On TC, Bathrooms, and a Little Bit of Magic

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’m at the TC Summer Reading Institute in NYC right now. It’s pretty wonderful. I could write about the amazing sense of community, the energy and the powerful learning. I could write about how excited I am to be here, and about new practices I’m dying to implement in my classroom. I could write about the long, rich conversations with my colleagues. But I’m still processing all of that, so instead, I’m going to write about a bathroom. Really. I’m actually totally fascinated by the bathroom down the hall from my morning session. 

Don’t dismiss this too quickly. Bathrooms are pretty important here. There’s a limited time to move between sessions, so knowing where the not-too-busy bathrooms are is pretty critical. The bathroom I’m focused on isn’t very busy, and I get a total kick out of it. 

The first time I walked into this bathroom, I thought, Oh, this is pretty small. It must be a one-person bathroom. (Again, this is important knowledge!) But then I walked further and around the corner a whole row of stalls appeared.

Oh! I stopped in my tracks. It’s like a Harry Potter bathroom! I thought (or maybe I said aloud.) It was love at first sight. Now, I use that bathroom exclusively in the morning, and every time I use it, I turn the corner and I’m thrilled all over again. (Clearly, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.)

I wasn’t sure if I was going to post today, but then I thought, Hey, I can write about the bathroom! Part of me asked, Are you sure about that? But the other fuzzy over-stimulated and a wee bit tired part said, Yeah! It’ll be fun! Then I thought, Oh. I should take a picture. Wait … Can I take pictures? What if someone walks in while I’m taking them? That would seem pretty odd, if not downright sketchy.

I thought for a minute. Hey, it’s all in the service of a slice! Why not? So, I finally whipped out my cell phone. I took my photos (which don’t give the full effect because I was not willing to hold the door open, stand in the hall and take the first picture) and opened the door to leave. A woman tried to enter at the same time.

“Oh!” she said, seeing the cramped quarters and stepping back. ” I’m sorry. This must be a one person bathroom.”

“No!” I said. “Look! It’s fabulous! It’s like a Harry Potter bathroom!” I gestured around the corner. Obediently she looked.

“Oh,” she said. Then she feel silent.

“Isn’t it great!?” I enthused.

She nodded silently. Somewhat disappointed by her apathetic response, I moved around her to leave the bathroom.

In retrospect, she may have been aback by my enthusiasm, but perhaps she was simply awed by the wonder of the bathroom. I prefer to think it was the latter.

Either way, I’ve discovered my own little piece of magic at TC.

65562770_2488401377869980_5189288458937434112_n

65300548_1904026329699100_661752283041628160_n

The Bird Word

74707-poetry-friday-logoWherever I go, I watch birds. I spend hours watching birds at home, at the beach, and at the river. I confess, I even watch them while I should be focusing on the road. In fact, I’m amazed that, to date,  I’ve emerged unscathed from majorly bird-distracted driving! At any rate, I’m especially captivated by the daily drama at our feeders, and it frequently distracts me from my work. I often wonder about the birds’ ability to intuit the arrival of a new type of suet or fresh oranges or sunflower seeds. How do they spread the word?  I recently reworked an old poem about this, and thought I’d share the new and hopefully improved version here.

The Bird Word

Do they read a daily flyer
to alert them one and all?
Do they chatter at the back-fence
and report each new windfall?

Do they banter at the birdbath
’bout the tasty treat du jour?
Do they gossip while they’re gorging
at the feeder by the door?

Do the bluejays trade in hearsay,
while the chickadees chitchat?
Is there message to decipher
in woodpecker’s rat-a-tat?

Do the sparrows spread the news?
Each tweet a coded whistle?
Could one chirp mean sunflower seeds
and two long tweets mean thistle?

I suspect they gather nightly
to exchange the feeder news
and to seed their conversations
with their coded birdly clues.

I could sit still and decipher
how the word spreads with such speed
but instead I must go shopping…
I need two more bags of seed!

© Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Laura Shovan at her blog. She’s sharing some wonderful student poetry from her recent stint as poet-in-residence.

And because I can’t resist sharing photos….here are a few of some feeder action 🙂

Addendum: Honestly, I just looked outside this morning and saw: a rose breasted grosbeak, a ruby throated hummingbird, several blue jays, a red winged blackbird, a red-bellied woodpecker, a white breasted nuthatch, a mourning dove and a catbird. In one glance! How lucky am I?

Observation

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

As evening approached, something nudged me to look out the window. Sure enough, there in the misty field, a deer foraged. Grabbing my camera, I tiptoed outside, easing the door open and then closed.  

