Reflections about Writing and Teaching – April 12, 2022

Recently, it’s been difficult for me to post what I write or visit others’ blogs. And I’ve been reflecting about why that might be. I remember how I answered the question “Why do I write?” in a free course I took on WordPress years ago, Blogging 101. “I write because Mickey can’t.

Mickey was confined to a life in a nursing home. A work accident had left him paralyzed and struggling to frame his thoughts in words. One had to slow down and listen carefully to make sense of his new, unfamiliar language. Too few nursing home staff had the time, interest, and/or skill to do so. As a mother with a young daughter to care for, I worked the “graveyard shift.” I had time to learn Mickey’s language and decipher what he needed. Respect. Soft hands. Kindness. Presence. And laughter.

I still write because Mickey can’t. But now I realize I write and teach for the sake of others who can’t speak, either. The earth, the trees, the lakes, and the rivers who give us life but are not honored for doing so. The plants and animals that feed us. The birds, butterflies and bees that give us beauty. What I write is shared for free with anyone who happens to read or listen.

The small salary I make when teaching comes from students who often assume debts they may have to carry for decades, so I try to make what I share worth the cost. With the trend of declining enrollments, it’s uncertain if this signals the end of my teaching career. But writing and teaching have never been about money, power, or fame. Sharing is just celebrating life.

April 12 2022 reflections 1

Building and planting new gardens – June 24, 2013

These days, words and teaching are not enough for me. The things that I feel are important to say may be lost in a cacophony of voices competing for attention. I care about the world my daughter, grandchildren, students, and the generations yet to come will inherit. I find myself on steep learning curves to explore more direct ways to share. I’ve agreed to serve as a delegate for the political party that I find to be less toxic to select a candidate the party should support for the state senate. As a community and state, we’re facing uphill battles on environmental and social justice issues that need to be championed by the most capable, tenacious, ethical servants of the people.

There are no guarantees of success for those who are willing to courageously propose alternatives that reverse the corporate exploitation of people and the environment, but it’s crucial that those who want to wield power, or those who are forced to by default, honestly represent the best interests of people and the environment who not able to speak for themselves. But politics are always a gamble. There’s no way to predict how people will react to wielding power or how effective they will be when dealing with others who have conflicting views.

That means the state of the world is also up to each of us, too. I believe we have responsibility to do what we can to learn and act in ethical, well-informed ways. That belief inspired me to volunteer for several community-based initiatives to help explore what’s happening from many different vantage points. I’ll explain these initiatives in a moment because others might find these various opportunities intriguing as well.

April 12 2022 reflections 2

Changing landscape after the willow was damaged in a winter storm – June 4, 2018

First, though, I feel it’s important to mention that I have been fascinated by the “natural” environment all of my life. As a little girl, I preferred the woods, stream, and pond near my house more than the company of children my own age. It was a place of wonder to explore and a sanctuary away from the noise and busyness of my home and neighborhood. As a teen, I preferred the company of elders and spending time on the Allegheny River that flowed in front of my family’s musty summer cottage. When I attended college, my goal was to study ecology, a subject that wasn’t offered yet. Instead, my world was expanded through the discovery of other cultures and literature I had not read before. Ultimately, I ended up working in jobs that applied ecological frameworks to human society and institutions.

Yet, I just passed the age marker that signals the importance of doing what I love the most while I still can – learning new things about the wonders of life and sharing them with anyone who will listen. When my mother was this age, 75, she was mid-stage in the painstakingly gradual loss of choices due to Alzheimer’s disease. As her legal guardian for fourteen years, I witnessed her heartrending transition from a gifted nurse to someone who could no longer speak a clear sentence, moving her from her lakefront home to congregate elder housing and then to round-the-clock assisted care.

So I decided to do something I love. Keep learning. There are so many things I don’t know. Recent patterns of drought and deluge have compacted the soil in my yard. I tested some soil last year because the blueberry bushes were struggling, and I found that the soil was extremely alkaline despite the surrounding pine trees. Last year’s extended drought meant frequent watering, so I’ll need to test the tap water, too, to see if the ph-balance of the water affected the reading. I plan to continue exploring how to achieve a healthy acid/alkaline balance and improve the overall health of the soil using natural, doable, affordable methods.

April 12 2022 reflections 3

Gardens recovering after some rain – July 29, 2021

I also want to gain knowledge and skills that will help with significant climate transitions that will become more likely given ongoing environmental destruction, over-consumption by wealthier people and nations, and changing weather patterns. I’ve taken a few first steps.

