Thursday, August 15, 2019

Poetry Friday: Prompts and a Tree

This poem seems appropriate for the first full week of school. It's gone well, but it's been exhausting, and that's even with Thursday being a national holiday here. This poem gets into the stakes, the human lives we're dealing with as teachers. It's worth the exhaustion. It's worth writing about.

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)
by Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks.

Here's the rest.

Today's theme for Poetry Friday is trees.

Jane Hirshfield

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Here's the rest.

I took this photo on our school campus this week. It is not a redwood, but it makes me think of the "immensity" in the last line of Hirshfield's poem. Trees and kids have that immensity in common.

Today's roundup is here.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Poetry Friday: Halfway

I had my thirtieth college reunion this summer, and it surprised me to find that all of us - in our fifties, an age twenty-two year old me would have considered staid and settled - were in transitions big and small. We're between our kids and our parents, between jobs, between relationships. We're still figuring things out. I've spent a lot of time lately between cultures, too, figuring out that dynamic as I've been doing since my birth. I still have things to learn.

I'm heading off to school today to begin my I've lost count how many year of teaching. I started as a teaching assistant in grad school that same summer I graduated from college, but babies have kept me home a few of the years between. It's been a lot of years, and while I'm infinitely more confident now than I was that first year, and I have infinitely more tricks up my sleeve, I know there are still new things to learn, new kids to teach, new discoveries to make.

I've loved this poem since I was a small child, and I taught it to my children, who love it too.

Halfway Down
A. A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where I sit.
there isn't any
other stair
quite like
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up
And isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn't really
It's somewhere else

When I got home at the end of the summer, I had a package waiting for me from my friend Irene Latham. I had forgotten that Irene's cat had chosen me to receive this in a giveaway on her blog, so it was a nice surprise!

Molly has today's roundup.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Reading Update

Book #62 of 2019 was Michelle Obama's book Becoming. I also got to participate in a very fun discussion group about the book - unfortunately before I'd read it. It was taking forever for my name to work its way to the top of the holds list at the library, but finally I got it in the mail from a new friend! I enjoyed reading it immensely.

Book #63 was How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why it Happens, by Benedict Carey. This was for my summer professional development reading, and I found it interesting, counter-intuitive, and encouraging.

Book #64 was Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian. My brother couldn't stop raving about this series, so I decided to give it a try. The nautical terminology is way over my head, but my brother promised that if I just kept reading, soon that would become like background noise and I would be focusing on the main point of the stories, the relationships of the characters (always the part I like best about stories anyway). This seemed to be starting to happen. Now I'm ready to read the second book, but all I can find at the library is the audiobook, so I'm not sure I'll continue right away.

Books #65 and 69 were books I was reading aloud to my husband, and with some extra time over the summer we were able to finish both. The first was Beautiful Country Burn Again, by Ben Fountain, which is about the 2016 election, and the second was The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy. If I'd been reading the latter by myself, I would have given up early in the book. Although it is well-written (if somewhat floridly), I found the racism, misogyny, and abuse difficult to read about.

Book #66 was Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb. I found this fascinating reading, both because of the individual stories involved and because of the insights into how therapy works.

Book #67 was The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk. I knew that this book was about trauma, but I was not expecting it to be as wide-ranging as it is. Particularly interesting was the section on shell shock/PTSD and the history of how the military has dealt with it. I appreciated the insights into how mind and body work together and how trauma affects people long-term. I also liked how research-based this was and how much hope there is for the future as professionals learn more and more about this topic.

Book #68 was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley, the first book in a series about eleven year old Flavia de Luce. This was entertaining reading.

Book #70 was Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie is a private investigator. The first novel in the series is set in 1929, and in it we learn about Maisie's current cases, but also about her past, and how she went from being a maid to a university student to a very clever investigator.

Speaking of clever, book #71 was extremely cleverly written. It was Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey, and it's the story of Maud, who suffers from dementia. It's hard to know which aspects of the story she is imagining, and which ones are really happening. Is Elizabeth really missing? And what about Maud's sister Sukey?

