Currently (as of last night)

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’ve had a tough time slicing lately. Somehow Tuesday comes along before I know it and once again, I’m floundering. Last night I was determined to have a slice to share today, so I fell back on the tried and true “Currently” structure. Please bear in mind that I wrote this last night. (My morning beverage of choice is a more acceptable orange juice with a splash of cranberry.)

Currently I am…

Wishing… for a nice cool breeze. The temps hit the low 90s today and it’s still sticky. I finally took the flannel sheets off the bed. (I hope I wasn’t too optimistic and that I don’t regret it in a few days!)

Looking at…the flowers blooming in my garden. The first of the rugosa roses have made an appearance and “…the green fists of the peonies are getting ready/ to break my heart…” (Mary Oliver—I recently read her poem Peonies for the first time (Thanks, Tara!) and then read it again…and again…and again…)

Planning… for the final two weeks of school. These may be the longest or the shortest two weeks in the history of the world.

Reading… my e-mail from TC about the June Reading Institute. Is anyone else going?

Writing… comments for report cards and trying not to repeat what I wrote in the last two trimesters. Searching for the perfect phrase…

Watching… the wine level in my glass go down.

Listening… to the evening chorus of the birds and to the far off sound of some motivated (or irate?) neighbor who is chopping or banging something.

Drinking…I’ll give you one guess 🙂 (Hint: see Watching…) I’m pretty convinced there’s some major evaporation going on here as well!

Eating…pretzels. I have a major pretzel problem—not just any old pretzels though. It’s Snyder’s Snaps all the way for me!

Mood…vacillating –so much to do, so much to reflect upon, so much to anticipate, so much to regret, so much to enjoy.  So much!

Abandoned Farmhouse

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Abandoned Farmhouse
by Ted Kooser
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.
…..

(click on the title to read the remainder of the poem)

house3.jpgI read the above poem recently and thought immediately of the abandoned houses that haunt the back country roads in Maine. Their stories are palpable. Ted Kooser imagines one story, with an ominous tone, in a setting spiked with broken dishes and spines, boulders and leaky barns. His poem inspired me to revisit an old post and some pictures I’d taken long ago, and to write the following:

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Once upon a time…

The house had good bones
its story still stirs the air
like a haunting whisper
Once upon a time…

Big house
little house
back house
barn
like vertebrae on a spine
skinned with a coat of cheerful yellow
crowned with a jaunty red roof
waving a welcome
with blue and white curtains
at its windows

Now, open windows are blank eyes
Dulled yellow paint
peels from bone-dry clapboards
the red roof bucks and heaves
a fractured spine

No bark echoes in this yard
No drying clothes dance in a soft spring breeze
No child’s laughter trills
Even the birds seem silent here

Look
Listen

In a gaping window
the dusty curtains flutter
like a broken sigh

There is no graveyard
for houses that die

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

If you’re interested in learning about the “big house, little house, back house, barn” architecture so evident in Maine, click  here. If you’d like to read some more poetry at this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup, head over to A Year of Reading.

Things To Do poem…

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A1LwE+CtJkLIf you haven’t yet read Elaine Magliero’s book “Things to Do”, I strongly encourage you to do so.  I owe a big shout out to Jama Rattigan for her delightful interview with Elaine Magliero, which inspired me to pick up this enchanting book.  I shared some of the poems with my class, and they were eager to try out this form. So was I! It’s a wonderful entryway into persona or mask poem writing. Ever since reading it, I’ve found myself thinking differently. What might I do if I was…moss? a cat? a house? Thinking this way, I looked at my favorite birch tree in a new light. It now seemed like the perfect subject for a Things to Do poem.

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Things to do if you’re a birch tree

Greet the rising sun
Sparkle with dew
Wave au revoir to the morning star

as each day starts anew

Shelter singing birds
Dangle a swing
Spread your skirt of dappled shade
Jewel your core with rings

Stretch your pale limbs wide
and reach up high
Create a crackled quilt of color
in azure summer skies

Sway with the breezes
Rustle your leaves
Cradle the full moon in your branches
on a soft and sultry eve

 

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

To enjoy more poetry, make sure to visit this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Buffy Silverman’s blog, Buffy’s Blog.

