Summer Bids Farewell

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This week the Roundup is hosted by the talented Laura Purdie Salas at her blog, Writing the World for Kids. She’s celebrating the inclusion of four poems in the new J. Patrick Lewis anthology with National Geographic. She shares one of them, a beautiful piece about finding peace in nature in Northern Minnesota. Stop by and check it out!

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So Many Questions

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hIt was cloudy on Monday morning and I knew the sunrise would probably not be remarkable, but I headed to the river anyway. I needed to escape. To get out of my own head and the swirling negativity of recent days. To retreat to “the peace of wild things” as Wendell Berry so aptly put it. I’m struggling to make sense of so much these days.

As expected, at the river there is no sign of a glorious sunrise, but the fish leap in silver flashes, and currents lead the moored boats in a lazy waltz, swirling and spinning them in the early morning light. I revel in the reflection of autumn leaves on the water, the pillowing stripes of clouds, and the varied bird calls. My eyes follow the purposeful flight of a circling bald eagle over the fall foliage. I watch it land, grasp something on the other bank, and take off again with mighty wingstrokes. The tension slowly eases from my shoulders. I breathe deeply and relax. Nature’s balm is immediate and immense.

After a moment, I see a flash of large wings and a great blue heron appears, flying low over the water. I walk quickly, following it’s trajectory, hoping it’s landing in a nearby inlet. When my progress is stopped by shoreline and rocky water, the heron is nowhere in sight. Ah, well. I’m still so pleased to have seen it, even briefly.

Then, from the corner of my eye, I spy something white in a nearby bush. What’s that? A bird? I edge closer. No, not a bird, but a discarded tissue caught in a bush, and beneath it an empty plastic baggy and a small cardboard container with a cracked plastic lid. Under a nearby shrub is a discarded paper cup. My shoulders tense again.

Later in the day, when I’m running, I see bottles, cans, wrappers, etc. littering the road. Sadly, this is nothing new, but the turmoil of recent days intensifies the impact. Who are these people who so casually throw their debris into the world? I remember the crying Indian ad of my childhood and want to weep. What is wrong with people? How do we build relationships or work through conflicts when there are such fundamental differences in outlooks and behaviors? I can’t relate to treating the world as my garbage bag or people as my punching bags. How do we find common ground and work through problems when discourse has disintegrated to ranting and raving and making death threats? And this is across the political spectrum. How do we navigate complicated issues when people cheer for threats and intimidation and think that mockery and rudeness is equivalent to plain speaking?  Who think nothing of pumping waste into our waterways and disregard the environment in search of an economic windfall? How do we start meaningful conversations when everyone is yelling at each other and calling each other names?

A month or two ago, my husband and I were talking with a friend of his who’s a veteran. We were lamenting the agenda of hate and division fostered and nurtured by the current administration. After a bit, his friend sighed deeply and said, “I guess America just doesn’t mean what I thought it did.” Those words have haunted me.

How do I get past the anger that I’m feeling? I vote. I march. I call my public representatives. It feels like such a small push back against a huge tide. I fear for our country while simultaneously feeling alienated by many of its citizens and entertaining thoughts of leaving it. What does America stand for these days?

I’m so sickened by the events of recent days (months…years…)–by the political circus, by the lack of empathy, by the tone of discourse, by the appalling lack of integrity, and then, on top of that, by a recent suicide in our area and the fallout from that–for her family, her students, the children who found her body.

There’s such ugliness in our world, yet there’s such beauty, too. There’s pain and sorrow and joy and triumph. I’m struggling to make sense of it all. I’m so thankful I can retreat to the river and seek ease in nature’s bounty. Yet, how long will nature be able to bounce back from our casual abuse? Even as I seek solace there, I find trouble and worry.

For now, I’ll keep going down to the river. I’ll take my pictures and lose myself in the wonderful wild. While I’m there, I’ll rejoice in the water, the birds, the seasonal shapes and colors. Some mornings will offer glorious sunrises and some cloudy skies and more subtle rewards. And I’m sure there will be more trash.  I suppose, whenever I see it, I’ll just keep picking it up. It’s one thing I know I can do.