I joined the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network, CoCoRaHS for short, and took the obligatory “skywarn” training from the National Weather Service. I have become a “trained weather spotter.” The required “WeatherYourWay” rain gauge for CoCoRaHS volunteers to use for measuring precipitation is finally out of its box, waiting to be set up. Perhaps my grandson can help me put in the recommended 4” X 4” post to mount it once the ground here thaws.

Here’s a little bit more about CoCoRaHS:

“… CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).   By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, our aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. We are now in all fifty states.”

I also joined “scistarter,” an organization for volunteers who want to learn more and participate in “citizen science.”  There are many intriguing topics to study. Here’s a link to explore possible projects: https://blog.scistarter.org/featured-projects/2022/03/five-spring-tacular-projects-to-get-you-outside-this-season/

The topic I chose to focus on as a beginning is “iseechange.org.” Following is the brief overview from the website:

GOAL                         Our climate is changing — so are we.

TASK                          Share your experiences and collect data to help our communities.

WHERE                      Global, anywhere on the planet.

DESCRIPTION

What you see in your backyard, neighborhood, and city is important to our understanding of how climate change and weather affect our communities. Your observations and block-by-block insights can help cities, engineers and local organizations advocate for and create solutions to climate challenges.

We welcome and host observations from people in 118 countries around the world and counting. We are also currently working with partners in select cities on specialized investigations.

If you or your community has a question or hypothesis about how climate is changing your area, you can also use your ISeeChange account to collect data and answer those questions.

The only thing certain about the future is that changes will continue. It seems to me that the only way to prepare for change is to learn what we can now and share what we learn with others. I am grateful for the chance to do so and for all I learn from you when I have time to visit your blogs. Sending my best wishes to all.

Note:

Here’s a list of the links embedded above in case you are interested in learning more:

https://www.cocorahs.org/

https://scistarter.org/

https://www.iseechange.org/about

40 thoughts on “Reflections about Writing and Teaching – April 12, 2022

  1. Thanks for this Carol, I do so agree with you on the importance of blogging regardless of how many people read anything you write, it’s not a competition for hits or likes. We are all in this together and we all need to address climate change every day, it should lead the headlines all the time.
    Good to know you, fellow traveller!

    Liked by 5 people

      1. You are more than welcome, Carol. It is a genuine joy to share humor and wisdom, values that are always essential tools for living in the midst of absurdities that all thinking people share.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Carol, I’m so happy to be able, if I may, to call you my “bigger” sister. I’m the oldest sister in my geneological lineages now and all of my elders are gone. It’s so good to know someone who truly lives the saying, “you’re as young as you feel and think!” And learning is such a wonderful way to stay young. As more and more people recognize that mother Earth, all of nature and animals are also our ancestors, we’ll give her the care and nurturance the universe is calling us to do.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kindness, Skywalker. I am grateful we have been able to build an enduring friendship over the years, and grateful for your presence in my life. Sending hugs and best wishes to you, dear friend. 💜

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  3. Hi Carol. I like the thought that you write for the voiceless. I feel similarly. And now you’re getting political! I might be, too. I just joined the local League of Women Voters. It seems like a good group. Now, if I could just find time to attend a meeting.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s delightful to hear from you, Marie, and with such exciting news. As someone who moved often, I have always appreciated the League of Women Voters for providing unbiased, trustworthy information about candidates. I am sure your presence and knowledge will be an asset.

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  4. It is so inspiring to be able to share in your continued valiant efforts at creating a better world for the future generations. We have many shared interests and I’m often very touched by your heartfelt posts. I want to offer one more avenue of research as you progress in your climate/weather activism—geoengineeringwatch.org. I’ve been looking into the climate change question for many years now and have found one element so obviously missing from the conversation and that is geoengineering/weather modification/climate remediation. I have many links on my blog as well, under a separate header, geoengineering resources. This is considered the ‘new’ Manhattan Project, though it’s been going on now for over 70 years. There is a massive coverup of these operations going on and the documentary ‘The Dimming’ covers some of them. These projects are easily hidden due to their “National Security” status, but there are many excellent researchers/activists out there exposing these operations once you get looking for them you will be quite amazed, and flabbergasted, and FURIOUS, I’m sure. Good luck to you and thank you for sharing your writing!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, KH. I feel the same way about your incredible efforts to create a better world. I can’t even manage little gardens well, while your animals, gardens, hives, farm and the food you create are incredible!

      I am also grateful that you are willing and able to delve into issues that I would find too depressing or enraging. Those of us who have witnessed and struggled with the enduring legacy of historical and ongoing trauma know all too well the evil those in positions of power are willing to visit on others. My heart still aches when I think about what my mother and Ojibwe ancestors endured, or my father and the classism that prevented him from learning to use his intelligence in constructive ways. It’s a soul wounding experience that is repeated whenever I work with people who have been oppressed in some way. Instead of fighting evil, I discovered I need to work with others to create other healing possibilities, not because it’s a “better” way, but rather because it’s all my spirit can bear.

