Coronacoaster

In the suburban neighborhood I grew up in, each house had two parents, a handful or more of children, a cleaning gal who lived-in a few days a week, and an assortment of pets. Every household ran on the same schedule, with Dads out working, kids in school, while moms did everything they did until we returned to sit around the dinner table in our respective seats. Two houses down our lane was a family just like ours, until it wasn’t, and they moved across to the other hill in town, where properties were larger, houses grander, and then the husband left to make his bed with a younger woman in her city apartment. This mother, the one left with 5 teenagers still living in the grander home, she’s been on my mind, a lot, her image rolling around all this week. I picture her at her dressing table, drawing cat eyes with a black liner, a smoldering cigarette in a crystal tray, and a half-filled martini at her elbow. She was alone gazing into her mirror on those nights when we middle-schoolers were experimenting with beer and kisses downstairs in the oak-paneled den. I have no recollection about why I went upstairs to speak to her or what she even said to me, but I always did go. She’d flit about in a gold patterned caftan like Cleopatra, mesmerizing my imagination as she moved mythically from dresser to mirror, completing her toilet with care, as if her styling mattered, as if she was expected somewhere regal. Once properly primed she’d descend the wide staircase with care, imparting a question or a word, not a caution or warning, just a thought for our evening. Although I couldn’t capture her bleached-blond up-do or recreate that Valley of the Dolls barbiturate disposition, she has filled my imagination endlessly of late. I know nothing certain about her isolation or despair, but right now, those emotions lay torn open in me.

 

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#abandonedbeauty

This week the weather shifted to perfection in pure irony against a deep deep blue sky and warm breeze swirling around our home. We wait and watch sheltering within. But, as I have been doing almost daily for these nine weeks, I did venture out on a late afternoon walk to see what the heron was up to. This route to the lake takes me past forest and field with pockets of houses clustered here and there. Inspired by an assignment my colleague and favorite art teacher is doing with students, I looked for the abandoned places, for their #abandonedbeauty. It does not take long to find such treasures in a rural area, where time alters material indiscriminately. The weathered, rusted or worn is found everywhere, and as I spy it, metaphor shuttered into my soul and heart: I too break down on the daily.

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their voices

Two months ago we started a national effort to school students from home. Each state, perhaps even each district, dealt with this transition differently. I could not be prouder of my colleagues or my students for rising to meet this challenge head on with the full intention to keep our school community together. Twice a week I meet with all my students, through google meets, additional emails and individual meetings and phone calls. They have learned, I have learned, and swiftly we adapted to a digital forum. As a teacher of reading and writing, I have been privy to the inner thoughts and reflections of many students during this unprecedented time. They are experiencing a topsy-turvy new day to day of sheltering with all its crazy chaotic difficult challenges, yet still continue to show up digitally and wow me. Tonight, I thought I’d share some of their voices, their hopes and dreams, and everyday afternoons.

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Blue Sky Action

I really love my job, and nothing could have proven it faster than taking it away from me. Driving up the lamp-post lined Copley Hill to the hundred year old brick building with a hummingbird mural and entering to walk the creaky wood floors to my classroom, the same one I have stood in surrounded by fabulous individuals for over two decades, was my day to day. I miss unlocking that door, greeting the quiet few who always arrive early. Now I get ready for class at our dining room table in the one large space that is kitchen, dining, and living room combined, with windows facing all four directions. Notebook to scribble thoughts for the day, laptop open to a dozen tabs, hot black tea at my elbow, I’m slowly working out how to engage for 45 minutes via a fuzzy and often interrupted google meet twice weekly with my students. Like everyone I know in the school system, I am nonstop problem-solving, whether with curriculum shifts, individual student conferences, talking to para-educators and special educators or with concerned parents. By 4:00 most days I’m intellectually challenged and emotionally drained. But by 4:00 what I’m mostly aware of is how much I miss my students. Miss that class room life. Not every second of it, but most every second with them and all their hope. All their blue sky action.

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Colliding into Spring

There are starts and stops at every transition. Like when Winter is slowly colliding into a Spring that turns frozen again. We, in the quiet Northeast, are used to such chaos from our skies. One day we run about in tees and another it’s back into the parka. There is a steady plodding onwards, and general acceptance of what must be will be. Perhaps that is why Vermonters are all cool with so many personal differences through the decades. And perhaps this is why so many of us are sitting tight while COVID19 runs its course. We know how to stay active through long months of difficult weather conditions right inside our own space, plus we got an upward vision that allows us to dream of what is almost here.

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hope in my hood

For several years we have lived on this same street, the one I’ve driven mostly at the speed limit. Except for the occasional weekend run up and back down the adjacent dirt road, during this shelter in place time, I’ve been walking this street and all about in my neighborhood, a lot. My new favorite jaunt is a 3.5 mile loop that for a section of that distance I pass by open water. It’s a shallow, in spots reedy and swampy pond, but right now, the sight of the wind rippling across it is heaven. In March, when we first began the stay at home order, the pond was broadly covered by ice but under a cloudy or blue sky this expanse was everything wonderful to see even while frozen and stagnant and filled me with enough joy to navigate another challenging day.

icy pond

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One Planet

Even in these dark days while we all count the slow minutes of each hour, there are some gifts resting under our fear. Shifting my daily routine from standing resolutely in my classroom to teaching from a wavy screen in my living room first brought me unease, but then I found absolute faith from my students who are rising to meet the demands like champs. I have gained hope from these teenagers, as their optimism buoys me in despair. I depend on them once more to cultivate a symbiotic although digital relationship, as we all face another day sheltering in place. During the other hours, while alone in my own thoughts, I turn to memories of traveling this one planet, navigating the ancient cobblestones and sandy beaches and stone steps and narrow turrets and city sidewalks and dirt roads and roof tops and galleries brimming with the masters and bike paths and mountain peaks all under a busy and brilliant sky.

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