How about when students do the right thing? Do we hear about that enough? No. We hear about the decline of civilization, the ruination of education, and the folly that is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Just once, no maybe all of the time, it sure would be nice to hear about the good that happens in this world. As I write, stories are circulating about the “alleged” corruption of the current administration. Yet all I want to think about is the great practice my team had today, the wonderful choice that a student made, or the sincere regret a student expressed after making an unfortunate choice.

Hopefully, there can be some trickle-up morality for the adults running the show.

There are times,
Times when chaos is allowed,
Times when the rat race
Must be dispatched
If for no other reason
Than to claim back who we are
At our most basic levels.

We are meant to survive,
To hunt,
To problem solve,
To live.
We are not supposed
To settle,
To accept,
To slowly wither away.

A friend routinely puts my mind
Out of balance,
Reminding me that I am alive
Unless I’m just passing the time
With a television or
Sleeping away the minutes
To combat the daily fatigue
Sapping the energy from my soul.

A few days ago, he challenged my manhood,
Which seems to be the thing my friends do
In their simple way of suggesting
I’m not so tough,
But that’s probably more of my interpretation
Than their intention.
Either way it works to put me with a select herd
Of sheeple who go and get it,
Whatever it is that keeps us in touch with our primitive DNA.

His challenge seemed modest,
Run on a track for eight hours, starting at 10pm, ending at 6am.
Now that is a pox challenge compared to some that are out there,
Yet a few minutes into the run,
I knew there were problems ahead.
Chaffing, sore feet, restrictive hip flexors,
A minimal amount of training, all that negative stuff
A mind conjures to prevent a soul from following through.

This would not be the case
For I was all in and there was no way
That I was going to give up on the run, stupidly competitive…
I ran as long as I could and was struggling to walk at the end,
But when a challenge is accepted,
When a test is before us,
Truth is, finishing is the only option.
Others may be faster, but as long as the end is found,
WTF, it’s all good.

Highlights:
12:30 brought the first meal.
2:00 the first shirt change.
3:00 my watch died and I had to go old school clicker
4:00 I thought the stadium lights were balloons hanging in the dark sky.
5:00 Anger.
5:30 Desperation
6:00 One big middle finger to my doubt.
6:30 The great salt flat at the Y went alpine as the curb was hard to climb.

Takeaways:
After the run,
I felt a letdown for missing my goal by three miles,
Twelve freaking laps, self identifying as a pox for that.
Soon, though, I was drinking coffee with my friends,
Sort of paying attention to the conversation,
Mostly wondering what had just happened.
I’m from the year of the horse, so
Trying to make sense of things,
Caught up in romanticism,
And tinkering with meaning is what I do.

But meaning of what,
The chaos of life had been stripped away,
My brain had been rebooted,
Gone where pressures of report cards,
The anxiety of homework assignments,
The scribbles and stains of daily living.
I could not think,
Maybe I was too tired, too hungry, or too cold.
Coffee and a shower did not help.

Neither did sleep,
For after two naps, I woke to the same blissful confusion,
Friends congratulated me on the miles,
Yet, I had a hard time feeling much,
Not because I did not appreciate their well wishes,
Quite the contrary, I accepted their notes sincerely,
I was lost, kind of in a fitness shock therapy that
Left my mentals scanning for a new meaning.

YouTube brought the clarity
In the form of a video about three adventurers
Who climbed Mt. Whitney.
Robbie, the guy I identified with, expressed a bit of remorse
At the end of the climb,
Suggesting that the summit had not lived up to the hype.
It seems, he was let down by the end of the experience.
I understood.

Now what, what comes next?
Monday work will return,
The routine,
The boredom,
The restrictive walls of academia,
Schedules, and the prison like agenda schools follow,
That challenge, one I’m finding harder to accept,
And as it was suggested in another YouTube life clarifier,
Quitting is an option,
If the thing needing to be gotten rid of isn’t doing it.

Eight hours is a long time,
But it can pass by so quickly.
Those sprinting minutes have the ability to teach a lot of stuff,
More so than a year’s worth of stodgy lectures.
Last night, this morning, whatever it was,
In winter’s grip, dressed in shorts and goofy compression socks
I found an old switch and hit it with gusto,
That power was furthered by the tinder of friendships,
Kindness, support, the shit too often lost
In the get-a-head world.

So running at night
Has some benefits in its insanity,
Though bleak, frustratingly slow, and physically a bitch,
I’m smiling inside and out,
Not for the miles or accomplishment, but
For the lessons,
For the return to living,
For the experience.
I’m longing for more shocks, less same ole, and
Stuff that lets me test my mettle.

Next.

Hallway

“Fortunately, it is also the nature of lessons to return to us until we understand them.” Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison, Meditations from the Mat, (p.80).

