sometimes it's hard to know where The Teacher is going to pop up. sometimes i go somewhere thinking The Teacher will be there and She's not. most of the time this really bothers me. like a junky, i get irritated and itchy because i was soooo ready to learn, to evolve, to grow, to open, to bloom. but The Teacher wasn't there. fuck it, i don't want to learn anyway.
and then She shows up in these moments so subtly that i'm not even sure if it is Her at first. like, really? in this drunken scrawl on the metal door of a bathroom stall? this is where i transcend. The Teacher picks her classroom. even after years of experiencing this- i still am caught off guard easily.
She knows how to get my attention though.
this lesson starts with a car. a 1990, not a 91, jetta that needs to be sold on the fly because people essentially didn't do what they said they would. the car that was supposed to wind up in tucson sat in anacortes instead. the owner sits in tucson excited to start a new job- fretful because she's got no wheels to get to the rez school where she'll oversee lost teeth, belly aches and give pills to children for all the reasons adults have for doing such a thing. the important thing to know here- is that the car is not in "selling" condition. none the less, we buy it.
we didn't really need a car, exactly. we have a truck and a van- both with big old straws that suck up a lot of gasoline. and both with more than 200k miles on 'em. we have a plan for this jetta and it gives us some cushion if The Teacher decides to mess with that plan too.
first, we got to clean out the trunk. and when i say "we" i really mean "me." somehow everyone falls asleep before me one night and the trunk calls to me from the darkness of our driveway. this trunk is completely packed, by the way. when you open it you mostly see plastic garbage bags stuffed full with bits of fabric waving at you, rigid corners of forgotten bill envelopes, a seductive curve of a mug handle...and there's smell too. trunks always have a smell.
i also should add that the owner feels really badly about this. she offers to pay me to drive to the dump and just throw everything away- a chore i never could do for several reasons. first, there's the mystery. i love a good mystery. ever since my first nancy drew book i've been hoping for this kind of opportunity. second, there's the fact that i can't throw out anything that has a use. for good or bad. (except for legos left on the floor- i have no problem chucking out those feet killers). maybe you've already heard about the king size futon mattress i deconstructed on the back porch to avoid taking it to the dump? well, it was extreme...far more so than pulling in one of those garbage bags into my living room at about 10 pm one night last week.
which is exactly what i did...
if i had known The Teacher was going to be there, stuffed between old work files, swimsuits and a barbie tin of glitter nail polish- i would have taken notes. i would have slowed down into a meditative state and really paid attention to every moment. but as it often is- i just thought i was doing a chore. so i plodded forward, head down, hands busy.
it became very clear that i need a couple of bags to sort into. there was the trash- into it went candy wrappers, napkins, and the like. the paper recycling- the largest of the bags- where all the receipts, science class notes, birthday cards and more were deposited. then there was the pile of cool stuff that i didn't want...or stuff i had no idea what it actually was- small black t-shirts, a dinner plate with a country apple painted on it, a handmade ceramic jar full of green pennies and 1 small agate, and this large black plastic thingy my son tells me is a paintball gun loader. and the pile of stuff i thought was cool and wanted to keep- more about this later.
as i sorted through this stuff The Teacher began to circle the room, her eyebrow arched, leather shoes softly touching the ground in a steady rhythm of observation:
"see?" she said, "life gives everyone a lot of stuff to deal with."
"notice," she mentioned, "that sometimes things we care about get lost."
"imagine," she whispered, "what it would be like to have stranger's hands on your forgotten things."
and that's what i did. i imagined what it would be like if suddenly my trunk was open for all to examine. if my junk, from closets, old suitcases, under the bed, beneath the house was all laid out for someone else to sort through.
what would that feel like?
what would they learn about me?
most of the things i pulled from the trunk confirmed my impressive of the owner of the car- who i had only ever met once before, and had talked to a handful of times on the phone since then. she's passionate in a way that causes her to forget all else. she is drawn to bold colors and watery sparkles like a bird from a desert. she has good taste in music. she loves her children. she yearns for something and then goes to it. she reminds me of myself in many ways.
and she likes red shoes.
cuz missing shoes means someone hopping around, i think. because pairs go together. but i am so used, after the second hour of sorting, of finding only one shoe of each pair- i am not excited at first when i see the tip of red dansko clog.
i am shocked though. it is candy apple red- with only a little scuffing on the toe, a wad of old grass clinging to the sole, the black piping bold. i used to own these shoes. i bought myself a pair so long ago i don't know when. i remember the store and ordering them. i bought them as a birthday present for myself and it was the most money i had spent on shoes in a very long time. i don't think i have spend that much since. i wore these shoes raw. i loved everything about these clogs- and i could the strut my stuff in them like i never had a care in the world- until one day, i was over them.
one day, i pulled them out of my closet and they were too old, too worn, too used. they flopped on my feet with their skin faded to a dark, dirty brownish red. rather than seeing everywhere they had been- i just saw everywhere they would never take me. so i got rid of them.
i do this. i get rid of things i treasure. most of the time i completely forget about them until i see a picture of them or stumble into a memory of their importance or until i find an exact replica in an old trunk.
i was excited. i scrambled through the bag, casting aside fleece gloves, blue tank top, purple binder, searching for the mate. you know what i was thinking? i hope they fit me. i wanted a pair of red clogs. i remember recently when getting dressed i yearned for a pair of red clogs- my old clogs- and now here was a pair! yes, a pair!
two red clogs and me.
i put them on and stood. like cinderella, i so much wanting to be just like cinderella. they are a size 39, euro. and while this works good in some brands, in dansko i need a 40. but i didn't want to believe it. why would the universe put a beautiful pair of red clogs in the trunk of a car i bought for no damn good reason and then not have them fit me?
i walked around the house trying to calculate how long i could wear them before my left big toe would complain? a few hours...maybe. if i went to a movie- sure, of course- no one could see them, but i could do it. wear them to work- never make it to my first break. dancing? nope- never happen.
as excited as i to find these clogs- i was now equally distraught. because those red clogs reminded me so much about myself- and i wanted to be able to wear that knowledge around a bit longer.
then The Teacher, She smiles, and asks- the best teachers ask the best questions- "well, nancylee, whose clogs are these?"
i picture the gal who sold me this car. no doubt she misses these clogs and what they remind her about herself. maybe she doesn't even know they are missing. maybe she's going to wear her long black skirt today and is hunting around for them as i type. or maybe they aren't even her clogs at all but a girlfriend's or a lover's or her mother's or her daughter's.
but the point is- these are not my clogs.
and then The Teacher, walks real close to me so that i can smell her fragrance and know that she is so much more than a teacher- and she says with firm love, "you need to get your own clogs."
saturday is payday.