 

 

I could write…

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hIt’s one of those days. I don’t want to write. Over the past week or two, my writing volume has dropped. A lot. My morning pages have gone from 3 pages to 2 to maybe 1 or even just 1/2 page. I’m not feeling motivated AT ALL. I feel like I don’t have anything I want to say or to explore.  I’m sitting here right now, listening to the rain falling outside, wondering how it can be Tuesday already, and searching for something to write about.

I could write about school pictures. We just got ours back and after an initial, “Wow! I don’t have as much grey as I thought!” I am now convinced that the photo people must have altered my photo. In the picture my hair, which in real life is liberally streaked with grey, is brown. I think they may have also decreased the depth of the divot between my brows. It’s the one day a year that I blow dry my hair and wear make-up, but I know that can’t have made this big of a difference. Oddly, I’m a bit disgruntled about this. I did not ask to be altered!

I could write about hearing the barred owls at night. How their cries echo into our room and pull us from sleep. How we whisper to each other, “Did you hear that?” I could describe the quiet hush that cocoons us as we strain to hear another call. How we listen for them and I imagine their powerful wings pumping through the night, weaving through the trees. How their calls fade and we drift back off to sleep.

I could write about how I fell in love… with a pitchfork at a garage sale. I  was entranced with the old wooden handle, thick and time-worn. I was fascinated by the lines of it, the feel of the wood in my hand, the thoughts of how many people had used it through the years. I put it down, but kept returning to it until finally I asked, “How much for this?” Then, as my husband shook his head, I bought it. I still have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but it really is beautiful–at least to me.

I could write about any of these or about the colors of fall emerging or about photographing a green heron or about so many other things…but the rain is still falling and I can’t settle on any one thing. I still feel restless, unsettled, unmotivated. But I did write a slice. Sort of. And for tonight, I guess that will have to be enough.

TLD September Challenge

unnamedThis month Michelle H. Barnes interviewed Naomi Shihab Nye for Today’s Little Ditty. If you haven’t read the interview yet, be sure to check it out here. Michelle writes a mean interview, and time spent with Naomi Shihab Nye is always time well spent. You also get a sneak peek at some poems from her most recent book, Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. Naomi Shihab Nye’s challenge for the month was to write letters to ourselves or some sort of introspective poem (not necessarily in letter format) in which we pose questions which we don’t necessarily answer. Here’s my effort:

Skiing—Victory or Defeat?

What was I thinking?
What erratic firing of neurons placed me here
on an icy snow-covered hill
heading in slow motion for the trees
with quivering thighs
fighting a losing battle
with “pizza”
or what was called snowplow
decades ago?
Why did I think this would be fun?
I, who hate adrenalin, speed and heights?
Was this some sort of test
I assigned myself?
Just who am I trying to impress?

Deliberately, I tip and fall
skid to a snowy inelegant stop
remove the rented skis
rise and pick up the scattered equipment
then walk down the mountain

It feels like victory to me.

©2018 M. Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jone Rush MacCulloch at her blog. She’s featuring a poem from “Great Morning” by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

And just like that…

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’d slept poorly again, waking from my perennial stress dream of failing brakes to putter around the house for several hours. Now, I was bleary-eyed, logy and slightly grumpy–out of focus and out of sorts.

I drove the back roads to work, faintly resenting the need to go in–wishing for a more reasonable schedule or at least some flexibility. Wishing for a good night’s sleep. It was a grey morning–literally and figuratively.

Suddenly, ahead of me I spied the silhouette of a large bird, flying low in the sky. My interest perked. What’s that? Is that a white head? 

Sighting bald eagles is common here, but still never fails to thrill me. This one flew low over the road, then over my car. Its powerful wings pumped once, twice, and it soared over and behind me. I swiveled around to see where he went, my view obstructed by trees. Then, remembering I was driving, I quickly and reluctantly returned my attention to the road. Wasn’t he a beauty? 

A few minutes later, I rounded a corner and up ahead, three minks undulated across the road in a sinuous wave of dark fur, one after another, practically nose to tail.

