Trying to keep it light…

I’ve been out and about, enjoying what already feel like the waning days of summer. Here are a few recent small moments captured in photos and poems.

Turtle bathes in lily pad
under summer blues he
kicks his legs a little bit…
instant pond jacuzzi!

©Molly Hogan


a cluster of berries
plumped to picking size
beneath warm summer skies
conceals a big surprise!

©Molly Hogan

one cautious eye
takes in the world
ponders when
or whether
to venture forth

©Molly Hogan

Catching a Crab

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.

May be an image of 2 people, people sitting, lake and nature
Pausing to check out the scenery, photo by Corie Scribner
May be an image of 2 people, people standing, nature and lake
Action shot, photo by Peter Feeney

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…

Bang!

Ouch!

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:

“To begin with, don’t resist it. Don’t fight the handle. …Left to itself, the oar will come to rest
parallel to the boat, trailing in the water. The boat loses very little speed.” (from the Union Bay Rowing Club, https://students.washington.edu/ubrc/links/dont-panic/)

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:


Poetry Friday is here–and Summer is, too!

“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

  1. Morning transformation
    bird song displaces
    the radio alarm
  2. Time warp
    hands rummage in rich earth
    hours vanish
  3. Baby Boom
    each day a new arrival
    in the garden
  4. Eau de Summer
    plush floral tones, fresh-mown lawns
    the scent of sun-dried sheets
  5. Verdant woods
    air shifts and pulses
    in sun-shafted spectrums of green
  6. The sweet tyranny
    of ripe berries
  7. Sparkles of laughter
    arc as high
    as the sprinkler’s spray
  8. Surprise!
    Dance parties
    in the center of the zinnias!
  9. Sun-lit windowsills
    dotted with geraniums
    and the occasional sleeping cat
  10. An ending and beginning:
    Spring’s coda
    Fall’s prelude

©Molly Hogan

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:

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

I’m posting this early as I am out of town until Friday evening. I may be able to read and comment here and there before then, but mostly I’ll be reading and commenting over the weekend.

Small Town Magic

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.

From My Notebook

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.

Forgotten

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.

©Molly Hogan, draft

Seeing the Light

Not long
after her husband died
she brought me a candle,
intricately wrought from beeswax,
the kind you hesitate to light.

“Be sure to burn it,” she said.

©Molly Hogan, draft

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Margaret Simon at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Be sure to stop by and check out her poetic contributions to a recent anthology.

July Challenge–Two Responses

This month Heidi posed our group’s challenge. She shared a poem that Tabatha Yeatts had recently shared on her blog: “What Pain Doesn’t Know About Me”, by Gail Martin. It begins like this:

“How I visualize him as a rooster. How I nickname him Sparky.

My rabbit-heart. How it looks motionless in the bank of clover
but secretly continues to nibble.”

It’s a wonderful poem. You can read the rest here.

Heidi proposed that we use Martin’s poem as a mentor in some way, and she also suggested we might try using some anthimera, which thankfully she explained. It’s essentially using a word in a new grammatical shape–a noun as a verb, a verb as a noun, etc.

I’ve really struggled with this prompt. Heidi left it nice and open, but I couldn’t seem to find a way in. At the moment, I’m in Ohio, helping out my stepmother and dad as he begins palliative cancer treatment. I’m so glad to be here, but needless to say, I’m distracted and a lot more.

My first effort was sparked by the idea of anthimera:

Rough Country (working title)

These days we’re cancering
though I hate to verbify the word
since it’s already damn active
and more than aggressive enough
I’d like to recruit some more verbs
like pummel, throttle, pulverize
and group them
into an active verb posse
ride out together
lasso in that tumor
and administer swift, vigilante justice
leaving cancer broken-backed and beaten
then ride off triumphantly
with a nice sunset in the background
or better still, a sunrise
and the promise of another day.

©Molly Hogan


Then I tried to work with Gail Martin’s poem as a mentor. This was tough. I wasn’t quite ready to delve into Fear, Anger, Grief and couldn’t turn it around and find another entry point. I ended up focusing elsewhere. Sort of. Over the past days, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the back deck of my dad and stepmother’s house. It looks out over a small pond, and the frogs, dragonflies, ducks, geese and occasional heron are a welcome distraction.

What Frogs Don’t Know About Me

How their croaking calls and banjo twangs are a lifeline, pulling me out of the darker pools in my mind.

My nervous eye. How it scans edges and boundaries, constantly searching for anomalies.

I’m benign.

They needn’t fear my touch. I have no intention of invading and prefer the distance of the lens.

My out-of-proportion delight when I do spy them. Two bumps recast as two watchful eyes. The possibility of transformation.

My understanding–I get their “on-alert” stance. How they are ever ready to jump and splash away at the slightest disturbance. Real or imagined.

