Category Archives: From the pocket pages

‘Want a chipmunk, Christina?’: Recent notes from my pocket pages

“So I’m gonna die when they’re gone,” said a senior in my creative writing class, of her parents leaving for two weeks. 6 Feb. (Almost three weeks later, she remains alive.)

McView out McWindow, Oglesby, Ill. 14 Feb.

McView out McWindow, Oglesby, Ill. 14 Feb.

“Maybe when a tree falls, it might actually have some realism,” said a boy in my high school’s hallway to another boy, before 4th hour. He may have been talking about a video game, but one can only wonder. 6 Feb.

I called my dog Sam “Tsammi” several yesterday. My wife eventually got annoyed. 6 Feb.

Sycamore tree over Watterson Hall, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Sycamore tree over Watterson Hall, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

“This pen writes horribly,” said a student as he put a pen on another student’s desk. “YOU write horribly,” she answered. “I know — the pen reflects that,” he said. 6 Feb.

“I just need a metal bucket and a trip to the hardware store,” said a student, about his homemade forge/metal work idea. After another student had teased him about something, he answered, “I’m sorry; I’m a Fahrenheit peasant.” 7 Feb.

A student asked me if I went to high school with his older sister. Finding out that she’s a few years younger than I am, I said she probably went to school with my brother Dan. The student said, “She is talking about your brother because she calls you ‘Dan.'” 7 Feb.

“I was spraying perfume up in my nose,” said a student after her chemistry classmate had spilled stinky butyric acid. The classmate said said that, after the spill, he had been “sniffing up all the barf, and it wasn’t that bad, really.” 7 Feb.

From Williams Hall, Illinois State University, 14 Feb.

From Williams Hall, Illinois State University, 14 Feb.

What each person in my life represents to me symbolically. Maybe my mom represents a certain quality, my dad another, and each of my friends mean something else. This isn’t to say that these people are only symbols to me — but that perhaps these symbolic meanings are part of my concept of each person. 8 Feb.

His “dad is hot, bald, and athletic,” said a student of his classmate’s father. 9 Feb.

“You can’t tell me my card isn’t nice,” said a student to me about a “thank you” card she’d written me, on behalf of the senior class, to ask me to help with supervision of the graduation ceremony. 9 Feb.

After I said that my dog and cat each have their own bedrooms in my house, my student said, “I would get rid of my brother in a heartbeat for my dog to have a room.” 9 Feb.

“Can a chicken and a duck have a baby?” asked a student, apropos of very little. Hearing “no” from a classmate, she argued, “But they’re like the same thing.” Another classmate commented that she “looked genuinely confused about that, too.” 9 Feb.

Gray in a hurry. Wall above urinal in men's bathroom, Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Gray in a hurry. Wall above urinal in men’s bathroom, Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Writing my journals, I confront myself — I challenge my own opinions. There’s the conflict in my journals. And it’s nice, too, in journal writing to not have to have my ideas in relation to others’ ideas. I don’t have to consider those until I start my workday. 9 Feb.

I heard someone in school hallway use the phrase “like a fish out of water.” That prompted thoughts of why we don’t describe a state of comfort as “like a fish in water.” 9 Feb.

Ideas of my ego-mind: that set of ideas I put on in social situations. Perhaps these are old, inflexible ideas, like an armor — because I don’t want to trot out new ideas and seem more socially awkward than I already am? 10 Feb.

Pole inside Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill., 14 Feb.

Pole inside Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill., 14 Feb.

“I just got so caught up in the bunnies. Want a chipmunk, Christina?” asked a student to her classmate after I offered students some stickers. 10 Feb.

“I can’t walk through the hall with all these cats on my binder,” said a student, of stickers a classmate had put there. 10 Feb.

“I have to go perform a piece about the Holocaust. I can’t have cat stickers on me,” said a theater student. 10 Feb.

Mural on west side of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Mural on west side of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

“I need to eat and then go try not to kill myself,” said one dude to another outside the Watterson Dining Commons at Illinois State University. 14 Feb.

One creates stories from what we see, from what we experience, and even from a dream experience, as I did today. 16 Feb.

“I do all I do so I can get into the books,” a student said, of getting quoted in my pocket pages. 16 Feb.

“… I’ve got candy in mah truck, I’ve got soda pop in mah truck …” said a student to her classmate, during study hall. 16 Feb.

