When My Father Cried

It was the changing season,

a tragedy,

we were all crying,

dumbfounded and surreal

the moments ahead

forever.

He was heart-broken

no place to stand or sit or feel,

just simple pain,

always and forever,

misty eyed and helpless

to the reality of the human condition.

He’d been tested,

he’d been traumatized,

together

ships passing in the night,

his words to soothe,

his reaction lost in agony.

 

How could the world ever be normal again,

when his son had left to travel,

and nearby,

a consoling brother,

a relative of sorts in marriage,

in a consoling gesture,

suggested a distraction.

 

How might he react any other way,

then lose faith in humankind,

when the soul of his world,

remained lost in the mechanics.

There is heartbreak to be noted,

when one’s dream

suddenly fades

while all of those around

have no idea the strain.

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Fallen Shadows Still Rise

We might think of them as a memory,

the pain of losing them,

the loss of heartfelt passions and laughs,

we might imagine them a memory.

 

Yet, their shadows can still rise,

it is where we left them,

forced to say good-bye,

we remembered how they stood against the wall.

 

Oh to have the fortitude,

of those quiet souls,

the bodies left behind,

and yet still, the strength they show beyond.

 

We wondered out loud,

why should I be left alive,

who’s the lucky one,

who’s the recorder of their sweet mystique.

 

I wander sometimes quite a distance,

before I land,

I recognize my shadow always remains,

it is a spectacular sunlight.

 

Oh, to hold the sweet caress of yesterday,

to know the beauty we have all a reveal,

to touch the universe in one short life,

is to know the serenity of time …

 

It is inside the mystery of time,

when our shadows rise again.

Recognizing Who We Are Today! (a draft)

We experienced a tragedy in (our community) last week. We lost a young man as the result of a traffic accident. He touched many hearts. The city, the district, the students were all impacted by the loss of (student), a student known by many for his affectionate and charming persona, an infectious personality. I listened to a couple of students the night of the tragedy talk about the immediacy, how quickly a life is taken, that we cannot quite comprehend the confusion such a loss leaves us when just hours before they were standing right next to the young man, full of life. We are all surely saddened by tragedy, yet, we are also enlightened by the way the students rallied around the celebration of this young man’s short life. In an intrigue, this experience speaks to an aspect of the beauty of our lives in (our community) as we recognize the diverse nature of our community.

On Friday, as the news flooded social media the night before, the students all wore white to honor the young man. I was amazed to look around the school and see nearly 90% of the student body dressed in white. The sight provided a welcome contrast to the negative image our district has attained in recent months. Here’s why.

What happened inside our school buildings on Friday mattered to the students, they were the ones being represented and cared for, and they responded with more unity than I have seen in my career as a teacher. I watched a school that put aside curriculum for the day, and reasoned with the reality of the human condition in every step of the way. In mid-day, there was a service, known as a ‘smudge’ provided by the young man’s family – his Native American heritage celebrated – and in attendance easily hundreds of students witnessed a cultural phenomena with open arms and respectful intrigue.

I said to a friend of mine late Thursday night, that (young man’s) loss would be a unifying force for allowing our students to recognize life as a whole rather than an individual need for survival. I watched kids from every walk of life hug one other, speak kindly to each other, and embrace grieving in a thoughtful and beautiful manner. (young man’s) death was responsible for that coming together of a school district.

Even more intriguing, I attended a football game that night, a ‘Friday night lights’ experience during which both the visitors and the home team wore white to symbolize (our community) tragic loss. It was remarkable to watch the unification of two school’s students who all recognized together the beauty of life and the tragedy of loss. But together they created and expressed a natural silver lining. Ironically, several schools around the region also showed unity and compassion by wearing white in a symbolic gesture of support. My boss said to me today, ‘It’s a small world’ when I shared my delight in the actions of many.

This weekend we celebrate the loss of a beautiful young man, one that I did not know personally, but understood to have touched the lives of many, including many students in the drama program, for which I am an advisor. The lesson learned from this weekend’s start of the healing process, is that we as a district do embrace the beauty of a unique population of student body that do and can believe in one another if given the proper resources. We as a community need to do our part in assuring our students that we can go forward together.

I think (young man) is imagining how special our world is given his new perspective, and his engaging smile is suggestive of our need to recognize his gift and not forget the message his role in the circle of life provides us all.

*names withheld to respect the student and family.

Sitting In My Personal Space

Getting ready for the school year,

planning lessons,

rearranging books and files,

adjusting to a new physical classroom.

 

I wanted to complain tonight,

my room still needs desk,

35 kids coming in a week,

no ac, the temp was 110 F.

 

I sat out in the hall,

parent and student open house,

lots of people walking through,

new construction, ceilings missing tiles.

 

I joked how I was too exhausted,

the heat, couldn’t touch my room,

decided until tomorrow to rearrange,

as tonight I would surely break a sweat.

 

We have a beautiful new space,

expanding the student opportunities,

new carpet, walls, designs all meant

to enhance the students’ education.

 

The space isn’t complete,

I need desks in my room,

I haven’t got any a.c.

no wireless, and vacant walls.

 

I went home tonight exhausted,

and then suddenly it all became real,

I no longer cared about my classroom,

I watched the news tonight in Houston.

Why “13 Reasons Why” Is Important

13

In the fine arts we are encouraged to go big with our ideas, to allow emphasis on the issue, the illusion, the piece of art being presented on the stage. The purpose is designed to get the point across to the audience, or keep them engaged. The true compliment to an artwork, no matter the venue, is that people continue the discussion beyond the actual event.

