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The BBC says nobody will read this blog post. Prove it wrong!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

A recent survey circulating on Facebook is a BBC list of 100 works of literature accompanied by a “challenge” (for lack of a better term) that most people have not read more than 6 of them. I took the challenge and have read or started to read or read excerpts from about 20 or so. Some I have read more than once. The BBC included the works of Shakespeare — but wouldn’t it be a more appropriate question to ask how many Shakespeare plays you have seen performed? I believe Shakespeare was the only playwright included in the list.

So on my drive back from 11 Mile Canyon after a brief afternoon of fishing, my thoughts naturally went to Hemingway and his short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” and then to Maclean and his A River Runs Through It. But then my thoughts went back to the BBC list. Why that list? Why those titles? What does the list reveal about me if I read three of those books? Or twenty-three? Or fifty-three? How much different would my life be if I read seventy-three of those titles rather than somewhere around twenty? What if the only book I read on that list was Moby Dick (and how did Moby Dick make the list and not Huckleberry Finn?) What does the list reveal about “us” (and similar lists, too) even by the very choices of literature on the list?

When I was an English major at CSU, I proudly declared that I was an American Literature devotee — much to the chagrin of Dr. John Boni yet much to the delight of Dr. Robert Zoellner. Any list I would dare to create would certainly show an American Lit bias — and the list would reveal more about me, perhaps, than about those who responded. Would it reveal any more or less cultural or literary literacy for those who took my American Lit challenge? Was Dr. Boni’s disdain legit because I favor American Lit more than British Lit?

When I got to Divide, Colorado, I started to wonder what if we changed the artistic medium and conducted a similar survey. What if the question became “The _ _ _ believes most people will only have viewed five of the following works of art.” Then the list would include Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Jasper Johns’ US Flag, Picasso’s Guernica, Kooninig’s Woman I, Matisse’s Dance, Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, Diego Rivera’s The Arsenal: Frida Kahlo Distributes Arms. My list, of course, could go on for 90 or so more paintings. Am I less cultured because I have only viewed, first hand, a handful of those works in a museum setting? What if the medium became baseball games, certainly artistry of a more kinesthetic sort? Am I less cultured because I have seen games in Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field but not in Fenway Park?

Literary works lend themselves to lists more than any other artistic endeavor because we all have the ability to hold those works in our hands and to take our time to savor those works. (Of course, the Internet allows us to “see” the above works of art but we lose all sense of dimension. For example, O’Keeffe’s The Black Iris is 36″ x 29″; Dali’s The Persistence of Memory a mere 9.5″ x 13″; Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” is 30 x 60 inches.) So we turn to our familiarity with and indulgence in literature to “say something” about us as a culture, as a society, as an individual. But what is that statement — what does it say about us if we have only read six of these, or eight of those, or none of that list?

And does “our” list have to change? How many books have we read of writers from the Middle East? How many books of Latina/a writers — books representing the voice and culture of the fastest growing ethnicity in the U.S.? If, as it is said, literature offers a window into another’s experience — and that literature serves offers us a mirror to look at ourselves — what does the BBC List of 100 offer? Is it a multi-faceted mirror or a multi-paned window?

I’ll bring this pondering to an end…not so much out of lack of interest to continue musing but because other obligations call my name.

Thanksgiving Day 2010

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

Even though it is bit cliche to be reminded that Thanksgiving is a day to express our gratitude and thanks for the blessings in our lives, here I am writing about those things for which I am truly appreciative. Actually, it is not the “things” but the people in my life for whom I am grateful. To paraphrase another saying: gratitude starts at home. And with that, I am grateful for the beauty of my daughter, Jessica, and her continual evolution into young adulthood. She amazes me every day. It’s a joyful thing to watch — this unfolding of a young life. The beauty is her physical self, of course, and her social self as she trusts her Self, shapes her life, and feels her way along a path that is not always sure or clear. She has dealt with the challenges in front of her with resilience and perseverance.

And I am grateful for the presence and love of Jannetta in my life today. She has a strength that is not superficial…a strength that is not forceful but is steady and committed and clear. So I get to share in that today. Her presence makes my life fuller, richer. I feel loved and possessed with the ability to be loving. William Faulkner says “Maybe the only thing worse than having to give gratitude constantly … is having to accept it.” I get to be grateful for Jannetta’s life in mine and accept gratitude, too, for what we share.

