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© Tom Gilbert

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August, 2019

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Zozobra Burns Away Your Gloom

August 29, 2019

There is an event in Santa Fe, New Mexico each year around Labor Day weekend that is an amazing tradition. Imagine a five story high marionette that moans and groans while he gets set on fire. Thousands of people are crowded around, cheering his destruction.

Zozobra is the original burning man - at least for the Southwest. He will go up in flames for the 95th time on Friday night, August 30.

This event was started by artist Will Shuster who got the idea from another Santa Fe artist and marionette maker, Gustave Baumann. It was always part of the Santa Fe Fiestas that took place each year over Labor Day weekend until a deadly shooting one year had the city deciding to separate the two events. It has traditionally been a time of revelry, art, music, and fun, but it was getting too big and rowdy.

Zozobra means "anxiety" in Spanish. The idea is to put all your bad juju and mojo onto this giant puppet, sometimes referred to as "Old Man Gloom". I will never forget the first time I saw it back in the early 1980's when my future wife had us running around arroyos and through neighborhoods to Fort Marcy Park. We got in just as the lights went out and a cheer went up from the crowd. What a spectacle!

I've seen it since a couple of times. Once my nephew, when he was about eight or nine, got to be one of the "glooms", young lads chosen to dance around Zozobra before he is lit up. That was fun to see.

Getting rid of the bad stuff of the past year and looking forward to a fresh start is healthy. With the annual burning of Zozobra it can also be quite fun.

Writing Doesn't Have to be a Job

August 18, 2019

In my experience as an elementary school teacher I encounter a lot of students who do not like to write. The reasons vary. Many of them revolve around it either being too difficult or believing they have nothing valuable to express.

True, writing can be hard. As for the second reason, it is my opinion that we all have valuable things to express. We all have thoughts, ideas and experiences. Sharing them through writing is both a gift to others and a gift to yourself. Writing helps ups process and understand life.

Some people write for a living. Others have to write as part of their job. But let me be clear - writing doesn't have to be a job, as in "a chore". Writing is a way to communicate and it is good for your brain and your soul. There's research to back this up. Go ahead and look it up.

I have worked in a variety of occupations over the years. I don't consider my job to be a writer, but certainly writing is part of what I do as a teacher and personal historian. One of the greatest lessons I've learned about writing is the way to get better at it is to just do it. Writers write.

Whatever your career path I hope you consider writing to be a valuable activity. Nothing listens like paper. If you want to try an interesting writing exercise, spend some time writing about all the different jobs you've held. Write about work and your career. I did this four years ago and I discovered it gave me some good insight into my life experiences (read Writing About Work). I don't live to work. However, I do live to write. It's just something I must do. Like all things that tap into our passions, writing for me is a way to be more who I am.

If you are interested in capturing your life story through writing I encourage you to investigate your options. Life story writing is not a "one size fits all" process. There are many ways to go about it.

Two More Mass Shootings Is Too Many

August 4, 2019

Once again mass shootings took place in America, two in less than 24 hours in two different cities. 20 shot dead in an El Paso, Texas shopping mall. Another 9 gunned down at an outdoor nightspot area in Dayton, Ohio.

My reaction - not again! When is enough finally enough? When will our government act to do something about the epidemic gun violence?

I am an elementary school teacher. You can bet I think about the safety of my students, more and more these days. Another school year is about to begin. I worry and I am vigilant. Children need education and they need to be in a safe environment for this.

Anymore it seems like there are no safe places. Mass shootings continue at an alarming rate and they happen in schools, nightclubs, shopping malls, at concerts, sporting events and on crowded city streets.

My head may be bowed in prayer, but it is not bowed in defeat. I care about lives and the safety of us all. It is not infringing on the rights of people to have universal background checks. There are ways to counter the violence.

Teaching that lives matter and everyone deserves dignity and respect is something that we need in out too often divisive society. As both a teacher and a personal historian I am constantly aware of the value of our lives and the importance of our experiences. We are not islands unto ourselves. We are in this world together, for better or worse.

What can you do? Start where you are at. Love and care for your family and your neighbors. Use common sense. Recognize that violence is not the answer. Speak up and support those who are working to make our country and world a safer and better place to live.

I can't begin to imagine the heartache and the suffering that comes from losing a loved one to gun violence. It is especially heartbreaking when it happens to innocent young children. Every single day the parents of those who lost a child in this way carry a heavy burden.

If you are not familiar with the Sandy Hook Promise I encourage you to find out more. Sandy Hook Elementary was the site a few years back of a tragic school mass killing of very young children. Some of the parents who lost children have worked tirelessly to advocate for more safety and sane gun control laws.

Mass killings have happened so frequently that they are becoming commonplace. There is a danger people will become numb to these all too frequent tragedies. This cannot happen. Let's work to bring about change because we are all in this together.

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