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Posts Tagged ‘Contributing Writer’

One of the best job experiences I ever had was working with middle school students as part of an after school writing program.  The children usually engaged in an outdoor activity and then they wrote about the experience.  One of the indoor rainy day activities was to present the children with a folder of images.  Each child selected a photograph that moved him or her in some way.  It was always amazing to read what they wrote.  Their imagination and creativity inspires me to this day.  That’s why I was excited to be part of the book project, Reflect & Write.  I’m honored to have two of my poems included among the nearly 300 poems, photographs and quotations composing this wonderful resource designed to help prompt children to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards and touch screens).  Via this link you can take a peek inside the book and see if it is a resource that might be useful for stirring the creativity of the young people in your life.

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… something soft and dreamy and a bit fantastic but, at the moment, the words are not fully forming in my head.  A good thing since I have a very concrete project to complete involving hard numbers and rigid forms.  But if you have a poem to share, please do. 😉

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What do forks have to do with a long walk? Well, just click the picture or on this link to find out.    Find a tale inspired by my interactions with a five-year old who has grown adept at asking “can you make up a story about [fill in the blank],” and my interactions with a 50-plus year old  who has the spirit of a five-year old who tells me quite often what he will do with a fork in the road.

With such muses in my life, how could I not write this tale?  Please enjoy and let me know what you think.

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I know.  That was horrible.  But I just couldn’t help myself with that title. I’ll try to be more disciplined with my words next time.  Meanwhile, I hope you have had a good day. 😉

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The following images are of rocks and shells and bits of colored glass found on different New England beaches this summer.  I photographed them yesterday after placing them in a bowl I had rediscovered, a beautiful dark clay vessel lined with ridges.  Eventually I filled the bowl with water.  I snapped photos throughout the day whenever whimsy struck.  Near dusk I decided I should empty the bowl before mosquitoes began to breed.  Just as I drained the last drop, the bowl cracked in my hands.  An unseen flaw had been exacerbated by the weight of water.  In an instant, I was reminded of the beauty found in fragile things.

Today, as I worked with the images, admiring the visual expression of soft colors and hard edges and glimpses of the bowl now gone, I was reminded of a series of conversations I’ve been having with people about empathy and compassion (and their lack) in a world that can appear so beautiful and yet so broken at the same time.   I was also reminded of how much I miss the wisdom of my elders as I live through these times.  They may be gone but I do have their stories … though goshdarnit, some of the stories make me ponder even more about the ways of this fragile world.

My father once told me a story of walking to work.  It was southern Virginia in the 1950’s.  He and my mother were newlywed and I think they had one child.  He couldn’t yet afford a car.  As he walked from home to the Public Works Department, he passed a yellow school bus.  The bus was stopped at a red light.  He smiled up at the young children.  The children spat down at him.  He was black and they were white.

My mother’s sister Thelma happily left the south for New York during that great migration in this country.  Though she had no car and did not drive, she could walk wherever she wanted.  One day she walked through Central Park.  She saw this beautiful redheaded woman with smooth milk-white skin.  “She looked like a movie star,” Aunt Thelma recalled.  At the woman’s side was a young boy.  As their paths crossed, eye contact was made and Aunt Thelma prepared herself to exchange a greeting.  Instead the woman tapped her son.  “Then she pointed at me,” Aunt Thelma said.  “She pointed at me and said You see, my dear, that’s a nigger.”  Many decades later, Aunt Thelma looked at me and said with a gentle chuckle, “That’s why to this day I have a hard time watching movies with redheads.”

My mother told me stories.  My brothers, both my elder ones and my younger one, have told me stories.  I have my own growing collection of stories of not being seen as an individual or of being discounted and even despised because of the color of my skin.  I read newspaper accounts of children around the world, who from my perspective look alike, who are trying to kill each other because of deeds that took place long before they were “a gleam in their mothers’ eyes,” who hate in large part because of what is shared by surrounding adults.

