Friday, November 28, 2008

Long Time No Read

I have been busy.

I have been so busy that they are going to have to invent a new word for this level of busyness. It includes (but is not limited to) the following things:
1. Moving. Soon. Again. (This time to my own house, though. Or, at least, to a house that the bank owns but in which they will very kindly allow me to live in exchange for most of my money.)
2. Report cards. Enough said.
3. Drama related to adolescents and education and so on.
4. Knitting. Christmas-related.
5. Christmas. (I am afraid.)
6. Marking.
7. Marking.
8. Marking.
9. Planning lessons that will engage and educate at the same time.
10 A blog for school, so the young minds which I am shaping can look on the computer for what they're supposed to do, rather than LISTEN TO THE TEACHER and then WRITE THINGS DOWN.
11. Did I mention I'm moving? Again?
12. A couple of shockingly large bills, quite unexpected.

BUT this is what I really wanted to tell you about: I have made a discovery.


(or CD. Tomato, tomahto.)

I never thought I would be a books on tape kind of gal. Reading, for me, is very much about having a book, about the feel of the paper and the look of the type and the smell of it and the heft and the actual, physical, act of reading. However, I've been spending an awful lot of time in the car, and for a while I was spending that time worrying. Worrying is something that I'm actually already pretty good at, so I really didn't need to do any more of it. I thought I'd try something new.

A few weeks ago we (that is, my colleagues and I) went to see an author speak about teaching writing. The author was David Morrell, who is most famous for writing the book that became "Rambo." One of my colleagues has read this fellow's work before (he's written something like 30 books. Dear god.) I asked what he thought, and he was a little ambiguous. "Get the recording," he advised me. "The stories are good but the writing's not great."

So I did.

I listened to all 10 cds that made up the book "The Fraternity of the Stone" which is a pretty okay thriller. It was good: there were bits that made me roll my eyes ("his sinews tightened" "his jaw hardened" and so on) and there was a very naive view of organized religion (which is probably a rant for another day), but on the whole it did the job. I was distracted from my worrying, I was caught up in the story, and it made the time pass beautifully.

I think I'm hooked. Now if I could just figure out a way to knit while I drive....

Friday, November 14, 2008

It all makes sense now.

I was wondering yesterday why all my students were so crazy. Perhaps, I said to myself, it is because we had a short week (PD day on Monday, Remembrance Day on Tuesday). Perhaps it is something I am doing differently (I always rush to blame myself for the bad stuff). Maybe they're just mainlining the remainder of their Halloween candy. Maybe they've settled in to junior high a bit and are starting to act like their own true selves (that is: crazy). Could be the weather -- we had a couple of snow flurries yesterday in the midst of an weirdly warm fall. (My student from South Africa said "Is is too cold to wait outside for my mum? Will I get frostbite?" It was 2 degrees celsius.)

Then I took the Wonder Dog for a walk last night and voila. There in the sky was my answer.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Poem for Wednesday

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I'm going to leave you with that. If you need me, I'll be doing my marking.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I had the most amazing weekend. I went out with a couple of colleagues to Kananaskis, to attend a conference on ESL teaching.

It was wonderful. I learned a ton of stuff, bought a couple of books, had interesting conversations, ate and ate and ate, sat in front of fires and talked about the fine and noble art of teaching, ate some more, looked at the mountains in awe (pictures to come later) and then ate. Also, there may have been some wine. And a story that involves setting fire to a wine and cheese reception, of which we shall not speak.

So, it was really good.

BUT (and this is where the story gets interesting) when we arrived on Thursday night we unloaded all our stuff (and the food) (and maybe some wine too) from the car and got ourselves all into the elevator to go to our rooms. There was another lady getting on the elevator too, and she had some really nice yarn with her (not Wal Mart acrylic stuff, people, this was the real deal. Lorna's Laces fingering weight, I think. Nice colour too.)

"Oh!" I said to this total stranger. "You're a knitter! I brought my knitting too." I brandished my bag at her, because certainly she could see that the Purple Cardigan that Would Not End was mere stitches from completion.

"Are you here for the knitting retreat?" she asked, and I almost fell over.

Because I knew there was a big knitting thing this weekend, that it was put on by Make 1 Yarn Studio which I love, and that important knitters would be here. But, in the haze of exhaustion in which I live, it never occurred to me that I was going to the same place for a different event. "They're in Kananaskis," I said to myself. "Gee, that would be a nice place to go!"

"Oh," said the lovely knitting stranger, "well, Amy from Knitty is here, and so is the Yarn Harlot!" (She mentioned a few more too, but I was a bit gobsmacked.)

People, I went to the mountains to learn about ESL and I met the Yarn Harlot. I didn't exactly crash their party, because I went to my sessions and not the knitting ones, but I did mingle with knitters whenever possible, and had a few very interesting conversations (including one about the Central Park hoodie, which I fully intend to knit one day when I have the time.) But I met the Harlot.

And I talked to her.

And she's really nice.

My colleagues could not believe that: a) there are knitting rock stars and b) some of them were in the same hotel and that c) I was clearly overwhelmed by the coincidence.

So the long and the short of it is this: I had a great weekend. I learned a lot. I met some knitters.

I guess the only zen at the top of the mountain really is the zen you brought with you.