Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in Brooklyn

We had  perfect day for a road trip. We  left on Monday morning, 40 degrees with breaks of sun in a winter sky.  Roads clear.  Moderate traffic, not the usual trucks pressing down.I drove for about 3.5 hours and Peter took over after that. We came into NYC at rush hour and there was a disabled van on the left lane of the Tappan Zee bridge.  Long delay, but moving 3 mph, which is better than no movement.

We found our way to downtown Brooklyn  and had to figure out how to get to Meghan's apt., which we did after several calls to our children and asking a friendly pedestrian who has relatives in Buffalo.  There were police vehicles and vans everywhere but not a cop in sight.  It was strange, especially in light of what happened a day prior.  Just for the record, I hate guns. Earlier, I had thought the man who murdered the police officers had murdered his girlfriend, but yesterday's news said she was going to survive.  It's so sad.  The violence that has occurred over this past year has thrown me for a loop.  I rarely post about this here or on FB because I think I would sound like a raving lunatic.  I spend so much time(hours upon hours) as a teacher, trying to give my students strong writing and critical thinking skills.  My classes are usually beyond the cap.  I have a very high diversity ratio, which the students of color notice and appreciate.  I think that the word is out that all of my students have an equal voice and we are there to learn, discuss, entertain different perspectives. Whenever we discuss "hot" button topics, I tell them to keep the conversation open by phrasing their position as an idea, rather than opinion.  I tell them that ideas open up conversation, whereas opinions shut them down. They look at me with that look of close scrutiny, but trust me enough to try it out.  When it works well in my classes, which is a safe learning community, they take for a test drive in their other classes and have reported success.  The important kernel in this is VOICE.  Everyone needs to have voice.

I think it's important to talk about what is happening around us.  There is so much we need to sort out. I think the more we talk, the better, in small  and large groups, in songs, in poems, in stories, in performance, in the making of art. By doing this, we have the ability to see things from two sides, which makes moving forward possible.   Making contact, not with the choir, but the others who are insular, isolated, blocked off, that is the challenge.

Long ago, my former student, the poet/artist Marie Starr said this in a poetry class: Make the comfortable, uncomfortable; make the uncomfortable, comfortable. This isn't the exact quote, but her idea.  I agree with it.  I remember when she first said this, I was pulled up by the statement,and I said, yes.

I actually say, yes, more than no.  Yes comes with a responsibility to be part of the yes, whereas no, stops action and parties walk away from each other.

So here I am in Brooklyn, thinking about this and hanging out with my family.  Yesterday, a day of drizzle, Nick, Peter and I took a long umbrella walk in Greenwood Cemetery: City of the Dead.

Meghan had alerted us to look for birds that were very green and chattered like parrots(?)  Is that possible, she said. Sure enough, high in the Gothic gateway architecture, we saw the birds flying in and out of their  nests.  We asked an attendant about the birds and this is what he said:

In 1961, a group of Monk parrots escaped from their transport at the airport. Consequently, they have survived in Brooklyn. Over 50 pairs, and they appear everywhere.  Noisy in the heat of summer and not as noisy in winter.  We watched them, flying with the grace of trapeze artists.
We followed the roads, stopping to read graves and historical land markers.  We found Leonard Bernstein's grave.  Nick and I sang, "I want to be in America."  We admired the stones, coins, flowers left at his grave. I too found a rock and placed it with the others.  It's funny, standing there I saw his face, his smile, his cigarette burning, a wreath of smoke over his head.   

Then we walked to a current mausoleum that had a beautiful reflection pond filled with Koi fish.

We took pictures.  I will post later.

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