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.


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