SOLC Day 25: Late This Afternoon…

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 27
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Late this Afternoon…

after hours of stuffing baggies
with papers,
books, and
assorted school supplies…
after hours on the computer
learning,
answering questions, and
exploring technology…
we drove to the river,
then walked.
Along the way,
mergansers swam, and
we saw two bald eagles
perched in a tree.
Then two more flew in.
“There are four!” I cried,
utterly delighted.
We watched them
circle and soar.
Four of them!
Then two flew off
but there were still
two eagles left,
perched in a tree, and
common mergansers
still swam on the river.
And still, we walked.

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SOLC Day 24: Party at Leigh Anne’s!

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 24
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

A week or so again, Leigh Anne Eck put out an invitation to all slicers to participate in her “Spring Fling.” A virtual party’s always a great idea (No cleaning–Yay!), but this year, given the state of things, Leigh Anne transformed it into a self-care party. Perfect! Your entry ticket to the fun was to bring along your “three best self-care ideas.” 

So, here, in no particular order, are three of my self-care ideas–some of the things that are helping me get by from day to day. I don’t always remember to do them, but when I do, they make a difference.

  1. Research/Learn–Sure, I’m learning lots about google classroom and ways to support remote learning, but that’s not what I mean. I suggest spending some time researching something that sparks your interest. Dig into it. Read a little. Research. For example, recently I was intrigued by a reference to the Erie Canal. I knew nothing about it, so I googled it. Wow! Did you know that the canal (360 miles long, 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep) was constructed mostly by Irish immigrants who were paid in money ($10/month) and whiskey? And, when the canal was finished in 1825, cannons were lined up along the towpath-each one just within earshot of the previous one. Then they fired them one after the other in a rally along the length of the canal. It took 81 minutes to complete and was the fastest communication ever in the US at that time. The canal also provided a route for goods, information, new ideas and even people to flow. Think Underground Railroad. Fascinating, right? It’s a great distraction and just think about the trivia you could add to your dinner conversation!
  2. Focus–At least for a little bit every day, take the time to slow down and focus. For some this might be meditation or some sort of mindfulness practice. For me, both writing and photography help. In these crazy days, make sure to take a minute or two to peel back the patina of the ordinary to reveal the luster of the extraordinary. It’s there if you take the time to look. Really. Just spend a few minutes looking at a blue jay and you’ll see what I mean.
  3. Positive self-talk–I am a worrier by nature, and can all too swiftly circle the drain of utter disaster. This is one of those experiences that calls for a lot of mental framing. For me, that means I need to severely limit how much news I ingest, but also be very careful about the messages I give myself. Or how I think about what’s going on. I’m trying to be very metacognitive–aware of what I’m thinking and active about adjusting it based on reality or the moment at hand. I have to rein myself in from my natural tendency to go straight to “worst case scenario.” My husband playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” for me doesn’t hurt either.

These are by no means my only self-care tips. In addition to these, I’m a huge fan of exercising, reading, taking long hot baths, connecting with others, creating, and getting outside. 

 

What are you doing these days to take care of yourself?

SOLC Day 23: Spring is Coming

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 23
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

I hopped on the treadmill early this morning, determined to burn off some anxiety and calories early in the day. As I walked, I read on the iPad Kindle app. Well, I sort of read. I’m not sure I could tell you a lot about what was happening in my book. On some level I recognized that it was well-written and interesting. But mostly my brain was craving the mechanical escape of reading without necessarily having to think about what I was reading or to retain it. I guess you could describe my reading effort as mental word calling. Focus hasn’t been my forte lately.

A couple of miles in, I saw a blur of movement outside the window. Easily distracted (Remember?… No focus here!), I turned my head to look outside.

What was that? I wondered, while simultaneously thinking, Whatever you do, don’t fall!

I straightened a bit and tightened my hands on the grips, but continued to scan the scene. Finally, outside the window, near a small patch of snow, I saw a single fat robin hopping about. It cocked its head one way, then the other. It hopped, stopped, hopped. I kept on walking and watching it.

It would be pretty cool if it looked me right in the eye, I thought. I stared at it long and hard.   Like a direct message from spring. A message of hope.  I stared a bit more.

Yeah, well it didn’t happen. In fact, that robin didn’t seem to notice me at all. It just hopped about, periodically pecking at the ground. But still, it was there, and that was something. The first robin I’d seen this year.

As I watched it, more movement caught my eye, and I suddenly realized that there was another robin in the background. And as I looked closer, I saw another. And another. Once I started looking, I saw them all over the yard and bustling about in the woods. Busy little harbingers of spring–and a reminder that regardless of the forecast for the coming days, and even if it won’t look me in the eye right now, spring is coming. 

SOLC Day 22: I’m in Charge of Celebrations

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 22
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Have you ever read Byrd Baylor’s picture book, “I’m in Charge of Celebrations”? It’s a long-time favorite of mine. Baylor creates such beautiful images with her words and her book, with illustrations by Peter Parnall, is a love song to the desert, and to nature in general. It’s a book that exhorts you to not only recognize the beauty in your own life, but to actively celebrate it. The blurb on the back (which I’d never read before this morning) describes the book as a “radiant prose-poem.”

I videotaped myself reading part of this book to my students yesterday, and as I did so, I realized I’d had  a celebratory moment just that morning. I’ll share it here, using Baylor’s style as a mentor.

And
I was lucky
on Soaring Eagle Day
because I was there
for that one moment
when it happened.

