Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I've been working pretty hard, getting ready for school, making steady progress on Blackboard conversion (from one software platform to another, rather like working out of one 20-room mansion for a long time and then suddenly moving all the furniture to a different 20-room mansion -- and one with a different floor plan). But most of this week has been uphill, very slow progress. Until today. I was leaving school in the late afternoon and ran into a student from last year. She had been checking the blog and looking at pictures. Her enthusiasm was contagious, especially since I've been so busy with school that I haven't had a chance to work with pictures or ideas or much of anything other than school. So, Savonarola awaits!

And it's one of those balmy Fall afternoons, temperature about 74 degrees, sunny and deep blue sky, with the leaves turning to that sharp yellow color that almost hurts your eyes to look at. The flowers everywhere are pushing out that last bit of color, as if there were no more chances to blossom in the winter that comes.

So I want to post the poem I wrote in Egypt, and even though I didn't write too many poems, a lot of other work went on. And I'm thinking today that much is possible. Maybe I'm thinking that because I haven't read the daily news yet.

On Visiting Giza

I have stood on the banks of the Nile seeking wisdom,
stared into the eyes of the Sphinx,
wandered between the tumbled small pyramids
of the three queens, and watched the clouds
change the colors of the pyramids of Cheops,
Khafre, and Menkaure.

All they hoped for was the divine sleep
that closed their eyes and kept their souls alive,
each gold-framed jewel, each sarcophogus,
each mural painting, each ritual prayer,
a great preparation.
The ka-soul now wanders lost
without its body, those mummified remains
carted off to any western musuem,
a wordless song of pain.

All tried to buy insurance -- Cheops
with at least four solar boats to ferry
his ka-soul to the next life; Tut with three sarcophogi
to protect his mummified remains,
the innermost one of solid gold.
Oh, how the pyramids at Giza cry out
for respect, the most solemn prayers
warning intruders away,
their size a competition, each pyramid
larger than the last,
their size saying, pick me, pick me.
The grave robbers came almost before the painted seals were dry,
almost before the closing funeral prayers were complete,
and before the queen's tears were dry.

Tourists wander this large complex,
ready with cameras for the Sphinx,
tempted by postcards, table-sized pyramids,
plastic busts of Neferteri or Alexander the Great.
They stand in line to ride the Bedouin camels,
gaily decorated with green, red, and yellow
yarn-twisted tapestries.
More tourist buses pull up with a flurry of dust,
all dwarfed by what we have come to see
-- the pyramids.

I sit on a giant block from Khafre's temple,
the causeway still flat, reaches down to the Sphinx.
The clouds change overhead.
Even my tears dry in the wind.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

We're just two weeks away from the start of a new school year. The last weeks have beeen spent settling back into life in our very green small town, tree-lined streets, lots of bicyclers, trips to the library, and just a little gardening, mixed in with lots of reading of magazines piled up from 8 months away.

I've been going back and forth about continuing the blog. What possible interest could there be in writing about my very average life -- the perspective of a small-town, middle-America, quiet, probably not mainstream, older-than-average female? Part of the answer lies in what's ahead. Writing is a way of thinking on paper about the future and about what's happening now. Some people journal. Maybe some people just blogg and don't worry about it.

This week has been a little hard. Returning home to family and friends never comes without a difference. Some people have died, and I'm remembering them as a presence. Others are facing serious illnesses, recovering from operations, new babies have been born, children are leaving home, times of joy and times of sadness. At work, balanced with the joy of seeing close colleagues is the reality of long meetings where talk seems more important than action. What don't we have time for? My heart wants affirmations of what we can do. Consensus takes a very long time.

The politics of the American election are singularly depressing, each ad nastier than the next on both sides. Although the news this week has focused on Ivan, strategies and spins from both sides attempt to reach the undecided, with most people increasingly entrenched in their own positions, polarized by the real differences between the two candidates, relying on a combination of hope and fear and finally perhaps anger. Cheney, the hatchet man, said that if Kerry is elected, we can expect more terrorism. Later in the week, he corrected this, saying he meant whoever is elected to the White House, we can anticipate more terror. Click!

Yesterday at work, we had a practice drill to prepare for terrorism. This is Albany, Oregon, a small rural town! The loudspeaker, humming white noise, repeatedly interrupted our meeting with, "This is a lockdown. Stay in the building. Lock all doors. Do not enter the halls or courtyard." None of us have keys to any of the classrooms. After the drill was over, several people said once they heard the announcement, all they wanted to do was to run away. If someone with a submachine gun is methodically working through a building, locked doors or not, why wait? And with students? The most memorable film of Columbine High School was the footage showing students climbing out of second-story windows to escape the two young men with guns. That urge to flight saved their lives. Yet the teacher is supposed to guide, direct, protect -- be role models for appropriate action in such a situation. I guess I'm not trained yet.

Writing this today helped me see what I can do -- memos to colleagues that need writing, and a sense of connectedness. Make it a good day!