I rounded the corner stealthily, but as I had sensed its presence, so it sensed mine. It raised its head. Our eyes locked. We both stood still. My hands froze around my camera, stopping its ascent.

Time seemed to stop and swell, to ripen, as we stared at each other. I felt the weight of the camera in my hands, the hard ridged plastic of the telephoto lens against my motionless fingers. The catbirds sang back and forth in the nearby trees, and a woodpecker drummed. From far away, I heard the faint whine of a lawnmower. Still, we held each other’s eyes.

A minute passed.

Then another.

Finally, one of the deer’s ears twitched. It took a big step backward, easing out of the thicket of shrubs. I held my breath, remaining still, my camera clenched by my side. Motionless.

DSC_1032.jpgThe deer suddenly exhaled a loud warning “Huff!”, turned and bounded across the field, its white flag of a tail flying high. I quickly raised my camera and snapped a few pictures, expecting it to disappear into the trees. Instead, to my surprise, it stopped at the edge of the field, turned and looked back at me. I froze, camera raised to my eye, as it stared at me.DSC_1035 (1).jpg

After a long minute, I retreated around the corner of the house. Perhaps if I left, I thought, the deer might return to peacefully eat the shrubs. I stood for a moment or two on the front deck, then carefully peeked around the corner. The deer was still standing there, silently staring in my direction.

Once again, our eyes met.

As I backed away slowly, I wondered just who was observing whom.

DSC_1039.jpg

Turtle Guilt

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hDriving to work recently, I noticed a turtle crossing the pavement on the other side of the road. There was no place to pull over safely, so I kept going. As I drove on and up the curving hill, I glanced back over my shoulder.

Hurry up, little guy!

The distance between us was growing.

Maybe there’s somewhere up ahead I can stop…but it’s probably a snapping turtle… Ugh!

Still, I should really pull over, walk back and move it…

I looked at the edge of the road. There still wasn’t a great spot to pull over. I looked down at my sandal clad feet. Clearly nudging the turtle with my foot (which I have done in the past) wasn’t an option.

If I try to pick it up, its head is going to whip around, its jaw will open and SNAP! that’ll be the end of my finger! Darn it. I should have clicked on that video link I saw on Facebook the other day. Then I’d know how to move it safely. 

While my internal monologue droned on, I continued driving, each moment moving farther and farther away, from both the turtle and from the likelihood of moving it.  Just stop!  I told myself, beginning to feel like someone who abandoned a puppy, or didn’t call 911. Guilt spread on me like a greasy stain, but I kept going, rationalizing why I wasn’t stopping — It was almost to the edge, wasn’t it? It wasn’t safe for me to pull over. I have so much to do at work! My fingers! The next driver will surely stop.

The next driver.

When I drove by that spot the next day on the way to work, I slowed way down. My eyes scanned the pavement, searching for a tell-tale smudge. Nothing. I’d like to say I felt relieved, and I did, but mostly I still felt guilty. I should have stopped. 

Even now, weeks later,  I still feel uncomfortable that I didn’t stop, though I have that defensive queue of excuses lined up tidily in my head. But most of those excuses are pretty thin. Really, I chose not to act because it wasn’t convenient and because I was scared–of a small snapping turtle. Ultimately, I hoped that someone else would do what I should have done. But, as one of my colleagues is fond of saying, “You don’t want to be that guy.” And I don’t. I want to be the driver who stops, not the one who keeps going.

So, after writing this, I decided to go back to Facebook and watch the video to eliminate at least one of my excuses. Honestly, after doing so, I’m not sure I feel much better about moving a snapping turtle, but at least I’ll have a starting point.

Love Poem

74707-poetry-friday-logo

My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this past Monday. I wrote him this, my first love poem, in honor of the occasion.

Love Poem

If I wrote a list of my favorite things
owls would perch there
as would the seed heads of dandelions
with their wind-wild confetti parties
I’d jot down twisting wisps of dawn-lit fog
dew-bedecked spider webs and
the first chorus of the spring peepers
along with bloom-laden stalks of hollyhocks
the scents of balsam and cinnamon
and the echoing cry of a loon
Then, above them all,
there’s that spot on your neck
beneath your left ear
and your scent that rises as I lean in
to press my lips there
the constellation of freckles on your shoulders
and the solid warmth of you beside me
at the close of every day

Molly Hogan ©2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, A Year of Reading . She’s sharing a wonderful original poem entitled “I Am Not”, inspired by a Naomi Shihab Nye prompt. This week many others are also sharing poems with a Naomi Shihab Nye theme. Stop by to check them out!

