May 21 2003
Today I packed my bags and went to school.
Work is a distraction! Being with adolescents helps to divert me.
My Year 12 class know that they have to fend for themselves for
the next few weeks but they know that I am only an email away and
that they can show me their work in their virtual workbooks.
All year we have been working with metaphors,
trying to find visual images that will help them to understand the
concepts that we are studying. We have drawn footprints, traced
our hands and used our fingers to identify the main arguments. All
of us think that it is pretty amazing that we are currently studying
"a lesson before dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. All
of us agree that the lesson of "a lesson before dying"
is really about living, but we are all overwhelmed by the fact that
as I explore key sections I am facing the reality that my soul mate
"We are all organisms! We are all
going to die!" I say.
No! We cannot spend these days before
Darryl's operation talking this bluntly. I had to find a different
way to approach my situation and the book. So today, instead of
talking we sat in the art room making Dame
Edna Everidge style glasses.
We raided all the supplies in the storeroom
and decorated our glasses with glitter and feathers. Then we put
them on and set off around the school to see if things looked any
different through these flamboyant glasses.
They did! Everyone came back knowing
that nothing would ever be the same again. A couple of students
wanted to take big cans of paint and splash bright paint over the
walls. Everyone noticed that no-one else appeared to be having fun
and that they could not see the funny side of what we were doing.
Everyone knew that they had stepped over the line, broken the rules
of engagement and could not step back.
As yet another class made glasses to
alter their view of the world I picked up old National Geographics
and flicked through them, searching, hoping I would find a metaphor
that would enable me to start writing again, that would help melt
the shard of ice that had pierced my throat and stopped the flow
of words. I happened upon the
Clown of the Desert, the road runner who was immortalized in
film. The road runner seemed to be telling me something.
I picked up my pen and began to write
The mercury hovers above 100F in this
western Texas desert as I run, wearing thick trousers, boots and
field jacket. I run, scurrying through the brush pursuing the legendary
roadrunner who so many people believe only exists in the cartoon.
The road runner is superbly adapted to
the desert and fearlessly goes where no other will go. Perhaps if
I locate a road runners roost I can watch and mimic their behavior.
Perhaps I will be quick and fearless and repeatedly strike the fear
that fills my upper intestine, the fear that this time the cancer
which has occupied Darryl's bowel might kill him.
Because of its lightening quickness,
the Roadrunner is one of the few animals that preys upon rattlesnakes.
Using its wings like a matador's cape, it snaps up a coiled rattlesnake
by the tail, cracks it like a whip and repeatedly slams its head
against the ground till dead.
I run within reach of the rattlesnakes,
scorpions, tarantulas and black widow spiders who everyone usually
keeps their distance from. I run directly towards them, determined
to find them, look them in the eye and in doing so face my fear.
Like the roadrunner I deftly flap my
wings and avoid injury by leaping up and spreading my feathers.
I know this will outwit my enemy. I have run this road before. I
am familiar with how cancer masks itself, how it lies silently waiting
for the call to unmask.
Well it has unmasked now. Darryl's bowel
has narrowed again and the surgery takes place on May 28th. Perhaps
we should draw a roadrunner on Darryl stomach so that the surgeon
is reminded to act with the speed and defiance of the clown of the
desert, the sharp witted little roadrunner who is known and loved
all around the world.