- Look outside. Write that for two minutes.
- What's stressing you out? Write that for two minutes.
- What's one thing you can do about it? Write that for two minutes.
- Look outside again. Write that for two minutes.
The idea was to show how we can compose in mysterious fashion, sandwiching inner feelings between two accounts of the outside world. What follows is what I wrote over four classes.
The First Class
The sky is open and light blue. Not the deep blue of August or the aquamarine of the Caribbean Sea. No, the light blue, trying-not-to-be-grey of October Syracuse. A blue that says, it will soon be winter, that says, enjoy this moment which is already gone. The leaves seem already to be falling. Blades of grass reach up in one last wish for love.
This job is stressing me. Another teacher in the system resigned yesterday. That teacher was brand new in August and will be gone by November, a leaf on a tree falling from the branch, drifting on the autumn wind, settling somewhere new.
Envy does me no good. Better to be happy for someone living that dream and feel it as fuel for my own choices. My autumn winds may be coming. Naomi Shihab Nye writes:
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
The sky is bluer now than it was. It's almost summer vacation blue, the blue of hope and faith, the blue of believing. That's the blue under which grass still grows and leaves reconsider falling, the whole world alive as if all of us are ready to be reborn.
The Second Class
I need to slow down. The sky tells me so. There is no wind to push my sails and take me anywhere. The day is still. Even the birds just stare. A plane arcs across the sky, it's engines throttled down. No hurry. We are all coming in for some landing. The grass will catch us. The ground is soft and forgiving.
There's too much to do and too many people after my attention. I want to be left alone with my pen and the blank page. I want to be alone, in solitude, all by myself. The stress of all these people is like the Nikki Giovanni poem:
when I wake up
in the morning
and see all the faces
I just can't
My heart beats too fast. My lungs go shallow. My mind races ahead out of this moment into nothing, into darkness.
And so I write. I breathe through the pen. I can't send these people away, stop teaching, quit the job, but I can sit inside this body, crawl inside my head, and accept how things are. I'm my own man and despite the stress I choose the life I want and what I will feel as I'm rocked by outside forces.
Out by the side of the road an orange sign with black letters stands as a warning. The way through is passable but not smooth or easy. Drivers are waved through one at a time. The tires kick up dust that rises and must fall somewhere. The drivers pass onward under an almost perfect blue sky to places I'm imagining and finding in my dreams.
The Third Class
It looks peaceful out there, but a kid just said, "it's brick." I'm old and don't know exactly what that means, but it can't be good. It's cold as October should be. I can live with that. Cold isn't bad. Not when the sun shines. Not when the sky is blue. Not when I'm breathing and getting through the day.
It's tough being around negative people who complain to and about me. I get that it's not really about me, but it feels that way when people are cruel. They're all hurting. I get that. But I wish we could get along for just this hour. I want them to understand that it's easier that way, but they don't believe.
I can complain and beg them to change, but what good will that do? It's me who must stop expecting them to be other than who and how they are. Their lives are theirs. The more I accept that and let go, the more peace I'll find.
The leaves are changing. Snow will come. The sky will turn ashen grey. The sun will set and rise again no matter what I do. If I'm happy, the leaves still die. If I'm sad, snow still comes. And no matter my anger and frustration, the world still turns on its axis from light to shadow and back into light. Out in the field, the geese accept all this. Who am I to argue with geese? I watch them all take off into the blue sky and almost smile.
The Fourth Class
It's calm outside. The road construction guys are on a break. Even the leaves just hang instead of falling. The grass is in no hurry. The clouds chill in a cold sky. The geese have flown or gone into hiding. Nothing is moving. I stare and feel nothing but relief.
I've had negative people crowd my life today. Their problems weighing me down now, making me tired. I wonder what I've done to deserve all this. Clint Eastwood tells me, "deserve's got nothing to do with it."
The negative people go. They remain only if I choose to hang onto them. If I let go thinking about all that, let those thoughts go out the door with those people, then I have the chance to feel better. It's totally up to me.
A dump truck pulls down the street. Going, going, gone. It is heavy, loaded full, and moving slowly. Somewhere down the line the driver will back up and dump that heavy load. The truck, lighter, will go on to the next job. There is always another job, another day. As for now, the world outside the window is calm, quiet, and trying to teach me all I need to know.