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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Attraction of Honeysuckles


I enjoy raising seedlings into potted plants, baking with wheat flour, cross country skiing in the evenings of winter, lime flavored chips with fresh tomato salsa, quilting by hand while listening to NPR, and debating the role of education in our current society. I’ve been a student for the last twenty years, and while I have enjoyed the absence of academic writing for the first time in decades, I return to school daily as a teacher to assign (and thus grade) essays written by others.

There was a honeysuckle bush that grew over the back fence of the soccer field at my elementary school. The blossoms that bloomed within reach every spring would be picked over within days by elementary students abounding with energy and eager for a snack. The elder students would teach the younger how to remove the stem and the outer blossom for a small drop of sweet goodness to quickly devour.

There was a sense of secrecy about the sacred bush, after all, there weren't enough blossoms to go around--even at a small school of less than 100 students. Another time there were several hay bales brought to our school for some special event. In the midst of the hay we discovered seeds that we could gather out of the sheaves and snack on as we lined up for morning prayer. I remember one morning offering the seeds to my third grade teacher, Miss Ortiz. She shook her head claiming she'd already had breakfast that morning. It was at that moment I realized I was acting a little ridiculous. Gathering seeds from hay bales was immature, just like gathering drops from honeysuckles. Even at the age of nine, I'm not sure why this mattered.

I loved Miss Ortiz. She was fresh out of college, and came into my third grade classroom halfway through the year when my original teacher had a baby. She was young, had braces and curly hair, wore cute (rather than "teacher") clothes, and would double dutch with us on the playground when she helped with recess duty. She was enthusiastic, creative, and made us feel important--even though we were nine. Perhaps that is why her scorn for seeds from old decaying hay bales mattered so much--her expectations were different from my previous teachers. She didn't feel the need to separate herself from our fun to make sure we remembered she was in charge, so when she did separate herself, we took notice...well, I did.

I passed a blooming bunch of honeysuckles as I ran this afternoon. The sun was hot, the humidity high, my legs tired. It's been a long week at work, and a long year in general, and the weariness is hard to fend off as the days push to a close. The bush was on a route I have run literally hundreds of times, blooming and growing out into the sidewalk, arching over travelers of the road. The glimpse of all the fresh blossoms brought me back to the soccer field, and for a fleeting moment a part of me cried out to devour them--I was back in the corner, consuming all blossoms within reach as fast as I could, afraid that they would be gone the next time I ventured by.

Part of me wonders when I got to be this old. Instead of student, I am teacher. And while the memory of consuming the honeysuckles brought an instantaneous rush of joy, I would never dream of stopping. There was dinner to make...things to do...an evening to consume. And besides all that, I was tired. Stopping the run wasn't going to make it go by any faster.

I am well aware of my obsession with efficiency. Productivity is ever a goal. But I think I might benefit from stopping to drink up a few honeysuckles now and then, ever careful to take part in the fun of the students I am teaching, rather than just watching or passing it by.


Corine said...

Mrs Ortiz sounds like a wonderfully happy person! It's no wonder... as great as efficiency is, being part of a group is even better! :D She was wise to choose the better daily.

Mamma has spoken said...

How true that teachers touch our lives forever....

Rachel said...

Next time, I would encourage you to stop and pick some honey suckle. Tomorrow...it may not be there. We never know when or for how long the honey suckle will be in our lives. Meals.....laundry...grading papers....they can wait.

Gerb said...

I still try to stop and taste the honeysuckle... or at least get a nice whiff of its fragrance to remind me of the taste.

Great post.

Teachinfourth said...

I stopped not that long ago when I encountered a honeysuckle vine; its odor took me back to growing up in the heart of the Huckleberry Mountains and times when those vines were aplenty...

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