As I remember my parents and other elders who led challenging lives in this country, I wonder how is it that they did not plant seeds of hate in the hearts of their children?  How did they choose and succeed I hope in teaching us to lend a hand to help the fallen and not first assess if that person was white, red, black, green or purple or carried a certain bible or had a certain sized bank account?  Perhaps I oversimplify …

My younger brother still lives in Virginia with his family.  He recently called while on his way home from work.  We usually joke and laugh about silly things.  But this time he was more somber.  Finally, he said, “You know, I have a hard time watching television anymore.  Those ads by all the candidates of every party and their followers.  You know how much money some people are putting into these ads just to make me hate somebody?  Don’t they realize how that money could help so many homeless people and others dying on the streets?”

Don’t tell my brother I said this but he reminds me of the bowl that held the stones in these pictures.  To be able to ask such questions suggests to me that a person is not closed off … that there is a beautiful fissure in one’s heart, mind, soul … that helps one remain open to the life experiences of others.  Anyway, the summer is not quite done.  More rocks and shells I may collect.  A new bowl I may find.  Then we’ll see what words and images emerge.  Be well!

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Okay, yes, that’s me in my mother’s arms a few days out of the hospital.  I won’t tell you how long ago. But I will share this essay, just published in Talking Writing Magazine.  People sometimes ask why do I write about a leaf blowing in the wind or photograph a sliver of light.  This essay helps to explain the why of it all.  Enjoy.

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Recently, on a warm day in the city of Boston, I raced through one of its many squares toward my favorite hot dog vendor.  I’d already spent most of my half-hour break running errands and knew that I was going to be late returning to work, but darnit, I needed to eat and wanted a good hot dog.  As I made my way through the square, an elderly man stepped into my path.  He said, “Can you spare a quarter?”  I gazed into his watery blue eyes and said, “No, but would you like a hot dog?”  I don’t know why I said what I said that day, and he certainly wasn’t expecting me to say what I said.  He frowned and blinked a few times and then said, “You don’t have a quarter?”  I didn’t quite put my hands on my hips in exasperation, but I did raise an eyebrow as I repeated, “Do you want a hot dog?”  He shrugged.  “Okay.”

He walked with me to the hot dog vendor.  We stood in line together, a small brown woman and a tall older white man.  He told me about his son who was going to give him money later in the week.  He asked me questions about myself  including where I went to school.  I gave him mostly vague responses, not wanting to share too much, but I did admit that I’d studied history at one phase.  He nodded, and then said with great pride, “At university I studied philosophy.”  He then proceeded to tell me about Kierkegaard.

As we moved to the front of the line, the hot dog vendor said, “Hey, dear.  Your usual?”  I nodded and then added, “And this gentleman has an order too.”  The man cleared his throat and then ordered a small dog.   “What about a drink?” I asked.   Like a child, he thought a moment and then said, “Oh, yes.” He looked over the line of drinks displayed on the cart and picked an orange soda.  The hot dog vendor kept looking at me, a quizzical expression on his face.  I just smiled.  The vendor shrugged and began to fill our orders.

“Where do you work?” the man asked as we waited.  I paused, and said, “Many places, but part-time in that church over there.  That’s where I’m coming from today.”  He nodded, his face taking on a sage expression.  “G.K. Chesterston,” he said.  “He wrote a book called Orthodoxy.”  I took my hot dog from the vendor.  “I’ll check it out,” I said and then walked away.

Though I have been in the square many times since, I have yet to see this man again.  Other people, men and women, come up to me and ask for money.  I say no.  I have not been compelled to offer up anymore hot dogs.  Perhaps that moment will come again.  Meanwhile, each week, there is a gentleman I see in a wheelchair with his sign and his cup.  I do not give him money either, but I do smile and nod in greeting as I walk by.  He smiles and nods back, and that seems to be enough.

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In an old journal, I found the following words.  Perhaps one day I will polish them, but even a bit rough, I feel inclined to share them, paired with some new images.  I suppose I should be sharing a poem, given that it’s Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day, but perhaps there is poetry embedded in these words and images. 

