An Unexpected Moment of Joy

It all began with a misunderstanding. Or perhaps mistranslation is more apt.

What she said was, “You can’t dance in the cafeteria. You can dance at recess.”

What they heard, in the mysterious, marvelous alchemy of first and second grade brains, was “Dance off at recess tomorrow!”

But it didn’t end there, because the teacher, a truly wonderful creature, decided to go for it. She later mentioned the impending dance-off to a colleague, a seventh grade teacher, who announced, “I’m in!” and who then raised the stakes by adding, “And I’m doing the worm!” This, of course, guaranteed a seventh grade audience.

The next morning the aforementioned wonderful teacher stationed herself in the hallway, and as the first and second graders filed past, she proclaimed: “Remember! Dance off at recess!”

Of course, I knew none of this as we headed out to recess on Friday. I’d heard a few murmurs about dancing from students as they entered the classroom, but figured they had their own plans for recess. And they did. They just weren’t what I imagined.

When the seventh graders all filed out the door to the playground ahead of my class, I wondered about it. This was not their recess time. I shrugged it off as tired teachers in May + sunny Friday = extra recess. But they didn’t disperse in the typical seventh-grade fashion. Instead, they moved en masse to line up at the edge of the soccer field. Most of the first and second graders headed that way as well.

I tried to see over the wall of seventh grade backs.

What was going on?

I walked to the edge of the field, keeping half an eye on the kids who were on the playground. After all, I was supposed to be on recess duty.

“What’s up?” I asked another teacher.

As she turned to fill me in, music filled the air and we both turned back to the field to look. The kids, and quite a few teachers, had suddenly launched into dance moves all over the soccer field. Arms and legs were flying. Everyone was smiling. I saw some unexpected faces and realized that the resource room teachers had come out to join in the fun, bringing their students along. Teachers and students from across the school laughed and danced together. Cheering erupted as the seventh grade teacher demonstrated her surprising aptitude for “The Worm”. Not to be outdone, several younger students joined in, bucking and squirming across the tender May grass.

Some kids were marvels of coordinated movement and rhythm, and others were whirling dervishes of chaos. I watched several students, whom I knew carried heavy burdens, embrace the magic of the moment, dancing as if they didn’t have a care in the world, their faces radiant. It was all quite wonderful.

For the next twenty minutes, I semi-fulfilled my recess duty responsibilities, while watching kids and teachers, dance, dance, dance. The music, impeccably planned, stopped just when it was time to blow the whistle. As we all headed toward the building, comments floated in the air.

“Did you see my moves?”

“We should do that every day!”

“That was SO.MUCH. FUN!”

It really was fun, but it was so much more than that as well.

I may have pieced together some of the timeline and events inaccurately, and I can’t begin to tell you what music was playing, but I can tell you, I’ll never forget that moment. For twenty minutes, the sun was shining, and there was laughter and music. And within me swelled a sort of fierce joy and a burning determination to nurture and protect these shining little humans and all the good things that happen at school.

It was joyful, uplifting and, quite simply, amazing.

The Gift of a Morning at the Marsh

If you get up now, you could make it to the marsh for sunrise.

I woke around 4 am on Saturday morning, wrapped in my nest of warm blankets. The thought, once it entered my mind, would not be dislodged.

If you get up now, you could make it to the marsh for sunrise.

I had had no intention of making the 5:19 sunrise (a 45 minute drive away) and instead had planned to set out after sunrise to look for warblers. Still, my mind had other ideas and was somewhat insistent.

If you get up now, you can easily make it. You’re already awake. Just do it! You can go to the marsh and then go to the park to look for warblers. You know you won’t regret it! It’ll be beautiful!

It didn’t take too much persuasion. The lure of spending mornings outside with my camera is a strong one for me. So, I shrugged off my blankets and thoughts of writing and a lazy start to the weekend, and happily gave in. I rolled out of bed, quickly brewed my coffee and got my things together. Within 15 minutes I was out the door and on my way to the marsh.

While I love being at the marsh, the early drive down there always offers its own appeal. As the day unfolded around me, it struck me, as it often does, as a gift unwrapping. Bit by bit, it revealed itself. Ribbons of color and cloud unfurled in the sky.The light gradually intensified along the horizon, silvering the tops of rivers. Silhouettes of trees became more distinct as shadows receded. As I drove through the sleeping town of Portland, a shooting star flashed briefly overhead. It felt like another gift and a message: I was in the right place at the right time.