In the Eye of the Beholder: Photo Challenge: Ugly

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Last Friday, after arriving home, I stepped out of the car into yet another dreary, damp evening. This dying dandelion immediately caught my eye. I’m not sure what strange combination of temperature, moisture and atmosphere was at play, but it blazed like a star above the grass. I put everything down and stopped to take a picture. The next morning when I went back to admire it again, all those purple-tipped stellar spikes were lying meekly against the stem. Maybe my cosmic dandelion had gone back to its alter ego stage. Who knew it was capable of this burst of startling beauty?

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Early Saturday morning I read Kim Douillard’s weekly challenge, and I knew immediately that Friday night’s dandelion was a starting point. Kim invited readers to find beauty within the seemingly ugly and I was already in that mindset.

DSCN9838.jpgLater this weekend, a walk on the beach yielded more unexpected beauty. We arrived late in the afternoon, and the beach was strewn with tide-staggered lines of ocean debris, scenting the air with their pungent sea smell. A closer look at the seemingly ugly, homogenous piles revealed a treasure of texture and a rainbow of colors.

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Unusual shapes and objects created multi-hued natural collages. With a vivid splash of color, the polka-dotted kelp air bladder glowed in the afternoon sun as if lit from within. The delicacy of a single white feather contrasted with coarse strands of kelp, the entirety sprinkled with crystalline grains of salt or sand. Each glimpse revealed more variety and beauty. Once started, I could have poked through piles of seaweed for hours.

Back at home in the garden, the skeletal remains of last year’s hydrangea blossoms have a delicate beauty of their own, especially when a petal cups around a drop of water.

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DSCN0312.jpgAfter some time working in the garden, I noticed this unexpected visitor. This moth lingered on our window screen for most of a day. I posted its picture on Facebook, asking “Does anyone know what kind of moth this is?” The first response was succinct and, to me, surprising: “ugly.” As other responses came in, most people intimated it was scary or intimidating or in some way unpleasant. I, on the other hand, was fascinated by the scalloped edges of its wings, its curved body, the delicate tracery of lines in its wings and the subtle beauty of its subdued coloring. This was an unexpected twist on Kim’s challenge–something I found beautiful and others did not.

This whole exercise reminded me of the beautiful-eyed skunks in Naomi Shihab Nye’s “A Valentine for Ernest Mann” and the line “Nothing was ugly/just because the world said so.” Kim’s challenge and Nye’s words encourage us to reinvent the world around us by shifting our lens to see the beauty in what at first glance appears ugly or merely unnoteworthy. As Nye writes:

“Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems.”
And how rewarding it is when we do.

Poetry Magic

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hApril may be Poetry Month, but I’m so enjoying reading and writing poetry in May with my class.

Here are some comments overheard in my class today as students wrote poems:

“Z. wrote a reverso!”

“Dude, this is soooo good!”

“I’m starting a new poem and I think I’m going to do really good on it.”

“I need 5 minutes more…please!” begged a student urgently as I announced there were about two minutes left. ” This is the end of my free verse poem.”

“I want to work on using better words. I want to make sure my reader sees what I want them to see.”

“Mrs. Hogan, we have to read you this. It’s so sad and so good! It’s a free verse poem.”

His friend and co-author piped up, “It’s two perspectives!”

“Can you think of another word for beach? Beaches are sandy and I’m thinking more of rocks and stuff, not sand….maybe… shore?”

“I have to read you my sky poem.”

The most wonderful thing is that poetry feels accessible to my students, and they are energized by the freedom intrinsic in it. Students are burning to share their work and eager to make changes to improve it. They are making very deliberate choices as they write and considering the impact on their reader. Conversations about craft moves are common and there’s a general air of happy productivity and positive energy in the room. It’s delightful!

Ahhh….The magic of poetry at work!

