Saturday, March 24, 2018

saturday morning, and my week has just turned into a weekend, since i have finished my chinese class. on saturday mornings, now, i wake up at five a m, eat and shower, and teach about five chinese children writing, online, on zoom, from six to seven. this leaves me, at seven, wide awake, well ahead of the family, but bleary-eyed and sleepless, as the sun rises over the mountains behinds us and begins to shine pink on the white sands off in the west. another cold, dry and dusty spring day here in the mountains, but we know spring is coming, and will soon bloom left and right all around us. late march, and it hasn't started yet. but it's just around the corner, as they say.

in this case i use my free time to delve into the subjects of my research, the mather family, john leverett, robert sedgwick, and a band of unruly puritans who take over boston in the 1600's and set the stage for a boston witch trial, and then nineteen horrible salem witch trials. all the witch trials are horrible, actually. i have no idea how they are directly tied in to my family, but they are. boston was a very small town. the mathers were very important there. my family, young john in particular, who was not my direct ancestor, but who nevertheless carried my name, was right there in boston at the time. in fact, the link between our direct ancestors, and these puritans, including john the governor, is lost right around the time of the witch trials. whoever it was, who didn't document their baby carefully, for whatever reason, went underground in boston, between 1680 and 1695, when these trials took place. it could be that one didn't want to be associated with an out-of-wedlock birth, or that, if it happened, one had to keep it pretty well out of sight. this is my challenge, and, as a result, i've been delving into studies of that era.

i've been somewhat obsessive about this writing, and i haven't even told too many people about it. in the days, i'm a substitute teacher; i hang around with twenty or thirty students, as they either do what the regular teacher has set out for them, or they don't, and i try to make sure that they don't hurt each other, or ruin the furniture, or whatever. sometimes i don't succeed. the principal of the high school comes around to make sure they aren't using their phones; that's a default activity for the vast majority of teenagers. sometimes i feel like telling them, hey, i've found out that my ancestors, or what i'd like to believe are my ancestors, are responsible for signing the document that established the first public school in america, the boston latin school, see below post. and, so the guy i'm named after signs this document, because he's the note-taker for the boston puritan church community, and they hire this guy as a tutor, and he makes his son, whose name i have for a middle name, as the first student. now that son is eighteen at the time, and not inclined to go along with his father's wishes, and so is probably not a great student, and certainly does not go into the study of latin, or the classical texts, or scriptures, but rather buys and sells boats sailing across the atlantic, trading furs and sugar, and whatever they can pick up. he goes to england to jockey for power and influence and get support for occupying forts in what is today nova scotia. he becomes governor of the colony, but his son loses the trail, because his son has children around the time of the witch trials, or maybe it's his sister, but somebody doesn't want too much scrutiny on the nature of these births.

so i've been writing the tales of the family, my family and that of the cottons and mathers and the ministers of that time, and i've neglected my haiku, neglected my stories, neglected my laundry, and the other family business that i should be attending to. i should be practicing music, for example, because the saturday flea markets will start soon and i want to be there, and i want to keep my music alive. i should be going through some of my father's stuff, and emptying out the piled up materials that i'm not doing anything about. i should be using my father's digital camera to make pictures for the next calendars, as i will not be doing jim leverett photography, probably, for a few years, but instead may do a quaker calendar or just a pop art calendar. i should be arranging the back porch so that i can get back there, when i finally haul the last of my dad's stuff out here from my sister's house in las cruces.

but alas, i'm bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, and have a class, along with my three jobs, to attend to. the class is to get and keep my certification, which i suppose i need if i still want to be a public school teacher. my wife has begun to look at that job as if i am a policeman, expected to be armed and prepared for any craven youth who charges in angry about his grade, with easy access to semi-automatic weapons and every other thing. in other words, she'd rather keep me, to take care of our children and live to see another year. my original plan to become a public school teacher and survive the great depression, caused by trade wars and a system that has to get rid of its corrupt president, may change, as time has simply caught up to me; i'm turning sixty-four, eligible for social security, and not necessarily willing to keep up the good fight to educate our nation's youth. i have eight books, unfinished and in this very computer. i have obsessive need to learn about such things as the case of goody glover, who was hanged in boston in 1688, four years before the salem witch trial, under the watchful eyes of increase and cotton mather, and whose crime seemed to be causing young children to go into fits of hysteria because apparently the power to determine who was a witch and who was not, was invested in them.

to some degree, i see some parallel, in my life as a sub. these kids have a lot of power; in some cases, they use it. if someone gets too nasty with them, they go into paroxysms of tantrums, trying to get out of whatever they dislike (in some cases, group work; in others, writing). if one tries to discipline them or set them straight, they go all the way up, complaining, and saying that we've been unnecessarily harsh. i'm not harsh, i'm simply a sub. having gone through many years of torture myeslf, i'm the last person who would want to make anyone suffer.

but on the other hand, when a young girl brings in a history fair project with the salem witch trials, and pictures and text, all about the nineteen poor souls killed starting in about 1692 in salem, i can hardly contain my desire to start up with them. my ancestors had a feud with cotton mather, i want to say, but they also disappeared into the shadows, about that time. i don't even know, if i'm related to the puritans that started this whole public school deal. i did say that to one girl; i simply told her the story. she looked at me as if she had no clue that the whole witch trial thing was even real. it's real all right, it's just 325 years ago, a little too long ago to remember. real people were there, were involved, and even died. whether we are the same souls, back for another round, or just another hopeless culture, crumbling and angry about it, ready to do the same stuff over again, and inflict our problems on our weakest, most powerless victims, remains to be seen. there are definitely parallels.

i am midway into the book, perhaps thirty pages. it will be halfway done in a while, then i have to go back and fill in the gaps. i am telling the story the best i can. i am putting my ancestors right up against the mathers, and comparing commoners and ministers, the tolerationists and the defenders of puritan homogeneity. in my own world, the leveretts are at least as important as the mathers, though much less is written about them, and, as i've said, some did seem to disappear in the shadows there for a while. three hundred years later, it's time to find them, if i can, and decide for myself what really happened.

the world, and in particular the deadly monotony of classes of kids who refuse to learn anything from a sub, awaits me at the other end, on monday, when the weekend is over. chou


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