October 23, 2013.
Overnight low temperature upper 30s.
Definitely cool enough for building a 5AM fire in the wood stove.
My fire-starting skills are pretty good: dry twigs over a crumpled half sheet of newspaper, loosely arranged in a sort of lean-to against split maple or oak, plenty of circulation space. A single match almost always suffices to initiate a cheerful, warming blaze; but this morning, after the third attempt with lots of smoke, only smoldering sticks filled the firepit with more smoke. It’s like the chimney’s blocked, I considered; and then a thought flickered by: check the control for airflow. I always leave it wide open but just maybe it wasn’t. Somehow it had been moved all the way down! When I ran it full throttle, the fire leapt like a pent-up horse loosed on the range.
An Emily Dickinson poem flickered to mind: “the horse that scents the living grass/will be restrained with a shot/if at all.” Not sure about “restrained” but it goes something like that.
My thoughts also still simmered with the meeting yesterday afternoon with teachers at Hickory Elementary about blogging, about making our heart maps that stir up the fire for teaching, about connected learning that brings in the airflow of public spaces, making relationships with like-minded pros, with tuning into the joy of expression.
What is it in this metaphor of fire starting that wants to ignite our sometimes-darkened classrooms? In my college class yesterday, we looked at the tendency of any culture or any individual to seek out confirmatory information and to suppress stuff that might make wildfires. How has the airflow of exhilarating inspiration been shut down, probably without us even knowing the gate onto living grass waits right at our fingertips, perhaps where we see only walls. Like the high-stakes exams. Like the way things have been. Like the curriculum that has to be covered. More smoke. Dulled out eyes. Crumpled drafts of worksheets, asbestos prompts, irrelevant readings, mandated assessments.
We can keep striking matches but the fire of inspired learning cannot blaze up until we open the shutters onto the free range and let the airflow from authentic passion rush through.
P.S. I’m realizing that one way I almost unconsciously leave the airflow shut down happens when my morning begins with checking email, tweetdeck, facebook, latest scores, or morning news. Rumi’s breeze at dawn and predawn musing off the breath of dreams get stifled by such externals. I promise myself to love inspiration above the ease of mediated stuff. I promise to start my day respecting Life.
The Life that tied too tight escapes
Will ever after run
With a prudential look behind
And specters of the Rein—
The Horse that scents the living Grass
And sees the Pastures smile,
Will be retaken with a shot
If he is caught at all—