 

 

Tractor

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hMy husband has wanted to buy a tractor for years and years and years. There’s been a lot of increased discussion about this over the past few months–mostly him elaborating about all the great things he could do with one (and needs to do with one) and me suggesting that renting is always a viable (and reversible) option. Just to clarify (in case you couldn’t tell already), this whole tractor scheme definitely falls under the umbrella of “Not My Idea.” It’s expensive and I’m not sure how much horsepower is safe for my husband to have unlimited access to.  Don’t get me wrong: He can fix or make anything, but there’s often a bit of collateral damage along the way.  Combining tractor power with a love of demolition and an impulsive nature seems like a volatile combo to me. (Here’s hoping he doesn’t read this post. He can be a bit sensitive about this topic.)

Anyway, one day last week while I was at work, he drove to the farm store, plunked down a chunk  of change, signed some papers, and finally bought himself a tractor. Then, much to his dismay, he found out that he had to wait for it to come. The tractor would not be delivered that day and might even take a week or two. Imagine the look on a 7 year old child’s face, bright and early on Christmas morning. Now, imagine if you had to tell him that Christmas was delayed and wouldn’t occur until next week….or maybe the week after.  Yup. That’s about what he looked like. I know this because even though I wasn’t there, he still looked that way hours later when I got home. Poor guy.

Late yesterday afternoon, I drove home through the unceasing rain and turned into our driveway. We have a steep gravel driveway and when I left for work yesterday morning, one area had some ruts and shallow channels that had been carved by recent rainfalls. When I returned yesterday, I immediately noticed that the damaged section of the driveway was looking much worse for the wear.  There were big tire tracks and uneven piles of gravel and grit interspersed with ruts and divits. What happened? I wondered. It looked like some sort of big vehicle had gotten stuck and churned around. Then the light went on.  Oh, wait, I know! I bet they delivered the tractor today and the delivery truck did this. They must have had a hard time with the grade. I looked closer. Wow! That looks really bad. I can’t believe they dug the driveway up that much. I wonder if they’ll repair it. I maneuvered my car carefully around the damaged area and continued up the hill. Then, sure enough, at the top of the driveway I saw the big, orange tractor parked in my yard.

A few minutes later, walking into the house, I called out, “Oh, your tractor came! You must have been so excited.” (I’m trying to be positive about this–remember, Not My Idea.)

“Yeah,” he said, grinning. “They delivered it this afternoon.”

“Wow,” I commented, “That’s great!”  Then I added on, ” They really dug up the driveway when they delivered it, though. It looks awful!”

“Oh, no! That was me,” he replied, smiling happily. “I was trying to smooth out some of the ruts with the tractor just to see what it could do.”

This does not bode well.

Looking for a Silver Lining

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hPitter patter…sprinkle…sprinkle…drip drop drip. Spring in Maine this year has been marked with lots and lots of rain. Lots. The temperatures have been hovering right around raw. After a lengthy, snowy winter, it’s been tough to slog through day after day of chill and drizzle. In fact, it’s downright aggravating. I’d stamp my feet in frustration, but I’m pretty sure I’d splash myself.

In an effort to pull myself out of the pit of despair when it started raining again tonight, I decided to try to think of the positives of this unrelenting, depressing, miserable  streak of weather. Here, in no particular order, is my list of 10 reasons why it’s good that we’re drowning in experiencing a bountiful rainfall this spring:

  1. Nature is beautiful when sprinkled with raindrops.
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  2. I don’t have to mow my lawn when it’s raining.
  3. The peepers still sing in the rain and I suspect they’re happy to be perpetually moist. (At least someone is!)
  4. It’s easier for both teachers and students to be inside at school when it’s gross outside than when it’s 75 and sunny.
  5. There’s a lower risk of forest fires and the ground water supplies in southern Maine are being replenished.
  6. It’s perfect weather for cozying up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book. (and a blanket–because it’s still darn chilly out!)
  7. The drainage area outside my classroom window is a full-fledged pond and it’s fun to watch the ducks visit.
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  8. Foggy mornings are common, which makes for an atmospheric ride to work.
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  9. No one’s getting sunburnt.
  10. The best reason of all–on the rare occasions when the sun comes out, you really, really, really appreciate it!

Hope you’re enjoying your spring, rain or shine!

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A trip to the beach on a rare sunny day