When she asked; “So your biggest decision every day was how much hay to feed your horses?” I was speechless, a rare condition, but I didn’t have party talk or even an elevator speech prepared to describe last year. I gulped my wine and thought about my journey from the sub-atomic particles that make us and the electrical forces that hold us, to the miraculous pattern of the Periodic Table, to the intricate infinity of complex compounds. I could feel the wine working, one of hundreds of chemical reactions alive in the room, and my alcohol-fueled reminiscence started.
What made life remarkable in 2014 was what happened after I fell in love with Chemistry. I found something that I loved even more : Teaching. I taught all levels and all subjects, for days and for weeks. I saw careless brilliance in high school and mystifying skittishness in the middle grades. I was my best with the boundless curiosity of elementary school. I was honored and amused when a creative 5th grader summoned the courage to present a joke about my name:
Knock Knock! —- Who’s There?
Mrs. Mac! —— Mrs. Mac Who?
MRS. MAC AND CHEESE!!!!
The routine of the year was daily on-line study and test, but only after early morning hay-toss, grain-scoop, and water-carry. I relished the victories of chapters completed and the autonomy of self-directed learning. I marveled at the growth rate of puppies, kittens, and colts. My most-read authors were Madeline Hunter and Parker Palmer. My favorite binge-watching was Sal Kahn. My new friends were horse trainers, veterinarians and farmers.
By far the best discovery of 2014 was the sweetness of daily life with my best friend. We built fences, planted fields, trained horses, cooked, read, and wrote together. I fell in love all over again watching him teach Spanish to one of my classes. He read them poetry by Borges, showed videos of Che’, and told stories of Tango dancers on the metro, all in Spanish. Months later, those students still greet me with a wink and “Buenos Dias”, as if we formed some sort of club that day.
By now, my glass was empty and the table topic had shifted. As we started eating I realized that 2015 will not find me at a screen or a desk very often. I may be in the front of a classroom, the back of a barn, or the middle of a lab. But wherever I am, I’ll have with me the lessons and blessings of a quiet country year.