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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Today is a busy day.  I am preparing for a dinner party tonight as well as a backyard wedding in one week.

Currently:

Baking lemon squares: I don’t bake very regularly.  The new mixer I bought at Christmas was still in the box.  Also, I don’t follow directions well.  I expressed my frustration at having to re-read the directions, and my husband said, “You just don’t like anyone telling you what to do.  Even when it’s a recipe.” He’s right, I guess.  Nevertheless, said lemon squares are currently making my kitchen smell fresh and lemony.

Arranging flowers: I love buying cheap flowers at the grocery store.  I feel like I am rescuing them from a terminal life in the garbage bin.  Yellow-orange tulips and white carnations are currently brightening up the kitchen and dining tables.

Cleaning cat litter: I will spare you the details.

Reading blog posts: The Slice of Life Challenge is well on its way, and I am finding so many great posts to read.  I secretly wish I could sit here all day and read and comment.  But the floor needs sweeping and the bathrooms need a once over before guests arrive.

Cuddling Charlie: Charlie is a cuddle-dog, a nine-year-old schnauzer/ poodle mix, a schnoodle.  Currently, he has an infected mole on his face that needs to be surgically removed on Monday, so I am giving him lots of hugs and kisses.

Opening the doors: The spring air is fresh and warm.  The sun is shining.  The trees are reaching out for green, green, green.  We’ve added more plants to the deck in preparation for the wedding.  They make me happy.  A shasta daisy that I thought died in the freeze is pushing out red blossoms.

Writing and thinking about writing:  This SOL challenge has my mind always thinking about writing. Ideas float around like butterflies.  Every day I look forward to opening the blank blog page and writing.  After 6 years of this practice, I am finally feeling like I can do this.  (Tomorrow may be a different story.)

Celebrating: Each week I join Ruth Ayres blog round up of celebrations.  Having a practice of looking for celebration nurtures a positive, grateful outlook.  Here are some pictures from my week.

Time change means dark morning walks with the moon lighting my path.

The “big whopping dictionary” an antique two-volume dictionary that we used to find root words for fractal poems.

 

Found this watching minion rock at a local restaurant.

My neighbor fed a group of visiting students from Arcadia University. She invited friends to help teach them how to peel crawfish. They quickly got the hang of it and dug right in.

I decided to go all out for St. Patrick’s Day, all the way to green eyelashes.

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Poetry Friday is with Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

 

Do you know what a fractal is?  I had a vague idea, but certainly didn’t know enough to teach my students about them.  Nonfiction books are wonderful ways to introduce new concepts to students.  At the SCBWI MS/LA regional conference last weekend, I ran into Sarah Campbell.  Her most recent book caught my eye and my curiosity. I knew it was be a favorite in my classroom.

Sarah describes fractals through photographs and simple descriptions.

Every fractal shape has smaller parts that look like the whole shape. Fractals are everywhere in nature, and can form in different ways. A tree is a fractal. It starts with one shape that changes in the same way over, and over, and over again.

–Sarah Campbell, Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractal in Nature

 

 

dill flowers by Sarah Campbell

I wondered aloud with my students if there would be a poetry pattern designed after fractals, as we have Zeno poems from J. Patrick Lewis and Fib poems from Greg Pincus and others that come from mathematical patterns.  We did a quick Google search and a poetry exercise evolved.

Fractal poem: Choose a root word.  List words that use that root.  Create a poem that uses one of your words in each line.

Frag

By Madison

A frag of hope
in the fragment of
a diamond,
sparkling
and flaring
like a
fragile
piece of
orange glass
a fragrance
of a delicious
orange.

Enlighten Poem

by Andrew

There is lightning in every storm
which is a light
of hope
and in every lighted room
there is faith.
And in every room is a child
enlightened by a night-light.
And all the moonlight that shines
on this Earth, there is life.

Hope

by Margaret Simon

Hope is in the seed
Food of hope within
Hoping light will shine
Enter my hopeful seed
Hopefulness, dance with me
Take hopelessness away
Grow more hopeful in each day
Hope is in the seed.

Click here to read my students’ posts on Kidblog.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Today is the first day of March, and I decided I would take the plunge once again into the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge. This will be my 6th year doing this daily writing challenge. My purpose is completely selfish. I want to continue my connection with the wonderful, kind, and intelligent community of Slice of Life. After 6 years, I’ve made friends. And we stay in touch with each other through our blog posts.

I have been writing long enough to know that writing every day is a discipline that builds my writing muscles. I will be writing for myself. I’m not saying that I am not aware of my audience. I am. But I rarely look at stats. I have to say I do get a charge when WordPress sends me a notification “Your stats are soaring!” Who wouldn’t?

I begin today with a photo essay of a walk in New Orleans City Park on Monday with my daughter and her dogs, Abby and Mabel. In this section of the park, there is an old concession stand. Who knows why it was built! There are no ball fields nearby, only walking trails. A sign in the stand told this tale:

The Coven Bar
Built by hand in 1854 by honorable member of L. Clamput Vitus, Mary Jones Thicklebrush. This bar was erected after she and her Bernese mountain dog, Helmut, rescued a drowning man from an alligator attack in the river behind it. May her bravery and her thick callused hands be remembered for all of time.

The Coven Bar, New Orleans City Park

The Coven Bar, New Orleans City Park

A Google search turned up nothing about this “bar” or any of the names mentioned.  It seems The Coven Bar is a gay bar in Berlin.  But that’s all I got.

