Saturday, April 26, 2014

Thwarted! (Dream)

The Forest at Night IV
by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt

“Ya cain’t get they-ah from Hee-ah!”

I am going to a personal retreat at a rented cottage that seems to be (in my mental map) south of Syracuse (Tully, Pompeii?) in the hills.  I am driving my normal little silver Cruze headed down there, happy and excited.  I start feeling a little confused, like I’m not total sure of the directions, but I think I can find my way there.  I come to a construction site and the road is totally torn up, the pavement is gone.  I consider continuing on the road past the ‘closed” signs until I see ahead huge earth moving equipment.  Then I become a little nervous about continuing and decide to turn around.  It appears from the tracks that other people have done the same thing and I follow the well-worn tracks of a U-turn that takes me onto a different road that seems to be heading the way I want to go.  But a little while later, the road diverges west.  I keep turning on other roads trying to head back south, but every road takes me in the wrong direction. The next thing I know, I am walking south, determined to get where I am going.  I run into other people also trying to get to cottages in the same area and we talk about the cooks that will be preparing our meals.  The cooks are fat.  The other people are younger than I am and walk faster.  The trail we are following takes up over what appears to be a mountain pass.  It gets progressively more difficult and dangerous.  The people ahead of me enter a mass of huge, pointy rocks and boulders.  I follow, but a few minutes later, they return.  “You can’t get through?” I ask.  “No,” they say.  I consider going to look for myself, but they are younger and fitter than I am, and if they can’t get through, I probably can’t either.
I wake up distressed.  Dream, Thursday, April 24, 2014

How does this make you feel?  What does it remind you of?

“I consider going to look for myself, but they are younger and fitter than I am, and if they can’t get through, I probably can’t either.”  I need to remember that that statement is not necessarily true—think of climbing Seward, Donaldson and Emmons, when I was only one out of 26 people, all younger than me, who made it to the top.  (Speaking of which, a “secret” inner goal of mine is to be able to climb again, but I feel very discouraged about that happening [which is why it is secret].)

I am feeling confused about where it is that I want to be going.  I want to be healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually), I want to deepen my relationship with Keith and with Frankie and my kids and I want to publish my books.  I want to be lean.  But there is also the feeling of something deeper.  In the dream, I seem to be going to a personal writing retreat (not an organized one, but one I set up for myself, like the one at 7th Lake.)  But since this dream theme is constantly recurring, I need to explore it a little. I would like to do some special work on it, including writing and journeying, as well as talking to Brian and friends).

I feel as if I need to pick ONE project that is the most likely to succeed and try to keep it on or very near the front burner until it is finished.  But meanwhile also look at the trajectory of my life and deep goals and see where I might be failing or headed wrong, or how I can remove the roadblocks.  I also feel that for me, it is OK to work on more than one project at a time, because they act as mind cleansers and feel each other and give me a break when I feel mentally exhausted from.  But not more than 2 or 3 on the front burners.  (A regular stove has four burners, so maybe that’s a good symbolic analogy-2 on the front burner, two on the back burners, the rest in the fridge and freezer.)

In the dream, I feel sad and thwarted.  In my phenomenal life, my health, my writing and other aspects of my life (tidiness, cleaning) seem to meet with one obstacle after another.  Some are internally generated and some are from outside myself, or seem to be.

The Forest at Night III
By me, Mary Stebbins Taitt
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Frankie and the lumpy bumpies

I was going to do this book for Frankie in the traveling Moles, but I haven't had one in a while, so I decided to use my really BIG Mole:

Frankie and the Lumpy Bumpies
watercolor by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt
for my book, Frankie and Noah have a Party

This is the tentative layout for the page in the book.
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Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Lesson and the Game

The Lesson and the Game
digital composit of images harvested from internet
click image to view larger.

The Lesson and the Game

My first round of practice teaching occurs at a mixed-race, inner-city school.  Most of the kids are black and the teacher is also black and male.  The two student teachers are my friend and classmate, Hank (Henry Phalange) and me.  Hank, biracial, is equally at home with whites or blacks and can switch speech and mannerisms in the blink of an eye.  I, on the other hand, in spite of having been here for some time, have trouble making out the speech of some of the children.

