Thursday, October 29, 2009


That's how I've felt these past two months (and as I write that, it strikes me how fast they've flown; is my beautiful summer really that far gone?). I've been so damn busy with everything in my life that I feel like I've lost touch with life itself.
Ever get lost in the supermarket as a child and wander from aisle to aise searching for your mom with fear gnawing at your stomach because you realize you might be here forever: alone, disoriented, scared?
I feel like that kid again.
After such a wonderful spring and summer, it seems strange that I sit here searching for where I took a wrong turn.
But I'm working my way back into the world.
Here I am again. I promise not to get lost for so long next time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Burn Rubber

"Get behind the wheel. Stay in front of the storm."
In less than twenty-four hours, my foot will be planted on the gas and I'll be flying at eighty miles an hour toward the California border, toward the desert, toward the mountains, toward the freedom of the road. It's about time to take off again; it's been a couple of years since I really got the hell out of here. It didn't help reading On the Road for the millionth time this spring, when a fever was already consuming me.
But now it's time.
Wanna come with me?
I think the road is a very American symbol. The movement was all westward for much of our history, and now, sitting on the edge of our continent for nearly twenty-seven years, I move south, north, and east.
If I asked you to come with me, would you?
Well, would you?

Monday, June 22, 2009


So here I sit at 6:49 in the morning, and I've already been awake for nearly three hours. I guess I woke up when my brother was getting ready to go to work because when I went to wash my face the bathroom was hot with steam and the mirror was fogged up, so I could only see a vague reflection of myself.
I lay in the dark for awhile, thinking and thinking and thinking. You've been there before: Thinking is the worst act to lead a person back to sleep. But I've never been good at quieting my mind. When I was in high school and I used to wake up in the middle of night, I would sit and write for awhile, and I would usually fall back to sleep after a poem or two. I should have done that this morning I suppose, but I left my notebook at school, and I have issues with typing poems straight to the computer without handwriting them first; maybe it's a nostalgia for the pre-digital age or maybe it's simply that I find the words easier with a pen in my hand.
So instead I've sat awake and watched the dawn creep through the windows of my den.
I hate confusion. I have an intense desire to control everything that I possibly can in my life. I'm old enough to know by now that some parts of my life are beyond my control, but I have also learned to recognize what I can control. Confusion is a lack of understanding, and when I can't understand something, I can't control it. The most frustrating part of interacting with other people is the confusion they cause. Sometimes I want to scream at them, and I think it stems from the lack of control I have over their decisions--their decisions that ultimately affect the course of my life. What do I say when I think someone is making the wrong decision? It seems that no matter how eloquent my argument comes out, it fails to move some people.
I hate not having control.
And so instead of sleeping until 10 like I should on my first Monday off, I woke up in the dark and lay in bed and thought.
Some way to spend a Monday morning, huh?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Getting Lost

I find that there are times in my life that I want to just take off, just let my rubber hit the pavement--my foot on the gas--and just go. It's not a matter of trying to escape from myself. I know, from trying too many times and reading too many books, that escaping from myself is neither possible nor desirable. Rather, I want to leave all of this to find myself yet again. With time there accumulates a certain silt, and it sits like a fine powder on my sense of self until my identity is a bit harder to see, a bit dusty. I'm heading out into the desert to clear away that dust.
It's been one hell of a year. Many relationships have been built; some have been torn down; some have risen from the ashes like the phoenix only to inch back toward the fire. While these relationships with others have brought me an immense amount of joy and my fair share of pain, I know that the most important relationship I have is with myself. I am only accountable, at the end of it all, to me.
And it is for this reason that I leave, every so often, to cleanse myself, to gain some perspective on who I am and what I want.
All I want now is you.
Why can't I have you?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Well, I suppose this makes sense.
Here I am at about 7 in the morning on my first full day of summer, and I can't sleep any longer. When I was a kid and school would end for the year, it would always take my mind and body a few days, sometimes a few weeks, to fully adjust to the idea that I didn't have to go to school. Now, as a teacher, it seems the same phenomena plagues me.
I've been thinking a lot over the past week about the nature of friendship. People like to put parameters on what is acceptable or unacceptable, what one is supposed to do as a friend. We go around acting as if there exists a written rulebook detailing the rights and wrongs, the expected duties, and so on.
The reality is that there are so many different types of friendships that it's an impossible act to classify. I have friends that are pushing 65, and I have friends that are 17, still technically minors by law. I have many friends of both genders. People are often surprised at how many women I'm friends with (and I mean FRIENDS: don't get any ideas). Many people most certainly find it odd that I'm friends with almost all of my ex-girlfriends. "I could never do that," they say. Why not? There were reasons why I was attracted to the woman in the first place, and unless it was purely physical, that quality probably still resonates. So romance didn't work out with us: so what? I'm friends with my parents. That strikes many people as strange. I like my parents as much or more than any people on the planet. Same with my siblings. My brother and sister are awesome. When I go to family meals, I get excited because I get to hang out with people I love beyond the familial bonds.
I am a lucky bastard for having the friends I do.
And forget the rules: There are none.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'll Wait for You

I’ll try to get through this without crying; I expect you to do the same.

