Category Archives: From the pocket pages

‘How to Survive a Life’: Pocket pages of October so far.

Maple tree-sky. 4 Oct.

I’d rather inspire my students than instruct them. What teachers who focus on instructing miss is the joy — the glee! — and the mystery and the new and the undefined and the sense that I don’t know everything but that there’s a big world out there to experience. Perhaps it takes some courage to teach without certainty. 3 Oct. 2018

The wise voice is not one that takes easy positions (advocacies). I’m wiser when I question my assertions. 4 Oct.

Maple leaf up-close, near Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron, Ill. 4 Oct. 2018.

Maybe I used to think I could learn something about writing and publishing from reading writers’ biographies. Now I think all the magic is in the writing process, not in writers’ lives’ details. 10 Oct.

I didn’t really need to know the condition of Richard Brautigan’s corpse, as it’s described in the opening pages of Jubilee Hitchhiker, which pages I read in recent days. (A review of that book called the opening “the needlessly lurid.”) It was enough for me to know just that it was a suicide — it’s not meaningful to know more. The problem with biographies — I just don’t need to know all the details of a writer’s life. But giving the details of his death makes that seem important, and I’m not sure it was. 10 Oct.

Jack Kerouac, Richard Brautigan — two writers whose work inspired me — didn’t have careers besides being writers, and they seem to have had money problems at some points. I’m not a career writer, but I don’t have money problems like they did. In other words, both JK and RB wrote stories and poems about sweetness and spiritual quests, but in real life, they had practical problems. Perhaps I’m being more honest in showing my whole life — they were making texts as products. JK’s road trips — those were vacations for him, not his ongoing way of life. 11 Oct.

My writings generally seem to be about getting by. They could go by the title, “How to Survive a Life.” I know that’s dramatic-sounding, but this is the big question, it seems to me: how to live — how to survive, and also, how to live well (when you have a choice!) 11 Oct.

Corn plants along Weld Park Road, Ogle County, Ill. 4 Oct. 2018

The analogy in Postman’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity of teachers to doctors ignores (if my memory serves) the fact that doctors seek to get patients restored to a default of health — but (as I’ve read somewhere) teachers see students by default as inadequate, as not knowing enough. There’s a difference here in motivation — patients want to get better, get back to feeling good — but students don’t necessarily want to live up to some teacher’s idea of what they should do or be. 12 Oct.

Sammy dog’s nose almost never breaks the plane of the open window when he sniffs. 4 Oct.

I’m thinking I need to respect all the work of all the people over the years — the meatpackers, the farmers, the construction workers — how seldom I’ve considered all the hours and efforts of labor that have gone into maintaining human life. 12 Oct.

Which of my writings might reveal a work-mindset — the nature of being at work. Work may be a relatively undiscovered part of human experience for writers. 12 Oct.

Last sweet peppers of the season. 11 Oct. 2018

I keep crossing two-land roads successfully, it seems. I look both ways and when I think I don’t see any cars coming, I cross. I seem to see traffic competently — I have so far, anyway! 12 Oct.

 

Release from a partial view: Notes and photos 18 Feb. to 30 March

 

View southwest from Holcomb Road, east of White Rock Road, 7 March.

News media start from a position of generalizing (three instances of something make a trend, and then a trend-story can be written, I once heard a reporter say). Particular instances — what one person’s going through — don’t matter. But my writings are always just my ideas, my/Matt’s/one person’s ideas, words, and texts. That’s their limited position, and that’s their power — the power of one person’s words is linked to the reputation of that one personThis is what’s implied by the advice to “consider the source.” (27 Feb.)

Woodman’s, Rockford, 4 March.

“Guys, he’s old, give him a break,” said a student in my creative writing class when I introduced essayist David Sedaris by saying he was famous as an author, which means he isn’t as famous as pop singer Candi B. My students corrected that to “Cardi B.,” and laughed at me, before my student defended me with the statement above. (28 Feb.)

