Purple Words –
One late Spring day, my students and I
walked to the Dairy Queen with
the thought in mind that we would
capture unique experiences and
write about them when we returned to
the class room.
After lunch, we formed a single file line
crossed Monroe Road to the sidewalk,
walked west for two blocks, past
the house I grew up in (at the end off Mackinaw Street) then,
along the north side of
the fence surrounding
the big athletic field where all
the games were played on Friday night and
past the town park where
I played and
While we walked I roamed from
the front to the back of
the line pointing out details that
their eight year old minds
I told them to listen to
the sound of car tires rolling over
While stopped, we heard
the distant moan of a diesel engine.
They thought that
the groaning engine was probably
working hard to push boxcars to
different places at the ‘’rail yard’’.
One girl said, maybe
the engine was pulling a
quarter mile long
I pointed to the diverse shades of
green and the different shapes of
leaves on maple or elm trees.
When a breeze gusted past,
i asked them how
the breeze felt and
what words they would use to
describe the sound as it passed over
After a while they began to
glimpse the world between
pointing out things
I never would have noticed.
Five blocks from school
at a red and yellow blinking light,
we crossed over Monroe Road and
walked two blocks north to
the Dairy Queen where I bought
each student a chocolate or vanilla cone.
We ate our cones sitting under a
huge oak tree.
Leaned against the tree I looked around,
the sweet innocence of
my eight year old students.
At the right moment
I spoke about some of
the unique objects, sounds and
thoughts we experienced
during our seven block journey.
I asked them to describe
what they saw, felt and heard.
Once they began sharing stories,
their experiences flowed out of them
like bright streams of light.
And so I watched and listened as
the sun born from winter into spring
shone through the budding leaves
dappling their faces with
ever changing patterns of light as they
spoke of discoveries taken from
the world around them.
Their thoughts were fluid and
bright; sunlight streaming through
the leaves knitted them together into
a tapestry of sorts.
As the sun rose higher so did
the details of their remembrances.
The tapestry grew more complex and
beautiful as the light arched higher.
When it was time to
return to school,
I told them they were to walk silently so that
their story or poem, would be
different than everyone else’s.
Later, with pencils, brown school paper and
their visions I watched them silently write.
One by one, they brought their their
papers to me and as they did,
I read each story.
Every story was beautiful in
its own way.
Unique reflections of each student’s personality.
Their words were like beautiful
uncut gems, some
the color of rubies or emeralds.
Others vibrated with sound, were simple with quiet emotion or
restless, anxious to please,
listing every impression.
One piece stood out from
Written in purple ink by
the shiest girl in class,
her ten line poem captured
the essence of
the entire journey.
At the end of the day I
looked back at the experience with
a clarity of detail I had
never experienced before.
That night when I had dinner with
my Dad he told me that
a lot of people in town saw me walking with
my students and many of them commented that
I looked like the Pied Piper … but of course
the gentle side of the Piper …