Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On a missionary's death

The Reverend Billy Graham has died.
My sister was killed by a Christian missionary who told me it was God's will.

Not saying they're connected--not saying they're not.

Gardens die in the fall—without the energy to keep itself together, a plant falls apart. As the summer sun slides off its altar, reminding us who reigns, the world around us dies.

Literally.

From a tired garden in October.
Life will return when the sun does, in its glorious ooziness of critters and plants and archaea and bacteria and fungi and whatever else has crawled from our common puddle of life eons ago.

I enjoy being part of this oozy thisness, but we only get to play in its rhythms for a short while, metaphorically for most, literally for some.

If my sister can die, so can you. So can I. And we will, in due time. 
***
I spent part of the afternoon ripping up autumn earth, rich with life, getting ready for the time when the sun will return. Then I took a walk along the edge of the bay, whipped up into a brown frenzy by the blow we’ve had the past couple of days, looking for fossils, reminders of lives long past but still with a remnant of order, a "fuck off" to the entropy that will eventually turn even the stoniest fossils back to dust.

I found two, a broken shark tooth and another I could not identify, and I’ll carry them around a few days until I lose them or give them away. (My students love fossils as much as I love the idea of fossils, so I’ll keep collecting them because it gives me pleasure.)

As I walked up the short but steep sandy path back to my bicycle, passing a ghost crab burrow along the way, I realized, again, just how lucky I am, doing pretty much what I want to do just about every single day, for no particular reason beyond the joy it brings me.

Two Mile Beach, photo by Leslie Doyle

I break clods of rich sod with my hands, drink hoppy ales, ride on an aging recumbent bicycle the kids think is cool, bang on various stringed instruments, rake up clams from the flats, walk along the edge of the sea, stare at the stars and a galaxy or two at night, share what we know about the natural world about half my days, and get to walk barefoot until it snows, and even then sometimes. I live with my best friend, and my kids are decent adults leading good lives.

Oh, and I get to write long, unedited nonsense, which I have not done for a little while, about a pointless life, but that, you see, is exactly the point.

Live every day as if it could be your last, and give the same courtesy to your students, at least while you can. I’m not a bad science teacher, nor am I a great one, but I pointedly live a happy, pointless life.




Mary Beth's life was not pointless....

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A mild day in February

The tiger lilies and irises are erupting through the earth, again. I like to stare at them.

Time to sow, again. I planted beets in the cold frame--I booted out the previous tenants, an overcrowded plot of kale. (Not really--I simply lifted up the cold frame and plopped it on another section of garden. The kale will do fine.)


I skated, again, first time in years. Mice had taken up residence in the boot, so the skates were not wasted.

I measured the water table level--looks like we're going to be OK this year, but you never know.

I biked to the beach, again, and wandered a little bit looking for fossils--low tide in February often good for that, but found none.


I then settled on a pile of rocks. A few herring gulls eyed me, but we all decided to mind our own business. A beautiful black-backed gull soared within 20 yards of me as I sat, the fool on the hill of rocks jutting into the bay. A second one followed.

I replaced a folding door in the bathroom.

I napped.

I soaked some beer bottles to remove the labels--it's time to bottle some cherry melomel, maybe next week's project.

I pulled the Brussels sprouts, got enough sprouts for dinner, left the stalks for the rabbits who have been gnoshing on the sprouts all winter.

I read a stupid mystery book.

I chopped up half a bulb of garlic.



But not a minute on Twitter....


My pinkie

I have a lot to talk about.

Education. Race. Pedagogy of science. EduCon. Wayward black backed gulls. Planting. Harvesting Brussels sprouts in February. Gaping oysters. Planting beets. Brewing my child's honey. Life.

February kale in the garden.
And here I am playing with my pink spaldeen. Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce.

And it's become (bounce) apparent (bounce) about seven years (bounce) too late for this teacher (bounce) that the kids (bounce) who play with balls (bounce bounce bounce) do so because (bounce) they want to.

Not to challenge, not to distract.

Just to bounce the fookin' ball because, well, it's play.
And we're mammals.

I'm in my 6th decade. I'll likely die before you.
I like my pinkie (bounce bounce).
Reason enough.





Somehow this is related to Passover seder, but I've yet to figure out why--I'm open to suggestions.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Why I left Twitter....

This is (mostly) for me....


Mortal clams, mortal words.

This is an experiment.

I am mortal. So are you. My heart's been bouncy this week, nothing extreme, more like a polite panhandler trying to get my attention, nothing threatening, and it did.

I no longer pretend I know what's real--the dulling of age, the explosion of what's possible, it all becomes confusing. (I've had a lot of concussions.) But I know who I trust.

I have more time for the guitar, for the uke, for learning French (we're traveling to Paris in a few months), for raising Brussels sprouts, for clamming, for dancing and singing and living.

