Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The sundress

I rarely wear dresses. They are for special occasions only. These days of retirement and pandemic, hanging around the house day in and day out - ha! Dresses have been absolutely nonexistent in my life. Yesterday, on yet another quiet, happy day at home with my husband, I decided to wear a sundress. Who knows why? Some combination of summer weather and being tired of wearing the same clothes. I wish you could have seen my husband's look of surprise! So funny. He had forgotten I even owned the dress - I had not worn it in over three years. In fact, I'd only ever worn it once...

...which sent us down memory lane, and I landed in this free verse poem:

yesterday, I wore my sundress, 
this lovely sundress
bought three years ago 
our 30th anniversary trip 
to Costa Rica

yes, I wore it 
on this marvelous day 
of adventure
where we walked 
and walked 
and walked 

yes, I wore it
to find the bus stop 
near our cottage
down, down, down this long hill
past the simple homes 
of metal and wood 
so much green
so many flowers
gorgeous hills in the distance

yes, I wore it 
on the hot bus, 
sticky and full 
with so many beautiful locals 
a sense of their lives
their dailyness
their kindness
their joy

yes, I wore it 
to the town of Sarchi
where bright and beautiful 
wood oxcarts are made 
where we stood in the park 
eating yummy greasy 
chicken and yucca fries 
where we wandered 
the small shops and vendors 
searching for 
who knows what 
to treasure
where we heard the solitary guitar 
where we felt 
the beautiful breezes and 
the gentle sunshine

yes, I wore it 
back to Grecia, 
where we got lost 
searching for a bus 
to take us back up that hill
where locals at the gas station 
saw the confusion in our eyes
offered just enough 
sweet caring English
to insist on driving us 
to the bus station
so we jumped in their car 
our hearts full of trust

yes, I wore it 
as we drove
squished in 
beside two unknown others
in the backseat 
of a tiny old car
quickly quickly quickly 
across town
where we hugged goodbye
our dear old friends  
of five minutes

yes, I wore it 
as we ran 
jumped onto the departing bus
back up the long long long hill
where this time we knew
there was a closer stop 
an easier walk 
to our cottage

yes, I wore it 
returning to our home 
away from home
knowing so much more 
love and beauty
yesterday, I wore my sundress
and went back in time


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The alarm

The sound is stark, pulsating through my dreams and the surrounding darkness, blasting me into alertness - it was only 6 a.m., we're in a hotel room in the Smoky Mountains for a few days of hiking, and I am sorely confused. Why in the heck is a bedside alarm going off? I squinted and felt around in the dark for the alarm's off switch, and I'm now wide-awake. It's impossible to go back to sleep.

I suppose the previous hotel room guest accidentally set that alarm for us . . . not the kind of surprise one really desires on vacation, in my opinion. 

Though, it gave us an early start on our fun. We had a full first day in the mountains, enjoying a strenuous hike along waterfalls and taking in so many beautiful overlooks. We saw a bear! We saw elk! Yes, we are enjoying ourselves with a few days in delightful nature of Tennessee, followed by visits with family in Georgia. 

"By the way - wasn't that the worst, that early morning alarm?!" we complained, as we settled into bed that night. I double-checked that the alarm was off. Very quickly, we were both sound asleep.

Early the next morning, once again, I am awake much too early, struggling awake, surprised awake - this time, hearing some sort of muttering? a man's voice? complaining? drunk? angry? oh yes ANGRY! There's banging on the door, relentless banging. Wait, where am I? What time is it? I look at the clock 5:58am. This time, a human alarm. I'm sorely confused, but someone's words break through, someone in the hall - 


I hear the static of a walkie-talkie or radio or something, and rushing of footsteps in the hall. 

I jump up and run to the door and look out the peep hole, and see two Sheriff's deputies running past my hotel room door to a room diagonally across the hall. One stops directly in front of our room, I can read the letters emblazoned on his back - S H E R I F F. I freeze in place. Moments later, two pajama-clad guests run past my door, away from the police presence. The deputy at my door points for them to go down the hall. Who are they? Moved from a neighboring room? Evacuated? Family members? What's going on?

A sheriff's deputy bellows:



I jump back in bed with Tony. What should we do? Do we need to hide? What in the world? We wait in suspense.

What follows are some very short, intense negotiations with whomever has drawn their attention; I hear a man say "Leave me alone, I'm not doing anything. I just want to be alone." 

Sheriff's deputy - "Open up the door and let us talk to you, and then that can be. We need to see you." 

In just a few agonizing minutes, it is resolved peacefully - I hear the nearby door unlock; the man opens up the door.  He talks a bit with the deputies. He is not detained or arrested. I hear movement in the hall again, take one more peek through the peep hole, and see some six deputies walk past my room, calmly exiting the hotel. "At least we didn't have to chase someone in their underwear in the woods," one comments.

