Step Right Up!

A few bits and bobs:

Because no one demanded it:

Also, the NewsHour had a special documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the future of the Supreme Court that aired last night.  In case you missed it and are interested (totally, 100% optional):

Occipital Lobe suggests this as a good resource for info about U.S. politics.  Is anyone else finding good resources?

In case you’re interested: the Invisibilia podcast site is here, and an archive of past episodes is here (the segment we listened to about SM and her calcified amygdala is about ten minutes into this episode).  You can use the date tool on the right-hand side of the page to access tons of past episodes; also, try googling “invisibilia” plus your brain name to see if there might be some interesting info for your research there.  Grab your crayons and start coloring! (Also good to listen to while gaming – just saying…)

See you Monday!

(Don’t let this be you on Sunday night, remembering that you have homework…

…do it today!  Or make a plan to spread it out over the weekend.)



Practice Equanimity

Relate much?


Welcome to a year like no other.  I won’t say that I’m not sad to feel the doors closing on the spaciousness and wonder of summer (and by sad I mean devastated), but I will say that I am also very excited to see you all (and by excited I mean truly and deeply in need of the kind of connection we form in Room 105).  I think that kind of duality and ambivalence is really the cornerstone of the human condition – not or; and.

For most of you, this will be your first time within the walls of a classroom in over five months; for all of us, there is a lot of the unknown ahead, and with the unknown usually/always comes an attendant amount of anxiety or worry.

The good news is that we get to figure this out together, and any and all reactions and needs are welcome.

Our word for the year is this: EQUANIMITY.

And this is your first piece of homework: what is equanimity?

  • what is the dictionary definition?
  • what does it mean to you?
  • what kinds of things encourage equanimity?
  • what kinds of things chase away equanimity?
  • what might equanimity look and feel like in the day to day flow of a classroom?
  • what might it mean in relation to school work and things like projects and assessments?
  • what might it mean in relation to partner work and group work?
  • what might it mean in relation to friendships and social interactions?
  • what might it mean in relation to you and your relationship to your family?
  • what might it mean in relation to your inner world?
  • what does it mean in relation to having homework already??
  • why the heck might Mr. Gaitens be making a big deal out of this?

I’d like you to take a little time before our orientation day to do some exploration of those questions and make some notes of ideas to bring in to share.  We’ll touch on it lightly when we see each other this week, and then do a deep dive next week. Don’t feel you have to do a thorough examination of each question, unless you want to.  Thinking deeply about three or four of the questions is a good way to start – maybe the ones that intrigue you; maybe the ones you think are most relevant to your life…

This means whoever sees this first, can you get on the blower (i.e whatever group chats you might have going) and spread the word?  If someone misses the message, no big deal, but let’s see how far and wide we can shout it out.

We get to decide how this year goes for us – and given that we have that choice, I’d like to humbly suggest that we choose to make the year a fun, engaging, curious, and positive one – despite the unknown and despite the potential challenges; or maybe even because of the unknown and because of the potential challenges.  This does mean, though, that we need all of us on board together.  Each of you is as vital and necessary to this as the other.  Each of you has a part that someone in our room needs, and that is true in relation to you and every single person in the room, including me.  Truly.  You are necessary – to all of us, and to each and every one of us.

There are a few other start-of-year things that I have posted in previous years that I want to recycle here, too, because, well… because I want to! (And also because I think they are useful ways of centering our thinking going in to the new year.)

“The question marks are our symbol. They stand for questions unanswered, mysteries unsolved, enigmas of all sorts that we attempt to unravel.”

– Jupiter Jones in “The Three Investigators and the Mystery of the Moaning Cave”

(from Down the Street, by Lynda Barry, Harper and Row Publishers, 1988)

(I promise not to throw chalk.  I cannot promise not to make you pretend to be angry trees.)

And finally, this.

If you’re able to, before next week, please check out the first few minutes of that video, and then watch the last three minutes or so.

