Reflection and Transformation

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Year end craziness is in full swing and I find myself reflecting, thinking of best intentions, lost opportunities, dropped balls and fresh slates. This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Karen Edmisten. Click here to visit her site and to check out more poems.

Reflecting

I once knew a woman
who was asked
“If you could change anything,
what would you change
about yourself?”
and she answered
with no hesitation
“Nothing”
Her words stunned me
imprinted in my mind
to be recalled now
years later
while I ponder
who I am
and who I would be
and the chasm of distance
between them

©2018 M. Hogan

The following poem was inspired by my current dandelion obsession and a prompt in poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. She suggests that you focus on an object, then name it, compare it, and ask it to bring you something you need.

Oh, Dandelion
moored in emerald seas
with bold, golden blossom sail
tossing in springtime breeze
soil-bound by roots, tapped deep
held fast, yet straining to soar
you transform, break barriers,
take flight as light as a wish
dancing on the edge
of dreams

Bring me
your
strength
your
whimsy
and
your
ability
to reinvent yourself

©2018 M. Hogan

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Thoughts on “Put Down the Duckie”

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hRecently, a Facebook friend posted an “All-Star” version of the Sesame Street favorite, “Put Down the Duckie.” You remember the song, right? I mean, who can forget Ernie (Jim Henson) and Mr. Hoots (Kevin Clash) jammin’ to “Put Down the Duckie?” That song has serious ear worm potential!

(You can find the full lyrics here:   https://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/s/sesamestreetlyrics/putdowntheduckielyrics.html)

I listened (’cause who could resist?) and immediately my day brightened. This is such an upbeat song!  But as I bellowed along, grooving with Mr. Hoots and Ernie, I had a sudden random thought: Is there a greater message in this song? Is Ernie’s beloved duckie a symbol or metaphor?

You know the narrative, right? Ernie wants to play the sax and he can’t. He keeps getting a “silly squeak” when he tries, so he appeals to Mr. Hoots for advice. You know he just needs to put down that duck! Mr. Hoots tells him that, too. But Ernie is having a hard time following that advice.

Mr. Hoots laments,
“You didn’t hear a word I said
You gotta get it through your head
Don’t be a stubborn cluck
Ernie, lay aside the duck!”

I started to wonder: How often am I like Ernie? How often do others, who look at me, know exactly what I need to do, and I miss it entirely? Like Ernie, do I cling to those comfortable ways, happy in my little ruts, sticking to the safe and well-traveled paths, and sabotage my own attempts to try something new?  I’m not trying to argue that I shouldn’t build on what is working or what I already know, but sometimes when I hold onto my own “duckies” so tightly, couldn’t I be preventing myself from fully investing  in new experiences?

Mr. Hoots puts it best:

“You’ll never find the skill you seek
Till you pay your dues

Though you’re blessed with flying fingers
When you wanna wail, you’re stuck
What good are flying fingers
If they’re wrapped around a duck?”

Meaningful growth does not come without some discomfort and risk. Maybe Mr. Hoots is reminding me how important it is to move boldly out of my comfort zones, stretch myself, and fly! Or play the sax, as the case may be. Now, there’s a message.

Alternatively, this song could simply serve as a reminder to focus on doing one thing at a time. How often do I try to multi-task and end up doing nothing well? Focus on one thing at a time. Put down the duck to play the saxophone. At this time of year, that’s a message I need to hear!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as Mr. Hoots points out to Ernie, “You don’t have to lose your duck. You can pick it up when you’re finished.”

“I can?” Ernie responds. “Oh, wow!” Then he throws his duckie over his shoulder and launches into exuberant saxophone playing…sans squeak!

So, now that I’ve absorbed some words of wisdom from Mr. Hoots, I’m off to listen to Oscar the Grouch sing “I Love Trash.” I’m wondering whether there might be a recycling message in there…

Dandelion Extravaganza

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“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne

This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about dandelions (to see a previous post and my favorite dandelion picture ever, click here). Every year they delight me more, and this year, it seems like there’s been a bumper crop. I’ve been more fascinated than ever and I’ve taken picture after picture of them in all different stages, from all different angles. It’s addictive! I’ve also been having a lot of fun reading and writing dandelion inspired poetry.

