And Life Goes On

Perhaps I’ve been giving people the wrong impression. Things aren’t actually very bad. For some reason, the more stressed I become, the more inclined I am to write. Perhaps a lot of people are like that, if they’re writing down their own personal experiences. If something’s going well, there’s nothing to analyze, and therefore not much that needs to be said. That might be a reason to learn to write poetry: to talk about beauty without necessarily analyzing it.

Last Spring I remember sitting in a little park in Eloy, waiting for their graduation ceremony to start, wishing I were a poet, because the evening was so perfectly beautiful that I couldn’t think of anything to say about it. One of those warm, windy days, with dusk coming on, where the sky is dark with clouds, but the rain dries up before it can hit the ground. And the scent of dust and ozone and creosote is in the air, but also grass and a little water, because of the park. It was such a funny little park, too; it’s about a quarter block wide and three blocks long, with quite a big gazebo in the middle, but no benches: I suppose people are expected to just go and stand awkwardly in the middle of it or something. There’s a little oval of concrete amongst the grass, like a roller skating rink for weasels. There are also some trees, but they’re puny little things, and hardly worth mentioning – nothing to the enormous eucalyptuses out behind the baseball field, which make enough noise for an entire forest of desert trees.

But, see, just describing it can’t say why it seemed so absolutely perfect, because I can’t really say why that funny little park seemed so fitting, or what it was about the temperature (which I would find too warm if it were inside) was the most desirable possible, or what it is about those particular storm clouds that is more magnificent than any clouds I’ve seen elsewhere, except perhaps Tucson. Flagstaff has some lovely storms, but they’re hardly even comparable – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that I could describe as charming, like the ones that hit the desert.

Tuluksak doesn’t even seem to have storms, sadly enough – just mists of rain or snow. But they are sometimes enchanted looking mists. Today, for instance, it’s sprinkling snow, and if you walk into the setting sun with snow in front of you, each flake glows and sparkles, while the snow underfoot only catches the light here and there, so that it reminds me more of mica in a wash than anything else I can think of. That’s even true when the sun’s down, only then they refract orange, as teacher housing has the only street lamp in town.

But I still wasn’t saying anything. A painting would be better – but only if it had the right lighting and could really shine like that. Otherwise I’m hardly saying anything at all. I wonder if the good parts of teaching are like that. Because something you would eventually notice if you hang around teachers much at all, is how we rarely if ever talk about what we love about teaching, and very often talk about everything that’s crazy and ridiculous and stupid, despite a shared understanding that there’s not much we’re ever going to do about any of it, and that mostly it makes everyone annoyed and worked up about his or her own pet peeve. Even when we’re talking about positivity, and how everything is too negative, it’s usually in order to say what’s wrong with talking so negatively!

Last summer at Camp St. Nicholas the councilors would have late night meetings, and would say what they loved about certain people, or what was going right, and tell cute stories about the kids, and what had happened that day. But they were mostly “you had to have been there” kinds of stories, about things I hadn’t noticed, so I didn’t care to hear them. It could be that the best things in teaching are like that, too. That they would require the talent of a skilled novelist to convey correctly, and some willingness to listen, but otherwise they just aren’t worth mentioning. Because we can’t put them through the grinder of the internal logic masher.

I very much hope, however, that working isn’t like what people say about sin: the better a person becomes, the more he realizes what a terrible sinner he is. You think you feel bad now, just wait until you’re better at this!

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