Reclamation

I love the stillness of the morning, before the dawn, which is presently hours away. I love the silence, the holy hush preceding the coming of the sun. My family, even the new puppy, slumbers on. If I have a word for these moments, it’s expectancy. If I were to step outside now I might hear footsteps in the pine straw beneath trees that border my back fence; I will not yet be able to see which creature is moving there in the dark. A white-tailed deer, perhaps, or a squirrel, which makes an astonishing amount of noise in the straw, much more more than larger creatures. Two mornings ago, in the first light, I glimpsed a huge gray rabbit running to and fro just beyond the fence. And if I wait long enough, I’ll hear my neighbor’s rooster crow. Any time now. He doesn’t wait for actual light that I can see. He’ll proclaim the new day, the continuum of daily living, before it’s set in motion. He’ll stir the goats in various pens throughout the neighborhood (not to be expected in a little subdivision—whatever happened to restrictive covenants?) and their loud chorus of wild baas will back up the rooster’s solo.

It’s life waking up again, claiming the day for its own.

On this new day, of this new year, this new decade, I think about life. The trouble with life, I once read, is that it’s so daily. Not merely being alive but trying to accomplish all that must be (or that we think must be) accomplished in this day, this week, this month … last year I learned a lesson about life on hiatus. When the life of someone you love hangs in the balance, all your best-laid plans disintegrate. Poof.

Moving forward becomes an act of will, a revised determination to do what you can, what’s most important, for that given day. Recovering ground, inch by precious inch.

Reclamation.

Whether life is suspended, or stagnant, or spinning out of control, we still have choices. Maybe it’s resting more. Writing more. Reading more, singing more. Praying more. Maybe it’s seeking help. Maybe it’s restoring relationships, or releasing them. Or creating something beautiful, meaningful. What we want to do and what we’re actually able to do in a day, a week, a month, a year, may be vastly different, but reclamation doesn’t happen all at once. It happens in determined, consistent bits by bits. It is deliberate and intentional.

Once I wished for something like parallel lives, a cloning of sorts, with one of me staying home to write all day, one of me getting everything done in the house the way I want it, and another me going to work. I am exacting of myself; I do a thing, I want to do it well, and so I am easily paralyzed by my own standards.

I think of the sea, rolling on and on, its billows and rhythms, its continuity, its fluidity. I contemplate its healing properties, how it is designed to cleanse itself. I look at the photo I included at the top of this post, how, writes the photographer, the cemetery “is being reclaimed by the forest as alders, birch, spruce, fir and a couple apple trees crowd out the dozen or so headstones that stand here.” It’s in Newfoundland and that symbolism strikes right at my writer-heart, new found land.

That’s what reclamation is. Taking back solid ground, or creating new land, from what would submerge it, overtake it. Inch by precious inch, bit by bit. Yesterday I heard a sportscaster speak of Ron Rivera’s move from the Carolina Panthers to the Washington Redskins: “Coach Rivera has been part of a reclamation project before.” It took him four years to take the failing Panthers to the Super Bowl. He’s already begun the work for the Redskins, before he ever gets there … like my rooster here, calling to the dawn before it appears.

It’s hard daily work, reclamation. Progress is slow to see for a time.

But I’ve started.

I pulled the weeds out of the planters on my back deck and planted pansies, a bright bit of welcome on these cold mornings when I take the new puppy out. The puppy is himself an act of reclamation, an affirmation of love my family has always had for dogs (which, I’ve said before, have souls; purer than my own, there in those eyes). He marks a moving forward.

One step at a time, I’ll reclaim the house by many little needed repairs and coats of paint. Patience, endurance …

My writing, my writing. How many stories lay unfinished? Not begun? If I can learn to live nonlinear, to live as fluid as the sea, then anywhere is an entry point. Whenever, wherever, just plunge. The time necessary for writing will come if I just begin the reclamation.

Work. I write this paragraph not only for myself, but for other educators and instructional coaches struggling for clarity and a foothold in an ever-changing, shifting field: Beware the great chasm between theory and application, between programs that are packaged as “the magic bullet” and cost a pretty penny but fail to deliver. Be aware of the great gulf between data that’s visible and the stories of human children, not so visible. Push back all that encroaches on growing the children, that which would inhibit their love of learning. Reclaim that for them. Know them and their families and their stories. Know your colleagues and their stories. Write together, all of you; in this day of restorative practices and social-emotional wellness, why are people not writing more in such settings? We reclaim the very heart of our humanity when we share our stories.

—It is light now. A new day is here; I hear life stirring all around. Forget those restrictive covenants.

Let the reclamation begin.

Photo: Reclamation. Derrick Mercer. CC BY-SA

20 thoughts on “Reclamation

  1. Fran, would you be interested in joining the Spiritual Thursday group? We blog once a month on a spiritual theme on the first Thursday. I’ve taken over the organization this year. Our first 2020 post is hosted by me: https://reflectionsontheteche.com/2020/01/02/spiritual-journey-thursday-one-little-word/
    All you have to do is link this amazing post in the inlinkz link. If you would like to sign up to host a month, I have March and October open. The Google doc is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AlOdrpJkga_lOOqPgbcxWD5R87f3KkM73JQZSNM6zT0/edit?usp=sharing
    Now I’m going back to read your post.

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  2. Fran, I am so delighted that you have joined our small group of reflective writers and thinkers at Spiritual Journey Thursday. Your word is a strong one that opens the doors to so many possibilities. I love how you started in a literary vein and then moved to a philosophical one and finished with thoughts for teachers. While I read this, I thought about an inspirational quote that I feel speaks to your writing talents and your reflective manner. “Knowing yourself is first step towards self reclamation.”― Amit Gupta You are on your way to reclaiming spaces around you to shape your 2020 year.

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    • I am excited about this spiritual journey, Carol! What a glorious way to start a new year. I’m always amazed by the depth of your responses, by the love, insight, and care you put into them. How I love that Gupta quote and its truth. I am deeply grateful to be your fellow sojourner. You enrich my journey immeasurably. Thank you.

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  3. Finding many connections with your writing world, I am, Fran. I listen to the crowing of a cock, down the street in the morning when I fetch the paper paper from the drive. I love how you think of the shore, the sea, a forest, pansies (I too planted them of recent days.) Cheers as “Reclamation” guides 2020!

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  4. Fran, welcome to our group! I loved reading your thoughts on your OLW. And this sentence spoke to me: “We reclaim the very heart of our humanity when we share our stories.” I like thinking about you writing in the stillness of the morning, before the dawn, listening as the day begins.

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    • Many thanks, Ramona – I am delighted to be part of this nurturing, uplifting group. I so appreciate your thoughts… yes, there’s much to listen to in the silences (really that’s when I “hear” best). I think the line you mention is one of the most important in the post. I am grateful for your insight.

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  5. Happy New Year, Fran, and welcome to the group! I also greatly appreciate your idea of reclamation, and look forward to further posts on this theme. I see a great deal of positivity and strength in your writing… I applaud you and encourage your work! Cheers!

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