Cleaning out my Drafts: Thoughts on Cleaning House

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI have a lot of odds and ends posts in the draft folder on my blog. Some are a few words. Others are a picture or two. Some are prose. Some are poetry. Some are almost complete and many are far from it. With the grandest of new year intentions, I recently decided that I’m going to dig into those drafts (all 100 of them) and trash or publish them. I may not be cleaning my house, but, darn it!, I’m going to try to get my blog in order. With that thought in mind, it felt particularly appropriate to revisit and finish this draft from last spring….

We’ve been cleaning house lately. Well, to be more precise, Kurt has been cleaning house and I’ve been protesting the process. It goes a bit like this:

“Molly, we have way too much crap! We have to get rid of stuff. Who needs all this stuff?”

“But I like this (insert item name here)! I might want it some day.”

What is this some day I’m waiting for?

So, we’ve been going through some closets and drawers and finding all sorts of things. Some pleasant, and some not so much (here). I pick and poke through things and Kurt fills boxes and bags with wild, frightening abandon. (And if you know Kurt, you’ll know that I am NOT exaggerating!)

Adeline has been visiting and she’s cleaning her room out, settling more firmly into her new life in Philadelphia. I watch her sift through her belongings. She tosses out this and that, and I have to stop my hands from grabbing so many things. From pulling them out of the pile.

Is this growing up made visible? Choosing what things have value and casting aside others. So many small items are imbued with so much memory and meaning.

So, while Kurt is wildly throwing out, recycling, reorganizing, I’m dragging my feet. This feels like empty nest on steroids. Stop!!! There’s enough change going on around here!

But then, some of it’s unexpectedly…nice…even rewarding. My son’s room has now been shoveled out and binned up. (“Molly, I don’t think Connor threw away a single paper while he was in high school!”) The totes and boxes still sit in the hallway (update–maybe some of them are still there…) and we’ve moved upstairs into his freshly painted (Thanks, Kurt!) room. It’s lovely. I hadn’t realized…

How much do I miss because I’m allowing clutter to overtake everything? Am I limiting new experiences because I’m clinging to old ones?

But I don’t want to get rid of everything! And even though I know that no one is asking me to do that, that’s what it feels like at times. At the very least I want that special box–the one that holds all the best carefully selected stuff attached to the best memories–the one I can open when some imaginary grandchildren are visiting someday.

I imagine saying, “Here’s Bear. He was your dad’s favorite stuffed animal and traveled all over with us. He used to be white, but he got covered with love.” or

“Your dad used to make us read this dictionary to him over and over. He loved it! We always had to start at “a for abacus” because that was the first picture.” or

“This is John Smith. Your dad had so much fun playing with him. He made up all sorts of adventure stories.”

And in this imagined world, this imagined grandchild picks up the figure, or the stuffed animal, or the book, and completes a circle.

Perhaps my wild grab at all these “things” is an attempt to capture and hold on to the more elusive things–the laughter, the hum of young voices, their childhood years, my “youth.” Perhaps it’s an effort to be prepared for every future eventuality.

But perhaps the letting go is how I make room for more–for unexpected pleasures, for new realizations.  And perhaps it’s also an acknowledgement that I can’t be prepared for every change that lies ahead. So, with all this in mind, I may continue to drag my feet, but I’ll also take another box or two to the recycling barn. And with every item we give away, I will still be aware of that link to the past or the potential link to the future. I’ll still hear those whispers in my mind: I remember when…These were my mother’s … I might want this…. I might need this. I might….But I’ll touch each thing and let it go. Slowly, but surely.

Addendum: Just this past Sunday, Kurt uttered those dreaded words again, “Molly, I’m going to start getting rid of stuff!” And so I cycle through the whole process again…

Light Show Quandary

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DSC_1022.jpgAfter years of good intentions and failed plans, we finally arrived at “Gardens Aglow”, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s holiday light extravaganza. Bundled up against the biting cold, we entered the gardens, and bought cups of hot chocolate–more for hand warmth than for anything else. We opted not to use the map and followed the winding paths randomly, enjoying the variety of lights, the play of shadows, and the snowy scene.

The colors spilled out over the snow and a full moon shone overhead. Strands of brilliant blues, greens and purples twined around tree trunks. Glowing balls of gold, red and orange blossomed here and there. White bulbs outlined small outbuildings, and wee fairy houses were tucked hither and yon. Sparkling lights dripped off high branches in a continuous cascade and trail lights illuminated the ornamental grasses and dried flower heads. It was pretty spectacular.

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As we wandered and “oohed” and “aahed” over the scenery, we wondered about all that was involved in creating this event. How many people did it take to do string the lights? How long did it take? And the ultimate questions: How much is the electric bill? How much energy does it take to power this display each night? Along with those questions came this niggling concern: Although this was creative and beautiful, wasn’t it fundamentally wasteful?

