Archive for July, 2019

I am gathering Spiritual Journey first Thursday posts. Scroll down to link up.

Sometimes I marvel at how things do not change. I wake up at the same time every morning, make coffee, feed the dog and cats, read my email, check Facebook…routines that keep me grounded and moving forward.

But the truth of life is change. Nothing really stays the same.

We age.
We lose.
We gain.
We grow.
We change.

Some changes bring new life. I have had the privilege this summer to share in the care of my sweet grandson, Leo. Now he can sit up. He eats mushy food. He squeals and grunts and interacts with me. I especially love how he grins and hums when I sing to him. Pure love. The changes we watch are marvelous and miraculous.

I never get too many Leo kisses.

Some changes are harder. My parents are aging. I’ve tried to deny this for years, but when they made the decision to move to a retirement home, I had to face it. This was the best place for them to be. Their health remains, and I am grateful for it.

My school year begins next week. There will be changes, new students, a new school to go to, new classrooms, but part of the excitement over beginning a school year is living into the changes and celebrating them.

Over the last few weeks, I watched black swallowtail caterpillars eat a lot of parsley and grow. Then they sat dormant in a strangely shaped chrysalis. Each one emerged as a complete and beautiful butterfly that I released into the air. The life cycle of a butterfly never ceases to amaze me.

There are changes we can see and some that hide inside a chrysalis emerging later, surprising us again and again. When I keep my faith centered on Love, I can accept change with peace and understanding.

Posing with my daughter Katherine,
whose womb holds another beautiful butterfly baby to love. (due date Sept. 5)

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Earlier this summer I traveled back and forth three times to help clean out my parents’ lakeside home in Mississippi. I wrote about the sadness over leaving the home that has been a summer sanctuary for me in a slice a few weeks ago.

What I haven’t written about are the treasures we found. My parents had no recollection that my godmother’s estate had come to them. It was all buried in a brown envelope in a desk drawer in their bedroom. I had resolved to look at everything in the house and decide if it was to keep, to trash, or to sell. When I opened the envelope with the simple label “Hollingsworth,” I didn’t know what I would find.

It’s been years since my godmother died. I barely remember a visit to her when I was a teenager. I was afraid of her because of her age and her suffering. I never knew her as a healthy person, but I dearly loved her son. Bill was my father’s best friend and lived as a monk in Covington, Louisiana. He was small in stature but big in personality. He died in December, 2015. I miss visits with him.

My parents gave me a sculpture my godmother Jane had made and some sketches of her that her husband, William Hollingsworth, had drawn. But I knew nothing of the jewelry she left behind.

The most charming item of jewelry was a pearl ring. And it fit me perfectly. Pearls are one of my signature jewels because the name Margaret means “pearl.” Seems meant to be.

Another treasure I brought home with me was the portrait of my maternal grandmother. Again someone I didn’t know. She was Margaret Shields Liles, and she died three months before I was born. As I was named for her, the portrait passed to me. It was painted in 1943 when my mother was 7 years old. My mother remembers traveling to Memphis to have it done. I grew up with this image hanging first in my grandfather’s house, then in ours. The angel in a white dress cradling her violin became my guardian angel. Now, she hangs beautifully in my dining room.

Portrait of Margaret Shields Liles, 1943.

There is a feeling of loss with these treasures. The wonderful women I never knew feel like a part of me in some small way. The passing of a legacy, a history. Treasures lost; treasures found.

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Poetry Friday round-up is here! Scroll down to link up.

Laura Purdie Salas started a sharing group on Facebook around the journal companion to Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. One of the exercises asks you to steal a title to create your own story.

I recently attended an art show for my friend and SCBWI colleague, Denise Gallagher. The title of her show was “A Teaspoon and a Bit of String.” She is currently involved in an ArtSpark grant for her upcoming middle grade fairy tale. This is her title illustration.

A Teaspoon and a Bit of String by Denise Gallagher

I stole (like an artist) this title to write a poem. For a few weeks this summer I was cleaning out my parents’ home. They moved to a retirement home. I found treasures as I whittled through drawers and closets. A teaspoon and a bit of string fit just right.

A Teaspoon and a Bit of String*

We live in shared spaces
thirty years or more
storing things away
for someday
when you need
a bit of string.

Tie it to your shoelace
or round a simple gift.
Hand it to your lover
to remember you with.

Down in the abyss
of the silverware drawer,
a teaspoon speaks
of years of sugar
perhaps the purple medicine
to calm a cough.

I tuck this teaspoon
into days-old news
tie with a bit of string
and carry it with me
into next time.

(c) Margaret Simon
*title from Denise Gallagher

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Carol’s Corner
Anhinga by Michelle Kogan

Who knew the anhinga could be a beautiful bird, but through the artistic eyes of Michelle Kogan, it is. I love this painting she sent me for the Summer Poetry Swap (organized by Tabatha Yeats). And she wrote a poem dispelling the myth that this is a “devil bird.”

poem and art by Michelle Kogan


Devil bird–
Not I, look in my
eyes. I’ll wait
while wings dry, for kindness to
cleanse rumors and lies.

