Change is Coming

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. ~Stanley Horowitz

I’ve been feeling change lately, like a physical presence. Perhaps it’s school starting or the thread of chill in the morning air. Perhaps it’s the shift in light to a rich, golden hue. Or perhaps it’s that night lingers into morning and arrives earlier each day. Clearly, fall is edging closer.

Autumn invites nostalgia in.
Come sit beside me. Time is passing. Let’s linger here for a moment together.

I find myself feeling slightly more vulnerable to my memories, to recent losses. Contemplative. There’s a shift in the air. A shift in me. Everything feels just a bit different. On the cusp. Summer is sighing, fading away as fall steps in. It’s both beautiful and faintly unsettling. My feelings and thoughts rustle like leaves in a breeze, kaleidoscopic–a flickering mosaic of past, present and future.

Yesterday morning I went to the river to greet the day, something I have seldom done of late. I wanted to be surrounded by the cool serenity of dawn. To slow time down and watch the day awaken. To wrap a blanket of calm around me. 

Clouds and light stirred and shifted, layered land, water and sky. Boundaries blurred. 

The river slipped in and out of sight behind gilded grasses and veils of glowing mist.

With every moment, the light changed. The view altered. Inevitably clearer, yet still transitioning. Sky. Clouds. Land. Mist. Water. Separating into distinct yet interwoven layers.

I heard them before I saw them. The mournful cries rebounded off the low-lying clouds and filled the chilly air. Unmistakeable. The keen call of Canada geese. I scanned the skies, thinking, as always when I hear them, of Rachel Field’s poem. Something told the wild geese… They flew low above the marsh, passed overhead, then soared around the bend in the river and out of sight. 

Change is coming.

PF: The Weight of Stones

Each week Margaret Simon shares a photograph on her blog and invites people to respond with a short poem. (She took up the mantle for this weekly challenge from Laura Purdie Salas who originally called it, 15 Words or Less Poems.) Margaret’s version is called, This Photo Wants to be a Poem. (You can read her most recent post here. ) For our September Inkling challenge, Margaret asked us to chose any photo she’d shared and respond in poetry.

A few weeks ago Margaret highlighted this photo of a striped rock from the Salish Sea. The picture was taken by her sister-in-law, Julia, and shared on Instagram. (You can read responses to the photo here.)

I didn’t have time to respond in the moment, but later I stumbled upon Donna Smith’s response on her Facebook page. After her post, she exchanged a few comments with Janet Clare about collecting rocks– talking about gathering rocks, deciding whether to keep them or whether to “just release them all back into the wild.” That final comment sparked my response, which went a bit long.

The Weight of Stones
*inspired by a FB comment from Donna Smith

The stones gasp
for water long since evaporated
and never replenished.
When did the joy 
of initial discovery 
(The color! The shape! The lines!)
fade to indifference?

Caged in their glass vases
these forgotten memories
of far-off places
gather dust.
Their vitality fades.

Do they mourn the lost warmth of sun
the clench of cold
the gentle wash of rain?
Do they yearn to tidetumble?
To whisper with the waves?

Clearly it is past time
to release these unwilling captives
back into the wild.

©Molly Hogan, draft

To see how the other Inklings responded to the challenge, click on the links below:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Linda Baie at her blog, Teacher Dance.

First Day

All day Sunday and Monday morning I kept trying to find it, wracking my brain for the perfect word to describe how I was feeling along the continuum between excited and scared. Or maybe it was really between excited and nervous. Anticipatory? No, that wasn’t quite it. What word captures that feeling? Is there one? It seems like there should be. Some wonderful word in another language, maybe a super long German word or a French phrase or something in Japanese, that encapsulates that feeling of being a little scared, a little anticipatory and a little excited. I kept picturing a Venn diagram with excited on one side. Nervous on the other. What would the label be for that intersecting part?

Finally, while driving in to school, heading back to the primary wing after a six year absence, I created my own word: affizzle. I was all affizzle. Yes. That felt right. It also felt akin to frazzled and flustered, which tracked.

And then my first day of teaching second grade unfolded in vignette after vignette.

Scene 1: A little girl, A, arrives, walked in by her mother, faces wreathed in smiles. Two minutes later, mother has departed and A is standing by my side, tears slowly dripping down her face.

“I want my Mommy.”

As I move to reassure her, another student moves closer.

“Do you want a hug, A?” he asks.

Scene 2: At recess M. asks if I’ll play basketball with him. I agree, but let him know I haven’t played in years and might need some help with the rules.

