Saturday, June 01, 2013


"Tuscan Hillside", oil,
by Karen Winters
“Rex and Anna hurried away through the sunshine which was suddenly solemn to them.”
-- George Eliot, Daniel Deronda

            This morning, a beautiful one, I was struck again by the phrase “solemn sunshine” because it brought to mind the puzzling world I faced each day in English class. As I glanced around at my teenage students, I always saw both sunshine and solemnity, both the joyousness of childish life and the gravity of heavily burdened boys and girls. There was summer on one girl’s face and dark December on another’s. It was always that way, day after day – always a mixture of the lightness of being 14 and the weary seriousness of being 14. I tried my best to remember this when I was teaching. I sometimes came into the classroom carrying the inner light of the love of my work, which was fine, but what about the student in the second row whose sense of distress knew no boundaries, or the girl in the back who gave nothing of her kindness to anyone, ever? To these two kids, the sunshine I was feeling inside must have seemed as solemn as a memorial service as it spread out from me (which a teacher’s moods inevitably do). Even a bright and breezy poem can seem as burdensome as bricks on your shoulders if you bring a heavy heart to it. If sunlight laid itself across the blossoming trees outside my classroom windows and all seemed heartening and hopeful to me, there might have been, right there in the sun-drenched classroom, some students whose sorrow made even the brightest of days seem bleak.

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