Friday, December 31, 2021

Poetry Friday: Cheekwood

It's been another rough year, but here's hoping that 2022 holds better things. Today I'm sharing some photos of some poetic things from a visit to Cheekwood in Nashville, Tennessee, with my husband and children. I took pictures of some words I saw, plus a sculpture from the sculpture garden called "Tree Poem." I've been to Cheekwood several times, with my husband while we were dating, and then with our children through the years, but I'd never been there in winter. It was still beautiful even with the leafless trees, and we saw and heard beautiful birds, including a bunch of Cedar Waxwings. And the time together was much-needed and wonderful. Since we get so much less time with our children now that they are all grown up and live in a different country from us, we savor every single moment even more than ever. Happy New Year, friends!







Carol is hosting today, and reminding us about trouble and suffering close to where she lives.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Reading Update

My concentration and time for reading have been limited, and also I've been waiting until I would have time to write proper reviews of what I have managed to read. I think a list is going to have to suffice.


Book #79 of 2021: Native Guard, by Natasha Trethewey

Book #80: No Time Like the Present, by Fiona West

Book #81: Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder, by Kenn Kaufman

Book #82: The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Book #83: Leavings, by Wendell Berry

Book #84: Terrapin, by Wendell Berry

Book #85: The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams

Book #86: The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel

Book #87: Blush, by Jamie Brenner

Book #88: An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor

Book #89: Bewilderment, by Richard Powers

Book #90: Libertie, by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Book #91: Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint

Book #92: The Winter Room, by Gary Paulsen

Book #93: No Cure for Being Human: (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) , by Kate Bowler

Book #94: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Book #95: The Season of Almost, by Kate Bowler

Friday, December 24, 2021

Poetry Friday: Moving Out

My head is sort of spinning. I'm having Christmas in the US for the first time since 2010, and that year we spent it in Florida. So this is my first cold Christmas since 1996. I didn't post anything last week for Poetry Friday because it was my first full day in the States and there was a lot of the head-spinning. The biggest reason is that when we left Haiti, we left for good. We spent the last six weeks of our time there packing up our whole life. After 25 years of living there, we no longer do.


There are so many emotions, enough for many weeks of processing to come. In January I'll post about where our new home will be. My husband has taken a new job, and our adventures will continue. But I'm still in the grieving stage right now, grieving our life in Haiti, which has been challenging but also so beautiful.


Leaving the house where we had lived for twenty years and raised our children was very difficult. I will probably dream about it for a long time, maybe the rest of my life. It is by far the longest I have ever lived in one place. 


I chose Kate Coombs' poem "Grandma's House" to share with you today. It describes a mother and child leaving Grandma's house, now packed up and empty, unrecognizable as the home it used to be when Grandma lived there. The poem is in the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, one of my favorite resources for poetry to share with my students. I left my copy in my classroom in Haiti, but I also have it on my Kindle, so I can continue to use it in my new classroom. The most relevant line of this poem to my current situation is "nothing/ is the way it used to be." You can hear the poem read and watch a video to go with it here


Buffy Silverman has today's roundup.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

This week my tropically raised son experienced his first snow since he left home for college. I'm sharing a snow poem today by Emily Dickinson, whose birthday this is, with an illustration sent by my son.



942

Snow beneath whose chilly softness
Some that never lay
Make their first Repose this Winter
I admonish Thee

Blanket Wealthier the Neighbor
We so new bestow
Than thine acclimated Creature
Wilt Thou, Austere Snow?

 

Emily Dickinson

 

I don't think anybody's reposing under the snow in my son's photo, but it's certainly true that we have lost many people since this time last year, whether to COVID or other causes. The snow softens everything for a while. Happy birthday, Emily!


Today's roundup is here.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Poetry Friday: In Which I Write Nothing

Last night my writing group met over Zoom. It had been a long time -- I'm not even sure how long. "Have you written anything?" asked C, and I started to hang my head and say no, out of habit, and then I remembered, wait, yes I have!


"I've done two months of daily posts on my blog," I said proudly, starting to wonder if trying to post daily was why I have been feeling so stressed and overwhelmed lately. (Narrator's voice: "But it wasn't the daily posting that was the problem. In fact, the daily posting was one of the things keeping Ruth sane in a very trying period of her life.")


