When I first moved into this place, there were spiders. Spiders, spiders everywhere, and not a drop to drink. I screamed when I saw them, and ran into another room, and my stomach tangled, and I wanted a fetal position and a security detail. I cried.
Today, when I see a spider, I either leave it be, sweep it out of the way, or I squash it immediately. It’s no longer an emotional experience.
A squirrel has been coming upstairs to visit me. The first three times I saw him up in my quarters, I screamed. Then I stopped screaming.
What is a problem?
If a squirrel wants to visit me, sneak some food, explore, and he’s not sick, it’s really not a problem. He’s not domesticated, but my cats are barely domesticated. I have decided this isn’t a problem.
I am finishing the school year, taking all my stuff home, and packing up my whole life to be a gypsy for the summer, so I actually don’t have room for any problems. I am moving too much stuff already.
Down in the garage, next to the squirrel’s room, I’ve been going through many rubbermaid containers full of papers. I look at old school papers differently, since I’m a teacher. I was horrified to see that there was a time I didn’t know what “evasive” meant. Like many oldest children, I was born embarrassed that my parents were smarter than I was, and proceeded to remedy that as quickly as possible.
I saved big papers, and journals, and a few pieces of artwork. I threw out pages and pages of math problems. Most of them, happily, had been solved correctly.
There aren’t problems in my field. Stories become what they become. Ideas lack support. In math, they used to give me a page number and a listing of item numbers, and there were the problems that needed solving. There were right and wrong answers, which made life easier, and also meant that I thought math was the most boring thing in the world. There was no room for theory or questions or creativity, only completing processes over and over.
I don’t teach writing as if writing has problems. It doesn’t. Last summer, at my novel class, my teacher told us that verb tense problems aren’t about bad grammar or sloppy writing, but about actual scratches in the vinyl of your story. If you switch tenses, there is a reason. If you write as you speak, the problem my students most often fret about, this is not a problem either, but a lack of language skills in written language that can be changed with practice. Writing as you speak is in fact a skill that scriptwriters all over the world are trying to work on right at this very moment.
My squirrel came upstairs the night before the last day of school. Emotions are high at this time of year, and energy is low. I would have had trouble sleeping regardless, but having a squirrel in my house gave me something to think about, worry about, laugh about, wonder about.
I leave my students with whatever they learned, my classroom with computers that don’t work, and my carriage house with cracked walls, lights that don’t light, and a squirrel infestation. Problems? Or just what is left.
Pictured: Miranda. She’s definitely a problem, she was born a problem, but does not view squirrels as a problem.