I can see you, you know Your big SUV pressed against the bumper of my petite Malibu the rage on your face perched up high behind that steering wheel the size of a hula hoop I may have taken that round about at the pace of a sloth on a late Friday afternoon But you see ~ I was taking a sip of my hot cup of coffee in my heavy new mug I was admiring from my mother for my birthday and being struck by the dawn peeking just over the horizon at precisely the same time and the sky was a piercing blue while Padraig O Tuama read me a poem on my podcast with the Irish in his voice. . . and the speed was not on my mind. So forgive me. But, I'll tell ya If you do it again I'll step on my brakes in hopes you can see. Writing a poem a day - they don't have to be good, they just have to be true. ~Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
An early morning transcribing
messages from beyond
the sky- – a stunning blue
spring buds beginning their escape
an infrequent flock of seagulls
high above – cry to steal my attention
racing the robins to the first
The pen harkens back to the voice
of a poet, who the day before
I’d savored his own scribed words
his father’s voice
laced with his own
Writing poems is a service to others
gift those poems to someone
with the nib of your pen, his lesson
Share without fear! A poem can’t wait
for perfect conditions!
Braiding his message with that
of the morning seagulls cries
and the urgency of these spring leaves
it all flows at once into the river –
my passport to the day
The sky is the limit! the chorus sings.
Shari Daniels ~draft
To listen to Kim Stafford’s words: podcast/rattlecastpoetry: https://youtu.be/ZT0cnRH1Jy8
Upon reading Caitlin’s post yesterday about all the things that make her happy, I was reminded of Ross Gay’s Book of Delights in which he writes an essayette every day for an entire year as he attends to and records delights that captured his attention. It made me wonder how many episodes of delight I could capture in one day. So, I thought I would try. Here goes:
*waking in the morning without an alarm
*knowing I can linger in bed a little longer on a Saturday
*rolling over under my covers to do child’s pose before crawling out of bed
*my bare feet meeting the soft rug beside my bed and sliding into my slippers
*an early morning text message from my husband with a photo of the morning sunrise on the lake he is ice fishing on with his buddies, he knowing I love sunrises
*greeting Ella who waits for me to rise from my bed to be fed, her tail wagging
*the tall glass of lemon water I drink before coffee
*coffee – need I say more? In a handcrafted mug from my daughter
*tending to Ella and filling her bowl with water and her dish with food, she kisses me on the nose in gratitude
*a step outside with my coffee to breathe in the early morning air-it may hit 50 degrees today
*writing – and everything that goes with writing – the warmth, filling my pen with ink, hand-scribing, discoveries
*a conversation with my son as he works on his truck – my awe at how he can fix things
*a walk outside listening to Naomi Shihab Nye with Krista Tippet on a podcast
*the warmth prompting me to take my jacket off and tie is around my waist
*squishy mud on the road of which ooze around my shoe
It’s not even 10:00 am yet and my morning is bursting with delights, many intentional. I confess that my days are set up for this. Liz Gilbert said somewhere that our mental well-being is a 24 hour job. We work as a side gig. This is true for me.
The feel good chemicals in my brain, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins need continuous drips throughout my day for optimal well-being. I can’t leave things to chance.
A funny thing happens when you begin recording delights. Even if you plan for them to occur, you begin to notice delights everywhere. Our delight muscle is strengthened. All of them are screaming for your attention!
And, did you know that if you share your delight with someone, the benefits are two-fold? You experience it again, AND you share that joy with someone else so they feel it, too. Also, if you’ve written it down, every time you reread it, you experience it again.
Who doesn’t need more of that in their life right now?
I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.
It’s all I have to bring today
This, and my heart beside
This, and my heart, and all the fields
And all the meadows wide
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the clover dwell.
~Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)
This weary soul of mine succumbed to social media early in the morning, as some days, scrolling is all I can muster. My hand, even too exhausted to lift the pen to my notebook page.
On this particular day, a teacher-writer-soul friend, Mary Lee Haun, was also having a weary kind of day. Her #poemofpresence whispered to the quiet corners of my dissonance:
today I am sad
please don’t try to cheer me up
there’s nothing for it
My fingers typed a few words to let her know that I felt her angst as well. I shared with her a word I’d recently learned, one that named this kind of tired – a word in Tibetan: ye tang che. The ye part means “totally, completely”, and the rest of it means “exhausted”. Altogether, ye tang che means “totally exhausted”.