Today I fear I have nothing new to share with you, so I am going to link you to my two months of daily posting and call it good. In October I posted a daily bird poem (Birdtober). And in November I posted a daily gratitude haiku (Gratiku).


This week I wanted to write about mikans, a citrus fruit grown in the south of Haiti and usually everywhere at this time of year (that's the Japanese word -- long story...). Because of the gang activity on the roads between here and the south, though, this year we're not seeing many. My husband was given some for his birthday last week, and we enjoyed eating them so much. I even wrote a Gratiku about them here, but I want to write more. I read a Naomi Shihab Nye poem this week about onions and thought I could maybe use it as a mentor text. For now I'll just have to share her poem, because I haven't written mine yet. (Of course it is better now, as a vague cloud in my mind, than the actual finished poem will be!) 


Naomi Shihab Nye's poem begins:


When I think how far the onion has traveled

just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise

all small forgotten miracles...


You can read the whole thing here.

 

In December, we'll see if I can manage to write anything at all. I hope to share more on my blog in January about the craziness going on right now in my life, but for now suffice it to say that things are a bit chaotic.  It will have to be enough to read snippets of other people's work, and to try to notice at least some of the "small forgotten miracles" around me.

 

 Mikans on my breakfast table in Jacmel long ago...

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Waiting with a Side of Hope


 

Christine Margocs, our host this month, has directed our attention to Advent, asking us to reflect on "Waiting...with a side of Hope." Such a perfect description for what we are doing during Advent. Not just waiting listlessly for something that may never come, but waiting with hope for something which the Bible calls "the evidence of things not seen."

 


I have been loving this song by Sara Groves (I'll put the lyrics later in the post) since it came out in 2019. I don't just listen to it during Advent, but all year round, because to me it epitomizes the way things have been here in Haiti for at least the last three years. We are waiting for things to get better, for gas to be available, for people who have been kidnapped to be released, for kidnapping to end, for the electricity to come on. The lyrics refer to "a truce in the fight," and we literally have that here, when the gangs declare un trêve so that people can buy gas, get earthquake relief to the south, or go to work or grocery shopping safely.


Recently, one of my eighth graders started asking me about Haitian politics over the last few decades. He named specific public figures and asked what they had done. I didn't think I was really the one to give him this particular education, as a visitor to his country (though I remembered many of the people and incidents he was asking about), but I encouraged him to talk to his parents about it. He did, and produced a piece of writing about how things had gotten to the current point. He started by saying that he has worries most kids his age don't have, because he wants so much for his country to be peaceful and to function well. But it was his ending that stayed with me. He admitted that things didn't look good, but, he said, he still has hope. 


We hope for things to get better. But we also hope for strength to endure. For faith to keep trusting that, as the song says, "the waiting is not vain." That some day, all things will be right. 


And in the meantime, we wait for "the light of the morning." And that comes every day, without fail.


We Wait

by Sara Groves

 

We wait for a story,
A stillness, a candle,
A light


We wait for forgiveness,
A sense of direction,
A sign


We wait for You
This month of endless night,
Prepare You room
For making all things right
We wait


We wait for
A break in the weather,
The traffic,
A line


We wait for
The light of the morning,
A truce in
The fight


We wait for You
This month of endless night
Prepare You room
For making all things right
We wait


We wait for You
This month of endless night
Prepare You room
Cathedrals made in time


We wait for peace
And goodwill to all men
We wait to see
The waiting is not vain
We wait


We wait
For You



Visit Christine to see what everyone else is posting about this topic!

Gratiku 2021

 

Here's the spot to access all the Gratiku from November 2021 in one place!


Day 1: Internet

Day 2: Black-and-white Warbler 

Day 3: Imperfection

Day 4: Haiti 

Day 5: Morning

Day 6: Heart 

Day 7: An extra hour of birding

Day 8: Distance learning 

Day 9: Enough for today

Day 10: Emotions 

Day 11: Friends

Day 12: Tea 

Day 13: House

Day 14: Papers 

Day 15: Communication after silence

Day 16: Teaching in person 

Day 17: Vitamin B12

Day 18: Sun 

Day 19: My children

Day 20: Black-crowned Palm-tanager 

Day 21: Healing

Day 22: Middle-schoolers 

Day 23: Listening

Day 24: Not listening 

Day 25: Thanksgiving 

Day 26: Poetry (plus I hosted the Poetry Friday roundup)

Day 27: Saturday 

Day 28: Husband 

Day 29: Freedom 

Day 30: Mikan

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: Gratiku Day Thirty


 

Yesterday I ate my first one this year of those fruits in the photo. In Haiti we call them mandarines, but in our house we call them mikans, because that's what my husband grew up calling them. This year they haven't been readily available because they mostly grow in the south, and gang activity has caused it to be really difficult to get products from there up here to where we live. I was very thankful to get to eat one.

