I’m back at the Strip-Mall. In my American “Confessions of a Traveling Orff Teacher” mode—except it’s Canada. Regina, Saskatchewan, to be exact, but who would know it by walking out the door to the same old ugly boxed buildings selling bad food and cheap goods? I set off down the non-sidewalked edges (what? You’re walking?) and see a V-formation of geese overhead. Canadian geese, I suppose. Are these the same geese poet Mary Oliver says will announce “over and over my place in the family of things?” Do I feel any sense of place here? Do I belong to this cheap corporate family? Do I feel Burger King as my long-lost uncle? Do the geese fly over KFC thinking “Sweet!” Or are they, in some recess of their tiny geese brains, thinking like me, “Damn! That’s ugly!”
I’ve complained so much about the strip-mauling of the world that I’m even tired of my own voice. Could I learn to love it? Or at least accept it? Do I have a choice? Well, as long as there are still places left in this world that have character, beauty and soul, I think not. I’ve taught in beautiful wood-floored rooms with fresh air and natural lighting, with windows looking out to mountains and wholesome food artistically arranged at the breaks, and believe me, it makes a difference. Having just spent the morning in the bowels of the Travel-Lodge in a low-ceiling no-window forced-air thick-dirty-ugly-carpet room on a Strip mall, I feel that difference. Of course, we humans are so adaptable that still we could make our morning-star-lights shine dancing Shoo Fly, feel the thrill of the groove as we Boom chick-a-boomed and laugh our way through a Swedish conflict resolution dance. The people were lovely. The setting was not.
Ah well. Someday I imagine these buildings will crumble in the dust and the resilient natural world start to grow reeds and grasslands and call back the wild geese and all the creatures evicted from their homes. The humans will still need restaurants and shops and movie theaters, but will remember how to craft them with beauty as well as utility, keep them in walking distance, let Mom and Pop run them and keep those far-away corporate executives on the endangered species list—and happily so. They never should have been, those folks running things from far away without any sense of consequence because they don’t live where they build—if you could call these monstrosities buildings.
Meanwhile, back to my room with its view of the Burger King sign. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll see some wild geese flying over it.