One of the ironies of my career change to teaching English and Special Ed is that, while I feel that an English teacher should be writing with every spare minute of time (and feel more confident about writing than any other skill), in the few minutes of each day that I devote to creativity, I end up drawing.
It is what the heart wants, even if the head is saying I should/need to write. Part of me wonders if one of the pitfalls (or blessings depending on how you look at it) of a career that demands so much emotion and thought and writing is that, at the end of the day, there is only room for the emotional release that is drawing or painting.
I recently came across a letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo. He had just received oil paints from his brother, and, during the year of waiting for the paint, had devoted himself to drawing. In the letter he mentioned how grateful he was for the time to draw, it helped him see the beauty in the paint so much better.
For my part, this last month of drawing has helped me see the beauty in my students and my life even better. It is not writing, but it is still a conversation with life.
I don’t know if the next season of creativity will feature brushes or strokes on the keyboard, but I do know that the main goal is to keep the conversation going, one way or another.
Inktober officially ended last week, but I’m still wrapping up the last few drawings. I’m also trying to get grades in and work on IEP‘s for students as courses for my masters get ready to start. Every once in a while I feel exhausted,but most of the time this new life of feels like the ultimate renewable resource.
I’ve been thinking about that since a few days ago when a friend wrote on his blog he thought of me as The Student (I’d been in his writing classes for many years). It was a wonderful post, but I also laughed a little because I used to cringe a little when I thought of myself becoming an “eternal“ student. I know it’s the label people assign to someone who just can’t find a major or is constantly going into a new class. It’s meant to make someone sound aimless, but, the other day, I liked that all-meant label.
I spent most of the last decade in a job that I liked but it was not fulfilling. It was challenging but not stimulating. Now, as a special education teacher, I feel like every synapse is firing every waking minute of the day. There are immediate classroom concerns to consider. There are lessons to be planned. There’s new material to read to be ready for the lessons. There’s new material to read to become a better teacher. There’s new research to be done to find a better tool. In other words, it is to be a student for life – to have every synapse firing every blessed moment of the day.
That doesn’t make me feel aimless or embarrassed. It makes my head tingle.
It seemed appropriate to start Daylight Savings Sunday with a little wood stacking for winter. I got started a little earlier than the boys because I knew I wanted to reserve a few hours to finish up my Inktober drawings and then write for a few hours before getting into lesson planning for the week.
I hopped in the shower after we were done, and, almost as soon as I was bundled up and pulling my sketchbook from the shelf, Katie the Wonder Dog appeared at the window of my new office. Most of the summer she will lollygag on the lawn outside our windows, but, today, even she seem to understand that a change was happening. Five minutes after she plopped down on her pad, Jim-Bob, our giant orange tabby, appeared at the window. It should only be a few more minutes before Lady Jane joins us, demanding to sit on my sketchbook and making the rest of the Sunday afternoon quiet and perfect.
I rearranged the office situation to have more room to paint and write for school and for me. Monday night I sat down to break in the office with some prep exercises for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which starts on Friday. I have a few of my classes doing the young writers version of this project — it’s a great way to teach them the elements of fiction by reverse engineering and then creating it – –and I’m doing it in solidarity with them.
I’d been at the desk for a whopping five minutes, trying to come up with a character name for my mythology based cast member, when Lady Jane, our enigmatic gray girl hopped up on the edge of the desk and rolled over onto her back and my notebook.
Her brother, Jim-Bob, had a habit of climbing on my desk and into my arms when I worked at home. We developed a routine that let him sit across my arms without affecting my typing speed. I kept both of us warm and happy with my winter work.
But lady Jane is, or rather has been, much more aloof. She was an outdoor kitty when we adopted her, And although her brother was too, he instantly took to the joy of owning humans. Jane enjoys being petted and being near humans, But she never seem to want the responsibility of letting the humans in her sphere get too attached to her. We can be very demanding of cats, after all.
But, is her third indoor winter approaches, she seems to be having a change of heart. She has appeared on my bed night after night now. She follows me from room to room. And she hops on the desk demanding that attention you focused on her and not on something as inconsequential as a book.
It’s gotten me to wonder if any great authors with short literary resumes were simply kept busy scratching the bellies of felines in whose service they lived. I know that excuse won’t fly with my students, so Jane and I will need to work out a way for me to pet and write at the same time.
I spent the weekend appropriating the Big Guys space, rationalizing that I needed more space for writing and studying and for painting. The news base is still a bit chaotic, but it already has a kind of cozy feel. I think it just needs a rug.