re·gret

Regrets-590x399

 

Day 25 of the 30 day, 30 word challenge

 

re·gret  (ri-ˈgret),  v.  –gret·ted, –gret·ting, –grets.  –tr.  1.  To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about.  2.  To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.  3.  regrets. A courteous expression of regret, esp. at having to decline an invitation.  [ME regretten, to lament < OFr. Regreter : re-, re- + greter, to weep (perh. Of Gmc. Orig.)  –re·gret·ter n. 

 

Cartoon by Laure Porché

Cartoon by Laure Porché

 

The origins of the word regret mean “to lament” or “to weep.” There is a bitter taste that permeates regret. We want things to be other than they are. We feel loss. We wish we had behaved differently or tried harder or let go sooner. People often hand out the trite saying: you’ll regret the things you didn’t do in life more than the things you did. But I think there is plenty of room in Regretsville for them both. I also think, in this privileged land of choices, we spend too much time regretting or anticipating regretting the wrong things.

 

Some regrets mark a culture in which we are too scared to even be in touch with our deeper desires and regrets. Teenagers and young adults say FML when they have a challenging day, when they don’t get precisely what they want. Microsoft boss Steve Balmer said “his biggest regret” was missing out on the smartphone boom (This was incidentally, the first result when I searched for “my biggest regret” is). Saying one’s biggest regret is not getting in on an industry to make more money seems pretty silly in the grand scheme of things. But I think it is a helpful canary for a culture that is driven by accumulation of more and more wealth.

 

Regret can also signify our desire for constant control of every aspect of our lives and our inability to recognized our own humanity. My mindfulness teacher once told me not to be too hard on myself about my actions in the past. “If you could have done something differently, something more skillfully, you would have,” he said. “That was the best you were capable of at the time. Regret as fuel for change and for acting better in the future seems productive. What doesn’t seem productive is using regret as a weapon against ourselves. Our today self decides that there was something that our years-ago self could have done so that we wouldn’t have regret. But our years-ago self wasn’t capable of more mature or wise action; that self hadn’t yet learned the lessons.

 

Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware spent years assisting people who had gone home to die. She spent time listening to them and asked them what they would have done differently. Did they have any regrets? The most common regrets were:

 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

 

Ultimately, what they seem to boil down to is one word: connection. Connection with ourselves and connection with others. Connection with ourselves allows room for us to become aware of how we want to use our gifts and our lives and to trust that over the feedback we get from socialization and expectations of others. Connection with others allows us to value relationships over work and to reach out and make ourselves vulnerable with the support of those we care about. Realizing our connection to everyone and everything allows us to get out of our selfish spin cycles of thought and into the world that we belong to.

 

The Dalai Lama said, “The pain of regret didn’t go away. But I don’t let it pull me back and drag me down.”  I don’t think it is possible to be human and not have regret. We will inevitably mess up. We will do things we wish we hadn’t done. We won’t do things we wish we had. But I think there is a healthy way to acknowledge our regrets without getting mired in them. Miring ourselves in regret is a trick. So long as we fixate ourselves on the past, we don’t have to be present right now. And right now is when we actually have some choice.

 

 

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plaque

plaque

 

Day 24 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

plaque (plak),  n.  1.  a thin, flat plate or tablet of metal, porcelain, etc. intended for ornament, as on a wall, or set in a piece of furniture.  2.  a platelike brooch or ornament, esp. one worn as the badge of an honorary order.  3.  Anat. Zool. A small, flat formation or area. 4.  Dentistry. A gelatinous accumulation of bacteria and salivary mucin that forms on the teeth.  [ < F. back formation from plaquier to plate  <  MD placken to beat (metal) thin and flat. See PLACK, PLACKET]

 

We put a plaque up on the wall. It was given to us at a banquet. It’s clear with our name etched into the glass. Or the plaque is black enamel, engraved with gold lettering. Someone hand-painted it. Our name was double-checked and, for once, spelled right. Maybe we did something at work. Maybe we volunteered in our community. Maybe we stayed at the same company for twenty years and are acknowledged for our longevity.