View inside a corn-crib building at Heritage Farm, Byron Forest Preserve. 15 March

There seems an impulse in the society/culture to distinguish oneself. I’ve felt that way at times. But as a teacher, I’m a little like a monk, living that monkish life of service, of no advancement, but of fulfilled (whole) moments. Perhaps our moments seem full because we aren’t reaching to ambition, to some next thing. If I’m doing the monk-like work of just being here with students, then I don’t need to brag how much I’ve accomplished or how I distinguish myself from others. This need to reach for more and make myself stand out is perhaps a capitalist-culture value. (5 March)

The monk-model of my job goes along with what I’ve said in recent weeks about being more interested in the continuous than the unusual (and thus, avoiding news) and not needing to accomplish (not do, but be). Somehow humility mixes in here, too, because we teachers don’t do anything special, accomplishments-wise. We’re not, for example, making new knowledge, like college profs do. There’s no competition, no winning or losing — it’s Carse’s infinite game! (6 March)

Big ol’ stack a’ sugar. County Market, Byron, 18 Feb.

School buses look about the same now as they did when I was starting to ride them almost 40 years ago. Computers have changed, but other things haven’t. (7 March)

View west from the Stillman Bank drive-thru, Stillman Valley, Ill., 28 Feb.

“Where are the air-jellyfish?” my wife asked, going on to ask why there aren’t more animals just living by floating around in the air, as there are floating in the oceans. My guess is that water contains more dissolved resource-chemicals than air does, but I don’t really know. (7 March)

It’s nice that my dog doesn’t complain about my footsteps being louder than his when we’re in the woods. (9 March)

Why should an attitude of certainty seem to help an advocate win an argument? Is this a flaw in the arguments process? (14 March)

All the things I do to get ready for school — all the things I do that a dead man couldn’t. (14 March)

Church Road, approaching Holcomb Road, White Rock Township, 7 March.

It’s a sunny spring afternoon and my grandpa’s gone. The world’s still here, even though he’s not. (14 March)

Detail of east wall of house of barbed-wire inventor Joe Glidden, DeKalb, Ill., 15 March.

Perhaps there’s a fine line between being skeptical of others and being self-righteous. (16 March)

View of Joe Glidden house, east-wall and addition, 15 March.

Meditating may not take my mind to a truer view — but I’m briefly released from a partial (my usual and limited) view. (21 March)

The problem of audience — we can try to appeal to those who aren’t similar to us (though there’s a risk of stereotyping and pandering to people we don’t know well), but that attempt may be futile. (21 March)

A view into a cooler, Potbelly Sandwiches, DeKalb, Ill., 15 March.

“What is real” isn’t an idea — it might be the idea, the only idea — the idea that is at the center of any moment of consciousness. (23 March)

Ambiguity — going beyond simple statements — is poetic? (23 March)

When we learn something in the formal setting of school (or workplace, etc.), we expect to learn technical things (things that won’t necessarily be intuitive) and we know we’ll have to use this info in certain ways (memorize it for a test, use new equipment properly, etc.). We have that formal-learning context — as distinct from the personal, experiential learning we do informally and, perhaps, unintentionally in the rest of our lives. (25 March)

The view down a corrugation in the metal sheathing of a storage building. A gap between the corrugation and the trim below allows light in. 15 March.

Mind floating above ideas: Ideas as process during the week of 11 to 18 Feb

Junco on a deck rail. 11 Feb.

I took some pictures today of birds in snow at my house and of snow drifts at the prairie preserve, but I don’t feel I can tell which pictures are worth sharing — I’m too tired to judge quality. I can experience this time of not-caring instead of just wishing I cared. 11 Feb.

Contour lines on my deck. 11 Feb.

Getting enough food, being healthy — these are so fundamentally important that we don’t mention them as goals or ambitions. 12 Feb.