This Valerie Worth poem is one of my perennial favorites. (Get it? lol)

dandelion

Out of
Green space,
A sun:
Bright for
A day, burning
Away to
A husk, a
Cratered moon:

Burst
In a week
To dust:
Seeding
The infinite
Lawn with
Its starry
Smithereens.

~Valerie Worth

And here is a new favorite of mine, discovered this spring in my dandelion mania.

I Wandered Lonely as a … Dandelion?
by William Barton

A plague on your daffodils, Mr Wordsworth.
Granted, daffodils look very fine – harbinger of spring and such,
But they just stand about admiring themselves
or head-tossing and fluttering in a freezing gale,
and you can buy a pot in any corner shop.

The trouble with daffodils is that they turn up
at such a miserable time of the year – snow, ice, fog etc –
season of flu and fruity cold-full-ness.
As a countryman you should have written a poem about
“a crowd, a host of…dandelions”

(click here to read the remainder of this delightful poem)

And here are two of my recent efforts.

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Spangle a spring meadow
Sway in a breeze
Tap deep into soil
Nourish the bees

Gather your energy
Pucker up tight
Then burst into seed and
Launch into flight

©2018 M. Hogan

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Meadow Genie

Sun-lit dandelion
Shakes out her gossamer skirts
Poised to grant wishes

©2018 M. Hogan

If you’re not suffering from dandelion fatigue yet, here’s a time-lapse video of a dandelion moving through its life cycle. I could watch it again and again! (and have!)

Finally, here are some of my favorite dandelion photos.

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Kiesha Shepard is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup on her blog, Whispers from the Ridge. She’s sharing a beautiful summer poem and links to more poetic treats.

One Child–Two Moments

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hLast month as I walked down the hallway to pick my students up from lunch, X swirled like a dervish down the hall.

“Mrs. Hogan! Mrs. Hogan!” he cried.

“X,” I said, “What’s up? Why aren’t you at lunch?”

“But there are chicks!” he cried. “You have to see!” He grabbed me by the arm, tugging me toward a nearby room.

“Ok! Ok!” I said, laughing and moving into the room.

He pulled me over to the incubator. “Look! This one just got out! Oh! This one’s all fluffy now! ” He pointed. “And here’s a beak over here! Do you see it? Do you see it? Right here!” He pointed again.

He warbled with excitement and practically danced up and down, moving around the incubator, peering in from different angles.

“Aren’t they cute?” he asked, beaming from ear to ear.

We admired the chicks together for a minute or two. X chattered on, sharing all the changes that had occurred since he’d last visited them, apparently on the way in from recess. I finally had to drag us both away to get on with the day.

About 45 minutes earlier on the way to recess, X had shuffled along beside me.

“My dad had to get a new chip,” he said. “He has to start again.” He looked up at me and paused. “He didn’t stay clean and serene.”

“Oh, X, I’m so sorry,” I said, at a loss for words, knowing his father had just returned from six weeks of rehab. I took a deep breath and muttered some more inadequate words of encouragement–something about every day being a new day and his dad having lots of support. Stupid empty words. My heart ached.

We neared the door to the playground, and he looked down at his hand, revealing a small object.

“Why’d I bring this?” he wondered aloud. “I don’t want to lose it outside.”

“I can put it in your cubby,” I volunteered, thankful to be able to do something concrete to help this child.

He dropped the object in my palm and headed outside to recess. I looked down at the item in my hand. It was a small, white, plastic keychain. On one side it was emblazoned with shiny gold letters. NA. Narcotics Anonymous. I turned it over and read the motto.  “One day at a time.”

For a brief moment my hand clenched fiercely on that keychain. I felt its edges dig into my palm. I wanted nothing more than to hurl it down the long hallway and out the front doors. I imagined the force of my throw sending it blazing through the air far away from the school, far away from X, far away from all these innocent children.

