On Sunday, I drove across the Cascade Mountains to sunny Yakima for a three day teaching conference. In this city my grandparents once called home, I let the sun melt away my everyday stresses and felt my curiosity perk up.
While strolling the neighborhood, I discovered churches with large blocks of dark stone rising above the city streets of downtown. One sits just outside my hotel window.
Those churches make me wonder.
Where did the stone come from? Who built these churches? Many of them are up for lease so what happened to make the churches fail?
I bet there is a story or five in those answers.
And then in my session yesterday, I had the good fortune to sit next to a mathematician. (I began to suspect he knew more than the rest of us when he launched into a description of vectors and their relationship to area.)
When we started using manipulatives to demonstrate how a negative number multiplied by a negative equals a positive, he mentioned that there is a mathematical proof for that.
That intrigued me.
So I asked if he could do it. He began working on it and says he’ll bring it for me tomorrow.
I can smell a story in that answer, too.
I have no idea if I will comprehend the proof but just trying to grasp the puzzle of it brings me joy. If nothing else, the experience could lead to the story of the linguist who fell in love with numbers later in life.
Earlier that same day, a teacher who works in the prison system read a poem to us titled ‘I See Something in You.’ She tells us she reads it aloud to the inmates in her class and that these men she works with can see right through insincerity. She’s got to give them her honest self, or she will fail as only a teacher in front of a class like that could fail.
I wonder what it would be like to have her job and asked for a copy of the poem so I could adapt it for my own students. Right after that, I wondered if I would have the courage to read it to them.
Maybe I will write those stories and the poem.
Maybe I won’t.
Either way, I love the way life tingles when the stories all around me get to whispering. I feel like my black cat checking out the vacuum cleaner hose at the top of his cat post, pulling himself up to see what all the noise is about or teetering at the top of a ladder just to get a new view.
Like him, I know there is danger tucked into the moment but, also like him, I measure that danger against the intrigue and zing of a life chock full of curiosity.
I might look stupid to that mathematician, I might find stories that wound me underneath those churches, and I know, like only a classroom teacher can know, that a poem could be the start of painful humiliation in front of a class of forty students, criminals or not.
But I also know if I follow those leads to the stories and the people tucked into them, I might get the gift of an artful life. Most days the falls are more than worth the climb up that ladder.
May you see the stories of beauty and joy all around you,
A quilt of the Fred Redmond Bridge crafted out of fabric and curiosity by the “Anything Goes Quilters”: Deborah Ann, Anna Assink, Sally Fitch, Barbara Green, Sue Grimshaw, Nancy Rayner, and Jeanne Strater. I love their group’s name! I think my writing group needs a name like this.