Sometimes I over-think my narrative and try to make it grand. Let me tell you all a story; I will try to let
A guest lecturer from “Living Classrooms” came to my graduate-level curriculum class. She was a white-lady from South Dakota named Monique who taught in Rwanda with Peace Corps and now coordinates educational programs in Washington DC. Twice she mentioned teaching in prisons and on an indigenous peoples’ reservation in The West.
In the middle of the lesson she gave us each a canister of play-dough. The uncanny salty scent of a once familiar, now exotic,
childhood filled the air. Mine was a green like cactus. I looked around to see if anyone else had
cactus play-dough. No. Prickles rose up the back of my spine. She instructed us
…instructed us to sculpt our future in play-dough. She instructed us
…instructed us to choose a symbol of what we wanted to be and make it from play-dough
the uncanny, salty scent of a once familiar, now exotic, childhood filled
…play-dough. I started making the fronds of a cactus, like green pancakes. I thought I would be clever and use my secret canister of purple play-dough to make cactus fruit. In Palestinian Arabic, the colloquial word for cactus fruit
puns on a classical word for patience. I remember the land left latticed by cactus rows surrounding
…land left latticed by cacti after radical militia burned and bulldozed Palestinian villages
the houses are gone, burned and bulldozed by radical Zionists in 1948
…Palestinian villages. Now, pears that pun patience grow green with great, sweet fruits in a lattice
because the roots did not die and the stalks regenerated
….great, sweet fruits the color of my secret play-dough grew in a village whose name meant
…grew in Beit Jala West of Bethlehem where I lived for 17 months more than 27 months ago. I wanted to symbolize patience, resilience, and the persistence of memory but the play-dough could not stand erect like…
…so I smashed it into a lump and began again.
I finished my play-dough bridge just as time expired. I glanced around the room at an owl, a magnifying glass, a cocoon, a house… then back at my bridge. It looked like a tongue draped over four pencil-eraser butts with a pair of disfigured dorsal fins. Green like chewed wintergreen gum, it sagged in the middle. Its columns were fat and squishy, its suspension towers were useless decorations. The lecturer nodded at my explanation: “I want to build a connection between areas that once seemed separate.” In saying so, I tried to re-anchor my thoughts from over four years ago. I paced around a retreat center in up-state New York, rehearsing my elevator speech about entering into mission service and becoming ‘a bridge’ —
“Great job everyone,” she said slyly, smirkingly — furtively. “Now smash-it and make a new future.” The message was that we always needed to stay malleable as educators and teach students to imagine multiple futures and…
I wanted to be free
…to imagine multiple futures and I wanted to be something clever and free like a fox or
maybe a coyote listening in the woods, head and ears erect, laying in undergrowth with my front paws nestled beneath my chest and my back legs idly cocked to one side, extended. I was alert but relaxed
sculpting a coyote future from green play-dough
…with my tapering cloud-tail and my upturned snout, smelling
the uncanny, salty scent of a once familiar, now exotic, childhood filled.
“I made a coyote because I can be adaptable and free and I can do whatever I want, when I want.” Classmates complimented my handsome sculpture as he listened to them with perky ears, still green like cactus.
This future is vastly different than a bridge. I left the coyote resting on the edge of my desk until the period was concluded. Everyone nodded as my pet returned into the canister, into formlessness.
stay malleable as educators and teach students to imagine
…nodded as the beast returned.
To Be Continued…