SOLC Day 28: Waves

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March 2020 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

Laura Shovan is sponsoring a month-long Water Poem Project. Each day a different poet offers up a water-related prompt. Today’s prompt came from poet, Heather Meloche, who asked writers to create a concrete or shape poem about waves. This prompt seemed especially appropriate since nearby beaches closed yesterday morning.

My husband and I both love walking on the beach. The closest beaches are about 45 minutes away, but we go several times a month during the winter and more often when my schedule opens up in the summer. We usually go early in the day or late in the afternoon. We’re not there to lie in the sun or even to swim (We do live in Maine after all! Brrr!). Instead we walk together, gather shells, watch the sandpipers play tag with the surf, and listen to the call of the seagulls. We scan the water for seals or unusual ducks. We admire newly deposited driftwood and intricate water-etched patterns in the sand. Often we stop and simply stand at the water’s edge, breathe the salt air and watch the waves.

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SOLC Day 27 and PF: And the Beaches Have Closed…

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March 2020 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

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This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Tabatha Yeatts, at her blog, The Opposite of Indifference. She’s sharing a lovely original poem about acceptance.

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I woke this morning to the news that many Maine beaches are now closed to the public. Some people are ranting and raving about this on local social media. I get it. I hate that the beaches are being closed. But I also accept the sad necessity.

Nevertheless, I feel bereft this morning. The beaches and time spent walking alongside the ocean sustain me, especially in times when I feel adrift. I had intended to head to the beach later this afternoon. I know that I’m very fortunate to have tremendous access to nature even without the beaches. Still, I’m grieving.

The Solace of the Ocean: A Sonnet

When I feel overwhelmed and tempest-tossed
and crave perspective and serenity
when life feels like a battle I have lost
I take myself to wander by the sea

‘Midst drifts of fog or dazzling rays of sun
in dawn’s soft hues or evening’s golden glow
one breath and the enchantment has begun
allegro transforms to adagio

Susurrant surf or tossing, tumbling tide
The redolence of rose in briny air
Such wonders nudge my worries to the side
a heartfelt sigh escapes my lips like prayer

And slowly as I linger and explore
I feel myself become both less and more

©2018 Molly Hogan

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SOLC Day 26: …and now for some comic relief aka Not My Finest Hour

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 26
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 admit it wasn’t my finest hour. I’m still not sure what got into me. In the interest of escaping the stress of the current time, I’m willing to throw myself under the bus and relive this moment with you. I cannot reveal names (obviously!), but I will attest to the accuracy of this moment, and I will confirm that it happened a couple of years ago.

Don’t judge.

It was after 5 pm and I had been attempting to leave school for well over an hour. You know how that goes. It’s never a linear process. So, determined to finally actually leave, I was walking down the hallway to the bathroom to make a final pit stop.

As I neared my co-worker ‘s room, I heard her talking to someone. Then I heard a voice respond.

“Oh, she’ll like that,” it said.

Wait! I knew that voice! It was the voice of one of my student’s father.

This father, an involved parent (and that truly isn’t code for anything else!) had been working hard to support his daughter’s learning. Apparently, he’d stopped by to check in with my colleague about an upcoming unit. (We switch classrooms for Social Studies and Science content, and my class was about to begin a new Science unit with her.) This parent was nice. He was caring and concerned. But he talked a lot. A lot. He was one of those parents you’d never schedule last for a parent-teacher conference. And it had already been a very long, very challenging day. 

So, not even knowing if he intended to speak with me (and in my defense, we were in regular contact, so there was nothing new to share), and with nary a second thought, I threw my colleague to the wolves (or to the wolf to be more precise), and moved into stealth ninja mode.
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Immediately, I became one with the air around me. I held my breath, moving quickly, with exaggerated, sweeping, silent steps, passing the classroom. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. Step by step, I eased my way further along the hallway.

I had just passed the room, the corner and freedom in sight, when I heard the parent’s voice getting louder. He had to be moving toward the door.

Oh, no! He was going to enter the hallway at any second!

Unfortunately, I was still clearly in sight.

Like I said, I still can’t explain why this next part happened, and the whole time it did, part of my brain looked on, jaw agape, and an astonished and slightly horrified little voice said, “Molly, what are you doing!?”

