Beyond Work: Finding Your Own Space in the Day

My “of interest” post this week focuses on a Washington Post reporter even though it’s really supposed to focus on poet Donald Hall. The reporter exposed Hall to ridicule and was criticized.

I’m thinking about Donald Hall because I’m reading Essays After Eighty and The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, a collection published in 2015. I have come to love this grizzled, rumpled old man who isn’t afraid to dive into the vagaries of old age who, after a lifetime of poetry, can no longer write poems:

New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures. I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It’s better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers. It is a pleasure to write about what I do.

Both his prose and the insights he communicates make it a pleasure to read about what he does.

In the essay “Physical Malfitness” he describes his physical failing as he ages, but also his lifetime failure as an athlete. However, even though he doesn’t play, he loves baseball. He watches every night during the season, cheering on the Boston Red Sox. He watches without doing anything else, and he compares this single minded focus on baseball with other writers like Yeats and Eliot who read westerns and mysteries in the evenings.

Our brains need to rest, to reach in different directions, to focus on something that brings us pleasure without any concern for a test.  It may be baseball, or a particular genre, or…I like to crochet and stream PBS shows. I’m counting and creating with the crochet hook but also letting my mind follow a compelling story or engaging educational experience. The latter is a fancy way of saying “Great British Baking Show.” I’m watching the Master Series now so it is educational as I’m learning how to bake classic breads and desserts and more.

Our students also need their chance to get beyond their school work. A chance to pursue passions without accountability, just learn or be or do as they find their way. These moments of freedom, minds ebbing and flowing around some activity or event, can be percolators of innovation.

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