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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Early in the first days of the pandemic, people were posting about cleaning out closets. At the time, my attention was on my students, my family, and the gorgeous spring we were having. I did Zoom meetings and made videos outside. I was fulfilled. Not at all bored. And couldn’t imagine why I should clean out anything.

But here we are 5 months in, and the weather has turned to mush: wet, hot, and humid. Going outside you risk all sorts of maladies, mosquito bites, dehydration, etc. So now I have turned to the closets.

I am not sure why we humans hold on to so much stuff. I’ve been looking at everything from photos to Christmas ornaments to baby stuff. The cleaning is cleansing. I’m also creating a room just for the grandkids. With show tunes in the background, this process has been rewarding and fun.

Speaking with my writing group last night, we are all making our way through with a variety of diversions. Heidi is making playful poems using magazine cut-outs. Check out her post here.

Molly started a new hashtag on Twitter. #poeticdiversion I posted this photo and poem that captures the beauty of resurrection fern after the rain. I never get enough of this miracle.

All day rain
Brightens green
Resurrection

What are your diversions? How are you coping? Consider joining in with poetry. #moreplay #magazineticpoetry #makesomething #poeticdiversion

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

The greatest joy of my summer has been spending time with my grandsons. Leo is 19 months and is learning new words every day. One of his words is “bird” that sounds more like “bir,” and he has the cutest tweet sound.

In our courtyard, I’ve been working on attracting more birds. We’ve hung a few feeders. We have chickadees, titmice, and cardinals visit. Leo has noticed them. He will stop what he’s doing to look up at the sound of a chickadee.

It was time to change the suet feeder. I wanted to involve Leo, so I googled “DIY bird feeder for kids.” This video popped up.

I wondered if the recipe would work using the wire suet feeder rather than cookie cutters.

Easy peasy and great for toddler time. I boiled a quarter cup of water in the microwave and added it to a large metal bowl along with one packet of gelatin. Leo understands the concept of hot. He said, “Hah. Hah.” I gave him a wooden spoon to stir with. After stirring the gelatin, I held a measuring cup of bird seed (about a cup) while Leo scooped the seed using an ice cream scooper.

Leo focused on stirring and scooping.

With the metal frame on a baking sheet, I scooped the mixture in ready to wait and let it harden. When I took Leo off the chair he was standing on, he immediately screamed “more! more!” while making the more sign. It’s the only sign he knows, but it’s an important one. So, we did another batch. Why not! The metal frame was big enough to hold two batches.

I am amazed that, with heat indexes in the 100s, the mixture is holding up, not melting. I sent Leo (his mom) a picture I took looking out the kitchen window of a male cardinal perched on the feeder.

Cardinal at the feeder.

While the news is bleak, let’s remember the simple joy of watching birds. “Bir! Bir! Tweet! Tweet!”

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Before leaving my students for the year, I offered an assignment from Scholastic Magazines, the My History Project. We spent a Google Meet session looking at Animoto for creating interesting videos.

I knew this project would be a difficult endeavor without me overseeing and coaching the process. I honestly didn’t think any of them would take the time to pursue it.

You are a part of history.
You are living through an important and unique time in history—the COVID-19 pandemic. Years from now, historians will learn from the experiences of people who went through it—people like you and your family.

Lauren Tarshis, Scholastic

The projects were due to Scholastic by July 1st. I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email from Chloe’s mom with a link to her completed video. I’m excited to share it with you. I love how Chloe used equations “Laura Purdie Salas-style” to communicate a lot with few words. Please share comments to Chloe here, and I will pass them on to her.

My History by Chloe, 2020

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

My milkweed/monarch journey began a little more than a year ago in a school garden. There I met Meadow. (Yes, Meadow is the name of a naturalist in our area.) She taught me about capturing monarch caterpillars and caring for them through emergence to a butterfly. (Slice of Life post here.)

I wanted some host plants of my own, so I took cuttings from the garden and planted them in a flower bed. This spring while sheltering at home, I was able to nurture caterpillars on my screen porch.

In May, I was visiting a friend, safely distanced in her backyard, and she gave me a few milkweed seed pods. I had no idea how to cultivate them, but I planted them in two pots of potting soil and kept them watered.

Milkweed seed pods

A miracle of Mother Nature, the seeds sprouted. I had 42 little seedlings about 3 inches high. I could have taken a few and planted them in my flower bed, but what about all the others? I couldn’t bear the thought of letting them die.

I ordered some cheap plastic pots on Amazon, and planted each little sprout. Putting out a call on Facebook, I had some takers. The surprising part for me was how excited the receivers were. And how welcomed the visits!

On Sunday, Sisters Sarah and Emily came by to “rescue” some seedlings. I taught Emily in elementary school. She is now headed to 10th grade, so it was great to see her. (Oh, how I just wanted to hug her!)

Mary and Brittany arrived at the same time, donning masks and staying distanced. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other in a more intimate way than Facebook allows.

On Monday, I delivered seedlings to some friends and took a walk through a beautiful backyard and met a new grandbaby.

This morning, I noticed an opened seed pod on one of my milkweed plants. The cycle continues…

Milkweed seed pod

Milkweed seeds provide life for the butterfly and hope for this lonely planet, as well as Joy to this lonely planter.

Notice the green seed pods on the milkweed plant.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

What is Peace?

Watching the birds on a spring morning because you are home
and not busy?

Folding paper into an origami crane?

Holding a baby as he tries to stand alone?

Crying when you watch the news?

Making a sign for a march?

Praying in a small church wearing masks, no hugs for passing peace?

Packing boxes of food to give to anyone who drives by?

Is it ever enough?

When will we know?

