The other day when I was out on my early morning walk, I happened to walk by a fork in the road. It was just there, in the middle of the road, tines up. And it happened to be directly in front of several not-quite-middle-school kids who were on the side of the road waiting for their bus. I stopped, took a couple steps backwards, and used my foot to brush-kick the fork over to the curb. The fork complained in a metal-on-pavement clangy whine.
“No one should run that over now,” I said, as much to myself as to the kids in the grass.
“Is that a fork?” one of them asked as he took a step closer and stretched his neck out to see what was resting just beyond the curb.
“Yes,” I replied. “Kind of silly, isn’t it? A fork in the road?” I would’ve kept going, pushing the puns, but I have enough experience with kids these days to know that wordplay is not really something that most families engage in anymore. In fact, conversation among family members is something that doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should thanks to all of the distractions of life.
As I walked on, I could hear the boy in the background yelling to his mother. “Hey mom! There’s a fork over here! Can you believe that?”
How sad, I thought, that he missed such a great opportunity to expound on the fork and its location. Meanwhile, as I walked, my mind was racing with possibilities. A fork in the road! How odd would it be if you had to tell someone you popped your tire on a fork in the road?
Lately, I have been having trouble carrying a thought beyond a few short sentences to something whole that has potential. Because I have been unable to get to potential, I have countless ideas sitting undeveloped in dark corners of my mind and in documents on my desktop. These ideas, they seemed promising when they arose, but they fizzled and died before they took root. I suppose you could say I have been dabbling in dead thoughts for many months.
There have been a couple of live thoughts… BIG thoughts that gain momentum without my attention as they rattle around in my brain. These are thoughts I have been trying to ignore—putting them off until I have time to sit with them, cultivate them, tame them. They take up lots of space in my head, and they’ve settled in as if they are teenagers on a couch, gangly limbs splayed every which way, leaving little room for anyone else. Or any thought else. Before long, they will take over as they cast aside empty plates and cups in their attempt to quell their insatiable appetite. These out-of-control thoughts… they could use some nurturing.
Nurturing takes time, and these are not simple thoughts. They are project thoughts—undertakings, really—that need to be planned and implemented with the greatest of care. Or maybe they demand attention so I will implement them sooner rather than sitting on them forever, as I am wont to do. Whatever the issue, they are taking up a massive and increasing amount of my limited headspace.
And speaking of headspace… it has been an interesting reentry to a back-to-nearly-normal school schedule. If you don’t work around a great many people, you might not truly appreciate what social distance had to offer. I am a relative introvert—a reluctant socializer—and I took great comfort in the need for social distance. But this year, not so much. This year brings a lack of restriction that is uncomfortable and overwhelming in so many ways. Students have slid right back into the need to be up close—in my office, in my space, in my face, and sitting elbow-to-elbow. There is no question those Covid germs will make it across the few-inch span to my air-space. My random ramblings started earlier this evening, as I worked on a recommendation for a student. I was thinking back to the fall of 2019 when she sat in my class. Two years ago, we had no idea what was coming. Truth: you never see upheaval until it knocks on your door and stares you in the face, stares you down, and scares you beyond measure. In two years, we have learned there is much to be gained from upheaval. There is so much strength to be found in the broken pieces as they mend and heal.