We’ve had a long line of substitute teachers for what feels like forever, and it’s driving us batty. The last one, the reason we all walked out, threw a list of words on the board and asked us to define them then draw an image that represented each definition. So, NOT post-graduate work!
What finally drove us out was the word mundane, not because of the tediousness of vocabulary words, though. We left because the room became inundated by a school of dragonflies.
The dragonflies flutter around, flitting from one end to the other, from the whiteboard to the window to the door, just random flying, darting one way then the other, never settling down. I hold my hand out to see if one of them will roost at the end of my pencil, but none of them do. I think I recognize teacher’s distinct blue and purple markings, but he won’t stand still long enough to verify and he definitely won’t stand out for my classmates to recognize. He’s just flying around like an ordinary dragonfly.
That is just so wrong – Of course, that did it!
“What is wrong with that?” a voice booms. Teacher’s voice.
“He’s back from the dead,” Irreverent Student mumbles.
In a stage-whisper, Hope leans toward Irreverent, “Shh!” She says, suddenly embarrassed by the option we’d all been considering. “Don’t be rude.”
“What? I’m just saying what we’ve been thinking, you know.” Irreverent stands and tries to find Teacher amongst the crowd. “He’s been gone an awful long time and we have a right to know.”
Then, just as swiftly as the swarm had appeared, the dragonflies stream out of the room through an open window we hadn’t noticed before. I swear it hadn’t been open!
I spy the purple and blue one as he slips through the window, “Come along, class.”
That’s all it takes.
We gather our books and assorted supplies, then head out following our teacher, who waits for us in the clearing on the other side of the school perimeter. He has still not transformed from the dragonfly. We follow him nonetheless. Through the woods to the brook that trickles toward the shoreline and the beach, we trip over the rocks and roots and around the ancient trunks of ever green pines and shedding maples, crunching over the reds and yellows that used to wave from the branches.
Then, on the clean, white, sandy beach, he becomes himself again.
Dressed in long, brilliant blue board shorts, Teacher flips a purple surfboard onto his shoulder. “Ready to catch the next wave?” he says.
“What?” The screech coming from normally quiet and modest Hope triggers a string of “mine” calls from the seagulls dive-bombing for fish just off the shore. “I don’t have a suit, sir.”
“No problem,” Teacher says, wading into the water and setting his board down on the crystal clear water that couldn’t possibly be good for surfing. He straddles the board and turns in toward us. “Let’s begin class.”
My classmates and I exchange lost looks. We should be used to this by now, but Teacher never fails to surprise!
“So how about those vocabulary words. Who got to MUNDANE?” he says.
I did, but it was confusing, so I stopped. I’d always thought mundane just meant boring or ordinary. The definition I ran into today was a little … well, odd. “I did, sir. What I got was pretty weird.”
He motions for me to continue.
“I always thought it meant boring, but today the definition said that mundane is ‘of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one.’ That kind of blew my mind.”
He nods vigorously, the sun catching the flecks of gold in his curly, light brown hair. “And what did you think about that?”
“Well, it kinda bothered me. You always tell us that there’s nothing boring about life, that it’s the duality of this existence that gives life its special spark, but this definition is telling us that human life is completely opposite of anything fun or extraordinary.”
“Ding, ding, ding. Correct.”
He pounds a hand onto the board, creating a ripple the crashes on the shore at our feet. It helps me remember where I am; I kick off my shoes, peel off my socks and dig my toes into the firm, cool sand.
“This definition makes it sound like your lives are only a holding room before you get to stroll back Home and enjoy the wonders of Heaven. Wrong.”
His need for a pulpit propels teacher to his feet on the board. His balance is impeccable; I’m nervous, though. I plot out ways to get out of the splash zone if he were to fall.
“Tell me why it’s wrong, Irreverent.”
He needs no prodding. We’d been talking about it before the dragonflies invaded our room today.
“That’s easy, sir. You’ve told us over and over again. This life is an amazing experience for any soul. To want to wait to experience anything until we get to heaven is a waste of a tremendous gift.”
“Exactly,” Teacher says, raising his arms over his head as if preparing for flight. “There’s nothing back Home like the texture and flavor of an ice cream cone or a chocolate fondue or a hearty steak. And there’s definitely nothing like the feel of cool water rushing past you!”
With that, he launches himself into the ocean, coming back for air several yards away.
“This life, and this body, is a gift, no matter how imperfect you believe it to be.” He strides to the shoreline and turns to Hope, “Are you ready for a swim?”
Without warning, he turns Hope into a bottle-nosed dolphin who dives into the ocean and under the waves. “Your spirit animal, dear Hope. Enjoy your freedom!”
He turns to the rest of the class, transforming each of us into the animal that represents our soul. He wraps up the transformations with Irreverent’s Raven and Clyde’s Eagle before turning to me, but I’ve got this. I’ve done this before.
Just as in our private lessons, I raise my arms over my head and take three slow and gentle cleansing breaths before I lower what Teacher has transformed into wings. Then with the power and playfulness of a seagull, I fly into the salty air, higher and higher, the cool air brushing my feathers, until I’m too high to catch a breath and have to dive back toward the waves.
And, as my classmates and I enjoy a day of hooky with our teacher, the man in purple and blue nods and smiles proudly.
Learn from our teacher, dear classmates. Life is too short to be spent observing. Sometimes, it must be enjoyed.
Namaste, my friends.
The Dragonfly’s Student