Mourning Mary Oliver

unnamedAs so many others have, I’ve been mourning the death of Mary Oliver this past week. I have re-read many of her poems, discovered new ones, and re-listened to her On Being interview. I have felt simultaneously comforted and bereft. Oh, what a voice we have lost.

Then, when browsing through some past posts, I rediscovered this one from the Thursday after the election. Yeah. That election. It features my then college-aged daughter seeking comfort in Mary Oliver, trying to spread love, and netting some Emily Dickinson. Re-reading it moved me once again to tears and reminded me how much our world has changed in the past few years. Sigh.

Here’s the Mary Oliver poem my daughter quoted from in the linked post:

Invitation

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles…

(click here for the rest of this poem)

While Mary Oliver’s words live on and continue to offer a path through the crazy, her death adds to my growing feeling of overwhelming loss and unease. I feel like there’s an insidious malignancy gaining ground and I’ve just lost a critical and powerful ally. So I turn again and again to poetry, to nature, and often to her words for comfort. Again and again.

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This week’s Poetry Friday Round up is hosted by Tara Smith at her blog Going to Walden. When I read the poem she shared today, a powerful and disturbing Linda Pastan poem, I was struck by how it resonated with the linked post I was sharing and with my own feelings.

It all started at the Ice and Smelt Festival…

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It all started about a year ago at the Ice and Smelt Festival. For those of you who don’t  know, smelt are a kind of fish and smelt fishing is a cherished winter tradition in many Maine communities. Our town has been celebrating ice and smelting for a number of years now with a festival. For last year’s event, there’d been a “call” put out for any photos relating to smelting or winter in our small town.

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I sent a couple of photos in and on the day of the festival, Kurt and I wandered into town to check out the exhibit. I was anxious to see if my pictures were included. Would they be “favorites”?

Once we arrived, my eyes went straight to the display of photographs. I scanned them quickly. Yes! There was one of my photos…and there was the other one! Both were on display. (upper left in the photos below) They had even been enlarged.

“Oh, Kurt! They’re here!” I enthused, grinning from ear to ear. I was absolutely thrilled to see them on the wall with my name below them. Tickled pink as my  mom would have said.

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We lingered, admiring the photos, examining the historical information and enjoying the exhibit. I may have peeked one or two more times at my photos. As I wandered, I noticed a few fabulous pictures. After a bit, I realized that most of them had been taken by the same photographer.

“Oh, I love this one!” I said to Kurt, motioning for him to check out a stunning picture of our local landmark bridge. “This BB takes wonderful pictures! I wonder who he is.”

After a while, a man came into the gallery and introduced himself. It turned out that he was BB, the photographer of those fabulous photos I’d been admiring and also the curator of the exhibit. When I introduced myself to him, he said something along the lines of, “Oh, you’re Molly Hogan. I really liked your pictures. You should think about having your photos in a show down here. I’ve been looking to make more use of the gallery space.”

What?!

We talked for a little longer and at the end of our conversation, he suggested I contact him via Facebook. Kurt and I left to meander over to check out the smelting shacks.

I walked out the door in a bit of a daze, excited and wondering. Did he really mean it? I then preceded to pester poor Kurt with questions for a while. A long while. It might have gotten a bit repetitive, but believe me, it was exponentially more so in my own head.

“Do you think he meant it?”

“Should I contact him on Facebook?”

“What do you think?”

“But do you think he really meant it?”

I went back and forth for a week or so. Maybe two. Contact him? Yes. No. Maybe. Back and forth. Forth and back.

But one of the joys of getting older is that it nudges me to push barriers. It may take a while, but ultimately, it does. I love taking pictures. I love sharing my photographs. If someone offered me an opportunity like this, why wouldn’t I contact them? What did I have to lose? Bottom line…if not now, when?

So, after a bit, I reached out via Facebook. I sent him a link to a recent blog post that shared my favorite photos of 2017.

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A few weeks later, I followed up. And, via a long circuitous route, it has actually worked out. I’m so excited (in between waves of anxious nausea) to share that on February 1st, an exhibit of my photographs will open at our local gallery. MOLLYCARD_WEB_SIZE.jpg

And it all started at the Ice and Smelt Festival…

An “I am” Poem

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I’ve been revisiting Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s poemcrazy: freeing your life with words. I love this book. The first time I read it, I was driving down to Philadelphia and it simply transformed the journey. This book is one of my all-time favorites. Did I already mention that I love it? Every time I pick it up, I’m again thankful to Catherine Flynn for introducing it to me. It’s a wonder! There are so many prompts and practices that dig into rich poetic territory and celebrate unabashed word joy!

