I retired from full-time teaching five years ago, but in subsequent fall semesters the college allowed me to mentor small, informal groups of highly motivated students. Our text (among other more spontaneous things) was the Norton Book of Nature Writing. We spent our collective time outdoors, learning what we could about the flora, fauna, and geology of our local area. We journaled. We wrote essays. I'm not sure what the students took from the experience, but it was of a huge benefit to me. My young colleagues helped me see things that would otherwise have passed by in a blur of familiarity.
What was the point of our endeavor? To read, of course, To write. To love words, to let the language enfold us like a lover. To be silent. To embrace solitude. To ascertain our kinship with the muskrat, the Indian pipes, the poison ivy, the geese sculling south on cadenced wings. The students wrote beautiful essays, which, when perfect, we read aloud, sitting in whatever holy places we could find. I am grateful to them, and now that it is over will miss them more than they know.
Miss them especially in this anxious time when the news each day brings more evidence of a fractured world. I'm an optimist. I believe the future will outshine the past. But having access to the idealism of good-hearted young people was a salutary boon. (Click to enlarge.)