My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

IMG_1680

Coffee with Antonio Elias

Ah summertime. It is true. Many times in our lives, as a teacher, we would like to retreat toward that which would make life easier. Perhaps we choose to fall into a string of Netflix series, or our favorite crime show rather than take care of the busy work of maintaining our home, both the physical and mental. I’m guilty of that as I find myself in mid-summer, recognizing only too soon a school year ahead, whereby my focus will be on new students, new projects, new ideals. I feel fortunate that I have moments of clarity that are provided in my world to allow such priority to return.

Not a day ago, I was imagining the coming year, and felt great trepidation, a sometime normal response from a teacher sitting on their deck on a hot summer day watching the birds. The sun finally dropped, and I moved from the natural habitat of a backyard to my home, and turned on a baseball game, watched a Netflix series, flipped on my favorite crime show. Are you following the pattern? The reality is, I was actively trying to ignore the coming school year, knocking at my door as it does every summer right around the end of July. Today is July 27th, such perfect timing to have a coffee with one of my favorite alumni. That young man on my left is a former student who by his own actions  truly helps me and many of my colleagues recognize exactly why we chose our profession as teachers.

Since graduating high school in 2013, I have been fortunate to enjoy a coffee with Antonio at least once, maybe twice a summer. To give you a little background, this gentlemen was an exceptional student in the classroom, earning a modest scholarship to help solidify the start of his post-secondary education. Once out there, he realized a world existed that he needed to adjust to rather than let it mold him. He made difficult choices, took on wonderful challenges and today finds himself reaping the rewards of genuine effort and perseverance in ideal and dream.

When I first met Antonio he was a student in a writing class I had the honor to teach. We over the course of the semester became friends, he shared pieces of his life that were remarkable to me given the current state of our political demographic. I showed a movie in class once, and he later came up to me afterward, and in his polite demeanor, looked at me with a nervous smile and said, ‘Mr Amundsen, this movie, it is about my life.’ I was stunned. What began from that day was an opportunity.

I am grateful this young man was the product of a burgeoning English Learning program at Shakopee High School, whereby he would touch the lives of many over the years to come. I could not speak upon his merits without lauding such an incredible EL team that guided his education along with many other students under their tutelage the entire way.

Fast forward to today, a young man who has given graduation speeches both in our high school, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, taken on non-profit projects that have only been met with success to together with a partner starting a challenging Spanish language only podcast that supported honest discussions around social justice and education. Currently he holds a position with the largest school district in Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools,  that continues to support growth and success in measures that are designed to provide educational and societal benefit to student and family alike.

When I first met Antonio, his main goal was to finish his education so that he could provide for his own family. He wanted to be that person to right the wrongs, or simply engage people’s lives in a positive direction. As we drank coffee today, it was evident in his smile and candor that that work in progress continues forward, as does his own idyllic outlook on life. What a delightful annual conversation with an intriguing and optimistic young man. I continue to be grateful to his willingness to share his life choices, and have an ongoing dialogue together around purpose and philosophy.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

photo permission – Antonio Elias

Looking The Part

IMG_9172

Wonder the curling fingertips,

the adamant task

drawing locks

security

in the presence of life.

 

Check austere provisions,

a smooth swiff,

filling jars,

a man pacing the room,

always in a wonder of how.

 

A picture of human interaction

“I’m going solo”

spoke a gentleman java guide,

off to the focal point

where lives intermingle alone.

 

Yet, interaction, a game,

or is it truth

that sets aside

an intellect

beyond the comfort zone.

 

The breeze outside

wafting wide open screen,

leaves, dance in

unison

the humanity of life.

 

Would one wonder,

if the hand swiping a sallow

brow

similar to their own,

a night before when alone.

 

A line of laptops

give quiet indication

we have all been here

before,

in certain wander we atone.

 

Sweet is the humanity

of discrete passion

for the moment,

the privacy

yet Vicinity wills love.

Sights in a Small Town Cafe

Java Moose

java moose in grand marais

I watched the lines continue to grow,

all wanting, waiting, wishing,

yet I never knew the latter,

especially by expression,

I only managed to maybe gather,

their reasons to be seemed rather

the same as mine and yours.

 

Not your typical cafe I might add,

the people wanting much more,

than the usual scenario

-to see and be seen-

to more be understood,

to be in line with a certain

pleasure,

beyond the usual fare.

 

In a north-wood cafe,

the goal is not to stay,

yet it seems the rains have made it that way,

so the lines have increased,

though the attitude remain the same,

we are all part of this universe,

and today is just another day.

Coffee, Please

Coffee Shop

summer brew smells and delights for everyone to taste

we all arrived at different times all wanting the same ideal

perhaps a latte, summer cooler, smoothie, I will preference

a hot black coffee

please

we are your neighbor, business woman, lunch breaker, visitor,

we will talk about  a lot of the same things all day long

everyone repeating themselves, imagining their unique

take on virtual reality, that world we all stroll through

brought to attention with the sweet aroma

of dark roast, medium brew, chocolate, or perhaps

DECAF!

(seems almost sacrilegious)

little does it matter though once the dialogue begins,

once the wardrobes arrive,

once all of the interactions teeming to notice one another

settle into the comfy chairs and the hardback postures.

I like to imagine people’s lives while sipping my coffee

black

no cream please, leave the sugar out, I think it is a healthy dose

of fresh-brewed

obsidian.

always please remember

to tip the barrister.

Finding Peace

dunn

dunn brothers coffee

Polar opposites,

same wavelength,

parallel universe

finding an excuse.

~

Want to recognize

people have habits

means little to me

so why bother them.

~

On the street corner

he stood resolute

looking only ahead

alone we might exist.

~

I studied biology

felt dissected again

when all of the I’s

came out to play.

~

If we use rhythm

carve out a path

for God’s sake

please stop the lie.

~

The electoral poll

is a stateside secret

on the planet round

a laughter prevails.

~

I’m sitting down

mind travel sky

physicality static

remains the same.

~

travel for miles

search for vacancy

when will YOU truly

make an appearance.

~

This energy begins

a routine exam

forever again,

a new search within.

Crowd Noise

painting by Debra Hurd

painting by Debra Hurd

While saxophone serenade melody,

glance across the room, and the world is alive,

with activity, purpose, longevity,

we all seem to want a similar drive,

waiting for the sunset,

while just realizing the crisp morning of a summer day,

we are living without any regret,

sharing our lives together with coffee and a gentle sway.

The rhapsody of that surreal breeze,

listen, can you hear the emotion of that chord,

the fingertips strum soft the lines,

that music, that interlude, such a marvelous journey.

While the noise of an active hustle creates

a steady rhythm of ‘hello who am I’

the eyes wander the room,

we all have our lives,

if only together, we might sing the words,

that suggest universally we can play the saxophone –

we might listen while the jazz plays our song.