One of my favorite classroom activities revolves around a little sixteen word poem by William Carlos Williams. The Red Wheelbarrow is a classic, rightfully famous for so many reasons, not the least of which how it hones in from the broadest of openings to build a specific and detailed image in a single sentence.
The activity is this. I ask students to write a sentence beginning with the words “so much depends.” It’s that simple. If I’m in a science class, I might add the addendum that the sentence should be about science, or about the environment. If I’m in a literature or poetry class, on the other hand, I might ask students to focus on themselves, or I might just leave it open.
The results are often fascinating. I’ve seen simple, but elegant phrases like “so much depends on aloha,” or the more concrete “so much depends upon a community working together.” Perhaps the greatest lesson, for me as a teacher, is how much depends on context, on how much the immediate environment dictates and shapes what students produce.
Strangely enough, though I frequently ask students to engage in this exercise, I rarely do it myself. During the recently completed playoffs, however, I’ve been thinking about how much little things alter a short series, and how fitting The Red Wheelbarrow’s opening line is to a team trying to win a championship. Or, perhaps more importantly, how fitting that line is to a fan watching.
With that in mind, I want to offer a few observations of my own, but I also would love to hear from anyone else. How does your “so much depends” end?
So much depends upon a long fly ball, deep to left, beyond an outstretched glove.
So much depends upon an aging Columbian shortstop, swinging his hardest one last time.
So much depends upon the number and wiggle of a catcher’s fingers.
So much depends upon a Yankee captain’s dollars and pinstripes.
So much depends upon out three.
So much depends upon a series lead with your ace on the hill.
So much depends, but so little seems to matter, when your home team watches instead of plays.