Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I am...

The following piece came out of a project we've been working on at my school, called "We Are Chatham." This particular project aimed to demonstrate that our strength as a community is in our diversity, so we asked students, teachers, and administrators to write "I Am" statements. We asked that they write about aspects of their identities that the average person might not know. Mine is below, and you can check out the incredible responses from our school community at the following site:

We Are Chatham

I am a blogger. Although I’ve been blogging for years, I still feel a little strange saying that sentence out loud. To call myself “a blogger” suggests that I write posts everyday or at least with some degree of regularity. I don’t. It suggests that I have a wide audience that reads what I write. I don’t. And yet, here I am, a blogger nonetheless. I post when I can, and my readers are mainly close friends and family members, but I believe that being a writer isn’t necessarily about publishing and audience; I believe that it’s mostly about the individual tapping away at the keys.

Being a blogger has made me a more observant watcher of my world. I carry around a small pink notebook in my purse at all times. In its tattered pages (some of which are smeared with the remains of a leaky lip gloss), I write down what I notice. I never write down big things; I mostly write down snippets of conversations that sound interesting or particularly moving images that I see. For example, just last week, I wrote this down: “My neighbor was sitting out on his stoop in the rain wearing his crossing guard’s uniform, with its reflective yellow vest. An older woman turned the corner and took shelter under the tree next to his stoop. She looked up at him and said, ‘Don’t know why I’m hiding from a little rain. My mother used to say, ‘You’re sweet, but you won’t melt.’ The man laughed and told her a reciprocate story, ‘My grandmother used to say that getting caught in the rain was God washing your sins away.’”

I suppose I wrote down this scene because I liked that it reminded me that the people who are secondary characters in my life, like the crossing guard I see each afternoon, actually have whole separate lives in which they are the stars, and I am only a part of the chorus dancing behind them. I also wrote it down because the day before I had told my students that my own mother used to tell me that thunder was just the angels bowling. And that’s how a blog post develops. It starts with a little thing, which, because I’ve taken the time to notice it, makes me notice another similar little thing. Before you know it, I’ve got an idea for a post because I just learned another little something about the world.

Writing helps me to sort through the complexity that is life, and it helps me to give order and sense and meaning to my life and to the lives others live around me. Sometimes these odds and ends I record develop into a blog post. More often, they don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get something out of recording the simple dailyness of life. After all, I don’t think that many people have major revelations in which they suddenly understand the meaning of life; I think that most of us accumulate big understandings through a collection of small, seemingly insignificant, maybe even momentary, experiences.

If I weren’t a blogger, I probably won’t keep a collection of these small but powerful experiences, and then I just wouldn’t be the same me. Really, I’m a world watcher, and being a blogger is just an excuse to watch a little more closely.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Song for Autumn" by Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
     don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
     the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
      freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
      warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
       inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
       the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
       vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
        its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
        the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

-- Mary Oliver