Today I’m sharing an “I am” poem I wrote in response to a practice Wooldridge shares in the book. She provides a long list of questions to answer, starting with “If I were a color, what color would I be? to  “If I were a movement, what movement would I be?” to “What’s the word hiding behind my eyes?” She emphasizes using collected words and seeing images to define yourself with these questions. “Be silly, serious, wry or overdramatic,” she advises….–as long as you’re writing about yourself.”

I am…

I am granite grey
plain Jane, sturdy and dependable
but sometimes sunlight shoots across my surface
igniting flecks of mica and quartz
into quick showers of sparkles
here, then gone
I’m a circle, or more probably, an oval
wobbly on the edges
and a bit dizzy from spinning
round and round
I am a quiet gasp of wonder and worry
A song of sunrise and sunset
Within me lives a distant howling wind
keen and piercing
like the memory of a small child crying
I could never be a sequoia
tall, strong, and directed
my bark is not immune to licking flames
my branches wander hither and yon
like the crony apple tree
that twists and gnarls
yet yields occasional ruby fruit
glistening sweet surprise
Behind my eyes
the word scared lingers
along with trying
sometimes they fight
but sometimes they hold hands
and jump into the fray together

©Molly Hogan, 2019

This week you can find the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. If you’re living in the Northeast, you can surely tuck in some poetry around the forecasted falling snowflakes this weekend!

On that note, I’m going to tuck in two storm-inspired haiku:

winter storm hype
accumulates
faster than snow

©Molly Hogan, 2019

and

Big storm’s coming!

grocery store chaos
toilet paper, bread, and milk
the new trinity

©Molly Hogan, 2019

My Kind of Worship

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This Zeno grew out of my recent thoughts while writing #haikuforhope last month. I hope you’re all feeling charitable, because I sort of cheated; prayer technically has two syllables, but I (and I think/hope many other people) pronounce it with only one, so I’m going with that.

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My Kind of Worship

Sunrise service at the river
pink horizon
eagle’s
stare
scattered sunlight
spider’s
lair
universal
morning
prayer

©Molly Hogan, 2019

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This week Kat Apel is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup from Down Under (here). She’s featuring some wonderful daily poems and photos she’s been sharing on Instagram. Make sure to stop by and check those out and while you’re there, why not click on a few other poetry links as well?

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…

Finishing up December’s #haikuforhope

unnamedWriting #haikuforhope during December was simply wonderful. Last year, I participated, but on a much more limited basis. I’m not sure if I created a haiku every day this year, but I was darned close! The process focused my attention amidst the blur of holiday activities and helped me tap into the heart of it all. I’m so thankful to have written along with others during the month, and as I’ve said before, reading their haiku was inspiring and educational. I learned so much from these fellow writers and mentors!

Along with writing haiku, another one of my favorite things about December was having break and more time to explore and take photographs. This was doubly rewarding, as getting out and about with my camera fuels my writing. My early mornings at the river inspired two of my final haiku and have sparked another poem that’s still in pieces but feels like it has potential. I also wrote a haibun with one of these haiku for this week’s Slice of Life. Finally, I took a field trip to Portland, ME to visit the “celebrity” Great Black Hawk who’s taken up residence in an urban park. There’s quite a story to go with this bird (here), but I was struck by the difference in how we treat this avian immigrant versus human ones. Another haiku was born.

Here are my final three #haikuforhope from December:

December 29th:

morning fog
drenches rising sun
watercolor world

December 30th:

bird immigrant
celebrated arrival
modern day irony

December 31st:

bald eagle and I
patiently await the dawn
morning communion

(If you’re interested, here’s the link to the haibun I wrote with this haiku for this week’s Slice of Life (here). )

All haiku ©Molly Hogan, 2018

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Sylvia Vardell at her blog, Poetry For Children. She is sharing an impressive and exciting list of poetry titles expected to be published in 2019. Talk about anticipation! Go take a look, recognize some familiar names (Yay!) and be sure to plan your yearly budget accordingly!

 

Savouring the last dawn of 2018

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hWe faced east together, glowing with the light of the rising sun. How many mornings have I stood by the river and watched the sunrise with this eagle companion? Too many to count.

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I snapped a few photos and then turned to gaze at the pebbled clouds and the deep rosy sky. I watched the subtle changes from moment to moment, my camera dangling at my neck. Deliberately, I didn’t reach for it again. For just a few minutes, I didn’t take a photograph. I didn’t scan for a contrast of textures, an interesting reflection, a pattern in the ice. I didn’t wish the eagle would soar across the pinkening horizon. And I didn’t long for a visit from the three bluebirds wintering nearby. I just stood there, as still in my grounded place as the eagle was on his lofty perch. I sought to be content with the what is, rather than yearning for the what might be. I savored the moment on this last day of 2018.

bald eagle and I
patiently await the dawn
morning communion

©M. Hogan, 2018
#haikuforhope

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