No one gives a fuck on Twitter who I am. But I do.
And so do a few folk I care about.

My blog started out as a public diary.
And it's ending the same way.



I could blame the switch from 140 characters to 280--I truly loved the game, the succinctness, the love of the value of a single word.

But that's not it.

It's the mortality.

You want to meet, want a postcard, want to connect, send me an email, and I'll respond with an old-fashioned letter.



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Off the beaten trail (again)....

A dead drum, Delaware Bay.

Facebook is immortal.
Twitter is immortal.
I am not.

David Knuffke asked a simple question on Facebook recently. Is the benefit of a tool worth its cost? The question has been asked before, and humanfolk have dived into its implications for, well, literally thousands of years.

Ancient Greek phoilosopher? David Knuffke?

But not this time. The AP Bio FB group circled the wagons, defending their group without considering the question.

And then I knew it was time to go....




You want to share thoughts, drop me a line.
If not, that's fine, too.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Death on the Delaware Bay

The fish after losing consciousness....and yes, fish are conscious.
I looked for crocuses, but found none, so I went to the north side of the Cape May ferry jetty today, one of my pondering places, maybe the pondering place. The afternoon was February bleak.

The south breeze was about 8 or 9 knots, but the water was flat next to the rocks. I was hoping to find a seal (and I'm always hoping I'll see the spout of a whale again).

I saw a swirl, I thought. Then I saw it again.

A small striped bass, maybe 4 or 5 pounds, was cutting across the surface. It was not well.

A ferry was on its way in. Ferries cause a lot of current on both sides of the jetty. I know because I watch. (I do not understand the physics, but I know what I see.)

The bass fought against the surge, and when the surge reversed, as it does, the bass slammed headfirst into the rocks.

It floated sideways unconscious, the gills still weakly moving.
And then nothing.

I've watched a lot of humans die, including my parents. I've killed a lot of the living, and some would argue I killed my Mom as I eased her pain with increasing doses of morphine and Fentanyl.

I watched a manchild die on his 18th birthday, back when cystic fibrosis meant early death, when he was finally old enough to demand his breathing tube be removed.

And I am always, always shocked by death's finality. The myth of the soul helps us grasp death's final incomprehensibility, but it's just that. A myth.


I went home and picked some kale, in the middle of winter. We will eat it this week.
This is not a metaphor, a fable, a parable.

It's just life.





Maybe I needed the reminder. 


Educon 2018: Part II


I've been to a few conferences, and they typically end with "WE'RE GONNA CHANGE THE WORLD!" And then we go home all fired up and go back to what we've always done, for better or worse.

Educon was different--the sessions  I attended were not hypothetical woo-woo love-fests. I saw what others were doing, what has been working, and what needs working on. The conversations focused on the possible, on the now, on the work being done.

No, Sir Ken did not keynote this year. 

I've been to a few conferences, and they typically feature education rock stars--personality often trumps pedagogy. Groupies vied for selfies with their favorite silver-haired snakes.

Educon was different--it's not that groupies were not welcome (seems anyone who doesn't mind a healthy dose of criticism is welcome), but there noticeably little fawning (if any). The Science Leadership Academy students ran the show, and not one of them had silver hair (though at least one had a strikingly green mohawk*).

Disclosure: I did get a traveler mug. (Photo from here.)

I've been to a few conferences, and they typically feature lots of swag. You toss goodies into a free bag, shove them into your luggage, and find them when you pack for your next trip.

I got very little swag, and what I got was because I was a presenter--a wonderful Educon traveling mug and a few pieces of Peanut Chews that nourished me on the train trip home.

Inside SLA, via Education Week
I've been to a few conferences and they typically herd folks like tourist in the White House--you see what the tour guides want you to see when they want you to see it. Nothing is askew, and everything is timed.

We had free rein at the Science Leadership Academy building. We could wander anywhere, and we did. The building looks like mine (and probably yours if you work in a public school). Yes, I saw a broken outlet, but in the same room I got to sit in on an impromptu get together with folks sharing thoughts as the sunlight streamed through the large southern window.

SLA Ultimate team and alumni, and a post well worth reading

I've been to a few conferences that had a few folks of color and, of course, the requisite panel member (might be gay, might be black, might be some wack-a-doodle with a British accent) who is supposed to cover up a lot of sins, but cannot cover up the original one.

SLA is an intentional community, and Educon reflects this.

I got called out a few times over the weekend, (mostly) gently, and always with reason--for some behaviors I am aware of, a couple of times for things I had not realized. I expected as much, and am grateful for it.







"Mohawk" is a word I use with trepidation-- but I know more about the Pawnee now than I did an hour ago.

Educon does not pay its presenters (besides the swag), and even Chris Lehman, the Principal and founder of SLA, pays to go.
The money goes back to the school to support its 1:1 program.