Ill Gotten Goods

Sunday, September 08, 2013

I can't say that being spoken to by the police was shocking, or even unexpected.

In the construct of my inner picture of myself, I am perpetually edgy. Just this side of the law. I speak out, speak up and try to match my actions with my words.

This is how I found myself talking to a city policeman at 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.


I teach Creative Experiences for Young Children and while we do traditional "Art, Music, Movement and Drama", I've also infused the course with the aesthetics and sensibility of Reggio Emilia. This started last winter when I began to transform my teaching lab into my space, or at least a space which reflected my values for children and students. I wanted a lab where they could see what I spoke about, where they would feel inspired and provoked to wonder about the importance of environment as the third teacher.

We do our best work when we are comfortable. We do our best work when we see beautiful things thoughtfully arranged. We do our best work when we are given time to think in-between exploration, letting the connections knit themselves together inside our brains.

It is these things that I teach in Creative Experiences, asking students to shake off the socialization of their classrooms and come as willing participants to this dangerous world of trusting the learner.




I needed some things for the classroom. Nothing you can buy from a catalog, for that was not part of the discussion. I needed things - early fallen leaves, last blooms of the Rosa Rugosa bushes with the rosehip berries to dissect on a mirror. I found tiny feathers under pine trees with half eaten nuts to one side. I gathered different types of pine branches and curious sticks to add to the building area.

I spotted some ornamental grass at the building across from mine and decided to wander over to take some clippings. It was waving, golden and overripe, in the hot afternoon sun. We would not have many  more of these hot late summer days. The late hatching cicadas were buzzing. I walked over to the grass and snipped a handful - no more than ten - and placed them in my bag. I wandered over to an elm tree and collected some time elm leaves that had begun to turn brown.

I walked over to the ornamental grass which was the reason I'd come over to this building in the first place, and selected seven or eight of the seed laden stems. I cut each one thinking about how I planned to arrange them in a vase. I was going to talk about taking advantage of the resources around you. You didn't need fake silk flowers when you had these gorgeous grasses at hand!


I was leaning over to snip rosehips when I saw the police vehicle. I knew he was coming for me and , as such, I didn't change my rhythm at all. I leaned over, smiling, and snipped a fragrant bloom. These were not hybrid cultivated roses but rather the tough old super fragrant varieties that still produced seeds in the rose hips and smell divine.

The police car drove up onto the sidewalk, pulling as close as he could get to me. He began to lean over into the passenger seat and chide me, but I continued to smile and snip the rosehips. Clearly, I was crazy.

He gets out of the vehicle and with a bluster present in most authority figures said:

 "Um, Hey. You can't be cutting things here. Cause if you do it, then everybody will do it and then there will be nothing!"

I smile at him. I am in a sundress, my magnificent cleavage discretely on display. My hair is down and in ringlets due to the heat and humidity. I pause an extra beat and say:

"I'm a Professor here."

Friends, you could have knocked this man down with the ornamental grass I was holding. He was beyond befuddled and stammered, shifting his feet. I pointed to my building:

"My office is right there."

He attempts to recover but the hammer has dropped. He doesn't know exactly how to reprimand me, but feels he should somehow. After all, someone has called the City police on me - not the campus, but the City police.

"Um, what do you teach? Do you have ID?"

I explain that my ID is in my office, but the Admin Asst. knows I am out here. If he'd like to walk over, I can get my ID. He shakes his head no.

I then tell him what I teach, taking small pleasure in realizing that he has no idea about which I speak - my fluid explanation of Reggio and the aesthetics of space. This gives him time to bring out his tiny notebook and ask me for my information.

He writes some things down. I continue to hold the ornamental grass in my hand. He asks what I plan to do with my illegally obtained flora. I try to add on to the explanation, but we both know he is just trying to save face here.

I consider turning to the surrounding buildings and waving with bemused smile at whomever surely has called him to question me.

He knows not what to do. "Um, well, I'm not going to make you dump your things out but um, you should call the grounds people and tell them you are out here next time."

I smile at him some more. We both know that there is no way in hell I am doing that.

He wishes me a good day and I walk towards my office, pointedly stopping to clip a few more things before I get to the door.

I stand next to my building. The Asst. Dean of the school walks out and I greet her. I am staring at an ornamental bush which I consider thoughtfully. I say: "Have you come out to talk to me?"

She laughs: "Nah - just don't climb the building" and walks off towards the administrative building.





1 Baleful Regards:

Rosemary Nickerson said...

balefully...hilarious!

 
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