Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

When we picture ruins, the Roman Colosseum or Parthenon in Greece are likely the first things that come to mind - old buildings that are far away, with a rich history that people all over the world know and recognize.  We find these places fascinating, and many spend large amounts of money traveling there and crawling about among the crumbling stones, or buying large coffee table books with their photos and stories.  It seems fascinating, too, that these ruins are just a crumbled stone's throw away from populous neighborhoods and cities - that people live and work and socialize so close to something so historic. 

I read a quote recently that said something along the lines of, "Like the Romans, we are living among our own ruins." Ruins aren't only in Greece or Rome - ruins are popping up all around us as new buildings are built and old ones are abandoned - as the economy struggles and cities and towns and people just don't know what to do with buildings they can no longer use.  They're not necessarily centuries old, but they become old faster than buildings that are cared for.  It's sort of the past and the present coming together - it's "Wibbly wobbly timey wimey," to quote Doctor Who.

I found this to be true yesterday when I visited my old elementary school.  It isn't crumbling down, and has only been out of use for about 4 years, but I was surprised when walking through its rooms to see the empty, sad state of the building.  I was there to pick up some tables I had won in a liquidation auction of the detritus left behind when the building was closed, and took some time to look around and take some photos. 

Emptied-out classroom
Stage in the Cafetorium looking neglected 
Empty shelves and closets
Here is this school, so close to home, with so many memories, that is now empty and forlorn.  It hasn't had power for a while, so the halls and rooms were dark and freezing cold.  It felt like the building had died, and here we were, like the Thénardiers, going through its pockets and snatching whatever jewels we could find.

The good thing for me, at least, is that I knew this building in its prime.  I have wonderful, warm memories that helped me to block out the cold and sad feelings that seeped into me at first.  As I stood in the front hallway, waiting to pay for my tables, I recalled the "Lunch with the Principal" tradition that our amazing, kind principal, Mr. Vandercook started.  We got a special invitation once a year (it was fancy!) and got to eat with him in his office - he was so kind and it was so much fun!  The school also had a competition each year called "T3O Day" - a day we we had to "Totally Turn Off Television."  If enough kids did it, Mr. Vandercook would do crazy things like push an orange with his nose across the cafeteria, or dress as an old lady and sit in a rocking chair on the roof and throw candy to us.  I wish there were more principals like him.

I also remembered that right about where I was standing in the hallway, a kid dropped his lunch tray and chocolate milk spread and mingled with his leftover food.  Moments later our art teacher, Mrs. Walker, came by and said, "Oh look!!  Art!"  That opened up my mind to art in ways I had never imagined - that statement affected me in more ways than she could have hoped. 

Each place held memories for me that I tried to recall as I went through them to chase away the dark and cold.  (Instagramming the photos later helped make them look warmer than they were originally!)  Memories like glorious hours spent in the library discovering favorite authors like Lynn Reid Banks, Roald Dahl, and Edward Eager (to override images of chairs piled up or globes abandoned).

Wonderful, fun memories of lunchtime in the Cafetorium, or the spring Carnival, or the awesome, huge climbing structure once attached to the wall (before they built the new gym at the back of the school), plus the fifth grade talent show performances and school plays.

My amazing fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Fett, who was so kind and taught me so much about being a good teacher, and who took some of us to Dairy Queen the last day of school because we stayed after to help her clean up her classroom.

And then there were parts of the school I'd never seen (like the staff lounge) or hadn't spent much time in (like the newer sections of the school built at the end of my time there), but which held other peoples' memories.

This child-sized wheel chair was just so dusty and creepy and Changeling*-like that
I expected it to start chasing after me...

The hope (for me as well as the school district) is that the school will be bought and put to good use - that its halls and rooms will once again be filled with warmth and that new memories will be made there.  In the mean time, I (and many others) continue to be fascinated with how we just walk away from places that once were so well-used and -loved.  If you want to see more examples, check out my Pinterest board with the same name as this post (link).  I may begin posting more about some of them here on my blog from time to time.

*I mean the George C. Scott movie "The Changeling," from 1980 - a favorite scary movie of mine!

2/12/14 Update:  Sadly the school will not be reopened.  The district has decided that the most economical thing to do is to have the building demolished and to sell the property for residential development.  So sad, but it will be good for the area and for the school district.  All good things...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lyrical Thursdays: The Raven

Happy Halloween!!!!!

In honor of this spoooooky holiday, I thought I would share a spoooooky poem!  When I was in middle school I went through a phase where I decided to memorize the poem, and got most of it down before moving on with my life and promptly forgetting it.  Whoops.  I still remember the first stanza or two!  

This Halloween I decided to honor that adolescent memorization by carving the poet into a pumpkin (the poem is way too long...):

Without further ado, here is Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, first published in 1845, memorized by a nerdy tween in ~1993:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lyrical Thursdays: Opportunity

Today's poem is one that I was given by a friend when I was a missionary in Thailand about 11 years ago.  I keep it in my beat-up (well-loved!) copy of the Book of Mormon, in the middle of some of the war chapters in Alma (where two ancient groups battled on the American continents).  It reminds me that attitude and outlook can really affect the way we perceive a situation.


Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:--
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields.  A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven* hung along the battle's edge, 
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel--
That blue blade that the king's son bears, -- but this
Blunt thing--!" he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

If you know me well, you know that I have a deep love for (and mild obsession with) the Harry Potter series.  I recently found J.K. Rowling's companion site to the books, Pottermore, which has a lot of bonus information including extended backgrounds on many characters.  One of those characters is Sir Cadogan, the slightly zany knight in a painting at Hogwarts who helps Harry, Ron, and Hermione find their divination classroom in book three (and pops up again later in the story).