Devendra Banhart taught me this word, while listening to him on a recent episode of the On Being podcast. The lovely language and voices of this podcast are healing, so I turn here often in times of need. The word, ye tang che, Devendra credits to have learned from Pema Chadron in his book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
I had jotted it into my notebook to bring up in moments of despair. Like this.
A lovely dear friend of us both, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, swept in to save us on this dreary day. My heart sang just seeing her name and an image of her responding to our short conversation.
She offered a gift: a recommendation of a book.
The Wild Remedy ~ How Nature Mends Us by Emma Mitchell.
With a slight surge of new energy, a quick exploration brought me to the contents of Emma’s book. Emma suffers of “the grey slug” or depression, as some know it as. She shares her journey through nature as a balm to lift the grey from her days. Winding paths through the woods, drawing and painting the discoveries along her way fill her illustrated diaries. Month by month, she charts her highs and lows and the neuroscience of how our bodies, minds, spirits and hearts receive the natural healing benefits of plants and wildlife when we step into the wild.
Her book arrived on my doorstep yesterday.
All of a sudden, I’m witnessing more bees, and fields and meadows wide.
~ from my morning walk ~
And . . . my heart is beginning to mend from all of this ye tang che.
Curled up in my writing chair, nestled by the fireplace, words were being penned into my notebook. My husband sat in the adjacent couch absorbed in a Conservation magazine, while our dog, Ella, sprawled out on his lap.
“Hmmm,” he mumbled as his brows furrowed slightly.
Knowing he was trying to entice me into asking him what he was reading, I tried not to look his way. But, I could not help myself. He knows what he is doing.
“What?” I asked, interrupting my writing – nothing interesting had yet appeared on my pages anyway.
He began to read out loud to me from an article about how we should be eating more insects.
“No,” I said.
He went on. “Palm weevils taste like bacon and some ants taste like lemon drops.”
“You are lying,” I glared at him, “making that up just to get me riled.”
“Wanna bet?” he asked.
“No. You are,” I argued, quite sure this can’t be true. He will try to do anything to get my attention when I’m writing. I think he feels neglected during my morning writing each day.
“Put some skin in it – I’ll bet you,” he pressured.
“Well, now it must be true, otherwise why would you want to bet?” I continued.
“You only make bets when you know it is a sure thing.”
“Fine. I won’t show it to you then.” His eyes pretended to go back to his reading.
My writing time was being hijacked.
“I can just look at it after you leave,” I finally said.
“I’m taking it with me,” he smirks.
I say, “Fine,” and go back to my writing, pretending to be unscathed.
He hesitates and then flips the magazine around to show me the article. “See? It says so right there.”
My eyes scanned the page for the words he had recited. It was true. We should be eating more insects. They taste like bacon and lemon drops.
“That’s just gross,” I mumbled, defeated.
“Maybe you should write that in your notebook,” he advised.
So, I did.
It seems like Twitter is flooded with lots of educators asking questions lately; teachers needing resources for a unit, books around a certain topic, or a lesson to teach something. I recently came across a tweet requesting prompts for journal entries for a class because the students didn’t have anything to write about.
My inner writing soul whispered, “Teach them to notice the world.”
Mary Oliver said it best, “Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About it.”
What if we just modeled and taught our students what awareness was and what that looks like, sounds like and feels like? Writers have strategies to help them pay attention to the world around them, and I think that we can teach these as strategies or triggers and call them as such, rather than the latter, to get something down on the page. Awareness is a habit of mind that can be cultivated over time – every day – so that after a couple of weeks, we can just say, “Write for 20 minutes,” and students will be able to grab something because, hopefully, they have been paying attention, or else they can choose a strategy to get them started. If our goal is writing independence, wouldn’t we want them finding writing topics on their own instead of us having to provide them?
Lynda Barry’s tool for teaching students (and myself) to be more aware is pretty effective. Seriously, used daily for a week or so activates the senses to no end. Character sketches can happen constantly because people are everywhere and people are interesting. Really see someone, pay attention to their character and who they are. We write from big wonderings or noticings when we read books, listen to music or podcasts, or pay attention to the happenings going on in our world. Most of the time, if we are truly aware, just paying attention to the voices that are constantly talking in our mind should give us enough content for life.