Journal Entry:  Several friends think that I never go to the dark places. That I always see the light in the world. The glass is always at least half-full.  Lemons can always be turned into tasty lemonade.  There is no dark so dense where some bit of brightness cannot be found.  At such accusations, I usually say nothing or  I perhaps point out the beauty of fallen petals upon the ground. I do not to say with indignation, you are wrong because I do go to the dark places. Don’t we all?  I do not say, I have seen the dark clouds descend from once-bright skies and settle over once-clear roads.  Haven’t we all?  But, for me, you know what always happens … even upon the darkened road … eventually?  Winds come and blow the clouds away.  If there is a lingering dark fog, the sun rises and burns it to a cooling mist, refreshing upon the skin. When I’m in the darkest place, pitch black, I don’t always see the light but I know it’s there somewhere.  It has to be. I can feel it even if I cannot see it.  Don’t the blind feel the sun on their faces?

Maybe that’s why I write, why I photograph.  To show that no matter how dark, light penetrates and reveals certain glories. In the contrasts, the shadows created, the silhouettes that emerge, unique beauty is revealed. That is what I want to convey, in whatever medium feels right in the moment.  The simple beauty in this life.

I do not want to ignore the dark, or the fears that spring to life though I may not always share such fears with friends.  I will walk the dark roads until the sun rises.  I will carry a flashlight or a lit candle and if these items should fail then I will take a deep breath and raise my eyes to the sky and focus on the tiny beacons of the stars.  And who knows, I might even see a sliver of moon. All I know is I may walk in the dark – we all do at some point in our lives — but I will not stay there.  I will not.

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Making me smile this morning …

The delightful essay Solitaire in Talking Writing Magazine, that brings to mind that conundrum I’m experiencing this month of balancing discipline and productivity with just a dash or two (or three) of what I call creative procrastination.

Making me reflect …

Bullying.  No, I have not seen the new documentary just released, though I hope I have the courage to watch it when it comes to my area.  I’m referring to comments made in the Ezra Keats biography mentioned in yesterday’s post, and stories told by Mister Rogers in a documentary now airing on PBS.  How both men as young boys were bullied and how the experiences influenced the art of Mr. Keats (check out Goggles) and the life work of Mister Rogers (see Mister Rogers and Me).

Making me imagine …

Dandelions.  Through the office window where I sit, I see a field of dandelions in a garden that my neighbor has yet to prepare for planting.  I imagine going over to my neighbor, whom I have never met, and asking her if I might pick those “weeds” and turn them into wine as I once did as a child back in Virginia.  She might hear me out and then slam the door.  Or, in a month or so, I might be sharing pics of mason jars filled with citrus-infused homemade brew.  Time will tell … 😉

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Outside the office where I work today, in the branches of a dead tree, a tiny black and white woodpecker is having an awfully good time.  As I watch him inch his way around the trunk, I notice that there are many tiny holes in the brown surface of the tree.  It must be a popular stop for woodpeckers on their way from here to there.  My little friend is alone so far.  No others of the woodpecker tribe do I see.  He was runoff for a bit by the blue jays but quickly returned upon their departure.  He looked askance at a couple of cardinals but didn’t let their presence stop him from knocking head to wood.  There is a part of me that wishes to get up and find my camera but I know that if I do, when I return he may be gone.  For a while I felt a bit of chagrin that I was spending time watching this fellow instead of being productive, i.e. doing something that I could put a dollar value towards.  But then two experiences came to mind.  The first involved a recent conversation with a friend about Thich Nhat Hanh.  After I noticed one of his books in her home, she mentioned that she’d read much of his writing with one of her greatest take-aways being a reminder to be present … not just in yoga class but even while washing dishes!  The second experience took place yesterday when I chanced upon the blog, Touch2Touch, and the post, “In the Morning, Whatever.” A lovely piece that I hope you read.  What I took away, or what came back to me this morning, was this:  it is okay to pause in one’s day, to look around one’s self and to simply enjoy the moment.

 

And now that I’ve done that, I suppose I should get back to work. 😉

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