All posts by Rebecca Michelle

Educator, traveler, reader, blogger. Loves learning, black coffee, and friendly people.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Rochester Things

Rochester, New York is a lovely place and I’m not just saying that because I grew up here. It feels like a community and the people of Rochester are very proudly Rochesterian. There’s even a wiki by the people, for the people! As I suspect is true of most places, I lived in a very different Rochester as an adult than the one in which I grew up. I have very fond memories and warm feelings of both and if my dreams were different, this would be a satisfying place to remain.

At any rate, Rochester is my summer home and it really is a good one. What have we been up to? Read on!

Jazz Fest

The Rochester International Jazz Festival is an annual event that began in 2002. My dad really loves jazz and I’ve been going to Jazz Fest possibly for as long as it has been around. I have distinct memories of a particular night when I was in grade 10, but that definitely wasn’t my first experience. My photos don’t capture the pulse and atmosphere or the sounds, rhythms, and cheers that fill the streets but hopefully you’ll get a sense of why it’s something we look forward to every year.

Most of the shows aren’t free but I really enjoy the experience of those that are. And there are at least four free shows per day so there’s no good excuse not to go! It’s a really good feeling to share moments of joy with others, strangers or not, and I find a lot more of that during street performances than the indoor shows. Indoor shows are smaller, though, and the intimacy of that setting is a treat.

The people-watching at Jazz Fest is always a highlight in itself and the food trucks serve just about anything. It’s also a great way to run into people I haven’t seen in a while and immediately gives us something to talk about. Jazz Fest is one of the events that makes Rochester look and feel like a destination, which we always appreciate. It’s the same week of June every year, rain or shine. I was sorry to miss it last year and I’m really glad to be back.

Public Market

I’ve waxed poetic about the Rochester Public Market before and I was tempted to leave my camera at home this time because having free hands makes it easier to shop. But it really is a lot of fun to take pictures and I wasn’t doing a full order like I used to so the camera came along!

The Public Market has been in its current location since 1905. It’s the most diverse place anywhere in the city, in my experience, and a remarkable display of how much work it takes to feed people.

The market also sells dry goods, locally produced alcohol, artisanal products, and various flea market goods like clothes and kitchen supplies. And, apparently, flags!

There are also restaurant staples, the most popular of which is Juan and Maria’s. That was the first place I ever had an empanada. The Market underwent a renovation of the indoor section in the last couple years and there are a few additional restaurant stalls in addition to the meat and cheese sellers who operate there. And there are also a few food trucks!

In addition to everything else, the market sells herbs and flowers. So everything, really. When I was living in Rochester it wasn’t uncommon for me to get everything I needed for the week early Saturday morning at the Market. I loved it every time and it’s something I really miss living away.

There’s a pretty good street art scene in the area, too, mostly due to Wall\Therapy, another fantastic community project that aims to improve life in a city that can be very harsh. There is a lot of work to be done here.

The Market is open year-round Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The greatest number of vendors and widest variety of people come on Saturdays and it’s really good fun, even in the rain.

Wine Tasting

Rochester is located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, the part of the state known for its wine production. Cayuga, Keuka, and Seneca Lakes are all famous (really!) for their wine trails. I’ve been to wineries on Cayuga and Seneca multiple times and have been drinking Finger Lakes wine since, well, before I was legally old enough to do so.

The wineries here are better known for their whites than reds because of the climate but there are some vineyards that produce excellent reds. The best part of wine tasting is that you get to do just that – taste! And spend time in pretty places with friendly people. That’s another best part.

Many of the wineries are pet friendly and the staff tend to be very knowledgeable and also friendly! Some have restaurants on site while others have meats and cheeses and various accoutrements that you can purchase to enjoy along with your wine. And if you decide to buy a bottle (or ten) there are lots of options.

In Conclusion . . .

. . . there’s a lot to love about Rochester in the summer and I’m really glad to be here. Let me know if you make it out this way! I’d love to show you around.

We are very proud of our Flour/Flower City logo

Dreaming of Purple Mountains

I’m not sure when it started, this dreaming of purple mountains. But when I look for you behind closed eyes, I know that’s where I’ll find you.

The mountains have always been purple. Deep purple, dark purple, thick lines, visible brushstrokes. Hints of lavender and a touch of violet or indigo, depending on the light. A painting.

The mountains are gently rolling in some parts and in others, steep and jagged. Sometimes there are clouds, too, tinged with dusky blues and greys. Often a few lingering white puffs across the sky. But sometimes there’s just a vast bright blue. The sun is shining. The grass is soft, the bright green that begs you to take off your shoes and play. 

I’ll see you in the purple mountains, I think before I fall asleep.

Behind my eyelids, we’re skipping up the hill and we’re laughing.

Neither of us are strangers to this place, to this watercolor illustration out of a children’s story.

But where did it come from? The first time I said it out loud, I knew it was right.

Where did it come from and, more to the point, how did I know you’d see what I saw? Where do you come from? What lives have you lived? 

Who are you? And who am I?


I live in a world where we say goodbye on the last day of school in June. Not just, “Goodbye, have a good summer, see you in August.” There’s some of that, certainly, but there’s also, “Goodbye, friend, as you journey to another part of the world. Maybe we’ll meet again one day.”

Maybe we will. 

It’s hard to send off the colleagues who have become friends and friends who have become family. I hope they all find their own purple mountains, the realization of dreams both articulated and hidden, wishes both acknowledged and buried. 