Instead, I walked back to the classroom and carefully put it into X’s cubby.

The first thing he did when returning to the classroom was to check that it was there, waiting for him.

Unfortunately, I think it always will be.

 

Window Poem: Circle of Life

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In May at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty, she and Julie Fogliano challenged writers to look out their windows and write a poem about what they saw. They decided to call these poems, Window Poems.

I spend a lot of time looking out my window and enjoy a beautiful view that often distracts me from whatever I should be doing.  This poetry challenge was right up my alley! I expected I would write something about the bird play at the feeders, the deer slipping through the trees, or even the solo turkey who’s been visiting us lately. Or perhaps I would write about the early morning moon shining through the dark branches, the silhouette of the barn roof at sunset, or the colorful blossoms emerging in the garden. I’m so often inspired by the beauty I see outside my window, especially at this time of year; It’s familiar writing territory for me.

Instead, one recent morning I found myself writing this:

Circle of Life

Outside my window
morning light grows
the glassy-eyed chipmunk
yesterday’s gift from my cat
still lies on the granite step

Last night
snarls ripped through
the dark
My fervent calls
yielded no response
just furtive rustling
in the shadowed woods
I slipped back indoors
into uneasy sleep

Outside my window
morning light grows
the chipmunk remains
My cat does not appear

© 2018 M. Hogan. All rights reserved.

 

Notes: Thankfully my cat did return much later that day with her confident strut intact and with nary a scratch. As you can see, she’s determined to be an outside cat. When we met her at the shelter, she’d been isolated from the other cats, because she kept opening the doors to the cat rooms, freeing herself and all the other cats!

 

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Buffy Silverman at Buffy’s Blog. She’s sharing a wonderful shape poem inspired by the flurry of maple seeds helicoptering through her Michigan skies. Stop by to check out her delightful poem and to visit others as well.

On the Brink of Wonder

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In class we’ve been using Robert Frost’s “Dust of Snow” as a mentor poem. We’ve read it and discussed it many times.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Among other things, we’ve discussed the idea that this poem shows how a small thing can have a big effect or greater significance. That there are potential small turning points throughout the day, and an unexpected moment, or interaction, can turn a day around, from regret to joy. I love the idea that when you are open to it, a moment–just a moment–can shift the mood of a day. Like Frost, for me that shift often involves an outdoor setting (or view) and a flash of feathers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about potential and the sense of possibility that is so pervasive in nature–at the feeders, at a vernal pool, in a meadow at dusk, by the bay at dawn, outside my window. The constant wonder–What will happen next? What will I see? What beauty will unfold? It seems to me that when surrounded by nature, you’re always on the brink of wonder. Something isn’t there. And then it is. Often it always was there, but you just hadn’t noticed it, or paid attention. If you can just sit still long enough…

As E.B. White wrote, “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.” I’ve become increasingly aware that when you’re open and attentive to the world around you, there is always potential for “something to happen” or something to emerge and for a small jolt of joy to reset or enrich your day.

Yesterday, I woke thinking about the beautiful female Baltimore Oriole who’s been visiting my house lately, tempted by spring temperatures and juicy oranges. We’ve had Baltimore Orioles pass through before, but much to my delight, this one has been lingering. I wondered if and when she might appear. I settled into working, but looked out the window intermittently. Sure enough, just as I was starting to feel the weight of upcoming due dates and general year-end craziness, I looked up from my papers, and there she was, in all her glory. She perched by the orange, content to sit and intermittently dine on strands of juicy pulp. Just like that my worries receded, my heart was lifted and my day improved. A moment–just a moment–can shift the mood of a day.

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Update:  As I was revising this post this morning, I was messaging with my daughter about her being sick (nothing serious), health insurance when out-of-state, and some financial stuff. I felt my shoulders tense and stress settle in.

