Ladybug

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Each fall the ladybugs gather in the corners of our house. Whenever I see one, I think of the childhood lines, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire, your children alone.” This year I realized two things: One, this verse is really quite grim, and two, I wasn’t sure how the rest of it went, though I felt sure that there was more. So, I looked it up and learned a few things along the way. For example, did you know that ladybugs are referred to in Great Britain as “lady birds”? The most common version of the verse, traced back to 1750s England, goes like this:

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one,
And her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan.

That ending didn’t sound familiar to me at all! There are many, many versions of this verse, some much grimmer (“your children will burn!”) and there’s also much debate about its origin. Was it chanted by farmers warning ladybugs to flee before burning the fields after the harvest? Was it a warning to pagans to go underground? Was it sung out to warn Catholics who participated in illicit celebrations of Mass in farmer’s fields?

And that isn’t all!  Ladybugs have symmetrical spots, and many cultures consider them lucky. In the Netherlands the ladybug is used as an anti-bullying symbol and to raise awareness for the National Foundation against Senseless Violence. Tiles like this can apparently be found on streets and paths, and sometimes they’re placed at the site of a violent crime.

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I also came across this verse, published in Favorite Poems Old and New, Selected for boys and girls, selected by Helen Ferris. As I read, I was at first charmed but the ending has a darker tone. (For a lucky bug, there don’t seem to be too many happy verses around!)

Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the field mouse is gone to her nest
the daisies have shut up their sleepy red eyes
and the birds and the bees are at rest
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the glow worm is lighting her lamp
the dew’s falling fast, and your fine speckled wings
will flag with the close clinging damp
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the fairy bells tinkle afar
make haste or they’ll catch you and harness you fast
with a cobweb to Oberon’s star

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The ladybug pictured above obliging posed for me while climbing on the plant in my bathroom. The black bat-like mark on her “face” made me think of superheroes, while echoes of that childhood verse lingered in my mind. One more not-so-cheery verse for the ladybug!

Valiant ladybird
spreads crimson carapace
soars to the heart of the blaze
to rescue children
who are already long gone

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

This week’s Poetry  Friday Roundup is hosted by Lisa Coughlin at her blog, Steps and Staircases. Make sure to stop by and check out some poetry.

 

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A Problems and Solutions View of Afternoon Assembly

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I just took a big sip of wine. (Idle question—when does a big sip become a gulp?) I’m hoping the taste of wine (or maybe the alcohol content) will wash away the memory of this afternoon’s Third and Fourth Grade Assembly. (Not so idle question—do I have another bottle? Also, should that be capitalized?) In the spirit of text structure (just finishing our nonfiction writing unit!), I thought I’d try presenting my slice in a problem/solution structure.

Problem: A student took offense when another classmate noticed that he wasn’t joining the line and commented on it. He turned around and stomped away as we walked into the cafeteria.
Solution: Sadly, cloning hasn’t proven a viable option yet, so I’ll go with Plan B–Ask the Vice Principal to go find him and bring him to Assembly. (Successful!)

Problem: E. approaches me as we’re sitting down and whispers, “Mrs. Hogan, X. just drew a football on the wall in the hallway on the way to assembly. I’m not sure what he used.”
Solution: Thank E. Note to self: Look for graffiti footballs on the way back to the classroom. (Found said football later. It seems to have been “drawn” lightly (maybe even with an eraser?) and looks like it will be easy to remove. Another note to self—mention this to the Vice Principal and make sure to have X clean that up tomorrow.)

Problem: P,D, and Q immediately start talking and raising a ruckus when they sit down.
Solution: Have D move to sit at the end of the line. (Mixed success. Overall D does relatively well there, but in the middle of Assembly the Principal has to approach him and remind him to be at zero volume and not repeatedly throw small objects into the air and catch them. P and Q have less success.)

Problem: As Assembly starts, Q (or was it P?) loudly emits gas. Starts to laugh and emits more. Bursts into hysterics, accompanied by P.
Solution: After giving them a minute or two to get over it (didn’t work), I give Q and P stern looks and a reminder to be quiet. (Totally unsuccessful—why I thought it would work, I can not say.)

Problem: Q and P pull their shirts halfway over their faces and continue to laugh loudly and whisper comments.
Solution: Move Q to the other side of me. (Partially successful–He argues about this but not too loudly and more or less remains there, only inching slightly toward P whenever I’m not looking.)

Problem: Q and P make faces around me and continue to encourage each other to laugh. I consider sending them to the office but realize that would probably be even more disruptive.
Solution: I wish I knew.