North part of west wall of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

North part of west wall of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Rhymes (and other rhetorical devices?) are used just to get readers’ attention? 16 Feb.

After I told a student that my cat’s name was Justice, she said, “That’s one of my favorite words! Not even joking, I was gonna get a tattoo that said ‘Justice.'” 17 Feb.

“All I’ve got in my wallet is three dollars and a Great Clips coupon. I’ve made it in life,” said a student. 17 Feb.

“I would only work at McDonald’s if I was homeless. So I’ll probably end up working at McDonald’s at some point,” said a student. He then added, “I’ll probably end up dead, at some point.” 17 Feb.

After a classmate called him strange, a student said, “If I wasn’t strange, I’d be boring, so I’d take this lifestyle over any other.” 17 Feb.

Peak of dirt mountain at construction site, Byron, Ill. 15 Feb.

Peak of dirt mountain at construction site, Byron, Ill. 15 Feb.

“Can’t talk now — watching a hedgehog,” my wife said, of a video of a hedgehog getting a bath as notice of a call notification came over her smart phone. 17 Feb.

“He’s way too shystee and smart for his own good right now,” said Qaytlin 2 Waitress of her young son’s cleverness. 18 Feb.

I told my wife I felt guilty doing nothing on Presidents’ Day holiday afternoon. She said, “It’s OK. Sit there a few more hours and it’ll be gone.” 20 Feb.

We can mean the words we say, and we can also mean the opposite of those words when our tone is sarcastic. But maybe sarcasm is the only non-meaning meaning; other than sarcasm, if you don’t mean what you say, you’re just lying. 21 Feb.

On a warm day, I saw some high school students and their preschool visitors outside my classroom, and through the open window I heard my student trying to teach Duck-Duck-Goose. One kid seemed he wasn’t getting it, as I heard my student say: “Try to chase me, Charlie, around the circle … Come with me. Let’s go this way, Charlie. … duck, duck, duck … run around the circle! C’mon, Charlie.” 21 Feb.

After I’d said in class that teachers tend to make bad students because they like to be in charge, a student called teachers “control freaks.” I asked my students whether they thought I was a control freak. Student answered, “the ‘freak,’ maybe, but not maybe the ‘controlling,'” and called me “the opposite of conformity.” 22 Feb.

Student asked if I had Wite-Out. I did not. She said I don’t use it because “you don’t make mistakes — you have creative ideas.” Or I cross them out, I said. 23 Feb.

A student sighed loudly during a quiz. “Fail quietly,” I said. 23 Feb.

Residue of a lit class discussion (of "The Hollow Men," I think) on my colleague's whiteboard. 22 Feb.

Residue of a lit class discussion (of “The Hollow Men,” I think) on my colleague’s whiteboard. 22 Feb.

Student asked about what happens after one dies. “If you do stop thinking, what was really the point?” she said. She added that her dad wants to be buried wearing shorts because, he says, it’s hot where he’s going, and that he’ll be mad if she doesn’t play “Bad to the Bone” at his funeral. 23 Feb.

“Urethra!” shouted student during class. I asked why she said that. I was told that her classmate did not believe men had that body part. 24 Feb.

“Why don’t cows ever have any better ideas?” I said, apropos of very little, to my wife, who then quoted me onto her Facebook wall. I’d been thinking of the white face of a cow I’d seen above a feed trough at a farm I’d driven past, and I’d been wondering how it is that people have ideas about, you know, freedom and not wanting to become food, but cows, not so much, though we both have gray matter. 24 Feb.

Event entrance, but do not enter. At my high school, 22 Feb.

Event entrance, but do not enter. At my high school, 22 Feb.

“This is the most amount of white people I’ve seen in quite some time,” said Ashli Waitress, back at our small-town Illinois diner after having recently been on vacation in Hawaii. 25 Feb.

‘Something brilliant and beautiful’: A week’s worth of notes

It looks like my town may have a vampire problem. 4 Feb. 2017

It looks like my town may have a vampire problem. 4 Feb. 2017

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“Mister (pause), yeah,” is how I was greeted by a student who’s new to my class this semester and couldn’t recall my name. 30 Jan.

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“I got really mad so then I ate candy to spite her,” said my student, about the nurse telling her not to eat candy because the candy had made her tongue bleed. So, student said, she went home and ate candy. 31 Jan.

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“People who aren’t friends don’t read each others’ poems,” my student  told her friend-but-temporarily-not-friend, after not-friend had asked to see my student’s poem. 1 Feb.

