Friday, June 12, 2020

Vistations and Dreams, June 12,2020

Red-headed woodpecker, 2020 Photo: P. Tonery

Beyond where I live, two  (invisible) pandemics  become visible.  Daily, I am distraught by what is happening. I wish for a cure, and know that a cure comes about when we care for each other.
I listen to the news, like three doses a day.  In between, I am outside working in our three gardens, or preparing reports, or courses, or writing to keep me centered and calm, because I feel overwhelmed by the hardships people are facing daily, in cities and small towns, across our country. Reports are saying the death toll from Covid-19 will reach 170,000 by October, 2020.  That number is staggering and frightening, knowing the cruel way this virus work. Equally, moving into 18th day of protest in some cities means "Enough is enough." Things have to change.  Things are changing. 

I had no idea, (truly) no idea, that the Army bases in the United States were named after Confederate Generals.  I was stunned by that revelation this week.  Why would the Army honor the Confederate Generals? It's a strange contradiction, seemingly supporting a Confederate mindset; and, it's been an "under-telling" narrative for years.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Barack Obama 

Maybe two weeks ago, I listened to the remarks of our preceding Presidents(Carter, Bush, Clinton, Obama) on our current situation (domestic and foreign), and I was struck by how poignant, pointed, and introspective their speeches were. It made me take a deep breath.   So much work ahead, and I am willing to work to make the necessary change.  Get out the vote.  Make our voices heard in November. Be ready.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In an eyeblink, or so it seems, it's June . . .

Happy Hour at the Feeder: Baltimore Orioles love the Grape Jelly. A Mock Wine Social. Photo P. Tonery

So much as happened since the start of the new year. Spring teaching semester was interrupted by Covid 19.  All of my courses were converted to online courses.  Thankfully, I use Blackboard in my face to face classes. My students at both St. John Fisher College and Suny Brockport were champs.  The  six classes well went.  The feedback I received from the students was so positive and encouraging.  They felt the course work maintained the same level of work as the face to face class.
I found my students to be  extremely focused and on task.  Their critical engagement  deepened in  their writing and discussion.  It was a boatload of work.  I literally spent 12-16 per day on my classes, either class lectures, or commenting on discussion boards, or grading papers and tests. It was an intense 7 and 8 weeks, respectively.

I think the shut down, due to the pandemic, is going to have all of us re-think how we work and where we working, and teaching may benefit from being reflective about what happened in this quick conversion and how we (teachers) delivered our materials to our students.

Now the Spring semester is over.  I feel for all the seniors, who experienced graduation in a Virtual way.  So many traditions were interrupted.  I'm wondering if some of these virtual experiences will be incorporated into the "traditions" when we able to resume the traditions. I hope so.  In any event, big shout out to all the graduates this year.

Besides the daily Covid 19 news, and watching the number of deaths rise in our country to a number that is hard for me to imagine,but when they do the memorials on the news, with pictures and narratives, my heart aches for the families and friends who have lost loved ones. The circumstance of being separated from their loved ones in their hour of passing.  The medical caregivers and first responders for their nonstop work ; for our state, New York, being a strong model for other states on being prepared.  I am equally impressed by the leaders(governors) in the state of Washington, Oregon, California.  I am happy to see Mayors in some states, especially Alabama, challenging the quick open of some southern states, who haven't seen a peak of Covid.

Now, with the recent horrific news of the murder of George Floyd, and the protests and violence that has ensued for nearly a week in so many cities, including my city, Rochester.NY. My heart is so heavy. Since 1991, nearly 30 years, after each incident of police violence against African Americans, I have reviewed by behavior as a teacher, friend, community partner.  I ask myself am I working, truly working to see social change.  Racism and prejudice is a serious blight in our country.  And, I believe my behavior demonstrates the power of "yes." I believe in affirmative action.  I see my students, person to person to person, and I help all of my students, on so many levels, but I think I have made learning communities in my classes, and students are friends with each other, out of class. It has a ripple effect, and I know the people who have intersected with me, have contributed to my life and ways of seeing, and I  know they pass it on. Since 1991, I have had the opportunity to teach over 10,000 students of all ages, 4-98.