 


And I'm thankful that I succeeded in posting one of these gratiku every day in November!


Juice both sweet and tart
Skin that slides off easily —
Fruit that beat danger


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty-Nine

 

So many people in Haiti are in captivity right now, held by kidnappers. Years ago, a friend who had cancer told me to be thankful every time I wasn't in pain. I have remembered that many times. In the same way, yesterday I did what I wanted and was thankful to be free, not held against my will, but able to spend my time how I wished. So many are denied this privilege.

 

Read or snack or sleep
Choosing where and what and how:
Breezy afternoon

 

Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty-Eight


 

You stood beside me
Promised to be there always:
Love, here you still are


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty-Seven

 

Pillows and podcasts
Rest from all there is to do
Saturday morning


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Poetry Friday, Gratiku Day Twenty-Six, Odes, and a Day After Thanksgiving Roundup: A Cornucopia of Blessings!

I'm hosting Poetry Friday this week, the week of Thanksgiving! Leave your links in the comments and I will round them up, old-school style. I have the day off today, so why not?

 


 

 

I have so much to be thankful for, and I know it even when times are challenging. One of the things I am thankful for this time of year and all the time is poetry. Last year I wrote a whole ode to it, later published in the Birmingham Arts Journal, edited by Irene Latham. (Here's the pdf of the whole issue.) This year a haiku may be all I can manage (although I did try an ode this week too - read on to learn more about it). 

 

The middle line of today's Gratiku comes from Coleridge's definition of poetry, and in the last line I was thinking of Shakespeare, promising his girlfriend that she would live forever in his verse: "as long as men can breathe, and eyes can see." (I don't really think anything I write will last that long.) See that? Coleridge and Shakespeare in seventeen syllables? Am I an English teacher, or what?



Bounty of poems
(The best words, the best order)
Lines may outlive us.


I read (somewhere) that people were writing odes to autumn for this week, so I decided to try one. I looked up Keats' famous ode, beginning "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" (you can read the whole thing here). At first I thought I would try to write a humorous parody, but it ended up not being humorous at all. My first line parodies Keats' first line, and the first line of the second stanza is straight out of his poem. There are a couple of other echoes from Keats, too. (A machann is a merchant, in this case a lady selling fruit by the side of the road. And yes, that conversation mentioned in the poem really happened.)



Ode to Autumn in Haiti, 2021


Season of strikes and utter hopelessness,
No gas, no jobs, no peace, no anything.
Pa gen fig,” says the machann in the street,
Explaining that bananas can’t be bought
Because there’s too much gunfire in the town.

"Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?"
It seems a while since there was spring-like hope.
It’s always warm, the skies are always blue,
Each gorgeous day has still its music too,
But chaos fills our hearts with suffering.

The tires burn, the smoke spreads out like mist,
The Embassy suggests folks pack their bags --
Well, that suggestion’s for Americans --
And if you’re Haitian, settle in for more,
As autumn turns to winter, one more year:

More scoldings from the countries all around,
More troubles everywhere we turn our heads,
More shortages of all the things we need,
More crime, more heartache, more impunity.
But lovely weather, that we always have.
Yes, lovely weather, that we always have.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

 

 

I did my annual Thanksgiving Odes lesson with my eighth graders. This year I taught it to a few kids sprinkled around my classroom (maintaining distance) and others on the Zoom screen (some faces, but mostly rectangles with their names on them). We watched some YouTube videos of renditions of Neruda odes, then brainstormed a list of possible topics (things for which they were thankful), then went to work. Here are some of their topics: showers, chocolate, boba, soap, Oreos, EDH (city power here in Haiti, often lacking lately), gas (also often lacking lately).  You can see some of their brainstorming in the photo below. (The kids in the room wrote ideas on the whiteboard and the kids Zooming wrote theirs in the chat.) This is one of those assignments almost everyone gets into. It doesn't matter that they don't understand every single allusion in Neruda; they get that he is over-the-top enthusiastic, uses all his senses, and seems to be having a great time. I'm looking forward to reading what they come up with! It's due on Monday, and as I'm writing this, I've only seen one, a fabulous ode to books.





