Archive for March, 2019

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Vernal Equinox on the Bayou Teche.

Begin with the source,
Lore told again and again,
ancient words from native people–

Water runs through it
brown bayou mud
bound by an ever-eroding shore

Sun sets on vernal equinox
sends rays of light across
cypress trees reflected in still water

–Margaret Simon


The name of my blog originates with the bayou that runs behind my house.  Bayou Teche was so named for an ancient Native American legend that the warriors battled a huge snake for days, and in finally killing it, the giant serpent created a waterway through where it lay.  The Bayou Teche meanders back and forth for 125 miles.

We recently joined the T.E.C.H.E. Project, Teche Ecology, Culture and History Education, a nonprofit with a mission to improve the Bayou Teche for recreation as well as for ecosystem health.  One of the perks of membership is the gift of a mile marker.  Our house is at mile 69.4.  We plan to mount the marker on our wood duck house, but we will wait until Eve, our resident mother, finishes her nesting.

The name of my blog has significance to me. It reflects the place where I live along with my own internal reflections about teaching and writing.  Literal and figurative reflections on the Teche.

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I’ve been following Elisabeth Ellington’s blog for at least 4, maybe 5 years.  We’ve actually met in person a few times at NCTE, and when we’ve had occasion to sit next to each other, we talk incessantly like two introverts in the sea.  Elisabeth lives in South Dakota, far north from Louisiana.  Nevertheless, we connect over our love of nature.  Yesterday on her blog the dirigible plum, she wrote a post with the title, “What did you Fall in Love with Today?”

As I read her post, a poem began to write itself in my head.  I could connect emotionally to all that she wrote.  I didn’t know anything about pronghorn, so I did a Google search (something else that Elisabeth mentions loving) and found this information on the National Wildlife Federation site.

Pronghorn are one of North America’s most impressive mammals. Not only do pronghorn have the longest land migration in the continental United States, they also are the fastest land animal in North America. Pronghorn can run at speeds close to 60 miles an hour. Even more amazing than its speed is the pronghorn’s migration. Herds of pronghorn migrate 150 miles each way between Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin and Grand Teton National Park. The only other land animal to travel farther in North America is the caribou.

I’m in Love
found poem from Elisabeth Ellington’s Slice of Life

I’m in love
with the moon
over snow-covered hills
then yellow.

I’m in love
with clouds
before sunrise
Venus bright
in the East.

I’m in love
with a field of pronghorn
lying in the snow
legs curled beneath
for warmth.

I’m even in love
with this open parking spot
right in front
of my favorite coffee shop.

I’m in love
with warm fires,
curled up cats,
and always,
every day
with my mug
of coffee.

What do you love today?

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Katelyn Gulotta as Elle Woods

I am not a theatre critic, but I do enjoy a good musical.  Our local little theatre, IPAL (Iberia Performing Arts League) is in its production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.  I attended  the matinee on Sunday afternoon.

IPAL has a reputation for producing top-notch musicals, and this year’s is one of the best.  It wasn’t just the singing that was good (it was!) or the orchestra’s sound (amazing!) or the choreography (spot on!), it was the coming together of a team of actors to create a most entertaining experience.  I laughed until I cried!

Scene after scene, the play drew me in.  IPAL is not called “Broadway on the Bayou” for no reason.  These volunteers who practiced night after night delivered, and made me feel I was right there with them on stage.  I was glad, however, that I was not chosen from the audience to try a bend and snap, but the precious twenty-something next to me was.

You know that a play has totally drawn in the audience when the main character Elle is proposed to by the jerk ex-boyfriend, someone yells, “No!”

All of the acting was good, but I was impressed with how Katelyn, who played Elle, handled the transformation from a giddy sorority girl to a serious lawyer seamlessly.

You should make time this weekend to attend IPAL’s Legally Blonde.  Even if they publicly announce they are sold out, there are often seats available.  I know this first hand because my ticket on Sunday was apparently for March 24th, but they had a ticket they could trade with me.

Musical theatre in a small town can surprise and entertain you and make you proud to be from Da’ Berry.

Curtain call for Legally Blonde, the Musical.

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Professor Bishop has been living in my husband’s closet for close to 13 years.  Our retired diocesan bishop, Willis Henton, died in February of 2006, and Jeff was in charge of his succession.  One day the new owners of Bishop Henton’s home called Jeff about a portrait in the shed.

Jeff called the son of Bishop Henton who was living in Texas.  The son said that it was an academic portrait of David Bishop, father of Martha Bishop Henton and chairman of the English Department at the University of Mississippi. The family had disliked the portrait so much they had it replaced. The original portrait was the one exiled to the shed. The Henton’s son told Jeff to throw the portrait away, but Jeff couldn’t bring himself to do that.  He put it in his closet.

