Finding Beauty

download It was my turn to post the challenge this past month in our Swaggers group. Talk about pressure! I felt a bit like Goldilocks looking for the perfect prompt–something not too hard, not too easy, but just right. After way too much deliberation, I finally opted to poach off a post I’d used in the past for photography. Here’s what I shared:

Challenge:  I participated several years ago in a photo challenge from Kim Douillard to “find beauty in the ugly (My post is here). This month, I invite you to reinvent the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your lens to see the beauty in what at first seems to be ugly or unnoteworthy. Happy Writing!

Next, I had to figure out what to write about. My garden immediately came to mind. At this time of year, it’s a jumble of sad, dried stalks. Some people cut their dying plants back, and I’ve heard that can help prevent the spread of some plant diseases. But I’m not much for proactive “cleaning”, and I did read that leaving your garden intact, with all its rustling seed heads and stalks, protects plants, enriches the soils, and provides birds with food and shelter. That was convincing enough for me! I also love the architecture of all the angles and lines when the snow falls.

I thought I’d write one poem about my garden, but instead some smaller poems emerged. All of them are love songs to my bedraggled weed-filled winter garden.

finches ladder up
dessicated plant stalks
feast on tattered seed heads

©Molly Hogan, 2019

bee balm dons
her winter accessory
a fresh white bonnet

©Molly Hogan, 2019

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sered garden husks
shiver in the breeze, whisper
summer memories

©Molly Hogan, 2019

Perhaps only
with winter’s advance
does our truest heart
reveal itself
amidst a slow,
steady crumbling

©Molly Hogan, 2019
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And finally, stepping away from the garden to another time that I found heartfelt beauty somewhere unexpected.

after the hospital
your sleepy warmth beside me
oh, blessèd snore!

©Molly Hogan, 2019

Click on the links below to visit my fellow Swaggers and discover where they found beauty:

Margaret Simon: Reflections on the Teche
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Tanita S. Davis at her blog [fiction, instead of lies]. She’s sharing a wonderful poem expressing gratitude for worms and an original sonnet acknowledging the many hands that make our lives run more smoothly.

Spam Diving

slice-of-life_individualEvery so often I look through my blog’s spam file. Once in a while, a legitimate comment will go astray, and I like to rescue it from its sojourn in the bad neighborhood.

Scanning spam comments is often boring, sometimes depressing, and occasionally humorous. I don’t even understand what function these comments serve. I mean, who benefits from me buying Amoxycillin on line? And who actually buys Amoxycillin from a blog comment advertisement? There are about a dozen related messages in my file right now, exhorting me to buy Amoxycillin on line. How does that even make sense?

Then there are the messages that seem to be trying to get me to use a different blogging system or web site or something. First, they pump me up,

“you aгre judt extremely fantastic. I actually like what you’ᴠe received right here, certainly like what you’re sayinbg and tthe best way
by whicһ you ѕay it. Yoou are making it entertaining
aand yyou continue to cаre for to stsy it smart.”

Then they go on to offer a different platform. Their effort typically does not inspire me to try their product. I remain hopeful that this one was written by a poorly designed computer program, rather then by a poorly educated human.

Spam comments definitely cluster around certain posts, and it’s interesting to note which posts attract the most comments. I have no idea how it works. For example, my post entitled “Raccoons and Cherita” has garnered a lot of spam. Why?! I really wonder about the algorithm that targets those specific words! This response amused me recently:

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The original blog post featured a poem about raccoons raiding my bird feeders. Apparently this commenter has an ongoing raccoon problem and is assuming that I’m now an expert in stymying raccoons.  They are sorely misled. The raccoons win pretty consistently.  My favorite line is the final line: “Having a look forward to look you.” I think I need to start saying that. I like the active feel of “having a look forward.” It’s much more interesting than saying “anticipating” .

Finally, my newest spam favorite, written recently in response to a three-year-old blog post about teaching struggles, is this one:

“I apologise that, I can help nothing. But it is assured, that you will find the correct decision. Do not despair.”

I love that they know their limits, yet offer empathy and a wonderful blanket reassurance. It’s so nice to know that someone cares and that they have confidence in me to work it all out.

If you have a bit of time to spare, you might just want to take a dive into your Spam file. You never know what you might find!

 

 

PF: Life Hack

downloadIf you read my blog regularly, or even just sometimes, you probably know that I love to go down and wander by the river at dawn. It’s a beautiful spot, and there’s always something to see. These visits center me and deepen my appreciation for the beauty around me and its subtle cycles.

Typically, I walk around and take photos from different vantages. I’m constantly moving, actively searching. One day recently, I sat on a rock by the water and just watched. The common mergansers have returned for the winter and a flock of gulls was visiting. The sunrise unfolded slowly, in increments. Nothing dramatic. No blazing reds or streaks of violet highlighting bold cloud formations. No golden spotlight rays. Simply a slow brightening. But, as I sat, the ducks swam closer, then circled back out, then came back again. Closer. They dipped and dived. They swam along the line between rill and still water. Their wake shifted color with the changing light. Gulls flew overhead, wheeling and periodically plummeting into the water with tremendous splashes. Occasionally they caught something. Most often they didn’t. The movement of their wings and the spill of water from their feathers fascinated me. I sat on a rock and took it all in. 

