26 January

John Greenwood: The Student Who Changed Me

by Jon Katz
The Student Who Changed Me
The Student Who Changed Me

Six or seven years ago, John Greenwood, a milkman who went to work for Stewart’s a big local convenience store that sells milk and food, came to one of my readings at Battenkill Books. He claims it changed his life, but he probably doesn’t know that he really changed mine.

John contacted me and joined one of the first Hubbard Hall Writer’s Groups that we formed in town. He was the first student I signed up, he is a quiet and shy man, but he is was on fire to create, and he created some of the most beautiful work I have seen in a long time. John is a big cheese at Stewart’s now, but we have remained quite close to one another.

John was a student of mine for more than two  years, and his blog, Raining Iguana’s is one of the most vibrant and creative I have seen. I wrote about him in 2012 just a year after I started my own blog. He was on his own hero journey. John is one of the most viscerally creative people I have ever met and that is sometimes a lonely process for him, he loves his work and the people he works with, but he has always drawn nourishment and inspiration from a creative community, and our class was a special one.

When John heard of my open heart surgery, he contacted me and offered his help and friendship, he is much too shy to drop by or even call. He is member of the Creative Group At Bedlam Farm, I sense we are returning to one another’s lives.

I don’t see John all that often, but we are very close. In a sense we are very much alike, we need to be creating things all the time or we get restless and unhappy. It is not simple for John, he has a busy and full life, a big job and four grandkids but he makes time for his stories, and nostalgic reports – he’s a kind of local Charles Kuralt, – on the people and history in the Saratoga Springs area. His pieces have that very authentic feeling.

John has a soft and elegiac touch in his work, his pieces have depth and emotion.

He has embraced, even pioneered the use of images and video in his pieces. They are living stories. He grasped the creative and individual potential of the blog and now inspires a lot of people.

John claims I changed his life, but he really changed mine. He opened me up teaching and showed me its potential, sharing what I had learned, the power of the blog to unleash the creativity often buried inside an individual. If John, a former milkman, had that kind of stuff inside of him, it reaffirmed my belief that most of us do. It was my job to try to bring it out. Some people need a push, some just need a tap on the shoulder.   I could hardly have imagined the depth and power of the work John started to turn out and produces still.

John need for his creative spark to be lit, and it was, and I have deepened my love for teaching and found ways to reach out to gifted people like John, who need little more than encouragement and a supportive community to find their own adventure. John’s blog, Raining Iguanas is an inspiration to anyone who seeks to free their inner spirits.

John did not see that creativity in  himself when he was delivering milk, he sees it now, and so do many other people. We had lunch at the Round House Cafe Monday and I was so glad to see him, I nearly cried. I’ve invited  him to join my writing class at Pompanuck Farm on Saturday mornings, and I took this quiet man over to Battenkill Books.

He doesn’t care to have his photo taken, but he knew I would, I just backed up a good ways to set the scene rather than take a portrait. He would have hated that. Hope to see you one of these Saturdays, John, and thanks for existing in our world. Check out his remarkable blog.

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