Entranced

slice-of-life_individual

IMG_4071.jpgI wasn’t planning on going down to the river yesterday morning. Then, I looked outside and saw the dramatic bands of red, purple and blue. How could I resist? I put down my pen and started getting dressed.

By the time I arrived, the light was still low, but the drama of the pre-sunrise sky had already dimmed. My friend, Roger, arrived shortly after I did, and bundled in our layers of down, we waited and watched the morning unfold around us. 

DSC_0185.jpg

Suddenly a loud cry filled the air.

“Whoa! What was that?” I asked, turning to Roger in surprise.

“An eagle?” Roger suggested hesitantly.

“I think it might have been a fox,” I said, looking down the river toward the origin of the sound.

The noise came again. Then, after a brief pause, again. It’s hard to describe a fox’s cry, but it is piercing and somewhat eerie. (click here to listen)

“That’s definitely a fox, Roger,” I said.

We both looked around us, trying to find the source of the call, scanning the opposite shoreline, following the repeating cries.

“Oh! Look! Look! There it is!! Do you see?”

“Where?” Roger asked.

“It’s over on the other shore, just a little ways in from the point.”

DSC_0201 (1).jpg

I pointed and Roger followed my not-so-clear directions until he saw it as well.

Over the next few minutes, the fox lingered, calling repeatedly. Roger and I took photo after photo. After a bit, I moved to a different vantage point, slightly closer to the fox. Even as I took the pictures, I knew they probably wouldn’t turn out well due to the the dim light and the distance. When not taking pictures, I watched the fox move along the shore, periodically stopping and crying. What a beautiful creature with those velvet black legs, russet coat, white chest and lush tail! It moved so gracefully, loping along the shore, stopping, calling. Entrancing.

DSC_0199.jpg

After about 5 minutes or so, the fox slipped around the corner and out of sight. Not long afterward, Roger and I went our separate ways.

All day long my mind drifted back to that moment at the river. To the piercing calls. The far away silhouette. The beauty of that lone fox wandering along the icy shore at dawn. The moment still feels so big. So memorable. I’m flooded with gratitude for having been in that place at that time. It is nice to have a photo or two, even if they are a bit blurry. But really, I don’t need one. Not at all.

 

 

Wow!

download“Wow!”

That was just about all I could say, “Wow.”

Perhaps you recognize the nod to Kevin Henkes (Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse), perhaps not. Either way, you’re sure to realize that I was totally wowed by Linda Mitchell’s Poetry Swap gift to me.

Back in November, Tabatha Yeatts kindly invited people to participate in a poetry/gift swap this December. (Thanks, Tabatha!) I, in a fit of delusional optimism, thought, “Sure!” and signed up. Then I got matched up with Linda Mitchell, and knowing the recipient made participation even more fun. And it really was…even if November flew by and December approached far faster than I’d imagined and I barely squeaked out my gift and poem by the due date. (How is it that every year I forget how insane this time of year is?)

At any rate, I sent Linda’s gift off on Saturday and then early the next week,  Linda’s gift for me arrived. Wow! Clearly there was no squeaking done on her end! She created a stunning book for me including her beautiful artwork and an original poem. What a gift! With her permission I’m sharing it here. First, check out the adorable cover below.

80278776_437325073612508_6985592954928758784_n.jpg

Then, on the inner flyleaf, she began the book with a poem from Wallace Stevens entitled, “The Snowman”.

80106239_425939268289694_6378211972852219904_n.jpgNext, she worked her scrapbooking/collage magic.

80285523_684168178777544_6368125839158018048_n.jpg

79388480_436539020624821_3317903923112574976_n.jpg

These photos simply don’t do the book justice. That initial tree….wow! And those pines and snowflakes. Wow! Again, that was just about all I could say, “Wow!” Each page is a work of art highlighting a stanza from the original Wallace Stevens poem.

Then, the final page showcases her marvelous poem to me. Oh. So. lovely. Her first stanza moved me deeply and then she followed up with stanzas rich with beautiful winter imagery and ended with an echo of Stevens’s fabulous final line.

80513733_1379306818913939_8186487315791609856_n.jpg

Oh, Linda. Thank you for this beautiful book and your poem. I treasure them. The warmth of poetry and friendship mean so much and I am the richer for having received both.

