At the National Writing Project I’m the manager of much of NWP’s presence on the interwebs, and I’ve recently had the privilege and opportunity to work with teachers from around the country who are helping to create, facilitate, and implement some of our summer initiatives. This is the Summer of Making and Connecting and besides getting to observe some pretty amazing work around the country, it’s been refreshing to take a new look at what I do professionally.
We sought shelter in coffee shops and later in bars. Same idea, different drinks I guess. We had our inner circle but being in public opened up possibilities; connecting with people that weren’t part of the original plan, as if we actually had a plan. It was before text messages, Twitter, My Space, and Facebook, and our social networks were old school. We rolled down windows, shouted out, made eye contact, and used tongues, not finger tips. But I was always eager to move beyond these confined social spaces. I guess I felt our spirits went beyond what was being served. I always craved the open spaces or the ocean and the sand to absorb what we had.My drug was the night. The inner circle left the coffee shop and drove to the over pass. We parked and walked under, into the open reserve to open skies and stars, cool air, and heightened senses. I didn’t want to dull my senses, I wanted them turned on. I wanted our minds to be stimulated by what we heard and smelled and felt, not just what we saw. We used to tread over grassy hills and under oak trees and our only concern was the night ranger that rarely came. Being outside gave us the opportunity to really hear each other which led us to really talk to each other. It was as if we had to get out in the open to be open. I learned more and shared more on these nights than I did in a year of daytime conversations. Then the spaces changed. There were house parties, more drugs, and of course bars. And though I enjoyed the social lubricant of alcohol, I was still drawn to something larger. I didn’t want drugs that made me see colors or images that weren’t normally there. I didn’t see why I needed that when there were plenty of naturally occurring mind-fucks like fear and love and people you didn’t understand, and I knew I hadn’t even begun to experience these. I used to drive around in the early morning hours by myself, listening to The Roots, and when I thought of something that I was afraid of I went to it. I would drive to the beach by myself and walk across the sand, defenseless, with my sight dulled by darkness and my hearing rendered useless by deafening waves. I would walk to the water line and imagine all the scary shit out there, then walk slowly into the freezing water up to my knees. I would stand there, alone, the ocean swirling around me and only the stars to watch over me. I imagined jelly fish and sharks and weird squishy things. I would stand there even though my whole body was screaming for me to run back to the dry sand, up the hill to the safety of the street and my car. But I resisted cause I was high; I was fucked up on fear. I was afraid as shit but I stayed with it and then calmly walked away. Talk about mind altering. Just about everyone I know has done more drugs than me and I really have no problem with that. We still go to coffee shops and bars, and some of us still do plenty of drugs. I know that has its place. But as I watch my kids grow up I’m constantly reminded of how rich reality is and I’m not ready to let it go or be afraid of it or start living distantly. I want to really be in it, right up to my knees, with the ocean in front of me and only the stars above.