Bless Your Heart…

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cc photo by J. Delp

I’m a junior high school principal.

This comment is typically met with a grimace and one of a few predictable responses that can be summarized by the statement, “Oh, bless your heart.”

Junior high is the age of hormones, uncontrolled laughter, and eye rolls. It can be a challenging age, but name one that isn’t. Junior high kids can do incredibly dumb things (often on purpose), but so can adults. There is plenty of evidence of that in the news and on your Twitter feed.

I have spent nearly twenty years working exclusively with adolescents. I credit them with my calm demeanor, charming personality, and quick wit (as well as sarcasm) — all necessities for surviving in the junior high world. They may also be responsible for a few extra pounds and some gray hairs, but that just comes with the territory.

Truth be told, some of the adults I’ve had to deal with are much more challenging than the kids. I’ve always believed kids have an excuse for behaviors that don’t quite measure up to expectations for civil, or appropriate discourse. They are young, still learning and often lack the experience (or modeling) to know better. Adults…not so much.

I honestly count it an honor to work with young people. In fact, when my time as a principal is over — whether in three days or twenty years — I’m a little worried about the prospect of interacting solely with adults. I’m not sure I’ll have the necessary temperament, patience, and tolerance.

When people tell me about their job where they work exclusively with adults, I often think, “Oh, bless your heart.”

When the time comes, Heaven help me.

My Wilderness Experience

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Trying to Stay Warm

This weekend I went on a very brief camping trip. Two nights on the Mogollon Rim outside of Payson, Arizona. As always, time outside of the city did my soul good. Nature has a way of healing the head and the heart.

I always envision a wilderness experience that would make Bear Grylls proud, but the reality is that my encounters with nature more closely resemble those recounted by the late Patrick McManus in his columns for Field and Stream, or in books like They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They and a Fine and Pleasant Misery.

For example, on this trip, I made a McGeyver-like attempt to repair my inflatable sleeping pad with tree sap and small squares of plastic. It sounded like a reasonable solution at the time but the end result was a leaking air mattress and bits of forest debris stuck to my sap covered hands.

In this world there are fisherman, there are people who fish, and then there is me. I typically spend more time untangling my line than fishing. My level of success is typically measured in the number of flies, or lures, I lose rather than in the number of fish I catch. I did manage to hook one trout on the first evening at the stream. I suspect there was something wrong with it. Perhaps, as McManus suggests, it was lacking in “style and taste.”

I have practiced ignorance most of my life and am intimately familiar with all its variations and applications…Let us now apply ignorance to fly-fishing. Suppose your flyfishing is like mine—no offense intended—and your main objective is somehow to get a fly to plop on the water in the hope that nearby there’s a fish lacking in matters of style and taste. – Patrick McManus, Ignoramus, October 1997

On the second day of the trip, I saw a small tarantula crawling through my camp. That evening, as I was enjoying a bowl of ramen noodles (that’s a lie, I wasn’t enjoying the noodles) I remembered a previous encounter with a tarantula in which I put my hand down in front of the arachnid. He (or she) crawled on to my hand and then, sensing the change in surface, promptly froze and refused to crawl off. I’d probably still be sitting on a forest road with a tarantula in hand if my brother hadn’t help me prod the spider on it’s way with the help of a stick.

I’ll keep making these trips to the wilderness and I will undoubtedly continue to resemble a character in a McManus book. Oh well. It makes for better stories than being an accomplished outdoorsman.