Gillian Devereux

Start by making a list of topics that remain unchanging over time.


Your book lists the following examples: the Earth, the sun, the moon.

Also oceans, rivers, trees, animals, and fish. Perhaps you dislike these


examples. Perhaps you disagree. I suspect that you believe the opposite

and wish to argue that the Earth and fish do not, in fact, stay unchanged


over time. I suggest you focus on the task at hand. We are not concerned

with logic. You came here to learn grammar. Those are the only rules


you need to obey. Write a scientific fact and a physical fact on the board:

The Earth moves around the sun. Ice floats on the water. Fish cannot


breathe on dry land. Write more sentences using the simple present.

Share what you have written: I listen even though I do not understand.

Exercise for Grammar Note 3

Theme: When Disaster Strikes

This activity is similar to an activity you learned as a child.

Think about disasters. These can be natural calamities

or artificial constructions. Make a list of sensory details.


How does disaster taste? What is its most distinctive smell?

Write a descriptive essay using simile and metaphor.

Include details about the disaster, first person accounts,


and the recovery process. Assume recovery is possible.

Assume recovery is advisable. Create a basic chart

presentation on how to prepare for and survive disaster.


Summarize causes and effects. Describe the ensuing chaos.

This may involve the use of imagery or a simple bullet

list of damages. Deaths and other casualties may be depicted


graphically. This assignment requires you to use objects

with prepositions. Suggestions: for, to, about, and with.

You should also consider when, why, and where.


Review what you have written. Draw circles around problems

and that. Write a conclusion that reiterates your main ideas.

Avoid obvious clichés like apocalypse, hunger, or regret.

The Present, Real Conditional

This exercise requires a condition and a result.

An if and the promise that follows. A belief

that what’s real now will stay


real, always. In the present, we know

general truths, scientific facts; we know these

phenomena do not change. Examples:


Before the rain, the sky goes grey. If I drop

a glass on the floor, it breaks. The heart

can beat even if separated from its body.


Habits, or any events that are likely

to happen many times, let us choose when

to begin our present


real conditionals: When I sleep, I think too.

When I sleep, I dream. If I dream, I wake.

It is early in the morning. I am alone


with the birds, and the failing dark,

and the tired edges of habitual dreams.

Modals change the meaning


of any result: if the heart has access

to an electric current, it should survive

in any environment. We use modals


to give advice. We use the imperative

to limit options, to create conditions under

which a partner would carry out any imperative


in the result clause: If the robots attack,

blow up the building. If disaster strikes,

stay calm. We can restate some commands


to include the word then. We can reverse the order.


Simple Present & Present Progressive


The simple present describes events, situations, or activities

unconnected to time restrictions. It is also used to construct


general statements of truth or fact. The present means now.

It means what is happening. By the time we hear the word


happens, everything has already happened. Life progresses

this way: it is a Sunday on the cusp of spring. Above us all


the stars are small against the dark. The details are small

as well, & largely unimportant, in the present progressive


which relies on action verbs to convey what happens now

or in the extended present (this week, this year, this month


this night). For example: tonight you read about the weather

in each season. We are meeting each other for the first time.


I can’t describe your breath on my skin. Can you explain

how it feels -- breath held, aloft like birds, held against


my throat, breathing in just this moment & whatever else

follows. The future replaces the present. Departure displaces


arrival in the same way. This is the dazzling nature of transit.

This is how time functions. Your words urge me to abandon


all the small deceptions I allow myself, to give up feeling lost

in this inflexible world with its rigid desires. I have learned


what I feel reflects what I think about reality, not reality itself.

I have learned verbs used to express perception, possession,


emotion & appearance do not generally use progressive forms.

But I want to express this feeling as continuous action. I want


to say it began here, amidst lavender & ash, then continued.

It begins. It continues. I want to say it is only the beginning.