As I already noted, it wasn’t my finest hour. I guess I was just plain old exhausted. I heard that father’s voice nearing me and something snapped. I just didn’t have anything left to give. I knew that seeing him would mean a long, involved conversation and a long delay to leaving.

So I ran.

Really.

I burst into a full out, arms-pumping, skirt-flying run, raced around the corner and flung myself into the nearest bathroom.

“What are you doing?” that voice asked again.

Once inside the bathroom, I started giggling. Well, that was totally ridiculous! Not to mention utterly undignified! Completely unprofessional, too!

Then a thought struck me.

OMG, the hallway cameras must have caught me in action!

The idea that someone in the office might have watched my headlong race down the hallway simultaneously horrified me and cracked me up again. I could only hope that no one had had their eyes on the video stream at that moment. I had no idea how I would explain myself if asked to do so. I laughed even harder, careful to muffle the sound. There might have been a wee note of hysteria in it.

Finally, I calmed down. I was committed now though, so I waited. After a little time had passed, I tentatively opened the door.

Was the coast clear?

The hall had that echoey sort of end-of-the-school-day quiet. That empty-squared feeling. I exited the bathroom, edged along the hall, and peeked into my colleague’s room. She was nowhere in sight. My shoulders relaxed and my steps grew more casual. Phew! 

I shook my head at myself, still marveling at my recent actions. Clearly the year was taking a toll on me. I entered my classroom to gather up my bags, happy to finally be heading out the door.

“Hey, Mrs. Hogan!”

What!?

I jumped and my hand flew to my chest.

And there he was. The father. His grinning head popping up like a jack-in-the-box from behind the bank of cubbies.

“S. forgot her book, so I was just getting it for her.”

“Oh,” I gasped, heart racing, “You startled me!”

He apologized and then we talked.

“Don’t stay too late,” he called over his shoulder as he left. Fifteen minutes later.

I stared after him for a long moment.

“Well, Molly,” I thought ruefully, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

Then I gathered up my things and finally headed home.

 

SOLC Day 25: Late This Afternoon…

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March 2020 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

Late this Afternoon…

after hours of stuffing baggies
with papers,
books, and
assorted school supplies…
after hours on the computer
learning,
answering questions, and
exploring technology…
we drove to the river,
then walked.
Along the way,
mergansers swam, and
we saw two bald eagles
perched in a tree.
Then two more flew in.
“There are four!” I cried,
utterly delighted.
We watched them
circle and soar.
Four of them!
Then two flew off
but there were still
two eagles left,
perched in a tree, and
common mergansers
still swam on the river.
And still, we walked.

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SOLC Day 24: Party at Leigh Anne’s!

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 24
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

A week or so again, Leigh Anne Eck put out an invitation to all slicers to participate in her “Spring Fling.” A virtual party’s always a great idea (No cleaning–Yay!), but this year, given the state of things, Leigh Anne transformed it into a self-care party. Perfect! Your entry ticket to the fun was to bring along your “three best self-care ideas.” 

So, here, in no particular order, are three of my self-care ideas–some of the things that are helping me get by from day to day. I don’t always remember to do them, but when I do, they make a difference.

  1. Research/Learn–Sure, I’m learning lots about google classroom and ways to support remote learning, but that’s not what I mean. I suggest spending some time researching something that sparks your interest. Dig into it. Read a little. Research. For example, recently I was intrigued by a reference to the Erie Canal. I knew nothing about it, so I googled it. Wow! Did you know that the canal (360 miles long, 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep) was constructed mostly by Irish immigrants who were paid in money ($10/month) and whiskey? And, when the canal was finished in 1825, cannons were lined up along the towpath-each one just within earshot of the previous one. Then they fired them one after the other in a rally along the length of the canal. It took 81 minutes to complete and was the fastest communication ever in the US at that time. The canal also provided a route for goods, information, new ideas and even people to flow. Think Underground Railroad. Fascinating, right? It’s a great distraction and just think about the trivia you could add to your dinner conversation!
  2. Focus–At least for a little bit every day, take the time to slow down and focus. For some this might be meditation or some sort of mindfulness practice. For me, both writing and photography help. In these crazy days, make sure to take a minute or two to peel back the patina of the ordinary to reveal the luster of the extraordinary. It’s there if you take the time to look. Really. Just spend a few minutes looking at a blue jay and you’ll see what I mean.
  3. Positive self-talk–I am a worrier by nature, and can all too swiftly circle the drain of utter disaster. This is one of those experiences that calls for a lot of mental framing. For me, that means I need to severely limit how much news I ingest, but also be very careful about the messages I give myself. Or how I think about what’s going on. I’m trying to be very metacognitive–aware of what I’m thinking and active about adjusting it based on reality or the moment at hand. I have to rein myself in from my natural tendency to go straight to “worst case scenario.” My husband playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” for me doesn’t hurt either.