When you look at the demographics of these protestors on the news,  we can see that all races are represented, all ages, and  these people are living a life where they respect each other and are fighting for equal rights and social justice.  Some are at the start of this life career, and some have been fighting their whole lives, trying to make our world, wherever it is in the United States of America, a kinder and safer world, and each of our communities will be the model for the next.

Basically, it's answering the question:  Do you see what's happening in your world?  Where can you make a difference?

Maybe it's time to screen the personalities of our  police. Police who demonstrate "bullying" or sadistic tendencies, with incidents, should not be allowed to continue on the force. We want to feel protected, not threatened.

Maybe, police shouldn't  have guns. Do the police need to draw a gun for a traffic infraction? Maybe there should be a limit on how an officer restrains a person in question. Maybe the gun can be  in car, but not used immediately.  The police need to have  body cams on.  If citizens are witnessing a serious injustice, they should have the right to stop the injustice in the moment, if police officers are using excessive force and not heeding the witnesses call to stop. I don't know exactly how you do that calmly and peacefully, but I wish it had happened in  George Floyd's arrest.  People were calling out to stop, even George. Why are they taking so long to charge the other three officers?  I find it so disconcerting.

On the Rochester NY news, Police Chief Singletary spoke eloquently to the crowd and us. I recognized him, and I knew by his body language and as an African American  he was heavy-hearted, but he had his hands open in his gesture, not closed fists, and I thought, here is a strong leader. Of course, the people, who were organizing the peaceful protest, were seen by others as an opportunity to create havoc and loot and destroy-- all of this has been happening in other cities too, but sadly, in areas where the small business owner is a person of color, and grocery stores that serve in these areas
have been destroyed, too. In Rochester, NY, many people came out to help with the first night's pillage, which was at least three days ago. Unrest continues.

Black Lives Matter.  This racism and prejudice has to stop.  Many of us believe this.  Please everyone, vote in the upcoming elections. Be present.  Talk,  person to person, widen your community circles to be more inclusive, even in our social distancing.  Make a difference.

Our leadership for the past three years has allowed hate rhetoric to be part of our daily lives.

In my creative writing classes, I tell my students this:

In 19th century literature the theme was:"The Good will be rewarded and the Bad will be punished."

In the 20th century, the theme was: Sometimes, the good don't get what they deserved. "

At the top of 21st century, I speculated that the current literature was addressing lying and getting away with it.  We are now entering our 3rd decade, and the literature is all about lies and deceits.

Irony of situation?  How close is our present day news to The Hunger Games?

Next post, will be dedicated to Farm life and writing and art-- where I do my best thinking about what is happening in our shared day to day.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Today is Sunday (all week has felt like Sunday)!
It's January 5, 2020.  To date, four (4) of my 100 word stories and two (2) new poems have been accepted for publication in Spring 2020. I have also received my first rejection of the new year.

I am making a commitment to mindfulness. I did a 20 minute meditation yesterday; and truthfully, the experience was so liberating.  I am hoping that these new-to-me tools will make the difference in my living. I want "out" of the things that bottle me up. After I did the meditation, I felt stress-free.  No aches or pains. A clear mind.

I am working on some poetry reviews right now.
Hoping to have them done and sent to the journals by the end of this upcoming week.  I have been thinking about the difference between details and images. I have an upcoming course  on Metaphor this semester.  I have selected some wonderful texts. Hopefully, my students will be willing to jump into this challenging material.  It requires imagination and wonder, which I think is the key to success in all types of work. The challenge is to present this  task of engaging one's imagination and wonder without making any of them feel self-conscious. It's like being a circus performer, straddling two galloping gray horses; one is called 'rational' and the other is 'irrational,' but both are dependent on each other, in order to turn so many revolutions around the ring, until there is a new way of seeing and thinking and talking about art.

