Friday, June 15, 2012

Sweeping the Corners with Juniper Brooms

These past few weeks have been incredibly rich. I feel like I am holding a musty shoebox full of Polaroids, shuffling around through their overwhelming and jumbled hues. One here of me slowly kneading the thick floss roots of one traditional corn seedling from another; another of me tearing through Little Children and Mr. Pip in our new circle chair named the Egg. Ah! Here's one of me processing up the aisle with my blue-and-gold corsage. I'm wearing a black dress instead of robes because central office returned my package bearing them (after giving their address to my father). There's a tumult of photos from the last day of school: happy, sad, frustrated, climactic, anti-climactic. Oh! One's a closeup of the letter I read to my students. It says:

Here we are on June 1st, 2012. This morning I spaced out in the parking lot listening to “Pay Phone.” It was totally cheesy, so I didn’t bring in the song and make you listen to it. But I did have the line – where has the time gone? Truth, I have no clue. I was reminded of a time in September where I sat in the car on a Friday morning and tried not to cry. It’s Friday, I thought to myself, only one more day until the weekend and I can totally do it.
Because yeah, like or not – or really like it -, you guys have made me cry. To be fair, I’m a crier. It’s not a big deal. A cute ad can make me tear up and both Smoke Signals and Whale Rider made me cry all FOUR times I watched them with you. Your sharp words and apathy have hurt me; your kind or insightful words have moved me more than you know.
I know I’m a teacher. My job is to encourage you, keep in school, show you things to learn. But I don’t sugarcoat, not really. Sure, I may have said, “good job” when really I meant “keep trying,” but the comments were always accurate. Same thing in class discussions. When I said, “EXACTLY,” I meant, exactly. When I say, “That’s brilliant! You’ve got potential. What a great mind and great talent!” I meant exactly those things. I meant that you can articulate and beautifully craft – like a weaving or a painting or a prayer – you can beautifully craft ideas that I wouldn’t have ever thought of, that no one else would have thought of ever. That is the grace and great beauty of being a critical thinker.
I heard a couple of seniors yesterday say, “Why would anyone ever become a teacher?” On a lot of days this year, I thought the exact same thing. What have I gotten myself into? I thought. No one cares. Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. You care, I care, and together we can make something incredible. I live for your analyses of Mr. Hooper, Tom Shiftlet, Janie and Frederic and Paikea. I live for your thoughts about where birds go for school and the color of the sky, the ducks like Black Hawks and your life symbolized by a loaf of oven bread.
I treasure these gems; my memory, like a student once said regarding Walt Whitman, like the fitful flame of the bivouac.
Most of all, however, I’d like to thank you. I know you weren’t 100% every day; heck, I wasn’t 100% every day. But overwhelmingly, what I saw was a dedication to me, to school, and most importantly, to literature. So thank you.
And nurture it! This summer, take time to breathe in the air and sink your toes into the red earth. Read a book that you’ve never seen before but looks interesting. Listen to NPR. Write a story, write a poem, write a 5-page persuasive essay on something that makes you angry. Revel in your good mind and your good soul and your good self.
I will miss you. I will miss every single one of you. But it’s just a summer. Live it up! And in one way or another, I’ll see you next fall.
Cheers, and best of luck in all your endeavors!
And, as Garrison Keillor says on his Writer’s Almanac poems, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

Perhaps here too are a couple of pictures of my students applauding and a collective sigh of summer and community. To accompany, of course, some fraught pix of department head nonsense and a student or two who chooses to be a turkey even on the last day. 
Oh! Another closeup. This one's of my book log for the 2011-2012 school year. Here are the titles, at least:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth 
Love that Dog 
Giving My Body to Science
 Big Mouth & Ugly Girl
The Poisonwood Bible
Esperanza Rising
Keeping You a Secret
My Name is Memory
 Angela's Ashes
Fahrenheit 451
The Light in the Forest
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (GROSS!) 
Sources of Light
 Our Babies,Ourselves
Operating Instructions
Room (*****)
Red Scarf Girl
 The Hunger Games
Best American Short Stories of 2011
Catching Fire
Midwife, Monster
 Giving Birth
A Farewell to Arms
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Hanna's Daughters
Everything is Illuminated
Kissing Kate
Protector of the Small: First Test
Geography of the Heart
A Girl Named Zippy
The Hobbit
Luv Ya Bunches
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

This is shared mostly so you, dear readers, can exhort recommendations on any of them if you so choose. The summer list has 6 titles, and I'm currently gnawing away happily at 1491 and dutifully on King Lear. The latter is for my AP conference next week, and so I'm trying to really delve into the text. My first time round, I found it (sorry! sorry!) boring. This time, I find it perplexing so far. I have yet to see why Goneril and Regan are the "bad guys." I'm also irritated that Edmund, who had such a beautiful don't-discriminate-because-I'm-illegitimate speech, has turned out to be a. . . bastard.