Problem: The Principal recognizes that students have been sitting a long time and encourages them to shake their shoulders and necks. X. really gets into this.
Solution: Remind X. that he’s done a really good job being a respectful audience member up to this point and that Assembly is almost over. (Totally unsuccessful–just keep reading.)
Note: Later I found out that while I had been up front presenting certificates “good” would not have been an appropriate adjective to describe X’s behavior.

Problem: P and Q continue to whisper and call out to each other.
Solution: I tell P to move to another location further down the class line. P balks but my mean teacher look must have been minimally effective and he finally scoots off smiling the whole way. (Successful!)

Problem: X decides to applaud with his feet while lying on his back. The nice (horrified) audience member behind me mouths the words to me, “Oh, you poor person.”
Solution: Calmly remind X that this is not appropriate audience behavior and prompt him to sit up. (Limited success: He does sit up but then begins to turn in circles on his butt.)

Thankfully at about this time Assembly ends and it’s time to head back to the classroom for dismissal. Gee, that was fun! I can’t wait for next month!

Life in our Old Farmhouse

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Rustle. Rustle.

Thump!

Pad. Pad. Pad.

Thump! Thump! Rustle.

Mew.

“Kurt,” I groan, “I think she’s got a mouse again.”

“Yeah,” he says.

I burrow under the covers and pull them up around my ears. Maybe she’ll just stop on her own. We lie there half asleep, each trying to out wait the other, or hoping the cat will just go away.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Rustle. Mew.

“It’s your turn,” I finally complain. “I got the one the other night.”

After a few more minutes and ongoing thuds, thumps, and mews, I feel the blankets move back. A small light turns on.

“Is it a mouse?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says. I hear him rustle around a bit and then leave the room. The door outside opens, then shuts. A few minutes later, the bed sinks as he climbs back in. I roll over and snuggle back into the blankets, drifting off contentedly.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thump!

Rustle. Rustle.

Mew.

“Oh, no,” I moan. “It must have been a twin!”

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Juniper…mouser extraordinaire

Thanksgiving for Two

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We had a thoroughly enjoyable, mellow Thanksgiving at home with two of our three children. Our older daughter remained in Philadelphia, where she continues to spread her wings and explore city living. This was the first year that all 5 of us weren’t gathered together for at least a portion of the day. On Facebook, my cousin posted “Holidays were much more fun when the kids were young, home safe and sound! ” I know just what she means. This was also the first year my older sister and brother-in-law had none of their four children or assorted grandchildren at home. Marjorie Saiser’s poem “Thanksgiving for Two” appeared in my Inbox and I immediately forwarded it to my sister. I also tucked it away for myself. Those days are coming faster than I may wish, but there’s solace in this poem, a loving tribute to “decades of side-by-side.” After reading it, I’m more mindful of, and thankful for, my own “great good luck.”

Thanksgiving for Two
Marjorie Saiser
The adults we call our children will not be arriving
with their children in tow for Thanksgiving.
We must make our feast ourselves,
slice our half-ham, indulge, fill our plates,
potatoes and green beans
carried to our table near the window.
We are the feast, plenty of years,
arguments. I’m thinking the whole bundle of it
rolls out like a white tablecloth. We wanted…
(click here to see the rest of the poem)
I hope you enjoyed time with family and friends at Thanksgiving. Carol is hosting Poetry Friday this week at Carol’s Corner. Make sure to stop by and stuff yourself on some poetry!

Sunrise at the Beach

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI woke at about 2 am on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, that isn’t too unusual these days. Knowing that attempting to fall back sleep was futile, I got up. After a few hours of this and that, I sat on a chair in the family room, gritty-eyed, vaguely unsettled and idly contemplating napping. The overhead light was on but it felt like too much effort to get up to turn it off. Instead, I pulled my hood over my head to block the light and closed my eyes. Within a minute the new “kitten” (8 months old) reached her paw under the hood and batted at my face.

“Stop it!” I grumbled, pushing her away.

She responded with a swat to my nose. Apparently, she thought this was the best game ever. She pounced on my head and repeatedly jabbed under my hood. After a few more rounds, I gave up on napping and pulled off the hood. What should I do now? 

