So we spent yesterday's class period ten miles west and a couple miles south, sitting along a crossroads corner, looking out over a half-section of beans yellowing happily in the warmth of a windy day in September. And I think--I hope others do--that it was much better than sitting in a classroom.
For years it's been an exercise in seeing. Imaginative writing--all writing, probably--is really fundamentally about seeing, about picturing, about showing, not telling. If I'd written lesson plans and behavioral objectives, I'd have said that taking my students out there is an exercise in seeing.
That's half truth. It's also about appreciating. Nobody lists the Great Plains (and we're its emerald edge) as a must-see tourist destination. There's nothing here, really, and the people are about as exotic as any variety of hotdish made with cream of mushroom. We're white, mostly--here and there some more exotic. Where we're not white, we're Native--but nobody's really cared much about Native people since 1492. We're not gaudy or scintillating, and you'd have to look long and hard for showgirls.
A ton of Great Plains residents feel apologetic for living there, as if they were victimized by some cosmic dice spin, born in a place people appreciate seeing only in rearview mirrors.
So I take my students out the land and the open sky to see something in particular, too--too see the immense elegance and dignity of a land that can unfurl almost forever. I take them out there in September to appreciate a dozen shades of russet, a as-far-as-you-can-see quilt weaved in all kinds of muted earth tones.
I take them out there to see that this big sprawling world is knock-out gorgeous. I take them out in the middle of all that glory so we know we're not that big a deal ourselves.
It all starts with the beauty of creation, Calvin says. That's where it all begins, the whole story of redemption. We see, we know it can't be us, and we start looking for God.
That's another reason I take them out there--evangelism.
Be still and know. That's holy writ. Sometimes, seeing is believing.