As I got out of my car at the marsh, I marveled at the warmth. The sun still hadn’t risen and the temperatures were hovering around 60˚F! (Last weekend it had been in the 30s and my fingers had been aching with cold!) After a week of sunshine and warmth, everything was lush and full. The air was filled with bird song, the tide was high, and the skies were criss crossed with silhouettes of birds flying solo or in groups. Every salt panne and pond was filled with bird life or mesmerizing reflections of cloud and sky. Every where I looked there was something moving, singing, growing, breathing. The morning was suffused with beauty, and I was lucky enough to be out there in the midst of it, thankful for the gift of it all.

Bright Spots

It never fails to surprise me how hard it is to write a Slice of Life post once a week after meeting the March daily writing challenge of 31 slices in a row. I can certainly come up with excuses (much easier than slice topics!), but the bottom line is that it’s May 9, and after 31 days of March writing, I haven’t written a slice since. Yikes.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about bright spots and how important it is to notice and focus on them. Every day has such moments if your “antennae” are tuned to that channel. Early one morning last week I stepped outside to head to work and spied clusters of water droplets on the newly emerged leaves of my lady’s mantles. I stopped to look closer.

I was stunned by the perfection of the small orbs, like glowing jewels along the edges of the unfolding leaf. That image stayed with me throughout the day. Just a small moment, but a powerful reminder.

It strikes me that writing slices about those bright spots is a great practice to take up. Pretty similar to gratitude I suppose, and perhaps a way to ease back into the pool of weekly writing.

One of the biggest bright spots in the past year has been my daughter and her partner moving into the area after years in Philadelphia. Last week I found myself unexpectedly out of school early and near their apartment. I knew Milo would be home studying for finals. I had been carrying something around in my car for them, so I called to ask if I could drop it off.

“Sure,” they said. “Do you want to go for a walk? It’s so pretty out!”

After torrential downpours and howling winds, the day had turned into a beauty. A welcome change from the recent flow of grey, dreary still-chilly days. No one else knew where I was. No one needed me to be anywhere else. What a luxury!

So, we walked with their dog, Cal, along the river, exclaiming over the torrents of water. We chatted about this and that. Stopped to talk to other pedestrians. Chaperoned a few dog encounters. Nothing remarkable, really. Just sharing time and space on a beautiful day.

But oh, what a gift! A bright spot indeed!

NPM: PF: On the perils of misunderstanding idioms

It’s funny how the mind works, isn’t it? My mind was on quite a ramble this morning. I was thinking about PF and how I haven’t participated in weeks. I figured this week wouldn’t be much different, as I haven’t been writing much. Then, I was remembering a comment I made to my writing group about trying to write something “light and sprightly” after I’d shared yet another pair of somber, dark poems. I like the word “sprightly” and the sound of it, so I jotted down a bunch of “ight” words in my notebook.

Next, my thoughts turned to my after school Writing Club. This past Monday we started talking about favorite Shel Silverstein poems. Someone mentioned the one about the person who lost their head and ended up giving up looking for it and sitting on it. Another student looked horrified: She clearly was not familiar with the poem. So, of course, we had to dig out “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and share that poem with her, along with a few select others. And I was thinking about how joyful that was and how timeless Shel Silverstein is.

My thoughts wandered along and perhaps “Someone Ate the Baby” (another epic Silverstein poem) was percolating in there somewhere (though we hadn’t shared it), because the phrase “I want to eat you all up!” and potential misunderstandings popped into my head. Somehow it combined with some of those “ight” words and suddenly there was a limerick in my head. It isn’t light and sprightful, but writing it made me giggle. I hope you enjoy it as well.

On the perils of misunderstanding idioms

There once was a baby delightful.
Everyone said they wanted a biteful.
As they cuddled and oohed,
I snuck in and chewed.
And now they all think I am frightful.

©Molly Hogan

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town. Make sure to stop by to enjoy some poetry as National Poetry Month winds down.

NPM: Playing Along

It’s been an intense week or so for me. I’ve been immersed in life stuff rather than writing stuff and that has directly impacted how much I’ve written. Ah, well. At any rate, I’m dipping my toes into the NPM water again with another response to Laura Purdie Salas’s NPM project. Today she posted her five possible topics: East, West, South, North, Compass Directions and a pool of words to work with.