But back to my figurative photo box. There's another snapshot of my AP Literature kids requesting to be in my course next year and receiving their copy of Catcher in the Rye and their quest to find a good free-read book. 

And then, for last, two of my fondest images since the beginning of the summer. The first is the brightly-colored group prenatal room at the Zuni IHS Hospital. I am presenting a short workshop on labor support and we are all trying greeting breaths as a group. There's one of an expectant mom's sister, grinning with surprise at the double-hip squeeze, another of a devoted dad massaging his wife's back. Oh! And great. My figurative paparazzo did a great job with closeups. Here's the last, which is the handout (three-hole punched, notes scribbled in the margins) for the session:


What is a Doula?
·      The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves." It is now used to refer to a helper who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth.
·      A doula is not a doctor or a midwife, just as she is NOT a replacement for your family or partner. She seeks to affirm the dignity and involvement of all you have chosen to attend your birth.

Models of Care.
·       Sometimes, a doula is on call with a birth center or hospital and just comes for the birth.
·       Sometimes, a doula has a more long-term schedule with an expecting mother. In that model, she usually has 1-2 prenatal visits to go over introductions and hopes, concerns and plans. She assists at the birth, often coming to the mother’s home for early labor and then transitioning to the birth center or hospital. The doula also often makes one visit one or two weeks postpartum.

All Doulas Provide Support With:
·      Relaxation:
-Visualization: centering on a physical or mental picture.
- Breathing (with the flow): yoga, down your back, greeting, full chest, butterfly, sheep’s.
- Music: do you want a birth playlist? Any songs to be sung?
- Mantras: think of phrases or prayers in Zuni or English that you can 
  repeat over and over again.
- Massage: back, shoulders, thighs, feet, hands

·      Energy Maintenance:
-Positions: Standing, squatting, kneeling, leaning, lying, swaying, with
    the Kaya stool ... see the Labor section of your notebook!
-Eating / Drinking: hydration is essential! Think of light, high-energy
     snacks to have during labor: honey sticks, soup, crackers, fruit,  
-       Cow noises / Opening: focus on opening your whole body. Low sounds – “cow sounds” – help open more than high-pitched ones, which can constrict.
- Resting in labor: Remember: if you and Baby are well, labor should go at YOUR pace. Follow your body’s rhythms. If you can, it’s often helpful to rest in early labor to prepare for the hard work ahead.

·      Communication:
-       With family members
-       With healthcare providers
-       Doulas never speak FOR you, but act as advocates for what YOU have expressed you want.

·      Immediate Postpartum:
-       Breastfeeding: positions, good latch-on, signs of hunger
-       Chores: cleaning, organizing, etc.
-       Pictures
-       Anything else

It’s your body and your labor. You choose what is best for you!

This sounds appealing during labor:

My birth partner(s)
Their role

Yesterday brought a whole album of mental photographs - some carefully composed, others hurriedly shot. I, along with Emily, headed to a friend's house and helped bake 60-some loaves of oven bread for the rain dances. We fed the fire in the hornos and watched the creation of the juniper brooms (long poles with bunches of juniper branches trimmed and bound to the pole with nylons. "Careful, Ladies," one woman said as we untied the nylons. "Don't put a run in those. We use them for graduation." and we all laughed). We ate and ate and ate and then grabbed the apple-bobbing-size-buckets of dough. We kneaded, our rounds and loaves sadly bumpy and wrinkled compared the shining beauty of the other ladies'. As soon as we had laid them all on the boards, it was time to knead them again, and this time fold and cut them into their shapes. Roses, rabbits, mesas, mountains, twin peaks rose from the dough. Then, they swept the ash from the ovens with their juniper brooms, their clay sides still radiating an air-rippling heat. We were quiet, except for the hiss of the wet juniper fronds cleaning the oven's brown floor and the shovel of charcoal into the metal barrels. They were "tested" for their heat (a mysterious process involving handfuls of tossed flour) and then we were put to work hauling the boards of bread to the ovens. In they went, with large paddles resembling 10' pizza paddles. Midway through, they were rotated. Then, the air a riot of juniper and smoke and fresh bread, Audrey paddled them back out into their buckets. We lay them on blankets on the floor and took one loaf, saying it was clearly "going to break soon any way." We grinned and placed the fresh bread, still steaming, in our mouths.
Emily and I headed home after watching the Zuni pilgrims return, feeding the ancestors, and watching the welcoming ceremony in the plaza. The rest of the women returned to feed their pilgrim a meal and begin to prepare the stew. The stew, and some of the bread, will be brought to the Halona Idiwanna today. The women, dressed traditionally, will bear the vessels on their heads.

Anyone who doubts traditional "women's" roles as less important or less sacred has clearly never baked oven bread.

Enough, enough. The lid goes back on the shoe box. But now, I'm ready to take some more summer snapshots! Onto the garden, onto Albuquerque.

Happy summer.
Over and out ~