Michelle Kogan (c) 2019

Kindness cleanses me with this wonderful poem. We look at nature and can see ugliness or beauty. We can find danger or kindness. Michelle reminds me that rumors and lies are not real; they are on the surface. When we look deeper, we find beauty and kindness. It’s there.

Thanks, Michelle, for this wonderful gift of art and poetry. Check out her work here: www.michellekogan.com, www.moreart4all.wordpress.com, www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com.

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As I sit down to write this, there are 5 electric service trucks outside on my street and in my neighbor’s driveway. Hurricane Barry powered through over the weekend and took out a few branches. Nature’s way of tree trimming, but unfortunately, one of those limbs took out a transformer. We were only without power for 24 hours and thanks to a trusty, industrial generator, we didn’t suffer much. The guys working on the poles, clearing out the downed wires, and restoring electricity are heroes in my book. Many are not even from our area. They made the sacrifice to travel here in the wake of a major storm. We are grateful.

This summer my life has been busy in a different way from previous summers, no teacher workshops, no writing retreats, no foreign travel. I have not sliced in weeks because the topic feels too big for a small slice.

My parents moved to a retirement home. This is good news for many reasons. They made the decision on their own, and they are now in a place that feeds them good meals with a built in social life.

What needed to be addressed was the house they lived in for 29 years. This was not the home of my childhood, but it is the home of my children’s childhood. It was a place I took them to be loved. The house was on a lake where sunsets were glorious. My brother took my girls fishing on the dock. I watched herons and egrets and white pelicans. Sitting on the swing on the back porch was a favorite spot. Many family photos were staged there.

I’ve visited my parents every summer, so I looked back to blog posts written there. Here is a poem I wrote the summer of 2015.

Sometimes on the lake in June
white pelicans fly in together
and I get out the camera.
Then they turn as a drum line in step,
swim away swiftly in a cloud.

Sometimes on the lake in June
a lone blue heron fishes.
Sly step, long beak held high,
drinking in the sunlight.
A small boat passes by
lines thrown out,
catching nothing.

Sometimes on the lake in June,
I wake before dawn,
put the coffee on,
Sometimes Dad will join me
silent, reading the daily news.
Mom comes in pleased to have fresh coffee.
We sit on the porch, quiet
content to be together
on the lake in June.

(c) Margaret Simon

Sifting through the stuff of a house, the history of a life, is bittersweet. There were treasures to find, memories to share, and things to keep. My daughters and I have all taken things with us, but we will all miss the peacefulness and joy of the house on the lake.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone at Deo Writer.

Each summer I participate in Tabatha’s Summer poetry swap. Poetic gifts coming and going inspire me and uplift me.

My first swap came by way of email from Donna Smith. Donna has been busy selling her house in Maine and moving to Pennsylvania, so snail mail didn’t work for her. The method matters little when you receive a poetry gift. Here’s her poem for me.

poem by Donna Smith, 2019

My second gift was from Kay McGriff. She sent a notebook she had made by hand along with two bookmarks. Her poem for me is a golden shovel from a line I wrote on my blog during National Poetry Month. Both Donna and Kay included images from my life here on the bayou. I appreciate the time they took to read and learn and write a personal poem. We do this in the name of poetry love.

Golden shovel by Kay McGriff

Note about Tropical Storm Barry: Yes, we are in its path. We are ready. Our house is strong, and we have a generator named Sparky. All will be well. Thanks for your concern.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect

It’s Poetry Friday, and I don’t have a post prepared.

I followed links to CLMOOC, a summer gathering of writing project folks to stretch their thinking. Kevin Hodgson writes:

Here in CLMOOC, we’ve always actively pushed back on the “massive”. While MOOCs often were built to scale large, CLMOOC has often comfortably settled into the small. So, this July and August, we invite you to look closer at the world, to find balance with the small scale of things around you.

Kevin Hodgson

Kevin introduced a new term to me, feldgang. A feldgang is slowing down to notice something in a new or different way. This idea fascinates me. Poetry lends itself to feldganging (not sure if that is a real word.)

This morning I am combining feldgang with greenbelt writing, that writing that is wild and unpredictable and possibly of no real worth at all. A first draft of a poem while looking out my kitchen window:

The chickadees come to the feeder
They flitter their tiny bodies
in the trees, and try to stay unnoticed,
like butterflies to a bright flower.

I notice them
and think of this simple act
of feeding the birds,
a small plastic feeder,
some seed from a plastic bag.

I invite these small visitors
to my kitchen window.
I laugh at their tiny tweets.
Begin my day with a lighter step.

Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

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