Yesterday I told a friend, “I hope it’s everything you hope it will be.”

He replied, “I don’t. I hope it’s everything we need it to be right now, but I’m not done yet.”

I smiled. “Then let me say it again. I hope it’s everything you need it to be right now, and that you voyage on.”


This makes sense to me. It makes sense to keep looking for the purple mountains in whatever form they take. It makes sense to dream of them and find that I’m not the only one up there dreaming. I’m not the only one up there looking and imagining and creating.

I know too many people who stopped looking. Maybe that’s the right decision for them and I certainly respect it. But it’s not the right decision for me. I tried to put the dreams aside, to look for purple mountains somewhere else, but I couldn’t find them. In fact, I lost them. For a time, there were no mountains and where they had been was full of holes and erasure dust. I tried to wipe it off but it was hard to see through the smudges. 

The mountains were gone and I drifted in the space where they had been.

The most frightening feeling I’ve ever had was not being able to imagine tomorrow. I remember the first time the mountains were hidden in black.

It’s hard to explain this to people who stopped looking or who found their mountains without much getting in the way. Compared to many people I know, I think I’ve lived a lot. My purple mountains with springy green grass were trampled on once but I am filled with gold bubbles when I dream of them now.

Yes, this is hard to explain. I don’t mind when people don’t understand, and I take responsibility for not explaining very well, but I do mind when others do not respect that the right thing for me to do is keep looking.


Sometimes I think I’ve found you. And having worked so hard to get back there, how could I let you go?

When I close my eyes, maybe I’ll see you and learn of the lives you’ve lived. You’re right there beside me, dancing up the purple mountains into the white cloud blue sky, barefoot in the grass. You believe in a world that might exist in a children’s story.

How did I know you’d see what I saw?

Neither of us are strangers to the purple mountains. Maybe they won’t always be everything I hope they’ll be, but maybe they’re everything I need them to be right now.

And then we’ll voyage on.

Kandy, Sri Lanka – April 2016

What Teachers Make

The title for this post comes from a slam poem by Taylor Mali. I haven’t watched in years but saw it as The Message when I was introduced to it in my first (second?) undergrad education class. Parts of it have rung in my ears ever since.

But I know a lot more now. And I know that what Taylor Mali missed is that teachers make choices. People make choices.

Thinking simply, teachers make the choice to teach or to educate, to validate young people or to turn them away, to take a stand or sit back and watch, to be vulnerable and human or indifferent and robotic.

They make the choice to act or avoid responsibility.

Teachers, educators for some, are people. Some do the best they can with the time and resources they have. Some spend hours upon hours doing work that isn’t theirs because it’s the right thing to do by the young people they serve. As soon as teachers neglect that education is a social contract, they’ve neglected a lot.

If you’re willing to let it, educating can be a political act. (Note the pronoun shift here.) And it is hard. It is hard to do the right thing and to do it well. It is hard to ask yourself, “What do I want young people to understand if they never step foot in a classroom again? Who do I want them to be?” It is hard to take responsibility for cultivating, encouraging, building young people into adults who are committed to making the world a better, more peaceful place.

And it is hard to think critically about what that world looks like. It’s hard to make the world a better, more peaceful place.


You, the reader, might be asking with good reason, “Don’t we all make choices? Don’t we all want to do good things? Aren’t we all responsible for our actions?” Yes, we all make choices. No, we do not all want to do good things. Yes, we are all responsible for our actions – but only some accept responsibility, own it, do something with it. But I’m not talking about everyone. Please excuse me. I’m talking about educators and people who claim to be so.

“You’re ranting,” you might say. “It’s not becoming. It’s not fun to read. Write this elsewhere.”

But I can’t. I can’t because educators make choices every day that directly impact the lives of others. I can see it because I work with them and I can only speak honestly about what I know and have experienced.

Perhaps context is appropriate.

I spent the day working on a job that isn’t mine because it was the right thing to do and needed to be done. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last time. I’m willing to do work that I think is important because I know what’s at stake – the well-being of adults I care about and young people I have a social contract with. If that’s not a reason to give my time to something meaningful, I don’t know what is.

But I’m getting a little tired of others’ excuses. I’m getting a little tired of, “I can’t help because I’m doing this other thing.” I’m sure you are. But so am I.

And I’m not angelic or perfect or a martyr, not by a long shot. As I said above, I make choices, too, and sometimes I take the easy way out. But I have also seen the damage that my easy way has caused others and I’m willing to acknowledge that and choose differently. This is what it means to take responsibility and it’s hard. It’s hard to make choices that set me at a crossroads between wearing my educator hat and wearing my friend/colleague hats.

I made that choice today and I don’t know if I did the right thing. But I know I did what I could and I have to close this day feeling at peace with a difficult choice that has very sharp edges on all sides.


All of this makes me only human, doesn’t it? And a vulnerable one at at that. If this is what it takes to make the world a better, more peaceful place then at least I know I’ve done whatever it is that I can do.

Today.

Tomorrow is a different day.

And I’ll keep trying. I don’t always do the right thing but I try and this is my public commitment to continue doing so.


Sometimes I take a moment away from my focus on young people and ask myself the same questions, “Who are you? Who do you want to be?” I don’t always know the answer to the former but the latter is quite clear: I want to be an educator and I want to be a good person. Owning this makes sense to me.

Why publish this post? Because I’m human, too, and an agent in constructing a world. I know that I make choices. And I’m trying damn hard to make the right ones.