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Ice stacked and muddied after a flood. 4 Feb. 2017

Ice stacked and muddied after a flood. 4 Feb. 2017

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“It’s gonna be a good Friday!” said my student when he came into class Thursday morning. He seemed genuinely surprised when we corrected him. 2 Feb.

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Later that same Groundhog Day, student said the namesake animal had seen his shadow so “we’ve got 6 more months of winter!” She then corrected months to weeks.

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Ice floes and geese in the Rock River at Byron. 4 Feb.

Ice floes and geese in the Rock River (and my dog near the river) at Byron. 4 Feb.

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When student came back from the bathroom, classmate asked, “Did everything come out OK?” 2 Feb.

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After a student accused someone of being “gold-digging” because she was wanting to marry a wealthy person, I sarcasted, “Yeah, why not date losers? ‘Unemployed? Got three fingers? Come on down!'” And then my students discussed which three fingers it’d be best to have. As if such a mutilation were a choice, student asked others, “Which ones are you keeping?” A second student said he’d keep thumb, middle finger, and pinkie, but student three said the extended middle finger “would start a lot of fights, though.” 2 Feb.

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After I said my prizes for my class’s poetry bingo game would be “something brilliant and beautiful,” student quipped, “Is it me?” 2 Feb.

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Reading the Bible symbolically, not literally (because if the Bible is read literally, issues arise, such as are Cain and his wife practicing incest?), could be like how our dreams don’t always make sense. Perhaps fantastic narratives and symbolic stories arose from dreams? 2 Feb.

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Cups in a chain-link fence.

Cups in a chain-link fence.

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Cups in fence, profile.

Cups in fence, profile.

 

“Oh, buddy, it’s fantastic”: This week in notes

View southwest toward sunset from Hedge Road, 5 p.m. today, 29 Jan.

View southwest toward sunset from Hedge Road, 5 p.m. today, 29 Jan.

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When I judge or criticize other people or things, my judging is analytical, abstract, comparing some particular thing to some generalized standard. It’s a part of my ego, my getting-around-in-the-world mind. I don’t judge when in meditative or sleepy mind.  23 Jan. 2017

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“Molly, do NOT get diarrhea,” said a veterinary office worker to a white-muzzled old beagle wearing a pink-striped sweater. 23 Jan.

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Seeing lights on in houses as I drove home this winter evening, I thought how cozy the homes looked, and how cozy my own house probably looks from outside. But I don’t don’t often feel that cozy when I’m in my house, and maybe that’s because when I’m home taking in TV or online news, stories about problems everywhere (or anywhere) outside my house pull my attention away from my calm, cozy home and life. 23 Jan.

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Making meaning — and not just receiving others’ meanings — matters. There’s the essay, the try — we write essays to try to understand things, I told my students this week.

The big meaning, of course, is how one should best live. (It seems a little banal to state it this way, but “how to best live” could include practical ethics, useful metaphysics, everyday epistemology, etc.)

I find it easy to fall into writing about meaning. I’ve been tending toward sticking to facts — to basic observations — so as to let readers see meanings for themselves. 23 Jan.

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A small mammal path at the edge of a parking lot southeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection in Rockford-Loves Park, Ill. Sat. 28 Jan.

A small mammal path at the edge of a parking lot southeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection in Rockford-Loves Park, Ill. Sat. 28 Jan.

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All day long, we interpret others — we try to understand the actions and words of other people we see, meet, or interact with. These interpretations are theories we create and then employ to guide our interactions with these others. These theories can be judged as useful or not (rather than true or false), depending on how successfully I interact with others.

Truth is a judgment of a theory against an external reality, which we can never actually get to, since everything we know about external reality has to come in through our minds. But usefulness I can judge within my own experience. Whatever theories seem to me to work, I’ll call these “useful.” 24 Jan.

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Meanings, theories, interpretations — these aren’t as real was what actually happened. 24 Jan.

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All judgments are comparisons, and all comparisons are arbitrary (not necessary), so therefore, all judgments are arbitrary. Even when I call someone an asshole for how he drives, he’s probably not really and completely an asshole. 24 Jan.

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My blog posts where I just report a quote without explaining it: my audience is older people who don’t need a full explanation of why a quote is funny or interesting, like a child would. Adults must already think interpretively more than kids do. 24 Jan.

