When I was in the 7th grade, a teacher wrote the following words on the blackboard: “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
That was almost half a century ago, and I was living in a little rural town in the cotton-growing part of the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri. Before that day, I had never heard of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I had not thought much about life outside of my little community. In many ways, that one teacher changed the course of my life. Her name was Miss King, and she challenged me to be more than I might have been had I never met her. God Bless Great Teachers, and God Bless Miss King for opening my eyes to the ever wondrous nuances of living life fully.
Miss King was an outstanding English teacher and after my 7th-grade year under her tutelage, grammar was never too difficult for me. That, in itself, was one of the greatest gifts that I ever received, but because I lived in a very small town, Miss King also taught me again in 10th grade. That year, she taught me English literature. That is when she opened my eyes to William Blake and to his Songs of Innocence and Experience.
I have always been interested in both writing and visual art, and I loved the fact that William Blake both wrote and illustrated his work. I became fascinated by the idea that one day I might write and illustrate my writing, too. I also became interested in the message in Blake’s writing. Blake challenged mankind to have a depth feelings, and he warned against becoming emotionally old. William Blake was the subject of my first master’s thesis, and his work has fueled my own vision. I owe a great deal to William Blake, but I owe even more to Miss King, who introduced me to William Blake. It was because of Miss King that when I was 12 years old, I Hitched my own Wagon to a Star, and it was because of Miss King that my journey has not been like that of most people.
Miss King also introduced me to Robert Frost and through Miss King and Robert Frost, I began to realize that there was a path that led out of the cotton patches of my childhood. Thank goodness, that passage goes both ways. Although I have left my childhood home, I return to it daily through my writing. I have not turned my back on who I was, but because of who I once was and because of great teachers like Miss King, I learned to reach for other worlds. I learned to set goals, and I began walking toward those goals.
When I was in the 7th grade, I heard what Miss King was saying. I actually “got” what she was trying to teach my class. She was challenging us to aim for greatness in our lives. She was opening a door for us and encouraging us to begin the journey that would become the courses of our lives. I will be the first to admit that I have not yet reached the moon of my own goals. In fact, it has taken me quite some time to decide exactly which path that I wanted to follow. But because very early in life, I aimed for the moon, my life has indeed been lighted by the stars. And that has made all the difference to me.
Several months ago, I wrote a simple little poem. Ostensibly, the poem was a recording of the way that I felt when I initially awoke one morning. Within a few hours of having written the verse, however, I realized that through a few, simple words, I had actually captured something about the way that I have decided to journey through my entire life.
On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum
Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.
I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.
I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along
My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.
©Jacki Kellum July 4, 2017
Happy Independence Day – Let Your Freedom Ring!