Graffiti covers the structure.  A green Grinch-like hand holds a pink telephone with the quote, “You Go Girl!”

city-park-grafitti

go-girl

In my opinion, this graffiti is both ugly and beautiful.  While set in the midst of nature, grassy fields, draping oaks, bouquets of palms, this structure turns my attention away from nature to the irony of artistic expression.

What is the message here?

Is there any meaning in the artwork or the bogus tale of its origins?

I don’t believe the purpose here is political, but I may be missing something.  The painting is quite clever.  I wonder if it has any connection to the tale about Mary Jones Thicklebush.

We continued on our walk.  Abby and Mabel both enjoyed off leash time sniffing, running, and meeting other dogs.  (Abby is in the photo below.  Mabel is much larger and still young so she was too fast to capture.)

abby

This Slice of Life challenge makes me pay more attention.  I look at the day to day and ask questions, wonder, write randomly.  Some days I may come to some wisdom, but today is not one of them.  Some days there are no answers, only questions.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

For the last 13 years my father has created a drawing for my parents’ annual Christmas card.  In 2013, I published a small chapbook of his drawings along with poems that I wrote.  The book, Illuminate, seems to still be available on Amazon.

Earlier this week I visited my parents and talked to my dad about this year’s card.  This summer, my husband Jeff was building a pirogue in our carport.  When he was close to finishing, I took a picture and posted it on Facebook.

jeff-with-pirogue

 

The artist in my dad saw this image.

what-dad-saw

 

He emailed me and asked for the picture.  Then he blew it up and printed only the trees from the background.  These are crepe myrtle trees that are actually on the front of our house.

The photograph became the inspiration for his abstract drawing.  My dad works with pen and ink in pointillism.  Each drawing is a miracle.  I celebrate this creative gift.

John Gibson, 2016

John Gibson, 2016

 

Haiku #31

Happy New Year’s Eve!
Even trees have a party.
Sparks of light illume.

Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for the haiku-a-day challenge. I celebrate:

  • We lightened the world with our words.
  • We grew as a community of writers.
  • We made it.

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Poetry Friday is at Donna's site: Mainly Write

Poetry Friday is at Donna’s site: Mainly Write

In November at NCTE16, I was privileged to finally meet poet Jeannine Atkins.  I got a copy of her upcoming book in verse, Stone Mirrors.  I didn’t know what this book was about.  I just loved the cover.

stone-mirrors

 

The beauty of this book is on the inside and the outside.  Jeannine tells the story of Edmonia Lewis, a Objibwe-Haitian-American woman, who in 1862, had the rare chance to attend Oberlin.  While there, she became mixed up in a controversy over poisoning.  She was acquitted, but forced to leave the school.  Her future took her to Boston and Italy where she became a successful sculptor.

The facts, however, are not the important aspects of this story.  What I found intriguing was Jeannine’s unique way of writing story in verse.  As I read, I was drawn in  by the melody of the language as well as the fascinating story. I loved following Edmonia through her growing confidence as an artist and as a woman.  I wonder how Jeannine got into the mind of Edmonia.  How did she know the feel of the stone she carved?  “She hammers out stillness, holding a life in mid-speech or stride, like a deer between danger and trust.”

Intertwined into the story of Edmonia Lewis are lines of wisdom, carved into Jeannine’s poems like the images Edmonia carved in stone.

Broken Colors

Edmonia carves the smokey smell of drawing pencils,
like a burned-down fire, and hardening clay,
with its whiff of a pond bottom.  She goes to the art room,
where each mark on paper offers a new chance.
She has nothing left but hunger for beauty,
small as the tip of a paintbrush.

She wishes the stove were lit,
though if smoke rose she might not be alone.
She smashes ice that sheathes
a jar of water to rinse a paintbrush.
She no longer draws goddesses, gods,
or anyone in transformation.
White people think metaphor belongs to them.

She opens a cupboard with boxes
printed with names, none hers.
She reads them as if studying a map
of places no one expects her to see.
The shelves and boxes are divided
like classrooms where walls come between
art, poetry, and myth. In history class,
teachers separate the dead from the living.
All through the school, lines are drawn between
right and wrong, white and colored, rich and poor,
truth and lies, facts and dreams, courage and fear,
what belongs to one person and what doesn’t.
They forget that every time the wind blows,
the world asks everyone to bend.

from Stone Mirrors, Jeannine Atkins, January 2017

 

On a recent trip through New Orleans, we crossed the Hale Boggs Bridge. My daughter was driving, so I could take this amazing picture. As the time changes over to a new year, I contemplate what may lie ahead.

Towers reach for time Carved into parting clouds Tuning my future Margaret Simon #haikuforhealing

Towers reach for time
Carved into parting clouds
Tuning a future
Margaret Simon
#haikuforhealing

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Inspiration for today’s haiku came from my weekly email from Poets & Writers:

Poetry Prompt
“In the red room there is a sky which is painted over in red / but is not red and was, once, the sky. / This is how I live. / A red table in a red room filled with air.” Using these lines from Rachel Zucker’s “Letter [Persephone to Demeter]” as inspiration, write a poem where everything in the environment is red, as though the speaker is looking through red glass.

red-leaves

We search the dry land
for Persephone’s
majestic red shoes

–Margaret Simon

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Little blackbird fly; Find in me a soaring joy filling up the sky. Margaret Simon #haikuforhealing
Little blackbird fly;
Find in me a soaring joy
filling up the sky.
Margaret Simon
#haikuforhealing

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