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A place at the corner of a gas station lot NE of Riverside-Perryville intersection, Rockford-Loves Park. Sat. 28 Jan., about noon.

A place I could be for a while. Probably nobody but the lawn crew every goes to this spot, at the northwest corner of a gas station lot, but one could. It’s not a place that we typically think of as a place, like we’d think of going to a house, or a restaurant, or a park, etc., but this, too, IS a place. Northeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection, Rockford-Loves Park. Sat. 28 Jan., about noon.

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“If I’m talking and not thinking about what I’m saying, I’ll say everything wrong,” said student. 24 Jan.

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A door in the backside of the building at the northeast corner of Riverside-Perryville. This is across a little parking lot from the gas station corner photo. 28 Jan.

A door in the back side of the building at the northeast corner of Riverside-Perryville. This is across a little parking lot from the gas station corner photo above. Though this side of the building isn’t much to look at, it’s just as real — as touchable, as there — as the lovely front side of building is. 28 Jan.

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Everything can mean something. Everything can tell something, symbolize something (my obsessive mind, anyway, can interpret almost anything, which can be exhausting). Not general topics like “pencil” but THIS pencil: Who owned it? How’d it get here? We can play detective. Of course, with my practice at interpretation, as informed by my experiences and my sensibility, I’m probably better at making meaning than my sophomore students are — but I still want them to try making meaning through their essays built from a session spent observing in the school hallway. 25 Jan.

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Creating meaning as a writer and as a reader — two different acts of meaning creation using the same words, the same text. 25 Jan.

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“We get in trouble and then we look at our underwear and it’s matching,” said senior girl of herself and another senior girl, who had already said that when they wear the same underwear, they both get in trouble. I have no idea what prompted them to announce this in class. 25 Jan.

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At 4 p.m. this day, so much gray: the roads are gray, the bridge over the river is gray, water’s gray, reflecting gray sky. The grassy ground is tan, but also muddy gray. 25 Jan.

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Reminding myself: Just don’t look at stuff that is iconic, or resonant — certain houses, say, that seem to inspire thoughts of “my life would be better if only I lived there.” Stay in your own life, keep your attention on your own life, instead of mentally living elsewhere, in idea-realm (fantasy-realm, “solve all my problems” land). Just drive to your destination, just keep looking ahead, not off to the sides of road at houses. 25 Jan.

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My students lack the experience (worldliness) of adults, but they’re also open-minded (not world-weary). 26 Jan.

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People don’t go to an anthology or magazine of poems to get meaning, but just poems. So a meaningful piece — something you as writer really mean — you might publish not with others’ work but with your own, where readers can see your project, your point of view, your take on poetry, your world of poems, so that your poem is not competing with other poets’ in a poetry mag. Of course, poetry-mag poems are gonna be real poety-poems: ur-poems, practically meta-poems, where poets show off their poetry-writing skills to other poets. [A thought after reading a recent issue of Poetry mag, 26 Jan.]

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Even when I don’t find a particular poem I love, I like how my mind seems to let loose and I have new ideas — unrelated to the poems, usually — but perhaps the poems loosen my mind to think anew. 26 Jan.

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A kind of magic: the transformation of spoken words to a transcribed quote, isolated on page or screen (how the quotes I hear come to exist as words on my notepage). 26 Jan.

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“She has more problems than I can count, and I failed Algebra 2, so it’s not that many,” said senior student of classmate. 26 Jan.

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“When am I gonna use that in my outside life, except when I become president?” rhetorically asked my student, referring to the school’s required speech class. 26 Jan.

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A cracked-open box of telephone wires, possibly, NE of Riverside-Perryville intersection, 28 Jan.

A cracked-open box of telephone wires, possibly. Northeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection, 28 Jan.

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My cat was not moving his sleepy head this morning — only his eyes moved. And a horse and donkey I drive past every day spend a lot of time in their small shed. Animals spend much more time than people do sitting around, just being conscious, not doing. Maybe I need to do more of that to feel like I’ve really lived and been aware of it. When I’m getting things done, I’m less aware of being alive. Maybe animals living this way have a sense of really having been alive enough when so they don’t fear death when they die — not that animals can abstract like we can, but they’re so much more accepting than I seem to be. 27 Jan.

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“Oh, buddy, it’s fantastic,” said student to me about Avanti restaurant‘s gondola sandwich. 27 Jan.

