First There Is a Mountain…


I came to Donovan’s lyrics, “First there is a mountain; then there is no mountain; then there is,” only after I’d discovered D.T. Suzuki and his Essays in Zen Buddhism and Alan Watt’s The Way of Zen. Today I begin reading my newly purchased copy of Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell’s book, Beyond Literary Analysis. The epigraph from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets reads:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started and know it for the first time.

A variation on the Buddhist theme, Marchetti and O’Dell reveal wisdom and our conundrum as writing teachers. Finding better ways to open the world of written communication to students demands a professional curiosity and a commitment to revisiting what we think works, and what we know doesn’t but at least it’s solid ground—familiar—in order to grow ourselves and our students.

I have so many of these books, professional ones, and have written about how, when I relocated, I left a hefty library of them behind, yet here I am, into year two of retirement, still buying them, reading them, pondering what they say, revisiting and reframing what I do, much of which I’ve already intuited through years of practice. There is no “silver bullet,” but there are incremental shifts toward better instruction, toward the mountain, so I will continue my exploration.

4 thoughts on “First There Is a Mountain…”

  1. I retired several years ago and still have over a shelf of teaching books I just can’t part with. There are a few regulars I refer to frequently for my own reading/writing life. But I haven’t bought any new ones. How will you use/share your exploration? What incremental shifts have you discovered? (Book recommendations for this exploration?)

  2. I think that because we are teachers, active or retired, we are invested in continued learning and we are not going to stop buying books that will help us grow in some way. There is so much out there to learn.

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