Monday, October 24, 2011

Animal Magnetism

I was kissed by a wolf the other night.  It was a dream come true. 

He was black with silver-tipped fur, luminous eyes, and had the startling ability to vanish entirely into the darkness of his pen - but there he was, bouncing and leaping against the chain link fence, wagging his tail for all it was worth, whimpering and whining in an ecstasy of greeting - "HEY!  New people!  Hi!  Hi-hi-HI!  You're here to see ME, aren't you?  GOSH, I'm glad to see you!  Got anything for me to eat?"

Of course, it wasn't exactly sanctioned or approved, that kiss.  After the fact, the staff in charge of the two "ambassador wolves" did ask all visitors not to put our fingers or hands through the fence... and I suppose, that being the case, I was obeying the letter of the law, if not the spirit.  I did NOT put my fingers, hands, or any part of my body through the fence.  I did not press any part of my body against the fence.  Zephyr, the wolf pup in question, did that all by himself... poked his nose and half his muzzle clear outside the fence, slurping the air with his tongue, so I decided that it couldn't hurt to give him want he obviously wanted so badly - to kiss one of these new humans who were so tantalizingly close to him and his sister.

I was, as could be expected, in heaven for the rest of the night.  Not even taking a tumble off the bleachers by the pen later on could take that glow away (in fact, it bought me a few more precious moments in the company of Zephyr and his sister Alawa, nursing my bruised dignity and trying to stretch my banged-up joints and muscles into cooperation).  Long after we left the Wolf Conservation Center, I was thinking of the kiss, remembering in, feeling it again... and that, in turn, triggered my mind to ramble backwards.

I've often wished my life was more interesting.  A teacher by day, a writer by night, a wife and mom, my life is anything but poetic or mythic.  But when I stop to think over the animals who have shared my life... well, suddenly, my story seems worth telling.  Being kissed by a wolf is only the latest in a series of exotic and unusual creatures who have crossed my path - in the good company of countless dogs and cats, gerbils and rats. 

When I stop to think about it, really, it reads almost like one of my stories.  In my life, I've played ball with bottlenose dolphins, befriended beluga whales and young sea lions, fed sharks and octopi, sung with coyotes, and "talked" in trills and chirps with raccoons.  I've looked deep into the eyes of a gorilla at close range, defended the rodents in the Mouse House from harassment by ignorant zoo visitors, and been waved at by an elephant.  A baby corn snake once twined itself through my fingers and finally settled its chin on the pulse-point of my wrist; I swear I felt a wave of pleasure and satisfaction coming from the little one, the first time I'd ever felt such from a reptile.  I've rescued thrown-away rabbits and abused rats and found loving homes for both.  None of these were "for pay" encounters... I either happened upon the animal, or earned the right to be with them through volunteer duties. 

In fact, the one time I did pay to do one of those "swim with the dolphins" encounters, I got the distinct impression that the dolphins were considerably less than enthusiastic about the meeting... I was just part of the job for them, and they'd oblige by pushing me through the water and letting me touch them, but didn't particularly care for me one way or another.  "Just doin' our job, lady - time's up."

I don't think I'll pay for encounters with wild things, anymore.  I'd rather meet my fellow mortal creatures on their terms, through shared aquaintances and happenstance.  That sort of thing can't be purchased, can't be coerced.  I'd dearly love to be kissed by a wolf again... maybe without a fence between us, next time.  But that will have to happen in its own good time.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ode to Joy - Beaker Style!

I had an utterly horrendous day at work yesterday, and today was saved from being much the same by two facts:

  1. I took a "mental health" day.  It does NOT do to have a complete nervous breakdown in front of one's students. 
  2. I found this clip on YouTube while looking up Victor Borge's phonetic punctuation sketch for tomorrow's mini lesson on types of sentences.  "Ode to Joy" is one of my favorite classical pieces... and the Muppets are one of my favorite joy-bringers.  And so, I share this, hoping it will bring joy to someone else as well.

Here's the Victor Borge clip I was looking for...

And this is just too cute, and must be viewed after watching the Victor Borge original.

- CV

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lessons, Novels, and Life - When Planning Goes Wrong

I'm a fairly good teacher.  I am not, nor will I ever be, Teacher of the Year material... I don't think I even WANT to be that.  I know I am a writer first, a teacher second.  But one thing teaching, writing, and being a wife and mom have in common is my bete noir... planning.

