As a writing instructor, I yearn to take credit for the ingenious, creative, perceptive stories my students create. They’re kids, mostly middle-schoolers, and I yearn to point at their work and say, “They know how to do that because I taught them how.” But I believe what makes a good teacher—and I hope I’m good, though I have a long way to grow—is to have the restraint not to show them how. I give them ideas to think about, concepts to get their minds going, but the point is to let them push the discussion, explore their own answers, decide for themselves what each concept means. I seek to show them that there are potentially infinite ways to unveil a story, and then let them come up with their own way. I ask them to experiment, to dream, to use critical thinking, to ponder. But then my most important job is to get out of the way. So the less credit I can take for their work, the happier I am about the possibility that I’m evolving as a teacher.
When I was 36, I spent a month in Spain, and I never regretted that I missed running with the bulls in Pamplona. But today I heard the below interview with travel blogger Jeannie Mark, known as the Nomadic Chick, and began to wonder if I’ve spent my life being too careful. Jeannie plans to run during the next Fiesta de San Fermin. If I were not now fifty with a slight neuropathy (or nerve weakness) in my left foot, her enthusiasm might tempt me to join her.
My favorite moment in her interview, other than Jeannie’s infectious laugh, is when she talks about her philosophical take on the risks, such as getting caught in a pileup. She says: “In some crazy way, maybe I believe that is also how life works, that sometimes you just go along the path and things happen.” This may be at the core of every traveler’s philosophy about the risks we take when we step outside the comfort zone of home and seek new experiences in a wider world.
First, here’s a correction Jeannie also makes on her own blog: in the interview, she says the run is 860 meters, but it’s actually 825 meters. And now, I highly recommend giving her a listen. Her laugh alone may inspire you to actively seek to create more joy in your life:
“Forty percent of bullies are women, and when women are bullies, they choose women as targets 71% of the time. Sadly, when the bully finds his or her target, the target pays with his or her job.” – Dr Gary Namie
Dr. Gary Namie started The Workplace Bullying Institute in 1998 after his wife, Ruth, experienced bullying firsthand at the hands of a female supervisor. That sour experience prompted their research into bullying to support the passage of laws to curtail workplace abuses. In fact, they say the need is even greater today since their research shows that women are now being bullied by other women 80% of the time, a 9% increase in six years.
I know what rug burn is, but never until now concerned myself with pole burn. That’s what happens when, while pole dancing, you do a pole sit with your back pressed too tightly against the pole. My instructor—a 41-year-old step-mom of two who goes by the stage-name Leesi—suggests we shift our spines to the side. That way our vertebrae won’t take a beating during this theoretically erotic move involving a long chrome phallus.
In my youth, I thought pole dancing was for sluts only. It didn’t occur to me that a woman hanging upside down with her legs wrapped around a pole might be an acrobat worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Now that I’m over 40, taking a pole dancing class seems like a last chance to recapture my youth, now that I would be proud to be considered sexy enough to qualify as a slut.
I love old-fashioned social dancing to swing and blues music, but sometimes the music we move to with passion and joy has its roots in true tales of tragedy and sacrifice. What do you expect from the blues? On Tuesday night I was hanging at Denver’s Mercury Cafe when I watched the dance floor fill to a soulful blues song I’d never heard before. The singer repeated a name over and over: “Viola, Viola…”
A girlfriend sitting next to me asked, “Do you know who this woman was? I’ve done some studying of the Civil Rights Movement, but I don’t remember hearing about her.” I felt kind of stupid, because I had been so focused on the music, I didn’t even realize the song had anything to do with civil rights.
Here’s the chorus of the song, Color Blind Angel, by Robin Rogers:
Viola, Viola, you laid your young life down.
From Selma to heaven, 3 Ks took you out.
Color blind angel battled bigotry.
Viola, Viola lives on in history.
We are all connected to the natural world. All of us made from it. Whatever your beliefs, one must acknowledge that our bones and blood and skin are made of the same stuff as rocks and trees and rain. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” sums it up best.
The Way is a novel set during a time when a woman’s relationship to the natural world was being intentionally severed.
Women are particularly connected to the natural world. People usually support this conclusion by noting that our cycles, such as menstruation, are linked to the moon and the tides. But it goes even beyond that, I think. Another correlation between women and the natural world is that our bodies possess a pattern of seasons – a continual turning through the cycles of life. To be a woman is, like the earth itself, to be physically circling through times of birth, expansion, dormancy, and death.