Friday, March 30, 2012

Poetry Friday: Hope

In the spring, a teacher's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of finding other employment. I was moping about teaching to a friend, and he said, "This is exactly what you were saying last March." Ah, the gentle rhythm of the seasons...

The thing about teaching, though, is that you get a new chance every day. I guess that's true of life in general, but there's something about the way teaching is divided up into finite class periods. And my middle schoolers are forgiving. I may have been impatient yesterday, but today they bound in, crowing, "Hello, Mrs. H!" as though nothing happened. They may have whined about the assignment I gave them, but most of them did it anyway.

This week the outgoing Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets wrote a goodbye email; she's leaving the position and moving back to Seattle. She quoted this poem, and when I read it, I felt hopeful. Hope is important; it's what keeps you coming back day after day. It's what keeps you reading student writing. It's what prevents you from giving up. There's a reason why every third organization working in Haiti has the word "Hope" in its name.

Here's the poem:

Horses At Midnight Without A Moon

by Jack Gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.

Click here to read the rest.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Poetry Friday: Billy Collins

"Bugs Bunny is my Muse." - Billy Collins

For more great lines like this, plus Billy Collins reading six of his poems, five of them set to animation, check out this video:

Just what the doctor ordered after an afternoon of conferences. I'm ready for the weekend.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bird Watching at Lunchtime

I have lunch duty this week. And about 50% of the time. I've made no secret of my lack of love for lunch duty. In addition to writing Lunch Duty Haiku, I have taken to photography at lunchtime to help pass the time away. That's why today I had my camera handy when I saw a Hispaniolan lizard cuckoo. Much good did having my camera do me, though. Most of the photos ended up being of attractive but birdless tree branches. I did get this photo, but this was my best effort:

See the tail? Kind of? I know, it's a rotten photo. So here's one by someone who knows how to take pictures of birds:

Photo Source

What a beautiful bird! And especially, what a beautiful sight for the middle of an ordinary day, in the center of Port-au-Prince, a city of two million people not known for its bird life. The students gathered to watch me snapping photos madly. "What are you looking at, Miss?" They were not impressed when I told them it was a bird. But this bird lifted my spirits and filled me with gratitude.

Not only that, but today is Bird Day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More Links

Lately I have been just gathering links and not taking the time or energy it would require to synthesize my thoughts. I haven't been writing much, either - mostly reading my students' writing. I hope to get back to my own writing soon, but meanwhile here are some links.

Two Ways To Think About Nothing. An excerpt:
"We are surrounded by Nothing. Everywhere we go, we have no idea what we're not seeing.... [I]f we lean in, and pay very close attention, sometimes what looks like Nothing is the best place to find the most interesting...somethings."

Religion for Atheists: God, What is He Good For? I watched de Botton's talk a while ago here. His smugness annoys me a lot. However, many of the qualities he points out about religion are things I value. But I think that without the truth of God and His love for us, they would be pretty empty.

The Parent Interview #5: Irrational Love. This is beautiful.

So there you go - more Stuff Ruth Thinks is Interesting. Enjoy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Poetry Friday: Time

Photo Source

In last week's Poetry Friday post, I shared a James Taylor song. A line from that song has been going through my head all week: "The thing about time is that time isn't really real."

This week time felt very real, an entity that was out to get me rather than help me. My grades were due, including narrative evaluations and conduct grades, so I was wrapping up the third quarter while starting my units for the fourth quarter. And as I was doing all that work, I was contending with Daylight Savings Time.

You have to understand, I live in the tropics. The length of the day varies very little where I live. My husband asked Mr. Google and found out that on June 21st we have 13 H 14 M 40 S of daylight, and on December 21st we have 11 H 1 M 05 S. (For comparison purposes, in Chicago the longest day is 15 H 13 M 31 S and the shortest day is 9 H 7 M 54 S.) There's really no need for Daylight Savings Time in Haiti. And most of the time we don't change time. But every once in a while we have a government that decides to be in line with our Great Neighbor to the North, and then that year we do change. I've speculated if it has something to do with an inability to get much accomplished, and the sense of achievement it must bring to be able to control the time (even though, of course, it isn't really real).

So this past weekend, when you folks in the United States changed time, we did too. Now we are getting up in the dark. Ugh! One reason for living in the tropics is not having to get up in the dark! My son began sharing melancholy memories of living in the States after the earthquake, getting up for school in winter darkness, shivering at the bus stop.

You wouldn't think that extra hour would make much of a difference. You lose an hour of sleep, and then you make up for it Sunday afternoon and you're set. But it does; I remember when my children were babies, it seemed it took them weeks to get back in any kind of rhythm. (I certainly couldn't use the word "schedule" about the babyhood of either of my children.) And this week as I've been rushing about, trying to accomplish all my tasks, I've felt like that missing hour could have made all the difference. My 9-year-old asked me, "Mom, in the fall are we going to go back to having 24 hours in every day?" I hope so, Buddy, I hope so.

One of the daily emails this week from Your Daily Poem was a poem about time.

Analog Time
Tamara Madison

Your new watch can tell
what time it is right down
to the second, the split second.
Your new watch has no face;
instead there’s a blinking grill
where the numbers change
constantly. I would like to say
that in this rapid split-second
parade we can see the flow
of time — always changing,
never changing, a river slipping
over rocks and sand – but it’s
only time, a human concept
after all, not a real river.

Follow this link to read the rest of the poem.