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I’d read that there were over 650,000 lights in the gardens, and I could believe it. The “show” runs nightly from mid-November until New Year’s Eve. That’s a lot of power used to light up some garden lights!  When there’s so much need in the world, is this show squandering resources? If so, by paying to attend, was I condoning that waste?

On the other hand, there are also definite positives to this light extravaganza. The event was family-oriented and fun. People of all ages were walking, laughing and spending quality time outside together. I’m sure there’s also a huge benefit to the local economy.  Finally, isn’t it important to create and appreciate beauty?

So, how do you balance it all? There are such huge discrepancies in our country and in our world. Don’t I have a responsibility to consider these things and then to act (or not act) accordingly? On the other hand, I also want to live a rich, fulfilling life and take advantage of opportunities to see and do different things. I’m aware that’s a privilege that I have that many others don’t, but does denying my opportunity help anyone? But isn’t that what people say all the time to justify doing what they want to do? I’ve been stewing over this for a few weeks and I hesitated to share today, because my thoughts keep spinning in circles, shifting and changing. Sometimes I wonder– Am I just looking way too deeply into all of this? Yet, it does disturb me. I’m in a quandary, struggling to figure it out. Does anyone have some clarity to offer?

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Haiku to the Rescue!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hTuesday already! Yikes! In between finishing up grading and writing report card comments this weekend, I tried to work on a post. I really did. Unfortunately,  it just wouldn’t gel in time to meet the deadline. Then, thank my lucky stars, Mary Lee Hahn came to the rescue!

For the last several years Mary Lee has invited people to write haiku each day in December and share them via Twitter as #haikuforhealing. I’ve partially participated in the past, and am participating this year as well. Although it wasn’t my intended slice, each haiku does (I hope!) capture a moment from my recent days.

Chickadee forages
on hollyhock’s faded stalks
life cycles on

©M. Hogan 2018

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high in the tree
winter’s branches cradle
spring’s promise

©M. Hogan 2018

There’s something soothing about writing haiku, and in the hustle and bustle of December, I find the practice especially rewarding. Thank you, Mary Lee!

Raccoons and Cherita

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Inspired by Diane Mayr (Random Noodling) and others, I’ve been wanting to write a cherita for a while.  I was intrigued by the flexibility of the form (no syllabic count!) and the narrative focus. The word cherita comes from the Malay word for story. The cherita’s creator, ai li, describes it thus: “”a single stanza of a one-line verse, followed by a two-line verse, and then finishing with a three-line verse.” I’m pretty sure I still have a lot to learn about the nuances of the form, but I’ve had fun playing around with it. I decided to put two cherita together, because… well, why not!? I do hope this isn’t offensive to any cherita purists out there.

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Betrayed by bare branches

you scramble upward
toward the apple or away from me?

I edge in to capture
not your body, but your face
deceptively innocent

For long moments

your clever hands hold tight
I take picture after picture

You climb higher into swaying branches
your backward glance reproaches
contrite, I depart.

M. Hogan ©2018

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I knew I’d played around with a cherita before, and I went back through my notebooks determined to find it. I couldn’t even remember what I’d written about. How surprised I was to find this cherita, written in mid-August.

The trap has sprung

Feeders rest on the earth
amidst scattered sunflower seeds

Within the trap
lie a few lonely suet crumbs
the bandit has escaped

M. Hogan © 2018

Clearly this raccoon situation isn’t a new one!  Oh, and for the record, it was a Have-a-Heart trap.

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My post today combines my love of photography, nature, and poetry. I am thankful for all of these things (and so many more!) and, as always, for the wonderful support and community of this group. This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Irene Latham at her blog, Live Your Poem. In a haiku bonanza, she’s sharing a beautiful new book by Laura Purdie Salas and a link to a Jack Prelutsky read along. Be sure to check it out and add some poetry to your holiday weekend!

 

On patterns, ruts, and shaking things up

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apples

I take an apple to school everyday. I usually eat it in the car on the way home, and it’s always a Granny Smith. I used to buy different kinds of apples, but the occasional mealy apple really grossed me out. Don’t even get me started on the disappointment I’ve suffered from oh-too-many Red Delicious apples. Gradually, Cortlands, Golden Delicious and Fuji have given way to the consistently crisp, tart and juicy Granny Smiths.