      Thank you for sharing what you write, too, and for your passionate fighting sprit! Sending my best wishes to you. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for your very generous spirit! It’s an unfortunately rare thing that you can see that fighting evil is necessary, just as is the creation of something better. It can be hard to hear, when others call me negative, or try to shift every conversation to the ‘bright side’ because I’m really not, I just see this lack and feel the need to fill it, even if it’s impossible. My mom said something to me she meant as a compliment along these lines, in a crisis situation where my aunt had fallen and bashed her head badly and we had to rush her to the emergency room. “You’re a rock,” she said. Rather than take it as she meant it, it hurt. I don’t want to be a rock, I’ve had to learn to be, against my true nature, to fit these times. Thank you for seeing that in me, like I said, it’s very rare, and very touching.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for such an honest and lovely reply, KH. Your kind words mean a great deal to me. I didn’t have time to say that yesterday, but I wanted to let you know how grateful I am. 💜

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  5. Hi there – I really appreciate your showing how elders among us can contribute and offer value to communities. I’m job hunting in my late forties and it seems like there’s little out there for the likes of me. I don’t even know if I want a job really. I don’t care about a lot of the business services and products out there. But I don’t know where to go, where I could fit and work on something that matters. Anyway, thank you for being an example. Timing can be a funny thing and I think this post was what I needed to see today. Thid post matters!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Edy. I can’t even imagine how challenging job hunting must be in these times. I wish you much luck finding something that helps pay the bills and feeds your spirit, too. 💜

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  6. Carol, thanks for sharing the links to organizations engaged in working towards change in the face of our global climate crisis. Here in California, we are already facing extreme summer temperatures, drought, wildfires (with poor air quality), and flooding.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ros, it’s always good to hear from you. The situation in California and other western and southwestern states is alarming. I always worry about you and other friends in California when I hear the news about stormy weather and fires. Sending you all wishes for gentle seasons ahead, dear friend. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Changes have taken place ever since I can remember. Some good, some not so good. The biggest change
    noticeable is that now we talk about it more openly and with concern.
    Your presentation Carol is a fine example of someone sharing their great storehouse of knowledge
    with others in an effort to open their eyes to world events.
    This is so badly needed. thank you, hugs, Eddie

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Carol you are such a brilliant example of that saying about being the change you want to see in the world. You could be relaxing and enjoying some free time, but instead you still choose to learn and teach, you are an inspiration.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Carol, you constantly amaze me. As if the valuable lessons you post so frequently were not enough, I simply have no idea how you find the time and energy to do and accomplish so much. Thank you for all of it!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Thank you for sharing!!.. like everyone else, in the past you had to use the cards that were dealt to you… in today’s world, with technology, you have been given more cards to play with and can use that learning along with teaching and writing to help make this world a better place… “Any piece of knowledge I acquire today has a value at this moment exactly proportioned to my skill to deal with it. Tomorrow, when I know more, I will recall that piece of knowledge and use it better. “ (Mark van Doren )… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May the dreams you hold dearest
    Be those which come true
    May the kindness you spread
    Keep returning to you
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Wonderful post! To keep learning can protect us from, seemingly, being crushed under the wheel of change. I have been feeling that ‘crushing’ sensation recently. Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Such lovely comments, Bob! Thank you. I have been feeling a bit crushed “under the wheel of change” for the past couple days, too. The post I’m working on now will explain why. In the meantime, I send my best wishes and gratitude to you for the beauty, depth, and humor you continue to share on your blog. 💜

      Like

  12. Oh yes, Carol, I often wonder where our education system is going, too, but as you rightfully say, we must do all we can to help our students so that the money they’ve put into this education is worth their while. I’m also hoping to get into nature again–a book I found in the library edited by Jamaica Kincaid pertains to writers and their favorite flowers, and I decided that, by golly, I need to be spending more time outside and in nature to see what we can do to help it, like planting for the little pollinators around here. As I tell my students every term, big changes start small! Hope you are able to give your loved ones lots of hugs and adventures in the natural world around you. xxxxxxx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, Jean, it’s so delightful to hear from you! There is so much we can learn from nature, and in my case, I feel like there is so much I have yet to discover. I try to model curiosity and presence to my students and grandchildren. It’s not always easy to do these days. I love how you encourage that for your children, and I suspect for your students as well. Sending gratitude and best wishes to you! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

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