Yes, once again, we've been woken up in the early morning; this time, we're both shaken by what could have transpired and thankfully did not. What a horrible way to wake up, and really scary. 

Who knows what that disturbance was even about? 

I am reminded how hard this world is for so many, how troubled some lives are.

That early morning alarm of the day before, 
that nuisance that I thought was THE WORST - 
ha, no big deal in retrospect. 

Life is precious. Be well, everyone!

Let me close with some natural beauty from the Smoky Mountains!


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Let's face it


"Wait, you ate dinner there? They don't have any outdoor seating. You ate INSIDE? How did you do that?" I asked.
My friend laughed. "Yes, we ate indoors. We're vaccinated! We BELIEVE in the vaccine. It was lovely."

Oh. Wow. 
I believe in the vaccine, too. 
Yes, I, too, have been vaccinated. 

However, I am surprisingly ill-at-ease about our world opening up, this ability to leave our homes and be out and about. I am moving slowly and with trepidation towards all these new "normal" opportunities that await. Honestly, I surprise myself with my fear, my anxiety. I joked with my friend that I feel like a cicada, emerging slowly, not entirely understanding where I am now, and then moving confusingly through the world, bumping as I go. I'm edgy, restlessly edgy. Overly sensitive. Maybe I shouldn't use the word "overly" with sensitive - ha! - I need to be sensitive about that. 

Why does eating indoors in a restaurant make me so nervous? What is my deal? 

It's as if I have been on a very strict diet, and then I am invited to a smorgasbord of all my favorite rich and heavy foods - it looks delicious, but it doesn't feel good to partake. Too much too fast. 

I want it, I want it, I want it, but it leaves me a little shaky and uncomfortable.

I have long known I am an introvert; I have never known myself to be this ill-at-ease.

I think it is going to just take time - right? Just a little out of step, I am.

This past Sunday, Father's Day, the kids and grandkids feted my husband with a big yummy breakfast; by 1 pm, everyone was gone, and we had this quiet day remaining - a very typical pandemic day, a day in isolation, just the two of us. 

What should we do for dinner on this special day, just the two of us?

That evening, we took the plunge. 

Just like we always used to do, we walked to our favorite little restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, a cozy little Indian-Nepali place. 

Just like we always used to do, we went INSIDE. Yes, I faced my vague, invisible, stunting fears. 

Just like we always used to do, we had a delightful time. Funny thing, I'm not the only one with these fears - we were the only customers eating inside the restaurant (though there was lots of takeout business, which is how the restaurant survived these pandemic months). This quiet and familiar restaurant was just the environment I needed - and it came with an extra-special bonus of good conversation with the owners, sharing stories about this strange time we are all living through. 

Slowly but surely, I am emerging, we are all emerging.


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Cicada Chorus

[For privacy reasons, I have nicknamed my granddaughters "Frog" (2 1/2 years old) and "Bird" (six months old).]

I was squeezed in close to Frog, in the far corner of the porch, with Bird on my lap, surveying the wild scene in the yard surrounding us. We are in the midst of the 17-year Brood X cicadas here in the Mid-Atlantic, and they are everywhere - flying about, buzzing and bumping.

Truly, they are EVERYWHERE  

  • recklessly diving into you, as you walk,
  • flying into open car windows,
  • wandering up bare legs, 
  • adorning window screens, doors, the sides of houses,
  • latching onto your body, clothes, hair, and hitching a ride,
  • crawling up tree trunks and along branches, to lay eggs,
  • swarming ornamental grasses and other leggy plants, turning them a visual brown,
  • littering the street, sidewalks, front yard with their dead bodies at the end of their oh so brief lives.

Frog was absolutely fine with the empty, motionless, shells of nymphs that were the first sign of these Brood X cicadas a few weeks back. We found these throughout the yard, and even collected a few in a container. However, these noisy new adult cicadas have her feeling very cautious. At nearly two inches in length and seeming to possess no awareness of where their bodies are in space, one never knows when and where they will surprise you. We decided to watch them from a safe distance on the porch, while Bird drank a bottle. 

At one point, Frog's attention waned and she got up to look at something on the other side of the porch. Right away, I saw a cicada crawling nearby (seriously - these insects are EVERYWHERE) and I called out calmly, "Don't be too surprised, but there is another cicada right near your foot." Frog looked down at it, eyes wide, and then she hopped/danced/jumped back to the safety of our nook on the porch chair. We giggled together, at her delightful dance. This 'cicada shuffle' is becoming very familiar to all of us.

I seem to learn something new about these insects every single day. My latest learning: a two-headed cicada, right in the middle of the road, as I went out for my walk. 

I trudged by it, 
found myself still thinking about it, 
turned around, 
walked back, and 
stood over it, 
absolutely captivated. 

Four eyes, two on each end, looking back at me. 

How in the world did it get two heads? 

Nature is so fascinating. I mean, of course, with this many cicadas, there are bound to be some that arrive looking a little different, yes?  

Then, the one cicada with two heads separated into two cicadas and flew off in two directions. Ah, they were mating! 

I laughed at my ignorance, yelled "Get a room!," and continued my walk. Imagine, so determined to go forth and multiply, you choose to mate in the middle of the street in the middle of the day! My goodness.

The cicadas are at their peak and the noise is deafening. It's as if someone is standing right next to my head with a rainstick, shaking it up and down, over and over. Have you heard/seen this musical instrument? I had a rainstick in my preschool classroom, and it was a very effective tool to get the children's attention. It was a long, cylindrical, wooden tube filled with small particles - rice, maybe? very small pebbles? 

Tip the tube one way, 
all the noisy little pieces travel down to that end, 
clamoring, clacking, clapping 
the sides of the tube. 

Tip the tube back the other way, 
send the pieces 
scattering, skittering, scraping 
the other direction.


Yes, their chorus is identical to a rainstick, except, I am unable to put the rainstick away, so that all is quiet.

These weeks are not quiet. 

These weeks are deafening. 

Yes, my ears repeat, reverberate, resound with cicada cries.

I took a short video of the cicadas this week in my front yard ash tree, which is "cicada central" right now:

Look closely, you will see hundreds of cicadas moving up and down the branches, and flying about. Truly, their sound is SO LOUD. It is near impossible to have conversations outside, nor is it comfortable to have these little harmless goofs come flying into you, over and over, while you dare to be outside. There is so much commotion, I am unable to think straight. 

Yet, it is wildly captivating. I can't get enough of these little and rare beings. They are strangely riveting! 


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Friday, April 30, 2021

#verselove - nonet of farewell

For the month of April, I am participating in 30 days of #verselove poetry writing with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA

Today's inspiration was by three teachers, Christine, Jairus, and Josie, who conclude this fabulous month of poetry writing with a prompt to think about what scares us - to try to put it into words. A wonderful last prompt to this month!

Here's my poetry submission - and a final thank you to Dr. Sarah Donovan and the whole #verselove community:

Dear #verselove community - I have truly loved reading your poetry and writing alongside you this month. I have learned so much from you. I have enjoyed the daily prompts, which stretched me in all sorts of new ways. I am sad to see April end - though I have taken so many notes on poetry forms, terminology, writers, activists, and important voices I need to know more about, perhaps I can be self-propelled in my writing for awhile (at  least until the next OpenWrite! ha!).

Dr. Sarah J. Donovan - what a gift you have given to all of us, what a treasure you have created! It is beautiful to imagine how many more poems there are in the world. Thank you so very much.

Missing all of you, already. Here's a nonet of farewell

it is terrifying to share poems 
fearing my lack of skill and voice
how to brace myself for scorn?
dry dull blah meh so-so
yes, forgettable
that’s my writing
on the whole

welcomed me
to share aloud
to think with others
to reflect on questions 
to write in community
a challenge wrapped in warm embrace
thank you for this restorative month!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

#verselove - 29: earth-keepers

For the month of April, I am participating in 30 days of #verselove poetry writing with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA

Today's poetry inspiration was by Susie Morice, who shared many beautiful quotes and resources on the environment, and encouraged us to write a poem about one or more 'earth-keepers.' I kept thinking about my granddaughter, how much she loves to be outdoors - and how much instinctive respect and care she shows. Throughout my years of teaching, I witnessed preschoolers nurturing this same natural, uninhibited affection for our great world. Here's my poem.

children are earth-keepers

at what age
do we let go
the commonsense
a child holds?

a child’s instinct is 
to dig and discover
worm in the rich dark deep
pill bug hiding under stone
how there is much more below
to wonder

a child knows 
earth is their home
watching birds circle above the tree
hearing hills beckon for a roll 
how the lick of a goat is
to enjoy 

a child studies
the new and the different
rainwater flowing across the yard
a fallen tree ripe with life 
how blooming flowers are
to see

a child appreciates
they are earth-keepers
jumping from rock to rock
the wild surprise of cicadas
how fragrant fresh air is
to breathe 

a child watches
cause and effect
blowing tender seeds of dandelions 
turning on and off water
how a woodpecker’s tap tap tap is
to pause 

to a child 
marvel at majestic
cultivate questions
face the future 
with great care
the miracle of earth

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

#verselove - 28: relish

For the month of April, I am participating in 30 days of #verselove poetry writing with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA

Today's poetry inspiration was by Katie, who prompted us to think about how poetry is a form of empathy, how the act of writing can result in understanding. For practice with this, she suggested a simple exercise - select 'an object that holds some significance' and write into this, describing it and imagining conversation or feelings it might have.

Here's where I ended up:


every grandchild received
a small token of you

dainty depression dish for me
gold edge 
curled sides

holding it in the light
center sunburst 
tiny repeating 
lines, dashes, slants, leaf cuts

miniature spoon 
made of pewter
with intricate floral pattern

you were given this as a gift?
a special extra, 
just perfect,
you bought for yourself?
just for holidays?

how I would love to hear the story

not knowing
it is enough


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Flow it, show it


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

A photo essay

Oh my, this COVID hair has got to go.
January 2020, that was my last haircut.

My brother says I look like Emmylou Harris. 
Maybe if I played guitar, I'd keep this look.

I have never grown my hair this long.
Did you know you can get trapped by your hair in bed?!
This was news to me.

Frumpy, dumpy, grumpy.
I do not like this look.
Fully vaccinated - that's my cue,
time to go, go, go to the hairdresser!

Wait, one last photo - the pony tail!
The HORSE tail.

I brought flowers to my stylist - I really missed her! 
I discovered the greatest way to transport a vase of flowers, lol.

My hair was too grey to donate - though, my goodness, it looks dark here.

I'm baaaaaack!

#verselove 27: Connoisseur

For the month of April, I am participating in 30 days of #verselove poetry writing with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA

Today's poetry inspiration was by Karen Workun, who encouraged us to write about 'secret connoisseur' - what little things are we experts about?

I am a 
calculated connoisseur,
essential expertise
alongside those I love

I am an affable authority
digging for worms
throwing sticks in the creek
finding lambs-ear in the garden
listening for wind chimes
noticing birds

I used to be gentle genius
identifying dinosaurs
Thomas the Tank Engine trains
Pokemon characters

I’m ready to refresh 
my scholarly skills 
should the need arise, 
as I have with 
construction vehicles

I fear I am an emerging expert at
where I left my eyeglasses
my hot cup of tea - oh, my, it is now cold
to make an appointment
titles of books and movies I loved
names of authors, actors, even some neighbors
to dig the weeds before they spread
to move the wet clothes to the dryer
passwords for every imaginable account
oh no, 
the gas burner on low, overnight,
oh my!

Monday, April 26, 2021

#verselove - 26: may I

For the month of April, I am participating in 30 days of #verselove poetry writing with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA

Today's poetry inspiration was by Hanna Al-Jibouri, who encouraged us to think about "who do I want to become?" and write a poem. 

I played around with lots of different metaphors, and then dispensed with all of them and decided to try my hand at a new poem structure - a triolet. I was introduced to 'triolet' for the first time during this writing month, from a poem written by Dr. Sarah J. Donovan on a previous day. 

This is the rhyming structure for a triolet, which is only eight lines long:


The capital letters indicate repeating lines; the first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines; the second line is also the last line.

1. The first line (A)

2. The second line (B)

3. The third line rhymes with the first (a)

4. Repeat the first line (A)

5. The fifth line rhymes with the first (a)

6. The sixth line rhymes with the second line (b)

7. Repeat the first line (A)

8. Repeat the second line (B)

Writing this was a lot of fun, playing with this new structure! Here is my poem, on the topic of what I hope for myself in the days to come. 

may I

play with words and then write more 
love each day, show courage, be kind
be in the midst of those I adore
play with words and then write more  
willingly readily always explore 
welcome viewpoints, have open mind
play with words and then write more  
love each day, show courage, be kind

Sunday, April 25, 2021

#verselove - 25: falling short

For the month of April, I am participating in 30 days of #verselove poetry writing with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA

Today's poetry inspiration was by Ellen Stackable, who is the founder of Poetic Justice, which offers restorative writing workshops to incarcerated women. For today's writing, she encouraged us to write about 'labels' that we carry, and to think about who we were yesterday, who we are today, who we hope to be tomorrow. 

falling short

the judgement 
the reproach
the inadequacy of me

falling short

though I cannot undo the carving
I can turn the cut a bit

see it from different angles
see its many facets 
see if it glimmers at all

falling short

I knew I know I will always know
I am not 
all that I should be

I can only fall short if I am trying
I can only try if I am living
sinning offers perspective
failing, questioning, mistakes

are the stuff of full lives 
I am another flawed human being
falling short

trying to love deeply
believing in 

a loving God 
falling short

I’ll take it
I see the way it glimmers
in new light

childhood labels
are not soft stickers easily peeled off
but wounds forever carved 

in one’s innermost thoughts
as Leonard Cohen says
I have tried in my way to be free