Archive for the ‘inuksuk’ category

The Things I Love

Sunday, 25 November 2007

We’re back from the 9th annual family gathering of the Bickels (Lois’ parents and Lois’ brother, his wife [Jinger] and their son), the Certalics (Jinger’s parents) and us on Thanksgiving weekend in Schaumburg, IL (home of the Woodfield Mall<= really big).

And, for the last 9 years, we had all read the same book and had a book talk (this year: A Thousand Splendid Sunsets [Hosseini of The Kite Runner]). At the suggestion by Lois, we each created a list of “Things we loved” that didn’t include the usual things like family or country or belief-like items. I scribbled mine on the back of notes from a little talk that I gave the editors of the Student Publications class and found more room on the hotel’s small notepad paper. It was interesting to hear each person’s list and was in general a pretty cool to do.

Try it sometime…or now–as a response to this post–it’s fun. It’s not so much in making this list, but sharing it with someone else who has made the list too.

So, here’s mine:

The Things I love:

  • Venti Bold lots of room for cream with four packets of Sugar in the Raw from Starbucks at 7:07 a.m. before school.
  • New England Clam Chowder with sour dough bread at The Tides restaurant in Bodega Bay, California.
  • The Mac OS X OS with its Unix core underneath and the bling bling of the UI on our eMac.
  • That each Bickel has a bottle of nasal spray on their night stand.
  • Celtic Women, Riverdance, and “Danny Boy.”
  • Most BBC comedies.
  • Netflixing with Lois.
  • Colin’s red hair and Evan’s hitting the floor.
  • Making Ken and Doris coffee.
  • The first bass note in a song.
  • The pictures of Lois and me at the Japanese Tea Gardens (Golden Gate Park) in 1989 and 2001.
  • The beginning, middle and end of a marathon.
  • My 2007 Grand Rapids Marathon shirt.
  • NPR (“Wait, wait…Don’t Tell me,” “This American Life,” and “Speaking of Faith”).
  • Troubleshooting a website’s code and the moment when it works as it ought to.
  • Writing in a black marble composition book.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge on a bright foggy day.
  • My running shoes.
  • My Timberland shoes.
  • A 1988 Ford Festiva.
  • Building inuksuk on the Lake Michigan shore in Milwaukee, WI.
  • The flatness of the Midwest.
  • When Lois calls me a jackass.

Coffee Stains: Let the rocks be rocks

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Inuksuit overlooking the bayI’ve just finished a proposal for a grant that would allow me to be in Nunavut, Canada for over a week to see the the bare landscape of “Arctic” Canada and an incredible section of Baffin Island where Inuksuk are plentiful.

I’ve been taken by these stone structures and find that I often build some makeshift Inuksuit (Inuk-Sweet) when we are on vacation or about or when we visit Lori’s brother and his family in Wisconsin. This trio were built this last month.

I suppose I could say that I’ve a history with rocks: I grew up near Bodega Bay, California and near the impressive Northern California coast (where the Pacific Ocean is not so much to swim in and sun bathe near but as to look at and admire and write somewhat bad poetry about). I think of my literal impression of rocks during a 6th grade outdoor education trip to British Columbia, Canada.

We’re into the 4th day of our trip that began at school in Santa Rosa, California and we were now into the northern part of Oregon. We had various responsibilities on this trip (mine was on the “planning the route” committee) and since the tents were all set up, many of us went to the lake. And where’s there a lake, there are rocks.

I need not explain nor describe the amazing skill and art to the skipping of rocks on a smooth lake: this knowledge comes from the very thing that makes us human. Smooth, flat, sidearm and a flick…yes, it is all in the wrist.

And so we’re skipping rocks and being in the moment and something thumps my on the head.

Any guesses on what?

So, I grab my head, and I don’t think I’m crying as much as slightly annoyed that my head now hurts and someone walks me to the nurse.

No one wanted to see the nurse, mind you. On day One, I mentioned to Todd Eberlee that I thought I didn’t feel good and that maybe I should see the nurse.

Todd shook his head and said “I don’t think you should do that.”

He read the “why?” look on my face and responded “I hear that she’ll make you drink prune juice…no matter what the problem is, she’ll make you drink prune juice.”

And so, upon hearing this, my ache went away. Later that night Russ verified that prune juice claim.

So you might see why I didn’t want to see the nurse, but after drinking the prune juice I realized that I really hated the taste and that it really is as bad as its name.

But something irritated me more than that metal tasting prune juice: being used as an object lesson. Adults are good at this: using a real-life example of an obscure concept. The concept was during the devotional time that evening. Remember, I said this was a private school and so religion was mixed with education as being a positive combination. And one of the adults is talking about anger and tempers and then he says “Much like what happened to Chris tonight.”

All eyes turn toward me.

“When he got hit in the head by a rock, he didn’t swear or say anything bad or hurtful to others.” And then the application went to a bit more discussion and then to a time of prayer (“with all eyes closed and no one looking around”).

I was annoyed with being used as an example for someone’s religious talk because I didn’t think it was accurate. My not swearing nor saying bad things had little to do with religion; I didn’t swear because I didn’t have a temper–Less to do with a higher power, more to do with just who I was.

There is a social norm that says that students listen to the adults and do what the adults say because (fill in your favorite answer). There is a wall of separation, a very thick line, between you the student and me the teacher. Perhaps there’s wisdom in respecting those lines. But, isn’t there value in telling anyone, even it they’re a teacher or an adult on an outdoor education trip with a bunch of 6th graders?

No, I didn’t say anything to the guy who used me as an illustration, mostly because I didn’t think it was my place (it only affected me and thus I would just a whiny outdoor education 6th grader).

And it’s because of this idea, I encourage my editors and students to not take what I say as truth: they should challenge my ideas (for they could be misrepresentations). Few take me up on the offer, many simply smile and nod.

The student publications class which I advise didn’t have an editor-in-chief, nor a managing editor nor any of the traditional hierarchy that seemed to organize my staffs in the past. I was faced with choosing between 5 or so highly-qualified applicants for the editor job and I went with a newer more unconventional way of doing publications. When I told the now disappointed applicants that I was doing away with traditional structures in favor of spreading the responsibilities to all applicants, I explained that this was an experiment that could be a fantastic failure (or some phrase like that) or really be a good way of doing publications.

Tonight, as we finished recording a TalkShoe session with some of the editors, I realized that I’m chalking this idea as a fantastic failure and I am incredibly happy that we tried it.

It’s like a thump on the head, isn’t it?

Inuksuk pix

Friday, 24 January 2003


Inuksuk in front of our house.