But the plaques on our walls are usually not for the things that we should really be recognized for. How about the time when we were really maxed out but we answered the phone to find our friend distraught and listened attentively for hours? There was the time when we were sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and decided to let someone in. We offered to help a friend using a skill we have. We babysat. We offered tissue or a hand or a shoulder to a stranger crying on the bus. We cooked a special meal that honored the dietary restrictions of everyone attending the potluck even though it meant going to a few different stores to get the ingredients. We opened our heart, even though it was scary, even though it had been broken before. We knocked on doors for a cause we believed in and had thoughtful conversations, even with those who disagreed with us. We made something for someone that we just knew they would love. We painted walls and moved furniture and lent power tools to friends to help them create new homes. We gave rides. We pulled out our jumper cables and drove our car next to the one that had the engine that was turning and turning and turning but not over. We baked pies for holidays. We made casseroles for friends who just had babies, for friends who just lost a dear one. We risked smiling even though we didn’t know if the person passing on the sidewalk would smile back. We dropped extra money in the tip jar or donation basket, money we didn’t really have. We did the thing we thought we could not do because someone we loved needed us to do it.

Plaques don’t honor the ordinary. But it is in those ordinary acts that we do for one another every day that hope exists. It is in those ordinary acts that we display the highest achievement we can ever achieve as humans. That is: to be kind.

 

 

 

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bridge sign

moored

 

bridge sign,  Naut.  a sign on a pier or quay to show where the bridge of a certain vessel should be when the vessel is moored.

 

 

We moored ourselves. The journey over water had been long and now we edged in from the sea. Places we knew before only by faint lines on a map were now vivid to us. But there was something even more thrilling than the adventure: the arriving, safely, at the quay. We pulled in to the space marked by the sign and anchored. Home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ko·mo·do drag·on

Komodo dragon/ Adam Riley

Komodo dragon/ Adam Riley

 

Day 22 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

Ko·mo·do drag·on  (kə-ˈmō-dō-)  a monitor lizard, Varanus komodoensis, of Komodo and adjacent Indonesian Islands that grows to a length of 10 feet: the largest lizard in the world. Also called  dragon lizard, giant lizard, Komoˈdo lizˈard.

 

 

When the dragons came, they came all at once and they were everywhere. Dragons on the sidewalks, dragons in swimming pools, dragons at the grocery. We couldn’t tell where they had come from—they simply weren’t there and then they were. It can be alarming to find oneself surrounded, suddenly, by dragons. We tried to make the best of it. We gingerly walked around them as we went down the street. We swerved to avoid hitting them while driving. We wondered what they ate and if we fed them whether they might find other things more attractive than, say, us. We found they were fans of kale but not carrots and Cheetos but not Doritos. We noticed there were less stray cats around. We began to take provisions, snacks for us and for them, when we left the house and they began to wait for us. Once we fed them, they became accustomed to it and their appetites grew insatiable. The waddled up close with their scaly short legs and licked at ankles, nibbled on calves until they were given food. Soon, there were more incidents: thick cuts and bites, infections, loss of blood. More and more people were going to the emergency room. Something had to be done. So the human that all the humans trusted went to talk to the dragon that all the dragons trusted. The trusted human said, “When you arrived, we didn’t know where you came from. We tried to be generous with you. We fed you and now you won’t leave us alone. What is your problem?” “Well, that’s the thing,” said the trusted dragon, “before you fed us, we didn’t know to be hungry.”

 

 

 

 

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time

clock-hands-tn

 

 

 

Day 21 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge

 

The word time obviously has many meanings and a super long definition so I have chosen the specific section my finger landed on in the entry.

 

time  (tīm)  n.  6.  Often, times.  a.  a period in the history of the world or contemporary with the life or activities of a notable person: prehistoric times: in Lincoln’s time.  b.  the period or era now or previously present: a sign of the times; How times have changed!  c.  a period considered with reference to its events or prevailing contradictions, tendencies, ideas, etc.: hard times; a time of war.

