SOLC Day 9: Long Enough

March 2022 SOLC–Day 9
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.

Yesterday afternoon after work I drove to a nearby town and walked out onto the pedestrian bridge to watch the ducks. I love looking down on them from above, watching them waddle atop the ice, seeing their colors flash and dim in the sun and shadows, marveling at their brilliant orange webbed feet. But it was already later than I’d hoped. I knew I didn’t have too long. 

But it was long enough to admire the ducks. 

Long enough to take some pictures. 

Long enough to chat with a fellow birding enthusiast. 

Long enough to watch a budding bird enthusiast throw bread to the ducks with his dad. 

Long enough to hear his rippling laughter mingle with the eager quacking of the ducks.

Long enough to feel the weight of the day slough off my shoulders. 

Before long, shadows lengthened. The sun sank below the tree line. The air cooled, and the brilliant teal of the mallard drakes’ heads dulled.

I took my last photo, put my camera away, and walked off the bridge. It was time to head home.

I may not have been there very long. But I was there long enough.  

SOLC 2022 Day 8: Puttering

March 2022 SOLC–Day 8
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.

I finished a week of break not too long ago, and it was low-key and utterly refreshing. It’s been a tough, tough year and I haven’t always handled it well. Over that week, I started to feel human again. 

At the end of the week, I tried to explain to my husband what made it feel so great. Why I felt so refreshed. Lighter. 

“You know what it is,” I said after thinking about it for a while, “I got to putter. And even though it didn’t have to be, most of the time it was actually productive puttering.” 

From day to day, there was no time crunch. I could get up when I wanted to (typically by 5 anyway) and do what I wanted to. I could run an errand, come home. And then, if I felt like it, go out again. I didn’t have to be efficient. I could be surprised by the time rather than being hyperaware of each minute passing. 

I washed the car. I vacuumed the car. I read, I wrote. I cooked once in a while. I made a really nice lunch one day. I went for walks. I took pictures. I got the oil changed. I cleaned the fridge. I watched the birds. I read, I wrote. I took cat naps. I sat in the sun. I even went to work one day for about 7 hours. And that was okay, too. Because I had a choice. 

I stepped out of the frenzied pace and oh, it really was nice.

Who knew puttering could feel like a luxury.

SOLC Day 7: Dark-eyed juncos

March 2022 SOLC–Day 7
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.

Recently I wrote about how birds save me time and again. When life is stressful, when I feel my calm fracturing, I often take time to watch the birds. I also get great pleasure from watching them whenever I have lumps of time that haven’t already been carved into minutes of obligations. In other words, I tuck quite a bit of bird viewing into my weekends.

Yesterday morning I stood before the window watching the dark-eyed juncos move about the winter architecture of the garden. It struck me that they’ll be leaving soon. Signs of spring are subtle in March, but they’re here: The sun is warmer, maple trees have been tapped and the red-winged blackbirds are slowly populating the marshes.

Watching and appreciating the winter-visiting juncos inspired this poem:

On the pleasure of having juncos in the garden

On this slow-to-brighten morning
the juncos stutter-hop atop the snow
between the dried stalks
of last summer’s garden.

As winter melts into spring
they will gradually slip away.
Like disappearing traces of snow,
one day they’ll all have simply

As seasons cycle and fall fades
their return will brighten
winter’s darkening days
enlivening again the dried stalks
whose summer green
they never saw.

©Molly Hogan, draft

dark-eyed junco

SOLC Day 6: Fourth Grade Pioneers

March 2022 SOLC–Day 6
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.

Two of the boys in my fourth grade classroom are best friends and totally opposite body types. One is petite and small boned, the other is the opposite. This wouldn’t be relevant, except that recently their recess activity of choice is for Amos* to get on all fours and for Arnie* to sit on his back as if riding a pony. Arnie’s feet literally don’t touch the ground. They don’t even come close. The two boys entertain themselves happily during every recess crawling around the snowy, icy playground, and no one even gives them a second glance anymore.

Yesterday on the way out to the bus, they approached me, eager to share their newest brainstorm for their game. Amos started.

“Mrs. Hogan, you know how Arnie rides on my back?”

I nod.

“Well, we’ve come up with a new plan. I’m going to wear my backpack so that when he gets on, he can use the straps like a saddle, to stay on better.”

“Oh…” I say, “…well, that sounds like a plan.” (I’m really not sure what else to say here.)

They move ahead of me and continue talking while I shamelessly eavesdrop.

“Hey, Amos, wouldn’t it be cool if we could do that like on the Oregon Trail?”

“Oh, dude! That’d be sick!”

“Yeah,” Arnie continued, ” and they’d look over and say ‘Look at that oxen.’ And then someone would say…’ Arnie inserted a dramatic pause and deepened his voice, ‘NO! That’s not an oxen! That’s a human!'”

The boys burst into hysterical laughter.

Sadly, I had to help another student then, and the boys moved out of audible range.

