I was going to title this piece something minimalist like “morning” but I’ve found that adding ‘How to‘, to anything seems to gain readership. It’s one of the things a writer does, write and then find readers. So, firstly, thank you for taking the time to read this and to those of you who regularly read what I put out, thank you. I do not take your continued support lightly. I am currently exploring another writing site that hosts some worthwhile content, it’s called Medium and you can click on the name to take you there, after you’ve read this. It’s well worth exploring since it caters to a variety of genres.
It’s 6:30 am. I’ve been up since 4:30 grading English papers. My students appear to be struggling more than I realised. Now I am. Self doubt rises. After the 10th paper it has convinced me I might better serve the community in some other way. I start an internet search for local jobs, anything … postman! That sounds appealing from where I sit. Bukowski did it.
But, I know I won’t. The same way I secretly know I’ll probably not do so many of the things I said I would: like skydive (why did I even say that?), like ride to Key West on a Harley or travel the world in an old panel van or climb Mt Kilimanjaro, swim with dolphins, smoke a cohiba in Havana, talk books ‘n stuff with Stephen Fry, or … the bucket list disappears beneath an endless pile of essays. No. I won’t become a postman. I would stroll rather than walk, forget to post the letters, talk for too long to lonely people waiting for news from someone, anyone. I’d be a rubbish postman. I owe the bank too much. I am locked in for life.
Soon I am approaching the shadow world I know only too well. The bull that lives there shudders, ready to charge. Its front hooves rake the ground, it snorts. I make a cup of coffee. Sit outside, knees propping up my elbows, the coffee has little appeal. I get Macbeth,
I breathe in too deep, cough. I look up.
It is immense. How did the sky stretch so wide? Has it always been so? So high (it seems daft to state the obvious. It feels I am noticing it unfold from space for the first time) and so low it feels that if I held up my arms I could stir the colours like I was Monet and God. Something within, that unidentifiable aspect of ourselves that is lost in the day to day doingness of things alerts my senses. I want to find words and the voice from that inner region grabs me by the scruff of my nightgown and says: “just look. Just feel. That’s all you need to do.”
So I do. I lose the need for words. I soak in the glorious warmth of burning pastel light. As the light grows brighter and the sky shifts to blue I take out my phone again and start finding the words. I can’t help myself. It is an impulse too ingrained. If I have not squeezed words onto the page, it never happened.
But, soon the moment will strain under the weight of the day. Pressed cold, olive like, the essence of it anoints me. Not as king, my kingdom is overrun by barbarians who have taken my crown and placed a number to live by in its stead. No, I am anointed as something better than a king. The sun anoints me renegade, maverick on walkabout in a world gone mad. I grade the papers with my old eyes. The ones that prompt the tongue to say
“here are your grades, but what is more important, I saw you loved the book and that will stay with you longer. Trash the paper, let’s read. Let’s read about sunrises and mushrooms and walls and old men on blasted heaths and then you may stand a chance.”
“A chance for what they will say”.
To which I shall reply: “If you can hold onto a poem longer than your mortgage contract then you might just survive this life. Then, scattered randomly through the interminable days of drudgery ahead of you, there will be sunrises that will take your breath away and remind you that in the light of that, nothing else really matters.”
2 thoughts on “How to watch a sunrise: morning”
This took me back. I recalled Mrs. Wankle’s habit of starting each session of her high school English class with a five minute assignment to write a paragraph of at least three sentences on any subject. She annoyed me. Personality conflict — she was high energy and I was laid back.
I struggled with the assignment. I couldn’t for the life of me string three grammatically correct sentences together on a single topic. I lacked the skill to unpack an idea.
In order to crucify her, I privately set myself to writing a paragraph on why five minutes was not enough time to write a paragraph, thus Mrs. Wankle didn’t know her job.
The paragraph eventually morphed into two and a quarter handwritten pages. The argument become that words had no intrinsic meaning, hence some conclusion I forget now.
I showed the paper to Sharon, the librarian, who was just about my only ally on the faculty. She responded by recommending I read Wittgenstein. More importantly, I could feel how impressed she was with my thinking.
I didn’t read Wittgenstein until years later, but I began reading philosophy. Later, I picked it as my major.
Life choices made — in a sense — in large part because an excellent teacher annoyed me. As it happens, they were good choices.
Beyond that, SL, I completely agree with you about the value of literature to enhance our lives.
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That’s a great story. The awareness that there are repercussions from our interactions, most of which we are unaware of, keep me honest. I came to Wittgenstein later in life, don’t recall how and he had a profound impact on me. Taught me a healthy skepticism of language as a limited tool and the source of so many problems. I think I learned to have respect for words and the word wordsmith’s craft from him. After that Saussure and Derrida humbled me further. Thanks for your story, it’s a reminder to me, and all teachers (all people really) that, like electrons, we are changed with every encounter. Cheers mate👍
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