Category: Life

Friday Photo: Exhaustion

Posted on September 9, 2011 by

Sometimes as I’m moving around in my day, an image gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake. Sometimes it conjures up a memory, a feeling, or provides an impulse to do something. Often, though, I just see something that I want to capture in my mind for no particular reason-it just speaks to me. I’d like to offer these images up for ‘thought contributions’-as a way to generate a community of ideas together.

As I was searching for a Friday Photo in my albums, I was trying to think of how to picture exhaustion.  I was considering just a black box when suddenly this image popped up.  It was taken in Donner Lake State Park near Truckee, California just over a year ago.  It makes me miss both having the energy of a child, and the innocence to think that if I just push hard enough the boulders in my life might just budge.

Wishful thinking?

primark

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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Old Growth: Towering Redwoods and the Family Tree

Posted on August 6, 2011 by

We depart sunny Miranda early on this July morning.  40 parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins squeezing into a parade of wagons, hybrids and SUVs.  As we enter the Avenue, a canopy slowly begins to grow over us.  The sunlight dims and our car instantly becomes neighbors with the towering trees hugging the road.  Past Rockefeller Grove, the Founder’s Tree, and the beauty of the Eel River, we travel deeper along route 254 into the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  One after another, the massive posts from times before swish by as we creep towards our destination.  The line of cars, carrying generations of family, pull off the highway and we spill out into the forest.


The Winifred Brown Bell Grove, along the Avenue of the Giants, is a turnoff like many others along the road.  Noted by the standard California State Park brown and gold lettered sign, we park and douse ourselves with bug spray to guard off the mosquitoes bound to exist along the way.  The 40 descendents of the Brown family gather for the required photo to document our journey to this magical space.  Children and dogs pose with anticipation, eager to scamper along the path, destination unknown and really unimportant.  It’s the journey amongst the trees that they look forward to.

As we move deeper into the grove, lush emerald green ferns replace the dirt corridor of the entrance.  Their verdant carpet encroaches on the foot space, cautioning us to tread lightly-poison oak adding another element of excitement.  The air cools, making me glad to have my warm sweatshirt.  We pause, photographing a huge tree or a massive, upturned root hosting a bevy of fern and new growth.  We caution the children again, hoping that they stay focused and on the path.  Stellar Jays announce their presence, golden butterflies dart through my line of sight.  The group spreads out, some going left on the longer loop, hoping to extend the sensory delight just a bit longer.  I can’t see my son or daughter, but I sense that they’re moving forward along the path.  Someone will be watching them.

I pause, absolutely mesmerized by the sight before me.  Where did this glory come from?  How could I not have known this existed?  How can this image remain untouched, unchanged, for centuries?  Such splendor, such lushness, such beauty, such…bigness.  Freedom.  Growth.  Awesomeness.  I am so undersized, honored to be in their presence.

I look up, and only a sliver of blue sky is visible between the towering trees.  I am small, almost insignificant in this landscape.  My children and husband catch up to me, and we pose amid the ferns, part of a larger family group yet perfectly isolated at this moment.  Like the seedlings that once began this landscape, I realize again that my offspring have immense potential.  Nothing limits them; nothing keeps them from achieving their dreams.  Their growth, nurtured by their guardian hosts, stretches before us, soaring with possibility.

What I learned at Winnie’s Grove is that growth happens.  Hosted and nurtured by our families, cautiously curious as we dash along the path of life, we all contribute to the development of our children.  Time inches along, slowly and subtly raising them to heights we may never know.   Hidden groves and untapped potential lie before them, their existence eager for exploration.

What I’m still learning is how to let go and let them wander among the giants.  They will turn left or right as they choose, hopefully remembering the path  leading back to their hosts, their strong family tree.

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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The House of Learning

Posted on July 22, 2011 by

When I was younger, I spent heaps of time at the Yolo CountyLibrary on 14th Street.

I wasn’t an overly outgoing child, and frequently found a refuge in the children’s room.  Walking in felt like entering a beige space of tranquility and organization.  Built in 1969, it had a feel of neutrality, newness and comfort to my elementary sensibilities.  I remember during the summer months the librarian- Mrs. Sekerak, the lovely white haired figurehead- used to prepare a reading challenge.  There weren’t any fancy awards, or large cash prizes-what I remember is it was a place to record what you read, and challenge yourself to push ahead.   And she was always there, ready to lead us in the right direction.

