R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: Teaching (page 1 of 2)

There will be a quiz.

My latest, at Columbus and the Valley Magazine

Many thanks to publishers Mike Venable and Jill Tigner for running my short piece “Reverie with Coffee and Hash Browns” in the June 2017 edition of Columbus and the Valley Magazine. (The piece is on page 72.) My fellow contributors have really outdone themselves this month—so I expect you to check out their delightful articles, as well.

Photo: “Waffle House, 12:19pm”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wherever someone’s in need

Two years ago today, I submitted final grades for the last time—and, to celebrate, posted on Facebook this photo of my 1960s neon Pabst Blue Ribbon bar sign (a lucky eBay purchase). While I miss my former students, my friends, and the steady (if small) paychecks, I don’t miss teaching. At all. Ever.

In some ways, though, I’m still teaching. For example: most of this week has seen me helping people figure out how to do the things that confuse or frighten them—and figure it out through writing. I’ve helped people’s ideas take shape on the printed page, whether in plain text or as part of a graphic layout. I’ve talked people through the stories they’re afraid to write, when their dreams literally point them toward taking great creative risks. In a sea of disinformation, I’ve helped people find the knowledge they need to make hard decisions.

I walked out of the classroom two years ago. I haven’t looked back. But when I think about my own writing, and how I’ve used what I know to help others, I know that the classroom isn’t always in a school building. The classroom is wherever someone’s in need.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

“At free safety, from the University of Georgia…”

Mid-September 2013. My afternoon English 1101 class prepares to write their second essay of the semester. (Students’ identifying details have been changed.)

ME:  All right—in the Week 8 folder online, you’ll see some good, A-plus sample essays from former students.
STUDENT 1:  Can we see some bad essays?
ME:  No.
STUDENT 2:  Why not?
ME:  Because I want y’all to do well on Essay 2. I want you to follow what the successful essays are doing.
CLASS:  Awwwwwww!
ME:  I’m serious. We learn by studying strong examples—by watching people who are good at what we want to do. [turning to Student 3, a football player] What position do you play?
STUDENT 3:  Defensive end.
ME:  Perfect! [turning to class] Think about it this way: I can show you how to tackle, or [Student 3] can show you how to tackle. Whose example is going to be better?
CLASS:  [Student 3]’s example.
ME:  Right! Because [Student 3] knows what he’s doing, and has for a long time. He plays college football. I don’t know anything about football. Why follow my tackle demonstration? I’d be terrible at it.
STUDENT 3:  Aww, don’t say that, Professor. I bet you’d make a good free safety.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Fragment of an Ordinary Day Long Gone

When I taught at the University of West Georgia, my campus office was about 200 feet from the building where many of my classes met. My walks to class were never long, but they were beautiful. The thoughtfully landscaped campus always gave me something to look at, even in winter. Bare cherry and maple branches silhouetted against the sky, glossy holly and magnolia leaves defiantly green in the cold, silvery bark shimmering in the morning light, sweetgum leaves and seedpods clustered like so many haiku next to the sidewalk—I loved them all.

One cold February morning, I was on my way to class when I saw a spot of light jade-green in the brown bark mulch along the sidewalk.

Green Dish Fragment Found at UWG in Feb 2012 (21 June 2012)

Barely an inch long, the dish fragment bore the crackles of age and the freeze-thaw cycle. This wasn’t anything recently produced (or recently broken). The color was popular for dishes and kitchen accessories in the 1930s and 1940s. The subtle flutes along the bottom reminded me of Fiesta dishware.

I’m always finding interesting dish fragments on walks around my beloved Hillside neighborhood. But in all my years of university teaching, I’d never found anything like this on a college campus.

So I e-mailed Suzanne Durham, UWG’s campus historian. “What used to be where the TLC building is today?” I asked. “I found a small piece of an old dish behind the building, and thought it was out of place.”

Before it was a college, Ms. Durham told me, the campus was a 275-acre cotton farm owned by Bluford A. Sharp. College trustees purchased the property from him in 1907. That July, 12,000 people witnessed the cornerstone ceremony for what’s now the Academic Building.

Sadly, Special Collections didn’t have any pre-UWG photos of the north-central part of campus from back then. However, the farm did feature many sharecropper families. Their small, plain houses were likely on the edges of the farm, along dirt roads and the edges of pastures, far away from the main house. The main house still stands—except it’s now called Honors House. The sharecroppers’ shacks, demolished over a century ago, weren’t so lucky.

