Wandering Tree Examines the Roots: 2009 Year in Review

A scattered mind like mine should relish the chance to take stock of the past, to reflect on where he has been in an attempt to be ever mindful of the Spirit who wishes to drive him forward.  I can say with all honesty that 2009 has been a year of hills and valleys, at times blinded by the sun, and others times trying to see beyond the mist.  It would be fair to say that I’ve traveled further than I ever have, given my trip to England, and interacted with an extraordinarily diverse group of people: pseudo-hippies, fundamentalist Christians, gay-friendly Christians, English pub owners, Baker St. employees, famous actors, less-than-famous ventriloquists, hobbits, gandalfs, and other LOTR fans, Harry Potter fans, AP instructors, New York cabbies, high school teenagers, monks, and authors of ghost stories.  I created a nonprofit, Hobbit Meals,  to aid the relief work of Second Harvest Food Bank, was entrusted with my first AP class, and drank a pint at a pub where Charles Dickens used to hang out.  I went to a Muppet-themed wedding. I saw Phish again for the first time in nearly 10 years, and Bruce Springsteen for my first time ever.  I met Billy Boyd, who sang extremely sad songs.  I finally procured my Professional Teaching Certificate for the state of Florida.  I met Rob Bell and told him about Hobbit Meals, which ended up in one of his sermons (or at least in a travelogue to keep his congregation up to date).  I turned 35.

Travel seemed to be the highlight of the year, with a week-long sojourn at Bonnaroo, where I was given the nickname “Gandalf,” due to my long pipe (filled only with tobacco, folks) and the enormous copy of Lord of the Rings I brought along with me, which I read each morning.  I was also in a “hobbit” frame of mind, allowing the summer break to relax me.  The trip certainly brought some amount of calm to this anxiety-prone spirit.  It was not long after this when my wife and I traveled to England, exploring, in that frantic American tourist kind of way, London, Bath, Oxford, and Edinburgh.  We met up with the Davis family, who were gracious enough to play host to two Yanks in their native country, including a tour of the Harry Potter set at Leavesden Studios.

School started once again, with more than a little anxiety.  The reason and goals for my profession seemed a bit lost to me this semester, therefore constant search for the foundation of my vocation and a renewed sense of a love for literature dominated my thinking from August to December.  Fragmented thoughts on the implication of tweets and the avoidance of Things in Capital Letters echo in my thinking as of late, to be written down in some reasonable semblance of cohesion soon.

Numerous books devoured over the year, including a romp through my C.S. Lewis collection, N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian, Peter Rollins’ Orthodox Heretic, Mcfague’s Speaking in Parables, G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, and other theological writings.  Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, Harold Bloom’s Stories and Poems, Marilynne Robinson’s Death of Adam, and R.W. Emerson’s Essays and Poems are notables.

What of 2010?  Will I journey to England again, thanks to a scholarship for which I am applying?  A family?  Success or failure for my AP students?  A renewed willingness to seek Truth (yes, capitalized), no matter how quaint that might be?  To see the glorious divine comedy and tragedy of life?  Shall it be to the gym, to rid all signs of a contented life?  Perhaps even a short story or two?

Whatever it might be, may I make my ship seaworthy, checking the riggings and knots, hoisting the sails, with no fear for the line on the horizon.

Happy New Year to you all!


Weather Psalm

It’s early Tuesday morning and I’m sitting in a quiet room watching turbulent clouds wheel in the sky outside my window.  How odd to have the second day of school off!  This gives me an opportunity to flesh out my upcoming lesson plans.

I searched out a good “weather Psalm” during my morning prayers to reflect the rain outside.  I love this stanza from Psalm 103.  This is a translation of the Hebrew from Paulist Press:

You stretch out the heavens like a tent

Above the rains you build your dwelling.

You make the clouds your chariot,

you walk on the wings of the wind,

you make the winds your messengers,

and flashing fire your servants.

I don’t mind the wind and the rain, but hopefully we won’t experience any flashing fire today!  In the meantime, I’ve been graced with a day to prep for tomorrow…

School Approacheth…

It’s that time of year again- time to pick up pen and paper and figure out exactly what to do this new school year.  My first thought is to try and find a place to hide with a good book and reemerge next June, which is not a unique thought pattern among English teachers (given that time frame, perhaps choosing Proust’s In Search of Lost Time).

However, the “teaching dreams” have plagued me for the past few weeks (for those not in the know, this is similar to the “actor’s nightmare,” but in this case you find yourself in front of a class of students with no lesson plan, no idea what to lecture on, and no idea of how long of a time you have to teach), and now I sit eyeing a stack of lessons, textbooks, and a syllabus needing revision.  With coffee brewing and poured generously into my Shakespeare mug, it’s time to get back to work.  As I take a deep breath, I quote the mantra from Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “DON’T PANIC!”