Leave your offerings, whether odes, Thanksgiving fare, or something quite different, in the comments! Comment moderation is enabled, so don't worry if yours doesn't appear right away. I'll get to them as fast as I can!


Margaret moved her weekly "This Photo Wants to Be a Poem" feature from Thursdays to Wednesdays since the last time I hosted Poetry Friday, but I still feel as though it's the beginning of Poetry Friday every week. Check out the locks photo and the responses here to start getting in the poetry mood.

 

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti shares an absolute delight of a poem, "Not-Yet-Official Girl Scout Badges," by Chloe Martinez. The list of badges is a portrait of an absolute delight of a child. I'm sending this one to my daughter. 


Michelle Kogan has an Ode to Autumn and some beautiful photos from her neighborhood to go with it. She also has an update on her Bearded Iris, if you've been following its story, as I have! 


Kat Apel's post has a cute alert in the title this week, and let me tell you, it's fully justified! Head on over to watch an adorable video of someone reading Kat's book The Bird in the Herd. Kat also left a bird photo just for me - thank you, Kat, for that and your kind words! 


Alan J. Wright has a lovely poem this week about things he's done only once in his life. But I can't help loving his ending best. 


Whenever I host, I like to link to Tiel Aisha Ansari, even though she doesn't participate in Poetry Friday. Her poem about November 2021 from a couple of weeks ago fits in perfectly today.


Sally Murphy has been hard at work on a project that sounds amazing, the Australian Verse Novel Resource. Go and read about it, and how great it's going to be for kids, teachers, and a whole list of others. Bonus: Sally reads from her own verse novel, Pearl Verses the World.

 

Linda Mitchell is in with an ode to November full of perfect images and leading us into winter in the last line. She also links us to a prayer by her ox friend, Hamish. (I know I'm not the only one who has been enjoying Linda's OLW "Ox" all year long. I'm already wondering what she'll choose for 2022! No pressure, Linda.) 


Janice Scully has a Thanksgiving Mouse for us this week, plus some poems by other people about mice. She's right that mice are popular poetic subjects; I have noticed this before, and I've also noticed that I enjoy these creatures much more in print than in my kitchen -- or my classroom, as has also happened. 

 

The inimitable Jama is serving soup today on the day after Thanksgiving. She has a wonderful poem, photos, and even a recipe. 

 

Laura Salas  has an ode to that quintessentially November thing (in northern countries): bare branches. And it's also about what Laura needs these days - and maybe all of us. (If not all of us, at least me.)


I'm loving the odes this week - and here's Linda's at TeacherDance. Yes! She has autumn just right!


I haven't seen anything in the comments yet from Irene Latham, and I know she's had trouble commenting here lately, so I went looking for her post. Sure enough, she's got an autumn poem up, beginning, irresistibly, "We are both nameless -- the trees and me --"...


I totally get what Tricia says today in her comment about how everything she writes these days is about her mom. Her ode to autumn is also an ode to memories of her mother. Lovely, Tricia! 


Margaret, too, was writing about autumn and thinking about a loved person -- in her case, Molly, who lost her father on Thanksgiving this year. It's beautiful, Margaret, and we are so sorry, Molly!

 

And continuing on the theme of poetry's penchant for being about more than one thing, Sara's ode to making carmels with her daughter made me catch my breath. Favorite words: "she sluices desiccated sunlight." 


Denise is thinking about Ahmaud Arbery, and has a found tanka about Wednesday's verdict. Powerful! 


Heidi dazzles, as always, with her ode that turns out to be also an acrostic! I agree with her assessment of acrostics, both in previous scorn for them and in a growing appreciation for what they can be. I missed her no/de from a couple of weeks ago, and she links to that, too. 


At The Poem Farm, Amy demonstrates personification and invites us to try it. I love her meditation on leaves and goodbyes. 


Mary Lee has an ode to autumn too, and links to an ode to Thanksgiving from yesterday. She also waxes philosophical about what an ode actually is, and I completely agree with her assessment. I love how she shows us various steps in autumn's life-cycle. 


