I spent the week before Christmas in an elementary school–my favorite place to be before the holidays. But, of course, it was different this year. The children were still so excited, most unaware of the tragedy, but their joy couldn’t supercede the knowing that innocence can be shattered in a split second–that the world as we know it can completely turn upside down in the blink of an eye. There will always be guns in this world; there will always be violence. I am no longer naive enough to think otherwise; but I can still pray for peace. I can still look at a riverbank and see the beauty in a snow-coated pine. I can still catch my breath when a buck emerges from the forest–his presence so regal. I will never understand how someone would want to cut down that tree, shoot down that deer. . . But I have given up trying to understand. I just want to still be able to feel. The one thing I fear is that we will become numb, that all the killing and all the violence will make us close our eyes–will make us sleep through our lives. S. African poet, Jeremy Cronin, said that “Art is the struggle to stay awake.” That is my new year wish for us all: that we remain awake, and somehow, someway, perhaps through Art, find a way to transform our world into a peaceful, loving place. Namaste ~ Lisa
Chespeake College starts its fall semester quite early–yesterday, Aug. 22–nearly two weeks before Labor Day. Too early in my book. So I was dragging my feet in preparing to teach my ENG 101 course. Okay, not only my feet, but the whole of my body and soul. I told my acupuncturist that teaching takes so much creative energy away from my own writing; it is so draining. I was resisting with a capital ‘R’. But then, the day before my class started, I got the news that my first creative writing teacher, Karen Blomain, had passed away. She was teaching a winter session course at Keystone Community College in Pennsylvania when I was living with my grandparents on their dairy farm. I was in my early twenties, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And it was in her class that I truly discoverd that I wanted to be a writer. I was so touched and encouraged by her personal note to me at the end of the course that read: “What a pleasure to have you in the class. You really are a writer!!! Your strong compelling style combined with the fact that you have something definite to say! I hope you keep with it. I know it’s hard to live the life of an artist, but you can make it work for you. And I think with your energy you can do it.” When things started to get harder in my quest to live the artist life, I found this note again and framed it, where it still hangs by my computer. Her words have kept me going in this writing pursuit. They’ve kept my fingers on the pen, my hands on the keys, and my perseverence intact. But what she taught me in her passing is this: What an honor it is to teach, to, perhaps, change the course of someone’s life, for the better, to help them find their focus, their life purpose. Shame on me for dragging my feet, when such an honor it is to teach.
In my make-up mirror I see what my father calls “my adult face.” I am trying out contacts for the first time, at 48, and I hadn’t realized how used to hiding behind my glasses I had become–the glasses like a defense, a veil to hide my aging self. “I will have to buy better wrinkle cream,” I lamented to my father. He laughed and like a good dad said, “You grow more beautiful with time,” but then reminded me that we all have two faces: our youthful face and our adult face. I suppose instead of mourning over the loss of my youthful face, I should embrace this new face, this strange new person in the mirror who is ready to come out from hiding and show herself to the world. It is a brave thing, this aging. Last night, at Whole Foods in Annapolis, I overheard two older, flawless-looking women talking about their latest plastic surgery. I thought about the enormous time and energy and money they must spend fending off the inevitable; and I felt a bit sorry for them, as they will surely spend the rest of their days never knowing their adult face, never seeing beyond the defense, never truly opening their eyes and accepting the beauty, the inner transformation of age.
Note to self: don’t for a minute think you wouldn’t get Botox if you could afford it. But, for now, chill out, and maybe those lines will smooth away. . . Breathe deep, ommm, breathe deep . . .