I’ve also learned how important it is to take a good line from one of those awareness entries, just a line and to write from that, following whatever path unfolds, to find our way to new discoveries (Donald Murray taught me this). This, too, takes practice. And, modeling. Scary modeling it is, because it’s authentic and you don’t know where it will lead. Once I modeled this for my third graders starting with the smell of burnt toast and ended up writing about how it reminded me of my grandmother’s house and pretty soon I was a puddle. Geez. 28 kids sat there mesmerized. They wanted to try it.
Awareness and discovery. I really think that’s the meat of what keeps me writing.
Well, this wasn’t really a Slice of Life, but Twitter started it.
I just followed the thread.
Sometimes, I can capture a moment with more specificity by drawing doodles than in writing a descriptive micro-memoir. Speech and thought bubbles lend to inferences that can portray my characters more than I could in describing them in words. And, it’s quicker.
It can become a curse, however, as you start to see everything as a graphic novel, visualizing a scene or overheard dialogue as cartoon snippets. You can’t get down things fast enough as once you start, you’ve activated the launching sequence. Then, you begin asking yourself what becomes “story-catching worthy”. I’ve come to believe that everything is “story-catching worthy”, and if we don’t capture it, it’s gone forever, and sometimes we don’t know a story’s worth until years later.
Being an introvert, I can quietly observe my extrovert family members and their witty conversations. They don’t realize I’m taking it all in. Actually, my husband does. He sometimes says, “Did you get that, hon? Can you put that in your notebook?”
His life is much more “story-catching worthy” than mine.
But, perhaps that’s why we were partnered.
I have a book obsession. While new books are lovely, old ones speak to my soul in a multitude of ways that I am not sure I can describe.
But, I will try.
Aesthetics are important to me. How objects, spaces, sounds and words feel can prompt my senses to go into warm fuzzy mode, give me goosebumps, expand my heart and seriously increase my oxytocin levels. (Or, the opposite can occur. But, we aren’t going there today.)
I wish I could tell you how an old book feels in my hand. It’s thickly textured pages are housed in a cloth shell worn with time. One can only imagine the hands that have embraced this treasure . Golden lettering announce it’s title. Pages fragile, dozens or more sets of eyes having studied the words that rest upon them, ever so gently turning each page to meet previous ones read. And, old books are heavy. They reign when competing with the paperbacks of today.
I picked this one up to read this morning. It’s title, The Child, by Amy Eliza Tanner, copy write ~ 1904. Inside the front cover, a human being’s name graces the page, in delicate black ink cursive handwriting of which appears to have come from a fountain pen of sorts.
“Who is this woman?” I wonder. “Hertha?” not “Bertha”, but, “Hertha”.
Well, my need-to-know-mind won’t let this rest, so I do a quick search to see who this woman is. I’m led to a photo:
. . . which leads me to Ancestry.com. I can’t go there. Entire weekends have been lost there. I know better.
Back to the book.
I had not heard of Amy Eliza Tanner, the author of the book, in education circles. And, I do read and research educational pedagogies and philosophies (this sounds arrogant, and I apologize if it comes off that way, but it’s more a curse than a blessing). A quick research on Amy Eliza Tanner results in some fascinating fodder to add to my scholarly drawers of who to know from education past. Here she is in the center of this photo:
Look at how empowered she looks. Good heavens, John Dewey is there. Have I been living under a rock in not knowing this woman? Honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I could continue to read about her. She lived a most resilient life among her male counterparts. But, I don’t.
Because, here. Here is the ESSENCE of why I love old books:
In the introduction by G. Stanley Hall,
“If there is such a thing as a ‘call to teach’ it consists of loving children, and with love go insight, the power to serve, and the desire to help each child to the maximum development of body and should of which he is capable. When vocational guidance is fully developed those intending to teach will ask themselves the question, which is the supreme test of their fitness,
“Do I really love children?”
Those who do not, have no right to teach.”
He goes on to say this message is Amy Eliza Tanners’ chief purpose in writing this book.
1904. It takes a whole lotta love to to do this job. We forget about that sometimes as we don’t see it enough in the educational literature of today. Yet, we know it. We feel it. It’s why this job hurts so much sometimes.
This, my friends . . .
is why I adore old books, AND. . .
is why I get nothing done.
But, it brings me to my happy place of bliss, wonder, and awe.