Just this morning I wrote in my notebook that I wanted to play more when I was writing poetry. I realized that I miss writing whimsical verse–poems that are light-hearted, silly and fun. I thought about revisiting some Ogden Nash or maybe some Shel Silverstein to look for some mentor texts. Then, reality intruded, and I had to stop writing and head to school to try to move into my new classroom.
As I unpacked boxes and flipped through files, I unearthed a copy of a poem I dimly remembered writing for my students when I was teaching either first or second grade. I can’t remember why I wrote it, much less why it was copied onto a transparency sheet. (Remember those!?) Parts of the poem had worn away during its long sojourn in the forgotten folder, but I decided to quickly revise it and share today. It was fun to work on something a bit lighter!
The Shoe-Stealing Glizard is a rare beast to see. He creeps about stealthily, trying to be as quiet as shadows shifting around, searching for grub without making a sound.
His name tells the story. It gives him away. He’s hunting for shoes. All the night! All the day! He’s not very choosy about what he eats. He adores cowboy boots and even old cleats!
He takes red shoes and green ones and big ones and small. The size doesn’t matter, not one bit at all. He just loves the taste, the crunch and the munch. He can eat ten at once, and that’s just for lunch!
If your sneakers are stinky and dripping with gunk, why to him, that’s a treat, a delicious Ker-plunk! He’ll dip them in milk and then with a slurp he’ll gobble them up, finish up with a burp.
So when you can’t find your shoe or its mate, keep your eyes open, but it might be too late. It could be the case, I’m sorry to say, that the Shoe-Stealing Glizard has wandered your way!
Molly Hogan, draft
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Carol at her blog, The Apples in My Orchard. She’s sharing a lesson about “I am” poems with all sorts of links to poets and poems.
As always, my garden has been a great source of joy and comfort to me this summer. I highly recommend spending the last days of summer lingering in your garden, or any garden, and looking closely.
Close Reading in the Garden
In the midst of garden glory one zinnia blazes gold limned by garden green Its single stalk, leaf-laden, supports the showcase blossom Spiraling taffeta whorl draws the eye inward to dawning curled petals a whimsy of bright suns circling the heart of it all hidden treasure for the attentive
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Christie at Wondering and Wandering. She’s sharing a beautiful community poem about what poetry is, created by lines contributed by her poetry workshop participants and the Poetry Friday community. I, sadly, didn’t manage to get my ducks in a row in time to participate, but was wowed by the final product. Be sure to check it out!
“I just don’t get it,” my husband said, looking completely puzzled. “They’re driving over an hour round trip to get bagels?”
“Well, yeah,” I said, barely refraining from adding, “Duh!”
Kurt shook his head again. He’ll eat the odd bagel and enjoy it, but he really doesn’t understand bagel love. We think he’s missing out. I mean, the man is a bit clueless about carbohydrates. He simply doesn’t get it. It’s sad really.
On this particular morning, Lydia and Sophie, her friend, had headed out on a quick road trip to pick up fresh bagels. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in our house, as we’re a bit obsessed with bagels. When we’re not eating them, we’re often thinking about them and when and where we might get them next. We have our ear to the rumor mill, listening for tips on great bagel spots. We are not too proud to say that we have a strong emotional attachment to our bagels.
While waiting for the girls to return, I recalled my discussion with Lydia from the day before. It started when I commented to her, “You know, there’s bagel rage, right? “
As we embarked on a lengthy discussion about this, we realized there are actually seven deadly sins of bagels.
First, there’s bagel greed. The wanting of more, moRE, MORE bagels, not to mention the potential for a bit of hoarding.
Then, there’s bagel wrath. As I said, we actually prefer to call this bagel rage. Like when someone takes the last bagel, or they take the toaster right when you were about to use it. It can get a bit dicey at these times! Don’t forget that where there are bagels, there are probably knives. (You thought all those ER bagel visits were from bagel slicing mishaps? Don’t be so sure!) Also, don’t even ask about what happens when we encounter subpar bagels.
Next, there’s bagel envy. You look at the other person’s bagel, and it doesn’t have as big a whole in it, or maybe it simply looks better. Or maybe they got the last everything bagel and only plain ones are left.
Bagel gluttony needs no explanation. Around here, we just call this bagel enjoyment. We don’t stand for bagel shaming in our household!
