Last and most fabulous blog collaboration

Re-read your “Where I’m From” poem and select the single line that most expresses who you are or where you are from. Post it to your blog along with a corresponding image by Friday, April 27 at 5 pm (so everyone has time to see everyone’s). You may include a hyperlink (optional).

Please name your post, “My Line,” so we can easily find your line (and image). Please put your image source somewhere on your blog post–thank you.

See Dr. Hessler’s blog post that follows these directions.

That’s all you need to do for this assignment. But then…

On Monday, April 30, we will be weaving together the lines you chose and those the OCU students chose. With all that text, we will create a found poem that we will post to an NCHC blog page that Dr. Hessler and I created to, I suppose, memorialize this collaboration. Never thought of it that way but it fits. Of course, we’re doing that. Of course.

Here’s my post for this assignment. If you want to start picking your line, a link (optional), and an image to create this post sooner rather than by Friday evening: yea!

Learning to fold cranes

Before the end of the term we’ll be learning to fold cranes as an homage to our OKC trip and for sharing with our friends at AUM. Perhaps it will be our last project/post of the year–writing about visual rhetoric, origami, and public memory.

See the cranes hanging from the ceiling at the OKC National Memorial and Museum? This photograph is at a angle, but you can see the cranes at the top and right.

It’s a long story, about cranes and OKC, but it’s one I promise I’ll tell soon.

Cranes hanging in the OKC National Memorial and Museum...

And there were “the bombs bursting in air”

We live in a violent world.

Humans can be violent. Not all of us of course, but even our national anthem “remembers” the violence that wrought a nation, or rather sustained a nation (the Battle at Fort McHenry, War of 1812, inspired the poem that provided the lyrics to our national anthem).

...the bombs bursting in air.

From the Francis Scott Key poem:

“Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Our country has been involved in wars the world over, and on our own land, to create and sustain our nation or to secure it against enemies, or aid our allies when needed. That’s a rough job. And often a violent job. It can get to folks and make them a bit off–us and them (whoever we are or they are). Some folks may turn to terrorism for a variety of reasons–out of desperation? or plan meanness? (I’m no expert)–but it seems as if it’s always the wrong path to take. Anger and bombs should never mix, but they do, and they often have–to the detriment of many.

Not only did a bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 have a huge impact on our country, but it’s part of a history of violence we should all know about.

Map of Terrorist Attacks

What you’re looking at, above, is a map of the worst terrorist attacks in the world in which there were over 100 fatalities. It’s frightening to see them all laid out like this. How could we be so angry this many times? How could we kill so many people? (And you’ll notice this map doesn’t show some of the most devastating bombs of the 20th century–which would include the atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of WWII.)

A pro-Italian independence patriot tried to bomb Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenia in the middle of the 19th century. So, such tactics are not new or unique to the 20th or 21st century. To be aware that our species is prone to this violence allows us to push harder for peaceful solutions. I’m not advocating non-retaliation, but I am advocating education and understanding who we are, what we do, and knowing who our neighbors are and what they do, what they believe. Conversation and education can be good things.

I understand conflicts that are centuries-old may not be solved by talking, nor will systems of hatred based on religious beliefs be nullified by a chat. But we must remember. We must keep hope alive.

By visiting the Oklahoma City National Monument next week, we will have the opportunity to see what one community has done to heal its wounds, remember its past, talk about alternates to violence, and share our own history of violence and healing through memorialization in Montgomery, Alabama… indeed, all over Alabama.

Remembering violence, committing to peace, is a key to helping subvert the cultures of violence that threaten us everywhere, everyday.

“Holy Mackeral, Batman! There’s something fishy here.”

I always wanted to be Robin, rather than Batman, because Robin got a motorcycle. Well, not happening for me. Who’d sell me a motorcycle now? But I do evoke the “Holy ______, Batman!” phrase frequently in my mind, if not in my life, even sans motorcycle.

There’s really nothing fishy going on, I just thought it was better than Holy Strawberries (we’re in a jam), or Holy Dill (we’re in a pickle), or Holy Guacamole (we’re a taco dinner). In fact, everything is lovely.

Y’all are finishing up your papers to post to your blogs (and finishing up maps that we’ll be mailing to OKC–rather than try to explain to the airport officials that several small dragons are not stuffed with anything “fishy”).

Tomorrow, I’ll add all the blogs to a new post so our friends at OCU in OKC can see what we’ve been doing (so don’t forget your photos–online, please!). And we’re going to explore the work they have been doing as well as wrap our heads and hearts around what we’ll be seeing in the great state of Oklahoma.

I’m calling my category for this post “of maps & memory” because we’ve been dancing around these ideas all term in one way or another… and perhaps the most powerful combustion, combination, collision for me has been the memory palace and memorial. I realized just recently that I remember things about my mother who died in 1992 by mentally wandering around in the house I last lived in with her, the one in California that we no longer own. (This came to me as I was talking with my father yesterday eating an Irish Easter meal–just like my mom used to make… and we talked about all our favorite dishes she cooked–and I just saw the house and where everything was stored/existed.)

