Book Review: Vesper Flights

I know very little of birds, so reading Helen MacDonald’s Vesper Flights (like her last book, H Is For Hawk) is like entering an unknown forest and paying attention to the world. Her writing is a tour guide, and with this collection of essays, MacDonald continues to spin literary magic — bringing the reader closer to the ground and closer to air, to notice the animals and the landscape in different ways.

Vesper Flights also provides MacDonald a chance to anchor her own personal experiences, from childhood to adulthood, with her curiosities that make her writing so exquisite to read and to absorb, with beautiful prose lines in every piece.

Her overall message, although one that she does not hammer you over the head with, is how climate change and people are changing the environmental landscapes, and that animals are changing, too, either by disappearing or relocating or dying off. She writes with intent, reminding us all of our obligations as fellow passengers in this world of wonder that other living creatures are here, too, sharing this space with us.

The essays in Vesper Flights are a crash course in varieties of birds (more names than I could ever remember) but also in our shared humanity. The stories of the wild always intersect with our own, MacDonald suggests, and we best pay attention to it.

Peace (in flight),
Kevin

Getty 2020: Our Empty Spaces

Getty Images has put out a few 2020 videos, and I found this one — about empty spaces — both intriguing and disheartening. In our area, some of the local performance spaces have now shuttered doors for good or for now. But I saw that our city’s First Night Celebration is going virtual, in order to hang on for another year.

Then I saw another of the Getty videos, about tenacity, and I felt a bit more upbeat about how so many of us found a way to keep moving forward with creativity and community.

Peace (echoing out),
Kevin

Local Music: All We Ever Have (Jim Armenti)

I caught a listen to this song from a local musician – Jim Armenti — that was supported by our local arts organization. I love how Jim captures our small city’s collective efforts in the Pandemic to stay safe and support each other. I hope yours, does, too.

And then a local arts/dance group made this, too, in the park down the street as a way to help get out the vote.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

And Then We’re Full In – Really?

new school bike racks

Stop me if you’ve heard this: Ignore the health experts. Misinterpret the science. Open it all up.

Our School Committee this week voted to bring everybody back to our school, in full, in a phased-in approach. This, despite a strong argument from our school district health leader (with support of the local health board) that our school, particularly our stressed and strained nursing staff, is not equipped for such an influx of students. This, despite the need for another isolation room. This, despite concerns over a new HVAC report that raised questions about air flow in places around our school, like the school nurses’ office. This, despite a long line of teachers expressing concern about teaching in classroom full of students. This, despite growing numbers of the virus in the communities, now spiking red, around us. This, despite the holiday season approaching, when many families will no doubt interact with other family and friends outside of the home.

Some members of the committee were adamant against this plan to re-open in full, but they were in the minority.

One almost expected to hear the phrase “herd immunity” by those in the majority voting forward the decision to open, in full (over Zoom, by the way). We didn’t hear that phrase, thankfully, but it felt a bit like Dr. Atlas might have been whispering in the ears of decision makers as they removed the 6-foot social distancing requirement we’ve been working with in our Hybrid Model.

Peace (calm),
Kevin

Slice of Life: It’s All So Dang Quiet

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

The first thing I noticed as we began our first day back in the school building since March with students (half of them, anyway) was the quietness of the building. The hallways, shining from cleaning and new lighting; the cafeteria, set up for one student per table for lunches; our classrooms, with desks spaced apart; everywhere.

So quiet.

And the students, on their first day back to our school but not their first day of school, were subdued. Maybe it was the masks. Maybe it was learning the protocols of how to move through the building and how to clean desks and when we can go outside to get fresh air. Maybe it was all just very overwhelming. Just as important is the class sizes, of no more than 10 students per classroom at this point (the other half of the classes are home, doing independent learning and come to school on Thursday and Friday).

I asked people about the quiet, which was so noticeable in a building often filled with loud students and raucous energy. They all noticed but whether they liked it or not was rather mixed. Same with my students, as some said they like the quietness of the classrooms, and hope to get more schoolwork done. Others admitted they missed the noise of friends, even as they were happy to be back.

Outside, under a tent, for a mask break, the students could chat with each other, although a few pairs of friends had to be reminded about social distancing more times than once.

“How long will we have to do this?” one boy asked, exasperated, after being told to move a few more feet away from a friend he had not seen in person since March.

“For as long as we need to stay safe,” I replied, sympathetically.

Another student chimed in, “Until the virus is gone.”

A fourth noted, rather sadly, “And who knows when that will be.”

We all went quiet at that.

Peace (back in the building),
Kevin

Taking a Blogging Break

I am going away for a few days with friends and I could use a little blogging downtime anyway, so I won’t be doing any writing here for most of July.  I’ll probably be poking around the Interwebz here and there (mostly doing the Daily Creates with DS106). Thanks for visiting.

Peace (and rest and rejuvenation),
Kevin

Still Blogging: What If No One’s Reading?

Blog Stats Users 2019

I’ve been pretty steadfast in my view that this blog is mostly a place for me to think out loud and curate my teaching, reading, music and making experiences. I can’t tell you how valuable the search engine widget on my blog is to me.

Still, my blog is open and public, which makes me periodically curious about whether anyone else bothers to read what I am writing. I don’t have empirical proof (no raw numbers) but it does seem as if the reading of blogs, and commenting on blogs, has been on a trending decline for the last five years or so (probably right around the time Google pulled the plug on its popular RSS reader and Facebook emerged as the place to share, unless you’re me.) Or perhaps I am just losing traction with readers.

The other day, I went into the back end of who comes here and does what while they are here for the past year. It’s a curious inquiry to dive into the numbers, which reduces the humanity of interactions to data analysis.

So, if you are a human who comes here to spend a few minutes with my words, thank you. I appreciate it. And if you are someone who spends a couple of extra minutes leaving a note, comment or observation, thank you. I write for myself but I appreciate the company.

Blog Stats Activity 2019

Here are some observations:

  • I had 11,000 or so people visit my blog during the year. That’s a nice crowd of peeps to wander through my space
  • The average time spent for each person was only 40 seconds. Not sure what you can read beyond the header in 40 seconds
  • The top users are also repeat visitors. Probably my friends in CLMOOC and other connected spaces. We visit our spaces and interact regularly — a reminder that small is good and large might just mean getting lost in the mix
  • Most visitors only go the landing page and leave — the number of folks who go layered deep is pretty small in comparison to the larger visiting numbers
  • Only one post with the most page views of the entire year of 2019 was written and posted in 2019 — the rest of the top ten list were all from other years. I guess that’s an argument for having a curated space. It also is an argument that I am not writing much interesting stuff anymore. 🙂

None of this will change the way I write and blog my days. But I do find it intriguing to see how the space is being used by others.

Peace (and thanks for spending more than 40 seconds today with me),
Kevin