Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


the candle and the mirror

candle in mirror

There are two ways of spreading light:
to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
Edith Wharton

When I was young, and my dreams as new-bright as clean copper, I believed I would set the world on fire. Somehow I would change what was wrong — poverty, ignorance, social injustice. There were, after all, so many of us who thought that. Surely we couldn’t fail.

So the fire of the candle — its yellow-white & blue light — lit those dreams brightly. Truth and justice would fill me, I was certain, and I would burn a path of justice through my time.

It hasn’t worked like that. :)

Teachers — and writers, really — aren’t candles. Sometimes we’re not even very good mirrors. But at our best (& luckiest), we reflect brightly the flames within our students. Our friends. Our readers. These days, I am trying every day to be a mirror.

There is little as satisfying as showing someone s/he can write. That within them are the words to tell an important, dearly cherished story. Often someone arrives in a class of mine — and this has happened as far back as my first teaching, more than 30 years ago — convinced they can do nothing well. Certainly not write. From pre-schoolers who can’t string macaroni to 94-year-old women who worry that their poetry is boring, fear of failure knows no age. And yet I’ve never met anyone who wants to learn — who wants to write — who can’t. It’s just a matter of desire, practice, and reflection.

You do need a mirror, however. To show you how brightly the flame you carry inside can burn. How brightly all our candles burn. And I’m here for that. Perfectly happy, these days, not to have blazed a flaming path. Perfectly happy to be just a mirror, spreading light.



Previous Posts

FaceBook memes and gratitude
Right now on FB, my youngest sister has tagged the three of us other sisters to do the 'gratitude challenge.' In which for five days, you have to come up w/ three things a day for which you're grateful. Just thre

posted 2:24:40pm Aug. 26, 2014 | read full post »

what we do for love
We did it! Those of us who signed up for the half-marathon (and those who were insane enough to go 24 hours w/out sleep for the whole nine yards!) did it! As one of the participants noted, what kind of crazy people would spend a day sweating over poetry w/ strangers? Weeelll... Poets would. And did

posted 4:27:25pm Aug. 24, 2014 | read full post »

marathons, half-marathons and the enemy of good
I'm doing a half-marathon tomorrow. Working HARD for hours. And now that I have you thinking what a sleek athlete I must be, I'll confess: it's a poetry half-marathon. :) The Poetry Marathon 2014 (24 po

posted 3:13:54pm Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

our own best friends
Here's the thing, folks: who is your best friend? Who do you trust? Who has your back? And who -- within broad limits -- will you forgive almost anything? If you yourself aren't on that list, welcome to adulthood. And how sad is THAT? Buddhism talks alot about knowing your own self. There's a

posted 3:18:30pm Aug. 19, 2014 | read full post »

my mother's heart and #Ferguson
This is my wonderful family. These are my infinitely fallible and perfect sons, my perfect daughter-in-law (known in my writings as DIL), my beloved. And this is a story about empathy. Both of my sons look -- to anyone outside the immediate family -- perfect. I will not share their private pasts,

posted 12:42:13pm Aug. 18, 2014 | read full post »




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