Two very different poems emerged from my notebook scribbling. For both poems I took liberties by not requiring all words in the title to be in topic or in the word pool. A very short poem first:

In all directions

delirious blue sky
crushes finite

©Molly Hogan

And then a poem in which I took the license of repeating one of the word choices, though I’m not sure that’s “allowed”. I’m quickly realizing that the beauty of playing someone else’s “game” is that the rules feel more flexible! :

It’s all heading South

Go away, frantic fears–
hot mist monkeys
playing in my mind!
Go! Go! Go!

©Molly Hogan

I am totally fascinated by the idea of hot mist monkeys, but please remember, not all poems are autobiographical. 😉

NPM: Limerick

I thought March was the busy month, but April is proving to be quite full as well. Yikes! I’m barely squeaking in with a limerick today. This is definitely not my finest effort, but writing a limerick makes me feel close to my dad. And that’s always a win.

There once was a Tuesday as busy
as a dropped soda can full and fizzy
Things started to hop
blew off the pop top
Leaving everyone shellshocked and dizzy

©Molly Hogan

Yup. That’s about what it feels like!

NPM: My Kind of Worship

This morning I was down at the riverside park for sunrise. The sky was quiet. There were no dramatic streaks of color, just a serene lightening toward day. The moon lingered, a gorgeous waning orb in the west. Mist drifted above the water, testament to the frosty air. Two eagles soared by, and a flock of geese arrowed across the sky. A few mergansers glided across the still water. The fish were active, rising to the surface to create small splashes and concentric rings. Far off I could hear a woodpecker rat-a-tat-tatting. I soaked in the pre-dawn calm.

Soon a car arrived and then another pulled in. After a moment of confusion, I saw a man set up a lectern, and realized there was probably going to be some sort of Easter sunrise service. I didn’t want to get blocked in the parking lot, as I was hoping to catch the red-winged blackbirds singing in a nearby marshy area. If I was lucky and the lighting was right, I might be able to catch their breath in a photo. There’s something so amazing about that to me. At any rate, as a few other service goers arrived, I walked over to my car, feeling grateful and replete.

A man stepped up next to me. “Stay for the services,” he smiled.

“No, thanks,” I responded. “I’ve just been watching the eagles and the sunrise. I’m heading over to the Abbadagasset to see the birds there.”

“You’re missing the Lord,” he replied.


“I have my own way to worship,” I said, getting into my car.

Driving away, I felt a bit taken aback. What should I have said? I’m not a religious person, but hadn’t I just told him I was admiring what he would say are “God’s creations”? Also, wasn’t it presumptuous of him to comment at all on what I was doing. He might think I was “missing the Lord”, but I had to wonder if he was missing the point. Probably it was good that I hadn’t said that.

His words were with me all morning. I wouldn’t say they upset me, but they were there. They were there as I arrived at the next river to watch an osprey soar. As I listened to the red-winged blackbirds call through the marsh. As I heard the far-off lament of migrating geese, and delighted in the antics of two beaver. They were with me as I drove home and en route saw yet another eagle and more mergansers and celebrated the return of the swallows.

They’re still with me as I write this post, hours later.

It was a glorious morning. I was filled with gratitude. In my opinion, I was missing nothing.

I’m sharing a poem I wrote 4 or 5 years ago. It feels like the perfect one for today.

My Kind of Worship

Sunrise service at the river
pink horizon
scattered sunlight

©Molly Hogan

NPM: Free Choice: A Wordle Poem

I Wordle every morning and every so often I use my word choices for the day to create a poem. Yesterday my word choices were : frame, claim, amass and smash. Here’s my poem:


Frame your day
with gratitude and awe.
Claim it, name it and hang it on the wall
or on a page
or let it tremble on your lips in praise.
Amass a grand collection.
Smash away the drab, the grey!
Keen your eye to wonder–
frame your day.

©Molly Hogan

NPM: Free Choice: A Small Poem of Gratitude

As one of my students came into class this morning, I pointed to the feeder outside our window.

“Look, S, there’s a bluebird! Isn’t he beautiful?”

He raced over to look.

“I just wrote a poem about a bluebird,” I said.

“You wrote a poem?” he asked.

I nodded. “I love bluebirds so much.”

“Do you know what?” he asked.


“Yesterday on the way to the doctor’s I saw a bluebird, and you know what?”

“No, what?” I responded.

“It was so beautiful.” He paused. “It was so beautiful, I almost cried.”

I know what you mean S.

With Gratitude to the Blue Bird

The pulse of your blue
like an animated piece of enchanted sky
free-wheeling elusive indigo
optimism on the wing

©Molly Hogan, draft