It was still dark outside. I glanced at my watch–5:15 am. Hmmm… What time does the sun come up these days anyway? My logy brain suddenly clicked up a notch.  Hey, I might be able to make it down to the beach to watch the sunrise! Moving the cat, who had continued to walk on my head and shoulders, I got up and opened my computer. A quick check showed that first light was at around 6 am and sunrise at about 6:30. Bonus–it had been low tide at 4:40, so the tide would still be out. If I leave by 5:30 I can make it! Suddenly energized, I got dressed, bundled up and headed out the door.

As soon as I stepped outside into the crisp morning air, I knew I’d made the right choice. The horizon was etched in crimson. With the moon nowhere in sight, the sky was a deep velvet blue punctuated with a few brilliant stars (or  planets?).  I drove east, watching the sky fade slowly from red to orange and then yellow, admiring the dark silhouettes of winter-bare trees. On the peninsula, estuaries reflected the growing light, meandering through the marshy tidal lands. As I finally pulled around the corner to the beach entrance, a bushy-tailed fox loped across the road, a rippling silhouette, and vanished into the brush. I parked and walked toward the beach. As I walked up the path, the sky ahead glowed. Then, the path opened up and the beach lay before me in all its glory. The sun-lit horizon stretched before me. No one was in sight. I was transfixed.

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Mesmerized, I walked and watched the light show shift and change until the sun finally peeked over the horizon. Then, for the next hour or so, I wandered along the beach, taking photos, collecting sand dollars, examining the drift wood and admiring the amazing sand patterns. The combination of sunrise and beach time worked their magic on me and left me filled with awe at the wonders that surround me. In the words of the amazing Mary Oliver,
“Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight…”

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The Beach in November

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hDSCN1951The beach draws me in the off-season. There’s something about the wide expanses of sky, sand and sea that soothes me. On Sunday afternoon, my husband and I spontaneously headed to a nearby beach. The sand was indented with horse prints, deer tracks, dog prints, and lots of human footprints, but during our visit, the beach was uninhabited. We walked and walked and reveled in the solitude.

DSCN1952The ocean has many moods and on this day it was especially serene. Off shore the buoys stood straight, not leaning over in the current or surrounded by tell tale ripples of water, divulging the force and push of the tide. No waves rolled in, crashing against the shore. Just the faintest wash of tide moved in and out, like gentle, rhythmic breathing. Even the birds seemed calm. For most of our visit, we watched one seagull walking along the shoreline ahead of us. He never took to the air, but contentedly strolled along.

DSCN1941The tide was very low, lower than I’ve ever seen it, and ocean footprints rippled the sand, making fascinating patterns.  Autumn leaves dotted the beach and clustered at the shoreline.

I luxuriated in the brisk fresh air and in the respite of photography. Taking pictures forces me to slow down and focus on the world around me. It helps me put things into perspective.  As I walked idly down the beach and stopped off and on to take pictures, I felt like I was breathing deeply for the first time in weeks.

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Lonely Leaf

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Captured ocean

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Sand capillaries

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Ghost Leaf

November Morning

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“Have you ever noticed a tree standing naked against the sky,
How beautiful it is?
All its branches are outlined, and in its nakedness
There is a poem, there is a song.”
~Krishnamurti

I was halfway to work this morning, lost in an audiobook, when the silhouette of a tree caught my eye. In the cold morning its branches etched the sky like tributaries intertwining at a delta. It was stark, intricate and magnificent. Somehow, it pierced my inattention and snapped me out of Maoist China and into the present day. I turned the CD off and tuned into the scenery around me.

It was a stunning November morning, and until that moment, I hadn’t even noticed. The rolling farmland spilled away from the edges of the road, in undulating, glistening hills. Frost-covered shingles sparkled on rooftops and lazy curls of smoke drifted from brick chimneys. By the side of the road, fallen leaves skipped and danced in the wake of passing cars, their edges curled inward, as if to ward off the chill. Frozen dew cloaked the fading blooms on leggy weeds with dazzling crystals. A man and his dog walked along briskly, their breath feathering the air with billowing plumes. Farther along, down at the river, the water reflected the last vestiges of fall color, and breathed wraiths of fog that swirled and glowed in the morning light. Concealing. Revealing. Overhead, a flock of geese flew by, underlit by the rising sun. I took it all in, entranced by the beauty, and thankful that I’d finally noticed the gift of this morning.

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    November Morning

        The rising sun gilds the treetops’
remnant bronzy leaves
and warms the bellies
of low-flying geese
to amber glow

(c) Molly Hogan, 2017

Jama Rattigan is hosting Poetry Friday today at her delicious blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. She always serves up a feast, so be sure to drop by and enjoy today’s offerings!