These cranes will become part of a senbazuru (group of 1000 paper cranes) for display in Lafayette, LA.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

There’s a part of me that is afraid to write. I’m afraid to get it wrong. But writing nothing doesn’t feel right, either. So, when I read the daily email from the New York Times, I found a poem of voices from the protestors.

In every city, there’s a George Floyd–
my father, my brother, my cousin, my friend–
I speak for everybody
beaten up. If we don’t fight
for change, we’re not going to get it.
I took six rubber bullets, but
no one kneeled on my neck.
I came out peacefully
to show my support,
Yeah, it’s really like that.

Margaret Simon, found poem from New York Times June 2, 2020

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Taking a morning walk every day seems a mundane task. It’s exercise, yes, but so much more. Walking is my daily therapy.

This last week, I’ve been walking with a stroller. My daughter is home with her 8 month old while her husband works off-shore. She needs help with the baby while she works from home. We love having them here.

While walking, I stop to chat with neighbors. People are in less of a hurry, and it shows in the way we linger in the shade and talk about the weather, the baby’s eyes, or how we are faring in the pandemic.

While walking, I stop to check on my neighbor’s century plant, now in full bloom. This plant has been in the process of blooming for ten weeks. It has been a source of wonder and hope for all who have seen it. These plants bloom once in their lifetime. After blooming, it dies. I posted it in April for “This Photo wants to be a Poem.”

Century plant in full bloom.

While walking, I discover Sesame Street songs. When Thomas gets fussy, the best antidote is Elmo. I didn’t know how many popular musicians have done songs with Elmo, Dave Marshall, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Adam Sandler, and many more. Even after he’s asleep, I keep listening. The songs are uplifting and catchy.

While walking, I may catch a poem of presence.

Morning walk with stroller
Elmo’s song La la la
la’s him to sleep.

Margaret Simon, draft

There are some wonderful #poemsofpresence on Twitter. Consider joining us. What mundane task is keeping you going these days?

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

My feelings are all over the place. Starting the day later because I can sleep longer wakes me rested, ready. A walk outside on a perfect spring morning energizes. But then the weight of all that is different, all that is not happening, not normal comes with cleaning out a classroom or picking up items at the store or watching the news.

Poetry helps me cope. In my email inbox, on my Instagram feed, or on the bedside table, I can find a poem that soothes, comforts, or inspires me.

On Twitter this month, a group of us teacher-poets are writing #Poemsof Presence. These poems capture a single moment in time. They honor the present without regard or worry over the future or past. I can find connection and hope in this task. If you are a poem dabbler, join us.

This poem by ADA LIMÓN has come across my path a few times. Today from Gratefulness.org. I love how the title Instructions on Not Giving Up tells me what she wants me to learn from nature. And the poem fills me with a beautiful image.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. 

Ada Limon, read the rest of the poem here.

Milkweed seeds
Release on silken wings
Like the butterflies they nourish.

Margaret Simon, #poemsofpresence

A little lagniappe of beauty in this video of a monarch butterfly swarm.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

On Friday, Michelle Heindrich Barnes lovingly posted an interview with me over at Today’s Little Ditty. With her Reader’s Spotlights, she asks us to prompt a writing challenge. I wrote this challenge:

The practice of writing poetry is an exercise in mindfulness. To be open to the universe of words and to put them down on a page is nothing short of a miracle.  Mary Oliver said, “There is no nothingness—With these little atoms that run around too little for us to see. But, put together, they make something. And that to me is a miracle. Where it came from, I don’t know. But it’s a miracle, and I think it’s enough to keep a person afloat.”

Write a mindful poem about the present moment.

To my pleasant surprise, Heidi Mordhorst and Mary Lee Hahn created a Twitter hashtag #PoemsofPresence to invite poets to write a small poem every day in May. The idea has gathered some following. Michelle created a graphic.

Please consider joining us on Twitter this month, writing a daily “in-the-moment” poem. https://twitter.com/hashtag/PoemsofPresence

The last of my monarch chrysalises emerged. Last week, I successfully released 7 new monarchs into the sky. My friend and neighbor, who is also a teacher and a photographer, asked to come over to photograph a release. Here’s one of her amazing photos.

Photo by Lory Landry

Monarch Release

Fly, friend, fly!
while I walk and walk
watching your wings
glow like the sunset.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Even before we were sheltering in our homes, I enjoyed making connections over cyberspace. Teacher-poet-writer Fran Haley is one of those connections. We read each other. Yesterday she wrote a beautiful blog post “Ode to the Wind.” In that post she wrote about a tweet from Robert MacFarlane with the word of the day: susurrate.

Word of the day: “susurrate”—to whisper, murmur, esp. of noise produced by numerous individual sources of sound (bees humming, leaves rustling, etc.) Compare to “psithurism,” its similarly sibilant sense-sibling, meaning the whispering of wind in trees (from Ancient Greek).

Susurrate was a new word to me when I read MacFarlane’s most amazing, beautiful book the lost words: A Spell Book. A friend who knows I love words and poetry loaned it to me. I presented the first few poems to my students. The last stanza of the second poem “adder” reads:

Rustle of grass, sudden susurrus, what
the eye misses:
For adder is as adder hisses.

Robert MacFarlane, the lost words

Reading Fran’s post, I remembered that I had written a definito to the word. The definito is a form created by my friend, teacher-poet Heidi Mordhorst. “The definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common, often abstract word, which always ends the poem.

I love this form for working with the meaning of a new word in a way that helps someone else understand the word.

As murmur is to whisper
a mutter to a babble
When grumbles turn to mumbles
and a purr softens sound
As whisper is to wind
a sigh of the weather
As a hum is to a hummingbird
flying quickly to a flower
You may hear something
close to silence…susurration. 

Photo by Philippe Donn from Pexels

The Progressive Poem is coming to the end. Today Donna Smith is hosting Jessica Bigi’s contribution.

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