Morning fog, Route 72 west of Stillman Valley, about 7:15 a.m. 12 Feb.

Maybe I carry in my mind a thinking project most days? Today’s thinking project: asking why I don’t seem to care about my usual interests and why the big questions I normally am interested in are so easily dismissed when I’m sick. 12 Feb.

A beggy dog at fries time. And a veggie patty in a cheeseburger. 12 Feb.

Thinking of these things I have — photos, ideas — not as made but as found seems a low-ego approach to creativity. To find things is also to stay particular rather than speaking generally or universally. 13 Feb.

Prairie grass and lumpy snow, JPC, Byron, Ill. 11 Feb. 2018

Finding out — that basic mental hunger. When we’re presented with a puzzle or question, we’re compelled to seek the answer [though maybe we’re not as compelled to seek answers to open-ended Qs?] This is the curiosity impulse — showing people something new and enigmatic, and letting them (students, readers) dive in. This is behind the compulsion to read or watch mysteries, or to want to get to the end of the story or the nonfiction book — to want to know. I’ve been asking and attempting to answer my own questions — show these to students/readers? Show readers a contradiction? That’s a kind of puzzle. 13 Feb.

Near trees look brown or gray, but look bluer off in the distance on this overcast day. 13 Feb.

Find things — read my journals with several editing options in mind (edit to show an idea, select a quote, take an interesting description, etc.). Read with a mind to edit. 13 Feb.

Icicle off the Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron, Ill. 11 Feb.

I now know that I don’t need to boil my ideas down to mere banalities. Let the writing that’s done be the writing that gets published. Things take what they take. We read writing. 14 Feb.

Rock River from Byron Bridge, looking west, 13 Feb. 2018. Contrast to this pic from a month earlier.

Does the plant stand (holding a bottle of baby wipes) at the pharmacy counter, or a photo I might take of a roadside snowbank, matter? Of course not, yet of course. It’s helpful to get out of pattern mind and stop and look. 14 Feb.

Driving thru a fog cloud in the morning, camera held out car window. 14 Feb.

Lying down for a few minutes in the middle of my work day, I thought how I don’t need to label a mindset, and I don’t need to attach my attention to any idea — float between ideas! 14 Feb.

Frosted trees, but only for the lowest 8-10 feet. 14 Feb.

Trapped by ideas in math class — math as a set of rules of ideas that cohere and reinforce each other. It can be valuable for students to learn how to think within a logical realm, sure, but we can step outside that idea-set and think that way, too. 14 Feb.

Grayscale. Snow against glass, 11 Feb.

I often have ideas (opinions, judgments, action plans) but don’t want to hold any of these too tightly. I seldom devote myself to them, any of them. With the editing ideas I have had recently, I would have to commit to one — or maybe I could not? 15 Feb.

Foggy February day at school, view east about 10 a.m., math wing. 15 Feb.

Writings where the mind doesn’t need to settle on one idea! Writings from a mind floating among ideas. Your published ideas don’t have to settle on an idea. Having a point to make is needlessly restrictive. (Arguments don’t even seem socially or politically useful these days.) Don’t settle into the rut of an idea but float between or above ideas?! Also, why give others advice? They don’t need it. How conscious are anyone’s choices, anyway? I’m not sure I believe in consciously directing my mind to follow advice. I could be editing and freewriting less abstraction, fewer issues and ideas, and more natural, in-time brainwork, in-experience language! Ideas not as results but as process! 15 Feb.

My Orange Julius look: White shirt over safety-orange t-shirt. 15 Feb.

How weird some people get on Friday the 13th, or when they see “666” — there’s iconic resonance there. These are particular ideas that resonate, that grab our attention even if we don’t subscribe to the superstition. Perhaps these things are analogous to why certain stories from the Bible, certain myths, like Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, are simple stories that stick out in our minds. Somehow these things resonate with us. 15 Feb.

