Thank you, Mr. J

From your opening paragraph, an old sense of wonder began to arise in me, reminiscent of the many afternoons listening to you navigate through history and quotation and experience to persuade, or simply make aware, a roomful of teens the importance of certain permeating themes and perspectives that weave around and around our own tiny lives and into the larger context we inhabit through time and space.

So many afternoons. So many fluid segues between the various subjects, tasks, and stories that we built as a community, some curricularly intentional, others accidentally through experience (it’s a TALONS thing). In TALONS, we got to work and see it become something real to enjoy and share, like planning for Adventure Trip and leadership events and Eminent Person Night – such an essential part of motivation, that for those who never get to experience it, they lose a chance to foster a real love for learning.

That’s one of the things I’ll always tie to your incredible teachership, Mr. J. It was the way you spoke to us, us with our funny teenager-ly ways, only just beginning to find our voice in writing and perspective and introspection, and you, with your genuine patience and understanding. You laughed at our jokes and jumped off of our ideas and encouraged us on our blogs and through it all, I realized the things I thought were not only valid, but mattered. My love for writing and striving to articulate what’s inside me as well as this still-going-strong optimism for meaning is so much thanks to you.

In these years since TALONS, I have been continuing to solidify what I hope my learning to be. In the same way we searched for primary sources in Socials, more and more, I see my teachers not as containers of information and invigilators of our required swallowing of it, but as vessels of tales for lessons and real wisdom learned through their own lives. I want to learn knowledge that is important to a life and learn how that knowledge is learned.
So cheers to you, Mr. Jackson, and this beautiful, reflective, resonating part of a life you have generously shared with the TALONS community. We are all so lucky to have had you as a mentor.

-Iris

I finally found it!

I remember the morning that I first asked about the meaning of the word, ‘love’. This was before I knew many words. I had found a few early violets in the garden and brought them to my teacher. She tried to kiss me; but at that time I did not like to have anyone kiss me except my mother. Miss Sullivan put her arm gently around me and spelled in my hand, ‘I love Helen.’
“What is love?” I asked.
She drew me closer to her and said, “It is here,” pointing to my heart. Her words puzzled me very much because I did not then understand anything unless I touched it.
I smelled the violets in her hand and asked, half in word, half in signs, a question which meant, “Is love the sweetness of flowers?” “No,” said my teacher.
Again, I thought. The warm sun was shining on us. “Is this not love?” I asked, pointing in the direction from which the heat came.
A day or two afterwards, the sun had been under a cloud all day, and there had been brief showers, but suddenly the sun broke forth in all its southern splendor. Again I asked my teacher, “Is this not love?”
“Love is something like the clouds that were the sky before the sun came out,” she replied. Then in simpler words than these, which at that time I could not have understood, she explained: “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.”
The beautiful truth burst upon my mind — I felt that these were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirit of others.
–Helen Keller, “The Story of My Life”

Then, in my noticing of the stars, in my mesmery of each and every flickering light, have I not, then, through my eyes and from my heart, stretched a line from me, all the way to them? Is that not love, then, of an innumerable amount? For who can ever count all the stars? And perhaps, to love a star is to love them all.

The thank-you that I’m not brave enough to put on Facebook:

To the beautiful friends and family that came to hear me play the concerto today:

Thank you. You are a special person. You are such a precious human being, to have taken the time to come see me play, to believe in me enough that you were willing to lend your ear to what I had to say. I want you to know I’m so grateful to have you in my life.

I hope you understood from my playing today that I really do love music and I really do think that I have something unique to say. I hope you caught a glimpse of those things. Like how sweet and wondrous music can be, how hopeful and persistent life can be, and somehow, how extraordinarily different and distant human beings can come together to appreciate the same thing. I think you should know, when students in the orchestra saw how big the audience was, they were so excited. Thank you for making their day and thank you for giving them the motivation to be their best. It was wonderful and so much fun to play with them.
Thank you for making this special day even more special, thank you for helping me be brave, and thank you for your love and care.

