Every time I walk by the kitchen window, I look toward the hummingbird feeder. I put it out after the flood two weeks ago. The rain had stopped. A hummingbird flew to the window and hovered looking right at me, as if he was saying, “Where’s the sweet stuff?” It didn’t take me long to find the feeder and a storage of food in the cabinet, but he did’t return…for days. I wondered if he ever would.
He’s there now, and almost every time I look. I’ve come to depend on his appearance. Like he’s the rainbow after the storm. He’s the sign we all need that life goes on.
Last week I read aloud the essay “Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle to a group of 6th graders. This is the first essay in Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays that Students Want to Write for People who Want to Read Them.
In his essay, Brian Doyle crushes our own hearts by writing about the hearts of hummingbirds.
(Hummingbird) hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine.
My students audibly gasped. Their reaction was pure emotion.
Katherine’s book leads us all on a quest for that reaction from our readers.
Watching my hummingbird, (Yes, he’s mine. I’ve named him Chuey), I realize that the smallest of beings, those minuscule moments, can bring about an emotional reaction.
However, to be open to these moments, I must be willing to write…every day.
Monday, I asked my students to start the class time sitting with their notebooks for 10 minutes and just writing. This freedom to express whatever was happening in their heads excited my young writers. There wasn’t a sound except the clicking of pencils for 10 minutes. Then they couldn’t wait to share!
- Jacob wrote about a song he couldn’t get out of his head.
- Noah wrote about imagining that everything was made of candy.
- Madison wrote about the fire drill earlier in the school day.
To grow my young students into writers, I need to help them view their world as something worth writing about. To show them, I join them. I write freely and share the dribble that comes out on the page. I talk to them about how we must weed through the dribble to find some good stuff. To find those small moments worth savoring and sharing.
If you missed it, here’s the link to the storify for the #DigiLitSunday Twitter chat with Katherine Bomer.