A Word or Two of Gratitude

This month Linda Mitchell posed our Inkling challenge: “Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or some way that suits you.” I loved the idea, but was a bit worried because I hadn’t followed along consistently with many, or really any, of the National Poetry Month (NPM) projects. I was peripherally aware of what people were doing, and dipped in now and again, but that was about it. Time just got away from me, and focus was in short supply as well.

As I pondered my options (and was all too aware of time ticking away), I realized that the big take-away for me this past month was admiration and gratitude for everyone who participated. I was simply wowed by the commitment and passion of each poet, impressed by their creative projects and by their determination to recognize and participate in NPM. Although I didn’t participate at all, I benefitted greatly from those who did and shared their work and their processes so generously. In the end, I decided that’s what I wanted to honor–the creative efforts and outcomes of all who participated in NPM.

A Word or Two of Gratitude

They dive 
into the rush and gush
of creative flow
not knowing, just going
and growing
sowing poetry seeds
on a month-long quest
not to be the best
but to be blessed by words
along a self-chosen quest
to dive deep and reap
to snatch at a wisp
of whispered word
twist it, chisel it
into a “something” that prickles
pierces upward
like a tender leaf 

Reaching through soil
breaching boundaries 
reward for the toil
from coiled seed
into bud and bloom
which soon falls
to mulch, to mix 
into rich compost
a host for the next endeavor
whatever
that might be

Never minding the distractions
infractions 
odd daily impactions
they peel back layers
a wordy striptease
to find the sublime
rewind time
strike at each part
let words fall apart
until the heart
of it all pulses 
with a steady
beat beat beat
at our world-weary feet

A gift beyond measure
a poetry treasure

©Molly Hogan

If you want to check out what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the links below:

Linda Mitchell
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn
Margaret is spending time with family this week and won’t be participating.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Jama Rattigan at her blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Be sure to stop by and see what she’s dishing up this week along with other PF participants.

PF: Invitation

The closer one lives to the land, the less one distrusts time.
Hal Borland

I’ve been feeling scattered lately. Unsettled. Thinking a lot about time, life, choices. Trying to make sense of things. So far, I haven’t made much progress. It’s like I keep trying to walk a straight line on a curving path. I continually feel a bit askew. A bit lost.

About a week ago I stumbled upon David Wagoner’s poem, “Lost“. I’ve read it again and again and again since then. It begins like this:

“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,”

I don’t know much, but I do know that anything I do to connect with the natural world yields rich dividends for me. I was struck by the idea that even when I may feel lost, the landscape around me (literal and metaphorical) is not. Whatever surrounds me is “Here” and worth meeting and knowing. My perspective of being lost is simply that, a perspective. As such, it can be changed.

The poem ends with these lines:

“If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
where you are. You must let it find you.”

So, over my much anticipated spring break, I wandered a bit, here and there. To the bay. To the river. To the woods. To the marsh. Seeking to reconnect with the natural world and with myself in some way. Trying to reconfigure the pieces into a cohesive whole. Trying to open myself to knowing the “here” and to letting the world around me find me.

Invitation

Come sit a while
Don’t overlook
the simple wooden bench
on greening grass
Be open to the allure
of scudding clouds
budding tree
and bluest sky
Slough off your sorrow
Seek joy in blackbird’s call
Turn your face 
to the fledgling warmth
of spring sun
Let hope spark 
Open yourself
to a deeper knowing
Let this place
cast its spell
Come sit a while

©Molly Hogan

The Poetry Friday Roundup this week is at Jone Rush Macculloch’s blog.

Tribute: James Dennis Hogan, 11/3/40-11/25/21

My father died on Thanksgiving Day. He had just turned 81, and after 80 healthy years, he had spent the last seven months of his life battling pancreatic cancer. We’ve spent the last four months or so trying to pick up the pieces. This past weekend we paid tribute to my Dad, traveling to Ohio to celebrate his life with family and friends. When it was my turn to share, this is more or less what I said:

When I started teaching fourth grade about five or six years ago, I had to teach students how to write five paragraph essays. The curriculum guide suggested writing a model essay with the claim: “My Father is one of my most important teachers.” At the time, I kind of shrugged and thought, well, I can work with that. But year after year, as I thought about this claim and searched for reasons and evidence and wrote about it, I came to realize that my father had taught me more than I had ever imagined.

First, Dad taught me to think of others. He was unfailingly polite and could be quite a charmer. He enjoyed chatting with people. More than once when I was wandering around talking to medical personnel, trying to track down some random schedule detail or information, the person helping me, upon hearing my dad’s name, would say, “Oh, I remember your Dad! Tell him I’m thinking about him. He’s such a nice guy.” In a word (or two), he was ever affable and gracious, and everyone enjoyed interacting with him.

Dad also taught me to work hard and to get through tough times. Whether it was professionally or personally, Dad didn’t shirk. He reinvented his professional life multiple times, rising above some big challenges. He didn’t moan or groan about it, he just got done what needed to be done. Only as an adult could I begin to appreciate how challenging some of those times must have been. On a lighter note, I also distinctly remember him out mowing the lawn at our home in Pittsburgh, even though his allergies always kicked into gear. He would repeatedly stop to pull out his ubiquitous handkerchief and blow his nose. Then start mowing again. Stop. Blow. Mow. Stop. Blow. Mow. Getting the job done. Meanwhile, I was often cooking him a cake in my Easy Bake oven. Now that’s a memory that still makes me smile.

Above all, Dad taught me the power of a well-played word. He had a great vocabulary and a wonderful sense of humor. He enjoyed using his wit to come up with the perfectly timed quip to make people laugh. He was quick and often quite funny. He had such a marvelous twinkle in his eye when he delivered punch lines or slipped in the perfect jest. He loved using interesting words and finding just the precise word to say what he meant. For example, Dad often reminded me that my face was dolichocephalic. (dolly-co-cephalic) You can look that up. (Believe it or not, somehow that one came up in conversation more than one might imagine. )

Dad was also a terrific punster. One fond childhood memory I have was of taking road trips, usually to visit our grandparents in Ligonier, and asking him to tell the story of “Falling Rock” . Dad  had concocted quite a tale for our enjoyment about how Falling Rock was a young Indian boy who had strayed from his tribe. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember begging for the story. And I remember it ended something like, “And that’s why to this very day you still see signs that say “Watch for Falling Rock.”

Over the last year, Dad taught me so much more. He taught me how to handle the worst of situations with dignity, grace and humor. Over and over again when things were tough, he made the best of it. Throughout everything, he kept his sense of humor and dry wit at hand.

Toward the end of his life, he was talking with my niece on the telephone. She said, “So Grandpa, how are you handling everything.”
Dad, now restricted to the hospital bed in his bedroom, paused, and then replied to her, succinctly and true to form, “With style.”

One of my most treasured memories is of Dad and me sitting together this past fall, writing limericks. When writing limericks, Dad always included the name of a city and he was bold in his choices (I mean who tries to rhyme with Cincinnati!?). He also didn’t let rhythm and complete rhyme hold him back. So, it seemed only fitting to include a limerick today—and in honor of Dad, I’m including a city name and taking a little bit of license with the rhyming.

There once was a man from Aurora
who was a bold verbal explorer
Though not always loquacious
he was ever sagacious
And without him our lives are much poorer

Not long before Dad died, I told him about writing essays about him with my fourth grade students. I told him how I’d come to realize how much I’d learned from him. I shared all my reasons and examples and finally I thanked him.

Dad listened while I talked, and after I finished, he looked at me and said, in his typical, understated way, “Well, Molly, I never knew I taught you all that.”

Well, you did, Dad, you did.

The Progressive Poem…isn’t here!

You’re probably looking for the Progressive Poem, but you’re going to have to journey a bit further to find it. You can whistle and dance and maybe even do some puddle jumping along the way! Yes, Buffy Silverman set me up beautifully for today’s line, but I got into a bit of a jam. The fabulous Linda Mitchell graciously offered to step up and take my place. Please take a trip over to her blog to check out how she added to this year’s offering. She’s sharing her contribution at her blog, A Word Edgewise.

Linda, once again, thank you so, so much!!!

PF: The Thing Is…

This month Mary Lee challenged the Inklings to write using Ellen Bass’s poem “The Thing Is” as a mentor poem. She said, “Keep the title, but choose a theme/message either from your own life or from current events.”

Well, March is always a busy month for me and this year was no exception. I participated in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life challenge, finished up second trimester report cards, and had Parent-Teacher conferences. Plus, I lost an hour of time to Daylight Savings! (Which I’m still a bit peeved about!) In other words, I didn’t get to play around with this prompt as much as I would have liked. The Thing is…there is never enough time!

In a serendipitous moment, though, someone recently shared Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “The Art of Disappearing.” I wrote down one line to consider using as a strike line in a golden shovel poem: “You’re trying to remember something too important to forget.” Then I thought why not try it with the challenge?

The Thing Is…

you wake to morning like you’re
emerging from a desert, trying
to make your way to
the oasis to drink, to guzzle, to remember,
to relive water cooling your parched throat or something
soothing your raw, cracked lips. Too
thirsty to stay still. It isn’t important
how early it is –or how late– what matters is to
rise. Drink deep. Write. So you don’t forget.

©Molly Hogan, draft
strike line from Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Art of Disappearing”

If you want to check out the other Inklings’ responses to Mary Lee’s challenge, click on their links:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

This week Heidi is also hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. She’s sharing her response to Mary Lee’s challenge along with a dazzling array of good news and goodies to welcome you to NPM. Make sure to head over to her blog and check things out!

SOLC Day 31: A Wordy Bouquet

March 2022 SOLC–Day 31
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

In the vase
on the table
Saturday’s optimism
has unfurled
into delicate showers
of petalled gold

And so this challenge comes to an end
like bare branches
watered and warmed
ideas gathered
cultivated into posts
A wordy bouquet

©Molly Hogan

SOLC Day 30: Balancing Act

March 2022 SOLC–Day 30
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

March in Maine has never been my favorite month.

I’m trying to focus on those signs of spring–which are everywhere–but it’s a losing battle right now. After a teaser of a day in the 60s a week or so ago, we’ve plunged back into seriously frigid weather. And I have a cold. And blah, blah, blah.

Last night I kept thinking about trying to balance the positives and negatives, and I wrote this.

SOLC Day 29: Uh! Oh! Your Epidermis is Showing!*

March 2022 SOLC–Day 29
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

One of my fourth grade teaching joys is teaching 9 and 10 year olds about the human digestive system. It’s a pretty simplified unit plan, but quite engaging. We learn all about systems, living and nonliving, and we trace the journey of solid food through the body, considering each organ and its structure and function. We also get to say anus once in a while. So, that’s pretty cool. 

Today we hadn’t even gotten to the good stuff. Teams had shared their experiences with the great “Poofie Ball Challenge” from Friday. (That’s Poofie, not Poopie, thank you very much. And yes, it’s hard to distinguish those two sounds, especially through a mask, and especially when you’re 9 or 10 and predisposed to hear “poop” not “poof” because you’re already horrifascinated by the fact that you’re learning about a system in your body (and potentially poop)…with your peers and a teacher! Ack!). Then we reviewed common parts and talked about how those had functioned in their designed system, considering the relationship between structure and function.

Finally, I wrapped things up and added, “Ok, now tomorrow, we’re going to start talking about the digestive system and focus on the first organ in the digestive system: the mouth.”

“What’s an organ?” someone piped up.

“That’s what we’ll be talking about tomorrow,” I said. “We’re out of time. Clean up and get ready for Specials.”

As the kids bustled around, putting away folders, pushing in chairs, and gathering coats, I circulated. I noticed one of my students frozen in her chair, tapping her mouth over and over.

“What’s up, M?” I asked.

“Oh my God! I’m feeling an organ. My mouth is an organ!”

“Yup,” I said, nonchalantly, for once thankful for the mask that hid my smile.

“But,” she looked up at me, “that means I have a visible organ!”

I nodded.

She moaned.

I opened my mouth, then closed it without speaking. 

I just didn’t have the heart to inform her that her skin is an organ, too.

SOLC Day 28: Thoughts on Streaking*

March 2022 SOLC–Day 28
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

I thought I was going to lose it yesterday. I mean, Wordle was hard! And I’ve got a streak of 75 wins going. With each word guess, as each tile was revealed in monotonous grey, I was getting progressively more concerned. I stopped and considered for a long while. I couldn’t even imagine what to guess next. I had a few dark thoughts about the NYT. Then, finally, luckily, I eked it out on the fifth guess. That’s cutting it a bit close for me.

Phew! 

But then I wondered…why did I get so concerned about this? Why did I care so much?

…….

Duolingo daily sends me pointed reminders…Remember to play today! You don’t want to blow your  streak do you?

I’m at 195 days in a row right now. (Ok, confession, I did use a couple of freezes along the way.) and I really want to get to 200. 

But again, why? Who cares really? Sure it’s great to do something with regularity, but sometimes every day just isn’t a good option.

……..

So, what’s up with streaks anyway?

I remember back in the 90s sports fans were wowed by Cal Ripken’s streak of attendance. He broke the consecutive games played record on September 6, 1995 in his 2,131st consecutive game. We lived in Baltimore at the time and it was big news locally and in the sports world.

I distinctly remember my husband being singularly unimpressed. 

“Who cares?” he said. “What did he miss to do that? How many times did he choose continuing his streak over being with his family?”

He had a point. 

So, now that I’ve gotten sucked into maintaining a couple of less impressive streaks of my own, I’m going to consider willfully breaking them or at least allowing them to fade away. There’s no real value to these streaks. No ultimate goal or end in sight. I’ve just fallen for marketing ploys which are manipulating me to play a game or visit a site. I want to get back to playing Wordle because I love word play and puzzling, not because I’ve got a streak going. And if I forget to go to Duolingo for a day or two, so what? The snail will still have its birthday and someone will still bring several bottles of red wine.**

Ultimately Cal Ripken ended his streak voluntarily after 2,632 games in a row. That’s a lot of games. I wonder what inspired him to make that choice.  Will I end my game streaks by choice or by chance?

On a side note, sometimes streaks do have value. What makes the difference? I’m not sure, but I think it might be about meaningful purpose. There’s certainly one streak I’m on that I’m going to work hard to maintain for at least the next 3 days.

What streaks are you working on?

*If you were around during the seventies, you probably thought I was referring to the bizarre craze for dashing about in public venues sans clothing. Those were the days, right? lol

**Duolingo has some odd sentences to translate and snails and red wine feature frequently.

SOLC Day 27: Uh Oh

March 2022 SOLC–Day 27
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

I noticed my nose was running a little yesterday afternoon, and put it down to the chill lingering in the March air. 

Then last evening, my throat started to hurt. Just a little. You know, like it does when that post-nasal drip is scouring its way down the back of your throat drip by drip.

“I think I’m getting a cold,” I said to my daughter, as we relaxed by the fire. I paused then finished, “I’m a little paranoid it might be Covid.”

She made the appropriate comments (a mix of reassurance and understanding) and we talked about how lots of people are getting colds these days. 

“I guess I’ll take a test tomorrow if I still have symptoms.”

————–

At about 1 am, I woke. 

My throat really hurt. 

“Aw, s&!t” I thought. “I’m going to have to take a test in the morning.”

I lay there, throat feeling raw, contemplating getting up for some Motrin, contemplating what would happen if I did have Covid.

If I’m positive, how many days do I miss? Five? Would that start from yesterday, when I first had “symptoms” or from the test day? 

I honestly can’t keep track of all the changes to the protocols. I’ve given up, figuring I’ll just find out if I ever need to know. Now I wish I knew. My mind kept spinning.

Addie and Ash are supposed to come up on Thursday. If I’m positive, they won’t be able to come. But Addie needs to be here on Friday. Thursday would be the fifth day, right? But if you start counting from yesterday, it would be the sixth? Would that be okay? I’d wear a mask inside. I could hide in my room. What will they do?

Oh, no! Andrea was here yesterday. I’d have to let her know. How would that impact her?

I could move into the spare bedroom…or maybe Kurt could. Which would work better?

Then my thoughts veered back toward school.

If I’m out all next week, or through Thursday, that means I’ll only have four days back at school before I’m out again for three days. Then a few days in again before break. How in the world am I going to have subs teach most of the last bend of the unit and put together conglomerate books? Would I even be allowed to go into school to pull together plans and materials?

Finally, exhausted by my mental vortex, I spun myself back to sleep, then woke again around 5. I quickly did a body scan. My throat still hurt, although maybe not quite as much…or was that wishful thinking?

I went downstairs, drank my orange juice and started the coffee. Then I pulled the Covid tests out from the cupboard where they’d languished (happily to my mind) since December. Within a few minutes, I’d opened a new box, read the materials carefully, swabbed my nose thoroughly, and set a timer for 15 minutes.

I left the test card flat on the counter (as directed), poured myself a cup of coffee and walked out of the room and over to my morning spot. I took a sip of coffee. Its warmth soothed my throat. 

Wait…did I taste that? I took another sip. Faintly. But even if I only have a cold, that influences taste, right? And I just drank OJ. I tasted that, right? Wait. Did I? I think I did. Ugh. I’m just getting paranoid. 

I restrained myself from sticking my head into my husband’s blue cheese container or the fermenting compost bin. Barely. 

I’ll know soon enough.

I started writing in my notebook, skipping haphazardly from one topic to another, unable to remain focused.  

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

I wrote a page. 

Then started on another. 

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

Halfway down that second page, the alarm sounded stridently.

I stood up and walked slowly toward the kitchen. Toward the test card. I imagined it pulsing red…warning! warning! warning! 

I didn’t want to look. 

I wanted to look. 

Taking a deep breath, I finally looked.

There was a single pink line. 

Oh no. That doesn’t look good. But, wait! What does that even mean? Is that definitely positive? 

I realized that I hadn’t read the part of the instructions about how to interpret results. Quickly I scanned. 

“One positive pink line = negative.”

I heaved a big sigh of relief. Reread it again to make sure. It still said the same thing. I maybe read it once more to triple check. Then, I bundled up the test materials, threw them all into the garbage, and sent up a heartfelt thanks to the universe. 

Phew!