One of my long graduated student’s birthday came up in my Facebook feed today. As I always tell my ex-seventh graders, I told her to “stay gold.” As some may recognize, that’s a line from a Robert Frost poem, but more importantly to me, it is an important theme of the young adult classic The Outsiders, which, as of the end of this school year, I have read and taught at least 57 times, and actually, it never gets old. If you haven’t read it, regardless of your age, I cannot recommend it more. After posting that on Ellie’s page, it got me thinking about the book and its theme.
Staying Gold, in Frost’s imagery, is about not letting all the things the world turn you cynical. I won’t lie, there have been many times in the last three years of Kelley’s illness that I’ve felt like there was nothing the world wasn’t going to throw at us. If something could go wrong, it did. There were many times that tarnished my gold, and I’ll admit to many cynical feelings and some dark days. One of the things that kept the cynicism at bay, though, was reading The Outsiders. That book, even though many awful things happen, ends with a message of hope. It really did buoy my spirits in the midst of dark days.
One thing I’ve found though since Kelley’s passing, is that is possible to bring back the shine to your personal gold. Things aren’t going to always go right. Illness happens, people die, but it is up to one’s self whether or not he loses his gold. Some may question why I’ve chosen to travel, and photograph, and write since Kelley’s death. I think those things are ways for me to try to stay gold. I think everyone has things that help them stay gold, some keep hold of them. I think of the nonagenarian down the street who still finds his gold on the baseball diamond. Even though he’s been through so much, he’s still gold. But I also think of the people who abandon those things and lose their shine, “Eden sank to grief.”
I guess we should all think about what keeps us gold.
Check this out, from memory:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower
If only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dusk goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.
Looking at it there, maybe Frost was saying we CAN’T stay gold. Well Bob, I’m gonna try!