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I couldn’t just delete this:

Placing my little five year old fingers on the black and white keys, I began, with reverent determination and care, to play “Hot Cross Buns.” I was surprised by the bright, vibrant sound that emitted from the piano, and satisfied from the then-demanding but actually infinitesimal challenge. It was the first of my many unforgettable, unbreakable bonding moments with piano playing, a relationship that I am increasingly strengthening, particularly with my studies at the University of Victoria. With each passing lesson, lecture, and performance, I realize that the life of music is the one I wish to live.

Post BCHF2015

Was it about good-byes? Or about the changing world? Or just a capturing of a small moment that brought on a slew of thoughts and ideas and funneled neatly into a singular, bow-tied conclusion? Whatever it was, at least it was fully formed and focused and finished. Fly free, unchained thought, fly free.

FWAP. It’s a tight sound, a thick sound, or at least, tighter and thicker than I thought a knife splitting flesh and bone would be. The chosen slab of meat shifts into chunks of pork ready for cooking and I try to erase the imaginative whisper of blood splattering and parts flying from my mind. The butcher has his tools – big blades, thick blades, skewers, hangers, and one long, thin metal stick sitting on the edge of table. A fly skirts across my attention. Then, another creature. A moth? It flaps its dimly yellow, speckled wings towards the butcher’s counter. Is a bug a nuisance? An infringement on cleanliness? An object to remove? My mind wanders to the array of knives and the precision I suspect the butcher can employ to remove this unlabeled disturbance. I watch as the bug lands on the one long, thin metal sitting on the edge of the butcher’s table and slowly walks along the beam. The butcher becomes still, a stillness that surprises and deems me unable to translate.

“Butterfly,”

he says. And all of a sudden, the creature is a butterfly and sunlight unfolds from its gently sun-kissed wings and the expression on his face is a soft smile, one of wonder and love and admiration for creatures that reminds me that butchers may or may not be killers or cutters but without a doubt they are men with hearts and moments of humanity.

To: July 24 2010 and 2011

It’s been one year, one whole year since I got on that plane that took me to a place where life taught me all that mattered. It’s so far away, that even I’ve forgotten some of the routes and take-the-left-when-the-road-forks, and when was the best time to eat our chocolate bars.

It was there I breathed the smell of the sky trodden upon by herds of cattle, when the wind echapee’d with the dust as the music reached my ears. Oh, the music! How they sang for God! Their voices would make the angels cringe in embarrassment of themselves. And the sound of life! So gentle and real and calming. Never once did I want it to shut up! and go away. If only the voice of the universe was always like that.

The warm feeling of sitting by a campfire and listening to the voices of friends-becoming-family, the morning smell of chai tea, the crunch of new-but-now-worn work gloves, and hushed huff the earth sighed as I passed its dried surface as my feet traveled on…

And now all I’ve got left is a couple of beaded bracelets, a few soapstone carvings, a wax art piece, and well, a blanket. That’s all. I don’t have the shovels or pickaxes that nearly broke my back, I’ll never be able to see the kids, and I don’t even have my buddies who braved this adventure with me. All I’ve got are memories that I won’t ever let go, even if they start to fade away. I’ll paint them again in my head over and over again; all the acacia trees and bushy hills and the thick red sand, I can still see it all.

But sometimes, I wonder if it ever happened. After all, I’m still here in Canada, with enough money and overflowing, messy shelves and dressers, and an infinite number of things to do. It’s so hard to believe that it was the same me that pushed the old wheelbarrows and watched the kids sing; I feel as though I’m looking at the memories through windows and frames, instead of really feeling it. But some things never change. The crisp 100 shilling bill that’s really only worth $1.10 will still be sitting in that green change purse, and the wax that the vendor so importantly pointed out on the drawing still smells great. So I guess I’ll always have my ticket home to Kenya. Most of the time it’ll just be a little walk in my precious memories, but maybe one day, that Air Canada plane that flies over my head really will take me to Montreal, where Swiss Air will drop a piece of beautiful, creamy chocolate in my hand as they fly me, finally, home to Kenya.