For most the year I walk on the beach in bare feet. Calloused skin against the warm sand and cool water, alerting my senses from the bottom up. My feet feel the changing contours of the reef, sometimes sinking deep into soft sand, conjuring quicksand, shifting my balance, reminding me to pay attention. Other times I carefully pick my way across piles of stones, some smooth and rounded while others pick and poke at the soft skin of my arches, pulling my attention downward where I notice shells, seaweed, and bits of colored glass glinting in the sun. Walking barefoot on the beach grounds me, literally pulling me to the ground, my feet a conduit between the earth and the sky.
And the sky calls me to look upward. Shadows catch my eye as birds fly overhead, wheeling and gliding, soaring and floating. I’ve learned to recognize the calls of seagulls and terns…and more recently the voice of ospreys. Today, with my feet firmly on the wet sand, ospreys played above me. These magnificent birds are fast, large and graceful…and today a pair seemed to be engaged in an intricate dance. Watching this performance in the sky, I noticed two more osprey on the periphery.
In the last week I have seen six ospreys and a hawk (you can read about my earlier sightings here). So why have these powerful birds of prey become so prominent in my life? The more I read about osprey–both as a bird and as a spirit animal, I am starting to see some messages coming my way. Here is a small sampling:
In this case the osprey symbolism is asking you if you are feeling a little out of your comfort zone. In other words, the changes in you and around you have been a bit overwhelming of late. Thus osprey meaning is here to let you know that you can put your head under the emotional water and still survive. Stop worrying about what other people think. Like the lizard, it’s only your ego that thinks they will notice anything in the first place.
Alternatively, osprey symbolism may be reminding you to appreciate other peoples boundaries. Also, in doing so, make sure your boundaries are clear enough so that others can respect you. This bird also connects you to all aspects of Solar Worship. Therefore it’s appearance in your life emphasizes the value and healing power of the sun.
The hawk is also a close relative of this bird of prey, and in this association, these two birds share the job of being a messenger. Thus, this raptor also warns you to stay alert because crucial information is pending.
So, as I stay grounded with my bare feet on the wet sand, I will also push forward, taking some risks and staying open and alert to new information. And in the meantime, I am reveling in these new-found friends, enjoying their beauty and fierceness, their fidelity (they mate for life) and clear vision. What messages have been coming your way lately? And who is the messenger?
I’ve really been feeling the pinch of time in my classroom this school year. My new schedule has me on campus only three days a week, handing my classroom over to a partner teacher for the other two school days. I feel super productive when I am away from school, with long stretches of time to focus on specific work, flexible hours to schedule meetings and phone calls, and the ability to arrange most of my work travel on days I am not on campus.
But…I feel like time is taunting me when I am with my students. Each lesson and project seems to take longer than anticipated, forcing me to leave work hanging across weeks instead of days. I’ve found myself prioritizing and rethinking everything I ask students to do.
My past practice has been to use Fridays as a day of reflection and work completion, giving students long stretches of time to read and write and think. Without new instruction, they could dig deep, revise, rethink, and get projects done. Today, Monday became that kind of day (I no longer have Fridays with my students). I did have to spend some time reviewing expectations, reminding students of the work we started, but then they dug in…and that beautiful thing happened. Work began to hum, students were engaged, working at their own paces, allowing me to help individuals as needed. Time both stopped and flowed–no one needed to use the bathroom, roll around on the floor or annoy a classmate. I wasn’t feeling the need to rush students with my eyes glued to the clock, dolling out minutes like rationed resources (I’m thinking about the water restrictions we experience in Southern California).
The reality was that still everything didn’t get done. I’m already reevaluating and reprioritizing my plans for tomorrow, pushing off launching that new math concept to make space for a bit more finishing time, figuring out ways to make space to confer with students over a piece of writing they’ve been working on and provide feedback on another project. And I’m excited about some new reading and writing I have planned for tomorrow…something I’m already anticipating taking more of that precious time than I initially allotted.
Somehow I will figure out how to travel through time this year, carefully balancing new content with time to dig deep, think carefully and produce meaningful, high quality work products. I know I’ll still find myself with unfinished student work, lessons that run short and those that run long, requiring that continual rethinking of lesson plans.
I’m hoping that this will be the year that I learn to make time jumps, those science fiction leaps of faith: pushing time forward to see which lessons produce the best results and scrapping those that end up as a waste of time. But…just in case that doesn’t happen, I’ll keep paying close attention to my students, adjusting to their needs and reworking my plans to make sure school is more about learning than about time.
I should probably title this post, All the Reasons I Don’t Write, instead of using the National Day on Writing hashtag #whyiwrite. But instead of enumerating a list of excuses, I will use this occasion as an opportunity to write.
I’ve established a regular walking practice. I’ve learned to carry my walking shoes (and my flip flops) with me in my car, leaving me ready for unexpected opportunities–and no excuses for not walking because I don’t have the right shoes. My camera is also a motivator for my walking–I love to take those daily photos and walking gets me to interesting locations where I find the fodder for my photography habit.
My writing practice fares better when I have an external expectation keeping me on track. I wrote and posted daily during the month of April when my students and I took on a 30-day poetry challenge. And I posted weekly photography challenges for years when the iAnthology was my audience. So now, I know I need to create some reasons for establishing a regular writing practice–one that takes me beyond the more work-related writing that always happens–you know, the lesson plans, the emails, the proposals and reports.
So I will begin today with some thoughts about birds. If you’ve visited here before, you have probably noticed my obsessions with egrets, including the post I wrote about the egret being my spirit animal. But yesterday and today, it was a different kind of bird that was called to my attention.
Birds of prey are difficult to photograph–and even to get a close look at without a camera. They tend to soar high above our heads, their sharp eyes on the lookout for prey. Yesterday I spied a hawk perched on a sign along the beach-side cliff. It sat, overseeing the beach and was not at all bothered by me approaching from below to photograph. Somehow it seemed appropriate that the sign it was perched on said, “Pack Your Trash!” While I’m not entirely sure, I’m thinking it’s either a red tailed hawk or a red shouldered hawk. I thought at first it might have been an osprey–I’ve seen them before in this area, but this was clearly a hawk of some sort.
And today, not far from this same spot along the cliffside, I noticed a man looking intently high up on the cliff. When I looked up, he drew my attention to the large bird of prey sitting on some bare branches above us. I knew immediately that it was an osprey (I had done a bit of research when I got home yesterday). He pointed out the fish beneath the bird, which he had been watching for a bit. I stood under the branch, trying to capture a photo of this beautiful bird. Other people came by, commenting on the beauty of this elegant sea eagle.
I found myself thinking about this coincidence of spotting two birds of prey on my walks on two consecutive days. When I watch egrets, I think of their patience, their calm and regal manner as they stand knee-deep in the ocean water. They seem solitary–in great contrast to the seagulls and smaller shore birds that ofter hang out in groups, running with the tide. When I think of birds of prey, I think of fierceness and independence. They seem to take control of their environment, taking the long view of the resources below. They are brutal and efficient, moving sharply as they take their prey, gripping firmly with sharp talons and sharper beaks.
Do I have something to learn from birds of prey right now? Is this a call to be more decisive, to be more fierce and determined? I know these beautiful birds have me thinking…and writing.
I know that I write to think, to better understand myself and the world around me. I write to reflect and to express, to slow down and pay attention. On this National Day on Writing I renew my commitment to daily writing…and to more frequent posting here. How will you celebrate the National Day on Writing? Why do you write?