This article is reprinted from The 21 1982-3 #13 March 11 — this was the Newsletter of District 21, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation; I was the editor, illustrator writer and publisher. The title above is printed with slashes indicating the line breaks. Blackjack’s editorials appeared in every issue of The 21 which I produced every two weeks during the school years 1982-88.
Maybe it is a seige mentality that has come over the old basement office, but every year for the last few, Ole Blackjack has noted a growing tendency in the people hearabouts to what you might call “Spring Paranoia”. In this, the home stretch before the March Break when we all betake ourselves as far from the coils of madness as possible, it would be useful to pause for a moment and reflect on the little glinting webs of tension that will start to build among us as soon as we return.
Last summer, I took to walking in the woods at about sunrise. My walk took me along a path that climbed a deep wooded trail that opened, just over the top, into a little grassy clearing. If I timed the walk just right, I could get to that rise just as the sun shot along the ground from the horizon, right into my face as I cleared the rise. The effect was an emotional charge that I can still hardly understand: the trees at the far side of the clearing, the high weeds, the little shack were all in silhouette; the edges of the path were dazzling, and the shadows were like long hard bars on the ground. The amazing thing, though, was the spider webs that every morning filled every space near the ground in every direction and shone spectra like haloes around every blade of grass, the edge of the path, each pebble.
In the daytime, with the sun high overhead, they were invisible; in the dawn, with the sun low-raking the ground, they were incredible.
Now, here we are, on the eve of March Break. There are a lot of silent people lurking around the schools, shivering sometimes, just hoping to hold out until the March flight to sunland. Look: there is one over there; you can tell by the pallor lying under the oxygen mask.
Be kind to such a one.
If you were to write down — and they are so precious we must write them down — the kindness you have received from anyone in this world, how many pages would you write? Would it make one of those thin books? (Remember the thin books? — The Truth by R. M. Nixon, The Ideal Marriage by P. E. Trudeau, Justice In Education by . . .) Would your thin book be Kindness I Have Known — a half page triple spaced, by you?
That sounds pretty desperate. Memory is a tricky thing — it paints itself a little every day in a dress of fiction. One of those books can be written only as it happens. If we try to remember it, we will come up cold every time. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we live with other people: we need someone to keep our memories honest. We need someone to keep our book of kindness full, to pad it out, to thicken it up.
Maybe, this spring, when you are sitting on the beach at Acapulco or the patio behind the Hotel Cadiz, you can remember that the webs that lie within the grass, connecting it all together are everywhere, that they lie among us all, connecting us, that they are glorious in the sunshine, and that they can, when we know they are there, be a means of filling up our books of memory, not just with contacts, which we all desperately need, but with something we need much more: kindness.
Publisher’s note: the above Blackjack column is Blackjack’s opinion only; it does not necessarily represent the editorial viewpoint of this body. Actually, the old coot was assigned a piece on the Loch Ness Monster.