Sunday, March 22, 2020

We walked in one of our favorite places this morning, Elm Grove Cemetery, bordering the Mystic River estuary. Walking the perimeter is about one mile, with inspiring views of distinguished gravestones, venerable old trees, the magisterial estuary, and historic ships and graceful clouds in the distance. We did a bracing, frosty total of about three miles, and felt lucky all the way.

a view across the Mystic River from Elm Grove Cemetery

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The artist Paul Klee once said that art should be like a holiday – something to give the artist the opportunity to see things differently and to change her or his point of view – and I have gradually grown to feel the same about writing. Now, in my 78th year, when I sit at my computer and start tapping the keys, it’s as if I’ve set out on a holiday escapade, as if restrictions have been rescinded and boundaries broken down. The words seem to lead the way, and I just cheerfully follow along to see what surprises will show up. These days, when I begin writing, it’s like I’m leaving behind rules and strategies and boundaries, and simply wandering in a boundless land. Writing for me has become a sort of free-wheeling adventure, a time to celebrate the unlimited freedom of thought that all of us possess, a time to revel and carouse with phrases and sentences to see what wonders might arise. It’s my daily holiday in retirement, a vacation in the wide-ranging kingdom of words.

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During my long career as a teacher, it occasionally occurred to me, right in the middle of a class, that everything was happening exactly as it should – that it was a perfect class. Of course, this didn’t happen when I was mired in a small-minded view of things – when I was seeing the class and my lesson as a piece of complicated machinery that depended on only me for its efficient operation. When that was my line of thought, nothing was ever perfect – not the lesson, not the kids, not the distracting sounds in the hall, not even the songs of birds outside. When I was looking at my life in the classroom with a shortsighted, disparaging lens, defects bordering on disarray seemed to be everywhere. There were times, though, when I felt the strange sense of being far, far above the classroom and quietly looking down on the comings and goings of me and my students. With that distant, wide-angle view — one that took in not only the small classroom in the Connecticut countryside, but the fields and cities of the state, the spreading earth itself with its endless abundance, as well as the continuous stars — all seemed right in Mr. Salsich’s Room 2, just as all seems right with any sunset or wave in the sea or wind in the trees. Small-minded views pass judgments; big-picture views sit back and appreciate. 

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Our front yard chalkboard poem for today …

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… and a single-minded gardener (Delycia) viewing old rose bushes that need to go …

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