Floating in backwaters
Summer bobs into the bog
Tabula rasa

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“Fortunately, it is also the nature of lessons to return to us until we understand them.” Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison, Meditations from the Mat (p.80)

Sunning by the pool
Snoring under beads of sweat
Natural rhythms

This week I’ve been teaching,
Really more like learning,
About the role of bonding
In the prevention of drug abuse…
Which by the way is not a problem for me,
I’m not interested in those risks.
Finally, on Saturday,
The takeaways from the school grind
Came crashing down,
Lifting me up
From the winter doldrums
So persistent this time of year.
I’m not sure if it was my wife
Brushing our dog,
Both so beautifully content
In the sun
Streaming through the slider,
Or maybe my reading of Buddhist lessons
To appreciate now
As deeply as possible,
Or maybe Springsteen from Philly
Back when summer was exerting its influence
On a hot Friday night,
Or maybe it was all three
That had me wanting to do push-ups,
Cry, and
Smile all at the same time.
For awhile, no politics,
No self-pity, no self-imposed pressure to be perfect,
Just the appreciation
For what is around me,
The readings coming to life
As I was more mindful of the beauty of today.
Then, as I rode through Darlington County
With my arms and chest
A little wobbly from the small amount of exercise,
I couldn’t help but be thankful
For this Saturday morning,
The tears, the smiles, the push-ups,
The journey.

She walked in with sapphire eyes
Salon styled fashion
And a toddler on her arm.
She was all of twenty young
Walking with the strut
Of a mom yet to be,
But she was already one,
Bleached blonde and
Magazine ready.
She ordered coffee and borrowed
The crayon mug for her young daughter,
Walking with the confidence that assuredly got her into trouble.
Her jacket was gone
She was sleeveless in a fabric sense
But not in the ways of ink
As a tattoo ran all the way up her arm,
No words, nor color,
Just simple designs
Accentuating her look in a bad girl way.
I turned to see my son
Give her a nod,
I guessed of his approval,
But I would soon learn that he got caught
And had to do something
To cover for his interest in her presentation.
“That was awkward eye contact,” he said.
All I could do was laugh
At my son’s Icarus snafu
And his feeble attempt to bat his eye at her
As they melted and fell into his Green Matcha tea.
He’ll learn, but he won’t know
He’ll try, but he won’t succeed
He’ll get better, but never be good enough
To look away
To deny instinct
To manage a man’s eyes.
He better, though,
Because some day he will have a shorty on his arm
And she’ll have a baby in her other
And he’ll have a foot up his butt
If he makes awkward eye contact then.

Many a coach
Waxes on the benefits
Of common goals and the life lessons
Learned when people compete
On a team.

Many a poet
Writes eloquently of the rewards gained
When a man tests his mettle
In the struggle of physical effort
And competition against others.

I like to think I’m both
Coaching once again
And hitting these keys in the Han-ee style of free verse,
Looking back, both the coach and poet
Have it right.

My time playing high school sports
Oozed plenty of sweat,
But more importantly squeezed from me
All environmental influence of the times
About who people are.

My teammates were friends
People to go to battle with,
People to break bread with,
People, friends,
Teammates.

I learned that opportunity comes in uncertain ways
But gift horse or not, opportunities should be taken
Because the world is a tough place
And it matters little who you are
Only that you seize the opportunities when they are presented.

I learned how fickle experience can be
One moment making life seem easy and fun
The next swatting at an ego with Tyson like efficiency.
The essence of competing is struggle
And learning to manage the experience is how we get better.

Coaches will rant, poets will weave stanzas of ahhh
And both know why sports participation is important
Learning to struggle brings us together
Creating bonds that cannot be understood
In isolated phone and tablet bound postures.

I owe a great deal to my coaches
Who set the laws that I learned to follow.
I owe a great deal to my teammates
Who showed me no favor, but allowed me to be part of the gang.

So are my lessons from basketball at LHS…

_MG_6259

Each night his daughter
Sat in his lap
While he read the paper.
She mostly looked at the pictures
Asking little kid questions
That he gave little kid answers to,
After all, this was the New York Times.
She did learn some words, though,
“Don’t forget the neediest,”
Being the ones she recognized most.

“That means that we should help
Those who don’t have as much
As we do, honey,” he explained.

One day they walked the streets,
A man in tattered clothes
And smelling of despair
Held out his hand asking for charity.
The father pulled his daughter along
Giving the man nothing but disdain
To which his daughter
Began to question
With a child’s  insistent simplicity,
“What is it, honey?” he asked.

“Don’t forget the neediest, Daddy.”

Photo: By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia (The Hand) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Having a cop as a father
Was as close to privilege 
As I will ever be.
He got me into college football games,
He got me into college basketball games,
He got me jobs at concerts.
While my friends were hustling,
Selling those Pepsi’s and peanuts,
I was riding easy on the sidelines, 
Watching from the press box,
Or leaning on the stage
About as close to Sting as anyone could get.
Having a cop as a father
Was a lucky charm, like
When getting to baseball practice
Required too much speed for the sheriff
Or the William and Mary student snitches
Were out on a Saturday night.
While some kids were taking vacations
I was learning the value of integrity,
Although, sometimes the hard way
And in a manner that allowed
Me to see all sides of my choices,

Which may have been the greatest privilege of all.