Almost nobody thinks to preserve poor people’s homes.

I thought of the hundreds of meals eaten on the jade-green dishes, of which the little fragment was once a part. I thought of the tired, cracked hands that washed those jade-green dishes in hundreds of dishpans of hot, soapy water. I thought of the accidents (or maybe the on-purposes) that shattered those pretty dishes, a shard of which lay before me. I thought of the woman who swept up the sharp broken dish pieces and tossed them beneath the house into the crawl space, where many country families discarded their broken glassware before the days of landfills.

I thought of the hundreds of people whose homes stood where the campus is today. I thought of the Native Americans who lived here long before that—and of the animals and trees that lived here centuries before the first humans ever arrived. In another 300 years, what will stand where these buildings and sidewalks and streets and trees do today?

The little green fragment stays tucked inside my purse. I keep it there in memory of an ordinary day long gone.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

NOTE: This piece, since revised, first appeared here on 23 June 2012

 

Throwback Thursday: A Teaching Story

My first job out of school was at a small technical college. The previous year, as a University of Georgia graduate assistant, I’d taught all of four first-year English classes. I knew I could handle small-town students with finesse and aplomb.

Oh, yes. I would be the one to bring them the Good News of the Gospel of Literature. My students would gladly, hungrily devour all that my newly-minted American Lit MA and I could serve them. By midterm, their comma splices and run-ons would be a sad but fading memory. By finals week, their effortless prose would flow like the waters of the mighty Jordan. Hallelujah!

Fall Quarter 1999 found me thoroughly prepared. I’d done everything I was supposed to do. My textbooks had come in weeks before. I’d long finished my syllabus by the time I made thirty copies of it in the faculty mail room. I was so prepared that, days in advance, I’d chosen what to wear that late August evening. I’d even ironed my dress, and used extra starch. With a haircut, a little makeup, a manicure, and a pedicure, I was set. A new professor can’t be too careful.

On the first evening of the quarter, my students trudged into the musty classroom. Most had arrived directly from work, and looked a little bleary. A few, dressed in standard-issue Dickies uniforms, would head to late-shift jobs after class. Tired, sure, but overall a solid bunch. Half a dozen recent high school grads sat together in the back row. Everyone else, ages 25 to 70, sat as close to the front as they could. (As one near-retiree explained weeks later, the older students had long ago stopped caring what their classmates thought.)

The Showing of Books and The Reading of the Syllabus went smoothly, but the class still seemed nervous. (It would take me several more years to realize this is normal for the first class meeting—and even the first three or four weeks of the term.) I wanted to get to know them a little before the red pen and I became their sworn enemies.

Ah-ha! Perhaps an icebreaker game would help. I explained to my students that I’d go around the room and ask each person to introduce him- or herself. Students would tell us their hometown, where they worked, what they planned to study in tech school…and one thing that most people didn’t know about them. This would be fun.

Starting stage left, I worked my way across the front row. Grocery store cashiers, carpet mill workers, pulpwood cutters, receptionists, telemarketers, cable TV techs, and delivery drivers all introduced themselves, revealing cute, funny, yet safe personal details to their new classmates:

“My favorite foods are marshmallows and pickles. Together.”
“Growing up, I wanted to be a hip-hop astronaut.”
“I collect pink ceramic unicorns.”

The last student on the front row smiled as he introduced himself. Dressed in a polo shirt and khakis, neatly groomed, the earnest late-twenty-something probably had a job in customer service or sales. He told us his name, his hometown, his job title, his major—and stopped.

“Thanks, that was nice. But how about that one thing most people might not know about you?”

He hesitated, then mumbled an answer.

“Pardon?” I cupped my hand to one ear.

His face flushed carmine. “I—umm. I—I have—a foot fetish.”

One, one thousand.
Two, one thousand.
Three, one thousand.

He reddened more, cleared his throat. “I get turned on by ladies’ feet.”

I looked down. Against the nubby gray institutional carpet, my perfect candy apple red toenails peeked out from new shoes.

Black patent leather.
Open-toe pumps.
Three-inch heels.

I wore sneakers the rest of the quarter.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

This post first appeared here on 28 February 2014. It appears today with revisions.

 

Wednesday Photo: 9/9/15

PunctuationIssues1892_COPY_2015-08-28_20.15.15

ME:  Check out that plaque. Notice anything?
MOM:  [after a moment] The apostrophe -s is wrong. “Commissioners” needs just an -s.
ME:  Yep. And only some of the initials have a period after them.
MOM:  Wait—1892. Wasn’t that back when people supposedly had this stuff drummed into their heads in school?
ME:  Supposedly.
MOM:  Mmhmm. Right.

