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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Go Be Awesome

I'm writing a lot in longhand these days, scribbling in notebooks, making rambling lists, old ideas resurrected, new ones falling onto the page like embers from the campfires of the gods. I pull out journals from a year ago, two years ago, five. So many pages, all smelling of woodsmoke.

For the past two nights I've been watching the strange and poetic Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, a film as inscrutible as a dozen Dylan songs. It has taken two viewings for it to come into focus for me, and I'll probably watch it at least once more before sending it back to the video store.

February: the inscrutible month.

So what will you do today? Will you go be awesome? Will you be remarkable?

Tell me how it goes. I'll be here, with all these pages, and all these bits of ash.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Clearing Out the Detritus

Dragonstar and I are thinking about our garden. The one I'm too lazy to tend. The one I'm inspired to create anyway.

Last year there seemed little point in planning -- let alone planting -- a garden, since we were renting this house and the owner had just informed us that he was going to move in and we had to leave. But then I gave him a bunch of money and took on a mortgage, and so this year things have changed. Most things. I suspect I'm still a lazy gardener, so I'm trying to take that into consideration.

It's a winnowing time, February, isn't it? I'm seeing it in my friends and in the recent posts on the blogs I read, a desire to release the extraneous, the uninspired, the oppressive, the unworkable. For my part, I passed up an opportunity to submit work to a big art exhibit, and I've stepped back from my involvement in a local arts co-op that is clearly in need of more than I can give it. After the in-breath of January, with its resolutions and words of the year and fresh assessments of what we might like to pursue in the coming months, comes the exhalation, the letting go of what no longer serves.

I don't know about you, but for me, that out-breath is harder. Letting go is more complicated than letting in. Releasing requires more than receiving. This sounds like the attachment that the Buddhists are always going on about -- that stickiness of accumulated stuff, mental and otherwise, that keeps us glued to routines and relationships and work and lives we no longer find satisfactory.

Things we thought we wanted. People we thought we were.

My vision of me as a gardener.

Still, I don't want to make too many assumptions, given that everything is connected to everything else. My lazy gardening, for example, might be nothing more than a reluctance to dig deep in someone else's yard. So we're going to give it another try this year, me and Dragonstar. She wants more herbs for her potion garden. Calendula and goldenseal and thyme.

Me, I want a grape arbor. And a fruit tree. Maybe two.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

An Unschooling Manifesto

Sometimes when I talk to people about my writing life I refer to Crooked Mile as an unschooling blog, even though I don't seem to write all that much here about unschooling, per se. I certainly don't offer much "how to unschool" advice, given that my own inclination toward kids is something akin to that of D.H. Lawrence, who suggested we "give them their dinners and leave them alone."

What I mean when I call this an unschooling blog is that I write as an unschooler. I write from a perspective outside the culture of modern schooling, a culture I see as a first step in the formal indoctrination of our kids into the destructive and dysfunctional worldview that author Daniel Quinn calls the culture of maximum harm, and author Derrick Jensen calls the culture of make believe.

I write because the process of unschooling, as well as my experiences in living easily enough near the margins of this culture, lead me to believe we can extract ourselves from the worst of what we as a civilization have wrought and begin to create pockets of rejuvenation right where we are, even as things seem everywhere to fall apart.

And I write because I think we can learn how to be free in part by raising free kids, and letting them teach us.

In that sense, then, everything in these pages is connected to unschooling.

For those of you who would like something a little more specific to the subject, I have news. This past week I uploaded the contents of my Big Writing Project to Lulu and am awaiting a review copy of my brand-spanking-new book to arrive in my mailbox. Since this is my first foray into Lulu-style self-publishing (I've always used the copy shop and -- in another lifetime -- a ditto machine), I don't know how long this final part of the process will take, but sometime within the next several weeks the book should be available for sale at Lulu and Amazon and from my new website, which is still under construction because I'm taking a turn at being lazy, as we're supposed to be this time of year.

The book is an unschooling manifesto, slim and succinct (the "Big" in Big Writing Project being a matter of perspective, not to mention a mental hurdle of disproportionate magnitude). I'll have more to share soon.

Meantime, to anyone looking for an unschooling blog that does give "how to unschool" advice -- and excellent advice, at that -- may I suggest a visit to Joyce Fetteroll at Joyfully Rejoycing. Pour a cup of coffee. Be prepared to stay for hours. It's that good.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rule Number Six

Education itself is a putting off, a postponement; we are told to work hard to get good results. Why? So we can get a good job. What is a good job? One that pays well. Oh. And that's it? All this suffering, merely so that we can earn a lot of money, which, even if we manage it, will not solve our problems anyway? It's a tragically limited idea of what life is all about.

Tom Hodgkinson
The Freedom Manifesto
While I await release of his latest book, The Idle Parent, I'm re-reading Hodgkinson's Freedom Manifesto (originally published in Great Britain as How to Be Free). Hodgkinson is the editor of The Idler, and author of one of my favorite books of all time, How to Be Idle.

The weather outside is frightful. I hope it's better where you are. But if you have the six-more-weeks-of-winter blues (or even if you don't), I recommend getting a good book to read. Something irreverent. Anything by Hodgkinson. Or Vonnegut. Or dig through your piles from long ago to find your worn copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It'll help.

Rule number six? Stop taking yourself so damn seriously. It's from Roz Zander, in The Art of Possibility. There are no rules 1-5.