Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Does It Feel Wild and Precious? It Does.

I teach in a small Orthodox Jewish school and in a matter of weeks I will teach there no longer. For the past several days I have been bombarded by attack hugs from girls in the hallways and classrooms as they digest the reality of my departure. The boys look like they have hugs to offer as well but, being Orthodox Jews, they restrain themselves. (I have found that after they graduate most of them abandon that particular restriction.) Plans for a party during Friday's history class are in the air, and today there was a lot of theoretically surreptitious cell phone picture taking. We are studying World War II. "STOP IT!" I finally yelled, as a little red light zeroed in on my face yet one more time. "I feel like I'm IN the war!"

Tomorrow night there will be speeches and accolades for the seniors who, along with their parents, will bask in the triumphs of graduation and college admission. I will have the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of my proteges on the yearbook staff, whose incessant telephone calls as crises created shadows over spring break caused me to develop a new appreciation for true Shabbos observance. 'WHEN IS IT GOING TO GET DARK?" I muttered as I answered yet another call, knowing that in a matter of hours no one would be permitted even to think about the yearbook for awhile.

Yesterday I asked a colleague to review the first draft of my remarks. "It's fine, she said, as she handed it back. "But what about the most important thing?" I asked. "Can you tell that I love them?"

I've been trying to think of a good story to illustrate the kind of relationships we have with students in such a small school, but I'm coming up dry. So I'm switching to poetry as I try to honor the bridge between their creative homage to the past in the form of their yearbook and the reality that the future is now upon them:

The Summer Day

(by Mary Oliver)

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?


Cecilia said...

I adore this poem. I used it in a pentecost/ confirmation sermon once. So apt.

Pax, C.

more cows than people said...

blessings, gg. i can tell that you love them. and i know you'll miss them. and i know they'll miss you. but i relish the journey you're beginning so soon! (i miss the seminary part of my journey so much!)

Lisa :-] said...

That is a wonderful poem. At the end, I just had to stop and think about it for awhile.

Of course you love them, Robin. The first part of this post shows that THEY know it...

Presbyterian Gal said...

Thinking of you tonight as graduation commences. It is likely a bittersweet moment of celebration.

Please share what happened.

Grace thing said...

I love that poem. That last line haunts me in a great way and floats to my awareness from time to time.

Diane said...

Great. I shouldn't be up in the middle of the night (long story) but this is great. And if I figure out how to do it, I should link you to a new blog called "wild and precious."

Diane said...

if I remember how to do this there's a new blog you might like called wild and precious

I enjoyed your post re: the school so much