 

 

 

This time, time is on my side, yes it is. It’s only a change of time, love, time, love, time, love, it’s only a change of time. Feels like the very first time. Ain’t got time. Ain’t wasting time no more. All of the time. All of the time in the world. All things in time. All this time: time in a bottle, nick of time, the hands of time, shades of time, sea of time, sand of time, sleepy time time, precious time, pony time, party time, pillow time, quality time, quittin’ time, crying time, closing time. Old time. Only time. One moment in time. Time after time. I can’t believe in time. Time won’t let me. Time to get away. Good time tonight. Let the good times roll. Good times never seemed so good. The best of times. Big time. Spending time, spend more time. Space and time, some other time, out of time. On borrowed time. There are bad times just around the corner. The last time I saw Richard. The last time. Hard times come again no more. Time was. Time waits for no one. Time is: a joker, runnin’, tight. Time loves a hero. If I could turn back time. Do you remember the time? One kiss at a time, one love at a time. Love takes time. Love gets me every time. I kissed you my last time, the last time I kiss you. Right on time. River of time. Some other day, some other time. Where have all the good times gone? Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care (about time)? Wasting time, wasted time. Tomorrow is a long time. Long, long time. Long time gone. Time was. Time waits for no one. It’s been a long time comin’ but I know. It’s going to take some time. A question of time. Time will tell. Time will call your name. Time passes slowly. Time stands still. Time and a half.  Time out of mind. Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind no more. Time heals. Time for livin’. Time for a miracle. Til the end of a time. Next time. Next time you see her. The times they are a changin’. The time of my life. The time is high. Take your time. Nothin’ but time. Time marches on. Hit me baby, one more time. There was a time. What time is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised mostly of songs with time in the title and, in some instances, lyrics from songs that contain time.

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her·i·ot

youarehere

 

Day 20 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

her·i·ot  \ˈher-ē-ət\  :  a feudal duty or tribute due under English law to a lord on the death of a tenant.

 

Today, we have a word I’ve never heard of. I found the definition a bit unclear so I went to the dictionary’s wise aunt, the encyclopedia. Here’s what Britannica has to say about:

heriot,  in European feudal society, the right of the lord to seize his tenant’s best beast or other chattel on the tenant’s death. The right grew out of the custom under which the lord lent horses and armour to those of his tenants who served him in battle. When a tenant died, the horse and equipment were returned to the lord. When the tenant became responsible for providing his own equipment, the lord claimed the right to heriot. There were various types of heriot. Heriot service was an incident of both free and unfree land tenure, i.e., both unfree, or villein, tenants and free tenants were subject to the feudal lord’s right of heriot. A tenant could make provision for the payment of heriot in his will, but if he died in battle no heriot was required.

Fucked up, right? To break this down: the lord makes his tenant serve him in battle, and because the lord has to loan him armor (because the tenant is poor and cannot afford it) to fight in the lord’s battles, when the tenant dies, the lord can take—from the tenant’s poor and struggling family—either the armor or the most expensive possession they have.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how often some humans decide they are better than other humans—and the manifold ways this has displayed itself over time and continues to display itself. I love this incredibly smart and funny new web series on Youtube called Ask a Slave.  Creator and actress Azie Mira Dungey plays the role of George and Martha Washington’s slave on the show, answering emailed and phone-in questions. Questions like: “What’s your favorite part of the plantation?” and “Why don’t you just go to school in Massachusetts” and “What if you are asleep and Mrs. Washington wants a cup of tea in the middle of the night?” Or there’s: “How did you get to be maid for such a distinguished founding father? Did you read the advertisement in the newspaper?” To this, Dungey’s character Lizzie Mae replies, “Why yes. It said, ‘One housemaid. No pay. Preferably mulatto. Saucy with breeding hips.”  The thing about the questions is that these were real questions asked by real visitors of George Washington’s Mount Vernon where she worked as a living character.

And this came through my newsfeed yesterday: “Parents Complain After Child Forced to Reenact Slavery on a Field Trip.” During a school field trip organized by a group called Nature’s Classroom, a 12-year-old black girl was “called the N-word, chased through the woods, and threatened with physical violence including whipping and cutting her Achilles” as part of a historical reenactment of slavery she was made to participate in.  Apparently, this “enactment” is something the group Nature’s Classroom has done in the past. And previous participants described “being similarly horrified by the experience.” The school did not and has not apologized.

In this country, we pretend we are so high above this kind of thing: one group discriminated against, one to be made better than another. We ignore history. We deny systems of privilege and pretend that everyone gets a fair shake. But the ways in which we value some people’s lives over others is visible everywhere. Yesterday, House Republications pushed through a bill that will cut food stamps by 40 billion dollars. There are 47 billion Americans currently enrolled in SNAP. We act as if hunger is some distant foreign thing, happening far away on another continent. But according to Feeding America, “In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children.” That’s one in six Americans. This is something that will only become worse when programs like SNAP are cut.