And today I have a certain gratitude for my employer who gives me the opportunity to grow as a leader every day. I feel challenged in my work every day and given the opportunity to meet that challenge every day, too.

In short, today — this day — I get to express the gratitude to and for the people in my life who make it richer. Mother Theresa said “The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.” I get to learn how to fuel that love every day with the people in my life.

On the Eve of 53

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

I’ve always been somewhat of a late-bloomer, venturing into new experiences a bit out of sync with what may be considered the norm or at a different pace than that of my peers.  Tomorrow I turn 53 years old, and, as usual, birthdays offer an opportunity for reflection.  I wonder what will shape this next year, this next period of my life, the next steps along the way?

Last week, my daughter, who turns 17 later this summer, opened the door for this reflective moment. She said, in the midst of a conversation about choices, “dad, you should just do what you want to do…what you want to do for you.”  Her emphasis on you took me back about 18 years when, after having a heart-felt conversation with my sister about a decision with which I was struggling, Deb called out to me as I was leaving her house walking through her yard to the back gate:  “hey, Vinnie, it’s your life…live it.”  Deb’s voice offering that advice has stayed with me for 18 years, echoing through my mind and serving as a guidepost, in a way, for different decisions along this journey.

So today, as an adult with responsibilities (responsibilities I am happy to meet: those of parenting, those of a demanding job, those with financial ramifications), I am reminded again that I have the choice to create my life — and then the opportunity to fully live that life.  It’s different on the eve of 53 then it was at 35 or 25 — because of the responsibilities to others and the ripple effects that one’s decisions have on others.  I guess, ultimately, it comes down to making the choices that we will — then living out those choices as passionately as we can.  And I am neither naive nor a polly-ana.  I know that living “life on life’s terms” means facing the challenges that each day brings and meeting the responsibilities that come with this life.  I also know, though, that it is possible to experience “the joy of living — even under pressure and difficulty.”  Down which path will I walk:  the path that reveals a life rich with possibility and joy or the one that only sees the pressures and difficulties?

So on this eve of my 53rd year, my hand poised to open the metaphorical gate of Deb’s back yard, I consider the balance of making the choices to “live it” fully with the inherent responsibility of adulthood. I will trust this to be true:  “live from your own center.”

Raking Leaves in the Wind

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

Raking Leaves in the Wind

My dog cocks his head,
turns his nose to the right,
catches whatever early spring
scent is in the air.  Or
maybe he wonders what I’m
doing, raking leaves in the wind.
The pile at my feet flutters,
lifts
into the air,
swirling in a tight
vortex
before settling again.
I pull my rake
over the dirt,
catching
the leaves
once more in the tines,
shaping them
again in a futile pile.
The dog cocks
his head,
turns his nose,
catches the breeze
as it rises again.
I turn your words
over in my head
one more time,
pulling them tight,
then watching them lift and
flutter in my mind,
leaves of thoughts
caught in the early
breeze of the spring day.
Last fall’s leaves linger.
The morning’s work clears
the soil for the new growth,
the wind lifts your words,
the dog cocks his head,
catches the spring scent,
as your words settle again
here.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

Spring break looks as if it could be wet and snowy. I’m hoping to get to the dream stream.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

At least one fish a month. I have 3 in both January and February. When will the March catch happen?

Colorado Language Arts Society — Spring Conference

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2010 by Vince.Puzick

Friday night, March 5th, brought English/Language Arts teachers from the state of Colorado together for the CLAS annual conference. While this year’s conference had the usual offerings of sessions covering a range of literacy and literary topics, writing and writing instruction had the spotlight. The opening session — more than a keynote and just short of a workshop — by Penny Kittle set the tone for what turned out to be one of the best conferences I have ever attended. She is truly gifted — as a writer, teacher, and literacy leader.

I will continue to share some of my reflections about the conference — because it seems right now like one of those events to savor and ponder — but the key thoughts that stand out right as bullet points for me: choice (readings, writings) for students, and teacher as model. We should all be literacy apprentices. It seems to me that the apprenticeship model works in both reading and writing workshop as well as for modeling effective reading instruction in interventions. To paraphrase Ghandi, be the reader/writer you want them to become.

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