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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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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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Sculpture by John F. Simon, “Moment of Release”

The empty calendar of my summer has filled up leaving less time for writing. The cure for not getting exercise is to sign up for a class. So the cure for my lack of time to write was to sign up for a class.

At a local museum, The Hilliard, my friend Clare was offering a 3 hour writing workshop. I know from experience with Clare that she offers lots of empty space for real writing. We discussed our writing practices and our familiarity with ekphrastic writing (writing to an image). Then she sent us into the museum to the show of John F. Simon’s work.

I was immediately drawn to the piece in the photo above. It’s large, probably 5-6 feet across by 3-4 feet in width. The title of the work is Moment of Release. I love how the title really doesn’t dictate the interpretation. I gave in to this freedom to explore and released a poem.

Moment of Release

This collection
of energy
stored and sealed
into a protective sheaf
will one day open
the well
spilling contents
of a life–
rain it down
like a delta flood
releasing
to a renewable
Source.

Margaret Simon, (c) 2019

My advice to you is don’t wait for a workshop. Grab a writing buddy and head out to the nearest museum or gallery. If you take pictures, ask permission first. Gather words, images, sounds on the page to transform into a poem or prose. The poem I shared is only one of four I wrote in the hour we were given. I plan to give myself permission to take another artist date this summer. What about you?

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Last week I wrote about nesting, a Carolina wren nest in the school garden and our wood duck box. School is out today, but on Thursday last week, one of my students and I went out to check on the garden. It had become a Thursday thing.

A group of sixth graders were there. I didn’t want to alert them to the bird nest. I thought I was keeping it safe from the spirited group. Kaia and I thought it was “our little secret.”

I have to admit now that I know nothing about nature. I keep trying to learn, and this visit was a hard lesson. I had my phone with me and wanted to get a video of the little nestlings. I climbed up on the wooden box and reached my arm into the twisted vine where the nest was burrowed. “No video for you!” the mother bird quickly let me know with a few knocks to my head.

I screamed! And ran! Luckily, the group of 6th graders were long gone, so Kaia was the only witness. We sat for a while at the picnic table, so I could gather my wits again. Needless to say, the nesting ground is sacred. I will be more respectful in the future.

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Carolina wren nest in the school garden.

It’s that time of year. Yes, we are in the last week of school and instead of nesting, I am de-nesting, if that’s even a word, but in the natural world, it is nesting time.

Out in the school garden, we were planting sister seeds, sunflowers and beans. Our garden sponsor explained that while the stalk of the sunflower is thick and tall, the beans grow on a thin vine that will wrap around the sunflower stalk. They help each other. I love this and was anxious to get our seeds into pots for my students to take home for the summer.

There is a thick vine growing in the garden, a perfect hiding place for a nest. I heard little peeps and climbed on a bench style storage box to see a bird sitting on a nest. I scared her off and there were baby birds wide-mouthed and featherless in the nest.

I wasn’t sure what kind of bird it was, so I sent my students on a Google search to find it. We think she is a Carolina wren. There is something so marvelous and hopeful about a nest of baby birds.

If you’ve been following the wood duck drama, you know that we now have another clutch of eggs. The first clutch of eggs this spring, we believe, got too cold and died. We cleaned out the nesting box on Easter Sunday. Last week amidst end of the year activities, field trip and splash day, I didn’t check the doorbell camera much. (We mounted a doorbell camera on the roof of the house and can monitor the activity inside.) On Friday night as I was settling in bed, I heard an alert on my phone. It’s unusual for the female to go into the box at night. Unless there are eggs!

I was so excited to see that she had been busy all week laying a new clutch of eggs. She’s been sitting on them every night since. Yesterday she spent the whole day in the house. I think it’s safe to start counting the days. These eggs should hatch around June 16th. Fingers crossed. Prayers said.

Wood duck hen in a nesting box.

On Twitter last week, Amy VanDerwater tweeted an article from the New York Times about the devastation of climate change and the things we can do. In my small corner of the world, I am nurturing these nesting birds and am holding onto a bit of hope for the world.

And I can remind myself, all day long every day, that there’s a difference between doing something and doing nothing. That “something,” small as it might seem, is not “nothing.” The space between them is far apart, limitless stretching distances apart. It’s the difference between a heartbeat and silence.

