a lifelong search
We all just want something
But we set out unaware of what we’re looking for
But in some way we change the world
In just the tiniest bite
And maybe tomorrow we’ll be forgotten
but today we did something worth remembering
I hope I do this by showing compassion, and heart
And for the short time I’m remembered, it will be
Because I did something good.
Elizabeth Nesbit, age 14
Our old, old oak tree fell down in the middle of the night, taking with it several other large trees. The oak’s been giving shade, soaking in carbon, giving shelter to critters here for at least a couple of hundred years. The loss of this dear friend broke our hearts but also gave us some incredible shots. Notice how St. Francis, miraculously, survived.
This is John, my son. John is brilliant, creative, cute (see picture), and loving. I’m proud to say that he’s also a slow learner.
Lately he’s shown an interest in teaching. As one who has dedicated much of my life to the profession, this fills my heart with pride and sorrow. I can think of no other person more suited to the challenges of teaching. John is at once playful and deeply reflective, compassionate and level-headed, imaginative and practical. He is fascinated by the unique complexity of each child’s gifts. And he loves them. Still, I want to warn him and tell him to do anything else with his life but spend it in classrooms. I want to tell him to run screaming from the oversized institutions of education with their constrictions, their bureaucracies, their political agendas, their state-mandated curricula, their inhumane treatment of persons (both students and teachers) who may not fit into prescribed molds quickly or easily, their insistence on reducing human potential to measurable standards.
At the same time, I want to celebrate with him, offer tips on classroom management and ideas for lesson plans, decorate his bulletin boards, recommend a reading list, brainstorm ideas with him, help him to create for his students an environment where he and they can grow to be independent thinkers who care about their communities, empowered to save the world.
John knows how important education is. If he’s really bound to teach, I don’t think there’s anything I could say or do to keep him out of the classroom. He and his cohorts will have to reinvent ways to reach students in spite of the broken systems that may someday employ him.
I’m a such a sucker for a bhag.
Now, before you get all excited, let me explain. I love taking on Big Hairy Audacious Goals that push me out of my comfort zone. Distance running, novel writing, unwieldy large-scale art projects involving low budgets and communities of people with wild ideas, helping to start up schools have had their turns with me. Simply setting the Big Hairy Audacious Goal gets my juices flowing. For years I’ve made lists of “One hundred things to do before I die.” (Simply writing a to-do list that long can be a bhag, itself.) Finding old lists I’ve created and checking things off often amazes me. Often goals I’ve forgotten seem to have happened on their own.
That’s why I’m taking on Day Zero’s 101 Things to do in 1001 days. The creators include links to communities, tips for creating your lists, and links to others’ lists. Part of the process is to post your own list of 101 things to do. So here goes.
1. Facilitate a nonverbal dialogue session
2. Grow a garden on my rooftop
3. Master use of the comma
4. Find someone in town who would like to learn English in exchange for teaching me Spanish
5. Take contact improvisation classes
6. Inspire and support a public participatory art installation
7. Bake bread
8. Have dinner parties with old friends
9. Run in the sand barefoot
10. Get up early in the morning without sacrificing my dream life
11. Make puppets
12. Run uphill in the woods
13. Make masks
14. Participate in poetry reading
15. Invent new cocktails
16. Make a recipe book of cocktails
17. Publish a zine about demons and saints
18. Take more classes from Gabrielle Roth
19. Design learning plans for other slow learners
20. Interview other slow learners
21. Write about my interviews a la Studs Terkel
22. Learn to walk on stilts
23. Revise one of my nanowrimo novels
24. Write a new one
25. Forgive me my trespassers
26. Give away books
27. Use public transportation
28. Learn how to get out of bed when the alarm clock goes off
29. Learn how to write longer sentences without fear
30. Find a dramatically new hairstyle that expresses my individuality and looks good even when sweaty
31. Connect with missing relatives
32. Read about humor therapy in bereavement groups
33. Laugh with people at a bereavement group meeting
34. Sell a record number of books for my publisher
35. Send mail art every week
36. Lift dance partners on my body without using my hands
37. Market my works of creativity to new markets via web and face-to-face communication
38. Market other people’s works of art and creativity
39. Host a personal growth retreat
40. Host art camp for adults
41. Establish permanent residency in Canada
42. Make puppets
43. Host a parade through the streets of Toronto
44. Make enough money to give generously to others
45. Give generously to others
46. Write about the experience of coming of age
47. Learn how to get up before sunrise
48. Make music with a mixing board
49. Go to Pittsburgh and hang out for a while
50. Attend artsy-fartsy conferences and participate
51. Attend new-agey conferences and participate
52. Learn about the magic of anaconda balls
53. Make political art big and bold and loud
54. Participate in paratheatrical experiments
55. Receive coaching for public performance
56. Host arts and crafts parties
57. Make cookies for new neighbors
58. Spend the day taking pictures of all the places that I plan to write about in Dayton
59. Make my own clothes
60. Run marathon in less than four hours
61. DJ a dance event in Toronto
62. Make enough money to sustain creative projects in Dayton with studio space
63. Write funny poetry
64. Perform funny poetry
65. Find another sport besides distance running that includes outrageous bhags
66. Make popcorn and top it off with brewers yeast and sneak it into a movie theatre and watch a movie in the middle of the day
67. Explore group mandala making with community in a workshop
68. Interview people from the permaculture community about magic
69. Paint what I see in dreams
70. Sell the house
71. Sell the car
72. Find homes for family heirlooms
73. Investegate enjoyable learning adventures with John
74. Swim in the ocean
75. Spa day with Liz using homemade, food-based products
76. Burn the honeysuckle
77. Outerspace theme dance party
78. Contribute to dance therapy communities
79. Play with dogs
80. Make new business cards for new projects
81. Find cousins who want pictures I’ve been hoarding
82. Finish parody of self-help
83. Buy new homemade soap
84. Buy local food
85. Make artist trading cards that celebrate family members
86. Find an elder and help with their garden
87. Have a table at canzine
88. Surprise picnic with Peter
89. Take the trash out DONE!
90. Celebrate Christmas with 100% homemade gifts
91. Make a habit of commenting on other people’s blogs
92. Visit a fitness coach for new bhag
93. Host reunion party for DECA
94. Have a slideshow
95. Use image processing programs without cussing
96. Write 100 thank you notes
97. Have a slumber party with my sister
98. Eat lobster with Liz DONE!
99. Go camping with Liz
100. Get tips from trail runners about running without falling
101. Tell my mother-in-law that I love, respect, and admire her
I was in a foul mood today. I was feeling as if I’d been walking around in circles and not getting anywhere but just making my way deeper and deeper into the darkness.
I decided to visit High Park, here in Toronto, where I could really do my glumness justice. I figured, if I was going to walk around in circles and not get anywhere, I might as well do it in high style. High Park has this great labyrinth painted on an old concrete slab.
I enjoy this labyrinth often, even when I’m not feeling sad. I often walk the circle treating the experience like an oracle. Today’s question: How do I get unstuck from this bad mood?
As I walked around in the dusk, chin to chest watching my feet, I waited for a sign to inspire me. By the time I finished walking and looked up, I noticed that a dozen or so women had gathered on the outer edges of the old green picnic benches that surround the circle. One of the women passed flowers from a bouquet, another stones from her pocket. The darkness deepened. Bats circled overhead.
It occurred to me that the women may have been celebrating their community, or they might have been grieving the loss of a friend. Maybe they were doing both. In either case, I like think of their appearance as the magical sign I was looking for. Here was a gathering of women, joining me in my dusk with the bats, reminding me that community may be the best way–if not the only way–to find ourselves.