How What Doesn't Fit Together Does

Vinnie, the other middle school writing teacher, who I've been helping, said the other day during class: "Things that don't go together naturally are the things that go together best."

Since he said that, I've been mentally cataloguing juxtapositions, and like the wierd realm that onomatopoeias inhabit in my brain (the realm where everything is an onomatopoeia-- hoist, lizard, pokey grass), I've also been inundated by the overabundance of juxtapositions surrounding me.

I was particularly struck with the amount of them in the Russian cemetery yesterday, surrounded by towering trees, tiny letters, and fifteen writing children from the 6th through 9th grades. It felt like a Beatrix Potter set-up, minus the speaking bunnies-- kids crouching in the wet shade writing poems, dappled sunlight descending on hundred year old graves.

Juxtaposition #1: Kids and death. For obvious reasons. Living moving kids and sedentary gravestones being one way I saw this incongruency melt into some wierd sense of beauty, and then, in another way, being taken aback repeatedly by 12 year old and 17 year old epitaphs. Somehow, though, the whole scene yesterday had this serenity over it that I usually don't feel in cemeteries.

Juxt #2: Tiny little Tristan, the cutest native Alaskan child who ever graced the earth, leaning into a gaping blackbrown empty grave. I wanted to hug him, but remembered, just in time, don't touch the children. I did take a sneaky picture in a non-voyeurish-type way. Don't judge. If Tristan's picture was the one that came with frames, you'd never take it out.

Juxt #3: Mid-afternoon silence and the wierd gurgles of enormous ravens from the trees. Have you ever heard a raven or seen one? I thought I had, but I hadn't. These are huge birds. Maybe the juxtaposition here is: huge birds. How do they fly? Air and solids. How does anything fly? The beauty! The beauty!

Juxt #4: Seth and his teeth. Poor kid. Just entering the 6th grade. His two front teeth don't fit in his mouth. He's an open-mouth breather in a big way. They do give him an air of always expecting something, like "Ah...ah..ah...YES!" Although the only true emotional expulsion I've witnessed from him was when Final Destination was barely mentioned in class and he burst out, "FINAL DESTINATION!" with eyes, (behind unflatteringly magnifying glasses) as huge as his two protruding teeth.

Juxt #5: The height of the trees (juxtaposition within this juxtaposition: the way the trees here seem to grow way up, then down again, undecided between rising and falling), against the minutia of fern spores against the tiny assemblage of purple flowers on a six-foot Orthodox cross.

I guess you could say I was taken by the range of size and scope, and I'm noticing that you need both a mammoth and a miniscule awareness to have a robust enough perception of important things.