One of my most favorite professors is retiring... and since I may have cried writing this e-mail/ letter to him earlier this week, I share part of it in honor of a man whose lectures had a profound influence on my life. He taught me in three classes over three years. Thanks for your 30+ years of service, Dr. Sundahl: here's to going fishing and laughing forever with Ellen!
“If you gather apples in the sunshine… and shut your eyes, you shall see the apples hanging in the bright light.” ("Intellect", Ralph Waldo Emerson)
I can still see myself in your classes, thinking more than talking; scribbling notes; absorbing. The synesthesia of education; the poetry of life. Even now, my one year old is crawling under my desk - she hands me a button. She is calling out for her Dad, whose office she just crawled from to my hole, filled with boxes of notes and old papers and letters from friends. Grace doesn’t know about weeping phoebes or Neibuhr’s “The Children of the Light and the Children of Darkness” (though she thinks it has to do with nap time), and she has yet to recognize what being American is culturally.
But I like to read her Frost’s poems as I combat the weaknesses of my own nature to feel sad. The hurt and bitterness that my baby had an unexplained stroke when she was in utero, and the want for her individuality to always define her - not her struggles. How her triumphs in crawling, pulling up, and now, beginning to try to walk come from her inner drive and potential. I thrive knowing she is part of a wider story.
When she was first diagnosed at 8 months, it was scary. She didn’t show the symptoms of a bad stroke - and I kept my fears holed up for a few months, until I began to write about them, and more about Grace, and share the grandeur of my little baby. To preserve the memories, and allow myself to feel deeply and develop my poetical consciousness in order to better tell our family’s journey through cerebral palsy, through residency, through my own teaching now (in U.S. History), and through life; “And of course there must be something wrong/ In wanting to silence any song.” ("A Minor Bird", Robert Frost)
Thank you for teaching me the importance of a story, of a song, of a poem. Thank you for being my teacher.