Buffy Silverman is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at her blog.  She’s sharing a sneak peek at Liz Garton Scanlon’s stunning new book, “One Dark Bird.” Be sure to check it out.

Feeling Stupid and Lucky

slice-of-life_individualDSC_1005.jpgDriving away from a dawn photo session by a local river, I looked over my left shoulder. The sun was just rising, and color streaked the sky. I pulled over to the berm to pause and once again admire the evolving view. It really was lovely.

Just one more picture,  I thought.

I grabbed my camera, jumped out of the car, and walked across the road. The power lines were in the way, so I moved a bit further away to avoid them. I crouched down, angled this way and that, and took a few photos.DSC_1010.jpg

Snap!

The sound barely registered as I focused on capturing the golden rays and the reflection on the river.

Crackle! Snap! SNAP!

Huh? What was that? 

SNAP! SCRATCH! SNAP! SNAP!

I turned to look, as simultaneously my neurons fired in nervous anticipation of the answer.

Oh, no!

Oh, yes!

I hadn’t!

I had!

I knew it before I even saw it. Dread trickled down my spine.

Intent on my photo op, I must have left the car in drive.

Sure enough, my car had already rolled down the road away from me. It had now begun a descent into the side growth, crushing bushes and twigs in its path. Even as I looked, my mouth agape, it continued on its path …

Snap, crackle!

SNAPSNAPSNAP!

I ran.

It rolled.

Finally, it stopped.

I kept running until I reached it.

I looked at the slant of the car. At the wet, wet ground below it from the 3 inches of rain we’d had the day before. At the tree that had stopped its full descent. At the morass of weedy swamp in front of the tree.

I assessed for about one second. Then, I jumped in, put it into reverse and praying, stepped slowly but firmly on the gas.

SCRAPE! SNAP! Crack! SC-R-A-P-E!

Moving….

m-o-v-i-n-g….

Scrape! Crunch! Crackle! Crack!

skidding, slipping….

regripping…

moving…

Slowly but surely my trusty little Subaru extricated itself from the pit of my stupidity.

In a moment I was back safely on the side of the road. The sun was still casting lovely rays. My heart was beating madly and my hands were gripping the steering wheel. This time I put the car firmly in park.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I whispered over and over and over again, interspersed with “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!”

After I’d settled down a bit, I took a breath and slowly steered back onto the road. I drove home shaking the entire way, imagining all the what ifs from bad to worse: What if it had been stuck? What if it had been damaged? Or totaled? What if it had gone the other direction and into the river? What if it had hit another car? What if it had injured someone?

“Oh, my God! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

I felt unbelievably stupid and unbelievably lucky.

 

 

 

Let It Snow!

slice-of-life_individualLast Friday, I puttered about after work–picked up the room, prepared materials for this week, chatted with my colleagues. Dark descended (which isn’t saying much since the sun set at 4:02 pm), and before I knew it, it was 6 pm. I gathered up my things, said goodbye to my one remaining colleague, and rushed out the door.

As I burst out of the building, I was startled to see that it had started to snow. I stopped.

“Oh, it’s snowing!” I called out, not sure if I was talking to myself or to my friend.

I stepped out into the cold, dark night and smiled, delighted by the unexpected scene. The parking lot lights shone on the few remaining cars.  Above the lights, the skies were dark and appeared empty, but within their cone of light, auras of snowflakes glowed. The wet, dirty parking lot was transformed. I watched the flakes appear as their paths took them from darkness into the light. Magical. I stood, transfixed, watching the spectacle. Twisting, turning, sparkling, falling. A grace of snow. 

After a moment, I started toward my car, a new buoyancy in my step, and began singing,

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
but the fire is so delightful.
And since we’ve no place to go…
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let is snow!”

I continued singing all the way across the parking lot. It occurred to me that someone else might be out there, might hear me singing, but I didn’t really care. It was the end of a long week, the snow was a vision of wonder, and I was heading home. It was definitely a night for singing.

“Well, it doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve brought some corn for popping.
The lights are turned way down low.
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

DSC_0885.jpg

 

 

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

bee balm.jpg

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
DSC_1029.jpg

DSC_0844.jpg

DSC_0395.jpg

garden weeds.jpg

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:

Screen Shot 2019-10-22 at 5.28.20 AM.png

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. 

DSC_0609

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!