This week this article and this graph have been circulating; both discuss adjunct college instructors. Current estimates say 70 percent of all instructional faculty at colleges and universities are made up of non-tenure-track full or part-time instructor; a study just found that students learn more from adjuncts than their tenure track professors. In our country, the rhetoric is strong about the importance of education and the goal of sending each child to college. Tuition costs continue to rise, but adjunct pay does not and many adjuncts do not have access to healthcare. As tuition rises, how much (how little) of it is going to the folks who are actually teaching? We say that teaching is the most venerable profession and that we care about education above all else, but we don’t pay our teachers enough to sustain themselves. And how can we truly claim to care about education if we don’t adequately compensate our educators.

These things—and so many more—are our modern feudal system. In this system, those who are wealthy with money and privilege have all the power and those who don’t have wealth have to struggle to get by and become more and more indebted to those in power.

 

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tu·ber·ous

Botanical-Root-vegetables-4-694x1024

Day 19 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

Short piece today about planting. Speaking of which, I recently wrote an article about local Arizona farm, Sleeping Frog Farms. They happen to plant all kinds of tuberous vegetables. You can find the article in Edible Baja Arizona here.

 

 

tu·ber·ous \ˈtü-b(ə-)rəs, ˈtyü-\  adj.  of, resembling, or being a tuber.

(tu·ber: a short fleshy usu underground stem (as of a potato plant) bearing minute scalelike leaves each with a bud at its base)

 

 

 

They waited to plant until snow had almost melted off the mountain. They shoveled and hoed, digging straight, shallow trenches and planting cut potatoes inside. They planted and planned other crops and flipped through seed catalogs and ordered and  waited. When the green sprouts from the earth were eight inches high, they hilled. They raised soil up around the vines on each side. They were careful not to disturb the roots. They made sure soil was loose and the mulch had space to breathe. When the plants began to flower, they knew they could soon harvest. A few weeks after the plants flowered, they dug into the loose soil around. They pulled the tubers, red and yellow and brown from the ground. In the kitchen, sweet potato pie and potato leek soup and mashed potatoes. They roasted potatoes with butter and rosemary. They sprinkled potatoes with olive oil and salt. They worked and planned for when it was time to plant again.

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rasp

insidemouthoffice

 

Day 18 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:


rasp1    \rasp\  vb.  1 :  to rub with or as if with a rough file  2 :  to grate harshly on (as one’s nerves)  3 :  to speak in a grating tone

rasp2  :  a course file with cutting points instead of ridges.

 

 

Miss Mae, the eighty-year-old bar owner who’s smoked two packs a day since she was sixteen, the one who tells you in no uncertain terms to “Get off my stool,” the stool you didn’t know was hers. Your voice when you are on the cusp of losing it, but before you’ve lost it completely and before you sound like a boy going through puberty. Tom Waits, singing with his throat full of gravel. The car engine trying to turn over and then trying to turn over again. Frogs. Red foxes. That episode of Friends where Phoebe has a cold and her voice lowers and sexies itself for her gig at the coffeehouse, and then she tries to get sick again so that rasp will return. Bea Arthur as Dorothy saying to Estelle Getty over and over again in each episode: “Ma!” James Earl Jones saying, If you build it, they will come. Lauren Bacall asking, You know how to whistle, don’t you? Stevie Nicks. Rod Stewart. Bonnie Tyler. Macy Gray. Brian Adams. Louis Armstrong singing, Stars shining bright above you. Kim Carnes singing, She’s got Bette Davis eyes. Bette Davis. Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson’s and can no longer sing (she said, If there was something I could work on, I’d work on it till I could get it back. If there was a drug I could take to get it back, I would take the drug. I’d take napalm. But I’m never going to sing again). When I heard the news on the radio, I was close to crying. I knew a girl in high school, a soprano, who always refused to drink after other people, terrified of getting a cold and losing her voice.  Someone on a ventilator. Someone with a voicebox. Someone with a virus. Riff Raff. Gollum. Carface. She also wouldn’t talk on the days we had performances scheduled. She wouldn’t even whisper. Unrasping: with rest, honey, rest, apple cider, cayenne, lemon, ginger, zinc, eucalyptus, humming, using a humidifier, inhaling steam, gargling salt water, drinking tea, stopping speaking, stopping singing, quitting smoking, quitting caffeine, water, sleep.  She went to a conservatory for college, I think. Now she has four kids and lives somewhere in the South. I’m not sure if she still sings.

