A friend of mine moved to Baltimore this summer, and is teaching in a tough inner-city school. We've been talking a lot about how to surf and survive the ebb and flow of the Universe. You know, that interplay of goodness and badness that comprises Life. She is young, and energetic, and hopeful - a great teacher, and I hope that she doesn't get knocked down too badly by the mercilessness of her work there.
Meanwhile, I have my own waves to ride. I haven't blogged in eons. Seriously. In one part, because I've been busy as a one-legged man in an asskicking contest, and in another, because things have happened that I just couldn't write about at the time they were happening. I finished school, my ESOL endorsement, and my massive writing project, finally - a piece of work that I am proud of. I was a mediocre student in high school and during my undergrad years, for so many reasons, none of them intellectual. Later, when I went back to school, I was surprised to find myself doing well, working harder, and learning more. I have felt like every academic experience I've had has pushed the girl who got a report cards full of C's (by the skin of her teeth) farther and farther away, til she is a distant stranger. This Georgia State program has been, by far, the most challenging piece of work I've done, and arguably the most rewarding. I've researched/written/edited more in the past year than in all the previous academic years combined, and I've learned some things: that I'm capable of being a good student, that I want to stay in touch, as a teacher, to the research and university community, and finally, that there will be no PhD for me. Ebb and flow, baby.
Summer was a blur of rain, more rain, and then some more rain. Really. It was freakish, every day was cloudy, the woods grew thicker, moss grew mossier, mold grew on every piece of leather we owned, as if we were living in HI still. Rats chewed a hole in the fuel line of my truck, a gas can, and the gas cap of my lawn mower. I never saw them, so it may have been chipmunks - I dunno. Spiders took over the house. Normally, I like spiders, but having them as my landlords kind of sucked, as did the my vacuum cleaning solution to the problem.
I taught at Tiger Mother Tutoring for my last summer, teaching a 4th grade writing class for my 3 Korean + 1 Ghanaian boys, and had a great time with them. I ran a literature circle in which we read "Shiloh," "Because of Winn Dixie," "Henry Huggins," and "The Secret Soldier." I tutored adults and negotiated dialogues and curriculum that dealt with auto accidents, gun control conversations, planning a trip to the gynecologist, and grocery shopping. I ate a lot of Korean food, and discovered a new Caribbean restaurant in Duluth.
I got a new job, at a school not too far from home, with an enormous Central American immigrant population, off my beloved Buford Highway, with a bunch of fun new coworkers. I'm teaching math, in an ESL role, collecting data, and working to plan and deliver parent workshops for moms and dads who want to become more involved in school. It's a ton of work, and I feel like I am never caught up. All the old problems I've had and seen and felt with teaching have arisen again, but I'm in a different place in my head, possibly due to the 2+ years of NOT being in public schools. I am enjoying my work, and being alive, making money, making friends, and the different routine.
I will always remember this summer as my last summer with Ella, my sweet friend and heart dog. She'd been hale and hearty for 15 years, but was growing progressively weaker, shakier on her feet, and in need of more TLC. We walked every day this summer, offleash, through the backwoods, in the neighboring field and little apple orchard. It was such a gift, having the time to spend with my old dog, in those last weeks, which I didn't realize were her last weeks, until she took a turn for the worse, on my birthday, and I made the decision to say goodbye to her. I will always love her. She is part of me, now, as she has been, since I got her as a pup.
I'm mostly okay, now. I spent days crying, more tears than I thought it was possible to shed. Ella was a huge part of my life, my heart dog, the one I depended on, to balance out the roller coaster of life with Cricket; she was my agility partner, the dog who was so intuitive and affectionate. We were always together, always touching, and I really didn't know what to do with myself, without her. P came down and spent 2 weeks here, and we mourned together, and worried about Cricket the singleton, and tried to get our heads and hearts around a new routine, and life. I went back to work, and now, I'm grateful, so very grateful for the job, and the realization, that even in the worst times, life goes on. Linda, Ella's breeder wrote me 2 weeks ago, letting me know that her litter sister Taz had passed on, as well, and that she was feeling the same; enormous loss, hole in the heart, and gratitude for life's gifts, as well. We are okay, really. Ella was a lively, vigorous dog, and had a no-nonsense, unsentimental outlook. I found a lot of comfort, in this poem by Jon Katz, written this summer in his blog, two days before I lost Ella. It seems a fitting thing, to think of her running in fields, hunting with Orion's pack, sniffing, swimming, and drinking from ponds and creeks in the hereafter.
Cricket is doing fine. He has settled down somewhat, is quieter, less barky around the house. I try not to think much about his loss, and how socially isolated he, a dog-aggressive dog with few playmates, must be. He is a stellar companion, guardian, and friend, and we are enjoying each other. I'm struck by how much easier life is with only one dog - I felt a lot of guilt saying that, at first. But it's true, for now, at least. We are going to start working with a new trainer, in a few weeks, to address some of his anxiety/fear/aggression issues - a decision his dogsitter's boss and I made together, but it's all good. I love dog training, and welcome the new lessons. Ebb and flow, baby, ebb and flow.
I've been wanting to write about this summer for the longest time, and just found I couldn't put it all down. I don't think I did, still, but it felt like a hump I needed to get over, so I could come back to the blog, which has been around for so long that it seemed like a shame to just leave it hanging.
I am recently returned from a weekend at folk school, where I spent three days making soap, new friends, and reconnecting to creativity and joy. I will write more about it later, but suffice to day, I have a new "making" thing to pursue.