Friday, August 02, 2019

Poetry Friday: Lisel Mueller

We're traveling again this week on Poetry Friday, but this time I got my act together enough ahead of time to write a post.

I found this Lisel Mueller poem recently:

Steps Out of the Circle
Lisel Mueller

The self steps out of the circle;
it stops wanting to be
the farmer, the wife, and the child.

It stops trying to please
by learning everyone's dialect;
it finds it can live, after all,
in a world of strangers.

Here's the rest.

Reading this poem sent me looking for more by Mueller, and here are some I loved at the Poetry Foundation. 

Love Like Salt
Lisel Mueller

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

Here's the rest.

Poem for my Birthday
Lisel Mueller

I have stopped being the heroine
of my bad dreams.

Here's the rest. Scroll down - it's the second poem on the page.

When I Am Asked
Lisel Mueller

and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

That's how it ends. The rest is here.

Why We Tell Stories
for Linda Foster
Lisel Mueller



Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

The rest is here.

Here are some other Lisel Mueller poems I've posted on my blog before: Monet Refuses the Operation and The Mermaid.

Heidi has today's roundup.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Spiritual Journey First Thursday: Change

A few years ago I got this fortune in a fortune cookie: "Change is not merely necessary to life. It is life."
Everything changes. Sometimes we're happy about the changes, and other times we're not, and either way, we're often wrong; that is, the changes we think will make us happy sometimes don't, and the ones we dread can turn out to be positive in the long run. I often find myself resisting change, seeing it as inherently a bad thing, and then asking myself why I'm reacting that way. Maybe it will be a change for the better, I tell myself.

One of the oldest teachings about God is immutability, constancy, not changing. While throughout the Bible we see God responding to human beings by changing plans and thoughts as a result of prayer, God's fundamental character doesn't change; we can rely on that.

"Change and decay in all around I see; oh Thou who changest not, abide with me."

Back in 2009 (on Good Friday), I wrote a post about the hymn that's the source of that line. 

The text of this hymn was written by Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847). Whenever I hear it, I think of evening chapels at boarding school. We would always sing it then, and those words, "fast falls the eventide," were then simply literal for me. I wanted God to be with me through the night, with its darkness and scary sounds. These days I think about it more metaphorically, and focus on the second stanza: "Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me."

It seems appropriate for Good Friday, but with strong echoes of Easter.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

One of the changes I fear most is losing people I love, either to death or just to moving on in one way or another. God's abiding is a precious thing, the fact that we can trust that in spite of others leaving us, God never will.

Margaret is rounding up our posts for August's Spiritual Journey First Thursday. She has some beautiful reflections on change.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Poetry Friday

Today we traveled, and I never got to writing a Poetry Friday post. That's the first time in many months that I've missed! Fortunately, others shared poetry, and you can find the roundup here.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Poetry Friday: Here's to You

The news this summer is horrid and the world seems to be falling apart more each day, but there are still wonderful people around and great friendships to enjoy. I'm sharing a Brooke Fraser song today, toasting old friends.

Cheers to the furrows on our brow
To each hard won victory
Cheers to the losses that grew us up
Killed our pride and filled our cup

Cheers to the friendships well worn in
That time nor distance alter
Here's to the sleepers we'll see again
Fine company in memoriam

Open your mouth and sing out your song
Life is short as the day is long
I can't leave you my body but I'll leave you a tune
This is my legacy
Cheers to you

Cheers to the passing of our youth
And the death of lust not wonder
A toast to the lessons not yet learned
And to the trials that will teach them

Open your mouth and sing out your song
Life is short as the day is long
I can't leave you my body but I'll leave you a tune
This is my legacy
Cheers to you

Open your mouth and sing out your song
Life is short as the day is long
I can't leave you my body but I'll leave you a tune

Open your mouth and sing out your song
Life is short as the day is long
I can't leave you my body but I'll leave you a tune

This is my legacy
This is my legacy
This is my legacy
Cheers to you

Brooke Fraser

Also, Carol Varsalona is sharing the Poetry Swap poem I wrote for her at her blog. She included some of the photos I've taken this summer - another way I shift my focus from the news.

Here's today's roundup.