A flash of movement outside caught my eye, and once again, there was the oriole, her beautiful orange and brown plumage glowing amidst the springtime greenery. Instantly, I smiled and felt lighter, and so grateful. I’m starting to feel such a sense of kinship with this bird!

I suddenly remembered a friend who was into animal totems. She’d told me that Native Americans believed that when you repeatedly see an animal, there can be meaning in that sighting. Impulsively, I googled oriole and totem and found this: “Oriole shows new occurrences in life and brings a sense of joy to the world. He helps discover the inner child and the relation to all things in the nature realm. Orioles have a beautiful song and will teach you to sing your own song from the tree tops.” Hmmmm….

Rivers and Bridges

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“The air smelled like Bayou Teche when it’s spring and the fish are spawning among the water hyacinths and the frogs are throbbing in the cattails and the flooded cypress.”
James Lee Burke, Creole Belle

Margaret Simon and I were e-mailing a month or so ago, and Margaret, typically, had a brainstorm. Why don’t we exchange photos and write poems in response to them? I was immediately on board with this idea. Then, she called it “More Than Meets the Eye” and opted to open it up to a wider audience and have participants share when she posted the Poetry Friday Roundup on May 25th. The game was on!

Margaret organized it all and matched up participants from different geographic areas. She sent me two photos of her beloved Bayou Teche, and then, after agonizing over which pictures to send, I finally sent my photos to her as well. (I can’t wait to read her poetic response!)

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Photo of the Bayou Teche by Margaret Simon

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Photo of the Bayou Teche and the Duperier Street Bridge by Margaret Simon

True confession: The photos are beautiful, but I have struggled with my response. I’ve been all over the place. My first thoughts involved bridges and the nature of bridges. I was intrigued by the idea that the convenience of bridges comes with a cost–a loss of intimacy with the river.

I initially thought I’d try a rondel (roundel?) but wow..that is hard! This is as close as I got and I keep playing around with it. The challenge of the form appeals to and frustrates me.

Hidden Tolls

Each bridge we traverse has a toll
for spanning river’s flowing course
for circumventing nature’s force
for flying o’er shadow and shoal

Intent and focused on our goal
we sow the first seeds of remorse
Each bridge we traverse has a toll
for spanning river’s flowing course

We see one path but not the whole
as we forget about our source
and from our roots ourselves divorce
We lose touch with the river’s soul
Each bridge we traverse has a toll

©2018 M. Hogan

Next I tried a nonet, but that one just fizzled…

I shifted my focus and thought about rivers, and again, I was struck by an inherent duality–their potential as blessing and curse. Fertility and flooding. I also thought of the role that rivers have played in history and how they symbolize the inexorable flow of time. I learned that the name Teche is thought to have come from the Chitimacha Indian’s word for snake, a reference to its twisting, turning course. I played around with that metaphor poem for a while, but didn’t gain any traction. I tried a mask poem as well “I bore witness to gunboat duels and hardscrabble poverty…”

Then, Margaret wrote a comment in response to my Poetry Friday post last week. I’d shared two poems focused on adjusting to the empty nest at home. Margaret wrote, “Life’s changes can make us sad and lonely.” That line reminded me of my thoughts of the river, how it’s so much more peripheral to our lives than it once was (echoes of empty nest here), and I thought perhaps I could use that line to compose a golden shovel.

Forgotten Like a River Under a Bridge

Once central to the pulse and flow of life’s
daily activity, now its changes
are peripheral, casually observed, if at all. A bridge can
span its flow in seconds, avoiding twists, turns and tumult, and make
a straight, safe shot. Convenient, but divorcing us
from communion with the inexorable flow. The sad
truth is that much is lost when we don’t meander and
remember. I wonder…can a river feel lonely?

©2018 M. Hogan

“Life’s changes can make us sad and lonely.” Margaret Simon

Thanks, Margaret, for creating a wonderful challenge, and for the inspiration for a golden shovel. I’ve so enjoyed this journey! Thanks also for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week. To see what photos I sent to Margaret and how she responded, or to check out a plethora of photo poetry and more, go visit Reflections on the Teche.