Tag Archives: Lake Arrowhead

The Joy of Teaching Beyond the Classroom: An Open Letter to My Former Students

August from Cell 2014 290Making the decision to retire from the classroom was one of the most difficult I ever made. Though teachers experience their fair share of discomfort, disillusionment, and sometimes even heart break, this teacher madly loved the job.  Loved the studies that brought me to the profession, loved the planning, the research, the sheer delight of living a life devoted to education.  I loved my colleagues, my books, my classroom with those huge windows and the long metal pole it took an expert to hook into the forty-year-old locks so that we could let in the air, and sometimes the snowflakes.  Those windows overlooked the playground, sports field, and elevated neighborhood behind it.  I remember well the pain of coming back after one of our wildfires to see that neighborhood largely destroyed, blackened, treeless, and empty.  The subsequent rebuilding, and the return of families and new green life.  I loved the bells.  I loved hall duty, laughing with my friends and all of those fresh young backpack laden rebels.  Mostly, I loved you, my kids.

Each year I remember telling my classes that their eighth grade year was going to race by, that before we all knew it, we’d be saying goodbye. And sure enough, those months did disappear quickly, relentlessly leading us to the last day of school, when I proudly sent you all off to high school.  But I always knew I’d still see you around the mountain, and that you’d sneak into my classroom during seventh period for a quick hug, looking all big and different and like a more defined version of the person I’d laughed with, explained the differences between colons and semi-colons to, crafted with, making things like Poe Ravens to decorate the doorway, and cried with over Anne Frank’s capture.  You were growing up.

When school started this year for the first time without me, I cried. Not only was I not in school, I wasn’t even in the same state.  Tough times, kids!  But I realized something this morning, had an epiphany when I got a message from a student I taught some ten years back.  Hey, Mrs. P. I wrote a book; would you read it and give me your opinion? 

Heck, yes! Social media may be discouraged by some, particularly high level administrators worried about possible sticky situations, and I understand that, but for me, your old teacher caught between California and the Midwest, wondering if I did enough when I had the chance, it is a lovely lifeline.  You send me messages, post pictures of your accomplishments, funny moments, likes and dislikes.  I get a lot of dog pictures.  And I love it!  So, I just wanted to say, you are all remarkable human beings, every one of you.  So I guess once a teacher, always a teacher.  And I thank God for that.

Carpe Diem! Mrs. P.

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The Salem Wife: Reflections on Paris, Lake Arrowhead, and the Writing Life

ImageSaturday, April 19, 2014

Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA

The ridge is always alive. This morning the oak leaves, the color of peaches and chestnuts, reflect the early sun—small curved hands opening to birdsong and bells. It is Easter week. I’ve just reread the prologue to Paula McLain’s captivating book, The Paris Wife, born again to words unfolding the Paris of the time between the great wars, describing the weight of despair felt everywhere, a place “full of ghosts and the walking wounded.” Yet also a place where “On any given night, you could see Picasso walking from Saint-Germain to his apartment in the rue des Grands Augustins, always exactly the same route and always looking quietly at everyone and everything. Nearly anyone might feel like a painter walking the streets of Paris then because the light brought it out in you, the shadows alongside the buildings, and the bridges which seemed to want to break your heart…”

Over ninety years later, Paris is not so different, nor the world. Such a lovely place to suffer. Loving, seeking, and undergoing the process of constructing a life wherever we might be. Breathing. I am not in Paris now, nor anywhere like it, but having been there, if you were one who walked the streets as an artist, means you keep it always, tucked safely close to your poet’s heart, drawing on the images and the memories of those exquisitely crowded streets.

It can be intimidating to write after that. How does one earn a credential that in essence joins your mean scratchings to the great ones’? Better to stay home, you sometimes think. Give up these grand ideas and dreams and do something practical.

So you do, something practical that is. But you never actually become practical. A cloud never goes unnoticed, nor a perfectly expressed thought, nor a moment of harmony. Well, you can, at least, keep a diary. Sometimes years go by in this way. Practically. But the inner search never stops, never quite gives up on you. Reading feeds your urge to write. A drive alone. The heartbreak in your child’s cry. Your divorce. Your mother dying. The hummingbird glimmering near your head, begging for nectar, as you drink your morning coffee.

