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THIS IS A YEAR OF THE DOG CONTEST ENTRY

Wishing Well

Published by JIM HARSTAD | Saturday, December 08, 2018 2:09 AM


400 words for December.


Wishing Well

Part 1

When you wish for something hard enough, you just might get it. Then
comes the part about how hard you thought about what happens next, as
in being careful what you wish for. Jiminy Cricket says nothing about
which star you should wish upon, nor about possible evil consequences
of choosing poorly. How about the venerable first star I see tonight?
Does that imply a filter, a guarantee against bad choices and evil
consequences? Suppose you say you're bored stiff and wish something
interesting would happen? By interesting you mean? Who cares? Nothing
could be worse than this. Let's give it a shot: I really wish
something interesting would happen. Oh-oh.


Part 2

Wisharama in Wishitopia in G-flat minor

How old were you when you realized “I wish I knew” does not
necessarily mean you want to know?

What it more likely means is that you don’t want to take the time to
find out. Or it’s not worth knowing. Or you’re too lazy. Or . . .

Or maybe you do know but telling would take too dang long. Or you
don’t want us to know. Or . . .

How old are you, anyway? What makes any of this the least bit scary? (Isn’t it?)

I wish I knew. I wish, really wish, you’d think hard about it, then
let us all know.


Part 3

The list of things people wish for is endless. Ever try to visualize
“endless”? What’d you see?

I see a long, long adding-machine tape with individual handwritten
entry after entry after entry, curling and unfurling slowly out into
dark and endless space, destination infinity, wherever it can be
found.

I wish I could see what Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking saw. Or what
Neil Degrasse Tyson sees.

Elon Musk. Does he really wish to spawn the movement that puts humans
everywhere? Literally everywhere? Would that be wishing well? I wish I
knew.

Wait. I know.

Only look at planet Earth. Clever humanstuff everywhere. Everywhere!
Purely natural stuff nowhere. Nowhere! (Hippie stuff, we smugly
smirk.)

Will we learn better over time? Or will we remain too clever by half
until the too-rapidly-nearing end? When the cows come home? When what
goes around comes around?

What do you wish to be when you grow up? An NFL star? Rock star? Movie
star? Media star? Multijillionaire on-line entrepreneur? Maybe a
pussygrabbing USA President? (Or, you know, grab whatever.)

How about alive and well in a shared natural setting? Are we wishing
well? Wish you knew?

You know you know.


Part 4

If it’s worth wishing for,
It must be worth working for.
If you wish/work hard enough for something worthy,
Will luck be a Sinatra lady?
Tonight?

“The harder I practice,
The luckier I get.” —Tom Watson, golfer.

“Pray for a good harvest,
but keep on hoeing.” —Future Farmers of America.

Praying. Anything like wishing?
Are they the same?

One sma’keed time I wished for something worthy
and got it.
By praying?
Don’t recall being into prayer yet.

Mom prayed. Both grandmas.
Couldn’t’ve hurt. Could’ve helped.
Working definitely helped.

The desired object was a bicycle.
Arden Farms Dairy and the City of Bremerton co-sponsored a traffic
safety jingle contest for kids, parental help allowed, even
encouraged.

We did seven entries, each one penned carefully, laboriously by my
reluctant second-grade hand. The first six were random shots. Maybes.

The seventh was my own inspiration, the simple idea of connecting
traffic light colors to their one-word directives:

Red is for stop.
Green is for go.
Yellow is for slow.

By then experienced jingleists, we massaged it into something we all
liked, I copied it neatly, and we sent it in. This was the one. We
were sure of it. And it was.

Mrs. Bostrom bolted out of her house clutching The Bremerton Sun to
her chest, shouting my name. “You won!” she cheered, shouting my name
again. “You won!”

In a special box on the front page, on a list of jingle contest
winners, my name.

At the presentation ceremony, the neatly racked boys’ bikes looked
sturdy, solid, and plain. All except for one gleaming red-and-white
tank model, a ruby among agates.

I wanted that very one, of course. Who wouldn’t? But to get it? I
fervently wished it would be awarded to me. And it was.

Part 5

Have you ever wished you could go back and revisit some part of your
life? Not actually relive it, maybe, but watch it happening
fly-on-the-wall style? Would it look the same as the memory you now
hold?

Does memory automatically confer enhancement? Or is it only randomly
different from the original, better in some ways, worse in others? Is
it ever exactly the same?

A long time ago, as an English teacher at Waianae High School, where
students’ use of Hawaiian creole English was considered a problem, it
occurred to me that if we treated pidgin as the acceptable cultural
variant it should be, not the enemy we’d made it, it would be easier
to teach American standard English as the cultural variant it is, not
the enemy we’d made it.

Mark Twain became my ally. Each of my eighth-grade students had a copy
of “Huckleberry Finn”. I had them translate the whole “You don’t know
about me” first paragraph twice, first into standard English, then
into pidgin. We had fun comparing the results.

Then we read the whole book aloud together, with everyone
reading-along in their own copy. I told them to think of Huck’s
language as a kind of mainland pidgin and did most of the
reading-aloud myself.

That approach worked so well that I next tried it with an
eleventh-grade English class using Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.
It took about a semester, and students seemed respectfully attentive,
though evaluation is always difficult.

Years later Glenn Kila, one of those eleventh-graders, told me it had
changed his life, inspiring him to go to UH as an English major.
Before, he’d never thought of going to college at all. He became a
teacher, then an administrator at more than one school on the Leeward
Coast.

Of course I feel good about that, but do I wish I could go back to
relive even one class session? I do not.

I’ve been logger, longshoreman, gravedigger. I’ve hitchhiked from
Boston to Seattle and bicycled across northern Europe. I’ve hiked the
ridgeline from St. Louis Heights across Ka’u Crater and down the
Palolo Trail.

Nothing I’ve ever done was harder work than teaching English, and I
wish never to do it again. But to be a fly on the wall of that
eleventh-grade Waianae classroom just one time? I can only wish.



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