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I’ve been following David L. Harrison’s blog for the past few months, and he posts a Word-of-the-Month challenge. This month’s word was “hack.” Somehow, over the course of the month, my thoughts wound around to life hacks.Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 8.49.32 AM.png

I’m sure there are different ways to interpret the term, but I think of it as a short cut designed to make a task pass faster. And it occurred to me that going faster, being more efficient, sometimes denies something essential or worthy about completing a task that takes time, dedication, or deliberation. Also, when we go faster (or walk around instead of sitting still), we can miss the nuances and subtleties.

Our culture embraces rush. So many of the “life hacks” I read about seem designed to help us move faster through our day. This seems in direct contrast to the mindfulness I’ve been trying to embrace. The being in the moment. I’ve also seen a number of articles lately about the importance of being bored in generating creativity. Somehow this is all swirling and linked up in my mind. I haven’t figured out how it all relates yet, but it’s taking up brain space for now. Perhaps some evening when I’m bored with doing dishes, yet appreciating the warmth of the water and the play of light on the bubbles, I’ll figure it out. 😉

Life Hack

A life hack? What’s that?
An illegal attack?

No, wait…it’s a trick?
To get me done quick?

But day follows day
way too fast anyway.

My life without hack
speeds by on a race track.

With hack it would fly
in the blink of an eye.

I’d never disdain
efficiency’s gain,

but there’s value to slow
to linger and grow.

Short cuts can cut more
than mere time from a chore.

Relentlessly fast
makes the present the past,

and rewards are so sweet,
when time’s made them complete.

So delayed I may be,
but no life hacks for me

©2019 Molly Hogan 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend and a chance to stop by the Poetry Friday Roundup and enjoy some poetry. This week Bridget Magee is hosting from Switzerland on her blog, wee words for wee ones. She’s sharing her thoughts on celebrating Thanksgiving from afar. I loved learning about turkey pricing and oven sizing in Switzerland, and also enjoyed her limerick tale of an unfortunate turkey. Check it out!

Bold Moon

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I’m peeking my head up from the insanity of writing report card comments to sneak in a poem for Poetry Friday. This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Rebecca Herzog at Sloth Reads. Last week, she challenged participants to write about foods that deserve a national holiday…or perhaps don’t!  I had every intention of participating… Ah, well. I’ll tuck that challenge away for another day. In the meantime, head over to Rebecca’s blog to check out her poetic tribute to Hot Salad and other offerings as well. It’s sure to be a poetic feast!

With little time for extended writing lately, I revisited a favorite prompt–Sandford Lyne’s word pools. The pool I chose included the words: moon, stolen, ladder, branches. I opted to use three of the four. Poetic license! 😉

Bold Moon

The moon has stolen
branches from the tree.
She drapes herself artfully
with their intricate tracery
shifting them this way
and that
for maximum affect.
Bold thief to shine a spotlight
on her own misdoings
She broadcasts her beautiful larceny
to a rapt world.

©Molly Hogan, 2019

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Once upon a bedtime…

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At the end of a long day, I lay in bed, reading, snuggled up in flannel sheets and multiple layers of blankets. Sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Then, uninvited, a thought niggled its way into my mind.

You forgot about the moon.

Oh, drat! I’d meant to try to capture a few moon photos. When I had come home late in the afternoon, I’d noticed the birch tree was rimed with a thin layer of ice. It sparkled in the house lights and I’d thought it might be really spectacular lit by the full moon. I could just imagine the photo–glowing orb, glistening branches.

Now it was hours later, and I’d forgotten all about it. Until now. Now, when I was drowsy. And warm and cozy. And the temperatures were in the teens outside. If I was lucky.

I kept reading.

You’re gonna miss it! 

I turned the page.

The moon won’t be full for another month, and how often are the branches coated with ice?

I read on.

It could be amazing! The conditions are ideal! 

I read another half page…

You know you won’t regret it if you get up. But you won’t get the shot if…

Ugh! Fine! I put the book down. I might as well just get up. 

I slid out of bed, careful to leave the sheets and blankets as intact as possible, hoping they’d hold my warmth and welcome me back after my arctic dip outside.

Downstairs, I fiddled with my camera and set up the tripod. After throwing on a coat, boots, and hat, I stepped outside. The moonlight was brilliant on the snow, and cast deep shadows around the trees. I walked out to the driveway and set up, already happy that I’d made the effort.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that, although it was beautiful out, I was not going to get the shot I’d envisioned. I couldn’t figure out how to deal with the light issues and simultaneously capture the close branches and the distant moon. I took a few photos anyway. Click. Click.

Crack!

My heart jumped. Huh? 

Crack!

I glanced behind me.

Ooookay. It’s dark. It’s cold. And I am NOT the only thing out here.

Crack!

Crunch!

I tensed. Something was definitely moving around near the barn. Something that sounded big!

Possum? Raccoon? No, not big enough… A deer?  A herd of deer?

C-R-A-C-K!

A herd of angry deer? A homicidal maniac?  

