Friday, August 23, 2013

Heaven, Jesus, and Eden; Or, The Nature of Grief

It was second hour on Wednesday. I was subbing for a film teacher at Capital High, and so I found the students a familiar and endearing breed of quirky. Before we began The Artist, I took roll. I generally got through the names, though it's always a gamble whether "Hugo" is "Hew-go" or "Oo-go," for instance. After I finished, I raised an eyebrow and addressed the class. In the background, George Valentin and Peppy Miller jitterbugged silently.
"Guys, we're in trouble." The class, with varying degrees of interest or alarm, looked up. "It seems," I continued, "we're missing Heaven, Jesus, and Eden."

This week has been preposterously big, though I didn't quite realize it until I recounted it last night to my parents. When teaching at ZHS, the weeks naturally coalesced into units. Though day-to-day subbing is nowhere near as demanding as teaching, it does creep up on you. I think this is because the days are so self-contained, they don't really form the shape of a week. For instance:

Monday and Tuesday I worked as an inclusion SPED aide at Aspen Mid. I went to classes with a low-level academically but high-level socially girl (let's call her Bella), helping her with her work and generally doing odds and ends around the classroom. It is funny to think that my hand-lettered daily schedule signs may stay up on the boards for weeks or months to come - a clash of transience and continuity for sure.
I really enjoyed being Bella's aide, though with four other adults in a class of 9ish students (varying abilities, but not atypical mid school students), I had the luxury of feeling a little superfluous. It was enlightening, however, to peer into other classrooms from a different perspective. One of the elective teachers, for instance, was in many ways a swell teacher! She had cool projects and clear management. However, there were a couple of times when Bella's hand was the only one in the air. She did not call on her. I'm sure too she won't use Bella's monochromatic self-portrait for the rainbow they're building. 
I suppose that this was still better than another elective teacher, who referred to Bella as 'this person' and just let her do whatever she wanted. But, then, she spent a majority of the class threatening the students shrilly, so I suppose Bella wasn't an exception.

Wednesday I was the film class teacher. Just delightful. I mean, come on - I watched The Artist, hung out with performing arts peeps, and devoured Serena. No complaints.

Thursday (aka yesterday) I picked up an oak filer in Mesilla for Lyl's trailer, then headed up to Breath of My Heart Birthplace. Oh! And I had a Craigslist present for them. Earlier in the week I had found a brand new seat hammock for $25. Um, yes. This is roughly what it looks like:
(Can't wait until it's installed in the birth room!)

 It's generally an exciting time, what with the birthplace's ribbon-cutting ceremony next week and our groundswell monies coming in soon. This is me tabling at the Rio Arriba Health Fair last week. (photo nabbed from 

(Michelle told us to look like we were 'working super hard')

The midwife to my right is Jessica, who yesterday super graciously invited me to a home visit of the family of a two-week-old baby who she delivered at home. They too received me generously, and it was a delight to get to see how a "medical" visit could be conducted so informally, thoroughly, and pleasantly.

Now, today, I've lopped off a day as a high school chemistry / biology teacher. I don't know if I would've taken the job if I had known just how much chemistry was involved today. There's nothing to make you feel ridiculous like not remembering gunk like 'sig fig' rules; though, as a plus, I did gradually remember scientific notation and the like. 
However, it was generally a relaxing, though freezing day. At one point in my two preps (these Capital folks are spoiled!) I contemplated draping my canvas lunch bag over my shoulders to try to warm up. 
I tried to immerse myself in The Last of the Menu Girls, but I fear it seems like one of those books where very little happens. It's a legitimate form! But just as entirely plot-driven books bore me, so do books where it is little more than impressionistic memories fraught with symbols and snapshot metaphors*. Give me a good, gorgeous book in the middle. Recommendations?
Anywho, the day went very well. I found the students largely very respectful and attentive, though 7th hour was a veritable mess. Like, actually. What. A. Mess. There was yelling, and pencil breaking, and eraser throwing. It was all good-natured, but good-natured like a poorly house-trained puppy that is also teething and probably a shepherd mix. We managed to get work done, but I was highly ready for the weekend.

The first few hours of said weekend, however, have been decided lackluster. I spent the better part of an hour at Target wearily deciding between two backpacks (and then choosing another). Came home to a bag of Checkers' cat litter open on my front steps - a stunningly non passive aggressive way for my landlord to tell me that this morning I spaced taking the bag to the trashcan and left it by the fluff's litter box. I tried to recuperate the evening by a trip to the library - perhaps to get Pale Fire?? and certainly to return AshMiseducation of Cameron Post, and Serena - but discovered it closes at 6 on Fridays. Mayhap after this I'll just go to bed.

But then again, there's always putting things in perspective, no? 
Rewind back to Monday.

When I first met the lead teacher at the SPED classroom, I was a little taken aback by her brusqueness. She leads a tight ship, and possesses a commanding presence - neither of which are bad things. But she seemed relentless and stinging at points. I was trying to acclimate when one of the co-teachers sidled up to me and murmured, "She just lost her partner to cancer. She had been fighting it for a year. We had the memorial on Saturday."
"This Saturday?" I mouthed, wide-eyed.
She nodded, and made a movement with her hands that bespoke complete sympathy. 
The lead teacher shouted, high-fived, guffawed, made good-natured but off-color jokes over lunch, and generally plowed through the day.
It struck me, then, how in her coarse humor and jean shorts she was managing just as gracefully as an austere madame in widow's weeds. More than a message of putting things in perspective (which is certainly did), it was a heavy reminder to reevaluate convention and norm. It leaves one with a highly subjective view on what is 'right' and 'good.' But as Mary Oliver reminds us, we do not ultimately have to worry about that either. We only have to announce "our place / in the family of things."
May we all do our best at that tall order.

Over and out ~

* Unless it's Marguerite Duras. She can do whatever the hell she wants and I will love it.

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