Friday, May 11, 2012

Notes 5.11.12

Photos this week: I keep a few cactus plants in large terra cotta pots around the perimeter of our patio, and they are now blooming!  Many cactus blossoms last for only one day ( some for only one night ) - many are pollinated by bats or insects of the night.


It is the season of "Pomp and Circumstance" of flat black hats, academic stoles and Hawaiian leis...  Graduation! As I sit and observe the line of students receiving their diplomas, it is a time of reflection for me.  I think of the hard work that went into this moment for each student , and the wonderful sense of release .   Commencement means "beginning", but really, this is only a stage in the process of becoming.  I think of the many choices made by each student to reach this point...Few people experience a smooth path in their journey to "becoming”.  Working with young adults,  I am convinced that this time in life  is one of the most challenging,  because it is a time of such critical decisions, made with limited  resources.

barrel cactus
In my own life, I  remember the effects of chance conversations that opened up new directions for me. Sometimes it is only a casual word that planted an idea and helped me to make a critical decision.    But, there were times when I had to draw on whatever resources I had to make the best decision I knew how to make at that time... to choose either the safe path or the path of challenge.  (How do we teach a young child to walk the stony path between 'good' challenges and avoiding dangerous risks?)
Night blooming Cereus
I guess this is where the school of 'hard knocks'   comes in.  There are most certainly times of frustration and anguish when the way seems foggy and steep....  Many tough decisions are lonely.  What is the invisible, non-verbal, something that we learned as a child that keeps us going when we cannot see the way? It can make all the difference.
Mammillaria sp.
I wonder about the random events that have been thrust upon us - moving to a new location as a child, meeting person X who played a pivotal place in life.  I think about who we are and the decisions we have made about others - We create wide or narrow circles around the people we encounter...  We either accept or reject others into or out of our community.  I suppose this is really about fear - are we afraid of what we might lose by opening up to others?   Who are 'the others' that we recognize as separate from ourselves.   Where did we learn this?  What are we afraid of?

Opuntia  sp.
If I had been born a woman, or black, or six feet 4" tall, how would any of these changes  have affected who I am today?  Suppose I had been born in Afghanistan or North Korea ... What different decisions or opportunities would I be facing today? Suppose instead of growing up in a loving home, I had been raised by abusive or impoverished  parents...  My parents each produced a great variety of gametes all potentially available to fertilize the egg that became me - talk about random chance - if I were the product of any different gamete combination I would be a different person today!

Echinocereanae sp.
When I work with interns I may appear as someone who has  my "ducks in a row" with regard to my teaching skills. I wish these folks could know the challenges, blind alleys, and daily courage  that led me to where I am today...(Far from feeling like I have all the answers - I feel like I have all the questions... and some working conclusions that work for me most of the time...). 
Mammillaria sp.
I am aware of problems and questions in education that I wish I could answer.  I care so much for individual students who for some reason don’t feel connected to the world of hope and possibility - but have turned away by the age of 15 or 12...   I see bright capable kids growing up in blighted poverty ridden communities... with half a chance they could make major contributions to our  collective future... but their chances of surviving the streets, or receiving the help they need... it is oh so slim...  I look at a classroom of these kids so full of hope and positive energy and I think about the chances of success... It makes me wish so much that I could do more...
Barrel Cactus
I fret over whether these eager new graduates will find work in todays economy, do they have the skills that they need?  And then I remember the resilience of the human spirit.  These folks will do alright .  Most of them have the knowledge and adaptability to adjust to the world as they find it.  Many will thrive.   For them all, the processes of change and growth are not coming to any end with commencement - but instead truly "commencing" ... a new beginning.

So all these thoughts and more go through my mind as I sit listening to the names of all the graduating students being read.  Adams to Zamora...

Cereus detail

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