These are by no means my only self-care tips. In addition to these, I’m a huge fan of exercising, reading, taking long hot baths, connecting with others, creating, and getting outside. 

 

What are you doing these days to take care of yourself?

SOLC Day 23: Spring is Coming

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 23
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 hopped on the treadmill early this morning, determined to burn off some anxiety and calories early in the day. As I walked, I read on the iPad Kindle app. Well, I sort of read. I’m not sure I could tell you a lot about what was happening in my book. On some level I recognized that it was well-written and interesting. But mostly my brain was craving the mechanical escape of reading without necessarily having to think about what I was reading or to retain it. I guess you could describe my reading effort as mental word calling. Focus hasn’t been my forte lately.

A couple of miles in, I saw a blur of movement outside the window. Easily distracted (Remember?… No focus here!), I turned my head to look outside.

What was that? I wondered, while simultaneously thinking, Whatever you do, don’t fall!

I straightened a bit and tightened my hands on the grips, but continued to scan the scene. Finally, outside the window, near a small patch of snow, I saw a single fat robin hopping about. It cocked its head one way, then the other. It hopped, stopped, hopped. I kept on walking and watching it.

It would be pretty cool if it looked me right in the eye, I thought. I stared at it long and hard.   Like a direct message from spring. A message of hope.  I stared a bit more.

Yeah, well it didn’t happen. In fact, that robin didn’t seem to notice me at all. It just hopped about, periodically pecking at the ground. But still, it was there, and that was something. The first robin I’d seen this year.

As I watched it, more movement caught my eye, and I suddenly realized that there was another robin in the background. And as I looked closer, I saw another. And another. Once I started looking, I saw them all over the yard and bustling about in the woods. Busy little harbingers of spring–and a reminder that regardless of the forecast for the coming days, and even if it won’t look me in the eye right now, spring is coming. 

SOLC Day 22: I’m in Charge of Celebrations

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 22
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

Have you ever read Byrd Baylor’s picture book, “I’m in Charge of Celebrations”? It’s a long-time favorite of mine. Baylor creates such beautiful images with her words and her book, with illustrations by Peter Parnall, is a love song to the desert, and to nature in general. It’s a book that exhorts you to not only recognize the beauty in your own life, but to actively celebrate it. The blurb on the back (which I’d never read before this morning) describes the book as a “radiant prose-poem.”

I videotaped myself reading part of this book to my students yesterday, and as I did so, I realized I’d had  a celebratory moment just that morning. I’ll share it here, using Baylor’s style as a mentor.

And
I was lucky
on Soaring Eagle Day
because I was there
for that one moment
when it happened.

I was walking
along the railroad tracks
that thread between
river and stream,
lost in serious conversation
on my phone,
bending down
talking softly,
fearful, concerned,
not paying
too much attention.

I looked up
in time to see
two eagles
perched in a nearby tree.
I ended my call,
readied my camera.

In that instant
Snap!
A branch broke.
An eagle
tumbled down.
One
two
seconds
falling,
falling.

Then, in that powerful way
that eagles have,
she thrust her wings
and righted herself,
lifting higher,
away from tree
and plummeting
branch.

I watched her soar,
like hope,
into blue skies,
then across the river,
with strong beating
wings.
Her companion
paused,
high in the tree,
then flew after her.

I watched them both
as they flew,
steady and true,
until
they were out of sight.
And the strange thing was
it made me feel better.

So now,
every year,
on March twenty-first,
I will celebrate
Soaring Eagle Day.

 

This past Friday, when I went back into school to grab a few things, this book was one of the first I chose. It struck me that we might need to focus on celebrations in the coming days.

A mere two days later, I feel this more than ever. I’m struggling to choose my walking companions. While worry and fear are eager to come along, I’m making way for joy and wonder and all the celebrations I can find.