Bagel sloth can be a problem. It typically occurs after you’ve indulged in too much bagel gluttony. Like maybe you have just eaten the third bagel of the day and you start to feel a little less energetic than ideal. You might even resort to a quick bagel nap. It’s been known to happen.
Bagel pride is when you start showing off how great your bagel looks. Perfectly toasted, chewy perfection. Flaunting can happen and has been known to cause bagel rage.
“Here they are,” Kurt called, interrupting my thoughts.
As the girls unloaded the bagels, I was practically drooling. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one of those luscious bagels. Which clearly brings me to the final deadly sin: Bagel lust. It’s pretty self-explanatory, I suppose. It’s a regular phenomenon around here, but we prefer to refer to it as bagel love. We have no idea why it’s considered a deadly sin.
This month our writing group changed its name to Inklings, and Catherine challenged us to write an ekphrastic poem. She suggested writing in response to an illustration in a wordless picture book, but left the prompt open for us to choose other illustrations, photos or artwork. Catherine was inspired by the current wordless picture book exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. (I’m supremely jealous that she was able to visit this exhibit in person, but those of us further afield can still get a sneak peek here.)
I had a tough time deciding what image to use. I checked out the Eric Carle exhibit highlights and also ran through books in my mind: The Girl and the Bicycle, A Boy a Dog and a Frog, Sector 7, etc. But even though it wasn’t wordless, my thoughts kept returning to one of my favorite picture books, Miss Rumphius, and to this picture in particular:
Miss Rumphius, set on the coast of Maine, has long been a favorite in our family for the heartwarming story and the wonderful, often familiar, illustrations. Barbara Cooney, the author/illustrator, was a local resident in the last town we lived in. She was a familiar site around town, a slight woman with her long white hair braided into a coronet upon her head. She occasionally read aloud to children at the library.
In the late 1990s, Ms. Cooney was instrumental in funding the new town library. In addition to donating a significant sum of money, she allowed the library to sell numbered prints of the above illustration from Miss Rumphius. We scraped together the money to purchase one, and it’s been hanging on our wall ever since. No doubt that’s a big reason why the picture came to mind and wouldn’t leave. I gave in to the inevitable.
Knowing the story so well, I wondered how to respond creatively to something already so imbued with meaning for me. How could I separate the illustration from the story? Did I need to? While pondering and looking at the illustration, my eye was drawn over and over to Miss Rumphius’s hand, reaching out to touch a lupine. I went with that focus.
The Lupine Lady Contemplates
Her hand supplicates brushes the delicacy of a single blossom considering her legacy as she the creator approaches her end
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading (here). She’s sharing a rich villanelle and an invitation/reminder to contribute a line for Christie Wyman’s Roundup next week.
P.S. While writing this post, I discovered some things I hadn’t known: Barbara Cooney donated the illustrations for the book to Bowdoin College, lupine isn’t native to Maine and Miss Rumphius is based on a real person! Long ago, there really was a woman, though her name was Hilda Edwards, who planted lupine seeds all around Christmas Cove, Maine. She was clearly the inspiration for this wonderful story and you can read more about her here.
After my first rowing experience (here), I was eager for another opportunity to get on the water. When Peter, our local rowing guru, offered another row this past Friday, I quickly signed up and showed up ready to go at 8 am. It was another all-woman crew. Two of us had been together last time and two were new to this adventure.
Peter gave a quick introduction and then we were out on the water. Learning to row, trying to pull all the pieces together in a coordinated way, is an interesting process. Posture, hold, stroke, rhythm. It’s a lot to remember! There’s also a whole new range of vocabulary to consider. As a group of four inexperienced rowers, we were trying to figure it all out in real time. Managing the oar and keeping time to a rhythm set by someone else (the “stroke”)is challenging. Initially, we struggled to find our rhythm. The boat moved along jerkily. We reset. Tried again. Peter gave some tips. We smiled and laughed.
Beautiful morning. Low stakes. Good times.
My focus was intent on my oar–keeping it in place, stroking in rhythm, not putting it too deep in the water, etc. I found that the more I thought about what I was doing, the more likely I was to screw it up. When the pieces fell into place, it was soothing to slide into the rhythm and focus solely on that. When we all got it, the boat settled down, the sounds synchronized. We skimmed up the river with the sun warm on our shoulders. Splash. Ka-chunk. Splash. Ka-chunk. Meditation on the water.