I was walking
along the railroad tracks
that thread between
river and stream,
lost in serious conversation
on my phone,
bending down
talking softly,
fearful, concerned,
not paying
too much attention.

I looked up
in time to see
two eagles
perched in a nearby tree.
I ended my call,
readied my camera.

In that instant
Snap!
A branch broke.
An eagle
tumbled down.
One
two
seconds
falling,
falling.

Then, in that powerful way
that eagles have,
she thrust her wings
and righted herself,
lifting higher,
away from tree
and plummeting
branch.

I watched her soar,
like hope,
into blue skies,
then across the river,
with strong beating
wings.
Her companion
paused,
high in the tree,
then flew after her.

I watched them both
as they flew,
steady and true,
until
they were out of sight.
And the strange thing was
it made me feel better.

So now,
every year,
on March twenty-first,
I will celebrate
Soaring Eagle Day.

 

This past Friday, when I went back into school to grab a few things, this book was one of the first I chose. It struck me that we might need to focus on celebrations in the coming days.

A mere two days later, I feel this more than ever. I’m struggling to choose my walking companions. While worry and fear are eager to come along, I’m making way for joy and wonder and all the celebrations I can find.

SOLC Day 21: The Gift of Each Day

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 21
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.”
Osho

If there’s one lesson I need to  learn over and over again, it’s to live in the present. I don’t dwell in the past, but planning and prepping for the future often distracts me from being fully in the present. These days it’s all too easy to get pulled into a mode of panicking about the future. I’m trying to remember that this current moment is what we have, and that just this moment is a tremendous gift.

The Gift of Each Day

Uncertainty teaches us fast
to cherish the gift of each day.
Our world is so small yet so vast.
Uncertainty teaches us fast
to full-throttle love to the last.
Each fleet-footed moment won’t stay.
Uncertainty teaches us fast
to cherish the gift of each day

©Molly Hogan, 2020, draft

SOLC Day 20: Insomnia

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 20
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Yesterday, I read a post about dealing with interrupted sleep in these trying times. I  deeply sympathized with the writer, as I’ve had plenty of experience with middle-of-the-night wakefulness. Incredibly, I’ve been sleeping well lately, and I’ve been very grateful for that… that is, until last night. Is insomnia catching?

At any rate, when I can’t sleep at night and my mind is whirling, I tend to write acrostic poems, entitled Insomnia. It’s a good distraction from less welcome thoughts, and usually lulls me back to sleep. (Not a ringing endorsement for my poetry, but quite welcome in the wee hours!) Typically, as I fall asleep, the poems fade away into darkness. Sometimes they stick around and I revisit them in the morning. They all have the same catchy title (I’m not particularly clever with titles at the best of times!), and I’m sad to say that I’ve already amassed quite a collection.

Last night this go-to strategy wasn’t working as well as usual. My mind was ramping up, not winding down. Finally, I grabbed a pen and note book. In the glow of my bedside clock, I scribbled the lines down. After that, I read for a while (under the covers with a book light so I didn’t disturb my husband) and finally, I fell back asleep.

This morning, I was quite interested to read what I’d written last night.

90562355_1586168964840535_787034516265893888_nThe first thing I noticed when I opened the notebook is that I need a new bedside pen. Then, I realized I’d omitted the second “I” in insomnia. Oops. That wasn’t the only spelling error either, though it was the most egregious one. Also, along with my spelling, my handwriting deteriorated as I moved down the page. It was practically illegible at the end.

I revised the acrostic  a bit this morning and here it is. Hopefully it’s the last one I write for a while!

Insomnia

In the pulsing darkness
Night creatures stir
Sounds, once invisible, leap into prominence
Once-vivid colors mute to grey, sliding shadows
My scattered thoughts rumble ominously
Not heeding my call to stand down
Instead they amass, assemble in force, and
Attack

©Molly Hogan, 2020

Wishing you peaceful nights of sleep!

SOLC Day 19: Ode to My Treadmill

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 19
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

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My friend and critique partner, Heidi Mordhorst, shared the list below on her Facebook page this morning. I’d been considering how I wanted to structure these strange days and this framework really appealed to me.

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created by Brooke Anderson. The Greater Good Science Center

In search of silver linings, I have been thinking about gratitude a lot lately, so that was an easy starting place. One thing I’ve been tremendously grateful for recently is having a treadmill in the house. After a year of it gathering dust, I finally started using it a few months ago. I was so surprised to find that I actually enjoyed it. Really! As long as I could read on an i-pad while I walked fast, I was a happy camper. These days, I don’t just like using the treadmill, I need it! And I’m grateful to have it. I still walk outside, but power walking at a set pace is a huge help with managing stress and anxiety.

I’m also very grateful for the role that writing plays in my life, and determined not to allow the current situation to take over my writing life. I’m trying very hard to find lighter moments or different topics to focus on. With that and Poetry Friday in mind, today I decided to write an ode to my treadmill.
Ode to My Treadmill

Oh, Treadmill, my savior
in unsettled days,
you offer salvation
‘midst pandemic craze.

Your deck is so stable
Your surface non-slip.
Your presence ensures that
I don’t lose my grip.

I ramp up your incline
and pick up my speed.
You absorb every shock.
Oh, true, stalwart steed!

I turn to you often,
as news brings more stress.
Each time, without fail,
you ease my distress.

The world may be shaking,
but you’re tried and true.
Oh, Treadmill, without you?
Oh, what would I do?

©Molly Hogan, 2020

This week Michelle Kogan is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at her website.  Be sure to stop by and check out her art and poetry.