Naively, one summer I believed that I could start at “A” and read all the books in the children’s section.  How many of us have done this?  Systematically I would pull the books, write my name on the card and hand it to the librarian for check out.  Nothing to scan, beep or navigate under a laser-just a simple index card that promised I would return.
Needless to say, I never made it all the way around to “Z”. I don’t recall quite where I got sidetracked, but I’m sure it was along the lines of ‘Betsy-Tacy”, “Misty of Chincoteague”,  or “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (yes, it was a book before a movie).
As a young adult, my trips to the library mostly involved sequestering in the carrels of  Cal at Moffitt Library, deep into my required readings.  Emerson, Byron, Bronte, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Morrison, Walker filled my days and nights.  Occasionally I would venture towards Hargrove Music Library for a change of pace-the thumping of African drum beats and strains of choral music added to the aggregation of themes running through my brain.
As a parent, I’m back in Davis, although not much about the library is as it was in the 1970s.  The architecture of functionality of 2011 involves the sophistication of the times.  Patrons are delighted with cool color tones, textured surfaces, and sparkling digital stations.  Divisions are established for children, teens and adults, each space catering to delight the occupants with comfy chairs, computers, performance stages, and study areas to match any style.  Rowling, Riordan, Westerfield, and Meyers have arrived, supplementing the classics I loved so well. Long gone are the index cards, returns run by automation before one even walks through the doors.  Librarians-yes, they’re still there-now more as ‘troubleshooters to technology’.  Sadly, I don’t think my kids nor I even know their names.
Circulating through this space, I think about how much libraries have meant to me.  I think of the stories, the comfort, the learning I have received and still rely on as a highlight to my day.  I watch the children balancing stacks of picture books, smiles on their faces.  I watch the teens on their laptops, reading and studying.  I watch the grownups searching for the latest DVD or CD to take home on a Friday night.  I watch the newcomers to Davis searching for the best learning tools.  I watch the homeless looking for a cool place to bide their time or browse the internet.  I watch myself as a young girl, believing that if I just started at the beginning I could automatically make my way to ‘z’, with nothing to stop her.
What I’ve learned is that life doesn’t operate on a Dewey Decimal system.  Beautiful, frustrating, and magical things disrupt us over and over again.  And that’s OK.  What I’m still learning is that the learning happens, no matter what system it’s assembled in.
Would we want it any other way?

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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Double Rainbow

Posted on June 30, 2011 by

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away” – Anonymous
One of those moments for me is seeing a double rainbow.  Now, I’m not a science teacher, and I would be hard pressed to give an accurate description as to the reasons for this phenomenon.  Something about refraction and reflection I think, but what I do know is that no matter what I’m doing, a double rainbow stops me in my tracks.  The sense of unpredictability, fragility, and instability hits me, and I can’t take my eyes off it.  I’ve given up trying to snap a photo-it never seems to capture the intensity of color or splendor.  It is a moment that could be gone in an instant, best savored in ‘real-time’.
A friend of mine passed away last month.  He was exactly my age, was a teacher, married, and had two young kids, a boy and a girl-just like me.  Also like me, all he had really ever wanted to do and had done for a career is teach junior high.  He was a really, really nice guy-one of those people who everyone likes and is just happy all the time. Now, he’s gone.  He passed away as the school year was winding down, causing all of us who knew him to stop what we were doing and just grieve.
A few weeks ago his family held a celebration of his life.  Hawaiian shirts and baseball gear were the requested attire.  Although he didn’t live in Davis, he made an enormous impact on our community, especially noted by the numbers of former students who turned up at the memorial.  Teaching is one of those professions that doesn’t always allow us to see the impact we have on our students in the moment.  We move from day to day, month to month, and when we hit the 180 day mark our ‘term’ is over.  We say goodbye, sign yearbooks, give hugs and best wishes and they leave the classroom.  For me, it often seems like our time together was too short and I’ve still got more to teach.
What I’ve learned lately is that moments with people are unpredictable, fragile, and when looked at from the right perspective we can see everything in living color-ROYGBIV.  What I’m still learning is that moments and people may be gone in an instant, but the imprint they leave on us is what’s memorable.  And like the double rainbow I saw on the way home from the memorial, meant to be savored right now.

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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