December 7, 2012

Instructions for living a life

"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."

―Mary Oliver

Said like a true poet.

To be honest, that's why I decided to start updating this blog again. There is so much beauty in the world. I imagine I see only a fraction of it, yet it's more than enough to amaze me. Sometimes to the point of tears or prayers or poems or whatever praise I can muster. What I write here is just my way of sharing, of expressing my gratitude, of saying "Look, here, the world has a sweetness and a loveliness; partake with me."

Yesterday I paid attention.

It was the last day of classes. Our little band of humanities students were charged with doing their end-of-semester creative presentations. One by one (or sometimes in smiling little groups) they would make their way to the front and, without any pomp and circumstance, share with us.

And I was astonished.

One girl read aloud an original beat poem and owned it. Another showed a gorgeous video of a dance she'd choreographed. Three of the students decided to make Jackson Pollock-inspired baked goods. (Who knew abstract expressionism could be so tasty?) Many others, humbled by the experience, sheepishly showed their paint-splattered efforts to imitate Pollock on a canvas. A peppy little quartet in ties sang us to Coney Island. One boy, normally so quiet and unassuming, played a really stunning rendition of "Norwegian Wood." His best friend in the class sang the Beatles, too, in a gorgeous and assured baritone that I think surprised everyone. A sweet girl who normally sits in the back came forward to play a song on the banjo―an instrument she just started learning over Thanksgiving break.

The sense of camaraderie in the room was palpable, at least to me. I felt a love and a warmth that I wouldn't have expected to feel for this motley little crew with their cramped penmanship and their endless barrage of questions about points and grades and all like that. When we got the numbers out of the way, though, and we just started sharing and singing and clapping and being, we could see the beauty in each other. And what a glorious thing to behold. 

So here I am, telling about that irresistible salt shaker beat and those prickly banjo fingers and all the globs upon globs of paint and wondering if it's even possible for the universe to run out of poems.


  1. Was this in Soper's class? I remember that day of presentations in Hum 262. There were LOTS of Jackson Pollack imitations and I sang a jazz song and scatted. What did you do?

    1. This was indeed for Soper's class. I was the TA for Hum 262 this semester, so I didn't have to do a creative project myself. I'm not sure what I would have chosen! Probably something to do with jazz... I guess we're kindred spirits! :)