“I’ll take it easy on you,” he assures me. Then he proceeds to articulately explain the basic rules of the game, accompanying his words with active demonstration.

“I’ll show you the rest as we play,” he assures me.

When I have to bow out after a few minutes due to my supervisory duties, he comments, “So, we can play tomorrow again, right?”

Scene 3: As we play a game of “Taking Sides” I ask kids, “Would you rather eat an apple or a banana?” As the kids move to show their preference, and I step toward the apple area, a student nods knowingly and says to me, “Teachers love apples.”

Scene 4: During Readers’ Workshop, N.’s face lights up. He shoots up his hand and simultaneously announces, “Hey! We’re basically a classroom family.” (Now that’s the kind of blurting I can get behind!)

Scene 5: B. hands me a pink sticky note. “This is a list to help you remember,” she says.

“Oh, thanks!” I take it and read it aloud. “Be kind! Be empathetic!”

I’m a little taken aback. Am I in need of a reminder? I quickly think back through the day. Have I not been kind or empathetic? I ask for feedback to clarify. “So, am I doing okay with this so far?” I ask her, somewhat tentatively. She nods her head vigorously.

“Oh, ok, ” I say, “this is a great reminder list. Thanks!”

Scene 6: At the end of the day V shares, “I was so excited about school starting today that I was all tingly last night and this morning too! My whole body was tingly and I could hardly sleep!” Several students enthusiastically signaled silent agreement.

I think my heart grew two sizes right then and there.

Scene 7: Then C, the morning’s hugger, chimes in, “Before school today, I was in the car. I made a lot of silly faces. And then you know what happened?” He paused then rattled along, “Then I farted in the car.” He paused again and finished with a great big grin, “Because I fart a lot.”

Thanks C. for keeping it real 🙂

Best shirt of the day!

By the end of the day affizzle had faded to fatigue. Still, it was a wonderful first day.

PF: Through the Looking Glass

I want to preface by stating unequivocally that I am very excited to be teaching 2nd grade again and am really looking forward to the coming school year. Catherine Flynn wrote in her post this week about finding and holding onto the “shiny” things, and I’ve noticed and appreciated many of them in my life recently. With that in mind, and the desire to stay upbeat, I debated about whether to share this poem or not. Still, this has been on a loop in my mind. I drafted this today to try to make sense of it all.

I still can’t.

Through the Looking Glass: Getting Ready for School in 2022

On this Thursday
four days before school starts
they allocate two hours
for us to learn how to be more alert
in our environment
How to maximize 
not student learning
but the chance that more of us
might survive
if there’s a “critical incident”

Average police response time
6 minutes
(unless you’re rural

in which case
all bets are off)
Average duration 
of a “violent critical incident”
4 1/2 minutes

Do the math.

They call it ALICE 
Alert.
Lockdown.
Inform.
Counter.
Evacuate.
Training on how
to make the best choices
to maximize chances

Always know where your exits are.
Don’t use code. Speak plainly
to share maximal information:
male intruder 
wearing a plaid shirt and a red baseball cap
heading toward the 1/2 wing 
with a rifle
You, the teacher, have options 
Barricade or evacuate
(Break windows from the top corner
so falling glass won’t cut you)

You determine the best response
(No heroes required
)

I sit and focus on not weeping.
I sit and grieve for those who have already been murdered.
I sit and ponder the horror of making the wrong choice.  

When did we step through the looking glass
into this new normal?
When did this dizzying unreal reality
become so solid
so sordid
so sad

I realize,
it doesn’t really matter 
when we first stepped through.
The critical question is
Can we ever leave?

©Molly Hogan, draft

I do want to add that this training was handled with sensitivity by our administrative team. Still, the fact that it needs to happen in our country speaks volumes.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Tanita Davis at her blog, {fiction instead of lies}.

Gathering Calm

When I write first thing in the morning, I allow my mind to drift from thought to thought. My pen flows with the wisps of dreams, follows half-remembered images or feelings, or reaches back to recent events. Whatever moves me to write. I want to capture and distill strong emotions, interesting connections, experiences, new thoughts, etc. I can be surprised by where these journeys lead me.

When I go out to take pictures, I usually have at least the location in mind, which dictates some of what I’ll see. Ocean versus marsh versus river. Forests or fields. Still, there are surprises here, too. I never know what will capture my attention at that particular time. Will the fog call to me, or shadows or spider webs? Will interesting patterns emerge in sand, water or sky? Sometimes I go with a goal in mind, usually to find certain birds, like a snowy owl or migrating warblers. Then I keep my eyes to the rooflines or treetops, depending. Still, I’m always intrigued by what other images tug at my lens.