“Punctuation Issues, 1892”
LaGrange Art Museum
LaGrange, Georgia – 28 August 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Dreaming School

No matter how long you’ve been away, the saying goes, you’ll still have the occasional dream about school. They come out of nowhere, for even less reason than most dreams do. They’re almost always bad.

There’s the one where you’re back in ninth grade and wake up naked in the middle of PE class (or AP English, or Typing II, or wood shop). Everyone has those. There’s also the less-common one where it’s your college graduation day, and your family’s sitting way up in the gym bleachers waiting to see you walk, but you just found out about that elective you didn’t know you had to have. Now the course is meeting under the dais where the governor and the college president and all the other bigwigs are sitting, and you don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to be two places at once, and then Waylon Jennings (who’s served as The Balladeer for this entire scene) suddenly breaks the fourth wall and calls your name for you to come up and get your diploma, which turns out to be an angry water moccasin.

Yep, school dreams are like that.

In mine, though, I’m rarely a student, and usually the teacher. Even though I’m no longer teaching, I’ll probably always have these nightmares—like the one with an enthusiastic student who looks entirely too much like my hell-raising four-foot-nine Polish great-grandmother, and who comes to class in a circa 1963 fox-fur stole and toting a moldy squished-flat pineapple cake in her backpack. Or the one about a class I forgot to teach that’s now been meeting without me, in a barn that I cannot find, for three years. Or the one that woke me screaming, in which a rabid half-human, half-cow administrator will stop at nothing to make a Biblical burnt offering out of me in the middle of the library.

Sometimes, though, I have a classroom dream worth remembering…

The classroom was the smooth, flat, sandy yard under the red oaks at my grandmother’s tiny Methodist circuit church. My English 1101 students were turning in their most important essays of the semester. It had just rained, and the moss around the red oaks’ roots was slippery. I could smell the arborvitae in the cemetery, and the oil soap scent of the church wafting out from under the crooked old front doors.

“Watch your step,” I called to my students. “It’s slick over by the clubhouse.” One by one, bleary-eyed yet relieved, they said hello to me, set their essay packets on the concrete block picnic tables, and walked back down the dirt road toward Mr. Mac’s store and the paved road back to campus.

Except for one student.

“Professor, I need an extension,” he said after shaking my hand. We had all been in this class together for the last thirteen weeks, yet this dream-student acted as if we had just met.

“You know my late paper policy,” I said. Exhausted from a long day, I began stacking the other students’ papers and sliding them into my canvas tote bag. “This essay is worth 30% of your grade. We’ve been working on it for three-and-a-half weeks. Why don’t you have it?”

He sighed and waved toward the grass beyond the clubhouse, toward the ball field where both my grandfathers and most of my great-uncles played baseball almost a century ago. “When I was in Afghanistan, my unit got hit by a mortar attack one night, and a bunch of IEDs exploded under my Humvee—”

—and with those last words, the ball field ripped itself from the earth and into the air, sweeping us into a whirling dirt-filled dream-tornado that set us down just outside Kabul, in the middle of the night, with APCs and tanks and gunfire and artillery and God-knows-what else making me think this really might be the end, and my student getting severely wounded and losing a leg that was somehow reattached in the field and looked more like a plastic human-sized Barbie doll leg than that of a grown man.

After his leg was reattached, my student kept narrating the story of his return home from Afghanistan. The dream-tornado picked us up and set us down yet again, this time in Mobile, Alabama, where he would have to walk all the way home to Los Angeles. In El Paso, he grabbed my wrist and yanked me shrieking along with him onto a freight train back to California.

In the rail yard, the dream-tornado picked us up again, setting us down at a bus station in L.A., where my student was gunned down by a car full of gang members and left to bleed to death in front of the 7:18 to Albuquerque. But he pulled the bullets out of his own torso with his own hands—I watched all this in horror as he narrated—and he lost a lot of blood and almost died yet again. This was why it took him a really long time to get back to campus, he said as the wind grabbed us anew…especially after he had spent a summer in Alaska working on a fishing boat, and nearly drowned when the Queen Susie II capsized in stormy seas.

“So, you can see, it’s been a rough semester,” my student said as the dream-tornado plopped us back under the red oaks. “I’ve been through a lot.”

“You sure have,” I said. “But I still need your paper.”

