Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Looking Forward

On a morning beach walk, I was enchanted by the different scenes depending on whether I was looking forward or behind. 

When my focus stayed ahead, the sky was clear and blue, the people on the beach were in color. When I first looked back, I was shocked to see the world behind was silhouettes in black and gray.
Hindsight, memories, learning from the past, are all critical to positive change and development. If willing to change, if willing to contemplate and reflect on past actions and events, these can be our strongest motivators for growth.

I recently was taught, "If you're too busy to reflect, you're too busy to improve." But there comes a point in all reflection when we need to move forward, when we need the color of hope, and we need to leave behind the gray--because hope is critical to change, and hope always presents itself in living color.

When I begin teaching poetry in my AP Literature class, one of the first analysis-for-poetry tools we use is Title. Students must take note of the title and how it might apply to the meaning of the entire poem. To illustrate this point, I give them a poem without the title and ask them to explore what the poem is about. It takes them a while, some never find the answer, but eventually, a student says, "Hope."

Hope   by Lisel Mueller  
It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,  
it shakes sleep from its eyes  
and drops from mushroom gills,  
it explodes in the starry heads  
of dandelions turned sages,  
it sticks to the wings of green angels  
that sail from the tops of maples.    
It sprouts in each occluded eye  
of the many-eyed potato,  
it lives in each earthworm segment  
surviving cruelty,  
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,  
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs  
of the child that has just been born.    
It is the singular gift  
we cannot destroy in ourselves,  
the argument that refutes death,  
the genius that invents the future,  
all we know of God.    
It is the serum which makes us swear  
not to betray one another;  
it is in this poem, trying to speak.    

Without knowing the title, it's difficult to know the subject of the poem. If we start our reading knowing it is about hope, the meaning of the imagery is clear. We fall softly into the words instead of fighting the confusion before we reach clarity. 

An intimate acquaintance with hope at the beginning of every journey, of every change we try to make, makes looking forward bright with color and brings along the ultimate traveling companion of choice: hope.