Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

clearing moore tornadoJust yesterday this post-apocalyptic scene was a school, where children sat at tables, learning. Where teachers sat with them, facilitating that learning. Hours later, a tornado turned that normally noisy scene into hell.

Moore, Oklahoma is familiar with tornadoes. Two other horrific ones have hit in the past 14 years. There were death tolls then, too. But death tolls don’t tell the whole story. Especially when the tornado chews up an elementary school.

Teachers served as human shields, once again, for their students. Laying their own bodies over the fragile bodies of the children they love. And there’s not a teacher I know — and I know, literally, thousands… — who would think twice before doing the exact same thing. One teacher is in grave condition, following her shielding of three students. Others told their students to hold on to the walls of the school, placing their bodies and arms in an extended, encompassing hug to protect Moore’s children.

Teachers take a low of heat these days, even after a tragedy like Newtown, where those teachers, too, laid down their lives for the students they serve. So I’d like us to take a moment and remember: These are the people, America, to whom we send our children each day. The people to whom we entrust our children’s precious human lives. The people who lay down their own bodies for the futures of the children they care for. Here’s to every teacher I know:

Thank you. Thank you more than I can say.

brushy mountain hiveI’ve always wanted to keep bees. Perhaps it’s my Uncle Russell’s fault, although I’m pretty sure that my fascination w/ bees predates Uncle Russell’s beekeeping days…

More likely it’s from reading the French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre as a child. And following bees around. Like I did ants, and snails, and spiders. I don’t ever remember being really afraid of ‘bugs.’ Fabre’s work on bees (he did at least a couple of books) was anthologised in a children’s book of science & nature writing I had.  And since I lived by a French library, I was able to go check out the other books, labouring through the Latin names to learn more about bees.

This spring I enrolled in a beekeeping course. About half-way through I dropped out; a possible upcoming move reminded me that bees are a long-term commitment, and difficult to transport hundreds of miles. At least for amateurs. So my lovely copper-roofed Brushy Mountain hive will have to wait until our family plans are firmer.

But sometimes when you want something for a long time, and you work towards it, other paths open. Two years ago, my sister gave me a small mason bee house. Last year I was ecstatic it had THREE bees in it. Over the winter, I forgot all about it. Until yesterday…mason bees

Cutting roses before the rain, I saw it: filled! Full of mason bees! The holes you see filled in have mason bees inside. Cool, huh? Bees!

So here’s the deal: I might have missed these, focused as I was on the absence of my copper garden hive roof. I could have continued grieving for the bees I don’t have, and totally missed my mason bees. How dumb would that be?

But we do it all the time: obsess on one thing to the point we become blind to what’s around us.  Not to belabour the point, but it’s an American trait. ‘Work towards the goal!‘ It’s just that goals can be flexible. And we need to be able to identify the larger goal within the specifics. Bees, in other words. Not a beautiful copper hive. 🙂

 

blue dome festivalArt festivals rock. Really! Tents of cool trinkets to explore, music, junk food (although really: who considers locally  made chocolate gelato junk?), kids with painted faces… What’s not to love?

This week is Tulsa’s MayFest weekend. An old festival (as these things go), the original MayFest has spawned neighbouring (not competing) festivals, specifically, Blue Dome Art Festival. And while they’re separated by only a matter of blocks, the crowd, merchandise, and entire ‘flavour’ are completely different.

At MayFest you can drop thousands, if you have them, on beautiful jewelry, prints, leather, wood-working. Yesterday we saw a piece of hand-worked burl wood — a hanging — inlaid w/ copper that was about 6 grand. Mixed metal earrings by one of my long-time fave artists, Q Miller, start reasonable and climb. 🙂 But the pieces are by artists standing in front of you, who can tell you the story behind each piece and its name.q miller necklace The metals have the print of hammer, the wood the silk of sandpapering.

The same at the Blue Dome Festival, but these artists live in the area. And not all the quality is…well, as polished. 🙂 It’s far more like the early days of MayFest, when international artists didn’t come to Tulsa. We asked our own, and they chipped in. And it was wonderful. Still is. I saw handmade journals, and quartz pieces, and leather, and magic…

I love both parts — the craftsman/artist me loves the quality of work at MayFest, the individual visions shared out in wood and metal and ceramic and ink. The kid still impressed by toys and glitter loves the carnivale of the Blue Dome. Completely different, they’re both part of art and what it does for me.

And yep, there are at least a dozen metaphors here. I don’t think I have to spell them out…:) But just in case, here’s a clue: next year I want to have a haiku booth with a friend. Get your custom haiku — give us 3 words! We’ll use ’em! — for a BUCK!

And I want to have it at the Blue Dome. Where the great tattoos roam, and the shaved ice melts. And parents blow bubbles at their children, who wear painted animal faces…

 

noahMy grand-nephew is a hoot. Named for my younger son, little Noah is funny, drop-dead cute, and tons of fun. A great companion for a Friday adventure. So today, when he arrived w/ his grandmother — my younger sister — in tow, I knew fun was walking in the door, too.

He made straight for the breakfast room. ‘I hungry,’ he announced. Out come cereal and a banana. ‘ I thirsty,’ he added, eye-balling his grandmother’s iced cappuccino. After learning how to make monster noises (who knew his education to date had lacked this essential wisdom??), he settled in to his usual questions:

Why you have cat?’ and ‘why doggie cry?’ and ‘where you food?’ Ad infinitum. After the cereal, we walked out to the garage to find his uncle, who was working on my car. Noah circled the car, waved to Glen, and started asking more questions. ‘Who car?’ ‘Why broken?’ More questions.

Questions were the MO of the morning, as we discussed toys, hats, sunglasses, dogs & cats, and the piece of trash next to him in the car. W/ a glittery pencil discarded by one of his sisters, and the empty Chex bag, he engineered…a creation. His blue eyes wide w/ wonder, he demanded that his grandmother and I ‘LOOK!’ So we did, watching as he twirled the bag on its stick holder.

Then he poked a second hole in the bag, running the pencil through either side. His twirling bag now looked more like a feedbag. So we made horse noises together.

When I’m with Noah I never have to  ‘try’ to have fun. Fun just happens, as it seems to for him. A pencil and a piece of discarded trash transform, through his eyes, into something magical, twirling on its glitter pencil axis. A coffee scoop and old coins? Treasure measured out into a bowl.

This is grace, folks — the ability to live so completely in the moment that the clear beauty in every particle catches fire. Find a kid, if you can’t do it on your own. Then practice. It won’t hurt, I promise. I’d lend you Noah, but he’s out for the count. All that beauty wears a guy out ~

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