A Foggy Tableau

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hThe fog hung heavy on my drive to work this morning. It hugged the rolling hills, pooled in the valleys, and drifted in sinuous shapes across the landscape, striating the scene. Everything had a misty, hazy, otherworldly quality. I drove carefully, enjoying the moody morning and the changing views.

After arriving at school, I entered the building and dove straight into work. Perhaps half an hour later, I was racing down the hallway, beelining to the copier, my head swirling with plans, fledgling ideas, and questions, when I chanced to glance out a nearby window. Something caught my eye and I stopped to look. The mist persisted and there in the school garden several skeletal sun flowers hung their seed-laden heads. Atop them rested half a dozen ebony crows. Together, they formed a silhouette against the hazy woods in the background. Eerie. Beautiful. I watched, enthralled, as the mist swirled and the crows silently feasted, setting the heavy sunflowers swaying.

After a bit, I retraced my steps back to my classroom and grabbed my camera, wanting to capture this amazing scene. Exiting the school by the far doors, I slowly crept around the side of the building. I turned my camera on far before reaching my target, not wanting the noise to spook the birds. I knew my success was unlikely as crows are canny birds, but I was hoping my zoom lens would allow me to photograph them from an unthreatening distance. As I neared, I realized I’d planned my approach poorly. Instead of the haze and tree backdrop I had been admiring, the school would be in the background from my vantage. Undeterred, I continued on my way, stepping quietly on the moist grass.  Closer. Closer. I held my camera poised in hand and carefully, slowly moved toward the garden. I finally rounded the corner, camera held high, and immediately the crows erupted from the garden leaving sunflower heads bobbing and swaying. Their heavy wings and raucous calls beat the air. I managed to catch one in a quick, blurry, unsatisfying shot.


As I turned to walk back to the doorway, the crows lit high in a nearby tree, cawing belligerently at me, clearly disgruntled at my rude intrusion. They rose and settled in the tree, noisy black shadows. I knew by the time I had settled back into my work, they would return to the feast, yet I did feel slightly ashamed for disrupting their beautiful morning breakfast. In the meantime, even without a photograph, the interaction had brightened my morning, reminding me, once again, to look out a window once in a while and take in the scene.


poetry-friday-logo-300x205On a walk in the woods on Monday, I stumbled upon this surprise–a gargoyle tucked into the base of a tree. I posted about my walk (here) and several commenters noted that they thought the gargoyle photo worthy of a poem. Ever ready for a new idea, I started writing and also dipped into a little research.

One of my delights in writing is the discovery of new information from side-research. This time I learned that I actually hadn’t seen a gargoyle!  The word, gargoyle, originates from the French word for throat, gargouille. I discovered that gargoyles are technically associated with diverting water from buildings, serving as water spouts.  Thus, this figure, solely decorative in nature, would more appropriately be called a grotesque. Who knew!? There are different views on the purpose of these elaborate carvings. Some hypothesize that gargoyles and grotesques were supposed to be reminders of the evil to be found outside church walls, a potent visual for illiterate churchgoers. Others believe that gargoyles were more protective in nature–present to fight off evil spirits or creatures.  Much to my surprise, gargoyles were not without detractors. I was fascinated by this quote from St. Bernard of Clairvaux who was a well-known opponent of gargoyles in the 12th century. I was particularly delighted by his final pragmatic line, which, to me, sounds quite contemporary, and thoroughly exasperated as well.

“What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent’s head, there a fish with a quadruped’s head, then again an animal half horse, half goat… Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them.”[wikipedia]

At any rate, before realizing this creature was a grotesque, not a gargoyle, I had already begun writing. So, here’s the photo and my technically inaccurate effort. I’m not 100% satisfied with it yet, but it’s been a fun process.


The Gargoyle in the Woods

Settled in his sylvan lair
with a discontented air
Do you see him lurking there?
The gargoyle in the woods.

Living wood creates his bower
Gilded leaves upon him shower
yet he grows grimmer by the hour
The gargoyle in the woods.

What enchantment holds him here
Far from masonry and peer
Blind to nature’s atmosphere?
The gargoyle in the woods.

When darkness falls, does he arise,
raise clenched fists to stony skies
fill night-time air with bitter cries?
The gargoyle in the woods.

Molly Hogan (c)2016

Head on over to Irene Latham’s blog, Live Your Poem. She’s hosting Poetry Friday Roundup and you’re sure to discover some treasures there!

A Walk in the Woods


dscn7855-1I headed into the woods yesterday. Alone. My husband was sick and after a short visit, the girls had returned to school. The house was too quiet and the day was too beautiful to stay indoors. I drove to a trail head near our house and dove into nature, seeking its comfort, wishing to loose myself in its wonders.

