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

The Psychology of the Human Condition

The answers exist,

wait, not today,

perhaps later in the evening,

some cathartic moment,

praying for an epiphany.

 

The heart stops and the mind cannot compete

we are a solid lot of indifference

dependent upon the sunlight,

rainbows strike a nerve

coupled by nostalgia or endearment

to a moment,

the moment

when in that circle of compelling delight

we did experience,

did evolve,

would resolve the questions in our mind.

simple logic, sweet emotions,

beyond the scope of tearing down our own

idyllic beauty.

The Gallery

Such is a shadow,

a lonely walk

the energy of a soul

finding their way

his way

her adventure

perhaps his imagination

a painting to lose his mind while trying

desperate measures

the sort of bind that seems attractive

rather than one of ridicule

when the reality of the game

is revealed

in gallery seven,

perhaps it was four

or somewhere in the early afternoon,

she in cloak and dagger

watched him switch postures

giving him some indication

that his trophy

might be her own

quiet diadem

to steal the words of

Emily … (Dickinson) …

he was in his aching manner

subject to

fantasy.

The Will to Fight

Was a day

would a shadow

be a muse

could satisfy,

ever loom

cast a pall

slow remember

with little why.

~

In a breeze

follow desire

beauty is time

lights a fire

when all

around our lives

seem daunting

love does remain.

~

A source indeed

such is freedom

her spirit

waits …

allow a dream

slow to rise

become manifest

a silent utterance.

~

We do contain such is passion

to love, to want, an embrace.

Finding Words

They land in different places now, the words

those stories, passages, telling souls

to reinvent our lives

create some simple serenade

lets our heart breathe less of a sign,

certainly not gasping for air,

just a steady rhythm because we come to know

life is far too short

to allow ourselves to slow the direction

of our dreams.

 

I walked outside this afternoon

breathing in the fragrance of a coming rain,

they always do remind us of a soft gentle horizon

when love might be our simplest guide

rather than the fight,

we choose the current

to travel together

in separate worlds

yet still

together

there will be song.

 

Filling the bird feeder

I knew if quiet

the visit would occur

and in the morning

the melody would play, always,

an endless serenade …


Inspired by ‘Burn’ – Hamilton Soundtrack

Standing On The Edge

The job is done,

there is a light ahead,

a bit of peace,

planning for a soft landing

the harsh reality of this

reason

our own examined purpose

seems less imperative

 

Watching the rains today

falling forever

a reminder of a constant

unlike the streaking sunlight

of a gorgeous spring day,

rains are fallible

they leave a mark,

a damp reminder

of what is what may be

what the afterward might see.

 

Could it be so simple

as watching a spring storm

cover the earth around us

allowing life to grow

when inside

the mind seems to seek

any obstacle to suggest

our lives that matter

are lives of little …

or is it part of some

chemical imbalance

like the heads say,

a reasoning that could be

a wild hair

rather than a logical

synapse that suggests

the true meaning of perfection

is

a quiet response

to the mystique we know to be

the human condition