Crumbled snow, smooth snow, lumpy snow, at Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron, Ill. 11 Feb.

I saw pines reflected in a puddle on the park path. I smelled my dog’s neck fur. Maybe these things don’t need to be connected to bigger abstractions at all. Nor do I have to explain why each experience is cool. This is related to the previous idea about not telling messages or making points or arguments in my writings. 15 Feb.

More contour lines. 11 Feb.

I could refuse to define my writings, but even that feels too much like a decision made. 16 Feb.

Newly fallen flakes, 17 Feb.

My dog Sam’s as cold as a snowbank — because he’s been lying in a snowbank, I said when he came inside from our deck. I called him a “snowbank denizen.” 16 Feb.

Snowbank denizen. 17 Feb.

Using the things I already do as my art — my journals, yes, but also maybe the photos I take of my journals (to make digital copies of them). Publish whatever you want — see if it can be cool. 17 Feb.

Perhaps God is a cat: Notes from my May brain

Leaf in rain run-off, gas station parking lot, Stillman Valley, Ill. 10 May.

φ

When you tell a joke, you make an argument to the audience, which has to agree to see the context/set-up from the your perspective. And when you tell a joke, you mean it, at least in that moment. You reveal that you’ve taken a position — say, if you tease someone for being short, you are revealing that you have an idea of what height people should be. You reveal your expectations, your criteria for judging others. 30 April.

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Ideas about the past — like those in a documentary I saw about London in the 1300s — are still just ideas. 2 May.

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Grass. 7 May 2017

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“I love it when people get embarrassed — unless it’s me,” said a senior student of mine, practically defining what it means to be embarrassed. 4 May.

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Dandelion. 3 May 2017.

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Looking at papers containing student arguments, I read a student’s statement that said our class definition of “real” is true. But then I thought that definitions aren’t true or false — they’re just definitions. 4 May.

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My wife uses our dog to model a necklace. 26 May.

Our dog, Sammy, models a second necklace. 26 May.

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It’s kinda weird that English professors just write about interpreting other texts. I know I’ve read some interesting interpretations, and yet, it seems odd that so much writing in our culture is not about real things or events but about other texts or artworks. Watching the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? recently, I’d noticed something I’d not noticed over several previous viewings (specifically, that at least four times, a character mentions that people are looking for “answers”). It strikes me as interesting, this repetition of this idea, but I don’t really know that observing this pattern is all that important — it doesn’t  fundamentally change my interpretation of the movie. It starts to feel like a game that the filmmakers are playing, if they did this intentionally, but to what end? I wonder what’s satisfying for me in playing this art-interpretation game. 10 and 12 May.

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Demolition of buildings at southeast corner of Rt. 38 and 1st Street, DeKalb, Ill. 23 May 2017.

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I’m 43. I could live another 43 years — or I could have a heart attack tomorrow. I feel both old and not-old (or I feel these alternately). Driving down my town’s 2nd Street today, I saw two young men crossing an empty lot and I thought about the generations coming up, how they too will grow old with us. And then I saw a very old man out front of a house, and I thought, that could be me one day — but it’s not me yet. 11 May.

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We ask questions of other people when we want some information from them. But a mind may also ask something about the physical world — “Why does this natural feature (like a cave, say) exist?” But the physical world doesn’t answer our inquiry. We humans have to figure it out ourselves. Our question is an abstraction that is satisfied only by another abstraction, the answer. 12 May

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View north toward intersection of Main and Walnut streets, Stillman Valley, Ill. 10 May 2017.

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Perhaps God is inscrutable because God is a cat (at least it’s a funny conceit: “And the Lord sayeth unto Jacob: ‘Rairr.'”). Perhaps God has a feline sensibility instead of a human one; if God’s as indifferent as cats are, that might explain the problem of evil. 16 May.

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As I was walking my dog this evening, I was shifting my mindset from focusing only on my life (my stresses, etc.) to remembering the dog also lives in the world — and he lives differently from how I live. He lives in a different mind. 19 May.