Last week after a walk on the beach, my husband suggested going grocery shopping at Shaw’s instead of at Hannaford. Now, as you may have guessed from the above apple revelation, I’m a creature of habit. I prefer my regular routines. I tend to drive the same route, load the dishwasher the correct same way, and order the same thing at our favorite Indian restaurant (Shahi Paneer and Punjabi Naan= heaven!). And yeah, I like to eat the same kind of apples and grocery shop at Hannaford. Kurt, however, was pretty convinced that Shaw’s was the better option on this particular day, as it would save us about 15 minutes of travel time, and he was itchy to get home. I quickly lined up my rebuttal.

“Shaw’s is way more expensive, and I know where everything is at Hannaford. That’ll save time.”

“Molly,” he said, patiently, “Hannaford is under construction. You don’t know where anything is there anymore. You’ve been complaining about it for weeks.”

“Good point,” I conceded, and we went to Shaw’s.

In the produce section, I looked around, trying to get my bearings. The Granny Smiths were straight ahead. Immediately, I checked the price. $1.99/pound.

Yikes! I’m pretty sure they’re at least 20 cents a pound cheaper at Hannaford, I thought. (I’m nothing if not pennywise and pound foolish. And maybe a wee bit stubborn.) I looked around at my other options. Golden Delicious. Honey Crisp. Cortland. Hmmmm… Jazz apples were on sale for $1.79/pound. They looked ok. I carefully selected a few and put them in the cart.

The next day after school, I took out my Jazz apple. I admit, I had been a little excited about it, wondering how this new apple would taste compared to the tried and true Granny Smith. It was a bit odd to have a red apple in my hand. Slowly, I took my first bite. A chunk of apple broke off in my mouth. It was firm, sweet, crunchy and delicious! It was like a different fruit! My eyes opened to what I’d been missing with my Granny Smith-only apple regime. Sure, I hadn’t eaten any disgusting mealy apples lately, but I’d also forgotten all about the delicious taste nuances of apple varieties.

It struck me suddenly that it’s all too easy to fall into patterns and turn them into ruts. Many patterns are helpful, efficient and based on rational decisions. For example, I still believe that Hannaford is less expensive, and I save money by shopping there. But–and this is a big but–it’s also all too easy to forget all about the other options. To consistently choose only one option because it’s known and feels safer, more reliable. To maybe slowly come to believe on some level that your choice is the best choice, and the others are somehow inferior.

Trying a Jazz apple was like a mini-awakening–a reminder that other flavors and textures are out there. Sure I can stick with Granny Smiths and be assured of a pretty safe and tasty apple experience, but what am I missing? So what if there are a few duds. There are sure to be some dazzling taste experiences out there, too.

So, this weekend I went back to Hannaford to shop. But I picked up a few more Jazz apples–along with my tried-and-true Granny Smiths. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll go all radical and try a Honey Crisp!

Snow Day

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Snow Day

Storm talk
take stock
…snow day?

Big debate
4 or 8?
Snow day?

Grey leaden sky
fat snowflakes fly
Hey, weather guy!
Snow day?

Cold winds blowing
White drifts growing
Still not knowing…
Snow day?

Hope clings…
Phone rings
My heart sings
SNOW DAY!

M.  Hogan ©2018

Linda Baie is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her chockful-of-book-love blog, Teacher Dance. She’s sharing a lovely new lullaby book from Rosemary Wells.

In which my computer sends me a message…

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h“It’s Tuesday tomorrow. Just write something down,” I tell myself. I had already opened up a blank page in my blog and was waiting for inspiration to strike.

But it wasn’t.

And just as I start to write down my thought, trying the trick of getting something, anything, on the page, I notice a message over to the side:

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Um, yeah, I know that. That’s kind of the problem actually. And what’s with the two exclamation points, one of them highlighted in red!? That seems a bit over the top. I haven’t been sitting here for that long.

I sit back and stare at the screen. What is going on here? I wonder if I wait around for a bit longer, if another message will appear. Maybe a more helpful one. Maybe my computer will suggest a writing idea, like: “Try writing about visiting the beach today and how you watched the seals cavorting off shore.” (I think cavorting is the type of word that would appeal to this computer. It already strikes me as a pompous, somewhat judgmental and overexcitable sort–I mean, really. Two exclamation points!?!) Or maybe it would suggest “Write about the new restaurant you tried today and how you and your husband shamelessly eavesdropped on the adjacent table.” (There’s that judgy side again.)

I wait. Neither inspiration nor a random computer message strikes.

The minutes continue to pass and nothing happens. Apparently, that initial message is the sum total of my feedback. I feel a bit disgruntled. I mean, if my computer is going to start communicating with me, is going to send a message, at least it should make it worthwhile! Unfortunately, this computer apparently has nothing else to say. It only wants to point out the problem, not offer a solution. There’s always a critic, right?

Well, I know one way to take care of that. I lean forward and click on the “x” in the corner of the message. It disappears. Hmmm, that feels better.

I settle in to write.