The lesson for the day is trees, tree ecology and tree identification.  We study trees in math, social studies, reading and science.  During science, Mr. Hollinger passes out leaves to each student, and to Hank and me. The leaves seem to be hand-carved out of ebony or some other dark expensive looking wood, but they also feel very strong.  Each leaf is on a black chain and can be worn around the neck.

Hank’s is an American elm, Mr. Hollinger’s a white ash and mine a sugar maple.  Mr. Hollinger’s looks fragile, with its separate leaf-lets, but I finger it, and it seems sturdy.  Chantelle has a big-tooth aspen, Tyrone a cottonwood, Egyptia a red oak, DeShaun a white oak, Jonas an American beech, Micah a chestnut and so on.  We talk about the characteristics of the trees and walk in the new school arboretum so that each child can find his or her tree.  We learn three things about each tree, as we go around, and then, when we stop at the end, the kids each recite the three things about their own tree and the other kids repeat them.

My three things are that we can make maple syrup and candy from the sugar maple, that they are used as shade trees, and that they are part of the beech-birch maple hemlock climax forest in this area.  Also we say the Latin name, for me, Acer sacharum.  I didn’t learn the Latin names of trees until I got to college, so it seems strange to be teaching them to these kids.

When we come back in, the girls in the class are sent next door to Miss Johanna’s room and her boys are sent to our room.  Mr. Hollister pulls down the room-darkening shades, leaving only a slit of light visible at the bottom of three of the shades.  The room falls into darkness.  He directs our class sit on one lab table and the other class sit on the other.  Then he says we’re going play a game called pickpocket. I am immediately concerned, and wish I had been sent over to Miss Johanna’s with the girls.  I am guessing they are not playing pickpocket.

The object of the game is to acquire as many leaves as possible.  He does not say if the leaves will be returned, and I feel fearful of losing my own leaf and of other kids losing theirs and being sad.  I think that this is an inappropriate game, and I am unhappy about it.  However, I am the student teacher, and at this point am only observing, so I keep my opinions to myself.

When Mr. Hollister blows the whistle and the game starts, I back into a corner and hope that everyone forgets me.  The room falls into pandemonium, kids dashing everywhere, hooting and laughing.  Unlike me, they seem to be happy.  At one point, a whole crowd of them sweeps past me, and someone grabs one my arms and I twirl helplessly into the running mass of kids and bang against a lab table, not hard enough to hurt, but I am surrounded by bodies moving, thumping and laughing.

Then I realize my leaf is gone.  I pat myself down and I definitely don’t have it.  I feel a sense of loss and grief and also anger and something akin to hatred for being forced to play this stupid game. It seems to go on and on and I make my way back to the corner and sulk.  I have no desire to touch male students in the dark searching for hidden leaves.  The whole idea seems ludicrous and inappropriate to me.

Finally, Mr. Hollister blows his whistle and the game stops.  Kids turn on the lights, pull up the shades, and hold up their trophies—the ones who have trophies.  The others stand back, but they don’t look sad.  They look surprisingly cheerful.  Hank comes over to stand by me.  He is grinning ear it ear.  “I got your leaf,” he says, and holds out his hand.  I stare at all the stuff in his hand.  “Here,” he says, “take it,” and pushes his hand closer. 

Hanging from his hand is my leaf, my camera, my necklace, and laying in his hand is my cell phone, my wallet, a pen, a paint-brush in a metal tube, my glasses.  Everything is intact.  I look in my wallet and my money and cards seem to be there. 

Hank looks pleased with himself, and happy.  He seems to think I should praise him. But I feel violated and sad.  I wonder if he or anyone else has taken anything from me and not returned it.  Something I will miss later, when it is too late.  We stand staring at each other, our face inches apart.  When he leans and gives me a small kiss on my cheek, I steel myself against drawing back, not from Hank, who I love, but from this terrible game and his acceptance of it.

Dream April 5, 2014

Sugar maple leaf by me,
Mary Stebbins Taitt
How does this make you feel?  What does it remind you of?

It may have been influenced by Reality TV, movies and books, such as Hunger Games.  I have fearfully been avoiding seeing or reading any of them, but they leak into my consciousness anyway.  I guess I am a big wimp.  I hate even the idea of them.

I worked for a number of years teaching in inner city schools, but never played a game called pickpocket.  I have no idea where that came from except perhaps because I have jury duty coming up and worry about the pickpockets downtown.