Shape Changer

Shape Changer March 18, 2010

I am more grateful than I can say for the warm weather we’ve had this past week. With the sun out, and the temperatures rising into the sixties during the day, the snow is almost gone, the streams are high, and there’s a riot of life going on in the woods.

At the same time, this is March… the time of year just before the main onslaught of the state’s MCAS tests and spring fever for my students. Whatever of substance I’m going to teach my students before the year ends, this is it: the last chance to really deliver the meaty stuff. So every day,my head is full of teenagers: raucous, distractable, brightly-colored, enthusiastic, sullen, needy teenagers. From the morning bell to the departure of the last bus, there is very little room for me inside my head these days.

Teenagers and their drama take up a lot of space in my life. And it’s not that the self I carry through my days is false, but it is partial, maybe a little cramped, like a pair of too-tight shoes. I bring my real self to school with me each day–it’s one of the things kids like about me, I suspect. But not my whole self: my whole self just does not fit into the role I have in their lives for those 64-minute class periods. I am role model, mentor, goad, scold, and cheerleader, but most of all, I am there for them, and not for me. I fit my expression to their needs, as they flux from day to day: now patient, now funny, now stern, but always shining just a little bit brighter and more outwardly than I might prefer, left to my own concerns.

I have always been an inward kind of a person.

So it’s a relief, as I guide my car along the winding country roads between my school and my home every afternoon, to feel the school and Ms. Bishop slipping away. As the branches of trees flicker past, and I reach the shady, hemlock-lined road along the river, I remember again that the woods are waiting for me, and in only a few more minutes, I can slip of my teacher-skin, like a tight pair of shoes, and go off by myself among the trees.

Out on the trails, the leaf-mold is soft underfoot. Icy water bubbles from the ground, and I can see deer tracks in the mud. There are hidden birds singing, and the wind makes the pine boughs speak and the swamp maples clack a quiet percussion overhead.

It is like changing shape. My social self glides away on that wind, and I smell the air differently. The shade of trees welcomes me, and I slip within it, shifting form. I become more deer, or dog, or fish under the surface of a pool than human woman.

It is one of the best feelings I know. Without the earth, we are not complete; without the land, I cannot forget myself enough to become who I really, fully am.

* * * *

So what am I doing here, typing on a computer keyboard? The sun is still well up in the sky. The woods are ready.

I have paused to shift my self yet another way for just a moment, trying on the shape of writer, dreamer, word-smith. I’m done now, however. Ready to let the human parts go, and find out what the woods want from me today.

Blessed be.

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