Then I woke up.
Laughing.
For once.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Exam Week Solace

2014-12-08 10.41.56

LaGrange, Georgia – 6 December 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Seeing the Seer

Last night, I dreamed I was traveling through the Randolph County, Alabama, countryside of my childhood. It was a cold, rainy morning, and I was a field trip leader for a group of college students I had just met. In Rock Mills, the bus stopped at what used to be Bennett’s Grocery (closed since 1984). The students milled around the store, buying sodas and snacks for the day.

As I waited near the entrance, someone handed me an English 1101 essay, done up as an 8½” x 11” newsletter. It was a proud newsletter, too: set in fancy glossy colors, letterpress-printed on heavy paper, full of bravado—but, overall, a shoddily written big fish in a poorly designed little pond. The frustration disengaged my brain-mouth filter.

“Dear God, this is awful,” I almost shouted. “Just awful. It reads like ten miles of dirt road after a hard rain.” I handed the newsletter to another trip leader and walked outside.

By the door, one student stared intently at me. She had icy-blue eyes.
Three icy-blue eyes.

I swallowed my fear, gazed directly into that middle orb, and spoke again. “There isn’t a single documented fact in that essay. It’s all poorly supported opinion—the weakest content I’ve seen in a long time.” I took the newsletter back from the other trip leader, and pointed to the most egregious parts. “And the typos are thick as fleas. Readers deserve better. In my class, there’s no way it would pass.”

When I glanced at her again, the third eye had disappeared. She still stared at me, but less intently. The notepad in her hand looked nearly full. She scrawled another note or two, nodded deeply in my direction, and took her seat on the bus.

I awoke thinking that it takes tremendous courage to tell the Oracle of Delphi she’s full of shit.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

46 Miles

Sometimes, I walk out of the classroom and think, “I didn’t do a bit of good today.” The familiar, sinking feeling snuggles close. Maybe, just maybe, it really is impossible to teach people how to write well. Maybe writing well really is like breathing—you either do it, or you’re dead.

I cry the entire forty-six miles home.

Later, though, I recognize the sinking feeling as a good omen. If I had all the answers, I’d also probably be full of shit. There is no way to have all the answers. There is only trying and failing, trying and failing, again and again, until something sticks.

And so I try again, try explaining it a different way, with the next class.
And the next.
And the next.

 

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

33 1/3 Kinds of Wrong

One bonus of country music research—and of teaching a survey course titled “Country Music and Southern Culture: Beyond Drinkin’, Fightin’, and Cheatin'”— is the material students find on their own for class.

Years ago, after a great discussion of how country music often ignores African-Americans’ contributions to the genre, one student brought me this 25¢ yard sale gem. “Since we talked about DeFord Bailey, Charlie Pride, and Ray Charles last week,” he said, “I thought this might be interesting.”

The next day, I showed it to the class. “Based on our discussion the other day, tell me what’s going on with this album cover.”

At the back of the room, one student raised a hand. “Well, Professor—how much time do you have?”

 

The Tender Side of Ray Charles (front cover)

 

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)
Album cover © 1978 Suffolk Marketing, Inc.

 

Not an April Fool’s prank

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Dear Students and Colleagues:

Your kindness and generosity bring me to tears. Thank you for granting me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I’m doing something right. Thank you for honoring me with this year’s Stanley Parkman Excellence in Tutoring Award.

Love,
Me

Photo courtesy of Sean Jepson

Blog post text © R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

A teaching story

My first job out of school was at a tiny vo-tech college. The previous year, as a University of Georgia graduate assistant, I’d taught all of four first-year English classes—so I knew I could handle small-town students with finesse and aplomb. I would be the one to bring them the Good News of the Gospel of Literature. My students would gladly, hungrily devour all that my newly-minted American Lit MA and I could serve them. By midterm, their comma splices and run-ons would be a sad but fading memory. By finals week, their effortless prose would flow like the waters of the mighty Jordan. Hallelujah!

Fall Quarter 1999 found me thoroughly prepared. I’d done everything I was supposed to do. My textbooks had come in weeks before. I’d long finished my syllabus by the time I made thirty copies of it in the faculty mail room. I was so prepared that, days in advance, I’d chosen what to wear that late August evening. I’d even ironed my dress, and used extra starch. With a haircut, a little makeup, a manicure, and a pedicure, I was set.

A new professor can’t be too careful.

