clearing out

Clearing Out and Making Space For Creativity

I spent the summer clearing out.

Clearing In Springtime

It started in May, actually, when my classroom began to feel like the walls were closing in. I needed space. Every day after school I would open something, fill the recycle bin, scrutinize and smile and either toss or find a new home.

 

clearing
What a mess…

I turned my classroom inside out before leaving in June; when I came back in early July after the carpets had been scrubbed clean and all 900 square feet felt fresh and everything was stacked neatly on top of my tables. So of course, I flipped it all around.

The back went to the front, the sides swapped spaces. Bean bags and folding chairs stacked in the center of the room on tables as I worked on creating more structure. I worked from the outside in, rearranging bookshelves and my teacher desk. I nestled new/old coffee tables in nooks with books and stools, and created AVID corners and reading spaces.

clearing
Starting to take shape…

Old paper ripped from the walls, became new blank bulletin board spaces. Wonder walls and student shout out spots smiled in anticipation of what would come in August… and I worked nearly all summer clearing out my classroom space until I could close the door and know that when school began August 27, I would be ready.

Ha.

Clearing At Home

At home, it wasn’t much different. The day after school let out in June, literally and figuratively, I opened drawers I hadn’t looked into for years. I pulled out all the linens and papers and blankets and stuff….and then I gently lifted them, breathed in the scent of memories and either gently folded and returned them to a place of honor, or let them go.

I knew what was propelling me, that life was tipping out of balance and only by clearing, by bringing awareness to the places in my life that I habitate and nest deeply, would I embrace all the change.

Before the end of July, I cleared out nearly every room in my house.  It was messy, and yes, a bit incomplete. There were tears of joy and overwhelming washes of memories that brought me down. I couldn’t go one room at a time; rather, I seemed to spiral from here to there depending on how the spirit moved me. It didn’t make much sense, but inevitably after I completed one part, an ease came over me. A sense of completion, of control, of calm.

Vaclav Havel said, I am not sure one is capable of reflecting absurdity without having a strong sense of meaning. Absurdity makes sense only against a meaningful background. It is the deeper meaning that is shedding light on the absurdity. There must be a vanish point, a metaphysical horizon if you will where absurdity and meaning merge.” Shedding layers of ‘stuff’ allowed me to shine a light on what means the most – it allowed the ‘absurdity and meaning’ of 22 years of parenting to merge and push me towards what was not only meaningful but possible.

Every Single Day

It became a daily practice. Like an addict, I fed on the need to bring balance and order. To create space for the change to wash in and out while my baby, my teenage son, wandered in and out of the house as he relished his last few months in the only home he’s ever known.

I spent much of the summer alone, in solitude. Aside from the obligatory summer excursions with the family (which I loved), I stayed at home, happily filling my days with clearing. 

May Sarton once said, “There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone,” and for me, the intimacy brought with clearing out gave me time to think. What would this next phase of life be like, alone with just a husband and a dog and no children in and out all day? What would my teaching transform into? For 22 of my last 28 years of ‘first days of school,’ I’ve juggled being that teacher-mom, trying not to show how I was always feeling split in two.

Clearing and Creativity

And to be honest, I have no idea. Two weeks after dropping off C at college and starting the new school year the very next day, my rhythm isn’t there yet. I’m exhausted, edgy, eager, curious, nervous, and mostly cannot imagine how to jump-start creativity. Seems like with all this clearing, with all this open space I should be oozing with ideas and the time to bring them to the surface.

clearing out

It’s making me a bit frightened, actually. I want to force it into shape, to dump it all out and mold a plan that seems unmistakenly possible. Things need to fall into place before me, wide and clear and clean. I feel the call to creative work – the years and years under me, of thinking about this time and feeling the foundation that I’ve been building with this blog, with my PLN. with my pushing myself into something that while at times cloudy and obscure, it seems like might just be starting to glitter. 

Feeding The Call

The poet Mary Oliver wrote that “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” 

I don’t want to push down this clearing and cleansing and creativity that is opening right in front of my eyes. I want to jump in, feet first, and see where I pop up, to give myself permission to fill those empty shelves with new ideas and opportunities. And maybe, embracing the change for once, not shrinking from it. Just as the smoke is finally clearing from the summer skies, I know this will happen. Eventually.

Patience, Jen. Patience.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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joy bubbles

Joy Is Not Made To Be A Crumb

Joy Is Not Made To Be A Crumb

choose joy

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back,
that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Do you hesitate when you feel joy, like, amidst all the suffering in the world, you should resist?
I wore my JOY REBEL shirt this week (thanks to the amazing creativity of Brad Montague) and I found myself explaining to my students why I chose it, and what it means.
Do you ever feel like a joy rebel?
It’s hard for me to remember that “joy is not made to be a crumb” when I see how many people struggle, and despite whatever I’m dealing with in the moment, I know for sure that there are many, many more who wish they could trade my problems for theirs.
And I look around at my students struggling to grow up, to hold onto the innocence of childhood and figure out how to be a kid as they are approaching adulthood at an earlier and earlier age. They feel anxiety, fear, confusion. Far too often joy is left out of their day.
Perhaps, as Mary Oliver suggests, MY way of fighting back is trying my best to share a bit of joy in the 50 minutes we spend together in class every day  -to show them I SEE them, I HEAR them, and I VALUE them.
It may not be much in the big scheme of things, but it makes me feel like a joy rebel for sure.
The real joy in life is definitely in what we give.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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small life open hands

I Don’t Want To Live A Small Life: Poetry by Mary Oliver

I don’t want to live a small life.

Open your eyes, open your hands.

small life berry fields
Summer berry picking, near Carmel, CA 2007

 

I have just come from the berry fields,

the sun kissing me with its golden mouth all the way

(open your hands) and the wind-winged clouds
following along thinking perhaps I might
feed them,

but no I carry these heart-shapes only to you.

heart shaped cloud small life

Look how many small
but so sweet and maybe the last gift
I will bring to anyone in this
world of hope and risk, so do

Look at me.

Open your life, open your hands.

~ Mary Oliver

 

small life open hands
Cameron adventuring in Nicaragua, July 2013

This thoughtful poem about taking risks and living life openly by Mary Oliver found its way to me via A First Sip. It brought back memories of berry picking when my kids were little, gazing up at the sky and marveling at the minuteness of our existence when we’ve traveled through the lush and isolated mountains of Nicaragua.

I don’t want to live a ‘small life’ – I want to adventure and step out of my comfort zone. I want to teach my children to open their life, to open their hands, to open their hearts to all life has to offer. That’s one of the reasons I’ve found myself bringing my kids back to Nicaragua every few years – here we can push ourselves outside the small life we live every day – in Nicaragua, we realize that the world has so much beauty and love to offer when we push ourselves to pay attention.

What kind of life do you want to live? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and spend some time today thinking about the small and sweet gifts the world has to offer you.

Words are the spark that ignites my soul. I am a collector of language in all forms, believing the extraordinary beauty of the written word must be shared.

These monthly posts, inspired by another’s words, are my gifts of beauty and spirit, shared with love.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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