Christie shares a wonderful collaborative poem by her kindergarteners. They are thankful, and so are we! 


Jone has an ode to November that brings out the beauty of what has always seemed to her a sad month. She also has some ideas for 2022: join her in sending out New Year postcards, and buy her new calendar, with photos and poems. It looks bright and lovely! 

 

Donnetta really needed a break!  (Me too, Donnetta!) She's written a TankaYou about her gratitude for this holiday. 


Carol Labuzzetta has been thinking about music, a "Simple Gift" for which she's grateful. She asks us to consider what our "Simple Gifts" might be.


Carol Varsalona is celebrating a birthday with an ode to autumn, and also by producing the final installment of the Bedecked in Autumn Gallery of Artistic Expressions. She links to five years of previous galleries, too. Such a cool tradition! Happy birthday, Carol! 


Tanita has an ode to autumn that's also about musicians getting ready for a concert. And Tanita is a virtuoso herself, working with rhymes! 


So much beauty this week! Thank you, everyone, for participating! Have a wonderful weekend!



Gratiku Day Twenty-Five

 

"Don't you want to thank someone for this?" asks Andrew Peterson in his song (see the video below). Yes, I do want to thank someone, for all that is good and beautiful. Today is a good day to do that.



Surrounded by good,
I do want to thank someone:
I whisper, “Thank you!”


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty-Four

 

Yesterday I wrote about listening, and how thankful I am for it. Today I'm thinking about not listening, about those times when you close your ears and your heart to some voices, because you just have to, for a time or for always. I'm thankful for discernment, and for recognizing that if you want to hear about what the weather is like, it's best to listen to people who have been outside. 




Fingers in my ears.
That voice will not bring me down;
I hear other songs.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: Gratiku Day Twenty-Three

 

Yesterday I listened to this Ted Talk by Hrishikesh Hirway in which he talks about listening and gives some ways to do it better. He also shares a song he wrote about a dream of his mom (and Yo-Yo Ma is on the song too!). This is so worth your time, whether you're a Song Exploder fan or not. (Hrishikesh also does the podcasts The West Wing Weekly and Home Cooking.) 


The talk got me thinking about listening, through which, as he says, "Every conversation has the potential to open up and reveal all the layers and layers within it, all those rooms within rooms." I'm thankful for the possibility of listening to others, and for all the people who listen to me.


From your store of words
Share some with me, my friend
And I will listen


Here are other people's Slices of Life for today. 

 

Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty-Two

 

I've been teaching all or almost all middle schoolers for about fifteen years now. I love this age, the way they are still little kids, but starting to be adults. They are independent and thoughtful sometimes, and giggly and goofy sometimes. They care desperately what their peers think of them, and have a reputation for meanness that is often earned, but they also have the ability to be extraordinarily kind. I am thankful for my students, all of them throughout the years, who remain forever in my mind as their awkward, maddening, adorable seventh and eighth grade former selves. 

 

Uniformed, unique,
Middle of jokes-grief-laughter,
Bored, curious, twelve.
 

Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty-One

Who knows what makes healing happen? Sure, it's the surgery, and the medicine, and the therapy. It's the determination of the patient to work at it.  It's the hours and hours of care from devoted medical personnel.

 

And then, it's something mysterious. Something that the body wants. Something that we've been watching with awe all our lives, as skinned knees bled, hurt, scabbed over, and finally looked as though nothing ever happened. It comes slowly, incrementally, day after day, when we're not looking. It's a miracle.


 

Time knits back what’s torn
Heart resumes disrupted song
Healing’s alchemy


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Gratiku Day Twenty

 

Today I'm thankful for this cheerful and active little bird, bouncing around my yard. I already wrote about this species some here, and explained that here in Haiti this island endemic is called the Katje, or four-eyes, because of the white specks on its head that look like an extra set of eyes. 


Photo Source: Birdfinding.info

 

I enjoyed watching several of these this morning. It was cloudy and 90 degrees, and I was stressed and using birding to distract myself from ... everything. It worked, and all the birds were beautiful, especially these lovely creatures that can be seen nowhere else in the world, only here on Hispaniola, home to 22 million people. I get to be one of those people. And I get to see Phaenicophilus palmarum.

