Delighting in Dahlias

Recently this image appeared in our town’s Facebook group, along with an open invitation for anyone in town to stop by and gather up some dahlias.

I have to admit, I’ve never considered growing dahlias and don’t know much about them. Classified as tender perennials, they have to be dug up each winter and replanted in the fall. I know myself well enough to avoid that situation! No, thanks! But…free dahlias? Sure!

I took note of the address, jumped in my car and headed out. As I neared, I slowed down, looking carefully for the address. Would I be able to find it?

I needn’t have worried. The wagon of blossoms was like a beacon at the end of the driveway. I pulled over and got out. The blooms were even more glorious in person. I may have audibly oohed and aahed a bit.

I turned to see a woman emerging from behind the house, clippers in hand.

“These are gorgeous,” I said, wandering over. “It’s so kind of you to share them with everyone!”

“Well,” she said, “I just love dahlias. I keep buying them and I don’t want them to go to waste. If I didn’t give them away, I’d have to compost them. I’d hate to do that!”

“Don’t you have to store them inside in the winter?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “We have a ridiculously large bathroom that stays pretty cool, so I put them in there.” She looked around at the beds bursting with dahlia blossoms. “I’m not sure if they’re going all fit this year,” she admitted and laughed, “but I just can’t resist them!”

We chatted about gardens, dahlias, managing tender perennials, etc. As we spoke, several more cars pulled over to the side of the road. People were laughing and peering into the wagon, comparing and selecting blossoms. Word was clearly out.

I moved back toward the wagon to choose my flowers and the woman accompanied me. As I gazed at all the choices, I was wowed by the variety and the subtle gradients of color.

“These are stunning!” I said.

She nodded, smiling, and as I selected blossoms, she added a few choices of her own with some commentary.

“Oh, you have to have this one!”

“Take this one, too. It’s one of my favorites! It’s just like a watercolor, isn’t it!?”

Finally, I had a lovely bouquet gathered. After thanking her again, I headed home to organize my flowers.

A short while later, I was definitely rethinking dahlias. Some relationships are clearly worth a little extra effort!

Update: This week’s selection!

Well, s*!t, I blew that!

I’ve been working on my language lately.

No, not that language. My teaching language. I’ve come to realize that language is a powerful teaching tool, and I’ve been working for years on improving how I use this tool in my class. For example, I’ve worked hard to make specific rather than general comments about student work– comments that focus on the skill used rather than on my personal approval . So, instead of saying, “I really love your character”, I might say “Wow! Describing all those small actions really brought your character to life!” I’ve also made concerted, though much less successful efforts, to consistently reduce the rate of my speech.

After attending a four day workshop before school started, I’ve been thinking about language again. Specifically, I’ve been trying to use reinforcing, reminding and redirecting language à la Responsive Classroom. Please note, I’m going to sum up as best as I can, but my words reflect my understanding of these terms and that is still evolving.

Reinforcing language is just what it says. When they see positive things happening, teachers use reinforcing language to help students recognize and build on their successes. So, with an upbeat, encouraging tone, they give specific feedback. Instead of a vague “Great job!”, it’s “Everyone got in line quietly and calmly so we can get out to recess on time.” The idea is to focus on the positives, draw attention to them, and build off those successes.

Reminding language helps students as they get slightly off track or when the teacher anticipates they might. It’s direct, brief and calm. It prompts students to remember for themselves what the expected behavior is and to alter their behavior accordingly. So, instead of a long interjection from me about what they should be doing, I try to make a statement or ask a question and put the onus on them. “Remind me what you should be doing right now.” or “What is our rule about classroom materials?”

Finally, redirecting language is when student behavior has gone farther afield, and they need to hear briefly, specifically and calmly what they need to do. For example, instead of “We’re wasting time. We need to get started.” It’s more like, “Stop. Put your folders on your desk and sit down. Then we’ll start.” This type of language also comes into play when students need some external support with their behavior so they can be safe and move back into more productive behavior.

I find it fascinating to think about how I use language and the impact it has on my classroom and students. Right now, I may be overthinking it a bit, and I’m sure I sound a bit stilted sometimes, but it’s early days. The goal is to use reinforcing language the most, and overall, I feel pretty successful with that. Giving specific feedback has become more natural over time. It definitely helps that our ongoing Reading and Writing PD with Teachers College has had a similar focus. My own goal recently has been keeping reminders brief and to the point. If you read my blog regularly, you probably know: Brevity is not my forté.