Most of her possessions are in the hands of others now. I chose only to keep a few pieces of jewelry, a coat rack, books, and a few pieces of art that really meant something to her. She knew I didn’t want to lug around a 4-bedroom house worth of wood furniture, stuffy china, a billion lamps, and five sets of crystal all my life. She, of everyone who’s ever known me, understood I needed to travel light in this world. And I mean that in two ways–I needed to own few things, and I wanted to be surrounded by light–goodness–the light of grace and dignity.

It’s only in the last few years that I have managed to simplify my life and face the fact that sometimes the dark side wins–though less often than you might think. I am mostly always successful in beating the dark side, slapping the bad right out of its mouth. Giving it the stink eye. You know: I crush it definitively in a devastating blow.

My mother gave me that ability–or rather she insisted I cultivate opportunities in which I could practice being light and good, and then she said, “Go be good, be sweetness and light, change the world.” No pressure.

Mostly what I got from my mother is an appreciation for being aware of specials moments when they are happening: teaching, talking, eating, cooking, reading. She said, “Every minute counts. Don’t waste a minute doing something that’s unkind.”

Another thing she told me was, “You don’t get to have bad hair days because you have enough food, and a car, and both your parents are alive, and you have all your limbs, and a school that keeps you safe and helps you learn. Put your hair in a pony tail, get in the car, and stop whining this instant.” And I did.

When I miss my mother, and I do regularly, I wander around in that house (in my mind–my memory palace of that house). I knew where everything was in every cupboard, in every closet, in every drawer. I cleaned that house from top to bottom so many times–I can’t even count that high. I loved cleaning that house (I actually love cleaning still). And I loved tidying and being organized. So I wander through the house and open a cupboard that held the Easter decorations, for instance (which is what I did today), and remembered how we’d decorate our house and table for Easter dinner. I remember where we put our special Easter dresses and shoes (new ones each year) in the guest room closet–and how we’d get dressed and then walk into the back yard for our mother/daughter ceremonial Easter day photograph. Sometimes we wore the same colored dresses, once the same exact dress that my mother made for us–one bigger for her and one smaller for me at 6 years old. Once we had matching purses and shoes but our dresses were very different. (I forgot to mention how I was awful about taking pictures, and made my poor father take more than one photo of us–always.)

Right next to the Easter cupboard, on either side, were various holiday cupboards because Mama was a decorator extraordinaire. I can remember everything about our lives if I open the cupboards of that hallway in my memory palace. I will one day lose this memory palace unless I write it down, but for now I’m so happy that it’s still mine, and I can visit and share it with my Dad. Today at Easter Supper, we started naming all the things Mom used to make that we loved to eat, we raved about the chicken divan, the turkey tortilla casserole, the seared steaks, the beef stew, the chicken soup, and then decided there was just one thing that stood out on the other end of that spectrum. White fish with ketchup. I mentioned it and Dad said, “Oh, I remember that. I didn’t care for that at all. I ate it, but I never said anything good about it. I kept hoping your mother would take it out of the rotation.” She eventually did, but she was not quick enough for me.

As we prepare to visit a place where lives were found to be so precious and have been memorialized, and remember people who have changed Oklahoma City ever after–let’s think about the individual ways we may each remember those we’ve lost and how we memorialize them so we are open and graceful and dignified and can appreciate what we will learn.

“Holy Memories, Batman! Will we be able to remember everything?” No we won’t, and that’s why public memorials matter so much to who we were, who we are, and who we become. We’ll be looking at this map.

Map of the Oklahoma National Memorial & Museum

And we’ll be trying to learn what this map means to those who drew it, created what it represents, and THEN what it means to us. We will leave Oklahoma, each with a memory palace of moments and images and thoughts to hold close that can be traveled through again and again–as long as you have a map and remember where everything is and what it means to you. And that, right there, is the point of expanding your minds with travel. That right there.

Exciting moments with maps and next week…

Today, we saw several  maps revealed in full, in part, and/or in progress.  Next Monday, Apr. 2, we’ll see everyone’s maps again and a draft of the paper. Also, you need to have photographed your map by this date, too. We need several photos, please, as some of the maps will not be able to be scanned due to 3-D elements. Thank you.

Also, if anyone forgot about the IP story–please bring that on Apr. 2. Remember, it’s old-school: bring it printed on paper. AIEEEE. You read that right. I’m feeling nostalgic.

We have a new deadline for the paper/map project: Apr. 9. We need a week more–no other way around it. We must have that. So plan, accordingly, please.