It was a full-on sensory autumnal day. The blustery wind whooshed through the trees, setting leaves dancing and rustling, and acorns periodically rained down, hitting the carpet of leaves with dull thuds. The sun danced through the trees, backlighting vibrant leaves and gilding paths carpeted with amber pine needles. Mushroom and funghi of all shapes and sizes peeked out from between leaves and under fallen logs and climbed the sides of trees.

dscn7846It was a day for noticing and luxuriating in the small things–the clusters of mushrooms and bright red berries, and the way the golden ferns danced in the breeze. The warm, rich smell of earth and decaying leaves. The leaf rainbow rippling on the water. The chorus of wind-whipped leaves. I was drawn continually off the path to explore just one more scene, to investigate one more shadow. It was literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air and I reveled in it. Finally, feeling rebooted and ready for the week ahead, I turned toward home, once again overwhelmingly thankful to live in such a beautiful place. Sometimes all it takes is a walk in the woods.


Epilogue–As I climbed the hill heading back to my car, I realized I wasn’t alone in the woods. Someone with a quirky sense of humor had nestled this grumpy looking gargoyle in the base of a tree. I’m not sure he is getting as much pleasure from his sylvan home as I did!







My sister enjoys cleaning. Me? Not so much. I love having a clean home, but I am not a cleaner by nature and my house is typically a bit of a mess. It usually stops short of squalor but can definitely descend into downright dirty. Other things simply take precedence, despite my best intentions. On rare occasions, when the world feels overwhelming, I do take comfort in the simple act of cleaning. Last night was one of those times.


There are those times
when the sweep of a dampened sponge
over countertop or across sink
chases away dirt, germs, debris and
the overwhelming sum of it all
putting a sweet shine on that spot
imposing an island of order
an eye in the chaotic storm

Molly Hogan (c) 2016

Stop on by Violet Nesdoly’s blog to enjoy the Poetry Friday Roundup!


11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’ve been thinking a lot recently about how fortunate I am in my friends, particularly my work colleagues. Knowing that I would have to leave my 1-2 team was definitely the most challenging part of choosing to teach fourth grade. For with the change in grade levels came a move to a different wing in the school–far away from my companions of the past eight years.

My 1-2 friends have gone out of their way to keep in touch and to support me. One of them stops by on her way to my old wing almost every day. When she didn’t come by on a recent Friday, she called quickly to say hello and have a great weekend. On this same day another friend stopped by and when I wasn’t there, left a cheery post it note on my desk. Yet another friend stopped by later to surprise me with one of my most favorite delicious and decadent treats ever–another note of kindness.  I’m also lucky enough to enjoy a growing friendship with my new teaching partner. I thought I would miss laughing with my first grade teaching team, but we certainly do our share up here in fourth grade! Overall, I am just so thankful for the generous support and friendship all of these women have offered me.

This weekend I read a wonderful article by Omid Safi about friendship (Gathering Friends Like Roses) and it helped me consolidate some of the thoughts and emotions that have been swirling through my mind. So much of what he wrote resonates with me, like this part from a medieval story, The Golestan (The Rose Garden), that he shared. In this story a woman speaks to a bit of clay that has been gifted her:

One day in the bathhouse, a sweet-smelling clay was handed to me by a loved one.
“Are you musk or ambergris?” I asked, “for I am intoxicated by your enchanting fragrance.”

“I used to be just mud,” it said, “ a mere nothing, but I for a while I kept the fellowship of the roses,
the perfection of my companions had an effect on me.

Otherwise, I am nothing but dust.”

— Sa‘di, Golestan, translation modified”

Safi notes that we all have different inner qualities, some admirable, some not. Different people pull out different aspects of our nature. Do we choose to spend our time with those who pull out the higher notes, those notes of radiance, or with those who appeal to our darker side?

In summary, the fellowship we choose leaves an indelible mark, and these days I think I must be smelling of roses.

15 words or less poems

Author Laura Purdie Salas posts a weekly photo prompt on Thursdays (here). She invites others to write a 15 words or less poem in response to the photo, and bills this exercise as a “low pressure way to wake up your poetry brain.”  I stumbled upon this site a few weeks ago and thought it would be fun to give it a try. I didn’t manage to participate the first week, but this week’s photo was especially intriguing to me. What caught my attention was the contrast between the word Pacific on the building and the tense stance of the player.


Photo: Laura P. Salas


Hardly pacific,
the intensity
of fraught battle
awaiting the first

Molly Hogan (c) 2016

If you have a chance, check out the site. It’s fascinating to see how many poems and perspectives emerge from a single photo prompt.

You, Reader

poetry+friday+button-e1341309970195Four weeks into the school year, my morning routine has been sliced and diced and reconfigured into a new and less flexible shape. Already my morning writing has suffered. This week I’ve been thinking and writing about the importance of just showing up to write (here) and then resolving to do better. In this midst of these thoughts, I happened across this poem by Billy Collins–Another nudge to show up and take the time and write.

You, Reader

I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you,

that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen

the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl.

If you’d like to read the poem in its entirety click here. You will also have the opportunity to click on an audio link and hear Billy Collins give an amusing introduction to the poem before reading it aloud.

You can find more poetic wonders at the Poetry Friday Roundup, hosted this week by Karen Edmisten–click here to join in the fun!