Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
As an alternative and in the spirit of naming harm and cultivating healing, I invite you and your students to spend some time before Thanksgiving break disrupting the myths of the first Thanksgiving.
Furthermore, Dr. Donovan suggested we consider writing with the poetic form we didn't use yesterday... therefore I wrote a diamante poem (specifically, an "antonym diamante")- my first ever:
terrorizing, displacing, racializing
disease, abuse, transparency, justice
examining, rethinking, transforming
My goodness - this has been a fabulous five days, with so much reflection and deep writing. I have really enjoyed this poetic interlude!
Here are the comments I received on the Ethical ELA website for today's poem:
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Today is the fourth day of the November 5 Day OpenWrite with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA. Thus far, we have written in response to "thanks," "giving," and "receiving." Dr. Donovan continues this thoughtful series today with a focus on "breath" and her inspiration is:
Now, I invite you to name what you breathe in. What do you want to, need to breathe in, to receive (yes, return to yesterday’s poem)? This may be abstract or concrete.
And then name what you breathe out. This may be something toxic in your body or life that you want to expel, or it may be something that you are giving to others, the world. Perhaps what you exhale is a wish or a gift.
For the poem's structure, we were encouraged to try a nonet duo or a diamante. Both of these poetic structures are new to me. I decided to try the nonet duo, and I wrote about my forest walks. (These always help me to breathe!) Here is my poem:
walking through the forest in autumn
winds shifting branches with a groan
craggy old trees standing stark
sad crunch of leaves dying
light and warmth waning
tired world is
notice the worn
the broken branches
hear their groans as exhale
absorb how old trees stretch high
sun and shadows weave together
write into this imperfect wonder
Here are the comments I received on the Ethical ELA website:
I've heard that grief comes in waves, and I think ocean waves are a perfect metaphor. Think how the ocean changes day by day: some days, the ocean appears soft and gentle, another day the waves are light and merry, lapping at the shore. Some days, you find the ocean still and blue...no waves at all. This may feel peaceful, it may even feel a little sad. Of course, there are choppy waves, fitful bursts, smacking against the shore. Then there are those stormy times, waves fast, furious, capped in foam and blurred with debris and shifting sands...you can only wrap yourself up tightly and brace for the surge...knowing that calm will come again.
Our newborn granddaughter was getting her very first diaper change at home, and there we all were, oohing and aahing about her tiny and perfect features. Those feet and toes! Those hands, those fingers! Look, look at her fingernails, her wrist...small, delicate, detailed 'miniatures' of all that we are, such a miracle of life. We are so blessed. Her uncle noticed her little ears, so very tiny and precious, and I stepped closer. Ah, look! The detail, almost sculpted art, as if carved for a doll, mini and circular tunnels of flesh, so, so, small, so precious. "And look, Mom, they are flat, pressed against her head - I've heard that's a newborn thing, that they'll expand over the next weeks, plump out, as our ears do."
Coincidence of words...
look, Mom, they are flat, pressed against her head...
Instantaneously I was transported somewhere entirely different, as if lifted up and pulled under by a riptide...
look, they are flat, pressed against the head...
said the doctor at my father's deathbed, two months ago. "This is a sign that death is imminent. He is in transition." To hear these same words again, here with our new grandbaby, washed me right back to the nursing home with Dad, holding his hand, as he left this world. Leaving me breathless. Imagine, we come into and out of this world with our ears pressed flat against our heads...why? what does this mean? Full circle of life. Time is such a tender treasure.
What a wave of emotion followed, what a rushing ride I took, as I kept my happy poker face on - here, in this room, full of joy and celebration at the birth of this new precious soul. Everyone was full of good cheer, so excited to see this little bundle of love. I breathed in deeply, exhaled, trying to compose myself. I felt all jumbled and awash inside, in two places at once. I made chit-chat, light banter, and felt myself almost physically slipping away into another time and space.
Yes, immediately, another riptide.
I slipped instantaneously into this place of understanding about my mother's mental illness...her debilitating anxiety. My mother died two years ago. My mother - oh, my mother! She could not be hospitable. Seriously. Tales of her rude behavior are family legend. She shunned others, shunned social gatherings. She refused to acknowledge her mental illness, and we were left to experience it. When forced to be around others, she was frozen, or clip, cruel, and brusque with her words. She was so difficult to be around. Here I was, celebrating this beautiful new grandchild and I was yanked back some thirty years to my brother's engagement party - where Mom had sat like a sullen statue, completely apart from all of our jubilation, while sitting in our midst.
Clarity and insight - what if she was simply overcome with emotion inside? Like me, jumbled and awash? Feeling too much? Mom held the world at arm's length, pushing it away, really - perhaps uncomfortable feeling was the wall in-between. Fear of showing emotion, 'feeling too much,' and her ability to let go, an impossibility.
One more brutal wave of grief: why has it taken so long for me to feel compassion for her? Why do I feel empathy, see strength and possibility, imagine more complexity and dimension to her, now, after she has gone?
I think I have always imagined joy as clean-cut. The birth of a new baby - JOYOUS! In fact, it has been much more complicated, multifaceted, entangled. I am a mess with joy. For me, our new little one has been an "all at once" sensation - feeling simultaneously tremendous love, gifts, and blessings coupled with sorrow and pain of loss.
I find myself processing my childhood, my family, and my parents in new ways.
Birth and death, these are truly liminal experiences, times filled with vulnerability, rawness, not fully knowing. We go back and examine what happened before. It is a time of transcendence, revealing memories with new perspective, and a future unknown.
Who is this beautiful little being? What has she brought? We don't even know who she is, who she will be, how she will mold our hearts.
Waves fast, furious, capped in foam and blurred with debris and shifting sands...
I am awash.
Monday, November 16, 2020
On this third day of the November 5 Day OpenWrite with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA, the poetry inspiration was about 'receiving,' thinking about what I need most and how that might change things. When I sat down to write, I unexpectedly landed in reflection about my father's death. This poem emerged:
I sat alongside you
in mask and face shield
your last three weeks
holding and stroking your hand
listening to the playlist
I made for you
on the long car drive to your bedside
I sat alongside you
whispering love and comfort
reminding of our childhood antics
reassuring you of this life well lived
imagining Mom and Grandpa
waiting on the other side
I sat alongside you
in the nursing home
in this pandemic
thankful for this precious time together
I asked you
is there more?
how might you let me know?
come back to me somehow?
would you try?
will there be a sign?
I sit now
waiting to receive.
Moon or sun?
Wind or rain?
Bird or butterfly?
Fallen tree on the forest path?