 

 

 

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cap

Navy Hat MO 8350jpg

 

Day 17 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

cap  (kap),  n. v.  capped, capping.  –n.  1.  a covering for the head, esp. one fitting loosely, made of softer material than a hat and usually having little or no brim.  2.  a covering of lace or similar material for a woman’s head, usually worn indoors.  3.  a headdress denoting rank, occupation, or the like:  a nurse’s cap.  4.  mortarboard (def. 2).  5.  anything resembling or suggestive of a a covering for the head in shape, use, or position: a cap on a bottle.  6.  summit; top; acme.  7.  Bot. the milieus of a mushroom.  8.  Also called cap piece, lid  Mining. A short, horizontal piece at the top of a prop for supporting part of a roof.  9.  a percussion cap.  10.  a noisemaking device for toy pistols, made of a small quantity of explosive wrapped in paper or other thin material.  11.  Naut. a. a fitting of metal placed over the head of a spar, as a mast or bowsprit, and having a collar for securing a further spar, as an upper mast or jib boom, at some distance above its lower end.  b.  a metal hand at the end of a spar.  c.  a cover of leather or tarred canvas for the end of a rope.  12.  a new tread applied to a worm pneumatic tire.  13.  Archit. a capital.  14.  Carpentry. a metal plate placed over the iron of a plane to break the shavings as they rise.  15.  Naut.  a wooden or metal place at the head of a mast, for supporting and steadying an upper mast, as a topmast or topgallant mast.  16.  Fox Hunting. See capping fee.  17.  cap in hand, humbly; in supplication: He went to his father cap in hand and begged his forgiveness. 18.  set one’s cap for, to attempt to catch as a husband: Several girls in the class were setting their caps for the new young biology instructor.  v.t.  19.  to provide or cover with or as with a cap.  20.  to complete.  21.  to surpass; follow up with something as good or better: to cap one joke with another.  22.  to serve as a cap, covering, or top to: overlie.  –v.i.   23.  Fox Hunting, to hunt with a hunting club of which one is not a member, on payment of a capping fee.  24.  cap the climax, to surpass what has been considered the limit; exceed expectations: This latest prank really caps the climax.  [ME cappe, OE cappe  <  LL capp(a) hooded cloak, cap; akin to L caput head] –capless, adj.

 

 

The skipper placed the cap on his head and pulled it down snug. It had been given to him years ago by a woman. In an old black and white photograph tucked at the bottom of a drawer, the two of them sat at a picnic: him—bearded and rough around the edges, even then—and her—pretty and pinafored, with her ruffled dress and white laced bonnet. She’d given him the cap that day and he’d taken off his military issued one, replacing it with the soft fabric, a relief to his forehead. He was on leave. They spread out a blanket by the river and then went for a walk on a trail in the nearby woods. He plucked berries off bushes, showing her which were poisonous and which were safe for eating; they harvested mushrooms, tucking the chanterelles and scarlet cups into cloth napkins. He told her he was done with the sounds of guns firing, the quick sparks. He would work commercial now, directing men on ships he commandeered. The sailors under him staying the sails, securing the caps. But the sailing meant leaving, still and always. She wanted a life on the land. The tires hit every loose rock on the road as he drove her home that day, and the jarring ride felt fitting as he listened to her. She stared out the front window telling him why her answer was no, why it couldn’t be him. He stopped the car at her house and turned, handing her his naval cap but she shook her head. She didn’t turn to look at him, not once, as she got of out the car and walked to the front door. The barriers he had taken down erected themselves quickly. He steadied himself with assurances. He couldn’t give up one love, even for another. Walking on deck, the salty air stung his eyes and he shook off the memory. He didn’t know then that storms are not meant to be borne alone. He didn’t know then that chances are as ephemeral as waves.

 

 

*In this piece, I tried to use every meaning of the word cap in the definition above. The ones I couldn’t manage to sneak in was the capping fee for fox hunting, or capital, or mortarboard. For the most part, the definitions appear in chronological order.

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Men·she·vik

sms-2125

 

Men·she·vik  (men(t)-shə-ˌvik, -ˌvēk),  n. pl.  viks, -vik·I,  (in Russia) a member of the Social Democratic party in opposition to the Bolsheviks and advocating gradual development of full socialism through parlimentary government and cooperation with bourgeois parties: absorbed into the Communist party formed in 1918.

