Writing about the Grand Canyon

editing, writing

I’ve been working on a piece about the Grand Canyon that I’m hoping to finish by year’s end. Here’s an excerpt.

We walk to the rim after breakfast. A handful of us, me the only kid, gather in morning sunlight that takes its sweet time slanting through the juniper branches. The appointed pastor never comes, so a retired minister on vacation takes charge. I sit on the flattest rock I can find, but I constantly shift my skinny body. I draw in the dirt with a small stick. I bow my head and close my eyes when asked and say amen.

I open my eyes and watch the sun flick a switch, turning on the lights inside rocks that used to rest on the bottom of an ocean.

I have to cut this section, probably. We’ll see.

What It Was Like: Bible Class Sex-Ed

Christianity, teaching

My Bible teacher is cool. At least I think he is—I’m not the coolest kid in middle school, so my judgment might be suspect. But I’m not the nerdiest, either, and if I compare Mr. Scott with the rest of my teachers, he comes out near the top. He likes to stand in front of his desk and lean back against it, legs crossed and locked, and smooth his thin tie over and over, pulling it flat and taut against the stomach of his short-sleeved shirt. His shoes have pointed toes, and the thinnest laces I have ever seen…

Continued at Magical Teaching

Have a great summer. Stay sweet.

art, reading, teaching, writing

This last week I’ve been working on a three-part series based on yearbook memories from elementary school and junior high. What I’ve found interesting about the process is this:

Yearbooks are a kind of clear fiction we willingly pretend is true.

We all want our yearbooks to be signed—by everyone, by just the right person, by the cool kids—yet we know that what will be written in our yearbooks is, in large part, untrue.

We know this because we write those same untruths in other yearbooks.

There is a cliché we can deploy for every circumstance and level of friendship or enmity, and these are the same clichés we solicit for the pages of our own yearbooks—the same clichés we read and reread over the months and years that follow. (Hopefully not the decades that follow, however. We tend to reserve that timescale of cliché for Facebook posts.)

How many questions have I begged so far? Memory, fiction, truth, suspension of belief and disbelief. Write on.

Evaluations (Repost)


[This post appears concurrently at Magical Teaching.]

A manilla envelope in my box: evaluations. I opened it and thumbed through the pages, noticing (and skipping) those which stayed inside predictable boxes: the perfect column of “exceeds expectations,” the zig-zag alternation between 3’s and 4’s intended to suggest real thought, and of course the completely blank. Two evaluations caught my eye, however. Both had single sentences below the same question: Does the instructor exhibit enthusiasm for his subject?


The Both/And of Metaphor


A line from a lovely poem by Paul Willis—in which he calls an oscillating fan on a summer night a lighthouse beacon made of wind—got me thinking about metaphor for a few days.

Which is why this morning I remembered something Donna Dinsmore once said at Regent College. “God is a rock,” she said, nodding while she stared at us for an uncomfortable length of time. “God is a rock. Mmm. Mmm?”

By then we were ready to agree with her. We all nodded and hummed. It seemed so obvious. And then she said, “But God is not a rock!”

And that seemed obvious too.