Last week an artist stayed with us during her participation in the Shadows Plein Air competition.  Low and behold, she was from Oxford, MS, the original home of the portrait.  Some years ago, Jeff had discovered that the owner of an independent bookstore in Oxford was the grandson of Professor Bishop, so he contacted him about the portrait and promised that we would one day travel there and deliver Professor Bishop to him. Alas, that trip never happened.

However, Debbie was more than happy to deliver the portrait for us.  Jeff spent the morning on Saturday reframing (Mr. Bishop had fallen out of the frame) and packaging him up for the long drive to Oxford.

Jeff mentioned the new space in his closet.  We kind of miss that old man already, but we are happy he is on his way back to his family.  We still hope to visit Oxford some day to check out Square Books and visit Professor Bishop and our new artist friend.

Jeff proudly holds Professor Bishop after reframing him.

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On Saturday, the Shadows Plein Air Competition hosted a Quick Draw.  Charlie (my dog) and I walked downtown to stalk  talk with some of the artists.

Sherri Thomas (@sherrithomas.artist) from Larsen, Wisconsin was painting the historical Mount Carmel which had been the original home of a founding family, the Duperiers.  Her first layer of paint was drying in the cool air while she added detail elements.

My walk continued and wherever there was an artist, I stopped and chatted with them.  I thanked them for coming and doing something so positive for our city.  I texted our visiting artist, Debbie, to find out where she was painting.  Her sister had come in Friday night, so they could paint together.  (This Saturday competition was open to anyone who wanted to participate; whereas, the weeklong competition was juried.)

Debbie and Sandy were on a corner with two other artists all painting the same building.  I had to stop and look and let the scene sink in.  I pass this building daily and have only thought of it as an old, dilapidated building where the Minuteman restores furniture. I had not noticed the amazing colors of the bricks or the blue doors.  I captured three of the four artists’ paintings and marvel at the complete differences in interpretation.

Debbi Myers from Oxford, MS works in watercolor.

Sandy, Debbie’s sister from Covington, LA works with acrylic and a pallet knife.

Tim Oliver won first place for his Minuteman in watercolor.

A closer view of the winning painting.

Like art, writing can take on different perspectives and interpretations.  The artist creates a mood with the setting.  The writer sets a tone.  The reader comes to the art or writing with their own perspective.  There’s big magic in all of this creating and observing.

My life is richer for having observed these artists in action, and now, I have a few pieces added to my own art collection to remember fondly this experience and the artists I met.

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Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Mother’s Milk

I woke up on the Earth today
planted my two feet
in the soil
of warm slippers
dragged them forward
to the kitchen
opened a new carton of milk
poured forth into the mug,
not my favorite today;
that one is dirty
because it’s Saturday
and the rain is still falling,
the dog wants to play ball
Milk in the green mug–
a gift from a student–
heated and frothed,
sweetened with raw sugar,
still and waiting
for the coffee to brew,
the sound of steam pumping
through grains of sand,
like time
Time slows
on Saturday morning,
and milk burns my tongue
I am mindful
of each movement,
my feet, my hands,
my tongue, my voice
on Saturday morning

(draft) Margaret Simon

Process notes: I sat down to write with my cup of coffee beside me and the idea of “mother’s milk” from Laura Shovan’s daily prompt on Facebook.  This prompt came from Ann Haman. I read Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s Poetry Friday title “A Poem for the Earth.” So the words milk and earth were sitting with me and my cup of coffee.  The rest flowed out of me.  That’s how poetry happens sometimes.  I usually write them and let them sit and go back later to see if any of it makes sense.  This time I just copied and pasted.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

“Today is Pi Day,” My husband greeted me Thursday morning.

“Oh, no!  I forgot.  I always like to do something for Pi Day.”

“I know that. That’s why I’m telling you.”

So once again, flying by the seat of my 31 years of experience, I opened up our class time together with “Guess what today is?”

Some kids knew, but didn’t know why.  I wrote on the board, “Pie Day or Pi Day?”

We discussed the meaning of Pi, the irrational number 3.14 and so on, and the relationship between diameter and circumference of a circle.

Then we got to the fun part.  Each student chose a piece of colored paper, and we brainstormed ways to make a perfect circle.  Then the hunt for possible patterns- the pencil cup, my coffee cup, the lid of a game.  Kaia suggested using a paper clip.  If I had once known how to draw a circle with a paper clip, I had forgotten.

Place a pencil inside one end of a large paper clip. Hold the pencil point in place on this sheet of paper. Place another pencil inside the other end of the paper clip. Ask your helper to hold your paper still while you draw a circle by moving the second pencil.

I asked the students to use their imagination to create something with the circle and use it as the topic for their Pi-Ku.  A Pi-ku takes on the syllable count of Pi, 3.14159….

While we didn’t produce great poetry, we did have a good time playing with circles, wacky drawings, and syllable counts.

I combined this activity with the daily poetry prompt in Laura Shovan’s poetry project.  The prompt for Thursday was honey.

My honey sweet
Pouring all you have
Into joy-light for my morning cup.

