Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ode to Teachers & Myrtle

Yesterday, I searched and searched for my almost finished Steampunk Scrabble Board. The one I did for the group challenge.  I wanted to put the finishing touches on it before the show.
Obviously, my Muses decided that they didn't like the effort, didn't like Steampunk or were just messing with me.
Frustrated, I sat down on the studio steps and told them how I felt about this. Yes, there are piles of stuff around, yes, it looks like a disaster in places and I haven't even put things away from this summer but that is no reason not to help me find something.

I find when I'm frustrated talking to myself, the cats or Murphy tends to dissipate my disgust or anger. As I sat on the step wondering where the heck that board got to I watched, out of the corner of my eye, a large pile of painted papers start their slow descend to the barn floor.
It was like watching something in slow motion.

I could have jumped up to grab them but alas my jumping days are behind me and the chances of me actually successfully catching anything were slim while the odds of hurting myself in the process were far greater.

As I watched them cascade to the floor I noticed a wax paper envelope float to one side. I knew, in the end I would have to get up, have to pick up, I decided to see what was in the envelope. I am consistent in my delay tactics.

The envelope contained a book page I had made for an altered book. It was a double spread and ODE to Teachers and an old dear friend, Myrtle Jones.

When we moved into our first home a sweet woman lived across the street. She was my grandmother's age and for the rest of the years that she lived across the street from us she acted as our families surrogate grandmother and great grandmother. Every Sunday morning, after my youngest arrived, I would take the baby, a dog or two across the street to have coffee and toast with Myrtle.  She would feed cookies to the dogs, rock Mary and tell me stories of her past. 

The Ode to Myrtle is a salute to all teachers then and now.
When Myrtle graduated from her Young Ladies Finishing School in Chicago, at age 17, she boarded a train and headed to Nebraska for her first teaching position. For her it was an adventure into the Wild West. 

She lived with the families of her students. She ate what they ate for dinner, she slept where they could find room for her, often in an unheated loft where she went to sleep gazing at frost covered nails poking through the roof and a hide blanket thrown over her from one of the parents.

She taught in a one room school house. Her jobs besides, teaching the children, were to keep the fire going, chop wood if no one was available to help keep her woodpile stocked, shovel a path from the road to the school house, keep the school house clean, be careful with her meager supplies and hope that the next family she stayed with might have some stew instead of just broth.

I treasure the memories I have of her stories. Somehow, I am grateful that Steampunk Scrabble did not surface. 
This board is perfect. I'm pleased with it and I know if I could run across the street and show it to Myrtle she would be too, but she would want to know why I didn't bring Murphy over for a cookie.

And, yes, for those of you that like loose end tidied up, I did pick up the things that fell off the pile. And, I arranged them into a new pile. Are we happy now?


"One has just to be oneself.  That's my basic message.  The moment you accept yourself as you are all burdens, all mountainous burdens simply disappear.  Then life is a sheer joy. A festival of lights."
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, The Sound Of One Hand Clapping


  1. I see the courage in this wonderful woman's journey...I love your Steampunk! Peace be with you...remember to avoid all stress lady! Just be true to yourself! Peace, Mary Helen

  2. I love the piece and remember you talking about Myrtle way back when.

    Also love the origin of your quote today. THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING-fabulous title and provocative thought!

    Did you get the big storm last night?