A moment later, I looked up to see them merging with the long line of departing school children ahead of them. Amos’s head and shoulders were clearly visible above the masses. Arnie’s were lost in the throng. But I was sure they were still walking together: Two pioneers on the trail to home.

*not their real names

SOLC Day 5: Overheard in my classroom

March 2022 SOLC–Day 5
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.

Mornings this week have been especially gorgeous. I have a beautiful commute through rolling rural hills and over a river to get to school. With overnight snowfalls and perfectly timed sunrises, I’ve been treated to one spectacle after another– sun-lit birches like candelabra rising from the snow, a river obscured by an incandescent mass of glowing fog, dried flower heads gathering snow like blossoms. My classroom view isn’t bad either.

So, I arrived at school on Friday feeling particularly grateful for living in Maine and decided to focus our morning meeting share on things we felt thankful for. I told my fourth graders they could share something about living in Maine, or they could mention anything they were grateful for. We went around the circle sharing.

“I’m thankful for family and friends.”

“I’m thankful for ice fishing, snowmobiling and sledding.”

“I’m thankful for all the open places.”

Then it was A’s turn. A is a petite, quirky kid who likes to contribute to conversations with his own twist.

“I’m grateful that I used to live in Alabama where it was 80˚ in the winter!” he announced emphatically.

B. (who is also quirky and once tried to convince me that a character with a dark outlook on life had probably previously had his amygdala damaged in an accident even if, “No, Mrs. Hogan, I can’t back that up with evidence from the story.”) turned to him. “If it was 80˚ in winter, what was it in the summer?”

“Oh, it was in the 100s,” he said.

There were a lot of “Whoas” and “Wows” from the northern-bred kids in my classroom.

Then I heard B. say to himself quietly, in all seriousness, “Well, I guess that explains why you’re so small. You probably had all the water boiled out of you.”

You can’t make these things up.

SOLC Day 4: Inkling Challenge

March 2022 SOLC–Day 4
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.

I love quotations. I always have good intentions about collecting them in one neat little notebook. But you know what they say about good intentions…

Still, when Margaret posed our Inkling group challenge for this month, I was immediately intrigued. She asked us to write a poem in response to a quotation or inspired by a quotation or whatever. Somehow other than a little tinkering a week or so ago, I haven’t worked on anything. It’s been a week! So, I’m not thrilled with last week’s tinkering or tonight’s last gasp effort, but here they are:

The first response is a golden shovel with the strike line, “…just take it bird by bird” from Annie Lamott’s wonderful book, “Bird by Bird.”

I am repeatedly saved by the birds

There are some days that just 
poach your brains. They take
aim at ease and whittle away. It
all seems hopeless, but then a single bird
song ripples the air; something feathered flies by. 
Thank god for that bird.

©Molly Hogan

The next is a response to one of my favorite proverbs, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

He says it’s my mantra
It drives him crazy
as he’s more of a 
crash-bash-fly-through kind of guy
though I suspect 
he’ll object 
to that classification
(and to any unintended innuendos
some minds might attach to it)

Recognizing my own nature
I cheer for the tortoise
plodding along
making headway
bit by bit
no flash or dazzle
in the race at its own pace
just steady and true
steady and true.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’re interested in reading what the other Inklings have done with this challenge, check out their posts:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

The Poetry Friday Roundup this week is hosted by Kat Apel at her blog. She’s celebrating the release of her newest verse novel, “What Snail Knows”.

SOLC Day 3: My Writing Habit

March 2022 SOLC–Day 3
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.

Ruth Ayres offers a weekly prompt for writers on her blog. This morning’s was especially timely for me: Write about a writing habit.

This morning I woke up one minute before my alarm went off. 4:37 am. Why it’s set for that exact time I can’t tell you. Except 4:30 sounds so early, and 4:45 is too late. I can’t remember when I started rising so much earlier, but I can tell you that my mornings fall into a pattern that enriches me.

This morning, like every morning, I stumble out of bed and grab my glasses and robe. Downstairs I turn on the coffee pot, pour my OJ/cranberry juice mixture, and feed the cats. Curious about whether we got any snow last night or not, I turn on the outside lights. 

The scene has been transformed overnight, and it’s still snowing heavily. I hadn’t expected more than a dusting. The dried hydrangea blossoms, which should have been trimmed months ago, serve as mounting platforms for snow. The small garden lanterns wear tall top-hats and the birch tree is lined with a glistening white coat. I feel a momentary leap at the beauty and then a quick flutter of hope. Snow day? I don’t think so though. I quickly check the forecast and realize the snowfall should end within an hour or so. Thoughts of an extension to my relaxed morning fade away, and I slip back into my routine. Into my habit.

I sit down at the table where I write and look outside for a few more minutes. Feel gratitude swamp me for this view. For my home. I could linger here for a long while. Content to watch the snow fall past the outdoor lights, accumulate on the path…Content to do nothing but absorb it all…

my writing view this morning

Still, I haven’t written my SOLC post yet. I know I should probably go straight to the computer. Efficiency and all. But my hands automatically reach for my notebook. That’s my habit. That’s where I begin every morning. Some days it’s journaling, some days it’s story writing, some days it’s poetry, Most days it’s a mixture. But almost every day it happens. Page after page in my notebook. I strive for at least three pages, but honor whatever happens.