I especially love the end of the poem, where Madison writes:

the real tellers of time
are the sun, the sky,
the wrinkles on our faces,
the bruises on our souls.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some Links for Sunday

I tend to gather up links for days and days until I have way too many windows open, so I'll just post a bunch of them today.

First of all, this is the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Many words and photos have been shared, but here's a post that especially resonated with me. I'm praying for the people in Japan as they relive the memories and the terrible grief. We in Haiti stand with you in the fellowship of earthquake survivors.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: an ad campaign for diapers featured mockery of dads. These diapers are so good, the ads told us, that even foolish, clueless dads can use them. A backlash from dads who are neither foolish nor clueless led to the cancelling of the ads. Hooray for involved fathers!

I loved Sarah Bessey's post about what a Biblical woman looks like. I spend so much time feeling inadequate and comparing myself to others, and I needed her reminder that
"when your heart, mind and soul is deep within the reality of living loved, we discover that those 'rules' are really just characteristics, the natural fruit to be borne out of a meaningful life changing relationship. And there are many expressions and ways to live out love, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, peace and goodness - as men, as women, as mothers, as fathers, as friends.

After all, if we one believes that Jesus is a relationship then there must be room for each of us having a unique relationship, vocation, season or calling."

I just read P.D. James' latest novel, Death Comes to Pemberley. My daughter laughed at me for reading "fan fiction" (since I laugh at her for the same thing). At some point I'll post a review, but meanwhile a friend sent me this one, which I thought was wonderful.

And here's another NPR link, this one to an interview with Alan Shapiro about a book I haven't read. I just liked his quote about how art works on the artist:
"But, you know, writing is a way of being happy even if what you're writing about is how unhappy you are, because - and not in a therapeutic sense, but in the sense that you get to convert things that you have to in life perhaps passively suffer into something that you can actively make on the page. And so it can give you some sense of agency and power. You know, I'm an easily distracted person. I've been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. One of my children had it and so the doctor had us tested as well. It's the only test I've ever aced. Elizabeth Bishop has a wonderful line. She says that the thing we want from great art is the same necessary for its creation, and that is a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration. And that's that kind of deep Zen-entranced experience that I have when I'm writing. You know, I sit down at the desk at 9 o'clock, I look up and it's 4 o'clock suddenly and all those hours have gone by as in a single moment. And, to me, that's paradise. That's heaven."

So there you go: a lot of unrelated links that won't all matter to anyone but me. Hope you, reader, found at least one you liked!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Poetry Friday: Secret o' Life

It's been a bit of a rough week, and one proof of that is that I'm doing my Poetry Friday post at 6 PM. I just staggered home from work. There's plenty still to do, and I'll be going in again tomorrow, but I've had enough for today. I started out the week sick, and finally started kicking my killer sore throat on Wednesday, after ten days of sucking down lozenges, when I went on antibiotics. I fell twice this week; once I missed a stair and once I just lost my balance because the pole I thought was behind me turned out not to be there (who moved it?). I have a skinned knee and a nasty bruise on my arm. I have so much grading that I wonder if I'll ever get it done. Oh yeah, and Wednesday night we had an earthquake.

It's time for some James Taylor to mellow me out. Here he is sharing his secrets.

Secret o' Life
James Taylor

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain't nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we're on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It's okay to feel afraid
But don't let that stand in your way
'cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we're only here for a while
Might as well show some style
Give us a smile
Isn't it a lovely ride
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It's just a lovely ride

Now the thing about time is that time
Isn't really real
It's just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race

Some kind of lovely ride
I'll be sliding down
I'll be gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It's just a lovely ride

Isn't it a lovely ride
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It's just a lovely ride

Now the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time...

Here's today's roundup, at Gathering Books.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Last night I was in bed when there was that horrible sound, a grinding, groaning noise, and the house shook. I was online, chatting with a friend, and I immediately typed "earthquake."

Earthquake. It turned out to be 4.6 on the Richter scale - not a huge earthquake but plenty big enough to set the adrenaline pumping and the brain wondering what comes next.

We were able to sleep, and no more tremors came. But it is terribly unsettling to feel this familiar sensation, after all these months.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Poetry Friday: Snow Globe

Last weekend I was traveling, and I saw a sign I hadn't seen before. Apparently it's been around a while, in the airports of the United States. I did take a picture of it, but it's still on my cellphone, so here's a picture someone else took.

Source: this blog post, from all the way back in November 2010.

I wrote this poem about snow globes:

Snow Globe

As soon as I read the sign in the airport forbidding snow globes
I longed for one.

I didn't have one in my bag,
And in fact I don't own one at all.
But suddenly I imagined miniature towns
Shaken into winter wonderlands,
Delicate cottages covered in white.

I imagined the whole building shaken by some divine hand,
And the Fort Lauderdale airport giving way
To fluttering white feathers
The hair of travelers,
The laptops in their grey plastic bins,
The matching t-shirts of mission groups.
The official yelling about people with water bottles in their carry-ons
Mellowed as he gazed about at the Christmas card scene,
The lovely snow-globalization of his workspace.
There was much ooh-ing and ah-ing
And the restaurant on Concourse E sold out of hot chocolate.

But no, snow globes are not allowed.
There will be no wintry vistas,
No sleigh rides,
No jingle bells
No cool wind except what comes out of air conditioners.
Instead the TSA will continue to remove our shampoo and toothpaste from us
(Our safety is their priority),
And the X-ray machine will continue to scan passengers,
Each one unique,
Like a snowflake.


I also thought about this song when I saw the snow globe sign:

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.