 

Bright olive feathered
Bird seeks lizards, fruit, or bugs,
Extra eyes flashing


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Poetry Friday: Gratiku Day Nineteen

 

Today I am thankful for my children, for the chance to be a mother, and for all those years they spent in my home. What a privilege it was to host these wonderful people through their childhood, and now the sending out is a privilege too, I know, though I don't always experience it that way, as I miss them every day. It's the best case scenario, in which healthy, smart, self-sufficient adults navigate the world, but I'm not used to my world yet without either of them physically in it on a daily basis. 


This week one of them has a birthday, and we looked at his baby album together over video chat, the way we always did on his birthday when he lived at home. The other one sent a long email, and I read the love in her words. 


I don't like my children being so far from me, but I'm thankful for them, and for all the ways we have to communicate. 


Voices from afar
Grownups who were my children
Back and forth flies love


This week's roundup is here, hosted by Carol Varsalona, and one of my early Gratiku from this month is in her Bedecked in Autumn Gallery. Next week, I am scheduled to host the roundup. So far our internet has worked OK, so I'm still planning to do it. Lots of people are writing odes to autumn, and it will be the day after Thanksgiving. I always write odes with my eighth graders at Thanksgiving time (here's mine from last year). Please send in your poetry next Friday, odes or not, thankful or not! I am looking forward to a feast! 


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Gratiku Day Eighteen

 

Today I am thankful for the sun. So far, nobody has been able to block Haiti from receiving that. It makes me happy, and it also brings power. More and more people I know have invested in a solar panel or several, and it sure is good to have those during times like these, when we are deprived of fuel. 


You can read this article for further explanations of how six million gallons of gas have been delivered this past week, but still people (including us) are having great difficulties in obtaining any. The national stocks of fuel are in gang territory, and this week the gangs have declared a "truce," permitting fuel to leave the terminal. Today is the last day of this "truce," and our tank is still empty. Not only ours, either; so many businesses, schools, and even hospitals are closed because they can't run their generators (we stopped relying on city power a long time ago) and their employees can't get to work. People are dying because of this crisis.

 

But the sun is shining!


Tropical sunshine
Sends light to all the corners
Powers joy’s engines

 

Try this album, Solèy Midi (Midday Sun) for beautiful music by a Haitian-American alumna of the school where I teach.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Gratiku Day Seventeen

 

Today I got my monthly Vitamin B12 shot (you can read more about that here), a bit delayed by all the chaos lately. I am so thankful that it's available, that there was a friend who could inject me with it, and that it will carry me through another month. 

 

Burst of vitamins
Gift of energy and strength
Helps me keep going

 

Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.    

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: Gratiku Day Sixteen

 

Today parents had the option of sending their kids in person or having them Zoom in from home. There were just a few in my classroom, but they were really there, not having to be asked to turn on their cameras, not disappearing into the ether. They were there, messy and loud and full of opinions. Wonderful!


Real laughing faces
On kids yelling in this room:
No mute button here


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Gratiku Day Fifteen

 

Someone I love has been in the ICU, and is finally communicating with me again. I'm thankful!


Many days’ silence
Ends with these three precious words:
Simply, “How are you?”


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Gratiku Day Fourteen

 

I spent yesterday going through piles of things that I have saved through the years, precious things like notes from my kids (apparently every time either one of them wrote "I love you" on a piece of paper, I saved it), the books they wrote when they were in preschool (they drew the pictures and dictated the stories), letters of appreciation from students, that kind of irreplaceable artifacts. When you're trying to get rid of paper debris, the task seems impossible, but each of these papers represents something I want to remember, and that, the memory, is something to be thankful for.


Archaeologist
Digging through layers of love:
Years that I have lived.


Here's one of the paper treasures that I took pictures of and then discarded. It was a whole section of the Lexington Herald-Leader from November 24th, 2004, in an envelope. It contained a letter I wrote to the editor. Now the newspaper and the envelope are no more, but I still have this memory:





Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Gratiku Day Thirteen

 

We moved into this house in November 2001. Twenty years of memories, the good and the bad, the childhood of our two kids. I'm thankful.

