Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Catching up with you from Blog week 2

Somehow I got the idea that the prompt for the second blog prompt had something to do with what we were doing while waiting for finals week? I graded papers and celebrated by going to movies, and yoga retreats and poetry write and read groups, and ultimately to winter solstice celebrations. So here's what emerged.

The Last Week of Fall Semester.

Everything for me this crazy week
before winter solstice
has been a meditation on
the Darkening of the Light.
It’s put a spin on my beliefs about
What matters.

There was an email in my box
Telling me to be grateful
because the Sun sacrifices
herself for us each day
in a nuclear reaction
burning up slowly
into utter darkness
Just to give us light and heat and life.

And then there was Steven Hawkins’ “Everything” movie,
Explaining how Black Holes negate
 our phantasy of a Creator,
that “in the beginning narrative”,
gets sucked into the blackness with everything else
forcing us to quantum leap into
Infinity and Beyond.
No wonder we have no
in this world
with no beginning and no end.

Grading the 30 Myth Analysis essays in my Mythology class
 splashed the Titan, Cronos in my face,
 as Father Time, as the destructive ravager of time,
consuming all things,
including munching his children, The Olympians.

 His story, Katy Stegall pointed out in her essay, is
 “a potent image of  the past consuming the future”,
Like it does for me sometimes
when I go too deep into the dark what was.

And isn’t this winter solstice and this Darkening of the Light,
 the day after day nuclear destruction of the Sun,
all about making Time?

And speaking of the heavenly bodies
There was yet another gratitude reminder
from my movie binge this week. Be thankful for
that Interstellar stuff we can’t see,

that miracle of perfect balance
 that holds us in this place
on this Earth.
Pulls us here.
Sticks us to the ground,
sometimes even into the mulchy underground
Even when we want to Fly,
 know we can fly

in our dreams, in our unearthed light-filled spirit faces.

And then today, in my coven of yogi sisters
we applied the principles of Ayurveda to our innards
And spoke out manifestos of our darkness,
searching in those depths for a soul’s embrace
of our shadow.
And me, I took the dive and found the BAD GIRL.
That shameful, rule breaker, angry bitch tease, that dark
addictive, winter victim-girl hiding in the shadows.
And she emerged in my narrative as Janis Joplin,
The ghost of Janis took me over, and I let my hair down
and sang out loud and hoarse:

 “Take another little piece
Of my heart now baby,
Come on
 Come on
Come on
and Take It.
You know you got it, if it makes you feel good”

But what’s the Light in that?
The Fire? The contrast? The Future? The Word?
 It’s becoming clearer to me that it’s really hard
to see in the underworld.
It may be fertile ground strewn with
bright red pomegranate juice and a hot and hairy Hades
to Take It.
 But damn,
if I can see the sense in this.

And at this point, in this non-linear narrative.
I come to this morning,
Back to this morning on Chronos’s belch.
(Zeus,# 6 youngest son of Chronos, hidden as a stone by his Mother Rhea as the Divine,but tricky Feminine,  avoided being eaten like his sibs, and later made is bad Dad throw up the rest of the Olympians, future secured anyway dude!)                     
Here and now,
 I’m meditating in the sauna on my back porch
and thoughts of my Darkness arise,
lifetimes and lifetimes of being
Burned in ovens, torched on stakes, stabbed
With bayonets, surrendering to addiction,
Dancing with death
And my tears mingle with sweat
And as I wipe my eyes I open to see
A fucking Rainbow!

Filling the sky with all the colors
I burst out of the dark hot box and
Snap a picture.

The rain comes; the dark clouds are still there,
But the rainbow keeps getting brighter and brighter.

And then, I see that the rainbow goes all the way to La Jolla
 in a perfect arc. I make my angle wide and click again.
 And looking again at the picture I’ve snapped, I see it’s even


 Does the God that doesn’t exist because
Time has no beginning and no end
Have a weird sense of humor
Or What?
That we have to go down
Into the heart of darkness to
See the light, that the fire that
Burns to ash makes the soil so fertile.
That to sing “Come on Come on Come on”
loud and hoarse will take us all the way home.

Lynn Pollock, 
December 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ok so maybe you are just a little curious about my tagline: “Online Yoga Professor”
That was Henry’s doing, but I like it, although it’s not entirely accurate. I’m an English professor who teaches all my comp, creative writing and lit courses online here at SWC, crazy I know.  And I’m a yoga teacher who teaches live, in person, yoga classes to mostly 55+ students in Pacific Beach. This set up actually relates to the motivation question that challenges us this week. That is, teaching yoga to people in bodies right in front of me with my body, is a welcome balance to the somewhat disembodied atmosphere of teaching English online—staying balanced is one thing that motivates me.

I started teaching online almost 10 years ago to deal with my waning motivation for teaching live.
I’d been teaching English in a classroom for almost 20 years at that time and found that my students were just too young to get my jokes or cultural references. Since I lived for their laughs and for turning on their light bulbs about writing and loving the written word, I really lost my joy when those blank stares and awkward silence pervaded the room, never mind the trouble of lugging around piles of papers and red pens and constant struggles with overhead projectors and media that didn’t work and group workshops with only one student actually working and just finding a parking spot in time to get to class. Back then we called what I had “Burn Out”. 

Many of my colleagues suffering from the same malaise became administrators, or union reps, or early retirees, or just dropped dead on the way to class, so I decided to go cyber and teach from home, never getting out of my yoga clothes and having time for a downward dog or head stand between sets of essays.
So now some voice might ask: “How’s that working for you?”  
(And before I throw up or throw a punch at that annoying voice. I’ll take a round or two of alternate nostril breathing to balance out my left and right brain so I can get to my perceived point of the prompt this week and actually reflect on my motivational strategies and teaching choices in the here and now.)



So motivation at the end of the semester:
Mainly for me and my students there’s the impending thrill of Completion. There’s actually a place in the pleasure center of your brain that’s specifically activated by completing something.  So we focus on that.  I post reminders that the end is near.  And we reflect on how much work we’ve done and how much we’ve learned in those final discussion boards. In the last essay, they apply all the skills they have learned.  One of the great things for me about teaching online is that I require myself to have everything up and running, all the lessons, lectures, assignments, front loaded at the beginning of the semester. It’s a journey mapped out from the start so we just have to keep going to succeed.  It’s a scaffold of skills, one thing leads to another, so that students have, at least, the “illusion of progress”.  And this front loading lets me avoid, to some extent, the procrastination disorder that often plagued me in my live in the classroom teaching, especially at the end of the semester where putting off or not really knowing what came next meant high anxiety, coffee fueled late nights, and the threat of certain failure, no amount of calming breath or homeopathic remedies could overcome.

But come to think about it, the most motivating thing at the end of the semester in my online classroom is the love in the room.
By the end of the semester they have been reading and writing to each other and to me, literally thousands of words about their values, their lives, their thoughts  and perceptions of the ideas of other writers—great writers or not so great.  And everyone who wants to pass has to participate, not just the extroverts and high achievers that dominate the conversation in a brick classroom.   They fall in love with each other through their words as they appear on the page, and so do I. There’s an intimacy in the online classroom that surprises.  People reveal so much more about themselves when the eyes looking at them are behind a screen.  And even though my eyes are permanently red from staring at that screen grading and grading, my heart is filled with joy to see these people find a their voice and the power of the word and have an experience of community that, in my book, is the real take away from going to college.