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Dirty wind obscures stop sign, NW of Rochelle, Ill. 17 May.

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ALL ideas are “according to” some person — all ideas, all facts, all stories come from a person (rather than existing spontaneously in nature, say). 23 May.

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I was too tired last night to read, which means thinking of elsewhere. I could only be here, and tired. 24 May.

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Waiting to graduate: My students Dylan P., Kayway P., Josh N., Taylor N., and Aly N. 27 May.

My creative writing students Alex M., Kenzie L., Owen M., and Ashley M. 27 May.

Several characters I’ve had as students this year. From left: Katelyn R., Zach P., Katelyn P., Matt P., Alexia P., Christian P., Kenzie P. 27 May.

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As students lined up for their high school graduation ceremony, one senior said to teacher as she walked past, “Thanks for pushing me through!” The teacher answered, “Thanks for passing!” 27 May.

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Two of my creative writing students, Luis M. and David E., with yours truly, after the graduation. 17 May.

Devyn D., Ali V., and me after the graduation ceremony. I’m not always good at using my face to convey normal human expressions. 27 May.

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The only way we know to root for the Rebels against the Empire in Star Wars is that the Empire uses worse methods — their means (such as Vader choking a subordinate) are excessively violent, and therefore illegitimate. Both sides have the same ends of wanting power, wanting to be in control — the main reason why we root for one over the other is the morality of the means. 28 May.

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Visiting a cemetery on 29 May, it came to my mind to say that I like cemeteries because “nobody’s trying too hard.” There’s a calming lack of ambition among the graveyard denizens.

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Maple in a cemetery, Byron, Ill. 13 May.

‘The most thing I want’: April’s notes from my pocket pages

Searing visage of the minivan in which I drove students to state WYSE meet. 10 April

“They’re adult-ier than me,” said a 23-24-year-old woman who was soon to be interviewed for a teaching job by three school administrators. 1 April.

Perhaps I understand other people by creating models of their minds — and those people I don’t understand are those whose minds I have trouble modeling. I can’t even imagine. 3 April.

A book-length text isn’t a natural or automatic form of expression for anybody — in other words, nobody accidentally writes a book — so it must be a formal construct, an intentional creation, and I don’t want that level of formality. I’m looking for text-forms that come more naturally. 5 April

Most humans are women. So maybe we shouldn’t think of men as the default — or typical — person. 5 April

I don’t need to be a critic at all! For a long time, I have had the idea that what intelligent adults do is critique things. Perhaps I learned this from my older family members who had strong opinions, and maybe I had this reinforced during my liberal arts education, the point of which seemed to be training me to interpret and analyze and evaluate. But nobody’s asking me (in most of my life) to do these things. So I don’t need to. I don’t even have to care enough to critique things — I can let go of the sense I often have that I should always have thought-out opinions on contemporary society, on politics, or on educational policy. Instead, I can let go of my criticisms and just do those creative things I love doing. 5 April

Dandelion-pollen racing stripe on my dog’s forehead. 22 April

Part of my critiquing and complaining is a feeling that I could be or would be or should want to be in charge, in control. But I can finally admit to myself that I am not now, and probably never will be, and don’t really want to be, in control of any institution or group. This being the case, I can free up a lot of thinking-time by just not fretting about the functioning of these big things I’m not in charge of. I can save my energy and do what I really enjoy. What it comes down to is that I don’t want to be a cultural (or other kind of) critic, as once I thought I did. Instead of analyzing and evaluating, I want to have new ideas — that’s what is primary for me. 6 April.

Who I am, who I want to be — these are becoming the same, and that feels good. 6 April

My cat in my lap. 8 April

Why are my dreams usually narratives? They’re not abstract; they seem to be first-person narrative — though even it’s in the first-person, I often feel the dream is being told or shown to me. I’m not in charge. 7 April.