Sir Cadogan and his fat pony

Part of Sir Cadogan's history (copyright J.K. Rowling on made me think of the above poem and the message it's telling us:

"Sir Cadogen's most famous encounter was with the Wyvern of Wye, a dragonish creature that was terrorizing the West Country.  At their first encounter, the beast ate Sir Cadogan's handsome steed, bit his wand in half and melted his sword and visor.  Unable to see through the steam rising from his melting helmet, Sir Cadogan barely escaped with his life.  However, rather than running away, he staggered into a nearby meadow, grabbed a small, fat pony grazing there, leapt upon it and galloped back towards the wyvern with  nothing but his broken wand in his hand, prepared to meet a valiant death.  The creature lowered its fearsome head to swallow Sir Cadogan and the pony whole, but the splintered and misfiring wand pierced its tongue, igniting the gassy fumes rising from its stomach and causing the wyvern to explode.

"Elderly witches and wizards still use the saying, 'I'll take Cadogan's pony' to mean, 'I'll salvage the best I can from a tricky situation'."

That last line there says it all.  Sometimes in life we are stuck in a tricky situation, whether of our own making or someone else's, and need to do the best that we can in it without running away.  Or we may think that what we have isn't good enough to win the battles we are waging.  But with the right attitude and outlook, we can "take Cadogan's pony," or grab up that broken sword, and prepare for whatever may come (and maybe give those around us a leg up in the process).  We may not all be Gryffindors**, but we can all find bravery within us to face our battles and, against all odds, win.

*craven |ˈkrāvən| - adjective
contemptibly lacking in courage; cowardly
**Yes, yes, I know.  Nerd alert.  ;)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Leave of Absence

I think it's traditional to let people know before taking a leave of absence, but as an untraditional person, I chose to let you all know after.  I'm just trying to keep things interesting.

The funny thing is, I accidentally spelled "absence" "absense" just now, and while the latter spelling is incorrect, it reflects much of my summer - absent of sense.  It was nuts! I thought I'd do a visual summary of my summer here and give you the highlights:

At the beginning of June, before the school year even ended, I took off to Grand Rapids for a summer job of sorts.  (When I was there in grad school at Kendall College of Art and Design, I'd been the grad assistant in their Continuing Studies program and did a lot of curriculum development.  The grad assistant who came after me didn't have a background in Art Education like I did, so the the CS director asked if I'd come back this summer to work as their Program Assistant and pick up where I left off.)

I worked here (the "Old Federal Building") all summer
This was my office space where I did curriculum
development for the program.
The Old Federal Building is historic and has
lots of cool architectural and historic features.
This room was once Gerald Ford's
Congressional office!  Groovy.
Grand Rapids skyline
 I had already committed to teaching a camp and other classes at home, so I had to travel back and forth to Grand Rapids a lot.  Thank heavens for audio books.  This is from one of my trips to GR:
I taught the same camp twice this summer  - Young Architects.  It's my favorite kids camp!  During the course of the week, I teach the kids (8-12 years old) the basics of architecture, and they design a number of different buildings, ultimately building a maquette (small model) of one of their designs.  I LOVED designing houses and rooms when I was a kid - I have clear memories of doing this in elementary school art - so you can see why this is a fun camp for me to teach!
This star student designed a house for Tony Stark (Iron Man) and it was AWESOME:
His house design
The maquette - each floor was built separately
and can be lifted off so you can see inside!
Note the bottom of the pop bottle covering
the balcony off the third floor.
The first time I taught the camp this summer (at home) it was awesome.  The second camp (in GR) was chaos.  Too many kids, too much noise, too much crazy.  I did, however, design and build a house for myself, which was fun:

Between camps and working in Grand Rapids, I did the Celtic Festival - my sixth year!  (I am chair of the Wee Folks Island - kids' activities.)  You'd think by now I'd have it down with no hiccups, but it changes from year to year, and this year was a nutty one.  But I still love it!!  I was also interviewed for an article in the paper, where my last name was spelled two different ways, neither of them correct. 
My domain - Wee Folks Island
Princess Merida came to the island this year!  This is her
with my sweet nieces and nephew.
Whenever I could, I rode my bike this summer.  I was sadly not very consistent, which I will feel on the 30-mile ride I'm doing in Detroit this Saturday (the Tour de Troit)...  But I love being on my bike and love Detroit, so hopefully it will be ok.  I'll just ache a lot on Sunday.
One of my favorite trails
I got caught in a rainstorm on my bike one day...
I also did a painting demo one Saturday while home at the Summerfest downtown: 

 Thankfully the craziness of driving back and forth across Michigan and doing so many things was peppered with great moments like these:

Saw my bestie Megan perform with her quartet in Saugatuck
The Tesla Quartet
My little sis and kids 
Historic Baseball at Greenfield Village
And with delicious food like this:
Chocolate covered bacon - I made it for an Independence
Day pig roast
Candied bacon chocolate chip cookies - also
made for the pig roast
A delicious meal from my favorite Grand Rapids restaurant...
The Electric Cheetah
 And with time spent in my favorite place in the world, Ludington, Michigan:

Ludington State Park Beach house 
Hamlin Lake sunsets from our cabin porch
River floating with the fam
My awesome parents at the Ludington lighthouse
With my nephew (his dad, my bro, was only up briefly this
year, so I don't have a good pic of him to go here, but I
had fun with him, too!)  :D
My sis and our nephews and niece
I had to scoop our ice cream at the bait & ice cream shop...
more on that story another time!
Thankfully the good memories are pushing out the more stressful ones, and fall was very welcome this year. Sadly there was no summer romance (don't we all wish for that, even a little?), but there's always winter's cold to inspire cuddling...!!

Stay tuned for the return of Lyrical Thursdays and much more...