Sunday, August 17, 2014

Where ARE we from?

Where We're From

We are from coffee, co-workers, and the clutter of shelves,
From boxes and books,
From butcher paper and borders (the kind that bring our classrooms to life).
We are from Friday treats, 
From teammates, friends, and hard working janitors, 
From last year's students and this year's fresh faces who come with new school supplies (or don't) and the excitement for the possibilities...

Where are you from? 
It's a pick-up line in a bar.  An icebreaker at a staff breakfast.  Girls gabbing around the lunch table. Posed to a group of teachers interested in exploring who they are as writers. The kind of small talk that merges with the weather, traffic, and all those other nice-ities that punctuate the getting-to-know-you phase in any budding or busted relationship. Small. Tentative. A toe in the water. 
Where are you from?  
And yet, what if it only feels small to start?  It begins geographically - from south to north, from mountains to foothills to suburbs, from natives to as-soon-as-I-could-get-here's.  From Colorow and Powderhorn to Pleasant View, Maple Grove, and GME. And yet, what if it's this question that leads from families and familiarities to the heart of the human in all of us?
If I ask it again, does it start to feel bigger?
Where are you from?
 I mean really.
Where are you from?
This is about more than just a toe in the water.  It's about connecting to who we are.  About sharing. From our depths.  From our complexities.  From our humanity.  About wading waist deep.  Letting it wash over us--this question--if only for just a moment.
First introduced to George Ella Lyons' "Where I'm From" poem  in my Masters' writing class with Mark Overmeyer, I can't think of a better way to get to know each other, and share ourselves, than by asking this seemingly simple question.
So we read the poem.  We even listen and watch as George Ella reads it.  We talk very little.  The categories that we notice keep the conversation safe.  At a distance. Objects, People, Other People's Words, Memory Moments, Food, and Environment (or Places), Events, Activities and on and on.  Then, with a burst of energy on every splash of sticky-noted color, we decorate the walls with ideas from all corners of possibility.  Our feet are wet.  Ten minutes of shared writing later--from alliterative expressions to elaborative experience--and we are waist deep. More time could have us holding our collective breath to a possibility like this one:
...From last year's students and this year's fresh faces who come with new school supplies (or don't) and with excitement for the possibilities.
From south and north, mountains, foothills, suburbs, and urban corridors,
From predictable boundaries that allow the unpredictable to unfold "one day at a time" (and nothing like the TV show).
We are from standards that anchor us to the new and the known,
From green mountains and maple groves, pleasant views, color rows, powdered horns.
We are from kids' cheers for Olympic realities and reenactments, GoCo granted playgrounds, and Gingerbread manhunts.
From natives and I-got-here-as-soon-as-I-coulds, 
From no longer the new kid and paving the road as we drive it.
We are from families and familiarities,  
From sleepless nights and first day dreams, 
From alliterative expressions and elaborative experiences.
From the deep.  The complex. 
From the heart of humanity, the reach to each growing mind...

From "Where We Are From," we submerge in the quiet of our own minds, into the realities of our own existence. We ask, "Where am I from?"  
The first time I ever answered: 
I am from hot dogs and homemade pizza,
From Pepsi after seven
And that first sip that tastes like a dream...
I am from ballet slippers and tap shoes,
From kicking off my jellies to the tune of Footloose...
From halted piano music and the 'Wood.
I am from friends, families, and fond memories.
I am from love.
Again the next year (after my dad is gone and my daughter is born):
I am from salty tears over St. Patty's Day root beer floats.
From a whole bag of Sour Patch Kids....
I am from boiling baby bottles before baby bubble baths,
From goodness and grace.
I am from this life and the next.
One full of hope.
Dreams upon dreams.  
And this year:
I am from "the world doesn't have to go at the speed of your mind"...
From the "Big!" answer to the "How big?" question.
From the wind named Mariya and seeing third grade through her eyes...
I am from the return of balance to this life.
From those who help me to find myself.
From the strength and productivity of struggle. 
I am from all the wonders of this world,
A depth from where the imperfection in me shines. 
And as I think about this coming year, I wonder What if all beginnings start as small as a this? Where are you from? One from Kansas, three Colorado natives, Jeffco born and bred. From all corners of our district to the same job.  A new team.  Endless possibilities.  It all starts from where we're from.  
So how will you answer now that someone's asking?  
Where are you from? 
I mean really. 
Where are you from?  
Go on, try it