 

So here we were, going along all smooth and easy with our 30 days, 30 words challenge until today, Day 16: Menshevik. I knew after so many amazing words to work with, I was going to bibliomance a tricky one sooner or later. But the rule is no do-overs. The word picked is the word picked and you have to do something with it. I’ve held myself to that since Day 1 of the dictionary project.

 

 

Don’t Know Much About (Certain Parts of) History

 

 

It’s funny because just today I was talking with students in class about history. We were discussing the advantages and disadvantages of showing (or utilizing sensory description) and telling (or exposition) in writing. We were naming different disadvantages of using exposition exclusively, one of which is the danger of being too cut and dry and thus boring. I used history books as an example. “What are most history books made of?” I asked. “Telling,” they responded. I said yes, most history books are comprised of exposition and that is exactly why I thought history was boring as hell in high school. It’s why, I’m sad to admit, I didn’t take a single history class in college. It wasn’t that I didn’t like history, it was that I had never been made to care about history, at least when it was labeled that. I always had a hard time with straight memorization. I had no interest in learning names and dates with no context. One of the stupidest things I had to do for history class was to memorize all the U.S. presidents’ names in the order they served. I would have much preferred to spend time learning a little bit about some of them then to spend all that time putting these random names in order. The people on the pages of my history books were flat characters at best and stereotypes at worst. Why should I invest in situations that happened long ago to people who I knew nothing about?

 

I learned more about history in my other classes, where history was made relevant for me. Like in my high school religion class where we watched Gandhi with Ben Kingsley and Romero with Raul Julia. We learned about the movements these men started, movements rooted in compassion for their fellow human beings. In Mrs. A’s religion class, we talked about real people and the injustices done to them. We talked about the ability of individuals and communities to reach out with compassion and nonviolent resistance and to make a difference. One day, we had a special guest. Mrs. A brought in her son Matthew, who was fourteen, in a wheelchair, and had severe developmental disabilities. She told us that at the orphanage, he was in a crib alone and had begun to curl up in the fetal position. None of the staff there had held him for long periods of time and when the doctor examined him, he said that the little baby boy had begun the process of dying, his organs were beginning to shut down. Infants not only need milk to survive; they cannot survive without human contact. Without touch, they fail to thrive.

 

I learned about history in my English classes where we read The Power and the Glory and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and Les Miserables and Beowulf. We read Shakespeare and The Color Purple and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Their Eyes Were Watching God. We read about different kinds of people from different places, all of whom were facing struggles in life, all of whom were battling with moral quandaries. We talked about them as if they were real people and we wrote about what their stories meant, why their stories were important. One day, in my English class with Mrs. T., she brought in a small boombox. The night before, a legendary sports figure in New Orleans had killed himself by inserting a tube from the tailpipe of his car into the nearly closed window and letting the car engine run as he sat inside. She played us two Simon and Garfunkel songs: “A Most Peculiar Man” and “I Am A Rock.” Simon and Garfunkel sing, “I have my books/And my poetry to protect me/ I am shielded in my armor/Hiding in my room, safe within my womb/I touch no one and no one touches me/I am a rock, I am an island/And a rock feels no pain/And an island never cries.” After the last song finished, she turned to us, her eyes wet, and asked us, please, to not be rocks or islands onto ourselves. It was clear that other people’s lives mattered to her, that we mattered to her. I’m sure that her class and her teaching is one of the reasons that I bring in current events–the ones that stir us, that remind us of both the beauty and fragility of being human–into the writing classroom for discussion. Because history is happening all around us. Because I want my students’ ideas and feelings to be part of that conversation.

 

I don’t know much about this particular portion of history: the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. I won’t pretend that I do, or that a quick look at Wikipedia will give me the information I need to write with any authority about it. I am grateful that I came to history on my own over time. I’m grateful that I now have a deep desire to learn about history, because I realize that history is simply the stories of people. People who are trying to live their lives in an imperfect world. People who disagree with one another. People who suffer deeply and sometimes act out from this suffering. People who just want to be able to feed themselves and their families. People who want to create art and language and music. People who want to discover why the planets move the way do or create inventions to make life better for all humans. People who are passionate about so many different things. People who have their own stories to make and their own stories to tell.

 

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