Until I was rowing… and then suddenly I wasn’t.
If you’d been watching, you’d have seen me tumble suddenly backward onto the floor of the boat and halfway onto the lap of the rower behind me–with considerable surprise (to me and to the rower behind me) and with no grace whatsoever. In my newly acquired lingo, I knew I’d “caught a crab.” Unfortunately, this insight was hindsight.
Peter, our stalwart guide, had warned us about this. “Catching a crab” is when the river, the water, sort of grabs your oar and the power of it pushes you backward. He’d told us what to do, or really what not to do–don’t struggle with the oar, but lift it up and let it slide.
“If you don’t fight it, the oar will move until it’s parallel to the boat, and then you can reset.”
Well, at least that was my interpretation of what he said, but in the moment, I didn’t even realize I was in trouble until…
My butt was off the seat and on the floor.
My fellow rowers stopped rowing while I righted myself.
Once I was back in my seat, Peter got us going again, “Sit ready…ready all…row!”
We spent about an hour on the water and all of us “caught a crab” at one point or another. One time, one of the other rowers managed to respond quickly, lift her oar, and avoid spilling out of her seat. Everyone else landed on their butts.
Later, at home, I googled “crabbing when rowing” and looked again at how to recover. It essentially repeated with Peter had said:
The experience and the recommended course of action feel fraught with metaphor.
“Sometimes it’s important not to resist. Just pull up and reset…The boat loses very little speed.”
Learning to row has me thinking a lot about teaching and learning. My enjoyment of this experience, failures and successes, was largely due to the fact that Peter is a patient, easygoing teacher. He wants people to learn to row, but more importantly he wants people to enjoy the experience. He got us into the boat and out on the water quickly. He anticipated the bumps along the way, suggested corrective action when necessary, and was quick to point out successes. He also had control of the rudder and could quietly adjust our course as necessary. It reminded me how important teacher tone and response are, especially early on in the learning curve when experience and confidence are lower. It also reinforced for me how important it is to try new things and experience that learning curve first hand.
So, even though my chances for heading out on the water are going to be limited in the coming weeks, I’ll definitely be taking the experience with me as I head back into the classroom. Happily, weather permitting, I’m signed up again to row this weekend. Here’s hoping that if I catch a crab this time, I’ll remember not to resist and avoid the fall. But if not, I’ll just reset and start rowing again…and try to remember that lesson as I head into the unchartered waters of this upcoming school year.
PS In case you’re interested, here’s what it could look like when you’re really rowing and catch a crab:
“Summertime and the living is easy.” George Gershwin
“We might think we are nurturing our gardens, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.” Jenny Uglow
Summer in Maine is a gift, and I enjoy every moment of it. Back when I signed up to host, July seemed like a far away dream. Now spring blossoms are memories, the month is half over, and the specter of August hovers on the horizon. As much as a big part of me misses being at school with kids and colleagues, another part of me cringes at the thought of the start of the school year and the end of summer. There’s much I love about teaching, but the relentless pace of the days is NOT one of those things. “Autumn days and the living is easy,” sang NO teacher ever!
This week I decided to revisit an earlier prompt from Linda Mitchell and use Pat Schneider’s The Moon, Ten Times as a mentor poem again. I thought I’d put on my half-full glasses (half of July remains!) and focus on what I love about summer. It was tough to limit myself to ten things, and I omitted many much-beloved aspects of summer (fireflies, beach walks, birds, dragonflies, frogs, etc.). I’m also uncertain about the order–it’s rather haphazard, but perhaps that mimics the luxury of disorganized summer days, right? Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Summer, Ten Times
Morning transformation bird song displaces the radio alarm
Time warp hands rummage in rich earth hours vanish
Baby Boom each day a new arrival in the garden
Eau de Summer plush floral tones, fresh-mown lawns the scent of sun-dried sheets
Verdant woods air shifts and pulses in sun-shafted spectrums of green
The sweet tyranny of ripe berries
Sparkles of laughter arc as high as the sprinkler’s spray
Surprise! Dance parties in the center of the zinnias!
