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

download

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.

Image may contain: text

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.

SOLC Day 18: Drafty Days

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 18
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

Every day feels like a draft right now. Unformed, unfinished, needing revision. It’s similar to a free write where you dive in, try to make sense of things, and have no idea where you might be headed.

Sort of like this, though maybe not as creepy. Maybe.

I’m trying to go with “draft-y” as my self-talk descriptor of choice, rather than “overwhelming” or “frightening” and other similar words. As I said to someone the other day, “I’ve decided I don’t really enjoy this living history thing.” I’m someone who takes comfort in the status quo and works to challenge myself from a base of normalcy. That’s tough these days. (Well, the challenging part isn’t so much, but the base of normalcy is!) It occurred to me this morning, that as a writer, maybe I can do “draft-y,” recognizing that I can actually shape some of that drafting process–like choosing an entry point and focus points along the way.

Today I opted to begin the day by trying two new creative ventures. The first of these is the monthly five day writing challenge from Ethical ELA. Today was the fifth day, and was entitled, “Haiku, Photography and Japanese Word Characters.” Here was the challenge from Jennifer Goyer-Jowett:
Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 7.32.42 AM.pngIntriguing! I immediately began looking up Japanese word characters. After a while, I came across the character for “warrior.” It reminded me a bit of a somewhat blurry action picture I recently took of two eagles. It’s not perfect (I think some of the angles are reversed), but if you squint, it sort of works.

Image result for japanese word images hope

 

Warriors

tumbling eagles
one victor emerges
primal food fight

 

 

DSC_0710 (2)

Next I stumbled on a link to a Mo Willems video. Apparently, he’s offering daily lunchtime doodling/drawing sessions. As a huge Piggy and Gerald fan, I decided to watch the first one. The visual is clean and uncluttered, and his voice is slow-paced and calm. He’s also quietly silly, which is quite welcome right now. Immediately, I felt myself unwinding. I think that 20 minutes a day with Mo might be my new form of meditation.(Ok…I confess–I don’t actually have a current form of meditation. But you know what I mean.)

Mo suggested beginning by doodling together. I love how he described doodling as “sort of having fun and exploring, with a pen or a pencil, a different way to make a line.” He opted for a general theme of “creatures with a lot of legs.” I grabbed my markers and a piece of paper, and drew alongside him. You can compare our drawings and instantly see why he makes the big bucks. (I really wanted to redraw the head on mine (it makes me cringe!), but I am trying to stick to the draft-y playful spirit of things.)

 

Both of these ventures helped me shift my focus from the unsettling world around me to a more positive, productive place. Neither of them is polished and perfect, but I’m feeling okay with their “draft-y” vibe.

What sort of draft-y things are you creating today?

SOLC Day 17: Space Adventures at Home Depot

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March 2020 SOLC–Day 17
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

Looking at a potentially long stretch at home with less than the usual work load, we decided to head to Home Depot for painting supplies. We gathered our paints, brushes, tarps, etc. and headed to the self check-out.

I held up each item helpfully while Kurt scanned it.
Beep!
Beep!
BeepBeep!

“Oops! I double scanned that one,” Kurt said.

We motioned a sales person over and explained the situation.

“Oh, no problem,” he said, grabbing our package of paint roller covers and heading back into the store, “I’ll just go grab you another one then.”

“Wait…what?  No…” we stuttered.

He turned around, laughing. “Pretty good, huh?”

We laughed, too and then he proceeded to help us sort out the issue.

“I tell you what I’m gonna to do,” he said. “I’m gonna get rid of this one,”–he pointed to the doubled charge on the screen–“cause you only are buying one. Ok?” He looked at me pointedly, waiting for me to respond.

“Ok,” I said dutifully.

Beep!

“Then,” he continued, “I tell you what else I’m gonna do. I’m gonna also get rid of this one,” –he held up the package– “and give it to you for free, cause I want you to fill out the survey on the end of your receipt and say I did a great job. Ok?”

“Uh. Ok.”

Beep!

He pushed his name tag forward.

“Kirc”

“Like Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise,” he explained dramatically.

He leaned slightly toward us.

“I’ve been grounded,” he confided. “They found out I was racist.”

We looked at him, at a total loss, slightly concerned at what he might say next.

“Yes,” he continued, “I just hate Klingons. So they grounded me, and now I can no longer boldly go forth.”

He finished up our transaction, handed us the receipt, and pointed to the survey at the end of it.

“Don’t forget,” he said.

All in all, it was a successful trip to Home Depot and a nice bit of levity in these crazy times. I guess, as Kurt always says, “Ya gotta find some way to make your job fun!”

Clearly, this man was already a master at that or maybe just a real space oddity.