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Not from my notes, but worth repeating: My brother Nace, who lives in Northern Minnesota and photographs sled dog races, northern lights, and moose, was recently interviewed on Duluth public radio about his pictures.

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Wires up close.

Wires up close.

“None of my business, but interesting questions”: Notes from my recent pocket pages

My barbershop's waiting room. 3 Jan. 2017

My barbershop’s waiting room. 3 Jan. 2017

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Modeling the consciousness of other drivers: If a car is tailgating me, I think how its driver is probably frustrated with me, and I think of those drivers thinking of me as they tailgate, pass, and speed ahead. Once they’re gone, I can go back to just being my own mind, not imagining the social aspects. 3 Jan.

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How clean your hotel room is depends, really, on the lowest-paid worker at the hotel, the housekeeper. Does she/he care enough to do a good job? Why should she — only the fear of getting fired? 2 Jan.

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My commute home from work, Thursday 5 Jan. 2017

My commute home from work, Thursday 5 Jan. 2017

Reminding myself pick your battles: There’s no need to spend your time and energy mocking others’ views, messages, or mistakes. Let those go, and observe and think originally. Look past the signs (and the abstractions distracting me) to the things. 2-3 Jan.

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When I listen to the radio (usually NPR news) in the car, it makes me think of distant abstractions, classifications of the world. Without the radio on as I drive, I’m seeing the subtle story of what endures [by the way, the idea of enduring seems related to the idea of being; this etymology of was says the word comes from a root word meaning “to remain.”] I’m seeing not the ideas, the abstractions, the meanings, the intentions, but simply what things are there. The wood of a fence, whether the fence itself is in good or poor repair, whether its’ a working fence or not, whether it’s a fence at all anymore or not.

Looking at the things around me is a mental cleanser to abstract (such as religious) explanations/interpretations of reality, such as when I was told “water can read” and it responds to happy words placed in its proximity. 2-3 Jan.

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My commute home, Friday 6 Jan. Note the cloud forming from nuclear power plant at Byron, about 20 miles west of my location at the taking of this photo.

My commute home, Friday 6 Jan. Note the cloud forming from nuclear power plant at Byron, about 20 miles west of my location at the taking of this photo.

Byron nuclear power plant steam towers, from a couple miles north. 15 Jan.

Byron nuclear power plant steam towers, from a couple miles north. 15 Jan.

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By recording my memories, my moments, I create a life on the paper. But it’s still not my life. My memories still differ, and memories are fluid, flexible, and weird — a different kind of medium from writing on paper. My memories seem to form into narratives, stories that I get better at telling — I revise as I recall and tell them. 5 Jan.

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The living matters more than the lessons. I might as well write about day-to-day moments rather than boiling down my experiences to “moral of the story” lessons, the way some personal essays do. 5 Jan.

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“My mom’s having a kid today. That means I have to cook my own dinner,” say my senior student. His mom did buy him “Lunchables,” he said, but added, “she’s not getting out of cooking.” Also, he said, “I’m becoming the middle child.” That’s no good, said classmate, herself a middle child. 6 Jan.

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“Do you think I’m an as_hole just by looking at me?” asked senior boy of a girl in my study hall. A second girl told him, “You are.” “You’ve known me for three years,” he told the second girl. 6 Jan.

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Spooky pine plantation. 20 Jan.

Spooky pine plantation. 20 Jan.

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At the diner where my wife and I eat breakfast, our friend Dean told us how he colors in certain boxes on the newspaper’s crossword when the spaces are longer than the words he puts in there. “If they get to make rules, I get to make rules,” he said. 7 Jan.

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Impressionistic image of cow in a snow storm. 9 Jan.

Impressionistic image of bovine in a snow storm. 9 Jan.

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As we did a brainstorming activity in my creative writing class, a student asked if she could go to the bathroom. I said she could once she came up with one more possible use for her group’s object, a block of wood. “It’s your will to live. Now can I use the bathroom?” said student. 9 Jan.

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My commute home from work. Monday, 9 Jan. 2017.

My commute home from work. Monday, 9 Jan. 2017.

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I don’t like fiction because I don’t like things happening. Or, rather, things happening seem dull. My grandpa died not long ago. That itself is not worth reading. My reaction to it might be. 10 Jan.

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Ogle County snow pastoral. 9 Jan.

Ogle County snow pastoral. 9 Jan.

