Erin Smith

About Erin Smith

https://www.instagram.com/erindotsmith/

Erin Smith has been plotting an imaginary and dreamily charming life in England, but in reality she lives in a quiet, tree-filled town in Massachusetts with her amazing husband (don’t worry, he’s part of the England daydreams, too). She’s a huge Harry Potter and Disney fan, and an avid reader. Basically, she reads when she brushes her teeth, over breakfast in the morning, waiting in the car, when she should be doing things like cleaning her house, and as she falls asleep. She also loves taking pictures, hiking, camping, listening to podcasts, baking, trying to make every day a bit of an adventure, eating delicious food, traveling whenever she can, watching funny TV shows, and writing. Creativity fills her and sometimes she forgets how much she loves the buzz of working on something, so she’s thrilled to be exploring more outlets.

Posts by Erin Smith:

In the Classroom and the Snowy Wood

The student stands in front of the class panicking. She is a finalist in our school’s Poetry Out Loud competition and Robert Browning’s words seem to be stuck in her mouth.She is unable to move on from certain linesstarting and stoppingand it’s her third attempt to get through the poem. The room feels heavy with the weight of sympathy and discomfort.

I, too, am aching, remembering my many moments of agonizing during speeches. I can distinctly remember that feeling of having no air to breathe, the irrepressible shaking spreading over my body, the sensation of being outside of my own head. I know I’m not the only one feeling her pain and desperately rooting for her to succeed.

Suddenly, the student’s head drops. I‘m worried she might burst into tears and I brace myself, setting down my pen and scoring card. Instead of the sound of crying, though, I hear fingers begin to snap. Snap. Snap. Snap. It fills the room.

In my classroom, I have my students snap for each other after they share a piece of their writing. It’s a joke-y, cheesy thing a nod to Beatniks’ poetry readings in coffeehouses but something I hope will help them to support one another. I hope it’ll make the vulnerable act of sharing their own writing into something heartening or, at the very least, not traumatizing. Over the years, it’s become more than that.Sometimes it’s a way to express the profundity of someone’s insights; other times I catch students using it for each other as they nod in agreement.

But this? This snapping is the choice of one student to lift up another on the brink of personal defeat. It is the choice of the others to join in and raise her out of this moment of humility and despair. This is magic I couldn’t have anticipated. It’s heartwarming, golden, like the moment in a movie when the music starts swelling joyfully.

The snapping spreads through the room.”You can do it!” they call, joining together in their snaps. “You’ve got this!”

I think about this moment from time to time. How can I choose to put my fingers together and snap for someone to pull them out of a dark moment? How can I look around me and choose to reach out instead of turning inwards? It’s a choice I can make nearly every moment of every day. Lift up. Give your snaps.

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The inspiration and magic abounds in the day to day, too. I remember my parents telling me teasingly when I was younger that I wouldn’t like snow so much when I had to shovel it and drive it in, but my inner child continues to triumph. Snow is magic.

My favorite snow is the kind that falls in fat flakes and sticks to the branches. The beauty doubles when the snow is everywhere, and quadruples the next morning when the sun comes out and suddenly everything is glittering and golden.

We have a path that leads out of our backyard and into wooded acreage that is not ours and yet, I suppose, not not ours. On those rare mornings where the sun is glimmering through the snow-laden boughs, there is nothing I like more than to walk back into my own personal Narnia. 

The tracks of deer lead the way and it seems like every new view makes me pause in wonder. The evergreens seem more regal in their snowy dress. The gleaming ground shows tiny evidence of all of the abounding life, and the deadened sounds give me the same feeling of being in an ancient, empty church in Italy.

Today I am stopped in my tracks by the sunlight pouring through an oak leaf.

There’s a Native American story that was told to me as a child, the details of which I don’t really remember but think of often. A man was told he would die when the last leaf fell, but that last leaf never fell down, an explanation for why the oak never loses all of its leaves. It’s stuck with me but I don’t know why; maybe because I always choose stories over science.

Today I see that surviving leaf. It is resplendent in its resilience. The sunshine’s glow seems to mark the moment with extra significance and I stand here paying my homage.

I feel buoyed by its presence, by the transformation of something ordinary and plain into something dazzling and significant. This leaf persevered through fierce winds and brittle cold while every leaf around let go. It chose to battle on, even when all was hopeless, even through the hardest nights.

