Mysteries and miracles
"Into the Woods" series, 39: At the Death of the Year

In praise of teachers, wherever we find them


From "What It is I Think I'm Doing Anyhow" by Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995):

"As a mother, teacher, writer, community worker, neighbor, I'm concerned about accurate information, verifiable facts, sound analyses, responsible research, principled study, and people's assessment of the meaning of their lives. I'm interested in usable truths. Which means rising above my training, thinking better than I've been taught, developing a listening habit, making the self available to intelligence, engaging in demystification, and seeking out teachers at every turn. In many respects, my writings are notebooks I'm submitting to those teachers for examination.

"There have been a host of teachers. Once I thought anyone with enthusiasm about information was a good teacher. Then, anyone with an analysis of this country...who could help me decide how to put my wrath and my skills to the service of folks who sustain me. Later, anyone who could throw open the path and lead me back to the ancient wisdoms was a teacher. In more recent times, any true dialectition (material/spiritual) who could increase my understanding of all, I say all, the forces afoot in the universe was a teacher. I'm entering my forties now, with more simplistic criteria -- anyone with a greater capacity for love than I is a valuable teacher. And when I look back on the body of book reviews I've produced in the past fifteen years, for all their socioideolitero brilliant somethingorother, the underlying standard always seems to be -- Does this here author genuinely love his/her community?"

''Writing notebook

The light at the edge

There is...the pride of thinking oneself without teachers.
The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.
In ignorance is hope. If we had known the difficulty, we would not have learned even so little.
Rely on ignorance. It is ignorance that teachers will come to.
They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.

- Wendell Berry ("Healing")

The path ahead

"If you have no faith in yourself, then have faith in the things you call truth. You know what must be done. You may not have courage or trust or understanding or the will to do it, but you know what must be done. You can't turn back. There is no answer behind you. You fear what you cannot name. So look at it and find a name for it. Turn your face forward and learn."

- Patricia A. McKillip (The Riddle-Master of Hed)

Following our guidesBambara's essay can be found in Black Women Writers on Their Work 14. Berry's poem/essay can be found in his collection What Are People For?. The Riddle-Master of Hed is the first book in Pat McKillip's gorgeous Riddle-Master Trilogy, highly recommended. Images above: Lower Nattadon Hill on a misty autumn morning.