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  • Our Cat is What? #SOL22

    Taking a step into Meow Wolf plunges visitors into a unique, immersive artistic experience where adults and children play and explore. Walk into a house, meander into the kitchen, open the refrigerator, and step inside. Meow Wolf is the ultimate found object art project, but it’s also a portal into another world, one of strange imaginings.

    In the glowing dinosaur skeleton at Meow Wolf.

    My friends and I spent several hours climbing, crawling, and walking from space to space in the original Meow Wolf in Santa Fe June 10.

    This museum/playground/vortex bowling alley conversion morphed into metaphor when my husband informed me he suspects our new kitty Phoebe, whom you may have met during the March SOL challenge, is not a *she-be* but a *he-be*. That pronouncement reminded me of the scene in I Remember Mama when Dagmar learns her stray cat Elizabeth is a male after one of her siblings says, “I looked.” The father suggests calling the tomcat Uncle Elizabeth. We have not changed Phoebe’s name now that we’ve confirmed its gender during what we thought would be a spaying that turned into a neutering.

    Phoebe, our he-be tomcat after his neutering.

    I suppose pot luck cat is what one gets when answering an adoption call via the neighborhood Facebook group. I’m struggling with this gender reveal because I’ve never really liked tomcats. Phoebe is my first male kitty, and he’s not the friendliest feline.

    We’ve already changed Phoebe’s name from Missy and I worry a new moniker will confuse the cat. Johnny Cash sang about a boy named Sue, so I’m confident a tomcat can be a Phoebe. For now I’m framing Phoebe’s lived reality as a transition.

    My cat is transitioning.

    More accurately, my tomcat’s humans are transitioning. This is what feline gender fluidity looks like, even if the cat has no clue about whether it’s a he-be or she-be or it-be.

    We’ve stepped through the vortex into the portal. Whatever–will be.

  • Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp #SOL22

    Eight guard towers stood sentry around the perimeter of the camp, which existed not for safety of the incarcerees but rather to ensure that no one escaped. Rarely used at Minidoka, the guard towers served as symbols of imprisonment during World War II.

    –Placard at Minidoka Historical Site near Jerome, Idaho

    The War Relocation Authority did not use the eight guard towers at the Minidoka Concentration camp. They did not need to man the sentry towers. Instead, these structures stood as a “symbol of imprisonment” for the Japanese Americans imprisoned there during WWII.

    These days only a few structures remain, but the work of preserving memory goes on under the direction of Kurt Ikeda, directory of interpretation and education, himself a descendent of interred Japanese Americans. Visitors to the site will find updated narratives offering a more factual and accurate telling of life in the camp, but vestiges of what I call benevolent master narratives also remain, such as the signage near the camp baseball field that depicts the game more as a leisurely pastime rather than an opportunity to leave camp and escape the harsh living conditions there.

    I spoke to the park director about the site’s poorly maintained trails and signage problems during our visit last Friday and learned new signs will arrive and be installed soon. This is good news. For several years I’ve believed many of our national historical sites need a reckoning with history and the narrative framing they present to visitors. At Minidoka I see that transformation in progress. This includes a new visitor center. Above the door to the new visitor center visitors notice a quote:

    This is not just a Japanese American story, but an American story with implications for the world.

    –Frank Kitamoto

    We watched a George Taki narrated video about America’s Japanese American concentration camps and witnessed the stories survivors shared about losing all their wealth when ordered to the camps; about the harsh living conditions, including blazing heat in the summer and sub-zero temperatures in the winter. This desert corner of southeast Idaho on the Snake River plateau is a land of extremes with winds rivaling those of the Great Dust Bowl high plains.

    I asked the park director about student field trips during the school year. He assured me many students visit the site; however, even though I’ve lived in Idaho more than thirty years, last Friday was my first trip to Minidoka, and my husband grew up only a few miles from the camp and had never seen it. My children did not take a field trip to Minidoka during their school years.

    We live 1:45 from the site, and I-84 near the camp is a hub for frequent school trips to Boise and numerous points between here and there. But learning history, especially history that contrasts with the shining city on the hill, manifest destiny myths many prefer, especially these days, gets benched (if I may borrow a sports metaphor) when it’s game time.

    NBA finalist &
    Printz honor book
    We are Not Free

    Minidoka offers a curriculum for educators, and we have many excellent books available for educators to use when teaching about this tragic moment in our past, including Traci Chee’s excellent We Are Not Free, a book I found myself contemplating as I walked the trails at Minidoka.

  • Transitioning Worlds & Words

    The Long House at Mesa Verde National Park

    “I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

    James A. Michner

    Anthropologists don’t know what prompted the pueblo cliff-dwelling peoples who once lived in the stone abodes at Mesa Verde National Park to leave their homes and find new homes. I asked the park ranger about their abandonment of their adobe homes as I walked through the Long House on my June 9 visit to the park, but she only speculated about the cause/effect reasons for their migration.

    Whatever the reason, moving is hard. I moved cross-country several times before my thirtieth birthday. But since relocating to Idaho, I’ve pretty much stayed put.

    Today I’m making a big move and transitioning my words and blogging world.

    After posting on Blogger almost 12 years, and after nearly three years thinking about changing blogging platforms, I’ve rehomed. With this move, I’ve also changed my blog name to Swirl & Swing: Lines on Living & Learning. As an educator no longer in the classroom, the title “Evolving English Teacher” doesn’t accurately reflect the content I post. Nor does abandoning my identity as a teacher. I needed a new identity, one that embodies myriad facets of my identity. More about the name change later.

    Since I began blogging, I’ve written and published over 750 posts. Leaving those words in the rearview mirror and watching them recede into the distance challenges my nesting proclivities. Consider: I’ve lived in the same house 24 years, been married to the same man 25 years this July 21, and taught in the same school 30 of my 38 years. I settle in and get comfortable.

    So why move now?

    Blogger has created problems for commenters the past few months, even for those with Google accounts and those who blog on Blogger. I’ve seen a rise in spam comments, too. I’ve checked settings and troubleshooted as much as possible. Word Press creates a learning curve, but I know I can reach out to friends for support as I transition my words to this new-to-me platform.

    As I thought about moving my blog, I also tried out new names. Both sound and meaning matter in a blog name. How to find a name that both reflects my inner educator and my wanderlust? I wanted an eclectic name that also has a literary twist, a name that speaks to my love of writing in myriad genres.

    Some names I rejected:

    • Cerebrate: Contemplating Learning & Life
    • Word after Word
    • Wordbearer
    • Ink Shaker
    • In Retrospect
    • Worth Writing
    • Winnowing Words
    • Etched in Ink
    • Dry Ink
    • Pen to Post
    • Word-Working
    • Fair Writer
    • One Woman’s Words
    • Word Wondering
    • Thinking Makes It So
    • Ink Think

    A few quotes sparked my thinking, including:

    • “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” –Andis Nin
    • “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin
    • “A word after a word after a word is power.” –Margaret Atwood

    In the coming weeks I look forward to sharing what I hope are provocative posts. Not much about the content here will change. I’ll still share stories about and from my pets, my travels, my learning experiences, my thoughts on social justice and politics, etc.

    As some know, I embarked on a three-week road trip with two friends in June. I had numerous epiphanies and experiences on that trip, and I’m anxious to share another story about a transition you won’t want to miss. Until then, please offer your insights about Word Press in the comments, and I hope those who subscribed to my old blog will invite me into their inboxes once more.

    Thanks for visiting.

    Thank you, Two Writing Teachers team, for your continued
    support of teachers who write. Special shoutout
    to Stacey for encouraging me to choose Word Press.