I’d Rather Not Take “Fun and Games” for $500 or How Jeopardy Tipped Me Over the Edge

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hBack in college I had a good friend whom I began to avoid. I loved him dearly, but at some point during our years together, he went through a prolonged Eeyore phase. Every time I approached him, I learned to anticipate doom and gloom.

“How’s it going?” I’d ask tentatively.

“Not good,” he’d inevitably reply (and that was on an up day!).

Then, he’d elaborate. Whatever the opposite of rose-colored glasses is, he was wearing them, and he never hesitated to share his pessimistic world view.

I’m not proud of myself, and perhaps I could have been a more stalwart friend, but sometimes I avoided him and his unrelenting negativity–a quick duck into the student center, a turn down Main Street, whatever it took. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Unfortunately, it has occurred to me recently that I might be becoming that person.

This past week, there was a non-mandatory Open Enrollment Health Insurance meeting after school. I decided to go because I had a few questions. My oldest is getting kicked off my insurance (aged out!) and I’d received a confusing form about that, and my middle daughter is on better insurance through her new job, so I needed to delete her from our plan. 

After school was over, I straightened up a few things, then rushed upstairs into the meeting, hoping to ask my two questions and be on my way. Unfortunately, the presenter had other plans. My heart sunk when I saw that she was busy setting up the overhead projector to display a Jeopardy-like screen.

What?!?! I thought we were just asking questions!

I’ll take “Deeply Concerned” for $200.    

“Someone recently told me that when I start talking about benefits, they fall asleep,” she said. “So, I decided to create a Jeopardy game.”

While I sat there, my jaw on the ground, my to-do list making like rabbits, and the clock ticking toward my meeting with a parent in 23 minutes, she proceeded to divide the room into teams.

“This isn’t happening,” I thought. “This can’t be happening. I know her creativity is admirable. I really do. But I don’t have time to play insurance Jeopardy. I don’t want to play insurance Jeopardy. I have two questions. Just two questions.”

I’ll take “On the Brink” for $300.

Next, she went over the categories. Honestly, I don’t remember what they were. I think I blacked out temporarily. When I came to, the first team had asked for some category or other for $400. They seemed to be entering into the spirit of things.

I’ll take “Who Are These People?” for $400.

“OMG,” I thought, “I am feeling incredibly antagonistic about this whole thing and I need to leave before I blurt out something awful…or simply scream. But really…how is this reasonable? Health insurance? Jeopardy? In May?? AHHHH! Please just tell me what I need to know so I can cross one more ridiculous thing off my list and move on to the next one!”

Image result for munch scream

Edward Munch’s The Scream

Ten minutes later, we had uncovered three squares (out of  30!!) and learned about open enrollment dates, health plan choices and vision benefits. None of which helped me. I muttered something to one of my team members. It may not have been intelligible. It may have been a subdued guttural scream. I don’t really remember, but I knew I had to escape. I literally felt like my head was going to explode. So, I left, aware that my degree of distress was irrational, but still feeling extremely frustrated, and with my two questions unanswered.

I walked downstairs and into my colleague’s classroom.

“How’d it go?” she asked, turning from her computer.

“It was a torture chamber!” I announced dramatically.

That’s when it struck me. I realized that I might just be becoming that person–the one others are ducking to avoid. Here’s this nice, motivated HR woman going out of her way to make educating us about health insurance fun. And how do I respond? Practically antagonistically! It was just one more thing taking up too much time in a long list of one more things. And then I had to interrupt other people’s valuable time to tell them about it. I’m not exactly a ray of sunshine here. Clearly, I have to work on this.

But for now, I need to e-mail the well-intentioned HR person to get my questions answered. I guess I should have just done that in the first place.

I’ll take “Hindsight” for $500.

 

Instructions to a Standardized Test

74707-poetry-friday-logoOver at Today’s Little Ditty this month, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes interviewed Liz Steinglass about her debuting picture book: Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer. It was a great interview and ended, as always, with a challenge. Liz invited readers to write Poems of Instruction to inanimate objects. What an intriguing challenge! I’ve been having loads of fun seeing what others have written and finally settled on my response. (I apologize for the appearance, but the only way I could retain my formatting was by taking screen shots and cutting and pasting them.)

Instructions to a Standardized Test

Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 7.28.22 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-05-16 at 7.28.39 PM.png

The ever-inspiring Margaret Simon of Reflection on the Teche is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. She’s sharing some wonderful nature pi-ku poems written by the gifted and talented students she teaches.