Archive | November, 2020

Little potatoes

24 Nov

Little pitchers have big ears. It’s an old adage, and I love old maxims like this.

More than once over the 30 years of my teaching career, I have had students say something to me that I think is brilliant and, when I ask them where they heard it, they tell me they heard it from me. It’s nice to know they listen. Teaching remotely, I have a gallery view of little pitchers before me. I also have a gallery of little potatoes. You see, I have reformatted the old axiom. I now believe that not only do little pitchers have big ears, I also hold that little potatoes have big eyes.

“Ms Gillespie, what are those books behind you?”

“Ms. Gillespie, what is that art on your wall?”

“Ms. Gillespie, what are those white bags I see?”

This last question came last week. My sister sent me an Advent calendar -and the means by which I could hang it. I did so, and my efforts did not go unnoticed.

Since remote learning began, I have tried to be mindful of what students see behind me. I just never realized how some of them would scrutinize my living room. I have decided to turn this to my advantage and plant things in the background just to see who is looking, and, I hope, to spark some new conversations.


17 Nov

The man was sitting on the low brick wall that curved into the park from the entrance. I saw him from a distance, my homeless person senses tingling. There are a number of tents and car-homes on permanent deployment near the park and the residents spend a lot of time in the park. For the most part, they are friendly, as this gentleman was.

Wearing a hat and face mask, my hearing is sometimes impaired. I clearly heard him say, “Do you have five,” but the ending was cut off. I assumed his last word was dollars, and I smiled with my eyes as Richard and I began to walk past silently.

“Just five minutes,” he continued. “I am doing sketches and you are interesting to me.” Well, flattery gets you many places, so I stopped.

“Well, I haven’t felt interesting for a while,” I laughed from a safe distance away.

“That’s a basset hound, right?” he continued. “We had a basset growing up.His name was McGee. We gave him that name thinking we were getting an Irish Setter, but we got hom. He was a good dog.”

“This is Richard,” I said as I watched him sketch, looking from Richard and I back to his sketchbook, his hand moving all the while. I gave him a little bit of Richard’s story and he shared some stories about McGee. He wasn’t wearing a mask, and, from the way he spoke, I got a sense that he’d had a hard life, or had some developmental issues. He wore no mask and I still had no clue as to whether he was an occupant of the encampment around the park. He was just a friendly guy.

“I’m done,” he announced suddenly, holding his notebook up for me to see. There were several sketches of Richard, from different angles. We wished each other a good day and Richard trotted forward – he’s a fast walker – as I heard the man ask someone else if they had five minutes. I heard the ending clearly that time.

Sunday in the park

10 Nov

Yellow leaves
With a splash of red
Kids dare-deviling their bikes
Down and up the gully
Taking air as they hit the top
Families and dog-walkers
And even one cat walker
Keeping her pet far from the crowds
Under the canopy
I pass one, two, three groups
Doing tai chi
And another practicing kendo
The muddy off leash area
Is full of the sort of dog
That loves to chase a ball
We stick to the path,
Where it is easier to spot and
Tree a squirrel
Ducks in the algae covered pond
Hold the attention of
Small children
And older folks
More than one family is dressed
For a photo shoot
Amidst the fall splendor
Other families and friends
Gather round laden picnic tables
Or sit on lawn chairs
Socially distanced
Their voices and laughter
Ringing across the park.

Richard, the first three days

3 Nov

I saw Richard for the first time as I pulled into the parking lot of the Wilsonville Petsmart on Saturday. He was walking on the sidewalk with one of the volunteers who had driven to and from Bend, a six hour round trip, to pick him up and hand him over to me.

What struck me first was his size – he is double the size Lucy was! I was also relieved to see that his skin wasn’t as bad as I feared. Oh, it’s bad, but his treatment seems to be working.

He greeted me happily when I got out of the car and came over to say hello. He just rolled with it when he was put in another strange car (mine). He settled into the back and was calm on the drive home. Arriving home, I got the parking spot right in front of my place. When Richard got out of the car, he went straight up the stairs as if he knew this was his new home.

He peed in the house once on Saturday.

Fortunately, I am learning to read his signs and there have been no accidents. There have been lots of walks. In Saturday, we just walked around the block in each direction. Sunday, we took a walk to Laurelhurst Park and Richard was like a kid in the candy store. Squirrels! Dog friends! Smells! His enthusiasm was infectious.

Yesterday, was the real test: would he disrupt my classes. Of course he didn’t! I took him on a long walk at lunch so he slept through most of them. He barked once during my last class – that’s his sign that it is almost time for dinner – then settled down after some snuggles.

Yes, Richard seems to be settling in.

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