After nearly a year and a half, we did it! School is back in session.
Gateway has been my home and my family for more than twenty years. And yet, during the eighteen months of distance learning, I rarely even set foot in our buildings, let alone felt the power and purpose of our schools. On the first day of classes last week, I walked down the hallway of Gateway High School with tears in my eyes. Each classroom was alive with energy and excitement. I am thankful for the everyday sounds of learning and laughter. I am thankful for the Herculean efforts of teachers and school leaders to reimagine and rebound. I am thankful for the resilience of young people. I am thankful, once again, to be in the midst of the Gateway community, so vibrant and wonderfully diverse, powered by hope for a more equitable and just future.
Reopening our schools has been incredible. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit its toll. After months of preparing and the joy of the first few days, reality has set in. We are all tired – teachers and students. The hustle and bustle of a full day. Stress about potential exposures and safety protocols. The proximity of so many people all the time. Honestly, just getting dressed top to bottom each morning and rushing out of the house is not easy. Each school day feels like running a marathon, and this year we are all out of shape.
So how do we get back in shape? Here’s my hunch – in order to thrive as we jump into this new/old world, we must focus on the little things. With each chance encounter with a stranger, with each face-to-face casual conversation with a friend or colleague, with each shop or restaurant we enter for the first time in more than a year, we grow stronger and fitter. We build up our stamina by noticing and loving these little, previously ignored little moments.
I’ve been focusing on appreciating my commute – the two miles between my house and school. Before shelter in place, I took those fifteen minutes in my car for granted. Mostly I just rushed through them, already mentally engaged in my to-do list or whatever came next in my day. During shelter in place, I grew accustomed to simply getting out of bed and crossing the hall to begin work. But it turns out, I really missed my commute. On my way to school, I pass three elementary schools. I witness sweet morning drop offs and colorful little backpacks heading into class. I drive through The Castro with its rainbows-striped crosswalks and storied Twin Peaks bar. Sometimes I spot a group of students or a colleague waiting for the bus and not yet donning their school personas. I missed these moments of transition between home and work. Time to mentally prepare for the day ahead or to unwind before being home. Time to reflect and breathe and pause.
Now that I am commuting again, I have resumed one of my favorite little things – listening to a short poem on my way to school. Each morning, I play an episode of The Slowdown podcast on which former Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith reads a daily poem and shares her reflections and connections to it. As I listen, I am fully present, engrossed by the power of words and connection with the poet. Tracy K Smith shares poems of protest, poems that elevate everyday experience and that celebrate the beauty all around us. As a student, poetry didn’t really speak to me and I struggled to understand it. And yet, these little moments with Tracy K Smith move me and center me in a way I deeply appreciate. They are helping me find my footing as I emerge from shelter-in-pace and rebuild my stamina.
This morning’s episode of The Slowdown was What It’s Like to Fall In Love by Heidi Seaborn. Coincidentally, it spoke to this very idea of loving and appreciating the little things.
What It’s Like To Fall In Love by Heidi Seaborn
I fall in love today
with the man fixing my water faucets,
how he crouches in his boots, feels
his way deftly to salve the leak.
I’m in love with dandelions & ugly bobs
& even morning glory as I yank
their roots free from this dark & luscious soil.
O I love, love the rhododendron
blushing newborn pink, love
the neighbor’s rosy plum vine maple
& love the neighbor too,
how she’s a dead ringer for Bette Midler
& who doesn’t love Bette!
I even love her little dogs—yip & yap.
O today I fall more deeply in love
with my sweet dog, how he rouses
finch & robin from the hydrangea,
barks a greeting at passersby
& they bark back, their people
slowing to lean over our picket fence.
I am in love with strangers today.
Sun brushes foreheads & cheeks.
Shirts & baseball caps rainbow the sidewalk
& smiles curve like tulip petals splayed open.
When bicyclists ribbon yellow, fuchsia, lime
as they flash by, I call out I love you!
O I even love the houseflies flicking
the kitchen window, wanting nothing
more than to escape.
You can visit Heidi Seaborn’s website here: www.heidiseabornpoet.com