30 Years Together, Part Two: NYC and Points North

Today we hit the road to celebrate “30 Years Together – Part Two.”

Part One was the body-punishing first attempt at cross-country skiing back in February – a satisfying trip in terms of character and accomplishment. Pain is good, we assured each other. And the woodland trails were lovely.
30 Years – Part Two will be different in that our destination is not the working man’s Midwest, but the working man’s East – NYC and Queens! And while we will hike our feet to nubs and our joints to arthroscopic anguish on the concrete trails, it still won’t hurt like falling on cross-country skis. I know this.
So here’s the plan:
We will leave Dixieland on Sunday, September 30, after church. Andrew will preach and I’ll teach and then we’ll load the CRV with probably the most wrong-headed clothing for October in the the upper East, and we’ll drive as far as we can along the spine of Virginia. Our camp stove will supply the coffee that beggars all others including that Seattle liquid. Behind a Circle K or at a rest stop picnic table, a cup of our coffee is like a drill instructor setting the cadence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b65RQtL4H3Q
And then, Monday, October 1, my happy birthday, we’ll make that giddy trip over the Hudson River into Manhattan right at Midtown and over the East River to Queens and check in to our Airbnb in Long Island City that has parking included!! Perks, and whatnot.
We look forward to Asian, Italian, Jewish, and Middle Eastern food in Queens.
A visit to our son-in-law’s high school, St. Francis Xavier, near Union Square.
Time with Ben and Kim Kaufmann, kin and friends.
A visit to the Cloisters up Riverside.
Another walk along the High Line because it’s really awesome.
And then!
We’ll leave the teeming city and visit the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, for Andrew. Once we get there, I’ll buy the T-shirt and really be enthusiastic about it, because I’ve always wanted to be a hero on the battlefield, ‘stomach of a lion’ and all that. But my heart will be feeling the call of the next stop which is for me.
Stillmeadow in Southbury, Connecticut. Home of Gladys Taber, a soulmate author and homemaker who lived, wrote, and homesteaded in the early years of the 1900s. Her books are little oases of pleasure in undistracted things.
And then!
We will continue north to Pine Plains, NY, and Fat Apple Farm. A Farm to Table Dinner in October replete with butchered meat demonstrations and yoga classes and art opportunities. Since I read Washington Irving”s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in American Literature I’ve dreamed of visiting the Hudson River Valley in October. Irving’s lush descriptions draw me: apple-mouthed swine on platters surrounded by every root vegetable known to New World pioneers, pies, gravies, and all the denizens of the barnyard converted to plump Sunday dinner. Add Sunday morning worship in Kingston, NY, at a reformed church plant, and what more could you ask from a 30 year anniversary trip??
We will keep you posted of highlights along the road. And we declare ourselves to be unworthy of all the blessings which our Lord showers on our heads.

~30 Years In: A Tableau~
I’ve been sewing in the dark for the last few days because the switch for the lights over the big table shorted out and died its death. We’ve discussed it a few times and so today I casually said, “I put in a call to So and So Electrical to get on their schedule.”
Understand, I had no manipulative motives here.
Him: “Oh, no. I can do this.”
Me: “Ok, but I thought when you went up into the attic you discovered that the wire has no play on it and without electrician’s tools (whatever those are) you can’t replace the fixture.”
Him: “Well, I’ve thought about it and I think I can do it.”
Me: “How?”
Him: “I don’t know yet, but I know I can.”
Me: “Okaaaay.”
Him after work last night and three trips to Marvin’s: “Ok, come stand over here one more time and holler when this wire wiggles.”
And wouldn’t you know, he did it.

Back Porch Devotions in September

Wing-whir and squeak
Of the resident hummingbird.
Mr. with a band of white at neck and tail –
A collar and tennies. His four-spouted feeder,
He says,
Is three spouts too many.
Scritter and crunch of two squirrels.
Brothers. Frenemies.
Chasing each other for
Possession of one pecan among ten
Thousand, in figure eights around trunk
And limb-split. Siblings obviously.
Dove whoo. Shell pieces dead-fall
Onto the tin porch roof
As the siblings truce to tap open and eat
Pecan meat.
Silent things add their inhalations and
Exhalations to the glory chorus;
Butterflies catch the early sun-slant on orange
Wing and light on a taller zinnia.
Chipmunks hug the ground, never looking up,
Intent on the earth.
Silent, too, are birds in flight, a feather ruffle on landing.
But from their tree-y houses, though lip-less,
They opine with
Consonants and vowels:
Answering one another
Impatiently, mothers with a work day ahead.
Cicadas trill on a sleepier key than they will
This evening. It’s early yet.

Teacher, What Would You Rather Be?

What metaphors do you think of to illustrate a teacher’s job? I recently came to see my teacher-self as a doorkeeper.

A doorkeeper gives entrance, opens doors, to what lies inside. What lies inside is desirable, even splendid, enough that there is a door in front of it. All splendid objects lie behind doors. One does not wander in and handle a relic like produce at an open market. There’s a door. And there’s a keeper.

Students then are knockers. As such they must themselves knock and walk through the door. Whether they know to value what’s inside or not, they have to summon the courage to knock and the resolve to walk in and take up the values of those already inside. The keeper does not do any of this for them. Perhaps the keeper models by her very presence at the door the abiding preciousness of what is inside. But the keeper only opens. And then perhaps takes the knocker’s hand and says, “Look!” 

Maybe a doorkeeper does a little more than this. There is the word ‘overqualified,’ and perhaps an experienced teacher might be called overqualified to be a mere doorkeeper. But who better than a master of the treasures inside could so deftly make a door attractive? Who better than a friend of the owner could convince busy people, young or old, to pause and consider that what’s inside is worth their time? 

Have you ever made a list of desirable attributes in a doorkeeper? I haven’t. If I were hiring a doorkeeper, what adjectives would I look for? Alert. Eager. Sensitive. Unprejudiced. Listening. Glad. Strong. Passionate. Prompt. Expert. Active.  And attributes I would avoid in a doorkeeper? Pushy. Selective. Wheedling. Bribable. Arrogant. Lazy. Nonchalant. Unaware that though he is a keeper of this particular door, he is a knocker himself at many others. If I am applying to be a doorkeeper, this list is an interesting self-analysis. And if I want to be a teacher, a good teacher, then this list is a thought-provoking twist on the usual items on a resumé. *As an English teacher, I cannot help picturing, and laughing at, the bawdy, hungover doorkeeper in Macbeth 🙂 

This morning, I ran across this verse, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84: 10.

 I would rather be a doorkeeper. 

Discussion Questions: (I would love to hear your thoughts!)

How, or would, you tweak this metaphor for elementary, middle, high school, college, or adult students? Special needs students?

As phrased above, the doorkeeper gives entrance, that is, the doorkeeper does not block entrance or select who enters. The job is opening, not guarding. Do you agree? Disagree?

Ponder the phrase from above: ‘ . . .and take up the values of those already inside.’ What are some of those universal values? Specific values? Unifying values?

What attributes would you add to the lists of desirable and undesirable doorkeeper qualities?

Explore the idea that every doorkeeper is also a knocker.

How broadly can this metaphor be stretched? Could it apply to anything from children’s Sunday school to workplace meetings to lectures and even to instructional writing?

Is a doorkeeper still necessary in this day of ‘everything at our fingertips’ internet access? If so, what exactly does a doorkeeper do that the knocker can’t do on his or her own?

Is there really a door? If so, what constitutes the door? How does this idea of a door resonate in our current era?