Welcome to a New School Year!

I am here in my pjs, sipping coffee and checking my e mail.  Max, the border collie, has left no speck of food at the bottom of his bowl.  Outside…a light rain.  Last night’s dishes whir in the dishwasher.  Peanut-the-cat stretches his back leg and washes its length again and again.  We’re all resting back upon the day.  I enter into my third year of retirement.

For me, days like this will always mark the first day of school.  I’ll never forget that feeling of the brand new class of children sitting before me…I’ll never forget that responsibility.  I found an entry I wrote on August 30, 2006 and just want to paste it upon this page…everything still applies.  I pray for my friend-teachers and for the parents and students; for another year of magic…and that they can ‘make meaning’ together.

Making Meaning

Posted on August 30, 2006
Sitting here listening to Ben Harper… I’m so inspired by his music….reflecting back on the work day and the work in the studio and the surrounding ‘energy’ of my children.  I’ve been thinking about “making meaning”.  It’s an expression I used to use solely with my own students and their art.  I worked endlessly at convincing them that unless they could make meaning in their own art, it would somehow have limits as to how it could speak to others.
Now I’m thinking about this being a real purpose for my own life this coming year. MAKE MEANING!  I’m so ritualistic and I so love setting goals and MAKING things happen…I like to manifest my life and have for years, been reluctant to just let life swoosh over me.  I know there are pitfalls to this thinking.  For example…what if something bad happens??  What if I was to be challenged by poor health or unexpected loss?  hmmm…I wonder how I would react to these possibilities in the ‘soup’ of the moment?

Back to the subject of this entry,  I think that anything profound and really worthwhile in life requires that it be meaningful.  A relationship is deep and abiding to the degree that you personally invest and make it meaningful.  Your own music, art…your writing is profound because you have decided to make it meaningful.  You ‘show up’ to it.  You commit to it and create it from your deepest joy, sorrow or indifference.  But, you ‘show up’!  Your children grow as you respond to them, connect with them and give, not in superficial ways, but in ’meaningful’ ways.
A painting speaks to me when I make my own meaning with it.  It doesn’t necessarily matter that I engage the artist’s intended meaning; but it DOES matter that I, the viewer, bring my energy to it…and manifest something.  Otherwise, I think that art becomes wall decoration.  Perhaps Clive Bell and others would say “Heh, that’s ok…art for art’s sake…a wall decoration is alright.  We can’t all be connoisseurs. Is that how I spell that?  Who cares.”
I think that a big reason why my english language arts students have troubles with literature or reading in general, is because they have difficulty taking text and ‘making meaning’ with it.  I think that my goal is to show them the ways/strategies that I have made meaning with literature.  It seems that I love books beyond words!  smiling here…  Rarely do I say, “Don’t read this one.  It’s a book that you could never get into!”  Instead, there is always some MEANING that I have created for myself in the book.  Whether non-fiction, biography, historical fiction…it matters not!  I become that publication’s biggest fan!  Wow!!  Imagine if I can show my students how to do that!
Right now I am making meaning in the studio.  I have freed myself over time of all encumbrances around the act of painting.  I am creating works right now that speak to me and speak powerfully.  Now…in a week or so when I deliver them to my galleries (and I can’t believe they’ve shown such patience with me) I will have to be prepared to remain separate….to trust in just how important the art is to me…and how it is ok to protect its ‘meaning’.
I think that when we ‘make meaning’ in relationships…in the world of business…in our art….we become responsible to all of that.  There is an investment made.  These become ‘of the heart’.
(I remember as I type the word RESPONSIBLE….the context from Le Petit Prince par St. Exupery…such a beautiful way of describing what I’ve been writing about here…”You become responsible for your rose…”)
It is my hope that I will be able to create a meaningful school year…that I will be able to continue building upon meaningful relationships and that I can make meaning in my art.  I hope the same for each of you.
Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe. Truman Capote

1 thought on “Welcome to a New School Year!

  1. This is also my second year of retirement from teaching (or is it my third – time begins to play tricks). Your post touches close to home – I think September will always bring butterflies to my stomach after so many years of college, university and teaching high school art. I love my new life of freedom from that fall return but must say that I still miss my students, my colleagues and the challenges that begin again with the turning of the trees. I’ve alleviated those feelings somewhat by becoming a student again – taking classes at the local art school each term, meeting new like-minded people and taking on new challenges. September is my new year. Enjoyed sharing this post and your own September thoughts and feelings…

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