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It’s gotta be hard for artists, celebrities, etc., to maintain an image, a persona, for their audiences. You can’t be human — get a cold, have diarrhea. I’m reminded of the Monty Python audio joke about which Italian film director is making the pee sounds. 11 Jan.

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My journal texts are me and aren’t me. They contain my voice, my words, my descriptions of my experiences, but they are just words on a page, fixed, while I’m a fluid, changeable consciousness. I write down fixed things so that I can be open to change. 12 Jan.

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“…interesting questions. None of my business, but interesting questions,” said the voice of a colleague as she and a companion walked past my classroom after school. 12 Jan.

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After thinking of Mitch Hedberg’s line that every book is a children’s book, if that child can read, I thought how each time one reads a text, that’s a unique new experience. A kid may not catch all the ideas of a book the first time through it, and of course, an adult may not. And a second read of a book is a unique experience because you already have some ideas about it. 12 Jan.

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How weird that our brains (mine and my students’, at least) seem so fast at finding rhymes to given words. It suggests that we listen to sounds faster, or more automatically, than meanings? 12 Jan.

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Image of my commute home, Thursday 12 Jan.

Image from my commute home, Thursday 12 Jan.

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“A snail can’t climb over a ratio,” I said, in explaining why numbers and math ideas aren’t as real as physical things are. I was arguing against numbers being real. 13 Jan.

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“You speak good enough English. He’s just weird,” said my wife to our friend Yvonne, who said maybe her language skills weren’t good enough to understand a Facebook post my wife wrote about how I’d covered up the clocks in our kitchen with sticky notes to free myself from clock-time awareness. 14 Jan.

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Beached river ice. 15 Jan.

Beached river ice. 15 Jan.

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It’s kinda weird that all our bodies material needs (except air and sunlight) come through our mouths. If we were cars, we’d put gas and brakes and tires into one orifice and let the car sort itself out. Food contains both “building blocks” and energy materials — food must be more complex than just gas or steel components of cars. 17 Jan.

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View of my morning commute to work. Tues. 17 Jan.

View of my morning commute to work. Tues. 17 Jan.

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I’m about at the halfway point of my morning commute, and I’d like to finish this page of notes. I don’t know what ideas I’ll have in coming minutes! 18 Jan.

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My classroom clock was zooming ahead on Wednesday morning. My first-hour class, normally 50 minutes, took 5 and a half hours on the clock. My second-hour class took 3 hours, and the 3rd-hour class took just 50 minutes, but at the end of class, it read 7:10 instead of the expected 10:45. 18 Jan.

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I don’t want to charge people to read my ideas or hear my presentations. Why bring money into this? What does my thinking and talking have to do with money? I don’t think I’d be any better at thinking or any happier with my life if I restricted access to those who could pay me for my humble genius. 18 Oct.

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“When he’s done speakin’, I know what he’s said,” said John Mortenson, identified as a Trump supporter in this NPR story about the president’s speaking style. 19 Jan.

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View of my afternoon commute home from work. 20 Jan.

View of my afternoon commute home from work. 20 Jan.

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“I’m doing time with my students,” said our waitress, Qaytlan 1, as she talked about a lesson she’ll be student-teaching soon. Here statement also sounded like she thought of school as prison. 22 Jan.

‘A mandatory thing that Jesus gave me’: The week in pocket pages

Condensation condescension. 6 Dec.

Condensation condescension. 6 Dec.

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I’m speaking the truth and getting ready to die in about 35 minutes,” said a keynote speaker at an education conference I went to last Monday. The speaker framed his remarks by saying if he were to die at the end of his speech, he would want to tell us only his most important messages. It was a pretty intense rhetorical device. 5 Dec. 2016

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Condensation conversation. 6 Dec.

Condensation conversation. 6 Dec.

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I kinda wanted a Jolly Rancher one of those days,” said my student of wishing the person subbing for me had instead been the sub next door, who typically brings candy for the students. 7 Dec.

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My cat shelved himself. 25 Nov. 2016

My cat shelved himself. 25 Nov. 2016

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Lots of businesses sell what people want, but teachers (and maybe doctors and others) tell people what they need (even if the clients don’t want it).  7 Dec.

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Outside the history museum in downtown Byron, Ill. 26 Nov.

Outside the history museum in downtown Byron, Ill. 26 Nov.

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Education policy focuses on generalized programs, though of course all learning is in particular minds, at particular times, and in particular situations. 7 Dec.