Sun-lit windowsills dotted with geraniums and the occasional sleeping cat
An ending and beginning: Spring’s coda Fall’s prelude
So, what would be on your summer time list? I’d love to know! If you want to share, add your thoughts in the comments. In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by the Roundup today. You can add your link here to participate:
Saturday was a morning brimming with small moments. To start, I finally dragged myself down to the river for sunrise. I missed the peak of it, but what I saw wasn’t too shabby! Another bonus was that my friend, Roger, was there. Between one thing and another, it had been months since we’d bumped into each other and shared time enjoying the waterfront, the birds, and each other. We spent some time taking photos, catching up and sharing recent sightings. After a spate of overcast days and a day-long torrent of rain, everything had that sparkly newly-washed look. The air was fresh and the sun was warm. It was a glorious morning!
When I returned home, I popped on line. This spring I’d signed up to get notices about rowing outings that a local man was offering. A Facebook post from the night before caught my eye. It was an offer to anyone interested in going out for a row. I checked the date and time and realized it was scheduled for that morning.
Could I? Should I? ….
Well, why not!?
With a few quick messages back and forth, I was signed up to be the fifth rower–that meant I’d be along for the ride for the first half of the journey and then take my turn on the return. I got my things together and hustled down to the town landing. By eight am our all-woman crew was gathered. After some introductory tips and safety information, Peter had us get started. With little fanfare and some trepidation (at least on my part!), we slipped away from the dock and into the river.
The language of rowing was all new to me. “Oars ready. All ready. Row.” “Hold water.” I listened intently, hoping I’d be able to put this all into practice when my turn came around. Since I was a spectator at this point, I got to watch the transformation as each rower gained in confidence. I also got to look at the scenery and snap a few photos–a definite plus!
We rowed under the bridge and up river, scattering a few cormorants away. There are no houses on the river up this way and it’s easy to imagine yourself alone in the wilderness. The banks of the river were lush, green and occasionally dotted with muskrat dens. Blue skies, water and green spilled out in every direction–a visual feast.
Peter patiently gave tips and directions. It was all very low-key and low-pressure. At one point, he told everyone to close their eyes and listen. To try to hear and feel the rhythm– one (hopefully!) splash as the oars entered the water. The clunk of the oars in the oarlocks and then the pause and repeat.
Splash. splash. Ka-Clunk. ka-clunk. Pause.
Splashsplash. Ka-Clunkclunk. Pause.
As the moment stretched out, I could hear the oars synchronize. Fall into place.
Splash. Ka-Chunk. Pause.
Splash. Ka-Chunk. Pause.
I could have spent a long time sitting, listening, feeling that rhythm. Getting lost in it. It was hypnotic and somehow, deeply soothing. Even though I knew the scenery around me was beautiful, I was reluctant to open my eyes again. When I finally did though, the day seemed even more dazzling.
A while later, I finally got my chance to row and managed not to disgrace myself. It took a lot of concentration though! My eyes were locked on the oar in front of me, trying to time my stroke correctly. I quickly realized how fortunate I’d been to sightsee along the way, as my focus was definitely elsewhere on the return.
We arrived back at the dock to find the farmer’s market in full swing. Peter guided us in smoothly and skillfully. After effusive thanks to him and goodbyes to the crew, I was unable to resist the lure of our local bread maker. I picked up golden raisin oatmeal sunflower bread and a few hot-from-the-oven almond croissants. Could this morning get any better? Then, I bumped into a prior colleague and we talked shop and kayaks. Finally, as I left, I saw a small troupe of kids headed into the center of the market. Story time was starting!
I drove back home, feeling deeply grateful. How lucky am I to live in this place!?
Small town magic was working overtime this morning and I was lucky enough to be a recipient.
This summer is moving jaggedly for me, sometimes rushing by and at other times, lingering unexpectedly. I don’t seem to get to choose which moments fly by and which rest with grace (Now that would be some super power!). Still, I’m enjoying the overall luxury of less-scheduled days. Then, somehow yesterday was Thursday before I knew it was even approaching… and Friday quickly followed (as it’s wont to do…). I’ve been scribbling this and that in my notebook, but hadn’t thought about a post for Poetry Friday. Here are two poems I’m still tinkering with.
After I left I remembered the cantaloupe, the one I was supposed to cut, still resting on the counter where I had left it.
There’s a poem in there somewhere, cushioned within the skin, the seeds, the pulp, woven from the initial, careful selection the good intentions and now the inevitable slow, steady decomposition.
There’s a poem in there somewhere, but I still can’t find the words.