I’m starting to see why someone facing death would say they’ve lived a good life and not be super-desperate to keep living. 7 April.

Slime from where I’d dumped into my garden some nightcrawlers collected from the street after a rain. 27 March

“Nerds have the funnest fun,” said my student while on our WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering) state competition trip. 10 April

I’m interested in whatever I have to teach me. I’m referring here to how I seem to learn, to receive new ideas, insights, from my own mind, my subconscious, whatever, when I freewrite in my journals. 11 April

Me, Mr. Hagemann, in front of the “H” (for Hagemann, I tell my students) built near what had been my senior-year apartment building at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 10 April

It’s probably better — humbler, and more promoting of social calm — if I think of myself more as the annoying person (who should keep quiet) rather than thinking of myself as the fascinating person (who should keep sharing every insight with people) in any group of people. 11 April

“A rectangle is basically an oval,” said a senior student, to much peer criticism. 11 April.

My WYSE students at U of I: Lexy, Alec, Abe, Nick, and Matthew. 10 April.

A fiction idea: A protagonist learns that the nemesis has died, partway through the novel. 11 April

You don’t get to choose who likes you or your writings. You won’t necessarily impress a particular person, and you can’t necessarily make your enemies jealous. 13 April

Be careful what you decide is normal, I told my sophomore students after they’d expressed some harsh social views. What’s normal in our small town isn’t what’s normal in Chicago. 13 April.

Giraffes behind a barn door at “Ag Day.”

I often hear high school seniors bluntly announce their opinions about certain classes and teachers. Maybe this quasi-rudeness is useful in helping other students to figure out what’s popular. If students were quiet and less judgmental, they might not know how to fit in with each other. New York magazine has an article about people forming friend-groups by sharing certain views and excluding those who have different views. Perhaps if one has no views, one is in no views-group. 13 April

“Ah, the miracle of new life! Isn’t it easily made fussy?” I said to my wife of a tiny baby at a nearby table in our local diner. 16 April

Coulters in the coffee grounds, at “Ag Day,” 21 April.

When I do my own writing and thinking, my ideas expand, branch outward, into new ideas — but there’s no way to grade that type of thinking within a school situation. In class, we limit, or condense, thinking to what’s testable — in other words, what’s already known. Schools can’t handle new ideas. 18 April

My father-in-law begins a story this way: “This girl at work — OK, not work, but at church, and she’s not really a girl — she’s 82 years old …” 25 April

A calf-side map of an imaginary white island. On Jasmine Calf at my school’s “Ag Day,” 21 April.

“That’s the most thing I want for my birthday,” said an elementary-aged girl to an older girl about a journal at Target store on Rockford’s East State Street, 29 April

My dog seems to be dreaming when he’s sleeping and his legs start twitching. Does he know that he’s dreaming, like I do once I’ve woken up? The dog doesn’t have the dream-like experiences of watching movies and TV that I’ve had. 30 April

A statuesque farmwife at my high school’s “Ag Day.” I imagined that she still sometimes wonders what her life would have been had she finished that M.F.A. program. But then there are eggs to gather and geese to feed.

Trees never get lost in the woods: March notes from pocket pages

♦ Nothing in the physical world remembers! There is no material or physical past. Things are; there’s no were, no record of how things used to be. 28 Feb. & 3 March

Willow buds appear on 2 March after a couple weeks of warm weather. After a month of cool weather, the buds are still about the same.

♦ The most useful thing to keep in mind is that there’s nothing you have to keep in mind. 6 March.

