Mrs. Funke’s Advice for the Upcoming Solar Eclipse

Idaho is in sheer pandemonium over the upcoming solar eclipse. Hotels, campsites, and in some cases, people’s personal residences are booked. There are daily news stories about stocking up so you don’t have to leave the house, warnings about traffic overload, and cell service being non-existent. One small town about an hour and a half from Boise has already declared a state of emergency. They are billing it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I remember one when I was in Kindergarten, and Mrs. Funke was my teacher. Granted, it may not have passed directly over us, but evidently it was close enough for Mrs. Funke to scare the bejesus out of her group of five year olds.

Mrs. Funke was quite possibly the most interesting person I’d ever met. One, her name was Funke. She pronounced it just like you’d think, like a funky smell or doing the Funky Chicken. She wasn’t like the Fuch’s who tried to convince everyone their name rhymed with spoosh. Then, and this was the best thing, Mrs. Funke was blind! I was fascinated by her. I would watch her grade papers, which she did by holding them at nose’s length and studying small sections at a time. I didn’t know about Daredevil at the time, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if Mrs. Funke was a seemingly harmless school teacher by day and a badass crime fighter at night. My five year old brain didn’t think about the fact that being a crime fighter in my tiny town would have been pretty boring.

Yes, Mrs. Funke sparked my imagination, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be blind like her. Gram was the night custodian at our K-12 school, and I was often her helper. Mrs. Funke’s classroom took the longest because Gram made sure everything was back in the exact right place after she cleaned. One night, probably because I was chattering about how cool Mrs. Funke’s blindness was, Gram blindfolded me and told me to empty the trash. Blindness not only became uncool, it scared the hell out of me.

There was a solar eclipse in October of that year. We didn’t have glasses or anything so the whole school (we averaged about fifteen students per grade) was going to watch the eclipse on TV in the multi-purpose room. We would have to leave our building and walk across a small part of the playground to get there. Mrs. Funke lined us up like usual. Different this time, however, was she had us hold hands with the person in front and in back. There were uncomfortable giggles and a few groans because boys had cooties.

Mrs. Funke stared with her powerful milky blue eyes until all hands were taken and we were quiet. “Class, it is extremely important that you follow my directions today. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mrs. Funke,” we said in reverent unison. There was something about Mrs. Funke that was different than before. I didn’t like it.

“I want you to keep your eye on the shoes of the person in front of you. Do not look up because if you do, the solar eclipse will get in your eyes and make you blind like me. Do you understand?”

Thirteen heads snapped downward in unison. “Yes, Mrs. Funke,” we said in small, horrified voices.  To myself, I muttered, “Hell’s Friday!” because I knew in that moment Mrs. Funke became blind because she looked at a solar eclipse. She didn’t really, but I didn’t find that out until much later. 

That’s all I really remember about the last once-in-a-lifetime experience of a solar eclipse, but it’s a pretty vivid memory. What I really want to say, however, is that if you are planning to watch the eclipse this year, please don’t look directly at the sun. It really can be harmful, and nobody wants to be blind like Mrs. Funke. And, if you’re coming to Idaho, please be a respectful visitor.

 

Your Peace is in Your Hands

For my grandma, who I called Gram, naps were for lazy folks, meditation was for hippies, and too much TV would rot your brain. Relaxation for her meant working with her hands and creating something. The only way to relieve stress, to exorcise the Hell’s Fridays, was a project that required sweat equity.

Gram’s favorite project was making bread once a week. She hummed or talked to whoever was in the kitchen as she threw dry ingredients into one bowl and liquids into another. There was no recipe, and the use of measuring cups and spoons was optional. I remember bits and pieces of this part of the process. I think potato water was involved because Gram took living in Idaho very seriously. I also remember the artist’s care she took when creating the crater in the flour mixture for the liquids.

What I will never forget, and the part that taught me all I needed to know about relieving stress, was the kneading. When Gram spread a handful of flour onto her yellow formica countertop, I knew it was time for reverent silence. She placed the dough gently on the counter and gave it a few reassuring pats. Gram took a deep, complete upper body breath and closed her eyes. Then she thrust the palm of her hand violently into the doughy mass and pummelled the hell out of that dough exactly one hundred times. If I listened closely I could hear her counting under her breath. Breadmaking was how Gram reached nirvana, recharged her chi, released the dopamine in her brain, and simply prepared for another week of life.

Exercise is awesome, drinking is divine, even watching TV is great, but if I really need a break from my brain and the thoughts coursing through there, I take on a project. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you enjoy it. I don’t do baking. For me, it’s like the Indigo Girls song says, “I gotta get out of bed/Get a hammer and a nail/Learn how to use my hands/Not just my head.”

Try a project and let me know how it goes!