What I am looking at there is the quality of listening that the orchestra has for each other, and then the joy with which they encounter each other when they finish the symphony.  That’s what I am hoping we can find in each day that we share together over the course of the coming year – despite because of the unknown.

See you soon!


I’ve Been Like a Captured Eagle / You Know an Eagle’s Born to Fly

Welcome back.


1.  Go here.

Scroll down a little until you see the audio bar for “Jill Lepore On How a Pandemic Ends” – not the first one, but the second one: it’s a audio track that is 9:27 in length.

Before you do your index card drawing, listen to historian Jill Lepore talk about the dark years of the polio virus and how it affected the lives of children.  I’ll ask you to share your thoughts at Class Meeting (but if you are only coming to this post just before the meeting, wait until after to listen and to do your ICD). If you need to take notes or draw in order to maintain focus, do that!

Clear your mind, remove any external distractions, and press play.

Nine minutes and twenty-seven seconds later:

2.  Outer space.

3.   Inner space.

4.  While you listen to Dolly Parton sing about the “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” draw this:

You receiving the news that the COVID-19 vaccine works.  What are you doing?  What are you thinking? What are you feeling?

5.  Title: “Hear Ye, Hear Ye!  The Vaccine Works!”

6.  Date it.

7.  Send it to me.

See you at 10:00!  Please have your Wagamese writing open on your computer!



See the Blue Pools in the Squinting Sun / Hear the Hissing of Summer Lawns

Morning.  It’s Friday!


1.  Outer space.

2.  Inner space.

3.  You know those summer days that are really hot and the sky is cloudless and blue, and all the sprinklers are out, and all your friends are either busy or away, and the day seems to stretch on forever and you’re super bored but as soon it’s over you want another one just like it?  Draw that.

4.  Title: “Joni Mitchell – ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’.” (I had to slip at least one more in: it was beyond my control.) (You can see the video Joni directed of the song here, and read about the song itself here.)

5.  Date it.

6.  Send it to me.

See you at 10:00!

No Detail Is Too Small

Morning.  Welcome to Wednesday.


1.  Outer space.

2.  Inner space.

3.  What is one of the central images in your Wagamese-inspired story?  Draw that – paying attention to the details – while you listen to the awe-inspiring Brandi Carlile sing about being “Forever Young.”

4.  Give your drawing a title that makes sense of the image.

5.  Date it.

6.  Bring it to class meeting!  See you at 10:00

ps: If you haven’t heard of Brandi Carlile yet, do your life a favor and get on it! (I was at this concert two years ago – beyond amazing.) (And of course this.) (Oh, heck, just do the whole mix.)

For Richard

Welcome back.

That’s the attitude, Osaka!

Steps (remind yourself that it makes a difference if you do these for reals):

1.  Outer space.

2.  Inner space.

3.  As we head into the final stretch, let’s place Richard Wagamese very firmly in our minds: remember that the writing you are calling into being is a celebration and acknowledgement of this great man and what he taught us about ourselves and about the world around us.

You might recall that in the video we watched of Wagamese’s “chosen sister,” Shelagh Rogers, speaking of him after his death, she mentioned how he had said that hearing Rostropovich play the Dvořák Cello Concerto changed his life:

“When I first heard it, I ached.  It was the most sublime music I had ever heard; it made me crave more for myself.”

You job is to copy this photograph of Wagamese with as much precision and detail as you can muster – keeping in mind Lynda Barry’s incredible advice about images being like maps: a collection of lines with spatial relationships – while you listen to the “Adagio” from the concerto.

Put your heart into it.

4.  Title: “For Richard.”

5.  Date it.

6.  Send it to me.

See you at 10:00!

A Ghost of Aviation / She was Swallowed by the Sky

Morning.  Happy Friday.

Relate much?

Buckle your seatbelts, kids.  It’s the end of our second round of Joni-Fest, and things are going to get deep.

