Wednesday, May 01, 2019

What I Learned in April

April is National Poetry Month, so this year, as in the past, I learned a lot about poetry, and was introduced to many new-to-me poets and poems. I did daily posts all month, which I very much enjoyed. I read, and wrote, poetry, and that's something that makes me happy, even when the subject matter isn't cheerful. There's just something about that little burst of creative energy, whether other people read and appreciate it or not (though of course I like it when they do).

Early in the month I listened to this podcast, called "Listening to God in Anxiety." Not only did I listen to it, I followed along with my notebook and did all the journaling too. I felt faintly ridiculous doing this on my own in my room, but I found it very helpful and would recommend it. (This is all from a traditionally Christian perspective.) Here's a summary: responding to anxiety by praying about the things that are making us anxious can, paradoxically, backfire, because the added focus on the anxiety-producing problems can cause us to ruminate even more on them. Nader Sahyouni suggests praying with these three postures: first, please; second, thanks; third, yes. Please involves simply asking God to take away the things worrying you, as Jesus did in the Garden, asking God three times to remove the cup of suffering from Him. Thanks means praising God for what He is doing through the troubles you're experiencing, even if He doesn't take them away. And Yes is accepting what God is doing in your life, asking for what Sahyouni calls the "trifecta of grace": grace to let go, grace to know the truth, grace to have more faith. In the second half of the podcast, you'll be guided through thinking about these steps in the context of your own individual life situation. I hope this is as helpful to someone reading this as it was to me!

The morning after listening to this and reflecting on it, I had music playing in my classroom as I was getting ready for the day, and this song came on. It pairs perfectly with the insights from the podcast.

The other thing I learned in April can be summed up by the word "Birds." Back in November I found out about Nokomis, a great blue heron from Maine that has been fitted with a transmitter. She winters in Haiti every year, or at least the past three. I wrote a poem about her, and shared it on Facebook with the Heron Observation Network of Maine, and through that started exchanging emails with a biologist in Maine who works with schoolchildren. In April she sent me a list of questions about birds in Haiti, and in addition to discussing them with my eighth graders, I also did a lot of research on them myself. I made some new Haiti friends (yay for new friends!) and learned about many new-to-me resources, like the Audubon Center of Haiti, Zwazo Yo, The Audubon Society of Haiti, and I've learned in the past that people who are experts in their fields are often unexpectedly willing to share with absolutely clueless beginners, and I found that this time too; I loved having an inbox full of messages from new friends full of enthusiasm and suggestions. Next school year I am hoping to start a bird-watching club of some kind at school, have some speakers visit, and just generally learn much, much more about birds.
National bird of Haiti, the Hispaniolan Trogon. 
Photo source: Société Audubon Haiti

So to wrap things up, I learned again in April that learning makes me happy. To quote Merlin in T.H. White's book The Sword in the Stone:
“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”


Tabatha said...

Thanks, Ruth. I enjoyed your daily posts!
In today's, I was especially moved by "first, please; second, thanks; third, yes" and the T.H. White quote (although I'm not 100% sure that you can't be tortured by or regret things you learn). Merlin seems like a poet with "lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins."

Linda B said...

I enjoyed seeing what you shared each day from your tabs, Ruth, & now hearing about your podcast and then your new connections makes me smile. I've done bird counts and studies with students through the years & it is a joyful thing, perhaps touches on your T.H. White quote. That book was a favorite years ago in my class. Maybe time to re-read? Happy May to you!