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

more wonderings about (today's) Puritans, and a broken education system
Today I was thinking -- again -- about the similarities between contemporary conservative Christianity (at least in everyday life) and historic

posted 4:48:45pm Sep. 19, 2014 | read full post »

measuring up
Rarely do I feel inadequate, like I don't measure up. If that sounds overly confident, I don't mean to. It's just that I don't normally spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. From a very early age I knew my life wasn't like most American kids, so while I may have wished I had a different

posted 5:25:45pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

letting go, or, what teaching teaches
You know that old joke about giving a party and nobody comes? Well, for presenters, it's a truism. I've given workshops w/ only one person (and she left early!). Last night, however, was a new one, even for me. A

posted 4:57:15pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

afternoon break
I should be working on the presentation I'm giving in...oh, 3 hours. :) I should be figuring out what to fix for dinner before I go. I should... I should. Instead, tea break. A cup of good ol' house tea -- Panyang Congou from Harney's, And plain vanilla macarons from the Whole Foods bakery. Bl

posted 4:51:14pm Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

health, gadgets, and technology
I am NOT good at the boredom of keeping healthy. I blew my knees running. My joint replacement put paid to treadmilling. I hate my recumbent bike (and no, I don't know why, except that it's boring). So cardi

posted 12:14:13pm Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »




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