A-Plus (Hold the A)

Four and a half days into Lent, and it already feels like it's been two weeks.  Not the food thing; I have plenty of ideas and am actually worried I won't have time to try them all before the fast ends.  It's the routine that feels settled.  I think it helps that it's been raining a lot; yesterday it was so delightfully gloomy and drizzly that I put off getting out of bed until the last possible moment, and then ten minutes beyond that.  It just feels natural, when it's wet and gray outside, to eat simply and less, and concentrate on reading and sewing and praying. Especially praying: the prayers from Great Compline follow me throughout the day, and long sections of the Psalter comfort me at night.  I am surrounded, wrapped in the language of the Saints.

So I haven't written here. I've been thinking, from general to specific, about my purpose on Earth; my vocations as wife, teacher and musician; and my humble spot here on the Internet.  What am I doing?  What would I like to be doing?

When I think about blogs I admire, it's not the ones that are laugh-out-loud funny, although I do enjoy those occasionally; it's blogs like Tartine Gourmande and Pleasant View Schoolhouse.  I don't have a lot in common with a French food stylist or a Southern mom of five, but their posts just exude beauty, calm, life and especially gratitude -- a sense of contentedness with place and time, whether it's on a blissful tropical vacation or in a child's sickroom.

I know I can't imitate what these bloggers (and many more like them, I'm sure) have done, but I can try to add more of it to the world we all share.  So, for Lent, I am giving up griping, even humorous and good-natured griping, in this space.  Grammatical errors, bureaucratic squabbles and harried helicopter parents are off-limits; instead, I'm going to try to show you why it is that when I can sit still long enough to think about it, I know that I lead a life that is more blessed than I could possibly have imagined.

For instance, a few days ago, I was reminded of a wonderful technique for encouraging students to respond to literature.  Instead of saying, "Which parts did you like / dislike / not understand?" simply have students highlight those parts.  Then read the piece out loud, instructing them to join you for whatever words or phrases they have selected.  The effect is very powerful, since they begin to see that many of their favorite parts are shared by their classmates; they worry less about "getting it" and start to enjoy the words themselves.

So, when we read "How it Feels to be Colored Me," an essay by the author whose seminal work will be the focus of the next few weeks, it gave me chills to hear so many young voices read with me:
I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.

No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost.

Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him. He has only heard what I felt. He is far away and I see him but dimly across the ocean and the continent that have fallen between us.

I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.

"What do you think that means?" I asked afterwards.  Lots of shrugs.  "I just liked it."  A confident lady with a pretty necklace: the image hooked them, and we could puzzle about semantics later.

For this, I will gladly endure comma splices.  But I won't mention them again.  Not until Pascha, at least.