My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

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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

‘Slowly Melting Snowy Vistas’

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An idea,

a visual reminder

to help find footing

rather than wallow

in what might feel lost,

our lives precious,

imagine only

nature is a cycle

eternal while forever.

 

Once while in wonder

reminded by favor

a slow descent in time

while all around

lives experience

a monotony of time

wishing purpose

witness a warming

allows our lives

to know change

always a measure

the melting horizon

might we seek

a cleansing challenge.

 

When the dial

shall evolve

daylight turns to

a mysterious shroud

where our eyes

opaque shadows

awaits our return

only to discover

with the rising sun

earth has begun

a new journey

again, spectacular

beyond occasion

this is our next day,

a blossoming spring.

 

Purposeful vistas

do slip away,

only to offer

sweet reminders

how along the way

our lives interact

in as magical way

might the landscape

of this mortality

give reason we

can know

the familiar

as well

as confusion

in a continuum

we have not

lost our way.

 

 

Looking The Part

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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.

Looks Define

When listening to music,

it piques the state of mind,

if in a moment,

we might be inspired,

by a sound, a coined phrase,

a certain lyric,

oh so that’s all just fine,

though,

it is when the voice takes flight,

when while listening,

suddenly I’m drawn to a distant place,

somewhere I’ve never found,

yet the angels do bring me there …

for that single moment,

I’m lost in the world of song.

This Quiet Passion

It is a love, a desire, a response to silence,

for so many occasions,

while the skies do glance the usual,

always, the emotions might trigger,

might respond,

could offer a storm of wrath,

or perhaps,

when least we anticipate,

a light rain, to cleanse our soul,

allow our lives to breathe,

beyond the casual haze

of a summer day.

 

I stood in front of my emotions today,

asked a question,

perhaps stoic in my way,

I wondered just how far

we might have to travel

in order,

to participate in the aftermath

of chaos,

for it screams that phenomena

stayed with my being,

for as many days as the summer

holds true to an autumn.

 

While now I rest my weary soul,

the fortune of time offers sweet Grace,

when age becomes validation,

and hearts do forever listen.

I have traveled far and wide,

and yet there is a stillness,

may overcome me in evening’s tide,

as will the serendipity of passion,

an surreal reality as I stand here before you,

wanting only solace from a sweet panic.

 

In life, we do lead with thoughtful enterprise,

a notion, an ideal,

oft times an inspiration,

to market goodness,

to experience that

goodness,

to know such character

is infamy

when stood alongside

true character.

When passion speaks its favor,

our world, a planet, a state, a society,

a mosaic,

we are all

so much – so little – so together,

 

We can be universal,

we may align, smile, gesture, accord

each other …

we can be one.

Wonder Wheel

A melody

in a state of mind,

a thought motivates

a certain disc,

recording, desire to hear

a nostalgic notion.

Used to be we would

carefully,

lift the cover off our lives,

to keep the dust away,

listen for hours

to a melody that suggests

we live this way,

in a rhythmic trance,

a desired place,

a travel along simple horizons,

nothing complicated,

only the beat,

perhaps a lyrical ecstasy

would be our caveat.

I can remember every time

a song would bring back my life

to a place once before

where I was,

alone in a space of time,

suspended by that notion,

to some a disbelief

to me always,

a taste of promise.

We Cannot Choose

Search the horizon,

acknowledge the occasional bump,

maybe a blemish,

a stained reality screaming aloud.

Pause to breathe,

yet don’t step away,

keep your eye on obligation,

imagine the pearl in the rough awakening,

striving and helpless,

until time graced innocence

accentuates grief’s consequence.

Well ahead there exists a euphoric sunrise,

perhaps grayed with callous indecision

today, tomorrow, throughout,

a very near future –

yet know you’re holding a key,

you might respond accordingly,

to a beautiful opportunity.

Be the teacher,

please.