On the first evening of the quarter, my students trudged into the musty classroom around 5:30. Most had come from work, and as such were a little bleary around the eyes. A few, names embroidered on their shirt pockets, would head to their late-shift jobs after class. Tired, sure, but a solid bunch, overall. A few 18-year-olds, not long out of high school, sat together in the back row. Everyone else, ages 25 to 70, sat as close to the front as they could. (As one near-retiree explained to me weeks later, the older students had long ago stopped caring what their classmates thought.)

The Showing of Books and The Reading of the Syllabus went smoothly. Everyone still seemed apprehensive, though. I wanted to get to know them a little before the red pen and I became their sworn enemies. Perhaps an icebreaker game would help. I’d go around the room and ask each person to introduce him- or herself. Students would tell us their hometown, where they worked, what they planned to study in vo-tech school…and one thing that most people didn’t know about them. This would be fun.

Starting stage left, I worked my way across the front row. Grocery store cashiers, carpet mill workers, pulpwood cutters, receptionists, telemarketers, cable TV repairmen, delivery drivers all introduced themselves and revealed some cute, funny, yet safe personal details to their new classmates:

“My favorite foods are marshmallows and pickles. Together.”
“Growing up, I wanted to be a hip-hop astronaut.”
“I collect pink ceramic unicorns.”

The last student on the front row smiled as he introduced himself. Dressed in a polo shirt and khakis, neatly groomed, the earnest late-twenty-something probably had a job in customer service or sales. He told us his name, his hometown, his job title, his major—and stopped.

“Thanks, that was nice. But how about that one thing most people might not know about you?”

He hesitated, then mumbled an answer.

“Pardon?” I cupped my hand to one ear.

His face flushed carmine. “I—umm. I—I have—a foot fetish.”

One, one thousand.
Two, one thousand.
Three, one thousand.

He reddened more, cleared his throat. “I get turned on by ladies’ feet.”

I looked down. Against the nubby gray institutional carpet, my perfect candy apple red toenails peeked out from new shoes.

Black patent leather.
Open-toe pumps.
Three-inch heels.

I wore sneakers the rest of the quarter.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Why I do what I do

Late last Tuesday, after an exhausting day of teaching, I came home to find an email (paraphrased below) from a student who failed my course last semester.

Even though I didn’t do well enough to pass your class, I wanted to tell you that the way you had us write our papers and how hard you graded them has made me a better writer. I’m taking 1101 again this semester, and I can tell that what you taught us really works. Last week, I made an 80 on my first paper. Thank you for helping me become a better writer. Sincerely, [Student Name]

Sorry, I—I’ve got something in my eye. I’ll be okay.

On inspiration

When I write, the worst part is when I can’t figure out my emotions, when I feel numb and disaffected. Of course, I know from experience that it’ll pass. It always does—otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. But the fear that whispers close behind the numbness can be mighty persuasive: “Give up. You can’t do it. You can’t make it happen again.”

Eventually, I do make it happen again. Always. However, this is not and has never been a matter of low self-esteem, poor self-image, or any other pop psychology cliché.

It is a matter of writing for a living.

At some point, every professional writer experiences this unreasonable doubt and fear. Every professional writer works around and through it. The key here is acknowledging the whispers while continuing to write, instead of waiting for them to go away first, or for a brilliant idea to pop up before writing again. Taking action—that is, writing while we feel deeply uninspired—leads us out of the darkness and toward something worthwhile.

Do not wait for inspiration.
Write, write, write.
The ideas will thaw, melt, and flow your way.

I doubt this process every time.
It saves me every time.

There is no such thing as “waiting for inspiration to strike.” It’s just waiting, and it produces little of consequence. Most people who are not professional writers fail to realize this. As such, they become dilettantes along the sad, sorry way. My students teeter at the edge of dilettantism. It’s my job to pull them back.

Where they are is not their fault. After all, their ideas about how excellent prose happens have been shaped by romantic, highly unrealistic beliefs about writing. They are completely enamored with the idea of Being A Writer. They are passionately in love with the Idea Of Writing. And inspiration, they are sure, is what fuels this searing, delicious tinderbox of an affair.

For all his promises, Inspiration is a lousy lover, more wet kindling than lighter fluid. Inspiration is full of tease but never delivers: “all hat and no cowboy,” as a Texan friend says. Inspiration is sexy, charming, mysterious, compelling—on the outside. Get inspiration home and in the sack, though, and all we’ve got is a whiskey-dicked frat boy who, for all his looks and talk, gives our crotch half a clumsy rub before rolling over, puking in his own shoes, and passing out.

