Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Let there be light!

Have you noticed the extraordinary light during this time of late autumn? I hope the above photos give a visual hint of my joyful experience with it. The light is dazzling! The deciduous trees, now bare of leaves, have opened up the sky above, making it feel close enough to touch; I am right there, in it. When I am walking in woods, I can see so far and wide, the world seems to go on forever. I am riveted by the burst of shadows everywhere, as if they have leapt into and onto the sunlight. On the creek near my home, it is hard to distinguish between the reflections and the trees on the shoreline, the images are this bold and clear. Truly, autumn light is lovely.

Yes, for sure, I am colder at this time of year, needing too many layers of clothes. 
Yes, certainly, evening comes too quickly, much earlier than I want it to be so dark. 
Yes, without a doubt, I have anxiety about what winter will bring, with its increased isolation during this time of pandemic. 

But, wow, the middle of the day in late autumn, when the sun is out - this is a time of sheer beauty. The light is unexpectedly embracing. This here and now - it is something to treasure.

I hope you are surrounded by this light, too.


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!


Wednesday, November 18, 2020


For this fifth and final day of the  November 5 Day OpenWrite with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA, the inspiration was "heal."  I decided to write to this additional inspiration that was offered - 

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:


Indigenous, American

terrorizing, displacing, racializing 

disease, abuse, transparency, justice

examining, rethinking, transforming

acknowledgeable, thorough


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:

Sharon B.

I love this, Maureen. A very straightforward description of the direction our country needs to go in. I read this morning that Biden is considering appointing Deb Haarland, a native American, as Secretary of the Interior. I hope we see positive changes like this…

Glenda M. Funk Maureen,
I just started reading Eric Gansworth’s memoir “Apple: Skin to the Core” yesterday, and your poem mirrors so much of his story. The words that capture our history Best are “terrorizing, displacing, racializing.” I really struggle w/ the holiday traditions and need to revisit that NYT article about why NAs celebrate Thanksgiving.

Jordy B 
Maureen, I agree with your beginning statement of how much healing has occurred in its own way throughout these past 5 days. I agree with the direction you are seeking our nation to go. Beautifully worded!

Anna Roseboro From hurting to healing, with chosen words that show feeling that sends us kneeling in thanks for Thanksgiving.
We have time to thanks each contributors for speaking truth in love!

Savannah Blue Gordon Maureen, I like that you centered the experience of Indigenous Americans first before talking about how to go about healing. The first step in healing is witnessing, listening, and acknowledging what has caused harm. Thank you for your honesty and hope.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Imperfect wonder

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 


take a




look again

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:

Glenda M. Funk

This is truly beautiful. The way you personify nature speaking in

tired world is
take a

offers permission to pause, reflect, and heal. I love the last line, too. It’s cathartic in its purpose:

write into this imperfect wonder

Amanda Potts, who sometimes writes in this group, posts pictures each day from her walks. All summer she shared flower images on FB and IG. Lately she’s shared dying flower, leaves, and other images revealing the beauty of a tired world. Your poem honors this fall beauty. 

Erica J How lovely to take us through this walk in the woods. I love how as the poem got shorter, it matched the scenery around you also “waning” — it was prefect! And then when it starts to expand again you bring this hope to the poem. I really appreciated that twist.

I absolutely love the line ‘write into this imperfect wonder” — that aspect of nature is my favorite to capture as well

Thank you for sharing this poem!

gayle sands

Maureen—I needed this. In the last week, three close friends have lost—or are losing—family members. I need some solace.

Complicated joy

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.


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

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?




Here are the comments I received on the Ethical ELA website:

Barb Edler

Maureen, oh my gosh, I totally love your poem. I can feel your desire for that sign. What a wonderful gift you gave in being there for your beloved (grandmother?). The beauty of the end is heart-wrenching, and your final three words are so powerful! Tears! I hope you receive your sign!!! Hugs!

Maureen Young Ingram My father died. Thank you for this!

Barb Edler

Maureen, thanks for your note. I’m so sorry for your loss!

Glenda M. Funk

Your words are so ethereal, and I know cathartic for you. Your poem is a lovely companion to Susie’s. There’s an inherent peacefulness to this time w/ your father, and to the waiting. Sending love and light to you.

gayle sands

Maureen—You alongside me. Beauty and love. Your soft, loving poem for your grandmother touched me. So glad you could be there for her—and for you.

Emily Cohn

This one got me “right in the feels” as the kids would say. I really connected with your last two stanzas, and that hope/wish for a sign, a connection. Really beautifully done.

Susie Morice

Oh, Maureen – losing your dad .. and now during these crappy Covid months is just a heartbreaker. The gentle holding of his hand was the most poignant image. The questions in the last half are very real as we make sense of the loss. The sense that loss feels final but our hearts carry so much more. Those signs sneak up in us. It always surprises me, and I kinda like that. I sure am sorry you had this loss during this crummy isolating time. Hugs, Susie

Nancy White

Maureen, my heart is breaking. I know what loss is and the waiting to receive a sign. “ I sit now
waiting to receive.
Moon or sun?
Wind or rain?
Bird or butterfly?
Fallen tree on the forest path?”
This struck a deep chord in me. Signs do come along the way; I think you will see them. Blessings and peace to you! 

Stacey Joy

Whew, Maureen, this is a powerful poem. I feel so many emotions in the first stanza that reminded me of the end of days with my loved ones. But your second stanza is magical and special because it calls for supernatural power. It can happen. I believe. Thank you for sharing such an intimate time with us.

Gail Aldous

Maureen, such beauty, power, and, emotion in your poem. I relate to your words because I lost my mother a little over a year ago. I remember waiting for signs. I love your whole poem, but “Moon or sun? Wind or rain? Bird or butterfly?
Fallen tree on the forest path? you alongside me” goes right to my heart. Wow.

Gail Aldous

Maureen, I also want to say I am sorry for the loss of your father. I also want to say thank you for your sharing healing poem.