Last week, I was thinking about all of this at recess. In between navigating critical ball shortages, four-square fiascos, and friendship squabbles, I was reflecting on how my language work was going.

I need to look back at my workshop notes. I’m doing okay with reinforcing language, and am being specific (most of the time), but what about the reminding language when kids aren’t following expectations? Or is that redirecting language? When does one become the next? Maybe I should look at some of the examples again…

My internal thoughts continued as we lined up to head back to our classroom. As we started moving, I noticed Y and Z tossing a football around in line. This was something we’d clearly discussed earlier in the week.

“Y and Z,” I said, “Remember we don’t throw a ball in line because it’s not safe. Please hold onto it.”

Turning back, I grimaced. Ugh. I was calm and matter of fact. Brief? Not really. I’m also pretty sure I was supposed to prompt them to think of what they needed to do in line to stay safe, not tell them.

Changing my language is tough! I turned back and kept walking. I’ll do better next time.

A blur of movement caught my eye.

Wait? What was that?

No way!

Yes way!

Sure enough, once again, Y and Z were veering in and out of line, tossing the football back and forth, over the heads of a few of their classmates.

I turned around again, thoughts about effective teaching language fresh in my mind. My voice erupted, deep and resonant. Actually, it emerged a bit differently than I had expected. Huh? A little louder (a little?), firm and definitely a bit …well, maybe more than a bit…gruffer. Maybe even rumbly. Actually, it sort of sounded a bit as if a demon had entered my body and taken over.

“Y and Z. HOLD THE BALL!”

They froze. Their eyes widened. They grabbed the ball, held it tight, and scuttled back into line.

Brief? Yes. Direct? Yes. Calm tone? Not so much.

Eep.

I turned around, facing away from them, and had to laugh.

Yikes! Where had that voice come from? Well, I guess the pendulum swung too far the other way that time. I’ll keep working on it.

For now, at least, the ball was firmly in hand, and we made our way back to the classroom with no further incident– of either the football or demon-possession variety. I’ll count that as a win and in the meantime, I’ll keep working on my language.

Impassable?

Our house is filled with books. Despite giving away probably thousands of them over the years, we still have thousands left. We’ve accumulated them from all sorts of places: bookstores, yard sales, library sales, gifts, giveaways. You name it, if there’s a book involved, count us in! We’ve even converted our living room into a sort of library. You know, if you can’t beat them…

So, as a result of this, we often find books we didn’t know that we had. A few weeks ago I was looking for something to read. Why I do this when I have a two foot tall TBR pile on my nightstand is one of the mysteries of the universe. At any rate, I reached into the bookshelf and pulled out a slim volume I didn’t recall seeing before. It was titled “O To Be A Dragon” by Marianne Moore. Where had this come from? Had I picked it up somewhere and never read it?

I opened the front page and saw an inscription:

Margaret Beeghly
(her Dragon)
Marianne Moore
October, 1959

Well, that was unexpected!

Margaret Beeghly was my mother. Known as Midge, she was 17 when Marianne Moore wrote this. I have no idea who gave my mother this book–who took the time to have it inscribed for her. What did the inscription “her dragon” mean anyway? Why was it written to “Margaret” and not to “Midge”? My mother died 40 years ago, but somewhere along the way I had picked up this book and carried it with me. How had I moved it from place to place, house to house without ever noticing it before?

The most amazing thing to me is that this is not an isolated event. I really shouldn’t have been so surprised. Just this past weekend a cousin e-mailed, saying she’d unearthed some old newsletters that my mother had written along with some of her cousins in 1955. My mom, who would have been 13 at the time, apparently authored a column called “Mumble Jumble.” My cousin wanted to confirm my address so she could send copies along to me, and I’m still eagerly waiting for them to arrive.

Last winter, out of the blue, a friend of my mother’s sent me a bundle of letters she’d been saving, along with some pictures of my mother. Most of the letters had been written by my mother shortly before she died, and others were written by my grandmother to this friend shortly after my mother died. It’s the oddest thing to unexpectedly get new windows into someone’s life through the years. To read words that she’d written decades ago. It’s both unsettling and comforting.

Turning back to the book, I opened it to a random page and read this poem:

I May, I Might, I Must

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.

At the time, with the start of yet another unsettled school year dominating my mind, I read this poem as a pretty relevant message with a can-do attitude.That’s how I finished the draft of this post that I wrote on Sunday. But I wasn’t happy with the ending.

