Category Archives: Photos

‘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.

 

Agriculture Day 2018

Here are pictures and poems made at my high school’s agriculture day, 20 April:

The nose of a “shambling” bovine, as Odysseus calls them. His men also kill cattle belonging to the Sun God, and it doesn’t go well: “The cattle were dead already …
and the gods soon showed us all some fateful signs—the hides began to crawl, the meat, both raw and roasted, bellowed out on the spits, and we heard a noise
like the moan of lowing oxen.” My sophomore students went to Ag Day for a field trip to see animals that, in The Odyssey, were killed, eaten, ridden out of caves, and created from men.

“EAT! shouted a curly-haired boy as he shoved a handful of hay toward the cattle — as if cows should listen to him. “Gotta be slow around them,” said an Ag Day worker, who also advised that the beasts may not be hungry. Not long after,  Cannon steer eats hay and another boy screams, “IT’S EATING! IT’S EATING!”

Little Brian kept his attention focused on his mud puddle and his truck, but he grew tense wondering when mother would prop Gwen back up and they could act like a normal family again.

I wore my winter coat and a stocking cap on this cool spring day. One of my students told me, “You kinda look like an elf.” “I can live with that,” I said.

Odysseus and crew kill and eat about 109 of these for one meal.

Shiloh goat on red leash passes between Shelby’s jean legs.

The trucks are mired in cocoa powder this cold spring.

“Don’t touch anything unless you have permission from someone in blue,” said one of the blue-shirted Ag Day helpers to visiting elementary-school students.

Patty calf.

Patty’s owner said Jersey calves like Patty have big eyes and “dish face” — kids think they’re deer.

Odysseus’s men were turned into these critters by the enchantress Circe.

A crossed-arms boy supervises the pigs but he too is in the trailer-cage.

The Odyssey didn’t say much about chickens.

“They can’t really fly so much as fall slightly slower,” said an Ag Day staffer to someone’s question about whether chickens can fly.

Cows out on the coffee-grounds pasture.

The ag teacher’s young son hugged a lamb’s neck and said, “this is the only one I can catch.” A high school staffer said he thought the boy could also catch the other two lambs in the small pen, too.

Odysseus’s men rode out of the Cyclops’s cave underneath some sheep. Those sheep were, one hopes, taller than these sheep, and had more wool to hang onto.

Sheep would do terrible work in a creative writing class — they’d all be copying each other, I said. That’s true, said my creative writing student, as we looked at three lambs. I don’t know if it’s true, I said, but it’s fun to think.

The Odyssey didn’t mention llamas.

Llama comes closer.

Llama closer still.

Llama closing in!

Llamas at a pose.

Tim had earned his college degree and was ready for his future to begin, but for now, he’s back home, standing in tar and waiting to shovel the sh*t of levitating cows.

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.

A Sunny, Snowy Commute

After a day of snow and cold, the sun came out today and created some cool scenes and shapes along my Ogle County commute this afternoon:

Railroad crossing on Bethel Road.

Just west of railroad crossing.

A tin shed at southwest corner of Route 64 and Church roads. When I first noticed the fellow in the barn window, I thought it was a cat.

But then I was pretty sure it was a fox.

Snow dunes.

View from just south of Route 64 and Church Road intersection. View is toward the northwest, and the nuclear power plant’s steam cloud is just above the horizon on the right side. Also, Illinois is a flat sea of dirt clods.

A clod mountain shadow.

Two buck deer on south side of Holcomb Road, east of Meridian Road.

Bridge over the frozen Stillman Creek, facing north from Holcomb Road.

View of Rock River west from the bridge at Byron.

New Year’s Eve moonrise

Happy new year!

Northern Illinois, 31 Dec. 2017

The Fine Print on STOP Signs

A new series: