Gratitude and #poeticdiversion

downloadI caught part of Krista Tippett’s “On Being” interview with Marilyn  Nelson last weekend. In the portion I heard, Marilyn Nelson shared part of her poem “Farm Garden,” inspired by the life of Venture Smith. I grabbed a strike line to write this golden shovel poem.

Gratitude
a golden shovel after Marilyn Nelson’s “Farm Garden”

These days gratitude
soothes my parched throat. It is
a balm in fevered days, a
source of comfort, never-emptying,
ever-present in life’s cup.

©Molly Hogan

Recently, I’ve been actively working to foster a sense of gratitude.  I’ve been focusing on positive moments throughout the day, then writing small poems and sharing them with the hashtag #poeticdiversion.  (Please join in on Twitter if you’d like to do so.) Already, I can attest to the value of searching for and focusing on positive moments and gratitude every day!

Here are five small poems from this week:

8/3/20

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wayward blossom
some call it “weed”
I prefer “volunteer”

©Molly Hogan
8/4/20

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How is it
that watching
the sun rise
can so profoundly alter
the dawn of a day?

©Molly Hogan

8/5/20

“Look at all the dragonflies!”
“Oh!”
“Oooooohhhhhh….”
Awkward…
Feeling like a voyeur,
I took photos
and laughed.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

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8/6/20
Back Meadow in August

criss-crossing desiccated stalks
splashes of sun-seared blossoms
the shadow of a passing bee
faded patchwork quilt

©Molly Hogan

8/7/20

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Look closely!
Within a zinnia’s tender petals
a secret garden thrives

©Molly Hogan

Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog . She’s sharing a delightful poem about a pufferfish (Be sure to take time to read this one aloud!) and encouragement for dealing with poetry writing anxiety. Thanks, Laura!

Rainbow Connection

downloadThe storm came in quickly. A typical late summer afternoon thunderstorm, powered by thick heat and humidity. The clouds rolled in, trees twitched and swayed and the heavens opened to release torrents of rain. The temperature dropped, dropped, dropped. Ahhhhhh!

Safe inside, we watched the rain pattern the windows and splatter the earth. I puttered about in the kitchen, hoping the storm would last long enough to soak the parched gardens.

About 15 minutes later, dinner was just about ready and the downfall was easing. Rays of sunlight pierced the clouds from the western sky, transforming rain droplets to crystals.

“Oh! Look! There’s got to be a rainbow out there!” I announced. “I’m going to see.” I quickly dumped the gnocchi in the colander, and turned off all the burners.

“I’ll look out front,” Lydia called as I raced out the garden door, headed to the driveway. Both of us were heedless of the falling rain, busily scanning the skies.

Wait….is that one? No…. Over there? Just over the trees? The faintest tint of color at the top of an arch? Yes? YES!

“I see one!” I shouted. “There’s a rainbow! You can barely see it, just over the trees!”

Lydia rushed over to join me in the driveway and I pointed.

“Oooh!”

“I’m driving down to the river to see if I can see it better there,” I announced. “Want to come?”

“Sure! I’ll see if Sophie does, too.”

Within a minute or two, we’d dropped everything. I had double checked that the burners were off, thrown a dishtowel over the steaming gnocchi, and grabbed my camera.  Dinner could wait. The three of us jumped in the car and headed down the driveway.

As soon as we turned onto the road, our view opened up and we saw it.

“Look! Look! There it is!”

The sky was lit with the full arc of a rainbow, the colors dazzling and bright. We chattered excitedly, pointing as the rainbow shimmered and glowed.

“It’s so bright! I’ve never seen one so bright!”

“Wait! There’s another one! See! It’s really faint but it’s there! Oh my gosh!  It’s a double rainbow!”

We continued down to the river, making admiring comments all the while.

We pulled into the parking lot at the river park, and jumped out to join several others who were there, heads angled toward the sky, cameras snapping. Everyone was smiling.

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After several moments and several pictures, I looked back to realize my car was parked haphazardly, halfway in a spot, halfway in the middle of the lot. I looked around and noticed other cars similarly situated. I pointed this out to another spectator (and poor parker), and we laughed together. Clearly we’d all been too excited and distracted to park properly. Isn’t that wonderful?  It reminded me of a poem by Maggie Smith “Poem Beginning with a Retweet” and these lines,

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! 
If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence.”

I want to be with people who drop everything to chase rainbows. Who point out the beauty in our world and who stop to pay attention. When I’m feeling down about how people are acting in the world or overwhelmed by the barrage of news, I’m trying to remember moments like this. The spontaneous rush to search for a rainbow. The heady feeling of delight as we caught sight of the full double arc. The moment when so many of us, after the storm had passed, lingered in a parking lot, enthralled by the sight of those two glorious rainbows dazzling in the sky. Smiling together. Connected.

Inspired by Poetry Friday

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I’ve been dabbling in this and that this month, but mostly I’ve found a lot of inspiration in the recent posts of different Poetry Friday participants. I can’t say how thankful I am for this community. It enriches my life in so many ways!

First, I was inspired to respond to the Poetry Princess invitation to write an etheree.  An etheree is a 10 line poem, beginning with a one syllable line and working its way up to 10 syllables in the tenth line.

Summer Passes

June
unrolls
a carpet
of fragrant blooms
to welcome July,
who unleashes her heat
and temper in thundrous bursts.
She cedes lush gardens to August
who blankets them in humidity
and the faintest whiff of autumnal spice.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

Matt Esenwine’s post  last week reminded me of the power of a cherita. Cheritas tell a story in 6 lines, separated into one, two and three lines. Better yet, they don’t typically have titles and wow, do I struggle with titles!

At the shore

the waves curl and unfurl
in endless repetitions.

Two young lovers, sun-lit and carefree,
construct a castle of sand,
beautiful and doomed.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

I also was inspired by Tabatha Yeatt’s post last week about senryu, haiku-style verse that focus on humanity rather than nature.

control
slowly letting go
of that illusion

©Molly Hogan, 2020

And on a lighter note, very much inspired by one of the mentor poems that Tabatha shared:

indigestion
after once again
eating my words

©Molly Hogan, 2020

Finally, after reading Mary Lee Hahn’s post last week, I was inspired to create a daily challenge for myself and anyone who wants to join . Rather than spinning in circles trying to figure out what’s going to happen with school, I’m trying to focus on something small and positive each day, enjoying fleeting moments as they happen. Join in if you’d like!

in the garden
summer sun comes on strong
tomato blushes

©Molly Hogan, 2020
#poeticdiversion

Thanks to all my PF friends. You are such an inspiration!

Catherine Flynn, a regular inspiration to all,  is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, Reading to the Core. She’s sharing another beautiful resource and the poem it inspired.

 

Covid Points

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I walked in the door, arms laden with bags from my shopping excursion. 

“Ugh! I had to go to three stores. I have definitely used all my Covid points for the day!” I announced.

What are Covid points you ask? Well, I’m not sure how it first started, but we’ve fallen into the habit of planning and considering our potential outings (and exposure risk) in terms of Covid points, and we’ve placed ourselves on a sort of  budget. The higher the potential exposure risk, the higher the number of points spent. Our goal is to use a minimal amount of points, ideally zero. Covid points have quickly become a part of the household’s vernacular and part of our mental calculations as we plan our day. 

Determining the Covid price tag for each experience is a partially subjective process. You need to consider current guidelines and science, look at the risks, the benefits, your individual situation (physical and mental) and decide whether you’re willing to pay those hypothetical points. Of course, you do whatever you can to mitigate the risk–wear a mask, use sanitizer, social distance, etc. Still, those things don’t make you invulnerable. Keeping a casual mental tally of Covid points spent helps me keep this in mind. You may think it borders on paranoia, but it works for me. (On a side note, being paranoid in the midst of a pandemic isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)

As a household we are luckily in pretty solid agreement about what constitutes a risk and about the need to conservatively use our Covid points.  If we spend more points than usual one day, we try to spend fewer points the next day or two. Store exposure feels like one of our higher costs, but we have to eat and occasionally need something at the hardware store, so we condense our trips and go as seldom as possible. To be clear, going to three stores in one day was highly unusual for me and a huge Covid point expenditure. The cost of in-restaurant dining, even at 50% capacity, is out of our budget. We’re so frugal, we’re not even convinced that outside dining is worth the Covid points. We haven’t gotten haircuts since at least February, and don’t even talk to us about going bowling or to the movies. Flying somewhere? Ha!

On the other hand, hanging out on the back porch expends no points. Neither does cooking, baking, reading or spending time in the garden. Connecting with friends and relatives via letters, Zoom visits or phone calls is a freebie. Around here, going to the beach very early in the day or late in the afternoon is pretty low cost. Hikes and walks on less popular paths are, too. We’re fortunate to have many such options.

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day’s heat ebbs
the tide rolls in
evening beach respite

We’ve come to the conclusion that our safest bet is to continue limiting our exposure as much as we can. Maine, thank goodness, under the leadership of our governor, is doing well. Still, we play it safe–for both ourselves and for others. Until things change markedly for the better or until we have no choice (i.e., going back to school), we’re sticking to our budget.

So, what are you spending your Covid points on or what are your favorite no-cost or low-cost activities?

 

 

 

Rondeau Rant

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This month’s round of Ethical ELA prompts was a welcome distraction in the midst of increasingly distressing news and looming decisions about the start of the school year. Mo Daley and Tracie McCormick started participants off with a rondeau prompt.  As they explained, “The rondeau is a French poetic form composed of a rhyming quintet, quatrain, and sestet. The rentrement, or refrain, is a repeating line throughout. A rondeau usually has 8 syllables per line and refrains of 4 syllables. The rhyme scheme is AABBA AABR AABBAR. ”

I’m not big on name-calling, but these days my temper is fraying. I’m so tired of being angry and working to remain civil with people who simply make me crazy. I’m also heartily sick of people not wearing masks.

Wear Your Mask!

Don’t listen when the asses bray
about their rights taken away.
Ignorant choices just prolong
the upward trend–dread Covid’s song.
A mask is a small price to pay.

There really is no other way
to stem the tide without delay.
So wash your hands, avoid the throng
and wear your mask.

My temper has begun to fray
when faced with mask-less fools each day.
The evidence is clear and strong:
Mask naysayers are deadly wrong.
Reject this toxic game they play–
and WEAR YOUR MASK!

©Molly Hogan, 2020

Many who oppose masks refer to mask wearers as “sheep.” (I won’t tell you what I call them in the privacy of my home.) My recent non-verbal response to their derisive refrain of “Don’t be a sheep!” was to order masks made from this fabric:

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These will probably be the first masks I’ll look forward to wearing!

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the talented and prolific Margaret Simon at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Margaret dove into some poetry work last week and is sharing some quotes about what poetry is. She’s collecting ideas from participants and hoping to create a collaborative poem. Stop on by and add your thoughts about poetry to the comments.

 

Thump! Thump!

downloadWe were headed for home, winding our way along the road, chatting about this and that. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a small creature darted into the road in front of the car. I braked quickly and swerved.

Thump!

Thump!

I looked at Kurt, horrified, then peered into the rear view mirror as I drove on, trying to see the road behind us. “Oh, no! Do you think I hit it?”

Kurt looked at me, astonished. “Do I think you hit it? How can you even ask?” He shook his head. “Do I think you hit it?” he repeated, now laughing. “Thump! Thump! Yes, I think you hit it. In fact, I think you hit it twice!”

“Oh, no!” I exclaimed, “But I didn’t see it in the road when I looked back.”

“Well,” Kurt amended slowly, apparently noticing my stricken expression, “actually, I think that squirrel was holding a nut. It must have rolled out of his hands into the road as he was running, and it was the nut you hit. Two times. In fact, you actually cracked it open for him and did him a favor!”

Well, I didn’t really believe him, but I have to give him points for creativity.

Poor little squirrel.

 

 

 

 

PF: Poetry Swap and More

downloadLast week I opened up the mailbox, expecting the regular array of bills, advertisements and political flyers, and instead found a slim package addressed to me. Oooh! Intriguing. Already my day was looking brighter! Seeing a familiar name above the return address, I realized it must be my first Summer Poetry Swap gift! I brought it into the house and immediately opened it.

Sure enough, Margaret Simon of Reflections on the River Teche had received my name in the match up. She sent me a lovely note on a beautiful photo card she’d made, along with a cute and cheerful notebook from a student fundraiser. Inside the notebook, she’d copied some of my recent photos from my Facebook page and included a copy of her gorgeous poem, “Mbuntu.” As a bonus (and an encouraging nudge), she’d added Michelle Haseltine’s Notebooking Bingo page. Thanks for such a personal and thoughtful gift, Margaret!

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Mbuntu

The kayaker doesn’t look
up
to see me watching him,
seeing how his body,
like paddle,
the water are one.
Stroke right, stroke left
sends a ripple from the
water to the trees
where light dances
like fine feathers.

Branches spread from bald
cypress
to shade the grass,
hide the tree frog,
nest the swallow.
A bird calls
here-a-here-a-here.
Cicadas buzz
like maracas at a Spanish
festival.
The sun rises to the sound
of Samba.

~Margaret Simon

You might not know this, but Margaret also offers up a weekly poetry prompt each Thursday morning titled “This Photo Wants To Be A Poem”. It’s fun to participate, sharing quick responses and commenting on those of others. This week she shared this photo from her friend, JoAnne Duncan:

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feather-at-sea, by JoAnne Duncan

Here’s my response:

Amidst a melody
of blues,
one single feather,
earthbound,
retains the memory
of flight.

©Molly Hogan

Much to my delight, Margaret has also featured a few of my photos. Here’s one from this past spring and my response:

dandelion-by-molly-hogan

Youth’s bloom a golden memory,
her heart aquiver,
Dandelion sighs,
releases her arrowed seeds
to lift and fly
to unknown destinations
in the wild spring breeze.

Molly Hogan, 2020

Thanks again, Margaret, for my Summer Swap gifts and for all the poetry goodness you spread!

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jan Annino at her blog, Bookseedstudio. She’s sharing memories of her mother and a tender, original poem about swimming with her mother in the sea. Be sure to stop by and check out her post. She’s rounding up the old school way.

 

Another Summer Memory in the Books

downloadWe’d watched their Facebook page for weeks, looking for the much-anticipated announcement.

“Usually in mid June,” they said.

June 14th passed.

Then the 15th.

The 16th.

“Soon!” a post promised.

We waited impatiently as a few more days passed.

Finally, on June 20th, the post we’d been waiting for arrived: “The fields are open!

Yes! It was strawberry picking time.

Unfortunately, the soonest we could make it to the farm was two days later. Two whole days! I could just imagine everyone else picking away, harvesting the cream of the crop. The delay was agonizing! Over and over, I had to remind myself that more berries ripen every day,  and I crossed my fingers that this year the crop was bountiful.

On the 22nd, we woke early in the morning and set off. After about ten minutes, we slowed and turned onto the bumpy dirt road. A plume of dust rose and fell in our wake and around us the fields rolled off into the distance. Already the parking lot was full of cars. We looked at each other uneasily: Would there be any berries left? 

We parked, then read and followed the clearly posted new protocols. Directional arrows guided us to large tanks of water and soap. We washed our hands and then moved on to pick up cardboard containers. Suitably sanitized and equipped, we headed for the fields, careful to distance ourselves from other pickers.

As soon as we got settled and started picking, we knew.

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“Oh my Gosh! Look at these berries!” we enthused.

“Check this one out!”

“There are so many of them! I barely have to move!”

“This is the best strawberry picking we’ve ever had!”

We picked and picked and picked.

“Do you think we have enough?”

“Let’s just pick a few more. These are amazing berries!”

In about thirty minutes, we were done picking and ready to go. We paid up and drove home.

Once we placed the flats on the counter, we realized that we had picked A LOT of berries. Gorgeous, plump, ripe berries. But A LOT of berries. Oops.

The anticipated two-three batches of jam turned into four, then five and then six. The kitchen air hung thick and humid with the scent of cooking strawberries, and we ate jam by the sweet, sticky spoonful. Still there were berries! Onto Strawberry pie. Strawberry puree. On and on and on. Hour after delicious hour.

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Finally, we were done. All the strawberries were processed, the kitchen was clean, and the carefully jarred jam stood in neat rows on the counter, clicking as it cooled.

1-3It was a delicious, berry-full day… Another summer memory in the books.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

A Seed of Hope

downloadThe e-mail flyer from the MAC (Merrymeeting Art Center) was ambiguous and intriguing:

Hmmmm…. What kind of exhibit was this? 

I read the flyer again. Then I checked the clock. 12:15.

“Hey, Lyddie,” I called, “want to go downtown and check out a show?”

“What is it?”

“I’m not really sure, ” I replied and showed her the e-mail flyer, “It’s opening today though. We’d have to leave right now, but I’d like to check it out.”

Lydia, ever up for an adventure, agreed, and about ten minutes later we were in the car, driving to our town’s local Arts Center.

After arriving, we parked, put on our masks and walked over to the entry. Outside the gallery was a small table with hand sanitizer and a stack of masks. A sign stated that only four people could be in the gallery at one time and masks must be worn. We still had no idea what the exhibit was.

As we approached, Mark, a town artist and MAC member, came to the gallery door. He greeted us and explained a little about the exhibit. It had been planned before Covid-19 and was based on the old-fashioned game, Telephone (the game where you whisper a word around a circle of people and the end word, when announced, rarely matches the initial word.) The twist, initially conceived of by a group of NY artists, was this:

“What if the game were played, not with spoken words, but with art?”

We were hooked.

What an amazing idea!” I exclaimed.

“I know!” he said, “I wanted to be in the show as soon as I heard about it!”

He guided us to a written explanation of the show and then stepped back to let us experience it for ourselves. According to the explanation, the process involved presenting the first artist with a stimulus, having him/her interpret it in the artistic medium of choice, and then sending that art to the next artist to spark another interpretation. Each artist had only 24 hours to respond. Talk about pressure!

In this case, in honor of Maine’s Bicentennial, the process began when the initial stimulus, a single chocolate cupcake with a candle, arrived at the home of the first artist, a local 10 year old girl. It arrived, unbelievably, on March 13th, as Covid-19 made its presence known. Undeterred, after a “mad scramble” of grocery shopping with her family, and amidst speculation and rumors about school closings, this young artist dove into a “creative flurry” and crafted her frosting-daubed collage:

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by Nori Edwards

The exhibit creation was underway!

In the next day or two, as our world shifted dramatically and quickly, the Arts Center and artists considered their options and ultimately decided to forge forward. They realized the process for this exhibit was actually well suited to a “distanced” setting. Now, instead of delivering the actual work to the next artist, images and files were sent of the inspiring pieces. No physical contact was necessary.

Commenting about the experience for her daughter, the mother of the first artist wrote:
“Doing the work and sharing it with other people felt important in that uncertain moment in time.”

So, off they went, inspired by others, creating within their own spaces, sending the message on down the line, until finally, all the pieces were brought together in this community space.

In the gallery a red string leads from piece to piece, evoking old string-and-can telephone memories. As suggested, we followed the string to guide us through the gallery. What began with a chocolate cupcake evolved into various interpretations before our eyes.

As we walked through the exhibit, I stood before the pieces, admiring the art, reading the artists’ words, and was deeply moved. More than once tears pricked. The  parallel between the creation of this exhibit and our recent Covid experiences is so strong. It was inspiring to see the creative effort of this group and to know that each piece was crafted in isolation while such huge uncertainties loomed over us all. This exhibit made visible the idea of working individually toward a collective goal. It was such a positive response to frightening times–a pivot to creativity in the midst of darkness.

Midway through, we stopped before a boombox and read the description, suddenly realizing that the music playing in the gallery was one of the artistic interpretations. The artist this time was the elementary school’s principal. He had composed a piece of music after receiving his prompt, a photograph of an elaborately conceived chocolate cake.

Mark, came back to join us.

“Wow, how cool to have a musical interpretation,” I enthused. “It really changes things.”

Mark, who had received the original musical piece as his spark, emphatically agreed.
“I know!” he said, “I looked at the e-mail attachment and was like…wait…this is an mpeg file, not a jpeg!”

He rose to the challenge and created a sculptural fiber arts piece in response. It was free form, but somewhat nest-like. And, one after another, the artists continued to respond, interpreting along the way. Ultimately, the show ended with a fabric piece of two birds nesting:

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by Caitlin Johnson

I turned to Mark. “Wow! This is such a wonderful show. It resonates so much now, doesn’t it?”

He nodded, pleased and smiling, and I turned again to the last artwork, the two birds nesting. I was struck by how uncannily appropriate that piece was. We’ve all spent so much time at home lately, tending to our nests and trying to interpret the messages coming down the line.

It was a small show, but it was a powerful show. It was a testament to art, to individual effort, and to collaboration. In the midst of a pandemic, the Arts Center persevered, the artists created, and a show was born. And as I walked through the exhibit, a small kernel of hope took root.

Ethical ELA Prompt Responses

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Last month I experimented in my notebook with a couple of  Ethical ELA prompts.  The first was from Margaret Simon who, within her prompt, asked “Are you a marcher or a leaper?” I didn’t manage to meet all the guidelines of the prompt (like the use an echo line), but enjoyed playing around with some of my favorite words.

No Clear Destination

I’m neither a marcher
nor a leaper,
rather a rambler,
a perambulator,
one who coddiwomples
or stravaigs,
meandering along,
no clear destination in sight,
the journey the reward.

©Molly Hogan

Another Ethical ELA prompt last month came from Melanie Crowder. She suggested identifying your emotional state then brainstorming things in the physical world that are illustrative of it. She encouraged writers to look beyond the obvious and then write a poem that reveals one’s emotional state through a description of that chosen object.  I did initially have an emotional state in mind, but I think the poem wandered a bit.

Mica

Beneath earth’s surface,
silted and soiled,
layers of mica rest.
Light, soft, flexible,
it cleaves
into glittering sheets,
transparent to opaque,
reflective and insulating,
resistant to heat.
Mica shields
and reveals.

Above ground,
when struck
by the whirring blades
of a mower,
mica shatters,
exploding briefly
into a dazzling constellation
of shimmering slivers
of light.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is  hosted by the ever-ready-for-a-challenge Linda Mitchell. She’s written an “In One Word” poem, a form newly created by April Halprin Wayland. Check out her post for an explanation of the form and a powerful original poem.