 

Walls withstood earthquake
Roof protected from the rain
House held grief and joy


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Poetry Friday: Gratiku Day Twelve


Last Friday's Gratiku was about how morning comes, with its rituals, in spite of all the challenges that we've been fretting about through the night. The poem ended with "tea," which is what our daughter used to chirp as a tiny child whenever she heard the kettle whistle. Alan J. Wright, in his comment, wrote this about the roles tea played in his household growing up: "Peace maker, activity breaker, time marker, visitor offering." Yes! All that and more!


I don't drink alcohol, but if I did, I suspect I would be tempted to overindulge in these stressful days in Haiti. (Plus there are stressful things happening with family far away, too.) Fortunately, I have an acceptable alternative: tea. I suppose I could overdo on the caffeine, and I definitely put too much sugar in my tea, but in general, it's not going to hurt me if I keep sucking down mug after mug of this comforting brew. You know how on British World War II dramas, whenever a street is bombed in the Blitz, someone is making tea for all the survivors? That's the kind of function tea sometimes serves for me. It's a chance to sit down and to focus on something other than the immediate concerns of the day. Ideally you drink it slowly, since it's piping hot. I have been accused of having an asbestos mouth (not to be confused with "hot lips") because I can drink it pretty fast even straight from the pot.  But even I have to slow down a little to drink my cuppa.

 


 


And then of course there's all the tea paraphernalia. The pots and the infusers and all the different kinds of tea (that link has a poem I wrote about sun tea, so refers to drinking it cold, but at least it talks about all the different kinds and where they come from). The cinnamon and ginger and pepper and cardamom when I want to make chai. The carefully sealed container of sugar (an often fruitless attempt to keep out the tropical ants). The can of powdered milk (Haiti doesn't have a dairy industry and we don't have a cow). And the mugs! Recently, taking stock, we counted an embarrassing number of mugs that we own. I asked my kids to guess how many, promising them that whoever got the closest without going over would win -- a mug! Seriously, we are the Bezos of mugs. We have given a bunch away this week, trying to hoard fewer of the earth's precious mug resources and atone for our excess by aiding the mugless.


I am so thankful for tea, whether I make it myself or whether it's made for me by my husband (or either of my children, when they still lived here - they both know how to make it just the way I like it). Endless cups of tea are easing my way through my days, keeping me alert and calm and ready for the next thing. 


River of hot tea
carries me downstream to peace.
Another cup, please.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

 

Matt has today's roundup here. 


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Gratiku Day Eleven

 

 

Today and every day I am thankful for the friends and family who keep checking in, who pray for us, who send me articles (even if they are scary ones), who read my blog, who sometimes even send cash. So many great friends who keep me going, make me laugh, help me keep things in perspective. Who read the things I write to them about what is going on here and just respond calmly, like what I said actually made some kind of sense.

Friends around the world
Send love, calm, laughter, courage,
Strength for one more day.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Gratiku Day Ten

 

This morning we had a school assembly, and we had strict instructions to keep our camera on. I get it; they don't want students to sign into the Zoom and then just wander off and get a snack, perhaps never to return. But today I really didn't want my camera on. I was having a rough morning, and I'd been crying right before the Zoom began. Never mind why. You couldn't tell why from looking at my face, but there were tell-tale signs of the tears. I have one of those pale faces that shows every emotion. And in this case, the emotion had made my face bright red. (Once when I had a cold, one of my students was heard to say, "So it's true! White people's noses do turn red when they blow them a lot!" How happy I was to contribute to this child's education in this way.) 

 

We always tell kids nobody is looking at them when they are feeling self-conscious, and I know nobody was looking at me, but still I felt like a beacon on that Zoom screen, my red nose an advertisement for my sadness. 

 

So what am I thankful for today, and why am I telling this story? Well, I'm thankful for emotions. Even when I'm having difficult ones, ones I don't want to feel, I am thankful that I can experience them. Because I feel emotions deeply, that means the happy ones are very happy. And I know the sad ones won't last forever. In fact, the day ended with much better news. 


Whatever I feel,
You can see it on my face.
Camera zooms in.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: Gratiku Day Nine

 

On Sunday, my son told me that in the church service he attended, someone made reference to a poem by Wendell Berry called "What We Need is Here." Here it is. I love the very specific images, and the reminder at the end to appreciate what's here: "And we pray, not / for new earth or heaven, but to be / quiet in heart, and in eye, / clear. What we need is here."

 

Manna is enough for one day. You're not supposed to hoard it; you're supposed to trust that there will be more tomorrow. It's so easy to live in yesterday, or tomorrow. So hard to be here, now, today, trusting for enough.

