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Posts Tagged ‘Writers Almanac’

It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily—open eyes, braid hair—
a robe unfurled
in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we’ve taken on,
though also vast:
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk, to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse’s patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms.

“The Task” by Jane Hirshfield, from The October Palace. © Harper Perennial, 1994. Reprinted with permission.

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Today, technically the first day of my fall break, I went to school.  This is the first time I’ve actually gone to school on a break.  I’m supposed to be “sharpening my saw” — Habit #7 from the 7 Habits, but the custodian said he’d be at the school from 12-4, so off I went.

This may require some explanation.  I have complained long and loudly about TUSD’s habit of giving teachers only three days to get ready for the first day of school, and then taking half or more of those first days up with required meetings, trainings, what have you.  I worked very hard during summer school to get a lot of things organized, and so was not…completely…lost these first two months.  Last year; wow.  We won’t talk about last year.

I’ve enlisted the help of students after school (you can Tom Sawyer them at this age), and even come in on an odd weekend day, but the organization was not in place, and I keep making piles of papers.

I finally got to the bottom of the pile of things to be filed.  Not everything is filed, but I know where everything is and will be able to file it, little by little, over the next week after school (I hope).

My core library was leveled before school started, but I still have not gotten to that.  I would much rather have piles of books around than piles of papers, however, so I will continue to work on that as time allows.

pile-of-books

not this bad, I promise!

I brought home “teacher crafty” things to do this week (I’m NOT going back in again, so I did a lot of laminating today), and everything I might need for “Fall” centers.  Haven’t touched Halloween yet, and I may only have a couple of things on the day itself, rather than a couple weeks of spooky activities.

The fun thing about teaching elementary is the chance to be creative with assignments, to make centers that fit a theme while still aligning with current standards.  The tough thing about teaching elementary is to keep up with making the centers fun and cute, while not tearing one’s hair out.  I try to keep an even keel between the two, because I am short on time (especially now that after-school tutoring has started).  So some of my centers are not cute and some are.  We try our best.

And sometimes, sharpening the saw means having things ready to walk in on the Monday after a break, so I can sleep Sunday night.

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Autumn Pond from docbert

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

“In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983. Reprinted with permission.

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Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
in the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything—
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker—
green gowns lifting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing—
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet—
all of it
happening
beyond all seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

“Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith” by Mary Oliver, from West Wind. © Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Reprinted with permission.

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Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you waiting at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

“Up-Hill” by Christina Rossetti, from Poems. © Everyman’s Library, 1993. Reprinted with permission.

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One of my favorite poems by a Rossetti.  Promise of strength for the journey, and a reward at the end.  Most poignant right now as I think my grandfather may be coming to the end of his journey…

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The Fall Almost Nobody Sees

by David Budbill

Everybody’s gone away.
They think there’s nothing left to see.
The garish colors’ flashy show is over.
Now those of us who stay
hunker down in sweet silence,
blessed emptiness among

red-orange shadblow
purple-red blueberry
copper-brown beech
gold tamarack, a few
remaining pale yellow
popple leaves,
sedge and fern in shades
from beige to darkening red
to brown to almost black,
and all this in front of, below,
among blue-green spruce and fir
and white pine,

all of it under gray skies,
chill air, all of us waiting
in the somber dank and rain,
waiting here in quiet, chill
November,
waiting for the snow.

“The Fall Almost Nobody Sees” by David Budbill, from Happy Life. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

This is the Minnesota fall, the fall that disappointed me for the first few years until I learned to appreciate the more subtle colors of prairie grasses and brush.  Not the flamboyant joy of a New England autumn, but a graceful slow sink into the hush of winter.

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This is as far as the light
of my understanding
has carried me:
an October morning
a canoe built by hand
a quiet current

above me the trees arc
green and golden
against a cloudy sky

below me the river responds
with perfect reflection
a hundred feet deep
a hundred feet high.

To take a cup of this river
to drink its purple and gray
its golden and green

to see
a bend in the river up ahead
and still
say
yes.

“Midlife” by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. Reprinted with permission of the author.

As much as I love the woods and water, I have yet to learn this lesson.  Maybe I need to memorize this poem…

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