In the stillness of the snowy woods I am brought back to that special moment of snaps filling the classroom. It’s a moment that could be just like any other that has been made extraordinary.  My heart feels full with the sight of this glowing leaf, with the echo of those snapping fingers and cheers of encouragement.  Make the choice: hang on, persevere, lift up.

 

Words by Erin Smith.

Not Perfect, Just Right

hello there friend

I’m walking quickly, listening to an audiobook that’s the fourth in an embarrassingly cheesy young adult series, when my eye catches and stops briefly on a grill perched at the end of someone’s driveway. There’s a sign slapped on it with messy handwriting that reads: “not perfect.” I keep walking, but my mind is completely fixed on “not perfect,” like a heel caught faltering in grass at an outdoor wedding.

Not perfect. Not perfect.

It sings in me; it buzzes somewhere in me that’s been craving this message of comfortable acceptance. How unusual, but how wonderful, if it really does say “not perfect.” I turn around, walk back, and try to fix on the letters. I need to know if that’s what it actually says, but it turns out there’s something else next to the “not” and the bottom word is particularly illegible. I squint for a while, wait for the cars driving past to clear, and cross the street.

Once there, I see the sign actually reads: “not lighting properly.” I imagine that its owner with the sloppy script hopes that there’s a person out there who will be able to easily figure out the problem and, once fixed, get to enjoy the fruits (hot dogs?) of their roadside find. It’s not perfect, but maybe it’s just right for someone.

About a month ago, I was listening to a podcast that suggested imagining that you were moving and could start your life over in any way that you’d like. Imagine your ideal life, whatever that might look like, they said.

I snorted, most likely in my head (but maybe not), and began thinking of my fantasy apartment on the Seine in Paris and my dream cottage in the English countryside. I’d dress like a casual Kate Middleton and, heck, look like her, too. I’d wake up in the mornings and, alongside my husband, have a cup of tea and read. We’d take the time to think about our food, rather than texting each other in the evening, “Tacos, again?” and forgetting altogether about vegetables. My inner monologue slowed.

Maybe there was no need for the snarky tone to my thoughts. Parisian Kate Middleton aside, those last things were, in fact, very doable. The idea of making this perfect life attainable was one that I began to mull over seriously.

My weekday mornings used to look like this: Lie in bed until my husband was done shaving, get up, get dressed, go downstairs. I’d make my toast, distributing my peanut butter evenly across the top, and plunk down on our couch in front of the TV to watch the news. Then I’d brush my teeth, get into the car, and be on my way. It wasn’t something I had even thought about. I just did it.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. We tend to imagine that we will be a different person once we’ve reached a certain point in our lives. When I don’t work so many hours, I’ll exercise.When I have kids, I’ll make the time to slow down and be in the moment. When my kids are older, I’ll do things for me and pursue that passion that’s always been hovering in the back of my mind. Often, those milestones roll past, and those ideal selves don’t ever magically appear. We have to actually do something to make them real.

I decided to do just that something, starting with my mornings. I still generally have my piece of toast evenly spread with peanut butter. Some days I have tea, but mostly I don’t remember in time and instead have my usual water. Some days I read a book, but often I’ll flip through a magazine or even a catalogue, letting my brain slowly settle into the day. Some days my husband and I chat; others we’re quiet. It’s not much, but, honestly, these new, more purposeful mornings feel like freedom – the freedom to actively remember that I have a choice in how I live my days, and that I can make that choice now.

It’s getting darker these days, so we don’t have the beautiful light of our weekend mornings. The birds usually haven’t yet begun their songs and chatter, but there is still a sense of peace that fills me up, like a slow breath taken while watching leaves skate atop the rough sidewalk on a windy, late fall day.

My everyday mornings are by no means perfect, but, for me, they’re just right.

A week ago, I’m bundled up, out for a walk, and entangled in my thoughts, when I abruptly pause. I realize I’ve passed the driveway where the grill that wasn’t lighting properly once stood. The cold air is bitter and, despite my gloves, my fingers are already protesting. But I linger a moment. I soak in a little bit of happiness seeing that the grill is gone, that, I let myself believe, someone has chosen to make the small change to make it just right.

 

Words and image by Erin Smith.