I like crossing the dam. If I fell, I might not get up again. The dam is three or four feet high, a thick green algae, combed by the drag and sudden plunge of the creek's current, clings to its submersed, concrete brim. Below is a jumble of fast water and rocks. But I face this threat every time I cross the dam, and it is always exhilarating. The tightest part is at the very beginning. That day as always I faced the current, planted my feet firmly, stepped sideways instead of striding, and I soon emerged dripping in a new world.
Annie Dillard writes about crossing a dam. It's a little treacherous. Slippery, surrounded by fast-moving water and sharp rocks. To slip would mean serious bodily injury, not to mention the possibility of being swept away toward God-knows-what. A waterfall? Even faster rapids? Yet, Dillard takes the risk. Why? The payoff--a new world, different and green.
I like this passage. It's all about facing fears, surmounting obstacles. And it's about the reward--emerging new or renewed. Stronger than before. This morning, I faced an obstacle. I volunteered to teach poetry to my son's second grade class. Now, I've done this before, for many elementary school grades, kindergarten up to fifth and sixth. However, I found myself anxious today. Sitting in my car, before I went into the school building, I had a few moments of panic as thoughts of failure ran through my mind at an alarming rate: What if they hate me? What if they don't understand the lesson? What if my fly is open? What if I fart in front of them?
Of course, I got of the car and went into the school. I was greeted by my son's teacher, whom I've known for close to ten years--since my daughter had her in kindergarten. She's a lovely woman, always supportive and enthusiastic. And the class went really well. The kids laughed at my jokes, wrote some good poems, and sang to me before I left.
And I emerged on the other side of the dam, into a new world where my seven-year-old son thought I was the coolest dad in the world. It felt pretty darn good. I've been living off that feeling all day long.
You see, when I found out that I was going to be the father of a boy, I was worried. I am not your typical baseball-throwing, deer-hunting dad. I knew I wasn't going to be able to give my son the typical father-son experience, and that worry has haunted me ever since he was born.
Today, I think that I proved to myself that I am not an embarrassment to my son. He loves the fact that I write poetry and sing songs. He kept running up and hugging me in front of his whole class. When I left, he lifted his head and gave me a kiss.
Saint Marty is a cool dad.