Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category


Sometimes Done Is Good Enough

January 4, 2010

It’s day one of a new quarter and all my energy is going toward the first day of class, so here’s another neurobics exercise to get your brain moving. It’s also my way of reminding you—and me—that some days you just have to do something and let it go! This mind challenge was embedded in a recent comment and the author’s response to the assignment can be seen in the comments to “About Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn.” Here’s the challenge:

Write a poem describing you—a description of yourself using the letters from “just like” and your first name. The letters can appear anywhere in the words.

I found this very difficult because the possibilities are so open, yet are also bounded by the realities of that initial j and, in my case, by not just one, but two k’s. It’s much easier to write an acrostic poem where the first letter of each line forms a word or phrase vertically and you don’t get the freedom to have the letters anywhere in the word. (This is what got Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in trouble in October 2009 when the first letters of a letter rejecting a bill formed a well-known and very offensive phrase. Google® it if you missed this.)

Here’s how I approached the challenge. I made a list of words I thought described me and then tried to fit them in somehow. It isn’t really poetic. There were words I couldn’t find a place for, like fun. But this is it for now.

Jeremy and Josh’s mom and Jim’s wife.
(Clearly I could not begin with just one J.)
and almost always kind.
An intellectual
snappy dresser.
A thaumaturgist
and collector,
a booklover,
and an original
seriously stuffed with stuff.

This being a public forum, I wish I had time to make my offering much more clever and much more representative of the fullness of who I am, and I wish I’d been able to say it all in a much more fascinating and poetic way. Alas, this is the reality of work under a deadline! Sometimes done is good enough.

Try the challenge yourself.

Dunkin’ Donuts. . .put the D at the end, you get Unkind Donuts. . .which I’ve had a few of in my day.
• Merl Reagle



November 1, 2009

What do you see? My friend Sue loves the natural world, capturing her observations in what she calls her “semi-scientific journals,” little miracles of learning and connection, filled with art and poetry and artifacts that illustrate some of the things she is drawn to. I love nature, but while Sue is attracted to the natural world, I find myself drawn to the un-natural, to what I call my oddservations. I am particularly attracted to the strange and quirky artifacts of human production, and to the puzzling things I see and can’t explain. What do you see?

When I was teaching high school, I began an oddservations collection with my students that I called The Amuseum of Un-Natural History. In it, we included human-made creations about which we wondered why, like the yellow plastic curved banana cutter that wasn’t really one-size-fits-all and would be impossible to clean or the shot glass made of peppermint candy sold alongside other children’s stocking stuffers. (Shot glasses for children? Could anyone actually use it anyway? Was it really for adults who would need it after putting together a bicycle?) The Amuseum collection lives on in my office and at home and was probably one of the reasons that the fire marshal said that my classroom was “the most unprofessional environment” he’d ever seen. What attracts you?

You can learn something new about other people by asking them about what they see and what attracts them. Although I’ve known my husband for many years, here’s something I just found out two years ago when he told me, “I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by how people hold their cutlery. Every time we go out, I’m looking around. Most of them look so uncomfortable, especially with knives for cutting.” I’ve never paid any attention to knives, forks, and spoons. What I notice is how people hold their pens or pencils. What do you notice?

Here’s a fun exercise that provides some exercise too: Take a walk with a friend—or more—and separately record what you see. Include “environmental print”—found text from things that you see (I saw a sign on a 7/11 that said “happiness sold here” and I certainly wanted to buy some); things that strike you as odd or interesting (someone left a teddy bear under the tree in the park—were they coming back or was it a gift to the universe?); or other things that tickle your fancy. The point is to begin paying attention rather than just walking obliviously through life. Find at least ten things each.

If you really want to make this into an exercise, share what you’ve seen. Or you could combine your oddservations—alone or with others—and turn them into poetry, art, writing, or something else. But definitely, think about what you recorded and what those things might mean. Our lives are built around the things that matter to us, clues to your creative spirit reside in your noticings, and finding those things can help you choose directions as you make your way through life.

What do you see? What attracts you? What do you notice?

Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.
• Robert Wieder