“Whoa!” I said, my foot easing off the gas. My jaw dropping. While eagles are commonly spotted here, it’s unusual to spy one mink, let alone three! And just like that, the grey buzz of irritation around me lifted like a morning fog under the rising sun. It felt like there was a blessing on the day. I was in exactly the right place at the right time.

In an instant, the minks slipped into the undergrowth and out of sight. I was so grateful to have seen them–so buoyed once again by the beauty that surrounds me. I pressed on the gas and drove by the spot where they’d disappeared. They were nowhere in sight. But in my mind and in my heart, I carried the wondrous image of them crossing the road, silhouetted against the morning light.

I drove the rest of the way to school with a smile on my face.

Running with Haiku

unnamedI think a lot about writing when I’m running. Often I return from a run, and after gulping a bit of water, rush to my notebook to capture some phrases, ideas, or words. Perhaps it’s easier to hold fewer words in mind when I’m huffing and puffing, but lately I find myself gravitating toward composing haiku while I run. After a few side glances from drivers or passengers in passing cars, I have finally realized that not only am I thinking about haiku, I’m also muttering the words aloud. In addition to that, I’m tapping out syllables on my fingers. I must be quite a sight! (Hence the sidelong glances!) Here are a few of my recent efforts.

Counting syllables
fingers flashing, tap-tap-tapping
writing in the air

©2018 M. Hogan

Tumbled apples rest
beneath heavy laden trees
summer’s parting gift

©2018 M. Hogan

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This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is “down under” at The Water’s Edge  (a phrase which actually sounds like the beginning of a poem!). Be sure to stop by and enrich your weekend with some poetry.

Water and Photo Therapy

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On Saturday I went down to the river, anxious to recover some slow and easy morning time now that school has sucked flexibility right out of my schedule. Even though my school year is off to a great start, I’m still finding the adjustment quite difficult. All week long it feels like I’m in a free fall, then, come the weekend, I land with a jolt. I spend Saturday recovering (and running errands, etc) and then Sunday arrives, feeling just like impending Monday. Oh, how I wish for 4 day weeks and a bit of balance!

At any rate, on this past Saturday before sunrise, I drove down to the river. Although it was clear at my house, the river was wreathed in fog when I arrived. What a difference a mile and some change in elevation can make! There I encountered my photography friend, Roger, and met another local photographer as well. The three of us chatted, enthused about the beauty of the morning, then drifted apart to take photos.

“I’m going to the bridge to see if the green heron is back,” I announced, and wandered off on my own.

Although the heron Roger and I had spotted earlier in the week was nowhere in sight, I traipsed around happily, enjoying the dew-covered webs, the foggy vistas, and the occasional chittering call of the kingfisher.

After a bit, I set off to check out some nearby docks and the spider-web covered aster I’d noticed earlier in the week.

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Eventually, I wandered back over to the dock area on the other side of the river. When I arrived, both photographers had their cameras and their attention focused on the water. Clearly, something had caught their eye! As I moved closer, Roger glanced up.

“Oh,” he smiled broadly, “I’m so glad you’re back! I didn’t know where you were. The green heron is here!”

Sure enough the young green heron I had failed to locate on the other side of the river was perched here on the back of a water filled boat.  We zoomed, focused and shot picture after picture, making occasional admiring comments.

DSC_0375.jpgShortly after my  return, a great blue heron flew in for a cameo appearance.

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After a brief visit, he departed, those glorious powerful wings moving him up and away.  We turned and followed his flight until he disappeared, then our attention returned to the green heron. He continued to entertain us with his fishing exploits for quite some time, and we shot picture after picture, moving from one vantage to another.

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I clicked away as the minutes passed, heedless of time, content to be exactly where I was–enjoying the company of two like-minded folk and an obliging heron. Eventually, the heron flew away and the lure of coffee pulled me homeward. But, after spending a morning down by the river, life felt a bit more settled.

Here’s hoping that elusive balance makes an appearance this week. If not, perhaps I’ll head to the beach.