January 10, 2017

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Poem 1 for Saturday, January 7, 2017

Was it a “God-wink?”

An alignment of stars?

A serendipitous coincidence?

I don’t know, but

What I do know

Is that while

Driving home from yoga,

The happy, unplanned

Sighting of my son

Showing his son

The wondrous, unplanned

Sighting of deer

(In a snowstorm

On Woodford Road)

Was about the best

Thing

That has happened

In

A

Very

Long

Time.

Poem 2 for Saturday, January 7, 2017

They stopped by woods on a snowy

Morning.

By chance, I passed by.

“Why are you here, Grandma?”

I answered,

“Because I love you,”

But what I meant to say was

Generations of our family

Have found solace

In the sight of a deer.

 

January 3, 2017

WALK.

It’s one of the earliest things we learn to do.

Variations come with certain ages and change the perspective one might have about walking. Our walk might change by choice, or not by choice.

WALK (Verb: to move along on foot): Saunter. Stroll. Climb. Hike. Limp. Rush. March. Pace. Tread. Amble. Trudge. Meander. Plod. Prance. Shuffle. Strut.

Then, there is WALK (Noun: a discipline): the way to go, the course to follow, the line, the terrain, the path.

And WALK (Noun: a pathway): aisle, avenue, boardwalk, byway, crossing, footpath, mall, promenade, sidewalk, trail.

Scriptures learned come to mind as I consider WALK:

“walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

“walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31)

“yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalms 23: 4)

And a favorite poem:

Velvet Shoes (by Elinor Wylie)

Let us walk in the white snow

In a soundless space;

With footsteps quiet and slow,

At a tranquil pace,

Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,

And you in wool,

White as white cow’s milk,

More beautiful

Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town

In a windless peace;

We shall step upon white down,

Upon silver fleece,

Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:

Wherever we go

Silence will fall like dews

On white silence below.

We shall walk in the snow.

 

In 2017, I am choosing WALK as my OLW to guide me. I want to walk physically for a healthier body and clearer mind on familiar and unfamiliar paths. I want to walk peacefully with my family and friends. I want to walk softly, with awareness of the feelings of others.  I want to walk resolutely toward new learning and growth in my walk as teacher and learner. I want to walk gratefully for all that is good. And if there is snow (and I hope there will be), I’ll walk lovingly in velvet shoes.

December 6, 2016

I drove down Lawyers Road as sleet tickled my windshield. The trees stood bare and black in the dim morning light against the low, gray sky. I noticed the brilliant green underbrush, the new growth of summer, now able to get the light needed for sustaining tender shoots through the winter. I thought how the mature trees shed their leaves creating a protective cover on the ground and allowing light to shine on younger, tender plants. I thought of nature’s kindness to let the small ones keep their leaves a little longer.

This image stayed with me all day. It seemed to be a message of hope. A reminder that with loss comes the opportunity for new growth. An example of sacrifice and service so quietly and perfectly executed. I’m grateful.

November 29, 2016

This fall our third through fifth grades agreed to participate in the Global Read Aloud by reading PAX by Sara Pennypacker during October and November.  Most classes finished reading yesterday. I was fortunate to be asked to read aloud to a fourth grade class. (As a reading specialist, I haven’t had the opportunity to read a whole novel to a class in a very long time). What an amazing experience it has been to share this novel with students! They were able not only to follow the story, but also were able to think deeply, feel empathy for Pax and Peter, and ask interesting questions that stretched all of us.

