It’s a good day to just kick back here on the island. It is raining quite a bit so no walk for Maggie May and I. She does not really care for the rain as I watch her whip her little ears back and forth and then shake her furry bootie as she makes a dash outside for her morning constitution. Her shake is like a wave from the tip of her nose to her tiny nub of a tail. At this moment, I can hear her grumpy groan below me as I sit at my desk to write. I guess she is tucking in, curling up for a lazy hazy nap. Oh the life of a dog. I can honestly say I never expected to have a pet in my life, nor to have one as devoted and loyal to me. Maggie May is attached to my hip, literally. Some part of her has to be right at my side, touching me or at least in close proximity to sniffing. Is that normal? Blah.
Funny how things suddenly pop into my head space, stirring my heart chords, of moments that have touched me, changed me, awakened me. Not sure why they stick in my head but they do. The ordinary becomes extraordinary in its wake. Take a red pen for example. An ordinary everyday tool for writing, not a thing to get your knickers in a twist. Right? But, I never use it, never buy it, and will get rid of it, if a red pen happens to be part of multi-package of coloured pens. What in the world? Yes, a red pen. Misery to the nth degree. The red pen has caused me a deep-seeded grief over many years beginning from my early childhood schooling days. I think teachers back in my day got an excellent deal on red pens. It seemed to me that was the only colour I saw plastered across my pages of writing over and over. Why? Oh Why? I loved to write – stories, poetry, ditties, instructions, riddles – you name it. I even liked to write personal cards to my family, rhyming lines about them; expressing my love. But for some reason, the red pen with its circles, lines (double and triples underlines) and numbers crisscrossing across my thoughts, became the enemy from a teacher’s hand; a hand that is to make a difference in young hearts and minds. I even remember that we were told that we could only use the red pen for certain things like underlining the date, the title, the subtitles, numbers.
It hurt. Whether the teachers realized it or not, they left an indelible mark on me. I mean I may not have been the best writer and I know I certainly could use some help to this day from the grammar ‘police’ (auto correct …that would have been sooo good), but was I that bad? Grammar was certainly the be all and end all. Terms like subjective completion and adverb and predicate. Oh I get all a flitter…bit of sickness. Creativity and imagination…not so much. My little mind trying to put pen to paper (yes old technology the pen – hard to believe!) and thinking I got this. Maybe I had conversations about my writing but the red pen taste lingered. So visible. Imprinted. Delivery is everything no matter how young or old you are. It was not until I got into grade 12 that my old English teacher Mr. Smallwood gave me a glimmer of hope. He did not use a red pen (I hope they sold out) but a pencil. Erasable. No circles or triple underscoring but he left comments, suggestions. I want to thank him and wish I could. I felt worthy.
However, I could not have been that bad because the extraordinary thing happened the College of Teachers let me in….I became a teacher. Who knew? Of course I cannot speak for the students I have taught…not sure what they would say about me. Hopefully I wasn’t a ‘red pen’ teacher to them. I know that writing takes a great deal of courage, to make visible one’s thinking and open to being vulnerable. I think about Peter Reynolds in his book The Dot…a story of a young person believing they could never be an artist…and by word and deed by an a teacher…an artist was born. Love that story. Keeper. To this day, I have never used a red pen when working with my students. They could and did if they so choose to, but not me. I do have to say, funnily enough, that I did keep a single red pen in my pencil holder each year on my desk. Reminder maybe.
It is amazing how one experience, one word, one action, one thing can touch you in ways everlasting. I am not going to pretend that I am scholarly in my writing by any stretch of the imagination, back then or now, but if you love to do whatever…do. Give it a go, I am but a little pen, but a pen nevertheless.
Mother Teresa has a beautiful prayerful poem she adapted from Dr. Kent Keith, “Do It Anyway” So I think I will take poetic license here and add my own line in acknowledgement of the red pens around the world; something ordinary to some, becoming extraordinary in me…. “When you want to put down your thoughts, others might not accept by word or deed. Write anyway.”
Let us pray for those who are in need of strength and courage..