On Saturday I woke early and decided to set out early to catch the sunrise at the marsh. The marsh is one of my favorite places in the world. I always leave feeling more at peace than when I arrived. On this morning, I arrived shortly before sunrise and followed the flow of the unfolding scenery, breathing in the damp, swampy tang of marsh that filled the air.

First dawn arrived in gentle hues, painting sky and water and clouds into a sunrise composition.

Dewdrops clustered, strung on the architecture of a stalky weed, capturing miniature sunrises in their globes.

The marsh waved its colors like a rippled quilt of golds, greens and browns. The grasses undulated like water, and I stopped to try to capture the hue and the sense of motion. It reminded me of lines from “In the Salt Marsh” by Nancy Willard. I couldn’t remember them then, but looked them up later:
“How faithfully grass holds the shape of the sea it loves,
how it molds itself to the waves, how the dried salt
peaks into cowlicks the combed mane of the marsh.”

Queen Anne’s lace lined the path, in all stages, from newly opening to a tight cluster poised to disperse seeds to wind and water. Each blossom a world to explore–gathering sunlight or crystalline dewdrops or filagrees of delicately spangled spiderwebs.

The birds put on a show as well. Snowy and great egrets rose and fell out beyond the still pannes, a cormorant fished and preened, a seagull and his reflection gazed out with a bold eye, and a great blue heron rested, silhouetted against the great variegated green of the marsh.

Further along, goldfinch flashed their bright feathers amidst the flowers, following the edges of the path from blossom to blossom, stopping to forage then flitting away.

As I ended my walk, another image pulled me in– the reflected symmetry of rock and still water.

Mornings like this will be more precious soon, limited to weekends and holidays. As I head into the rigors of the school calendar and its relentless pace, I am gathering up moments of serenity. As I left the marsh, my mind tumbled back through all the images, holding each one in my thoughts. Lingering in the light, the color, the movement. Gathering up each moment. Gathering calm.

Poetry Swap: A Blessing and a Curse

I love how writing communities spark more poetry, providing writing inspiration and motivation time and again. My participation in this summer’s Poetry Swap poems (Thank you to the fabulous Tabatha Yeatts!!!) provided a welcome nudge to create throughout the summer and an unmitigated delight when I received poems in return, tucked amidst my collection of bills and junk mail.

Earlier this month, Mary Lee sent me this beautiful embroidered haiku bookmark. I so appreciate how she took my love of the marsh and created this hush of a haiku. When I thanked her, I remarked that it felt like a mantra, something to remember as the slow flow of meandering hours transforms into a raging current with the onset of the school year. Reading it centers me and reminds me to breathe. Knowing that each stitch was deliberately placed in a slow and steady process is another soothing layer to this truly lovely bookmark poem.

sun rises, mists lift
marsh mysteries magnified
in one drop of dew

©Mary Lee Hahn

My process of creating a poem for Mary Lee wasn’t quite as smooth. I started and stopped time after time. I knew I wanted to write something about embroidery, threads, creativity, gardens, plants, flowers, fishing… or a combination of them. Easy, right?

Then, serendipitously, Mary Lee shared a blog post she’d written previously about using paint chips to write curse poems. (I shared the link last week here since it was related to that post, too.) After reading her post, inspiration struck! I decided to use as many of her chosen paint chip words and phrases as possible, but transform them from curse words into a blessing. A garden blessing. The words/phrases I managed to incorporate were: blue suede (-shoes), puddle, genie lamp, seedling, nectar, quicksilver, bull’s eye, tumbleweed, starship, rusty, and deep dark wood. I really wanted to incorporate “cheese puff” but couldn’t stand how it sounded with the rest of the poem. So, I googled and voilà! Gougeres! A delicious pastry also known as cheese puffs and a lovely sounding word to incorporate in my garden incantation for Mary Lee.

As I alluded to earlier, Mary Lee’s original post also served as inspiration when I was faced with some pernicious pests on the home front recently. I shared that curse poem last week and Mary Lee suggested that I share the poem I wrote for her as compare/contrast companion piece. I’ve put in a link to last week’s post and entire poem, but here’s a smidgen to whet your appetite in case you didn’t see it or don’t have time to check it out:

A Curse on the Invading Groundhog

Rise ye gods and cast a spell
upon this creature spawned from hell
Jinx his scurvy rodent hide
taunt him with groundhogicide

click here to read the entire poem…

Writing blessing and curse poems is a blast! I highly recommend it, and I’d also encourage you to consider incorporating paint chip colors to add another layer of challenge. Another big thank you to Mary Lee for an inspiring post and to Tabatha for organizing and cheerleading the Summer Poetry Swap.

