway was not discovered until the student pulled into the school parking lot and heard something other than the usual purr of his truck engine. And so it was that kitty, smelling slightly of engine oil and still oblivious of the dangers of fan belts, found himself tucked into a flannel-lined jean jacket and smuggled into Room 210. Not that the secrecy part of the smuggling operation was particularly successful. The teacher, somewhat experienced with reading student body language and quite knowledgeable in techniques of interrogation, was quick to spy the bulging jacket, ferreted out an equally quick confession, and further declared that if kittens were going to attend English class, then she, as the teacher, would exercise her authority by being the first to cuddle it. Which she did. Of course.

And so it was that kitty found new warm shelters in various laps, explored an intriguing maze of legs (human and non-human), left tiny paw-prints on papers and desk tops, tapped a few Chromebook keys for good measure, and purred and purred and purred (and meowed), and then, oh glory of all glories, lapped up a dish of goodness made from three creamers smuggled (successfully) from the staff-room fridge, the contents mixed with a bit of water, and, once that was gone, munched on a generous scoop of tomato-basil flavoured tuna graciously donated from someone’s lunch. Oh, that all un-kitty-like adventures could result in such bounty, such an embarrassment of riches.

Any suspicions about how much school-work was actually done that class are probably warranted. Kittens are magnets and there is nothing in the high school English curriculum about magnets. Or kittens for that matter. Nothing. Nada. However, there is an entire general outcome related to collaboration and group work, and if one were to assess the class ability to collaborate based on their collective responsiveness to kitty’s frequent meowing and their ability to offer lap-space in an equitable manner without any squabbling, then it could be argued that, even in Grade 12, having a kitten in class is conducive to learning. And if the quality of learning was gauged by the full, round kitty-belly and the steady, rumbling purr, then the class certainly achieved a standard of excellence that day.

🌿A Paradox

On cloudless days I can see the slopes and spires of a cadre of white-robed sentinels stationed along the southwest horizon where they guard the heart of winter in their lofty fortresses of stone and ice until time to release that wild winter heart to beat full and strong, its pulse keeping time, measuring the moments that make a season which will inevitably change yet remain forever unchangeable.

The Sound of Music

A Saturday Caesura

Working at home under self-isolation guidelines made for a quiet week. No bells. No hallway bedlam. No whispery undercurrent while I’m expounding the rules of subject-verb agreement. No bursts of laughter. No heated discussions. Just the ding dings of incoming mail and messages, my own voice the clatter of a Chromebook keypad.

Into this world of disrupted sound, I pause to listen. A train bellows its warnings (always 4 times). The neighbour’s broken-muffler car rumbles my sleep. Coyotes yelp at nothing and everything. Birds flutter and gossip at the feeder; geese honk on-the-wing. Water drip drips from the eaves, a gentle affront to the freezing silence of winter.

Into this percussion of life beyond isolation, I pause to play my piano (2 times), and the notes falter and trip, having endured their own long season of winter. My fingers search for a voice frozen by grief, hurt, discouragement. It’s a soft voice, hardly more than a pianissimo drip drip, but it is there and maybe spring will thaw this silence, too.