An Angel Behind

A print of an old painting hangs on my wall. In the foreground, two children cross a rickety bridge. The big sister gently guides her little brother, her arm around his shoulder, her face turned toward him. If there were sound, I am sure it would be softly whispered words of encouragement. There is a little uncertainty in the boy’s expression, but still, there is a hint of a smile. Behind the children hovers an angel. She brings calm into the picture. Kindness beams from her face, and her hands reach protectively toward the children. Yet she allows the children to make their way on their own.

Who is that angel in your life?

(See the picture here.)

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It’s Hot, It’s Humid

We have been blessed with mild weather this summer. Some have complained it hasn’t really been summer weather at all. The forecasters have speculated endlessly about when or if we were going to hit the 90 degree mark. So far we still haven’t. But the last few days it has been hot. It has been humid. Clouds hung in the sky all day, bursting into pouring rain, thunder and lightning in the evenings.

Even when shut inside with air conditioning, the slightest exertion makes you drip with sweat. Open the door and step outside and you smack into a wall of thick, oppressive air. The rain has made the lawn turn into a jungle of tall, tall grass, but you wilt at the mere thought of pushing the mower over it.

Open the car door and the heat billows out almost visibly. You crank up the air conditioner to its highest setting so you can endure the ride. Driving past open spaces, you see fog clinging to the ground. You get out of the car and your glasses fog up so you can’t see.

Do you feel it? It’s hot. It’s HUMID. I am longing for the crisp cool days of autumn!

Posted in SOLSC 2014 Weekly | 2 Comments

Back to School

I’m in the midst of the whirlwind first days of school. To make this back to school crazier than usual, we are starting the year with a sub principal and minus two sixth grade teachers- no subs! So I temporarily became a 6th grade teacher, which is making the whirlwind seem like a hurricane. Still, I had a nice moment this afternoon.

I used a short passage from The House on Mango Street as a mentor text for writing about “My Name.” After the lesson, R came to me with a smile. “I read some of the stories in that book,” she said. I told her I had just started reading it, and that I especially enjoyed how the author wrote about each member of the family having different hair. Her favorite, she told me, is the lady who had too many kids.

It was a tiny slice of life, but I was impressed once again with an idea I believe… students respond when they see themselves and their culture in literature. Also, when we use mentor texts as a matter of fact and often, exchanges like this one become an exchange between two readers- equal contributors to the conversation. It made me smile!

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No Poem…Yet

An owl perched serenely on
a telephone wire.

This is a line from what I wrote last Tuesday for Slice of Life.

I’d love to see where an entire poem about the owl would go… :) These are words from Paul in a comment on the post. Since I read the comments, I’ve been thinking about where it would go…

I saw that owl so briefly. I was driving down the road. When I saw it, at first I didn’t really believe it was an owl. But the silhouette was so distinctive, I was convinced. It was near dusk, but it was still light out, so I think the sighting was somewhat unusual. I saw it turn its head- a movement which could only have been made by an owl, not another bird. Did I see enough in that short moment to write an entire poem? Was I observant enough, writerly enough? What was it I saw in the owl that led me to describe it as serene?

I think about the associations that might influence my writing about the owl. I think about the owl as a symbol of wisdom. I picture it sitting there on the wire, unperturbed by the traffic rushing by. Was the owl I saw wise?

I have some owl objects in my house, mostly things that my husband collected. A brass bell, shaped like an owl, which oddly has little plastic googly eyes glued on it. A small gourd decorated as an owl. A wood carving. These bring to mind where we were and happy times when we got them. I remember a book we both read quite long ago,I Heard The Owl Call My Name. The book links the owl and death. In the book, a young man dies. I think about how my husband had that owl bell at his bedside when he was fighting cancer and how he, too, died too young. Was the owl I saw a harbinger of death?

I wonder, if a poem takes shape, will it be just the tiny moment in which I saw the owl, or will it continue in imagination to see the owl take flight?

So, I am lost in thought, maybe getting snippets of ideas, phrases that might be right, but
no poem…yet…

Posted in animals, memories, poems, reflections, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Outside the City

I drove out to my sister’s in rural Indiana this afternoon. It isn’t far from the city, really- just a 45 minute drive. The scenery, though, is so different.

Corn stalks in the fields
stand taller than me,
Lush emerald rows of
soybeans hug the land,
Traffic slows as giant farm
machines cross the roads,
Signs sing the virtues of
home-grown produce and brown eggs,
Farmhouses, red barns and white
wooden churches still dot the landscape,
Horses and cows roam
the pastures,
An owl perched serenely on
a telephone wire.

My soul was refreshed
by the beauty.

Posted in SOLSC 2014 Weekly | 6 Comments

Lifelong Readers

I went to the library this morning to return some books. I almost didn’t go. The books were due today. I tried to renew online, but one of the books could not be renewed. I considered putting the trip off, since the fine for one book wouldn’t be much. Then it occurred to me that someone else must be waiting for that book. So I decided I would just run by the library and put the books in the drop box.

I got to the library and almost just slid the books into the drop box, but I went inside instead. I’m glad I did, or I would have missed it. I walked to the desk and spoke to the librarian to let her know about the book I couldn’t renew. As I turned to go, I saw it. The hope that motivates us as teachers.

A white-haired man pushed the button that automatically opens the door. He took slow, mincing- but determined and intentional steps into the library. His wife followed close behind. His progress was painfully slow, but he walked straight to the shelves that hold the large-print books. Once he was there, his wife left him on his own and he was just another reader, looking for a book.

Yet he seemed so much more to me. He is exactly what we hope our students will become- a lifelong reader. A reader who wants a book badly enough to get to the library even when it isn’t easy. So when I am back at school (in less than a month!) and my students are before me, I will close my eyes for just a moment and picture them older, much older- walking into the library.

And this morning, I didn’t rush out of the library as I had intended (after all, I always have something to read on my Kindle)- I took my time and walked out with a new stack of books.

Posted in reflections, school, SOLSC 2014 Weekly, thoughts on books | 5 Comments

Fortune Cookies

My sister said, “Let me take you to a new Chinese place.”

We turned into the parking lot of Walmart and the adjoining strip mall. I expected the usual hole-in-the-wall kind of place with a buffet. Not here, though. China Bistro instead is elegant inside. The décor is black, red, and gold. The dining room divided into sections by walls with lighted shelves displaying vases and artifacts. The menu has plentiful selections. The atmosphere is quiet with music playing softly in the background. The waitresses are polite and attentive. (And the restroom is immaculate.)

We enjoyed egg rolls as an appetizer. Just the right crispiness on the outside and steamy hot inside. Our entrees were Cashew Chicken and Pineapple Chicken (the special was any chicken dish, $7.95!- give us a break for the lack of variety). The Cashew Chicken was salty (not too much) and flavorful. The pineapple chicken was sweet (just right). They were served with steamed rice, the sticky kind…really, nothing can compare to rice that is cooked perfectly.

The waitress brought our fortune cookies as we were slowing down (we couldn’t eat everything, we each had a nice takeout box for the next day’s lunch). My sister cracked open her cookie, pulled the slip of paper out, and burst out, “Really!? That’s my fortune?”

“What?” I laughed. I am usually the queen of lame fortune cookies. I almost always get advice instead of a fortune.

“I am so glad to get out of that cookie,” she read, deadpan. “Really!?” she repeated.

Cackling, I opened mine. “A refreshing change is in your future.”

How about that?!

Posted in home and family, SOLSC 2014 Weekly | 8 Comments