May the rest of your summer be filled with blessings rather than curses!

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Dave at his blog Leap of Dave.

On groundhogs, leach fields and curses

Recently, Mary Lee Hahn shared a link to a delightful old blog post of hers that featured paint chips and poetic curses (here). I was intrigued and tucked away the idea to play with later.

And then today happened.

Today was actually a continuation of events that happened earlier this week. It all began when, in search of blackberries, I wandered over our leach field (for those who don’t know, that’s a critical component of a septic system). And I noticed that the ground felt uneven (for those who don’t know, the ground should be flat and even). Looking around, I discovered random piles of sand on top of the grass (for those who don’t know, sand is a component of a leach field and is NOT supposed to be above the ground). This was not a small amount of sand. This could NOT be good.

Um, Kurt, I said, a few minutes later to my husband, pointing out the intermittently spaced 8-9 inch circumference sand volcanos, What’s going on here?

Then we looked at each other, the gears shifting and aligning. We remembered the groundhogs we’d had to get rid of a couple of years ago for suspicious activity in the area. Remembered the cute groundhog that had visited us a couple of times recently. The one we thought had been living under the barn. We also remembered the missing broccoli and leaf lettuce in the garden. The fact that groundhogs love to burrow. It took a while, but the light went on.

Kurt appraised the situation and strategically set a trap. We decided to wait and see what happened for a couple of days and then call in the experts.

Then today, I heard a suspicious watery noise emanating from the basement. Upon investigation I discovered a pipe emitting a steady waterfall which had formed a lazy river along our creepy dirt basement floor.

Uh oh.

I went outside to find Kurt and brought him down to the basement.

Where does that pipe go? I asked him, pointing to the leaking pipe.

Cue the ominous music and the duh Duh DUHhhhhhh!!!!! followed by a long pause.

The septic system, Kurt replied.

The septic system? I asked.

The septic system.

Another long pause.

Are you positive?

Yes.

Clearly this discovery pushed things up to the next response level. I dove into our files searching for our septic service company’s phone number and found the receipt for our last date of service.

Oops.

Another discovery for the day…we had maybe kind of sort of forgotten in the midst of Covid and life in general to get the tank pumped out in a timely manner. We were more than overdue.

So which came first, the groundhog or the overfilled system?

After a frantic afternoon of googling, facebook requests for help, phone calls and explanations(Piles of what on your leach field?), a welcome dose of good luck and a hefty bill, we now have no leaking pipe, an emptied and functioning system and instructions for how to deal with the groundhogs.

Yes, unfortunately, we were right. Groundhogs are burrowing into our leach field. Luckily, it seems like most of today’s issues stemmed from the overdue cleaning, but we still have to deal with the groundhogs or we could have much more significant issues arise.

All this is the background to why I found myself considering curse poems again today.

I reread Mary Lee’s poem and copied her list of synonyms for curse. Then I googled “curse poems” and found this poem by J.M. Synge, which he apparently wrote to the sister of an enemy:

The Curse

Lord, confound this surly sister,
Blight her brow with blotch and blister,
Cramp her larynx, lung, and liver,
In her guts a galling give her.

Isn’t that fantastic to read aloud?

Finally, this evening, with the events of the day and those poetic inspirations in mind, I settled in to vent my spleen by writing a curse poem. It’s been a long day and it’s still a drafty poem, but I feel a little bit better.

A Curse on the Invading Groundhog

Rise ye gods and cast a spell
upon this creature spawned from hell
Jinx his scurvy rodent hide
taunt him with groundhogicide

Bedeck his coat with mange and pox
Bung up his ev’ry tunnel with rocks
Behex his stolen greens to rot 
spoil his food and give him nought

Blast him with pustuling blisters
cramp his innards into twisters
plague him with wounds rank and septic
make his every hour dyspeptic

Roust him from his stealthy burrow
drive him over field and furrow 
Raise his fever by degrees
’til he yields the field and flees

©Molly Hogan, draft

Here’s hoping the groundhog responds to this curse. Truly, it’s better than the alternatives.

