School Days (for lack of a better title)…

Class Clown

Vernon Barford School via Compfight

I like to think I was too busy learning to be bothered with school. But looking back, I have to admit it may look like I was too undisciplined and too unmotivated. The truth is I was afraid. I was afraid of failing. And I was even more afraid of succeeding.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. As a first grader, I was reading the fifth-grade reading book. By myself at a table in the classroom. I seem to remember my teacher, Miss Peggy, talking with my mom about moving me up a grade because of my reading. My mom demurred, arguing that my other academic and social skills were not as advanced as my reading. She may have been right.

By third grade, I had discovered girls and a love for writing. Mrs. Kight’s third grade classroom was world headquarters for the periodical Odd Sane Dog, a handwritten, hand-copied, and hand-distributed counter-culture newsletter. Well, it was as counter-culture as possible for a third grader in southeast Georgia. But there also was Molly Cannon in the third grade.

Oh, Molly.

Good golly, indeed.

I fell hard for Molly. Too bad for me, she didn’t give me the time of day. I guess the OSD was too out there for her.

In the fifth grade, I discovered the power of getting other people’s attention. There was the time I got sent to the principal’s office for talking too much about our Little League game from the day before. The principal had a novel way of dealing with loquacious fifth-graders. He made us sit out on a bench in front of his office with white adhesive tape crossed over our mouths. Imagine the looks we got as our colleagues passed by on the way to recess or lunch or wherever. Funny, ha ha! Imagine the look I got from my mom (who worked in the school office by this time) when she saw me like that!

As a seventh-grader, I became a published poet. No, for real.

Listening to the Quiet…

day 009.

Creative Commons License Holly Lay via Compfight

I decided to take this afternoon’s walk sans headphones, so I could listen to what was going on around me.  I needed the quiet, I surmised, so that I could clear out some of the jumble in my head and mostly in my soul.

I wanted to listen, to pay attention, to be mindful (whatever that word means, with all its baggage). I wanted to notice.

I wanted to listen to the quiet.

I heard the whirring hum of mountain bike tires on the concrete trail.

I heard the gentle rustle of leaves as the afternoon breeze blew.

I heard the busy sounds of bugs and birds.

I heard the chatter of walkers and kayakers.

I heard the dreams and plans of lovers and friends.

I heard the soothing static of rapids at the end of the trail.

I heard my own footsteps padding upon the pavement.

I heard the silky slither of a snake through the sand, into the weeds at the water’s edge.

I heard interstate traffic whizzing by, oblivious, as though this trail, this piece of near-solitude didn’t even exist.

I heard my own breath. I heard my own heartbeat.

I heard my soul whisper in prayer that this was good, if only for a few moments.


Jazz on Monday Night…

Jazz on a Monday night when I need to be asleep.

Chet Baker My Buddy. Horace Silver Song for My Father.

Good sounds. Transported to another era.

Mellow. Laid back. Trumpet. Drums with the little brushes. Spare piano, minimal. Live recording. vibrant. cool. sophisticated.

Tinkly piano. Steady drummer. Rimshots.

Demons of Destruction…

I’m thinking about why creative people have such destructive personalities and engage in such destructive behavior. It seems almost a sine qua non that the most gifted and creative people – artists, writers, musicians, etc. – struggle against the demons of destruction in ways other people don’t.

Once Upon a Time…

Image: via

Image: via

Once upon a time…

Four little words that fill us with anticipation, that open wide horizons, that set us on a journey to Who Knows Where. Four little words. Filled with power to create.

I’ve been thinking today of J.R.R. Tolkien, who gave us the wonderful world of Middle Earth, and hobbits, and wizards, and elves, and dwarves, and dragons, and adventures that enchant and inspire us.

According to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, Tolkien was grading student papers at Oxford when he came across a blank page. For whatever reason, he filled that student’s blank space with the words…

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

…and a whole new world was born.

El Camino de San Carlo…

Camino de Santiago

Creative Commons License Luis Hernandez via Compfight

Ever since I saw the movie The Way, I’ve been fascinated by the pilgrimage on The Way of Saint James, El Camino de Santiago. The ancient trek from many points in Europe leads to Compostela near the western coast of Spain. Pilgrims have traveled this road for hundreds of years and for hundreds of reasons.

When I say I’m fascinated by the pilgrimage, I mean to say that I’m interested in reading and learning about it. My heart says to be fascinated means that one day, I may walk The Way as a pilgrim. My spirit says to be fascinated means that one day, I should walk The Way as a pilgrim. But my mind says to be fascinated with The Way means play it safe, put aside the silly notion, and forget ever walking The Way as a pilgrim.

“Experience and enjoy the Camino vicariously through the exploits of others younger, freer, richer, and bolder,” my brain shouts.

Then I think today, though I may never embark join The Way of Saint James, I am walking The Way of Saint Charlie every day!

Pilgrims on the Camino say they start on The Way for a hundred different reasons or for no reason at all, but they end up at Compostela different than when they began. The Way changes them. The Way prods them along. The Way clarifies and mystifies, they say. And they say The Way, while ending up in the same destination, is very different for each of them. To walk The Way of Saint James is a journey inside as well as along an ancient path.

The Way of Saint Charlie is like that, too. I’m heading in the general direction of an ultimate destination, and I’m making the trek that countless others have made before me. I’m walking that well-worn path along with countless others, and we’re heading in the same direction.

But I have to walk The Way of Saint Charlie. I have to find my reason, my purpose, my motivation for walking. I have to stay focused on my horizon, my, markers, my shell. I have to carry my gear, drop my burden at the Cross of Iron, and make my way my own.