Karson’s elephant Pi-Ku:

cabbage and trees.

Karson, 4th grade

Jump! You feel
You hear music,
bird. You think nothing lives
Tweet, a moon bird singing is soothing.
by Landon, 5th grade

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“Our” artist arrived on Saturday.  From Oxford, Mississippi, Debbie is staying with us all week while she competes in the Shadows Plein Air Painting Competition. We were at ease immediately.

Debbie Myers was the only one of her art group of four to be accepted into the Shadows Plein Air Painting Competition.  But she would be the last to tell you that it’s because she was the best.  Debbie is a humble artist, even though she has been practicing all her life.

I feel such a sense of joy and wonder seeing the paintings she does each day.

Our Grandmother oak by Debbie Myers.

This competition reminds me of the Slice of Life Challenge.  It’s a daily challenge to get something down on paper each day.  And sometimes you don’t know when you start what you will end up with.  I am thankful the the SOLC is not a competition, though.

Competitions have their place, but I have watched Debbie’s stress level rise as the week goes on.  Today she has to complete and frame all her paintings for the judging.

To me, her paintings are winners. I’m confident, too, that she has grown as an artist.  She’s certainly become a new friend.

Church Alley, Downtown New Iberia.

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Baker’s dozen wood duck eggs!

“There is motion at your wood duck house.”

It comes as an alert on my phone.  I can’t help but look.

Two weeks ago, we set up the wood duck house that my husband had made.  The next day a hen came.

We placed a Ring doorbell camera on the roof of the house, so anytime there is motion, the device records a video and sends it to my phone.  Incredible technology!

Incredible nature!

I marvel at how this bird knows exactly what to do.  For the last two weeks, she has come into the house daily.  In the morning, she flies in, rearranges the furniture, and lays a few eggs.  Then she leaves.

I’ve watched each day, and if she didn’t cover them up with the shavings, I can count the eggs.  The count approached a dozen.

I’ve been posting updates to my Instagram and Facebook accounts.  I wrote the first post about the house here.

Last night as we were having dinner, my phone buzzed.  This was unusual to get an alert at night.  And the alerts continued.

The wood duck hen came in at 7:09 last night, and she’s still there!

Now we count 29-31 days to hatching.  But the big day is the day after hatching when the baby ducklings climb up the side of the box and JUMP!  If it’s a school day, I will have to call in sick.

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Happy Book Birthday to In the Middle of the Night by Laura Purdie Salas!

I met Laura a few years ago at NCTE and have followed her ever since.  She is gentle, kind, and generous, everything a children’s poet should be.  I am inspired by her every week on her blog.  On Thursdays she posts an image with an invitation to write a 15 words or less poem. It’s a great space to show up in each week to read other poems and interact with the children’s poetry online community.

Laura is also a pretty awesome presenter.  In November, 2018, we presented together on a panel at NCTE, Writing Poetry in the Wild.  Here’s a link to the slides.

In her presentation, Laura encouraged us to look around and write about what we see.  Well, that’s not exactly what she did to write this latest book.  In the Middle of the Night requires more than just observation; it requires an imagination.  The poems are all written in the point of view of some object doing something during the night.

Twenty-six poems share the wild adventures that toys, food, and other household objects have at night while you sleep. Everything from stuffed animals to clothing to writing utensils comes to life under the cover of night. An overdue library book searches for the perfect place to hide. A paper clip skydives with a tissue parachute. A fruit snack unrolls to create a tricky racetrack for toy cars. Come sneak away for some moonlit adventures!

In my class, I wanted my students to experience this fun idea and Laura’s poetry. From the Table of Contents, my students selected a few poems they wanted to hear. I always start with “What do you notice?”  They noticed that the poems were written in first person (Cha-Ching! for that concept), and I reminded them that they are called mask poems.  They noticed rhyming and rhythm patterns.  With a little more prodding, they found alliteration and imagery.

In addition to working on close reading skills with poetry, we stretched our writing muscles.  We used this activity sheet from Laura to write our own poems.

Laura has a Padlet for contributors’ poems here. We placed links on the Padlet to our Kidblog site.  If you have a minute, stop by and place comments for my kids.

Made with Padlet

Click here to go to Laura’s web page.

Monday, 3/11           Mile High Reading

Tuesday, 3/12           Reflections on the Teche

Wednesday, 3/13    Poetrepository

Thursday, 3/14        Check It Out

Friday, 3/15              Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Sunday, 3/17             Great Kid Books

Monday, 3/18           Simply 7 Interview/Jena Benton blog

Tuesday, 3/19          My Juicy Little Universe

Wednesday, 3/20   Live Your Poem

Thursday, 3/21         Reading to the Core

Friday, 3/22              KidLit Frenzy

                                    Beyond Literacy Link

In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Angela Matteson
Publisher: Wordsong (3/12/19)
ISBN: 978-1620916308

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