A few things you need to know:

Amelia Earhart.  She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, in 1932.  She then upped the ante by flying from Hawaii to California in 1935.  And finally, in 1937, she set out to fly around the world.  Two-thirds of the way through, somewhere near the International Date Line, her plane disappeared, and she was never seen or heard from again.

Icarus: in Greek mythology, Icarus, son of Daedalus, was the first human to break the laws of gravity by using the wings his father crafted out of osier branches, bird feathers, and wax to soar into the sky.  Young, enthusiastic, and thrilled by the feeling that flying gave him, he ignored his father’s warning about flying too close to the sun: the wax melted, and Icarus crashed into the sea and drowned.


1.  Outer Space

  • what do you need to do to prepare the space around you?

2.  Inner Space

  • what do you need to do to prepare the space within you?

3.  This is an interpretive drawing.

We’re going back to Hejira, and one of its most famous tracks, “Amelia.”  Just like you did 1,000 years ago (by which I mean April), your job is to listen closely and to draw what you hear.

There is no right or wrong: you can interpret the beautiful, complex lyrics; you can interpret the amazingly intricate music; just images, images and words – totally up to you.

Before you begin, though – have you actually done Steps 1 and 2 above?  If not, please do so now.

If you wish, you can read the lyrics before you begin – this is not required.

Like “Hejira,” Joni wrote this song in Joan Black mode, travelling solo in a borrowed Cadillac across America – without a drivers license.

“I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it… the sweet loneliness of solitary travel. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another, sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do . . . I don’t know how many hotel rooms later, the song was complete.”

Deep breath.  Do your best to allow what happens to happen.  Go.

4.  Title: “Joni Mitchell – ‘Amelia’.”

5.  Date it.

6.  Send it to me.

If you’d like to see a live version of the song, go here.

If you’d like to hear Joni sing it several decades later (and several octaves lower) with the London Symphony orchestra, go here.

If you’d like to see how various artists have represented the Icarus myth, go here.

See you at 10:00!

Every Picture Has Its Shadows / And It Has Some Source of Light



Please read this entire post before beginning. This will help you understand the steps.

As broadcast in yesterday’s class meeting, we’re returning to an old favourite today (by old, I mean from April; and by favourite I mean a couple of people said they really enjoyed it): Draw Like Joni!

As with last time, it will take a little longer than usual.  As with last time, I’d like you to invest in it. And as with last time, please make sure you read these instructions slowly, purposefully, and carefully.  Try to do each step in order.

You’ll need time, so if you are seeing this just before class meeting, wait until after.

Choose your own adventure: choose a painting and choose some music.

“I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance.” ~ Joni


1.  Outer Space

  • materials (a sharp pencil is your friend) (but don’t tell your bed: it may get jealous)
  • remove or turn off distractions
  • clear workspace

2.  Inner Space

  • body relaxed but aware (this takes a little time)
  • connect to breath (so does this)
  • clear head

3.  Choose your painting.


Right-click or control-click here to open a new tab or window, and then take a look until you find an image that calls to you.  You can use the expand tool in the top right of each image to make it larger.


Right-click or control-click here and choose one of the paintings Joni made for her album covers. If you want a larger version of the art to work with, google the name of the album + “Joni Mitchell cover art.”

Your job is to copy this image with as much detail and precision as you can – slowly and calmly, remembering Lynda Barry’s advice about images as maps, with one line connected to the other, focusing on spatial relationships.

If you wish, you can add color – that is optional.

When you’ve chosen your painting, you’ll come back to this tab/window and select your music.

4.  Choose your music.

Choose one song and play it on a loop, or go through two, three, or all four of these masterpieces of lyric and sound one after the other.

When you are ready, press “Play.”

Take your time – allow yourself to get lost in the work.


5.  Title: “Draw Like Joni.”

6.  Date it.

7.  Send it to me. I can’t wait to see it!

See you at 10:00!