Margaret Simon has this week’s Poetry Friday Round up at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Be sure to stop by and see what’s on offer and wish her a Happy Birthday!

Poetry Friday is here!

Welcome to Poetry Friday! It’s been a while since I’ve hosted and I’m so glad to be here!

This month Catherine Flynn chose our Inklings challenge prompt. She asked us to “Write a poem about any sport you have a connection to–one you participate(d) in or love to watch. Use any form you think works best.”

I must admit that I’m not much of a sports lover, but I do have a favorite sports-themed poem: Robert Francis’s “The Base Stealer.” I’m not sure how or when I first stumbled upon it, but it’s also been a perennial favorite with my fourth graders. It’s a short poem and choosing just one section to highlight is HARD! I wish I could share it in its entirety.

To provide some context, it begins like this:

“Poised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tightrope-walker,”

A few lines later, the midsection is one of my favorite parts:

“Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball
Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on,
Running a scattering of steps sidewise,
How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases,
Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,”

Fabulous, right!? It could almost make me believe that, as some say, baseball is poetry in motion. Here’s Robert Francis reading the poem in its entirety:

Or, if you prefer to read the poem yourself, click here.

Regardless of my love of this poem, Baseball is NOT my favorite sport by any stretch. I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I find it pretty dang boring. I’m sure that’s because I don’t understand the nuances of the game. Regardless, I don’t view it with a favorable eye and I don’t have any warm and fuzzy memories of playing as a child. Still, I opted to focus on baseball for this sports-themed challenge. I’m sharing two responses, from two different perspectives.

©Molly Hogan, draft

Still In the Game

I wear no uniform
but my heart races
My eyes fix on their target
blood pounds in my ears
My hands grip, twitch and tense
The roar of the crowd
swells around me
I shift on the edge
of my seat
poised for triumph
or defeat

My kid’s up at bat.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’re interested in seeing what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the names below:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

Be sure to add your post to this week’s Roundup by joining the Inlinkz link party. I’m so looking forward to reading all of your poetry offerings 🙂 Here’s your formal invitation:

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

PF: Garden Haiku and Poetry Swaps

Every year the hydrangea puts on a show in my garden. Even this summer, when much of the state of Maine is in moderate drought, it’s persisted in its effusive blossoming. It looks like it’s in a perpetual state of celebration.

Summer Garden

hydrangea blossoms drift
in bold cumulous clouds
still no rain

©Molly Hogan

After taking a year off last year, I opted to join in the Poetry Swap again this summer. I chose to participate in 3 of the 5 swaps and have enjoyed both creating and receiving. A huge thank you to Tabatha Yeatts for organizing all the fun!

For my first swap, Margaret Simon sent me a clothbound notebook with several of my photos inside, accompanied by her elegant haiku. She invited me to fill the remaining pages, writing, “A conversation perhaps, from poet to poet, photo to poem, and space for your own”– A personal gift and a lovely invitation.

In my second swap, Patricia Franz sent me a dazzling Chagall postcard with a poem inspired by the Chicago skyline and rich with imagery and metaphor.

Marc Chagall American Windows, “Literature” and “Freedom”
(panels 3 and 4)

Chicago – for Molly Hogan

bridges hopscotch a ribboned river
emerald green relief for ageing architected towers
standing shoulder to shoulder like fellow immigrants
in a photograph for posterity

the burly and the refined,
both weathered and worn by the same wind
that welcomed them, daring
to reinvent themselves
to do history’s hard work

July 4, 2022
©draft, Patricia J. Franz

I also finally dove into my copy of Buffy Silverman‘s newest book, “On a Gold-Blooming Day: Finding Fall Treasure”. Wow! What a beauty! I hope you’ll go check out my review here.

Overall this week, I’m feeling grateful for poetry in words and in my garden.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Marcie Flinchum Atkins at her blog. She’s sharing information about the Sealey Challenge and some of her strategies, along with a lovely haiku.

Garden Wonder

I typically spend a fair amount of time taking photographs, but this summer I seem to have lost some of that motivation. My morning field trips to marsh, beach, or the river, have more or less evaporated. I still wake early in the morning, but have had no desire to head out to take pictures.

This morning, after more than a week of high temperatures, morning, noon, and night, it was a delight to wake to cool temperatures again. Yesterday’s downpours had cleared the air and drenched the greenery. They apparently also reinvigorated me. After my coffee and morning notebook time, I stepped outside, camera in hand, to see how my gardens were faring.

How can I forget how easy it is to fall into wonder with the world right outside my door?