On a walk to the playground with my children today, I remembered a spring day 25 years ago when I took freedom a step too far and rode my bike further than I was allowed to go. Venturing to a nearby park with two friends, we rode our bikes up and down the hills, exhilarated. Until my final ride down the hill when I lost control of my bike and crashed, in the days before anyone wore helmets, laying flat on the ground, stunned. People nearby saw me laying there, un-moving, and called 911. Several fire trucks and ambulances descended on the park for...me. And I was really fine, just completely embarrassed. My mother just so happened to be walking in the park, not realizing I was there. She saw all the commotion and then saw my friend Amy, waving to her, saying, "Don't worry, Mrs. Neagle, she's fine!" I can only imagine my mother's panic now that I am a mother myself.
I thought about this story at the playground today, with my children, as my son took daring leaps off the slide. I considered writing a poem about my bike riding misadventure but poetry doesn't come as easily. As we walked home, I thought about another story I could write. At my mom's house today, I noticed she had put out an Easter decoration I made when I was a "Squirette." The Squirettes were kind of like a youth group for girls but it was an interesting group and definitely slice-worthy down the line.
The stories and memories and connections keep coming. Writing every day for almost 30 days now is something I've never done but has changed me for the better. I think it is something worth sharing with students, the idea that the more you write, the more you want to write, and the more the writing helps you make sense of yourself. Another gift. New insight into who I am, who I was and who I still hope to be.
This notion of ideas being everywhere calls to mind one of my favorite poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, "Valentine for Ernest Mann":
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.
Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.
Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.
Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the off sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.