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I really can hold a grudge,” said student, seemingly realizing this about himself as he was reading his journal from earlier in the semester. 7 Dec.

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My high school and its slowly colorizing pear trees, 30 Nov.

My high school and its slowly colorizing pear trees, 30 Nov.

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This is a mandatory thing that Jesus gave me,” said my student as she made a point about why she shouldn’t have to pay for tampons since it’s not her fault she menstruates. 7 Dec.

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Soybean field, Bethel Road east of railroad crossing, 2 Dec.

Soybean field, Bethel Road east of railroad crossing, 2 Dec.

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When my dog dies, I’m definitely gonna get him stuffed,” said my student (contra Alan Alda’s advice). Classmate said that if student got a compliment on her stuffed dogs, she could say, “Thanks. They used to be alive.” Student said she’d prefer to get her dog stuffed rather than bury it because “I’m not gonna bury him in the ground, where it’s dirty,” she said. “OK, and stuffing him isn’t gross?” asked second classmate, who added, “I don’t think you can stuff a dog that small.” Student’s dog is apparently a two-pound purse dog. 7 Dec.

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Out a Pheasant Run window, 6 Dec.

Out a Pheasant Run window, 6 Dec.

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Gee, I wonder what the inside of a testicle looks like,” said student of a mink dissection she had performed (in anatomy class, I hope). The mink’s gland was “a solid ball, like a nut, like a cashew, that’s what it was,” she said. 7 Dec.

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Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 5 Dec.

Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 5 Dec.

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Student asked how students get quoted by me in my pocket pages. “Say something dumb,” said classmate. 8 Dec.

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After carnival workers were mentioned in class, a student announced that his friend had sex with a carny to get free rides. If that’s true, that’s maybe the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, I said.

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Snow on leaf and safety pegs. 10 Dec.

Snow on leaf and safety pegs. 10 Dec.

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Go suffer cold in my car,” said student to his cousin in the parking lot after school. The cousin wanted the keys to start and warm up student’s car, but he wasn’t giving over the keys. 8 Dec.

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Hell, yeah, I would — I gotta pay for college somehow,” said my senior student about whether she would sell a kidney. 9 Dec.

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Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 6 Dec.

Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 6 Dec.

Dogs take the world as they find it: The week in pocket pages

Even when national politics seem troubling, I’m gonna keep enjoying writing my journals, driving my morning commute (it’s pretty, and it’s a chance to think), and walking my dog. 14 Nov. 2016

Ginko tree, 4 Nov. 2016

Ginko tree, 4 Nov. 2016

This morning I saw a pile of ginko leaves along a rural roadside. It seems funny that someone would go through all the trouble of moving leaves from his or her yard to this random spot. Why not just cut down the tree?

“I like doing stuff when people are talking,” said a teacher colleague in a meeting where the rest of us were discussing curriculum choices. The stuff she was doing was stickering plastic bags with “Education Week” stickers.

Sun and rainbow spot to its right. 15 Nov.

Sun and rainbow spot to its right. 15 Nov.

Passion is everything, I read today in an article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune that was left in the in-school suspension room.

I don’t need the world to match my expectations of/for it in order for me to be content. (How fragile an orientation that would be.)

Teaching: In explaining to others, I also get to hear it myself. I’m thinking here of talking philosophy in class recently. We were talking about the idea that what we can name is real, leading me to think that we can define our own realities. If we don’t have a name for something, if we haven’t distinguished it, we probably won’t recognize it as a distinct thing, like how radioactive minerals weren’t recognized before scientists discovered radioactivity, though of course the radioactive minerals were always there. 15 Nov. 2016.

Even to define real is to make it abstract, not present — not real. Real is not here, and here is a word that means consciousness at present.

We can think only ideas. So anything you can think isn’t real. Ideas aren’t necessary. But of course, we can teach through ideas, through talking, and we can also amuse each other through ideas.

Looking at news sites tells me what’s going on elsewhere.

On the calculus teacher's desk. 14 Nov.

On the calculus teacher’s desk. 14 Nov.

I take notes on my reality — my particulars (things I hear, things I see, etc.)

Options as I try to take in less media: get the news from poetry (as William Carlos Williams suggested)? Eh, I may not need news at all.

Gutter leaves. 19 Nov.

Gutter leaves. 19 Nov.

I’m not interested in publishing some one-off essay, the kind of essay that gets edited into “Best American Essays” books. I prefer a more holistic approach. I don’t want applause, I don’t just want to be a performer. My unit of communication is not the formal essay. 16 Nov.

