The carnies have come to town. At any moment, I’m anticipating a flight of pigs to buzz Roberts Street. I’d wave, and think nothing of it. Stranger things have happened, and I never expected to be standing in my own classroom this week. Pigs must be flying.
My daughter and SIL have pigs. They think of their homestead herds as animals on the payroll. The chickens (okay, flock) provide their market garden with nitrogen. The goats clear brush and brambles. And the pigs root. After the rooting, the chickens on nitrogen duty perform a secondary function — they follow where the pigs rooted and pooped to eat the parasites. Yup. Pigs have parasites. Everybody has to eat in this environment.
Lately, I’ve been spending more time learning about soil and the health of the environment. My dad is working on a document to inform BLM in Nevada how trees communicate underground. Recently, he sent me a book called, Finding the Mother Tree. It gave me an idea for why my fictional tree wizard showed up in my writing as a lumberjack wearing a skirt. Neither my dad nor the Finnish shaman I’ve met would fit the description of cross-dressers. But through them, I’ve learned more about the varied ways we humans connect to the forests. Clear-cut tree stands are missing their mother. It’s plausible that my character embraces the feminine sacred to embody what the trees are lacking — a mother.
Such is the rambling of my imagination, my creative brain. I’m teaching my students about different ways to think. Our brains can be both analytical and creative. Our hearts think with emotion and out guts think through intuition. Writing is thinking and we use the full-bodied expression. I’m delighting to create weekly modules to support my syllabi and learning outcomes. My students make me think, especially about the future because what they do daily at college is all about their future.
This is the part where I expect to hear squeals overhead. I though pigs would fly before someone ever called me prof. On Monday, one of my students thanked me for the class and said, “See ya later, Prof.” Everything stilled as if I were in a movie and the director was ready to say, “Cut!” But this is real. As real as the memory that implanted itself on my new office door. I recalled the door to my attic hideaway in the Markleeville General Store and the life-sized monochromatic poster of Indiana Jones.
I wanted to be Indiana Jones. It was a deep dream, the kind you don’t tell other people. It’s the kind of dream I tell writers to explore when they craft their vision of success as authors. It’s the impossible dream that contains possibility. What about Indiana Jones captivated my young mind in 1981. I had wanted to be an archaeologist before the movie came out. I kept my own notes. I also wanted to write historical novels, and I crafted elaborate stories and genealogies for characters with names like Nicodemus and Silver. I sought travel and adventure. And deep down, I want all that Indy had — the exploration of people and cultures, the world travel, the knowledge and storytelling, and the college classroom.
When I was in my MFA program, I also worked toward a masters certification to teach writing online. It aligned with my plans to develop writers workshops, and I learned how to coach and teach. My peers dreamed of college teaching, too and I never shared my deep-down dream except when prompted to write reflective essays. It’s a muddy career because most college professors hold PhD’s. Such instructors have served as lecturers and teacher’s assistants in large universities. However, MFA’s are terminal degrees and count toward teaching in college. Typically, MFA holders are expected to have had at least one, sometimes as many as five books published.
I’m unpublished (yet) although I have an extensive writing portfolio of magazine articles, profiles, essays, and short stories. I have an MFA but no classroom experience. Yeah, I figured I’d get hired in marketing before I’d get hired at a university. But the stars aligned like magic as they often do when you commit to your North Star and express the deep core of your dreams. I sat at my office desk Wednesday and could see my old movie poster materialize on the door across the room. Indy winked. “You got this, Kid,” he said.
Then a flock of pigs flew past my window.
Okay, I’m daydreaming out loud now. But you know the feeling — when only fiction can describe the depth of a moment so profound. I’m not daydreaming in the classroom. I’ve arrived. And I love every aspect of it.
I love having my office mate text to set up another “Ladies Coffee” where she and I sit over a press pot and shared lunch to discuss what we hope is the launch of our college teaching careers. I love having my friend who also teaches at FinnU loan me a plant for our office. I love that one of the full-time English professors who is impassioned about literature and students reach out to ask how my first week is going. I love that the bookstore manager expressed excitement for my choices of reading material. I love that I’m already using the 99-word format as a teaching tool. Micro-essays are a thing now.
There have been hiccups and technical glitches. My contract never arrived and I began to panic that the school found out about that time I was in a gang except that I never was in a gang but fiction writers can easily slip into guilty minds. I did imagine it. But it was a name issue, namely the Annette/Charli thing that I’m going to make my dad write me a note to explain it to employers. And the insane number of programs I have to log into just for a single class to happen. But, as my office mate said, it’s refreshing to be at a university focused on the student learning and not the prestige image.
Yes, I like where I have landed.
The wonderful thing about a work schedule is that suddenly I feel less scattered. It’s hard for me to compartmentalize when my chair remains the same. When I go on campus, I know what I’m doing. When I go to my office, I’m productive in less time. I feel like I have more time and focus. Thinking has cleared, writing has flowed, and I get errands done quickly when before it would take weeks and weeks. I’ve even gone to the lake four days in a row! My new schedule outside the home made me realize the toll personal life chaos has taken on me.
I might go live among the pigs and build a she-shed on the back property with a three season writing nook. Who knows? I’m open to change and a future that doesn’t feel stark and stressful. My future is looking bright as the shine of deep dreams emerge.
August 26, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by August 31, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
The Fair Opens Early by Charli Mills
For three days, diesel engines have geared low to turn at Satori’s Corner halfway up Quincy Hill. Carnies arrive, hauling chunks of amusement rides and galley games. Trucks towing hot dog shacks, popcorn houses, and ramshackle campers follow. Carnie food and homes. Perpetual travelers from across the nation bring fun and excitement to rural counties on a continuous loop. The Houghton County Fair opens on Thursday. When a trailer full of 4H pigs escape and the Ferris Wheel operator leaves popcorn in a seat before the test ride, a flight of pigs launches the first attraction a day early.