The last update was published a month ago. That is a month of teaching, traveling, doing, and being in Guatemala that I haven’t written about. There are several moments over the past month that are most vivid to me now, like traveling to a hot springs bubbling out of a volcanic mountain, visiting a village hosting San Simon, a Mayan deity turned Catholic saint, seeing vegetable markets and centuries-old churches, and the daily freshness of my students and their growing little minds.

As I was contemplating this past month of teaching, I read an article by Heidi White that put into words my abstract thoughts. She and her family journeyed through England in a house boat. The trip didn’t turn out as she expected and she and her family were discouraged by the experience. The moment her perspective changed was when a woman told her to watch for kingfishers along the bank of the river. After that, her family would look at the trees and blackberry bushes with expectation, watching for the birds. She realized how much beauty she had missed before when she was only looking at the things that had gone wrong instead of watching with expectation for the lovely things right before her eyes. White penned these words in her article, “Watching for Kingfishers: Moments of Mercy in the Odyssey of the School Year” for the Circe Institute:

“A few weeks into our school year, I see kingfishers ignite. Kingfishers are mornings on the porch doing math in the autumn sunshine, a cup of coffee alone while my kids are at martial arts, my daughter mastering a new scale on the piano in spite of her bitter complaint, and the affirmation of a student announcing, “Mrs. White, I used to think poetry was boring until I took your class.” These moments may be rare, but when we notice them, they transform the mundane into glory. Like the unexpected swoop of a brilliantly plumed bird, these flashes of grace adhere our souls to the odyssey of teaching, which rides ceaseless rhythms of the universal pattern of chaos, creation, fall, redemption.”

“Yes,” I thought as I read those words: “These moments may be rare, but when we notice them, they transform the mundane into glory.”

For me, these are the small, ordinary moments of when my students sit in red plastic chairs side by side reading a Piggie and Gerald story—“reading” meaning that I have read it to them so many times they have the pages memorized. Their bent heads nearly touch and I hear small voices say, “Are you ready to play outside?” as they point to the page. It is their waist-high heads bobbing in line as we march to the cafeteria and label grass and trees, and their shining eyes as they bring me rocks and twigs or dragon eggs. It is when my students create math problems of more, less or equal to with their afternoon snacks or lunches and look up from their empty lunch boxes and say, “Look Ms. Cowan! I have zero!” These are the mundane transformed into glory.

White concludes her article:

“As we embark on the odyssey of another school year, we can expect that it will fall short of our ideals. Instead of waiting for experience to match expectation, we can watch for the goodness and beauty that permeate the journey. Our vocation endures, and God’s mercies will light it up with flashes of grace.”

This past month has been full of flashes of grace. From the laughs I share with the first-graders that I tutor to watching the personalities of my ten kindergarteners unfold, watching for these glimpses in the mundane has shown me how full of God’s mercies each day truly is.  It has been a good journey watching for kingfishers in Guatemala.


One thought on “Kingfishers

  1. Stacy Prestridge says:

    What an accurate frame of reference for life in general are your thoughts on your time in Guatemala. From the grandness of the sites you’ve visited to the graces found in your teaching day, these moments are making up your memory. Whether a person is struggling with a difficult situation or – like me – trying to appreciate time that flies by, it’s the moments that stand out. That are the snapshots in the photo album that becomes a life lived.

    Tanessa, I’m glad to read another entry! I really enjoy your perspective on your teaching and travels, and I LOVE your references. You’re such a smart cookie. Your posts always give me such good food for thought. Especially significant to me is the idea of ‘waiting for experience to match expectation’ that you relayed from the article. I’m going to chew that for a long while! I hope you continue to spy kingfishers in Guatemala, and know that after reading this entry, I’ll be more mindful of Texas kingfishers also.

    Prayers for your teaching and for your students’ learning.


    PS I just Googled literal kingfishers. They’ve been “confirmed” in NE Texas and they. are. snazzy.

    Liked by 1 person

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