This morning I woke up and realized that the heart of what I wanted to write about wasn’t so much the book as it was about the reappearance of so many things relating to my mother over the years, and especially recently. I revised to add the additional information about the newsletter and the letters. That felt better.

Then, as I reread this post and the poem, before publishing, I had a sudden startling thought. This time as I read the poem, my mother was at the forefront of my mind, and it was her voice I heard as I read it. My interpretation shifted dramatically. Maybe there’s a pattern in all of this. It feels a bit far-out, but perhaps the re-emergence of these items through the years isn’t so random after all. Perhaps it’s my mom’s way of crossing what “appears impassable”, of reaching out across “the fen”.

True or not, I find a great deal of comfort in that thought.

Just that one thing

Last Tuesday, I stopped by our school to see how things were going with revamping the modular classrooms for this fall. Last spring we’d been asked to check the space and create a list of items that needed to be repaired, added, removed, etc. It was a fairly extensive list, ranging from minor items to must-haves to wishful thinking. We left for the summer knowing materials (cubbies with storage, book shelves, etc.) had been ordered and should be installed over the summer.

Unfortunately,I found out Tuesday, the long and short of it is that no one really remembered the list (you know–summer break, retiring secretary, travel, oh and that pandemic thing). So, no one had followed up on this spring’s order. ..until this past Monday when they called the furniture company to be told, “Oh. Um. That order. Hold on a sec…….um… Yeah. That order. So. Um. That order is um…Oh, yeah! It’s shipping on Wednesday.”

Hmmmm….

After getting that news, I walked out to see the classroom to check things out. As noted, there are no cubbies. There is no classroom shelving of any kind, and no in-class storage. There is a closet though with plenty of shelves, and there are student desks. The path to the building has been paved and there’s a newly paved learning area outside the backdoor. All bright spots in a panicky sea of “OMG, how am I going to be ready for school on time!?”

I left, hoping for the best, and returned on Friday with a very simple plan. I headed out to my new classroom knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do too much.

I’ll just get my head in the space and get my desk organized. That will be a good start!

As I expected, nothing had changed in the intervening days. Chairs were stacked. Desks were double stacked in the corner. There was a left-over computer monitor on one table and some large mysterious objects that clearly were waiting to be mounted…somewhere.

Ok. Focus. You knew you couldn’t do much. Remember, your goal is just to get your desk organized. Just that one thing. So…Deep breath. Desk.

I looked around.

Where’s my desk?

I looked around again.

Ok. There has to be a desk here somewhere.

I slowly turned, scanning the room.

OMG! Where’s my desk? Where’s my desk? Where’s my desk?

I looked up, down, all over. To be honest, there weren’t many places to look, but I kept trying. Finally, I had to face facts.

There is no desk here.

I took a deep breath and then another. Then I went in search of our fabulous custodian, Nicole. I knew they’d been down one person all summer and were working all out to get the school ready. I tried to keep that in mind. Then I begged a little. Or maybe a lot.

“If you get a chance…”

“As soon as possible…”

“You’d be saving my life…”

Nicole assured me she’d do her best, and I walked back into my classroom, thinking hard.

Ok. So, you can’t organize your desk. But, hey! Look! There’s a file cabinet. You can get your files organized.

So, I pushed aside a big box labeled something along the lines of “Last box. Mish Mash. You’re going to regret this next fall!” and opened up a few smaller boxes labeled “Files.” I placed file by file into the top drawer, slowly regaining my equilibrium.

See. It’s all good. This has to happen, too. You’ll get a desk in the next day or so. (read this in the sing-song tone of a parent talking down a child who is on the brink of losing her s!%t!)

Then, I reached to open the bottom drawer. I pulled. Nothing happened. I pulled again. It didn’t budge.

Now what?!?

I looked closer.

What!?

Running out of the bottom drawer of the file cabinet were two thick electrical cords. They were wedged in the closed drawer and try though I might, I couldn’t get the drawer open.

What was in there, anyway!?

I pushed. I pulled. I maybe swore a little.

None of that worked.

Clearly I wasn’t going to be able to use this file cabinet.

So, I e-mailed Nicole.

After sending the e-mail, I took another deep breath. I looked around the room.
I opened a few boxes and moved them closer to possible future destinations.

Should I just leave and come back next week? Is there any point in being here? Maybe I could get the new schedule printed out…”

Rattle. Rattle. Rattle.

My head popped up.

Click.

The door slowly opened.

Nicole, haloed by backlight, entered the room pushing a large dolly…
clunkclunkclunk.