Somehow, if you can steal some time to write it down, you know you will capture some of it, store it away in your poet’s heart right next to the spot where you keep Paris. So it is this morning, in Lake Arrowhead, California, on my daughter’s deck. My home here is no more. Soon I will steal away from these ridges, and the mighty oaks, and the pines. Away from many happy years spent teaching, raising children, and welcoming grandchildren into the world, going toward the once known, now foreign place of my childhood, toward a future day where I will sit at a desk near a river in Salem, Wisconsin, my husband by my side, being practical no more.

©Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, 2014


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Leaving Lake Arrowhead

ImageStaying Up, Falling Down, and Surviving Sea Level

January 7, 2014

Over the edge.  That’s a very genuine concern I’ve had as a mountain citizen.  Staying up here, not falling over the edge, I mean.  And I’m sure I’m not in a minority.  It happens all too often; a vibrant life taken by a curve, a boulder, a patch of ice, another driver.  Going over the edge is the risk we mountain folk  take living a life which propels us along a highway called Rim of the World, many of us climbing up and down and far into the tangled freeways below on a regular, if not constant, basis.   I tuck the fear away and try to imagine myself connected to the road, guided by an invisible yet powerful track that won’t ever allow me to really experience that dream sequence free-fall into nothing.  You know the one.  That’s my secret for staying on the Rim.  But it’s more than the roads; it’s the life.  The life above.  The views, the air, the bears, the lake.  Knowing you’ve been granted something very rare, somehow you’ve been allowed to live for a while in a place of great beauty.

We’ve been approaching that edge, my husband and I, none-the-less, for quite some time.  As much as we’ve tried to maintain our security here, the ground has been relentlessly slipping away beneath us.  It began, as far I can tell, about the time my brother became ill and we brought him to live with us.  I had idolized him all of my life.  My husband loved him dearly.  Despite our efforts, hopes, and our very deep love, we soon realized that he wasn’t going to get better, was in fact getting worse, and that we weren’t going to be able to save his life.  Slip.

That was also a time of financial hardship for much of the country.  While my job was secure, there were no foreseeable raises, and benefits were costing more.  My husband, used to working long hours and getting plenty of overtime, was reduced to part-time hours and part-time wages.  Slip.

Soon, my emergency appendectomy, a surprise in itself, removed another wedge of stability when we learned the appendix had contained a rare goblet cell adenocarcinoid tumor.  Slip.

I began to hear a quiet rumble.  Felt it under my feet and inside my soul.

Mike was no longer working at all.

Billy was so sick.

I was scheduled for surgery and then chemotherapy.

Over the edge.  Slipping.  Fearing a violent end.  Praying for peace.

When Billy died, so did a part of me.  We mourned him as we tried to maintain our balance, still on the edge, and teetering.  Within two weeks, our dear old dog died.  She had refused to eat after losing Billy.  Then our darling seventeen-year-old cat followed.

We lived in a house of death, set on top of a purple mountain, surrounded by deep green forests, and lit by gentle sun and easy moon.  I held on to the beauty, clung to it for life, dug my heels into the slivering earth wanting nothing more than stability…that and an end to death and was that too much to ask?


Those months, those years, did take us over the edge.  And we’re leaving the mountain now.  But not into the abyss.  We chose Wisconsin, instead.  It’s pretty flat there, and Mike has a new job.  It’s a bittersweet compromise.  My grown children and grandchildren will be so far away.  They are sad, and I am torn.  I trust we will find wonderful new ways to connect, both in Wisconsin and back here in California when I’m able to visit.  I’m also leaving friends, a church family, and the amazing students, teachers, administrators, and staff of Rim of the World Unified School District.  A career that’s given me a heart so full that I know I will never be lonely.  A community I love.

But we didn’t fall off the mountain.  We leave here whole and nourished.  Back at sea level, Mike begins a new job doing what he loves most.  I will rest and write and maybe escape the ghosts I loved and left up in a beautiful place, on the edge of a continent, a place called Lake Arrowhead.

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Kenosha, Retirement, Thanksgiving, and Love

Wouldn’t it be magical if Mike and I could go home?  We are trying to get there.  I’m thankful for so many things, and freshly grieving for so many others.  I made pumpkin pie for my grandkids today–couldn’t make the second pumpkin nor the pecan due to crazy poor planning and no pie tins–and I tried to say goodbye to our tiny new grandchild, a boy, never given a breath on this planet.  I celebrated an anniversary yesterday–a Lake Arrowhead marriage that has sustained me and given me new life. And I recently spent time with my husband’s sisters and two of my nieces–gifts to my heart and soul.   There isn’t anything I’ve lived through that wasn’t blessed, though I was for many years blinded to the blessings.  Now I know.  And I give thanks, 

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