When I sit and consider what your class means to me, many memories float to the surface: All of us laughing in class (sometimes you with me, mostly you at me); the papers you wrote; the presentations you gave. Those are all there. But more precious to me are those moments outside of class, those times when we spoke, person to person, still teacher and student, but the lines blurred so it was hard to tell who was teaching and who was learning. The best moments for me involved discovering who you are and sharing a bit of myself beyond the Mr. Dalley persona that I enact in the classroom. When we went to retreat, my favorite times were spent sitting on my porch in rocking chairs with you and talking together or lounging on a bench in the sun and babbling about who-knows-what or playing the guitar while sitting in a circle of rocks or playing Ninja by the campfire. Those moments for me are much more real than anything that can happen in the constructed classroom setting.

I tell you the truth when I say that you have taught me more than I could ever hope to teach you. You have made me believe that the students at Whitney are the best in the world—not for your test scores but for the people that you are, for the care that you have for others, for the love that I see put into practice. You continue, day to day, to amaze me.

Whitney is a special place, unlike any other school. But do not be sad to leave this place; rather, be happy for what you’ve had here. And most of all, be excited for where you are headed.

I look out on your faces and I feel many different emotions at once: love and fear, pride and anxiety. But most of all I feel envy: I am envious of you for the amazing worlds you are about to enter. Be open to all kinds of new experiences as you go out into those places. As Cat Stevens sang, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.” The most intense envy I feel, however, is for those worlds that will receive you. I wish we at Whitney could keep you a little bit longer. It’s selfish, but one year with you was not enough for me.

Now I know what you’re thinking: All of this emotional mush from Dalley? Dalley, the cynic? Dalley, the man who does not believe in a soul? Dalley, the man without a heart?

Well, good for you: you got me. I have a heart, and it is you who made me put down my guard. I can’t help myself.

I was sitting in my classroom a few weeks ago and wrote this poem while thinking how much I’ll miss you guys. It’s called “The Gardener.”:

The one lesson

I try to teach

To my students

That I hope

They always remember:

Love what you do

And life will be easier.

I would say

It’s cliché

(And it may be),

But it’s also true.

This job of mine

Is never work.

I get paid

For the privilege

Of watching

Boys and girls

Secure their roots

And grow

Into men and women,

Wonderful trees

That will reach

Their branches

Out into the world.

I will miss you all

When you are gone.

But I will look for your leaves

Stretching toward the sun

On and on and on.

Thank you, class of 2009, for allowing me to grow along with you.

You are my soma, you are my center. Keep carrying the fire.

I will miss you.

Come back.

god and all that other nonsense

A long time ago (approximately seven years now and before), I believed in a god, though my faith had been waning ever since the age of about seventeen. It's safe to say that most of my conscious memories take place during a time when I attended church: I went to a private Christian school beginning in kindergarten. Religion was a given; it wasn't a choice.
When I was nineteen, I took a religious studies class during my second year of college. One of the assignments was to write an essay about our own religious backgrounds and our beliefs. I wrote at length about my Christian ideals (although when I think about it now, the words were most certainly half-hearted, a sort of automatic writing). One of the subjects I wrote about was miracles. I confessed that I had never witnessed anything akin to a biblical miracle: walking on water or turning water to wine or healing leprosy or raising the dead. What I wrote was that I needed no supernatural wonders; the people in my life were miracles to me, a proof of a god's benevolence.
Seven years later, and here I sit writing it again: people are miracles to me.
Of course at present there's no supernatural link in my mind. What I call a miracle now is simply a beautiful accident. A miracle is something that I don't fully understand. While I can say that I think I have pretty decent understanding of humans, our kind continues to baffle me in many ways. But what I've witnessed over the course of the last nine months is the amazing capacity for us to love one another.
I could sit and explain love as a mix of seratonin and oxytocin and vasopressen and dopamine and so on. It may be, but that does not change how wonderful it feels to love and to be loved. I am amazed day to day at how lucky I am: to have loved and to have been loved like I have. Evolutionary adaptation or not, I love love.
To those of you I forget to tell enough: I love you.
I love you now. I will love you always.