Well.

Wake him up. Don’t let him put on his clothes. Don’t give him a chance to rinse out his penny loafers. (Because you know Inspiration still wears penny loafers with his Members Only jacket.) Slam the door. Bolt it shut. Do NOT open it again, no matter how he begs. Don’t call him a cab. Call him what he is: a dud. No, no, he’s worse than a dud: he’s a charlatan. Kick his drunk ass back out in the street with the amateurs, where he belongs. As Carl Sagan explained years ago, “Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Inspiration stops us dead and cold when we depend on him. Hard as it may seem, we must guide ourselves. We must trust in the process, even when we’re angry and heartbroken and numb and completely blank. When we rely on inspiration, he’s a no-show. And suddenly, we’re all dressed up and dateless at the Winter Formal, stuffing those racking sobs back inside our ribcage as we pretend to enjoy ourselves. We’re scared, humiliated, devastated that The One We Love has crapped out on us at such an important moment.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. Inspiration is out back of the Teke house, blasted on Thunderbird with our potential and our creativity. He’d much rather get schnockered on the cheapest poison around—and steal our dearest friends—than deliver what he promised. He lives for this. He controls us when we depend on the illusion that we cannot create without him.

How, then, to work around the seductive, greasy charms of inspiration? By listening—listening to everything and everyone, listening to tiny flashes of things and people and creatures and plants and moments. The way we get big ideas is by paying attention to the small ones.

Now, ideas are wonderful, but they need a while to grow on us, to get to know us better. By noticing the things nobody else does, we give the small ideas the time and space and care they need to become stronger ideas—to become sentences, images, story lines, characters.

A tuft of fur caught on a hydrangea stem, flapping helplessly in the wind. The daddy longlegs crawling inexplicably up the truck tailgate in front of us as the light turns green. The way Wednesday morning lights up the plastic rain bonnets of old ladies at the grocery store—all small, and all vast, all at once.

Write it all down.
Yes, even if it “sounds stupid.”

After I hand back a set of papers, I ask students to reflect on where they might have gone wrong. They say, “Well, I was going to write about ______, but it seemed stupid.” And I clap my hands in wonder: “That’s not stupid at all. It’s what would make this essay work.”

And they learn, little by little, that Inspiration will not swoop in, all grandiose and deus ex machina, to save our writing asses. Good work happens in small pieces, and often almost imperceptibly.

In my first-year college writing classes, I show students a portfolio of my work, from eighth grade to the present. Professional, academic, creative—it’s all in there, the entire process. Some of it’s under construction, some of it’s pretty good, and some of it is capital-T Trash. “Look, dammit,” I want to shout, “look here and look hard. This is how we spin garbage into gold.”

Look, look, LOOK.
Soak it into your skin.
Soak it into your bloodstream.

This is noticing on the deepest, most profound level. This is where we build creative eye and ear and soul. This is where we begin: in noticing, instead of in waiting for someone or something to save us. In noticing the small, the insignificant, and writing down every last bit of it, we rescue ourselves from Inspiration.

And that is all I have to say today.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Disappearance

They haunt me, the ones who disappear. We meet a few times, and then they vanish. I half expect their pictures to show up on so many milk cartons: HAVE YOU SEEN US? CALL 1-800-ENG-1101.

Two, eight, sixteen years later, they still shuffle around the classroom of my mind. Was it an emergency? The syllabus? The circus? Addiction? Epiphany?

Maybe they remembered something that they’d tried to forget. Maybe they fled after an early round of Fail ‘Em All & Let God Sort ‘Em Out. Maybe it was a terminal case of the I-don’t-wannas, metastasizing through their transcripts like fire ant hills in a spring pasture. Or maybe—bound by need and love, by duty and blood—they turned back, toward home.

I’ll never know. But I think of them often, and pray they’re all right. Over the years and across the miles, I wish them patience, wisdom, and a chance to reappear.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 5/3/13

Cars Will Be Launched (Louisville, Kentucky - 8 June 2009)

Louisville, Kentucky—8 June 2009

I thought Spring Break would never get here.

Spring Break Kitty (LaGrange, Georgia - 8 February 2013)

Me either, kitty. Whew.

Overheard in the hallway

A: Is it time to go home and drink?
B: When is it not time to go home and drink?

Friday Photo: 2/22/13

Orange and White Campus Kitty, UWG (Carrollton, Georgia - 27 August 2012)

Carrollton, Georgia—27 August 2012

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