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Spiritual Journey First Thursday posts are being gathered by Karen.

Spiritual journeys, like life, have their ups and downs. I think I’ve been in a low for a while now, without realizing it. Nothing like a major disaster to come along as a wake up call. God whizzed by and said, “Hey, look what the force of nature can do. Blow off roofs. Shut down power systems. Upend trees. Disrupt our lives. But I’m still here if you need me.”

Karen Eastlund asked us to write about virtue. She sent us a long list of virtues. I have been thinking a lot about Grace. Grace kept us safe from the storm. Grace allows us to be a safe haven for our family. Grace is the virtue that gives freely without asking for anything in return.

My family is filling up my house. It’s usually just me and my husband, dog Charlie, and cats Fancy, Mimi, and Buzz. Today my home includes 4 more adults, 1 toddler, 3 dogs and a cat. My school secretary commented, “Simon Family Zoo.” But I prefer another friend’s comment. He said, “Like Christmas!”

In Grace and with Gratitude, I open my heart and my home to the ones I love. We will get through this and likely become better people.

God, grant me the grace to be the calm in the storm, love in times of trouble, and faith when things look bleak.

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I almost forgot it was Wednesday. Yesterday was the first day of my work week because we had Monday off for Hurricane Ida, which thankfully did not impact us directly. When I walked Tuesday morning, this beautiful cloud led me. I held my phone up high to capture this photo. Clouds always draw my eye, especially ones with the sun within them.

Yesterday there were ten minutes of class left before the bell rang, so I challenged my student in a game of Metaphor Dice. We rolled 3 dice and wrote a poem in one minute (her idea). It was a great way to keep our brains active. I am using a revised version of mine as a small poem today.

Silver lining by Margaret Simon

Metaphor Minute

My birth is like a bright meadow–
like stars on the path to a grand castle,
like diamonds strung on a silver string,
walking in clouds lined with sunbeam.

Margaret Simon, draft

Join me in praising the clouds and the spirit of all things. Leave a small poem in the comments. Support others with encouraging words. Thanks for being here.

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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.

I want to thank all of my readers who were praying for me and all of South Louisiana this weekend as Hurricane Ida invaded our state. We are fine.

A hurricane is an unusual beast of a storm. While it gained strength out in the Gulf, it swirled into a tighter circular cloud with a well-defined eye. That swirl gathered everything into it. As the hurricane entered the state at the tip of the boot (Grand Isle), here in New Iberia (in the arch of the boot) we felt eerily calm weather, light rain and periodic gusts of wind, but not enough to even knock out power. In fact, the weather was really pleasant.

All day on Sunday, we watched and waited. My oldest daughter and her family stayed at our house because we have a good generator. I have to admit, this mamére had a wonderful time with the grandchildren.

My two younger daughters live in New Orleans, and they have evacuated to Florida. Now that Ida has knocked down a major power transmitter, they will be driving to us and staying here for weeks. When I talked to my husband about this, he said, “This is why we’re here.”

We are here to be a safe haven for our children, a calm in the storm. Please continue your prayers for our state. In our gratitude, we can open the doors and welcome whatever comes next.

Grandmother oak watches over us.

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Photo by NASA on Unsplash

What the Hurricane Knows


Hot August oceans churn.
Tornadoes internally spurn
a meteorologist’s concern.

This is what the hurricane knows.

With strength beyond a whale’s tail,
swallow waves into booming gale,
loosen nature’s grip and WAIL!

Margaret Simon, draft

On Friday, I wrote wisdom poems with my students. I couldn’t focus on much except Hurricane Ida heading our way. They also wrote some wonderful wisdom poems linked below.

Adelyn, 3rd grade

Jaden, 6th grade

Katie, 6th grade

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Elisabeth at Unexpected Intersections

For the end of the month Poetry Sisters challenge, Mary Lee posted this call to write deeper wisdom poems in the form of Jane Yolen’s What the Bear Knows. I recall a similar challenge from Michelle Barnes’ interview with Joyce Sidman on Today’s Little Ditty. I used this form in my book Bayou Song to write about the black-crowned night-heron.

(c) Margaret Simon, Bayou Song

photo by Henry Cancienne

To order a copy of Bayou Song: Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape, go to UL Press website.

On this anniversary of Hurricane Laura that devastated Lake Charles, Louisiana last year, we are once again bracing for a storm, Tropical Storm Ida that is predicted to come in around New Orleans as a Category 3 hurricane. We are preparing and watching news closely. Please keep us in your prayers. We know how to do this. I’ll post updates as I am able on Instagram/ Facebook. Thanks!

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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.

We are in our second full week of school, so it’s time to start slicing. I am pleased with the daily routine I’ve started this year with my students. Today, they came in and found their notebooks, opened them up to a clean page, dated it, and waited. Ah, yes. Routine of writing every day is taking hold.

This morning after our quick write, Jaden pointed to Katie’s filled page and said, “She told me she didn’t want to write this morning.” The magic of Linda Rief’s The Quick Write Handbook. Together we have done the first two quick writes in the book, Rambling Autobiography and On Being Asked to Select the Most Memorable Day in My Life. These were great set ups for writing a Slice of Life post on our class blog. (Kidblog has morphed into Fan School and we are not happy.)