I’d like you to blog over the weekend about your project and where you’re at, what’s on your mind, where you may end up going with your project, etc. Include some images or a picture, or a snippet of your text, so folks can read about what’s going on. Please comments on everyone’s blog (in this class) by class time on Monday. We’ll have some time on Monday to do this, but you need to have most of it done ahead–which means you should plan on doing your blog posts by early Sunday, Apr. 1 (not an April Fool’s Day thing–this is really an assignment!).

Be ready to make some plans for how we can connect with those who are not traveling with us… Ciao and may be the odds be ever in your favor.

Where I took my mind for spring break

Physically, I had a staycation for spring break.

I was at home and the office pretty much all week, except for the occasional trip to the grocery store. It was quiet and I needed that. I had reading I needed to do for my class on Dickens, thirteen professional papers I needed to edit (2-4 hours per paper), some writing that I needed to do (the first weekend of spring  break)–which then inspired a blog post that will be my writing guide for the next year or two. SO that last thing was huge.

I hope.

I have been wanting to write about my teaching life for a long time and just didn’t feel like I could do it or what that would mean or look like. But in the last few weeks–thanks to you all in Honors Comp II, students in my Dickens’s class, and a few friends–I seem to have gotten INSPIRATION big time. Everything started to come together a week ago Sat. I’m delighted because, as writers, you know how hard it can be to articulate a large idea into parts that can be conquered over time. Like a research project with various requirements, writing a book is a gesture in faith as well as perseverance. And I will need to persevere (don’t you think there’s a good reason “severe” is part of that word?).

But the good thing is–the vision crystallized and clarified a bit.

My spring break mental trip, then, was something of a map of the future, a path I can follow to grow and learn and keep writing. It is a yellow brick road to something like an emerald city, an Oz, that I need to get to, in order to find the wizard, discover he’s just a dude behind a curtain, defeat an evil witch, tap my ruby slippers together, and come on home–to where I’m happiest.

That would be a classroom. Home is a classroom.

Where are you at? I’m here.

Here’s where I’m at right now: Montgomery, Alabama.

Montgomery, Alabama (where I'm at 2012)

There are other places I have been at, or at least a few. These are the places I’ve spent more than a few years at, in, around. I’ve enjoyed thinking about where I’ve lived just now. And then, I’ve recalled all the stories I have lived and created.

What a miracle the human mind is, the heart, the body we haul around with our hearts and minds to all these locations where we live and work and learn. Where have you been at?

Los Angeles, CA (LOT of years)

Boise, Idaho (1980s)

Azle, Texas (some of the 00s)

Portland, Oregon (LOVED living there)

DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth--fourteen years in this region)

A memory palace worth seeing

Wouldn’t you know it? I opened this month’s National Geographic and flipped to this page with this image.

"The Art of Memory" from National Geographic (March 2012)

A Memory Palace. Here in this magazine. An example of how someone really created a complex memory palace.

I never would have thought this was part of popular culture, or part of a whole subculture of memory competitors/champions. I KNEW it was part of history and part of the mnemonic history (mnemonic is from the Greek word for memory, by the way.) But that it was a method so widely used is a surprise to me.

I’m not great at memorizing, but this made me realize that I spent most of my educational experiences linking my learning with some sort of visual “map” of a sort:

  • I tapped into timelines for my learning of literature and history. I acquired new information and hung it on the proper hook in the timeline of history.
  • I remembered moments in math classes by thinking of each thing I learned as part of an elaborate dance and how each part of math could be connected to the other… like a quadrille or other form of complex dance with mu1tiple dancers (theories, formulas, disciplines).
  • I “saw” maps in my head when I studied particular texts or portions of history and located the “action” in a cosmographic way. I was learning about Rome, so I saw a map of Rome in my mind, where the Tiber River ran, where the major Roman roads were located and ran to, where the borders of the Roman Empire were at a give time. I located my learning on the earth in some way.

I’m always sharply aware that I am here. I am in Montgomery, Alabama. I see myself here. I see my friend in London, another friend in Arezzo, Italy, another in Oman, one in Oklahoma City. When I talk to a friend in Michigan, I “see” him in Michigan in the place he lives on the map. I know he’s there. I really don’t even think about it, but this sort of visual connection I have to what I know, to the knowledge I acquire, even everyday knowledge, is powerful and defines me and how I learn to a great extent. Pow. Ka-Bang. Smash. Crash. Zap. Ka-Blooie.

Made me stand up and take notice in a metacognitive way.

And I was thinking… If I didn’t have any other way to remember what I knew, I’d weave it into a tapestry.

Bayeaux Tapestry (1070s)

You’ll see in this above photo the full tapestry–230 feet long (about)–that was woven to commemorate events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conquerer. The Battle of Hastings was the deciding moment for William (1066). You may have heard of this before. I mentioned it the first day of class Fall term.

A portion of the tapestry (a little easier to see!)

But it’s apropos to mention again–because it’s a memory palace of a kind, isn’t it? We’re participating in a long and varied history of human thinking, textual creation, visual rhetoric. Now you see it.