 

What we need is here:
Air, sunlight, enough to eat,
Enough for today.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Gratiku Day Eight

 

Monday, and I'm hard at work teaching online. Distance Learning, we call it, and some days it can be pretty frustrating. The distance is the issue. A lack of fuel, and a presence of danger, is keeping us apart, and we're doing our best to connect anyway.


But we're still sharing books, and they're still writing.


Today in our sixth grade Zoom, we read the part in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Peter rescues his sister from being eaten by the wolf. I pointed out to my students that I liked the way Lewis describes the fight, how it's kind of a confusing mess, and when it's done, Peter isn't entirely sure what happened. I told them that I've never killed a wolf, but that I've been in lots of situations where I have to muddle through and do what needs to be done in a moment of chaos and stress, and then suddenly it's over. 


No, I'm not killing wolves, but these are stressful, difficult days, and we're making it work the best we can. I'm thankful for useful, important work to do, and wonderful students to teach.


Post work, grade work, Zoom,
Write, read, Zoom, Zoom, share our words,
Learning still happens.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.



Sunday, November 07, 2021

Gratiku Day Seven

 

Yesterday a service station near our house started selling gas for the first time in many days. My husband went by in the morning and said there were probably four hundred vehicles there, cars and motorcycles. Later in the day when he passed he estimated an extra hundred.


The traffic picked up outside my gate as the day went on. We all need fuel. We need it for vehicles, but also for generators to keep homes and businesses functioning. City power is mostly a memory these days. Many business owners are making tough decisions about closing, or will be soon. Starting tomorrow the banks will be open only three days a week. This opportunity to buy is likely to be short and not widespread enough to do much good. But maybe we're wrong. We try to be optimistic. Maybe the fuel crisis, and all the other attendant crises, will be over soon.


The time went back an hour at 2 AM today. Sixty extra minutes to sit on my porch, appreciating that not everything runs on gas. 


Gift of extra time.
Birds in my yard seeking fuel:
Nectar, bugs, lizards.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.



Saturday, November 06, 2021

Gratiku Day Six

 

Heart, a tough muscle,
breaks and is mended again,
just keeps on pumping.

 


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Poetry Friday: Gratiku Day Five

 

There's more trouble as this week ends. Trouble here in Haiti and trouble far away. But still, morning came as usual. 


Crisis on crisis:
Even so, the sun comes up,
Kettle whistles, tea.


Mary Lee has this week's roundup.

 

Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Gratiku Day Four


The fourth day of my Gratiku project is also Spiritual Journey Thursday, a monthly gathering of bloggers around a theme chosen by our host for that month. Denise, who's hosting today, is also doing a Gratiku project, and she's asked us to write about gratitude today.


There is so much to be grateful for. As 1 Corinthians 4:7 puts it, "What do you have that you did not receive?" It's all, all a gift. So far this month, I've written about several gifts: the internet, a Black-and-white Warbler, and imperfection. Gratitude is a good way to live, because it shifts our focus from our struggles to the grace we have been shown.


Today I wanted to write about Haiti. In so many ways (and for good and ill), living here has made me who I am. I am grateful for the chance to live here, not just visit, to live here through so many seasons of my life. I've been through many of the best moments of my life here, and many of the worst.


I struggled a bit with this one. Haiti is a complicated place, and seventeen syllables can't contain it. I wanted to put in the way Haiti is suffering right now, but I eventually decided against it. But that's OK, because I've written so much about this country already, here and elsewhere, and today my focus is just purely on gratitude. 

 

Thank you, Haiti, for making me welcome. Thank you for teaching me so many lessons. Thank you, God, for bringing me here to this beautiful, frustrating, scary, spectacular country. 


A borrowed homeland
Twenty-five years of birthdays
A lifetime of gifts

Check out other people's posts on the theme of gratitude here.


Birdtober? Gratiku? What's up with me and these made-up words and daily posting? Well, I've learned that a tiny little burst of creativity each day helps keep me going, stops me from being entirely fixated on the mess. That's why I post daily photos on Facebook. And that's why I'm doing these writing projects. This one is a daily haiku about something I'm thankful for. (A gratitude haiku - get it?) As long as the internet keeps working, I'm going to try to post one every day in November.