Showing posts with label SummerSchool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SummerSchool. Show all posts

How High Can Rocks Fly: Part 3: How fast can dead snails run?

(From December 2017) 
I will forever remember finding a particular envelope the week after Christmas while sorting through odds and ends and putting away decorations and writing syllabi.

I thought the paper envelope was filled with some sort  of fragrance beads, so I got a glass bowl, opened the envelope and shook them out. A bunch of yellow beads fell out, accompanied by about 50 tiny assorted seashells mixed in with tiny beads.

 I spent the better part of the afternoon admiring each one of them and then placing them in to a spiral pattern in the bowl.  I loved each of them.

The seashells tell a story about creatures effortlessly – almost helplessly -- creating beautifully perfect geometric art that they leave as their gift. 

These creatures did not have the choices of  being kind and helpful – or did they? Am I underestimating them? -- but still they found a way to be generous.

 I suddenly want to know more about the communities of whatever these are but oh wait. I am dumbstruck. Entirely.

  I am a grown human being and I do not know what to call the creature that lived and died and created seashells.

Are they snails? I’m thinking snails are land things. 

Snails are like Gary on Spongebob.  Wait, is Spongebob really under the sea? Is Gary a native underwater sea snail  or is he from above the water like Sandy the Squirrel and does that explain why Gary meows?  I want to look this up but stay on track.

The creatures that made these seashells can’t be “snails” and I’m stumped but motivated to get through this and find the right word so I can finish writing this and finally grade.

 I think of typing in “What died to become a seashell?”  or “How are seashells made?”  but I think google would laugh at me. 

Of course I know how seashells are made.

They are made by math, by the golden spiral and by the Pythagorean swirly square root thing.













Each sea shell is  made by a divine creature that instinctively grew at exactly the right speed; they could not go faster or slower, they could not grow into a shape any different than the one they were intended to become.  

I can’t imagine they were aware of their shells, but then I can also imagine an entire show based on snails having shell envy and some snails getting plastic shell surgery to look more like a conch. 


I finally did search “how are seashells made” and have an answer that is boring and ugh.  The smug top sentence for any big search should be disregarded. 
 Then I switched to google image search and got this treasure for you. You’re welcome.







At least now I have an answer.

A variety of sea creatures leave their shells.  They have all sorts of names. Mollusks and clams and oysters and guess what?  As the narrator I get to make choices and for this story we are going to call them sea snails, and leave their names a mystery that died when their entire family-village perished in whatever catastrophic event that caused all these shells to be seeking refuge halfway around the world from their home.

How do I know they are from far away? The tag on the bag of shells read “Made in the Philippines.” Of course I read it, I look for hints and clues everywhere, all the time.

It did not mention whether the contents were food or could be given to children – do they care if anyone is harmed? -- but I bless their hearts anyway, because that’s the right thing to do.

The Philippines are pretty far away from Tallahassee, an unimaginable distance to be covered by any snail, much less a dead one.

That’s right. I now realize my question is really “How fast can a dead snail run?” and the answer has been answered by every single one of these shells.

 It moved as quickly as it needed to in order to go where it was intended to go, and the universe did the rest of the work.



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*On exam day I will have enough rocks and stones so that each of you can pick two shells and two stones; one of each to keep, and one of each to give away. 

Chasing the Dawn




On a normal Tuesday during the last week of February, I carried a case of water to my classroom then hustled back to my car to get the rest of the supplies for my classes. 

This whole “bring food to my students” thing escalated quickly.

It started with Vinny from last semester. You remember him? You would if he was in your class.

Anyway, as part of his service project he collected donations from Planet Fitness members, and we packed the canned goods and snacks into brown bags that we distributed at Veterans Village. 

Vinny brought me so many donations that I had a few odds and ends left over in my office, so I decided to make a tray of granola bars and cheese crackers to bring to my class the first week of classes.

 All the food disappeared quickly, so I bought more, and added bananas Alicia’s mom sent two huge boxes of granola bars.  Tia brought Little Debbies.  Every single day in every single class I had enough food for everyone to take something.

Of course I had no rules for my students about the food. They didn’t have to earn a special grade or come to class early. They could take two, take three, take one for their friend who was always hungry. No one took too much, and students rarely took anything before class and instead grabbed a snack on their way out of the class and said goodbye and thank you.  A very nice way to end class.

During the first exam – back in January -- there was a little situation where a Starbucks cup filled with ice water that had been precariously balancing on the edge of the desk fell down in a minor explosion of ice and water and embarrassment.  My student’s face turned red so I blurted out from across the room, “I’m sorry for knocking your water off! My super powers go crazy some times.” She giggled. I offered that I had a water bottle in my lunch bag in my office, and if she was really thirsty she could run upstairs and get it. 

She said no and the room went back exam-day-quiet.

I arrived to my next class early, set up all the food and got ready for exam day. 

Once everyone was settled but before I passed out exams, Tyler raised his hand. Yes? “I heard you were giving out water bottles in your earlier class….?”  I told him that was fake news, but then asked my class if they were thirsty. Heads nodded.  So throughout February I brought both water bottles and brunch, often arriving on campus before dawn to set my class up before 7:15 and head upstairs to eat breakfast with colleagues. 

Back to this particularly normal Tuesday in February I was discussing earlier.  As I was walking under the inky sky that was turning just a bit pink and orange my mind flashed back to Spring 2000, the only other semester I brought food for my students. It was different but the same; I was an adjunct teaching 5 classes on 3 campuses around Tallahassee, and I would spend about $20 every Wednesday to get enough ingredients to make one tray of cookies for each of my classes.

 I take three more steps before the gravity of it all hits.

20 years ago I was bringing cookies and having a normal semester until something happened that changed everything – Marvin Scott, one of my favorite students, died in a car accident.  Ten years later when I was trying to write a book about Marvin’s life, two people in one of my classes passed away.

A little voice inside me said “Oh-uh, brace yourself.”

(continued)