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One of the nifty little things about my WordPress blog is that I can see the Google search terms that bring various eyeballs to my pages. Here are two recent examples that I found especially amusing. I’m just wondering what train of thought led to these searches … and hoping you found what you were looking for.

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crab traps and bicycle

There was plenty of time after school to walk around on Tangier, and the quiet town encouraged the wonderful sort of walking meditation of the wandering mind. And each walk usually ended up with a mental soundtrack that I took as a clue to what I’d been mulling.

So there’s no daycare, preschool, or summer enrichment. Kids spend the summers helping out on their fathers’ crab boats, or just running free on the island. Children running around free. I saw kids on their bikes, alone or in pairs, with that rare spirit of a free childhood.

One would think that this is a great place to raise kids … basically in the arms of one big family, free from abduction, hit and run drivers, strangers. There’s a strong value of self-sufficiency and independence throughout the community that translates into competent, confident children.

But I think the freedom ends after childhood. On this island boys become watermen and girls become mothers. Or they leave. With that belief system, children aren’t encouraged to fully engage in the developmental stage of questioning and exploring their individual identity. I’m not saying the teens don’t go through the adolescent rebelliousness. I saw a number of kids who probably weren’t in their parents best graces at the moment: There were a few tattoos and piercing, and I’m sure there’s truancy and mischief.

What’s missing, though, is an atmosphere that fosters deeper questioning, or encourages big dreams. I wouldn’t last a month. I’d be burned at the stake. Or I’d learn to keep my yap shut and do a lot of journaling.

Unlike many other small rural towns I’ve visited, though, there’s plenty of young families on the island, so they seem to accept the status quo.

Religion is very important in the community. Nearly 98 percent of the residents belong to the single Methodist church, which is also the center of social activity. There’s no alcohol on the island. Men and women still lead very separate lives. Even though there’s no bar, there’s a sandwich shop that only men go to. It’s as though along with their dialect they’ve also frozen cultural time. I think because their values are so tightly woven into the fabric of their everyday lives — rather than compartmentalized the way most modern children’s often are — they wouldn’t think of questioning it any more than they’d question gravity.

Still, in spite of being surrounded by water, their horizons are so small. They’re free and bound at the same time.

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These things happened today.

My mother slept with a morphine grin on her face after having her hip replaced yesterday.

I sat in the window-seat reading a stream of consciousness first-person description of the 1945 Dresden firebombing.

Miss Charmichael, the Alzheimer’s patient across the hall who doesn’t know that she had surgery or why she’s in the hospital, continued to cry, “Oh, it’s oh. Oh, it’s oh. Oh, it’s oh.” in that voice that’s somewhere between the sound of a child, an elderly person, or perhaps a cat.

Farther down the hall, Mr. Price was having his first physical therapy session and screaming with every move.

This was probably the time for me to take a little walk to the lobby for some coffee.

When I got back, people were running down the hall. Code Blue in room 515. I stood and tried to be invisible as doctors, nurses, and technicians sprinted by. A woman in street clothes stood blank-faced and crying in the hall.When I finally got by, and back into my mother’s room, the last one on the hall, she was still sleeping peacefully.

I came home tonight to spend a night in my own bed. As I was leaving the hospital, dark had just fallen on a hot and humid day. The lavender beds were freshly mulched with pine and their scent was rising. I sat on the sidewalk and put my face into them to breathe my first real air in 36 hours.

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You know your life has changed when you get upset because your schedule can no longer be arranged around your afternoon nap.

I'm still here, and thinking, but no time for writing in the blog. I don't want this blog to turn into one of those in which we read about the excruciating details of someone's boring daily life. I've gotten a commission for a large number of knitted baby hats, as well as a couple of freelance publications jobs on tight deadlines. And since one thing I cannot do while I knit is read, and I get paid for both types of work when the job is done, my time is tight.

I'm cooking some ideas for future writing in the back of my mind, though, while I'm doing the mindless stuff.

Hey! Now would be a great time to set up your feed, if you don't already have one, so you'll know when all of your favorite blogs are updated. Just click the button under SUBSCRIBE in the sidebar. ==>

Black in the hat

So I'm making things. And selling them. So far, just some of the baby hats that I already had around from when I was selling them like crazy last year. I decided that instead of trekking around pitching my wares at local shops I'd just go directly on Etsy, which is a nice community of people and their handmade objects.

So stop by my little shop, and bookmark it. I'm working on some nice things using traditional techniques in modern ways. Some feltmaking, embroidery, and other needlework.

There's something oddly comforting about these traditionally womanly arts. I pretty much grew up under my mother's sewing machine, and scraps of fabric were my favorite toys. (When I wasn't playing with vegetable peels in the kitchen sink, that is.) These are wonderful memories for me.

During our long afternoons at home, my favorite lunch was grilled cheese. My mother made the sandwiches in the waffle iron, and we would sit at the table and eat them together. Whatever kind of cheese it was would stretch as we bit into the crispy hot gooey sandwiches. I can still remember laughing together about that. I can see my mother's perfectly bright-red mouth laughing as though every time were the first time we discovered the joys of "stretchy cheese sandwiches."

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You guys know how to burn it down and I love it! I really appreciate our friendships and having a safe place to let go!

This message I got recently says a lot about one of the things I do like about living where I am now. The safety of friends … and the anonymity of a fairly large city. These have been important for me.

I think a lot about what my role will be in a small town. And in a position of leadership that will surely extend beyond my classroom. That kind of life — under the public microscope — has never been my strong suit. I live an ethical and moral life; but I do live it on my own terms. And even here I’ve been judged for it.

I know that I’ll always be “from away” no matter how long I might stay in Mississippi so I suppose there’s an expectation that I will be different from others in my town. But being a teacher is an extremely public job, and it’s a role I take seriously. But it’s also crucial to my sanity to have a safe group, a safe place where there’s a free exchange of ideas and uncensored feelings.

Maybe I should start practicing now.