We are united in a perpetual state of vigilance.

Even now I hear their long low croaks and can’t help but smile in response.

We inhabit this place together.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to see what the other Swaggers did in response to this prompt, check out their posts:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche


This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Laura Shovan at her blog. Make sure to stop by and enjoy some poetry.

The Overlooked Robin

It’s easy to overlook what’s always around. Take the robin, for example. The American robin is ubiquitous. Once a welcome sign heralding spring’s arrival, now we see it year round in coastal Maine. We seldom focus on it as we seek a fleeting glance of more exotic birds–orioles, tanagers, warblers, etc. But take a look — notice that rich, ruddy breast, the white lined eyes, the streaked throat. Listen to its song! Robins truly are beautiful birds!

Yesterday morning, as I wandered by the riverside park, I saw a robin hopping along the ground. I lingered and watched for a while. (One of the joys of summer is having time to linger and time to notice.) Every so often it stopped and cocked its head toward the ground. It seemed to be listening! Each time it would turn its head, pause, then straighten up, peck at the ground or move along. It was fascinating!

A dim memory stirred. Did I remember reading that robins can actually hear the earthworms stirring underground? Later, a quick google search confirmed it. Robins use sight and hearing to find worms and can actually find worms solely by listening when needed. I also read that robins can eat up to 14 feet of earthworms in a day! Yikes! Now all I can think about is slurping spaghetti.

After the Diagnosis

After the Diagnosis

We reminisce.
Rest in silence.
At one point we marvel
at the unexpected
heaviness of water.
Dad tells me
it weighs
8.3 pounds per gallon,
or so he thinks.

Now I understand
this pressure in my chest–
the slow inevitable breach
beneath my reservoir
of tears.

©Molly Hogan

As I’ve alluded to in several posts lately, this has been a challenging spring–and for so many reasons. At school, ending the year teaching, reading and writing poetry has been a breath of fresh air. At home, writing poetry has allowed me to explore my emotions and simultaneously get a bit of distance from them.

I’m not sure it’s an exaggeration to say that this spring, poetry has saved me.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Carol at her blog, Carole’s Corner. She’s sharing poems by a wonderful new-to-her (and new-to-me) poet, Jeannette Encinias.

Blessing

Last spring a thrush visited me almost every morning for a couple of weeks. Its call became one of my favorite bird songs, and one of very few that I can identify. This year it didn’t return and I’ve only heard the thrushes sing far off in the evening. Still, I welcome the sound. Whenever I hear it, I feel a little bit lighter.

This weekend, we headed down to Plymouth, Massachusetts for my son’s wedding. We had rented a house to gather in for a few days before the big event. Much to my delight, one of first things I heard when I arrived was a thrush singing. I was surprised to hear it in the beachfront neighborhood. Whether it’s true or not, I think of the thrush as a woodland bird. But there it was. And they kept singing. Thursday night, Friday, Saturday morning. Greeting me upon arrival. Singing the day away at dusk and welcoming the new day at dawn. I commented about it over and over again.

“Do you hear the thrush?”

“There it is again!”

“Isn’t that a beautiful sound!?”

On Saturday afternoon, we headed toward the wedding site about 20 minutes away. As soon as I got out of my car, there it was–thrush song once again. I heard it several more times as I moved about the grounds.

Eventually my focus shifted away from bird song as the wedding began. I could write about that forever. Lakeside venue. Perfect weather. Beautiful bride. Grinning groom. Heartfelt and moving vows. Friends. Family. Music. Food and fun. And lots and lots of dancing. Sore feet and full heart. Love and laughter. Oh, what a celebration!

The morning after the BWE (Best Wedding Ever), I wandered early along the lake front beach. And there it was. Thrush song once again. Idly, I wondered, Is there any significance associated with a thrush?

I picked up my phone and searched.

This was the first response:

“Of all the birds, the wood thrush is the symbol of solid, healthy relationships. It happily appears in our lives to signify that we are engaging in a long term relationship that will never break down at any cost. In this way, the wood thrush acts as a congratulatory animal totem.”

Wow.

I stared at the screen, stunned and deeply moved.

My heart blossomed with love and hope for my son and his new wife.

Now, as I type this early Monday morning, I’m back at home. Tired and happy, and still replaying the kaleidoscope of the weekend in my mind. Feeling so joyous and thankful.

Then, suddenly, a thrush calls from near the house. Over and again. Loud and clear. It’s the first time I’ve heard one this close since last year. I smile. It feels just perfect.

I know that every time I hear a thrush sing now, I’ll still feel lighter, but also my heart will lift as I think of Connor and Courtney and the love between them.

What a blessing.

Photo by Russell Smithe Video Productions