The Story of Now that I constructed from news I heard and read. This isn’t one story but a subdivided set of stories about what’s going on in the world–in the environment, the economy, arts, education, all the many topics. And I may not need to know most or any of this. Maybe I’m feeling disappointed that my Story of Now seems to have so little overlap with some people’s stories of now. Not saying I despair, but I wonder if there’s better use for my time than taking in news. 17 Nov.

I’m not just a role-player writer, a topic-writer. I write from and in my life, my living. I try to keep an open-mind, not holding onto a particular idea as an answer. If I’m alive, I keep thinking, writing — I’m not done! It’s ongoing! And the most-important topic/idea remains (even if it’s in the background), how do I live — how to be alive, how to accept the challenge and opportunity of being conscious!

Leaves outside the gutter on a windy morning. 19 Nov.

Leaves at the curb outside the diner on a windy morning. 19 Nov.

The society/culture may already value performances (of music, acting, etc., but also I’m thinking of poems, novels, and other texts written for others as performances). But I see also an opening for honest non-performances — such as those journals and notes written mainly for oneself. Every experience doesn’t need to be (because it can be) made into a lesson. Not every experience needs to be abstracted into a lesson — sometimes a particular can stay a particular. 18 Nov.

Dogs take the world as they find it. When we go to a local forest preserve prairie, my dog doesn’t ask if it’s true wilderness — he just starts sniffing what’s there to sniff. It’s a reminder to me to attend to what is with me, around me. 19 Nov.

Planter bowl group-portrait. 19 Nov.

Planter bowl group-portrait at the diner. 19 Nov.

How to read a post from my journals or pocket pages

Revised (because when quality matters, time doesn’t.)

If you read texts selected from my journals and pocket pages expecting there to be a “take-away,” a clear message or story, you may be disappointed. But if you read these to get a sense of the presence of my mind (my voice, my sensibility) from these texts, you may find these valuable.

Before I realized this distinction in ways of reading, I looked at my journal texts and judged them inadequate, because they weren’t already in the form of polished narratives or essays. For years, I wondered whether I should go back and craft these raw freewritings into publishable articles, rewriting them as needed until they fit the familiar forms. But this approach didn’t feel right. I usually wrote about my experiences by describing my thoughts and feelings afterwards, rather than writing these as moment-by-moment, show-don’t-tell descriptions. Doing that seemed artificial — I don’t live by narrating everything that happens; I write only after experiences have been had. I write for myself, and not for others, who weren’t there, to understand and empathize with me. I preferred writing down whatever I thought at that time, writing honestly for myself, rather than shaping my words so that I’d be perceived favorably by some unknown reader.

I finally realized that these honest-to-the-moment journal writings had value if the purpose of reading were redefined. I thought about how reading poetry can be different from reading prose. With prose, whether novels, journalism, memoir, etc., readers tend to look for meaning — plot, story, lesson, etc. But with poetry, readers can enjoy other aspects, including the sounds of words, rhythms of lines, images-as-images, etc. I sometimes read poems, such as haiku and Richard Brautigan’s short poems, just to get a sense of mood or a sense of the writer’s voice, his or her particular sensibility. So, too, I have found value with my journal texts, and you may as well.

You can dive in anywhere, even in the middle of a post of journal text, and treat each sentence or section like its own poem, reading just for the experience of reading, of communing with another mind. You don’t have to read the whole post or all the posts. There’s no index of topics, and there will be no overarching message. I don’t wanna write as if I’m some wise person who’s figured stuff out and is ready to teach others. Maybe some text-bits are wise, but some aren’t. Some bits might be funny, and others will be serious. My journals don’t have a consistent tone because, of course, lived experience doesn’t have a single tone. My writing is more a part of my living than it is something I do to make a career or advocate an ideal.

My journals will never have an ending — they’ll just stop when I die — but because they’re not intended to become anything else, they’re also already whole, complete, fulfilled. As a writer, I am fulfilled just by filling the journal pages. And a reader can take an analogous perspective.

By the way, these journals will not be posted here in a systematic way — just the thought of that exhausts me — and that’s OK because systematic is not necessary. These journal texts are as accurate as I can make them (because I can’t always even read my handwriting!), but they are not the entirety of the journals — I’ve tried to include only the parts I think are the most interesting.