Today, we had the privilege of participating in a 45-minute Skype session with Sara Pennypacker, the author of PAX. The whole 4th grade gathered in the library. Sara talked for about 20 minutes about her “writerly life.” Here are some of the points I want to remember:

  • She was happy to speak to 4th graders to encourage them to keep growing as writers so that perhaps one or more might become the storytellers of the next generation. She said all generations need to create storytellers so that the stories will remain and not be lost.
  • She encouraged them to write about their passions, which we have heard before, but then she qualified it by saying that she didn’t just mean writing about the things we love.  She included anger, fear, hate, obsessions, as well as love in her list. In fact, two very different passions inspired PAX. She said that her sense of wonder at the bonds that can be forged between children and animals, both pets and wild, was one driving force in the story. The other passion was the anger, frustration, and outrage at the outcomes of war and the 30 million children who are currently homeless due to war. She said in the history of the world, children have never waged war. It has been the adults who go to war while much of the suffering of war is born by children.
  • She talked personally about her writing process and described how she is always working as a writer no matter where she is. She worked on PAX for seven years. The first year was all inner rehearsal–no words put on the page for a year! I loved how she was open about needing to create a quiet space where she could be comfortable (in her jammies) and how she uses her time swimming to shut out the world in order to be able to imagine more deeply. We all need quiet to be able to access our imagination in meaningful ways.
  • She encouraged us to find an activity that allows us to access our own creativity.
  • All you need is a pen and paper.
  • She talked about her decisions as a writer. The original manuscript for PAX was twice as long as the original. For several years, she read, revised, and recreated her scenes, characters, and word choice. She was intentional about keeping a reference to time and place out of the story because she wanted each reader to sense that “this could happen here.” She felt that if we could tie the setting to a specific time in the past or future, we might dismiss the story as not relevant.
  • The students mentioned a metaphor she used near the end of the story when Pax gently put his teeth on Peter’s wrist. She was so happy they noticed it, and she said it was one of her favorite metaphors. She called it “a bracelet of teeth.” She said metaphors have to work, not only to accurately describe something, but also to bring the desired emotional connection. I think she hit mastery with that one.
  • The students wanted to know if she planned a sequel. Again, she related the intentional decision to end the book where she did so that all readers could have the story live within them as they worked out for themselves what would be the next consequence of the last paragraph.

I’m happy tonight to have had the experience of reading with children and the opportunity to share in their thinking. So many times a student would make a comment or ask a question that took us to a new level of understanding. I’m also so happy tonight for the gift of writers who are willing to take 45 minutes on a Tuesday morning to talk with 75 fourth graders and their teachers.

November 1, 2016

Recently, some of you may have seen this quote by Shannon Hale on www.goodreads.com:

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

I love the image. It gives me motivation to keep shoveling.  Some days the tool might be a bobcat; some days, a garden shovel; some days, a spoon.

The image reminds me of the young writers I work with in first grade. They are teaching me so many lessons. Every time I think I’ve broken down a lesson into small enough bites, I’m aware that there are more lessons embedded inside. Usually, I find I’ve made assumptions such as the small one which came up today. I learned that a lesson needed for some students is how to use a stapler and to staple on the left so the writing opens like a book. It seems like just a small spoonful, but it matters.

As we come to the end of the first quarter, I’m noticing that the work to build community is paying off in increased engagement, stamina, and improved partner talk. As we move forward with more personal narrative, I’m excited to help them get shoveling so their castles can take form.

 

 

October 18, 2016

I’m writing tonight to make a commitment to myself to write a piece about the decimation of the hemlock groves in the Shenandoah National Park. I hiked Dark Hollow Falls recently and missed seeing the hemlock groves that used to line the trail. This is a place that I have loved and cared about since first hiking there in 1970. It’s late tonight, but I was telling my friend, Sally, about my experience and she inspired/challenged me to write. I’m going to take her challenge and this is my promise to me.

September 27, 2016

“Autumn is a second spring when all the leaves are flowers.” (Albert Camus)

I love this quote because even though fall is a time of letting go, I find it is a time when parts of me come alive. The savory smells, warm colors, crisp mornings, and busy squirrels are restorative even as they remind me that preparations for winter must be made. I love the sense of hanging on to the last bit of warmth, the last leaf, the close wrapping of sweaters around the soul. Perhaps it is the reflective nature of fall that makes it a hopeful time for me.

My 9th grandchild was born last Friday (9/23). With his birth came the reminder that love and forgiveness are powerful beyond our understanding. Love has its seasons and its autumn can bring a second spring.