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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.

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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

unexpected treasures
This is a bat house. While this one isn't the one currently in my garage, awaiting its move to Virginia, it looks much like ours will look in a few years: ...

posted 1:15:47pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

making friends with (at?) work
Because of the upcoming move, I've scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if ...

posted 5:49:17pm Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

temper temper
I'm probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don't believe ...

posted 12:36:21pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised
I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, ...

posted 1:52:52pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

moving toward light: opening up and letting go
Photographers have a term for when there's not light to shoot a picture. It's called 'opening up': you increase the aperture -- the hole through which ...

posted 1:42:11pm Jul. 22, 2015 | read full post »

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