I write alongside my students. For the rambling autobiography, Linda Rief suggests using three phrases on their blank page, at the top, middle, and bottom, and write to them. (I was born…, I lied to…, and A friend once told me…)

Rambling Autobiography

I was born under the Perseids meteor showers in a Mississippi torn by racial riots. When I was six, “camping out” in our front yard, we set it on fire, an accident that left me with a fear of fire and deep shame. Our house had the largest oak tree on the whole block. I’ve always imagined my grandmother as my guardian angel. I carry her name with me every day. I lied to my mother about the fire. A friend once told me to trust my gut. I could create a timeline of my life with parentheses of hurricanes.  I secretly like to listen to choral music and sing along the alto part. I once danced with Marilyn Singer’s husband. I’ve won an award for teaching writing but not for writing. 

Margaret Simon, notebook quick write 8/19/21

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at The Apples in my Orchard

I’ve gotten woefully behind in reading a poetry book each day for #TheSealyChallenge, and that’s because school has started. My focus has shifted. So to create a post for today, I sat down with Late Father by Taylor Mali, a gift from Janet Fagel for the summer poem swap. I got lost in the poems that lead us through his life with candor, humor, and grief. Then I googled him and found his website and a link to his Facebook page where I watched a video…In other words, I took too long on this post.

I’ve heard from a few poets that giving the title some of the heavy lifting can be helpful in writing a poem. Irene Latham does this often in This Poem is A Nest. I noticed it in Elizabeth Acevedo’s verse novel The Poet X. (Title: “Another Thing You Think While You’re Kneeling on Rice That Has Nothing to Do with Repentance”) And here it is again in Taylor Mali’s book. Time to pay some attention to this craft move.

From Late Father by Taylor Mali

I’ve Already Worked too Long on this Post

Praise be the poet who,
having written a poem every
day this week, opens her docs
and plops one into a blog post
and calls it Poetry Friday.

She must know that I will read it
again and again and call myself
a faker. Berate the time I spent
watching “Outer Banks” rather
than writing this poem.

(I got this.)

She must know that poetry can be
a playground with a swingset anchored
for cloud viewing–even if now there’s rain–
the memory of a vision is enough
to build a poem on.

LaMiPoFri* by Margaret Simon

*Last minute poetry Friday form coined by Kat Apel.

Dramatic sky view from my school’s parking lot

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The world continues to spin out of control. We feel like we can’t hold on. If it’s not the rise of Covid cases, it’s the earthquake and storm in Haiti. If it’s not the political discord, it’s Afghanistan. There is little we can do, literally.

So let’s turn to this image from our friend-teacher-blogger Ruth Hersey’s. Ruth lives and teaches in Haiti. She made it home safely from a summer trip to the states only to be faced with political upheaval and an earthquake. Ruth is thankfully safe. Every day she posts a photo response to a daily prompt. She posted this beauty on Facebook. It’s an image that speaks of the beauty found in the tragedy. The petals are from the flamboyant tree (poinciana).

Ruth is also posting daily updates about Haiti and organizations that are on the ground doing good work. Check her FB page. For another way to donate to vetted organizations on the ground, click here for CNN’s Haiti Earthquake Relief.

Flamboyant tree by Ruth Hersey

Your flames still burn bright
petals fall, confetti-tears
after the party

Margaret Simon, draft

Write a small poem in the comments. Share encouraging words for other writers. Donate to Haiti, if you are able.

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Today is my 60th birthday. I gasp when I see that. Sixty years is a long time! I share my birthday with two sisters I met right here, connecting through blogging, Linda Mitchell and Julieanne Harmatz. Happy Birthday to you, too!

This week’s photo is a fun one. I found it on Instagram, posted by Trina Bartel, another fellow blogger. She tells me it was taken at Bergsbaken Farms in Wisconsin.

(The photo) is from a sunflower farm in a tiny town in Cecil, WI (NE WI). It’s a huge field of sunflowers that you can visit for a suggested donation of 2 dollars each. There are props (like the bike) that you can take photos with. The bike is on the edge of a huge sunflower field. It is at the entrance. This sunflower farm is about 3-4 years old. I believe it was created as a way to generate money for a struggling family farm.

Trina Bartel (click to follow on Instagram)
Blue bike on Sunflower Farm by Trina Bartel

A bouquet of sunflowers
in a basket just for you
sing “Happy Birthday!”

Margaret Simon, draft

Please join me today by writing a small poem in the comments. Try to respond to others with encouraging words. Thanks for being here. I love you all!

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading.

My writing group is here this week with a new name and a new challenge. Formerly, the Sunday Swaggers, we are now the Inklings. Catherine Flynn challenged us this month to write an Ekphrastic Poem.

From the Poetry Foundation:

Ekphrasis

“Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

A few weeks ago I was participating in #WriteOut, a virtual writing marathon from the National Writing Project. On this visit, we were in San Antonio, Tx. One of the prompts was a work of art by Georgia O’Keefe that is housed at the McNay Art Museum.

Evening Star V by Georgia O’Keefe, from the McNay Art Museum

Evening Star

Texas sky
blooms
into star-gaze
red glare haze
across blue waves–

And there–
a point of light
opens a minor C–
insignificant note
like a dust-speck
glistening then gone. 

Margaret Simon, draft

To see more Inkling ekphrasis:

Molly
Linda
Heidi
Catherine

For #TheSealyChallenge, I have read 5 poetry books. This week I wrote blog posts about Before the Ever After, a verse novel by Jacqueline Woodson, and Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic, a totally different novel in verse. I also blogged about The Bridge Between Us, a collection of poems about teaching through the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve read Robert Bly’s Morning Poems and Naomi Shihab Nye’s Cast Away, but haven’t blogged about them yet. I am enjoying this challenge. It’s making me pick up poetry books that I have had on my shelves and never read through. I only heard about this challenge this year, but it’s been around for a few years. Is anyone else doing it? How are you handling and processing?

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