I am not a good planner.  When, once upon a time, a professor made all us teachers-in-training take a learning styles inventory that classified us as concrete or abstract, sequential or random... well, I was one of two people who turned up as abstract sequential.  The professor didn't know what the hell to make of us - his words, not mine - but my colleague and I looked at each other, raised our eyebrows, and then told him, "Give us specific instructions for what you want, then get the heck out of our way."*

When it comes to my lessons, I am easily overwhelmed looking at the big picture.  Without a published curriculum for my writing classes, I struggle to follow the lead of my teammates, who all seem to understand perfectly well what they are doing all the time.  I yearn to teach a curriculum that has a textbook, through which I can proceed in order, supplementing and diverting as my students' needs dictate.  As it stands, I need to teach grammar, composition, editing, and revising without a textbook, without a scope and sequence, and without concise resources I can print off or photocopy easily.  There's a wide range of books out there - but I simply don't have time to read them all.

When it comes to my novel, I have an internal compass.  I don't need to plan things out on paper - I know where things should go, and when I try to set things down in writing (often to try to show my students How It's Done), I get frustrated beyond belief.  Happily, so long as I can carve out time to write, I can generally make the most of what's in my head and the draft becomes the long-term plan.  I guess this is what happens when you're able to follow your heart - you Just Know, and planning - if it's done at all - is done for your own clarification, not as a necessary precursor to the actual heart's work.

And my life.  Oh, god, my life.  I need a plan.  I need to get a schedule going, as I know that I'm not spending anywhere near enough time with my husband and son as I should be, as I want to be, but with the myriad of other things tugging at me - and refusing to give up my writing - it's becoming a morass.  But planning requires time, and to find the time, I need to plan for it...

I. HATE. PLANNING!!!!!  I wish it wasn't so bloody necessary to success!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Maybe I *WOULD* Like To Live On The Moon...

... I'd like to visit the moon
On a rocket ship high in the air
Yes, I'd like to visit the moon
But I don't think I'd like to live there
Though I'd like to look down at the Earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I might like it for one afternoon
I don't want to live on the moon.
                                            - Jeff  Moss

This was the song I named my blog for - a gentle song from my son's Sesame Street CD, one that touched me in a way I didn't think children's songs could.  It seemed, at the time, to sum up everything that I was - tone and lyric, mood and innuendo.  Of how I dream of Going Places and Doing Things - Great Things, Important Things - but how I am tethered to the present, to my current place, to the life that chafes at me, sometimes, but that I am mostly comfortable with... even when I dream of more.

And do I dream...!  Here I am, a four-decade-old wife and mom, and still I daydream the way I did when I was a gawky, gangly adolescent... of what life would be if I could be a cherished member of an elite fighting force, not strong or swift but loyal to the core and valuable to my team; the confidante of wolves, keeping their wisdom, knowing their stories, a member of the pack; the rider of a dragon - not a Weyrleader, no, not I - but a dragonrider nonetheless, bound heart and mind to a beautiful, intelligent beast who shared my soul. 

But I'm none of that, and sometimes - like now - even writing these figments down seems silly.  Unworthy, even.  It stretches imagination too far.  I could never manage a military life - I'm too soft of heart and spirit, too gentle in voice and manner, shaped more like a picture book snowman than like a hard-bodied female warrior in a comic book.  If Beachhead, drill sergeant for the G.I. Joe team, were to chew me out, I'd likely burst into tears!  Confidante of wolves?  HAH!  I hate sleeping in anything other than a proper bed, have no tolerance for gnats or biting flies, and take "weather wimp" to entirely new levels (it should be noted that this past Columbus Day weekend was the first time all year I went to the beach).  Besides that, if wolves truly are sticklers for pack order and dominance, I'd be the omega, likely as not.  I'm not exactly alpha-tough.  And as for being a dragonrider... well, on my bad days, I wonder what dragon would ever have ME, flawed and insecure as I am.  On my good days, I figure I'd at least be a likely candidate for a fire lizard... maybe.

I would like to visit the moon, metaphorically.  Is it so bad to know that I wouldn't want to stay there, forever?  Dreams are all well and good - but you can't live in a dream, can't feed your family on starlight and moondust, and if you hold out for Prince Charming for too long in the love department, you wind up very much alone and disillusioned, wondering why you didn't take that honest frog when he presented himself.  I can't ever give up my dreams... it would be the end of me, if I did.  But I can't ignore reality, either.

I think it's easier to kick Reality in its derriere, anyway, and invite the dreams in - rather than the other way around.

So if I should visit the moon
Well, I'll dance on a moonbeam, and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I'll wish myself home once again.
Though I'd like to look down at the Earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I may go, I'll be coming home soon...
'Cause I don't want to live on the moon.
No, I don't want to live
On the moon.