That’s my writing habit. An anchor in crazy times. The place where, as Ruth writes, words “wobble and bend” and “stack”. The place where I center myself before the day begins.

My gift to myself.

March SOLC Day 2: Is it time to hit the road?

March 2022 SOLC–Day 2
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.

I don’t recall how old we were, but I distinctly remember my best friend and I vowing to drive semi-trucks when we grew up. These were the once-upon-a-long-time-ago days of CB radios and miles-long truck convoys barreling down the highways. Otherwise known as the 1970s. There were songs, movies and an alluring whiff of outlaw adventure. We bought right into the mystique, and were ready to put the hammer down and head out in search of highway adventures.

Having our priorities firmly in place (along with our pink and green ribbon hairbands), we spent hours considering possible handles*. We finally settled on the “Diesel Darlin’s”. Cute, right? Clearly, we’d be on the road as a team (I mean that went without saying–BFF and all!) and clearly we were also drawn to alliteration. Trucker Poet Prodigies!

For some reason on Monday morning as I headed back to the classroom after break, my thoughts turned back to that semi dream. Besides the gold-plated appeal of a CB handle, why had I even entertained the thought of driving a semi? My family would not have been supportive of that career choice. Had I been nurturing a small flame of rebellion? Had I been keen for some adventure outside my safe suburban childhood? And then how did I go from that initial career choice to teaching? What were some of the twists and turns along the way? Also, how hard is it to get a trucking license? Hmmmm…

Walking into school, I had to smile. I certainly had come a long way from that dream and a long way away from that younger version of me, but it was entertaining to revisit both.

If you choose to listen, below is the link to the famous-at-the-time song, Convoy, and the trailer of the similarly-named movie. I didn’t count how many times I listened to it while writing this, but I guess there must still be a whiff of allure to that renegade trucker life. And let’s face it, gas prices aside, getting out of the classroom and hitting the open road doesn’t sound too bad these days.

Now to figure out a new handle*…

(Truckin’ Teacher? Semi-Retired? ha ha ha….Oh, I’m going to have fun thinking about this!)

*CB nickname

March 2022 SOLC–Day 1: An Odd Experience

March 2022 SOLC–Day 1
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.

“Ugh, those bathrooms were disgusting,” I thought, pushing the door closed behind me. I wanted to mention it to someone in the nearby offices, but I was in a hurry to catch up with my family. While in the bathroom, I’d heard the announcement that closing time was approaching. I knew my group was already wending their way back through the enclosed exhibits toward the exit on a lower floor.

I looked around, crossed the vestibule and headed quickly to the exhibit doors. I couldn’t believe how quickly it had cleared out.

How far ahead were they anyway?

I reached for my purse before remembering, once again, that I’d lost my cell phone earlier. It was amazing how cut off I felt without it. Already I was dreading the hoops I’d have to jump through to replace it. 

Ahead of me a uniformed man held the door open.

I smiled and thanked him, entered the main part of the building and then walked a few steps down the path. 

Wait, what!?

I stopped in my tracks. The way ahead of me was half-lit, the plants and trees more suggested than visible, the exhibits dark and half covered.

I turned and stepped back toward the man.

He was firmly closing the door between us.

“Wait!” I said, “Can’t I go out the door by the offices instead?”

He shook his head, continuing to pull the door shut.

“But it’s dark, and I’m really not sure I remember how to get through,” I pleaded.

I couldn’t hear him through the thick pane of glass, but I could see his face. Grim, determined. Unrelenting. An exaggerated circle of “NO” on his lips.

Wow. This is ridiculous!

I turned back to look ahead of me, shaking my head. I couldn’t decide if I was more angry or nervous. The path lead down a steady slope. What earlier had been a clear walkway was now half covered with tarps. The light was dim and seemed to be fading. Shadows were multiplying.

Wait! What kind of animals had I seen on the way through? Were any of them roaming?

Nervous quickly won out over angry, and was fast ceding to scared. I pushed myself to reverse my earlier route in my mind. The route to come seemed darker and more sinister by the moment.

How was I going to find my way?

My memory of the journey up the path faded as I struggled to envision the twists and turns.

Where was that pond? Were the stairs before or after that? Why couldn’t I remember?!

I could feel my anxiety mounting, poking icy fingers along my spine.

Well, I don’t have a choice, I guess. I just need to start going. This is so strange! Oh, but look on the bright side, at least I’ll get a slice out of it. 

I took a tentative step forward, reminding myself to pay close attention as I walked, to look for moments and details that might spark up a story.

I took another firmer step forward…

and then I woke up.

It was this morning, first morning of the March challenge, and I’d fallen asleep wondering what I would write about today.

It’s not quite what I imagined! But hey, at least I got a slice out of it.