♦ To will something, to mean a message, to assert a claim — these acts are abstract? Or merely private? Or are these the same thing? 6 March

It’s not every Regional Office of Education that has its own “Soiled Linen” chute as our local ROE, located in a former nunnery, does. 3 March

♦ There’s no off-switch on a person or a dog or cat (or any living thing) — we’re alive until we’re dead. Our consciousnesses are continuous, until they aren’t. 6 March

♦ I (and maybe most people) seem to play various personas or roles in various social situations. I play the responsible employee, the considerate neighbor, the respectful customer, etc. Maybe it’s only with my best friends that I can let go of playing anyone beside myself — and maybe that’s one way to define intimacy. 8 March

♦ We learn to be the right level of weird? I don’t endorse “normal” kids picking on the “weird” kids — but as a weird person myself, I feel I’ve learned, through positive (such as making others laugh) and negative (such as being ignored, being labeled “weird”) responses how to be socially appropriate. 8 March

♦ I should not value myself by the ideas I’ve already saved (by writing them down), no matter how clever. I remind myself that my ideas aren’t me. 9 March.

♦ “I love when people print stuff out — it’s just so warm,” said my printer-adjacent student. 9 March

Electricity infrastructure, downtown Byron. 30 March

♦ Each person has to learn wisdom anew. Each young person’s mind is new to the world and has to make sense of things. But with this need to learn comes an opportunity: each person might come up with new wisdom! 15 March

♦ “I really wanna see a ghost. I just don’t know where to look,” said student. 15 March.

♦ A tree becomes a what it is — its particular size and shape — in a particular context, at least partly in reaction to other trees and things around it. Of course, this could be a metaphor for how each particular person develops, too. 15 March

♦ I might get lost in a woods — “these trees all look alike,” etc. — but a tree never gets lost, and not just because it’s rooted to a place. Each tree doesn’t need to know where it is in relation to others. (This might almost be a contradiction to the previous note, but not quite.) 15 March

♦ Why did I listen to myself — have confidence in my own judgments and gut instincts — for most of my growing up? An independent streak? 16 March

♦ “I have conversations with myself all the time,” said student. “You might be having one now,” said teacher. 17 March

♦ Perhaps one could learn all about songwriting from extensive study of just one song, or learn all about writing poetry from one poem, by seeing what can be varied. 18 March

West side of city building (left) and grocery store (right), Byron, Illinois. 28 March

♦ I’m thinking lately that I’m glad I’m not a performer, like a musician, but a creative artist, who can be new, not repeating myself on stage every night. 19 March

♦ “At least he was an alcoholic who had a lot of sex,” said student of writer Ernest Hemingway. 20 March

♦ “Maybe I’ll revive her,” said student, of a character who had died in her story. 21 March

♦ Part of my maturing, of figuring out who I am, has been learning that I’m not like most of the people I have compared myself to. I don’t need to judge myself as inadequate; I’m simply different, and no comparison is needed. 21 March

♦ “I’m so confuzzled,” said student, going on to explain that she was both “confused” and “puzzled.” 23 March

♦ A word versus its absence — there’s a question attendant to each word, an asterisk on each word, perhaps, that calls each word into doubt. Why did the author use that word, and not some other? Each word is not necessary but arbitrary. 24 March

Here’s a bluntly titled book published in 1919.

The contents of “How to Do Things,” including 5 pages on “Babies and Children.”

♦ Two of my college roommates and I recently met up at a funeral — in our early 40s, we each now have our own responsibilities — our own niches of jobs, houses, families, etc. Though we didn’t have these same things when we were back in college, we did still have particular places we needed to be, plans to carry out. Our niches were never physical locations, really, so much as concepts? 27 March

♦ There’s more to being alive than words and ideas. I don’t want to be just a supplier of words to others. My life, my being alive, is more than whatever I write, of course. 27 & 29 March

♦ Nostalgia for ’80s pop songs — somehow it seems there was innocence then, which there was, among all the things that were going on. Perhaps we focus on the problems (in the world, as well as in our own own present lives) and we don’t pay attention to the innocence and goodness that’s also always there — that must be there, in order for nostalgia to be able to find it. 28 March

Buzzards on the Byron water tower. 28 March

‘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 times 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.