This morning I watched the dawn pour like molten bronze over the flank of Mt Blanca, aka Sisnaajini—the northernmost sacred mountain of the Dine Nation—while soaking in our hot tub. Not usual behavior for a warrior, but something I could get used to.
Tomorrow I will turn 64 years old, which means I’ve spent half my life married to Henry, who continues to make me bust out laughing, and who dutifully scratches my back when I lift up my shirt and bow down, and who always reaches for me in the middle of the night.
My work has become the same work my mother did after raising her family: tutoring. I tutor at two colleges, a relatively privileged one, and a junior college “across the tracks” where I work with students who haven’t learned to read or spell or write, or even how to learn. The warrior in me is quite satisfied to be digging this part of the trench. The teacher in me lights up when I see my students light up, make a connection they never knew existed, connect to their own potency and creativity and wisdom in a way they never thought possible. For example, last semester I worked with an autistic student who couldn’t type a coherent sentence on the computer, but who could narrate an essay about the profound connections between obscure sects of Hinduism and the string theory of relativity. As I wrote down his words as fast as I could, I wish I had taken shorthand in high school, which I’m sure my mother did. I can feel here presence in the Learning Center. She looks on over my shoulder, nods, sometimes gives me a good idea, and smiles a very satisfied smile.
Sometimes you gotta take the long way around.
I’ve written two books, well, three if you count the one I published off my computer and took the copy center. I’ve got another one gnawing at me. And I hope there are more.
If I must tell the truth, I’m much more comfortable wearing jeans one size bigger than the ones I have hanging in my closet. As my friend Karen says, the deepest of sighs. I feel strong and fairly fit, but age is thickening my body and gravity is winning the war.
I feel this pressure inside to teach what I know, to pass it on to someone younger before I’m gone or too feeble in body or mind or spirit to hand off the baton. It’s almost like the pressure I once felt to become a mother. I remember when Henry and I were actively trying to get me pregnant, taking my temperature, feeling the consistency of my mucus, making charts to pinpoint the exact time that conception would be most likely. “Honey, stop what you’re doing, it’s time,” I’d sing out gaily, and Henry would wash out his paintbrush and come join me in bed, and later I’d recline in such a way that his sperm wouldn’t have to swim uphill. Making love on a schedule was fun for maybe three or four times, and then it was just plain wrong. We looked into adoption at one point, did you know that? But that didn’t feel right either. So over the years we’ve come to accept that we won’t be parents this time around, at least not to our own children or grandchildren. And maybe that’s why I feel this pressure to teach what I know, so that whatever bits of wisdom I might actually have learned might live on in somebody else.
This coming Monday will be our last night teaching Aikido. I laugh to myself as I write that because I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve stopped teaching Aikido, and then started up again. Never say never, right? But it’s frustrating that I know this art and my body can still do it (although I’m mighty sore the next day), and yet a class doesn’t seem to come together.
I didn’t get the teaching job I had hoped to get at Adams State. I didn’t even make the short list. And with budget crunches, there’s not much chance that I’ll get hired on again as an adjunct anytime soon, except maybe here and there in the summer, and whatever students I’m able to find through Extended Studies. I had a bad week a few weeks back when one of the candidates showed up for a campus visit. He looked to be about 17 and 80 lbs dripping wet, but he had a big fat PhD after his name and at least one book under his belt. I felt pissed to be passed over for a white male who may write circles around me, but what of his life experience or ability to teach? I cried and stomped around and hated Adams State and felt sorry for myself for a couple days, and then I got over it and rededicated myself to being the best damn tutor I can possibly be.
An hour ago I was knifing joint compound on the drywall seams in the barn/studio/gallery we’re working on. Let’s just call it mudding. Working over my head on the ceiling seams while standing on scaffolding is rearranging my neck and shoulders, and I can only do it for two or three hours at a stretch before I have to take a break, or at least look down. But with Henry working full time, I’m grateful I can still pitch in on the job, and I can’t wait until it’s done and Henry and I can unpack our tools and tables and paintings and sculptures were they’ve been tucked away in the garage, and set up the best damn studio we’ve ever, ever had, which is why we jumped on buying this place on Chamisa Trail, and why we’re back here in this community, living in this particular valley where spring is just beginning to show her tender green face in the tiny grasses of the field where Esperanza and Lucky graze, and in the shoots of garlic I planted last October, and in the swelling lilac buds. May my 65th year, which starts tomorrow, be the best one yet.