Watching 13 Reasons Why, a controversial Netflix series really blew my mind. I felt like I was back in my high school again, experiencing the turmoil that a teenager goes through trying to adjust, fit in, survive the utter chaos of peer rejection and acceptance, all in the same day, every day.

About half way through the series, episode 6, or tape 3 I was riveted to every moment. Watching Clay struggle with the reality of losing his friend was compelling. I watched the behavior of his circle of people, I won’t call them friends, because so often in this period of a teenager’s life it is difficult to define who a true friend is. 13 did an excellent job exploring that aspect of high school.

I felt like I was the student in the room, experiencing the pain that comes with pressure and bullying. While the world goes on around a teenager, their internal struggle is never really revealed, and 13 explored that well enough to suggest this is real behavior. I thought all the characters fit the proper stereotypes.

The parents of each character as they unfolded in the show seemed normal. What I mean is they depicted the dysfunction of raising a family, holding a job, keeping up with or losing touch with their responsibility. I think the relationship that tore me up the most was Justin and his mom, I felt his pain as he leaned against the wall and she closed the door on their communication.

The administrators of the school seemed effectively overwhelmed by their task. There was the initial counselor who basically didn’t get tenure and then the new guy came in and gradually established their grounding as a central figure. In the end, it was clear things were beyond his control. Imagine the guilt we feel as teachers when we realize we missed something, that if we had just … we can settle behind the reality that our role in the classroom is to deliver our curriculum. Clearly that was demonstrated in 13 Reasons Why, but at the same time, we could recognize the vulnerability that children experienced around adults that were not involved. Or, if they were, they didn’t have a clue.

As I suggested in the beginning, in order to keep an audience, a piece has to have big moments. In television plot lines are imperative, and this is where I began to lose my direct connection to the characters in 13. Everything that could possibly happen, did, all impacting this small group of peers. Why such a micro-managed focus on the energy of a typical high school? Because the ability to attach pain and suffering to familiar characters helps get the point across to the audience.

If we accepted our buy in to the characters then everything they went through was plausible. Much like the movie Crash years ago where a diverse populace all experienced tragedies and successes within a literal block of L.A., though perhaps not possible, the experience the characters endured was certainly believable in the right context.

In 13, the key to this story is they deal with every aspect of being a teenager – confusion with sexual identity, clear cognizance of sexual preference and the societal scrutiny, the lifestyle of a jock, of a nerd, a geek, an outlier, a weirdo, In every aspect of student or teenager, the experiences seemed real and tragic.

What is an important takeaway is to recognize the behaviors demonstrated throughout this series were pretty spot on for the most part. The story line of the tapes could actually happen, though the possibility of getting through a dozen involved students probably not likely. But, they all maintained their characters with a haunting consistency.

Finally, let’s not forget this is about suicide, and the helplessness that everyone feels with a loss they believe they are responsible for. Even though in the real world we always blame the person who takes their own life. The movie itself defined the act as weak. I found it interesting that the young woman who revealed her cuttings on her arms, suggested she was doing it right, that suicide is a cop out. I’ve worked with cutters in my hospital work, and there was always a distinction between real and attention seeking, vertical and horizontal cuts as so eerily demonstrated in the series.

13 might be perceived as a segment of peers in a typical high school all being responsible for Hannah’s death, but if that is a takeaway, it is possibly wrong. It really is the remarkable telling of a young person’s struggle to define themselves while walking through life in a world of hurt, and having the fortune to play out the process with direct and frightening evidence, ironically replayed in cassettes with haunting truth.

I believe this series, beyond the embellishment and soap opera moments, is vitally important, certainly not for the eyes of children under 12 – not yet, even though we think they’re ready. It is a wonderfully tragic piece to create healthy dialogue, whether the characters are realistic or not. I was moved.

Check Your Need

Check your nails,

primp your hair,

fix your tie,

pull that food out of your teeth,

people die

~

Meet the boss,

play the silly fool,

smile to your strangers

walking by,

be sure we all can see your eyes,

people die

~

plan your life,

hug your animal

frolic in the springtime air,

plant your garden,

there’s more beyond the world you live,

people die

~

‘I read the news today, oh boy’

‘if you try sometime, you get what you need’

‘and you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack’

‘there’s a man over there with a gun in his hand’

‘stand up and be counted’

everything sounds so familiar and right when we lose!

~

for the years continue to climb,

lives begin and transpire

incidents define,

heart and soul and positivity decline

while we every day wake up to the morning news …

people still die.

~

© Thom Amundsen 2016 March

Lyrics

Beatles

Rolling Stones

Talking Heads

Buffalo Springfield

AC/DC

 

Vestige Relived

If when you recall,

a sandstone walk,

bohemian ways

would you ignite

the fire, the sensation

of love, that current,

so rampant in motion,

that any recollection

could only satisfy.

Two people share

a life together,

brief travels

inside the mind

of each other,

yet years later,

after layers rife

with nostalgia,

we might try again,

beyond the fear

way past the righteous

neighborhood of

simple, narrow-minded

society. That blue

horizon always

damages the skin,

if allowed to fester

too long in one’s own

state of mind.

Rather we will step away,

and caress our wounds,

we will speak only

to those baboons

who make the rules,

at least those which

today we choose to follow.

I am alert to my own loss,

and yet awake to chance,

wishful of remarkable

legacy, though common

is the facade of our own

disbelief, so fueled

by a lackluster confidence

in the economy of the mind.

We are fooled easily.