And there, strapped down on the dolly, like an answer to a prayer, was an upended teacher desk!

(I may have hummed the “Hallelujah Chorus!” under my breath.)

“Oh, my Gosh! A desk! You are the best! Thank you, Nicole! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

I rushed over to help and together we manhandled the desk into the spot I desired. Nicole strapped up the dolly and got ready to leave.

“OMG, Nicole!” I gushed! “Thank you so much! You know what this is like?” The words spilled out of me in a rush. “It’s like when you’re moving to a new house and there are boxes everywhere and everything is in turmoil, but you get your bed put together and made and you know that no matter what, you’re going to be able to go to bed that night. So, everything will be ok. And that’s just how I feel right now. Just like that! ” I ran my hands along the top of the desk, practically dancing around it. “Oh!Thank you soooooo much!”

Nicole laughed and maybe stepped cautiously just a little bit farther away. But I didn’t notice for sure. Because I was already sitting down, pulling boxes closer, and getting ready to get my desk in order.

Everything is going to be all right. Just get your desk organized. Just that one thing.

Looking a bit sterile, but it’s getting there!

The Seven Deadly Sins, Bagel-style

“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.

Finally!

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.

Some people just don’t get bagels.

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:


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.

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

The Evidence is in…

I’m pretty sure I’m losing my marbles. Or at least I’m really, really tired. Exhausted. Wrung out. Or maybe both? All of the above? You be the judge. Here’s the evidence:

  1. Do you know that feeling on long drives, of being overwhelmed with fatigue? The one where you really can’t stay awake? When you’re opening windows, turning on the AC, shaking your head, pinching yourself, or just pulling over to nod off for a few minutes?
    Well, on a recent Friday, I drove home from work, feeling just that way, yawning madly. Struggling to keep my eyes open. I was so, so tired. I tried all the tricks, but none were working. It’s only a 25 minute drive, but I actually considered pulling over. I was desperate to get home.

    Finally, I pulled into the driveway and put the car in park….
    the next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes. The car was still running (thankfully in park!) and my audiobook was well ahead of where it had been. I have no idea how long I’d been sleeping, but I had been. As my colleague said, “Well, thank God you don’t have a garage!”

    Yikes.
  2. Late last week I fell into bed exhausted. (Are you sensing a theme here?) When Kurt came upstairs, it woke me, and I got up to go to the bathroom. As I returned to the bedroom, I looked down. What?! I was still wearing my work clothes. I never even got out of them before falling into bed. I mean, I’d been wearing a comfortable outfit, but still!
  3. Then, I was trying to figure out what to do about last Friday afternoon’s send-off party for a co-worker moving to Spain. I really wanted to attend, as she’s a lovely person and the parent of a student in my class. I also thought it would be nice to actually socialize with some colleagues. But I really didn’t know if I could carve out time to figure out what to make and then to make it, and my in-laws had arrived days ago and I’d barely seen them, and the wedding is fast approaching and report cards are due and…you get the gist.
    So, on Thursday afternoon, after a lot of agonizing and mental gymnastics, I finally realized I just couldn’t swing it. I decided I would simply explain to my co-worker and offer my apologies. I knew she’d understand.

    Here’s how that went:
    She happened to stop by my classroom this past Friday morning with her two kids and a gift of an iced coffee from Starbucks. (Yes, she’s an amazing, generous human being!)
    After my effusive thanks, we chatted for a few minutes, and then I took a deep breath and said,
    “I’m so sorry, J, but I’m not going to be able to make it to the party tonight.”
    She looked at me oddly.
    Crap! It wasn’t a surprise, was it?
    I search my memory.
    No….I distinctly remember the invite saying she knew about it. At least I think I remember that. Oh, no!
    “I didn’t blow it, did I?” I asked, anxiously. “I was sure you knew about it!”
    “Oh, no,” she said, still looking at me oddly,”I did know about it.”
    She paused, then continued, “But, Molly, the party was last Friday.”
    Oops.

So, the evidence is in. It’s pretty clear. There’s plenty more, but I didn’t want anyone to worry too much, and I think I’ve proven my case. I doubt there’s even a need to withdraw to deliberate.

In the slightly revised words of Daniel Pinkwater, I fear it’s clear that I have “gushed my mush, lost my marbles, and slipped my hawser. ” Or, perhaps I’ve “popped my cork, flipped my wig, blown my stack, and dropped my stopper.” However you put it, it doesn’t look good–the verdict seems to be a foregone conclusion.

I rest my case.