Grabbing the tripod and camera, I quickly abandoned the moon. I hustled back to the house, glancing nervously over my shoulder as I went.

Once inside, I shut the door behind me with relief and vigorously turned the lock. I put everything away and climbed back upstairs to our bedroom, eager to return to bed.

“What were you doing?” Kurt asked, looking up from his book as I entered the room.

“I went outside to take some pictures.”

“Oh, the moon,” he said, nodding, knowing me well.

“Yeah,” I said, “but it wasn’t great. I couldn’t figure out how to do what I wanted.”

I paused dramatically. “And something else was out there, too! I heard crunching branches by the barn!”

“Was it the deer?” he asked.

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed, “It was something big, and I wasn’t sticking around to find out!”

He shot a grin my way. “So, you scampered back inside, huh?”

“Yup,” I said. “I scampered right back inside!”

He does know me well.

Smiling, I slipped back under the covers.

I had braved the cold, attempted the photo, escaped the clutches of a raging homicidal maniac and was now back where I belonged.

I picked up my book.

Sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Double Dactyl

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I’ve been working on a couple of poems lately, but they’ve been stubborn, resisting tweaking. I suspect they’ll languish for a week or two or more as report cards and comments take over. Perhaps they’ll be better for the break. Or perhaps I will be.

At any rate, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to share today, but then, this week on Facebook, poet Heidi Bee Roemer posed a challenge to write a double dactyl. Huh?  A double what? I’d never even heard of it and once I researched it, I was even more astonished.  There are more than a few hoops to jump through. It’s a double quatrain poem. The first three lines in each stanza must be double dactyls and the ending lines are dactyl spondee pairs and must rhyme. (Yeah, I totally had to look that up!) 

There are a few more requirements: You begin with a nonsense line, then name a person in the second line. The poem is then intended to “poke fun” at that person. Oh, also, the 6th line must be a one word double dactyl (like coincidentally or genealogical), but it should never have been used before in a double dactyl. (No, I’m not making that up, but I do think that final rule is typically disregarded.) I think that’s about it, but you can check out the definition here.

For some reason, I’ve been playing around with the form ever since. (Can you say “report card procrastination”?) I really do like the rhythm of it, and the challenge of jumping through those hoops. I tried to explain the form to my husband and to explain why it was fun to play with, but he just looked at me oddly. It’s still not quite where I want it, but it meets most of the listed requirements. I’ll keep tweaking this one too, but for now, without further ado, here’s my debut double dactyl:

Higgledy, Piggledy
Anakin Skywalker
tempted by dark forces
altered his name.

If he’d considered an
adenoidectomy,
would he have risen to
cinema fame?

Molly Hogan ©2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the wonderful Michelle Heidenrich Barnes of Today’s Little Ditty fame. She’s celebrating the release of her new collection, “The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2017-2018.” I’m over-the-moon excited to have three poems included in this collection.

A Rewarding Detour

slice-of-life_individualAfter a beautiful hike along some coastal waterways, we were heading home. Kurt was hungry and looking forward to getting some food. I was driving, contemplating which way to go.

I have multiple routes around “town.” There’s the 10 minute take-the-highway efficiency route for speedy errands, or a variety of more meandering routes. My favorite way home takes me on back roads past the Muddy River and then over the Cathance River. There are a few stunning vistas over Merrymeeting Bay along the way. You never know what you might see.

“So, how hungry are you,” I asked, glancing over at Kurt.

“Why?”

“Well, do you care if I go the longer way home?”

“That’s okay,” he said.

“I won’t go the longest way,” I said, “but I would like to check out what’s by the Cathance.”

I took the requisite turn, and we drove along companionably in the late afternoon, quiet and comfortably tired from our afternoon trek.

As we neared a potential detour, I shot another glance at Kurt.

“Sometimes I like to turn and go down by The Muddy from this end, ” I ventured hopefully.

“Go ahead,” Kurt said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He nodded, and I made the turn happily and continued to chatter, “You know,” I said, “I haven’t seen anything here at all recently except for one lone cormorant. But I figure if I keep coming, I’m bound to see something sometime.”

We crested the hill, and I slowly drove toward the bridge, both of us scanning the landscape. The sun arced from low-lying clouds and the river sparkled. The last vestiges of fall color spotted its banks and reflected warmly in the water. The tree branches shifted and the marsh grasses stirred in the breeze. The bursting cattails arrowed upward. It was beautiful, but there wasn’t a bird in sight. Not on the water. Not in the sky.

“Look!” Kurt whispered urgently, grabbing my arm.

“What!?! Where?” I said, hitting the brakes to stop in the middle of the road, and scanning the water.

“An eagle. Right there!” he pointed.

Sure enough, in a tree by the road, a bald eagle perched on a branch, looking over the river.

“Oh, isn’t he beautiful.”

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I put the car in park right there in the middle of the road (country roads, remember?) and grabbed my camera. Kurt rolled down his window and leaned back out of the way, while I snapped picture after picture.

Then we just sat and admired him for a while.

Sometimes you have to take that detour. Sometimes you have to take it more than once. And sometimes, you might just end up in the right place at the right time.