Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Running Wheel

There you are, the gerbil of accomplishment
running on your wheel
inside my chest. Round and round
the wheel goes, no end to it.
The gerbil stays in place, panting,
faster, faster. There are gaps
in the wheel, the gerbil could leap off
but it does not.
I put my finger on the wheel.
I reach in and take you in my hand.
Golden one, curl up here.
Then we’ll go out to the garden.
Do you like to eat dahlias?
Carrots, parsley, basil?
Little one, the world is larger
than you know.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Walking Out

Walking Out

From bolted wooden desks
to electron-etched screens,
fifty-five years in school.
Early lessons well-learned—
Color between the lines.
Dead white men are
the poets. You’ll be good
at science, it doesn’t need
much imagination.
In my turn to teach, I schemed
to bring students power and joy,
danced molecules, embraced laughter.
Loving my work, I drop it now
on the floor like a still-warm
shirt, walk out the kitchen door
into the goldenrod meadow
already humming with bees.
The doe was here last night—
see the hollow where she slept.

This poem was published in On Retirement--75 Poems, edited by Robin Chapman & Judith Strasser (2007, University of Iowa Press)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Serving their dreams

A couple of weeks ago I turned in my keys: office, copy room, lab, and outside door. No more Xeroxing at night or on weekends. No mailbox—I’ll have to call and see what they are doing with my first class mail. No office where I wait for students. No more lists of things to do for them. For thirty-three years I’ve been serving other people’s dreams. A fine thing to do, to find out what these young people aspire to, to coach and coax and kick and cajole, then watch them walk across the stage to cheers and whistles, vanish into the world. One after another, hundreds of them, for more than a generation. They are aging now, the first of them graying too. They have realized the dreams, and the limitations.

Somewhere along the line, my dreams got reduced to theirs, or expanded; my dream simply became serving theirs. I grew expert at seeing beneath the surface—to see the goldfish lurking in the ponds of the quietest minds, to see the patterns connecting the wildest sets of fantasies. But the idea of having my own whirling exploding expanding firework of a dream—where did that go, if I ever had it? Perhaps I always was too modest and realistic, even from age twenty. Get married. Go on to grad school, get the degree, practice a profession, raise a child—none of these smacks of fireworks. None of these whirls and spits sparks.

It must be time to regress and let the wild curls of fantasy expand. It’s time to roll downhill faster and faster. It’s time to look into the pond of my own soul and feed the goldfish regularly. Time to hop out of the pond onto dry land and flop around, or jump into it and flail in the shallows, time to try the ungainly, unlikely combinations. Time to be ungainly and unlikely. I don’t have to be a professor, I don’t have to be a professional. I get to play again.

Slaty skimmer at Quabbin

One of my new passions is dragonflies. I took a short field course on them, and now I see them everywhere.

What is retirement about?

I just retired from 33 years of teaching biology at Hampshire College. I loved teaching—the classroom, the advising, the students—but something in me wanted more. So I retired to do creative writing and to cultivate spirit, whatever that may mean.

I suspect that people in retirement need to do the things that will fill in the parts of their lives that may have been neglected before. Some people need to travel and have adventures of that sort, others need to relax and live day to day. When I was growing up, I learned that only certain chosen “talented” people could do creative things like writing poetry and making art. There also wasn’t much space for the spiritual in most of my life and work. Now I have the incredible luxury of time without work so I can explore both the creative and spiritual worlds and how they connect.

This blog is just a way to share my thoughts with friends and others who may be on similar journeys. Welcome to my blog and please share your responses, if you like.