Every morning I walk into my kitchen and look out the window of the back door to see Mary’s murals smiling at me. I didn’t know murals could smile, though I knew they could make me smile. But I swear these painted gardens on the north wall of my 100-year-old garage and the one on the shed in the back yard seem to grin in the spring sunshine.
For six Fridays in a row, Mary, Mary-not-at-all-contrary-Sand has been painting more permanent flowers in my life, and I’m just delighted with the results. As I said in an earlier post:
I have long admired Mary’s art, since she was my student on the college newspaper, the graphic design goddess who laid out the paper when we still had a paper and magazines both journalistic and literary that could be held in the hands. She’s a multi-talented artist, Mary, who sat on the big blue tarp on the ground, her brush dabbing one color of paint into another in the big roller tray, transforming from forest green to purple to aqua.
(You can see earlier incarnations of the big mural here.)
But wait! There’s more! After I had a new garage door installed, Mary added touches around it, too:
And she added fanciful tulips to the new shed out back as well:
There aren’t words enough to say how this delights me, bringing home the talent of one of my former Express newspaper students, one who design actual, physical newspaper after newspaper—not to mention a couple of Mainline magazines and a literary journal, Susurrus—and taught basic page design to many student editors. In a way I hadn’t really envisioned before, this helps wind up my career as a full-time college writing professor with an artistic bow.
It reminds me of the thousands of students who’ve sat in my classes, toiled on the paper and other publications, many of whose names and faces are lost to me. Mary’s generous spirit and compassionate heart remind me of so many people who watched me figure out how to teach new classes and try different ways of approaching the teaching of writing, whether in composition classes or journalism or creative writing.
This past year of teaching virtually has demanded all that I have and more. It’s certainly made me question my capability as a teacher, as it has so many of my colleagues who have persevered, trying to give their students the best possible instruction.
I could not have done my job without the help of colleagues like Rose Varesio and Timi Poeppelman, who taught me the ins and outs of Zoom and Canvas, as well as that of my dean, Robin Ikegami, of Language & Literature and her staff, Man Cheung and Candy He, who have been endlessly patient with me. I am deeply indebted to my Express co-adviser Randy Allen, who is Just the Best. And I so admire my students over the past two-and-a-half semesters, especially the ones on the Express, who have redefined—along with journalists around the world—what it means to report and photograph during a pandemic.
How do we carry on in times of deep strife? With a great deal of lovingkindness, to put it mildly. I have been the beneficiary of much of that in my life, and I like to think I’ve returned a good deal of it into the world, too.
But looking out at these fanciful flowers—the ones now blooming in my yard and the forever ones on stucco and wood—reminds me that, as the song says, love is all there is. All you need is love.
It doesn’t get any better than that.