Margaret Rinkle, Surviving Despair in the Great Extinction, May 13, 2019

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In May the flowers appear and the end of the school year rushes up like the ground when a plane is landing. The fears and doubts niggle at you. Have I done enough? Have I reached who I needed to reach? The beauty and curse of it is that you have, and you will also never know. The moments that mattered most to others are rarely the ones we remember. The encouragement and guidance teachers give moment to moment is as unconscious as breathing. And students will go on just living their lives, holding on to a moment or two of encouragement from you that you’ve missed in the midst.

Brenda Power, Choice Literacy, May 10, 2019

I walk past the countdown every day.  10 more days of school.  One of my students asked me last week if I would put a countdown on the board, and I told her, “I don’t like countdowns. It’s just a reminder that I am going to miss you.”

There are so many things to do in May.  Paperwork, cleaning, packing… I’m not into it.

Don’t get me wrong, once summer is here, I’ll be enjoying sleeping in, reading a good book, visiting my parents in Mississippi, and walks with Charlie.  This summer I have the added benefit of time with my new grandson.  All that is good, but I wish we didn’t have to go through May to get there.

In May, I question if I’ve done enough.

In May, I wonder who will watch out for my students’ reading and writing growth over the summer.

In May, I feel a sense of losing my grip.  Slip-sliding to the end.

My friend Christina Nosek of Literacy Learning is doing a blog series on the last 20 days, about how she is making learning happen each and every day.  I admire this.  I envy her self-contained classroom.  With my itinerant status, I am never quite sure who will show up for class in the last weeks of school.  There are a multitude of field trips and special days, and I’m often left out of the loop.

What I do know is that whoever shows up will read and write their way to the last day, with a few learning games thrown in. We will celebrate the reading we’ve done, write final blog posts, and plan for our summer reading.  We will say goodbye, but many of my students I will teach again next year (the plus side of pull-out gifted).

May is here.  I must face it.  Head up.  No crying. Hugs all around.

May Day Flowers

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What a wonderful month full of poetry love!  Looking back over the month, I wrote 28 posts. The thing is to write one poem worthy of publishing on this blog, I had to write more than one poem a day.  Some will stay buried in my notebook.

Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for inviting me to play along with her this month.  I’ve enjoyed sharing this playtime with Christie, Molly, Jone, and Elisabeth.

One of the perks of my teaching job is I get to write poetry every day with my students, too.  They’ve been working on a poetry project that included writing at least 5 poems and reading a poetry book.  We were immersed in poetry, between testing sessions, that is. You can read their poems at our kidblog site. 

Last night I participated in the #NYED Twitter Chat.  If you have a chance, check out the hashtag.  I made a Padlet of resources to use throughout the year.  It’s public and open for comments and additions.

The Progressive Poem is complete! I am so amazed at the talents of Donna Smith who pulled out a “found” ending and actually put the song to music.  Check it out! 

Another exciting part of this month was being a featured poet-teacher on Today’s Little Ditty.  Being among these poets was an honor: Classroom Connections. 

When you walk in poetry every day, everything becomes a poem.  This morning on my walk I dictated this poem.  The air was sweet with the scent of jasmine, gardenia, and magnolia.  The scents of the southern landscape energize and inspire me.  What do you see, hear, smell while walking?  Make each step into a poem.

Breathe the jasmine air.
Rest in Love,
the love that created you
as perfect as
a star blossom
on the vine of the world.
-Margaret Simon, draft 2019

 

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If you’ve been following our wood duck house, there is sad news.  None of the eggs hatched.  After nearly 40 days, we thought it was time to give up, even though the hen was still sitting on them.  What do you do with such a life lesson?  Write a poem about it.

Nature can be a cruel teacher.
Eggs in a nest box,
how a silly duck hen

will sit for days and days.
Could she smell the rotting?
Did she see the gray shadow growing

cold? Some days nature is so violent
whole trees fall.  They block the road.
They tell us we don’t belong.

Why on earth are we all here?
When birth is so random,
so dependent on the stars

sprinkling miracle dust,
declaring life.
Not today.  When we take the eggs

out of the box, I forget to count.
Toss them into the water,
an afternoon snack for an evil snake

grabbing anything it can for survival.
Survival is not for everything
God makes. Some days

you just have to clean out the box,
add new shavings in,
Begin again.

— Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

 

 

 

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