I have been writing a lot poems with cloud imagery(metaphor).  I live in landscape that has magnificent skies, due to the Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie. It's also linked to the ephermeral nature
of living and writing poetry, which is very different from writing fiction or nonfiction; yet, all will get me through the oncoming years and what I can and can't control. Things are changing, moment to moment; things living and dying in the course of day, hour, minute, nanosecond . . . What am I going to say to my students this semester? What am I going to say to myself as the days gain  light, marching towards Spring and Summer, and another turn around the ring.

So much depends on balance, and keeping on.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

In the year 2020 . . .

Happy New Year!  New Decade! 2020

I have joined a community  of writers on Fb, who are journaling every day. I have never been successful at journaling, and believe me, I have tried, and tried.I have already broken the first rule of the community of making a comment on a post made by my cousin Lauren,who is a poet, writer, and quiltmaker extraordinaire.

The first prompt by writer Saundra Goldman is to write for 10-20 minutes on: Where I am.

I have a new journal, and so I began. I think this will be a part of my mindfulness practice.  I have already tapped into a website

I like the six steps meditation. I have been enjoying the articles, too. Some of the mindful practices are things that I already do, not knowing that they are "mindful."  So, it was a pleasant surprise,finding out the benefits of such practices.

Since December 15, 2019,  I have been writing, reading (mostly recipes) where I end up being the sous chef for my husband, who reads recipes all the time and has become a foodie over the past 5 years. It's been interesting "working" together in the kitchen, that is his domain.

Two days ago, on the eve of New Year's Eve, we made wild caught clams and this fabulous homemade pasta (not linguini).  Here is the link to the recipe:

I really like Once Upon a Chef website. Instructions and visuals=  mealtime success.

On New Year Day, I always pick my favorite things to do, as a guarantee that I will do them all year long.  I was busy: revising, sending out manuscripts, eating healthy food choices; drinking 6-9 glasses of water per day;  received my first rejection; but, also 4  of my new 100 word stories were accepted; reading; watching a few TV shows, which will fall to the wayside as soon as the semester begins.  But Flirty Dancing was fun to watch.  Although, I did feel badly for the dance partners that didn't get picked for a second date; and happened upon another show called Almost Family.  It's complicated; while watching nearly finished the scarf I have been knitting, using all leftover yarns from previous made scarves.  It's fun and very warm, and I may keep it for myself. I did dishes and put things away, and took a warm shower. Tried to go see Little Women but the theater was sold out. I really want to see this film.  Maybe today, or tomorrow.

Hope all of you are off to a good start.  Sun is shining and it's unusually warm (40 degrees) in western NY. I am going to enjoy this weather break.  Winter will be back in no time.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Not Chinese Calendar, but this Year, 2020, is self-declared The Year of the Cat.

I think the upcoming year, 2020, will be the year of the Cat.  Think of it, nine lives in one year. How are you going to live them ? I am hoping for a year full of surprises.  The unexpected joys of being present. This will be the year I let go of things that hold me back.  I will say good bye to things I have known (good and not so good) for a long time, and I think it will be the best decision I have ever made.

It always good to get new year plans ready in the the week before New Year's Day. This week has been luxurious and slow moving, and I have had time to write without interruption, which feels very serious and determined, but I hope as the days move on in the break, I will find another rhythm, something that is a bit less serious, yet still mine. Hopefully, I will be able to carry this through the Spring semester.  Again, six courses. But, at the end of this semester, the Earth will be green and ready to encourage us to take off our sensible shoes.  I will be listening. I know I am in a position to make each day significant in big and small ways, and like a cat I will see what I will see. I will nap, purr, hiss, mess around, ignore, annoy, hide all the day long.  It will be quite a year.  Hope it is for you, too.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

What Do I Know? What Do I Know?

What Do I Know?  Another semester of teaching, listening, thinking, considering has ended.  At 1:45 p.m. yesterday, I  finished the semester's grading for 157 students. Two colleges, six courses, countless portfolios and final exams and papers; not to mention the administrative work involved in keeping an Arts program alive and well.

I am grateful that I was able to do this work without falling behind. I stayed aware of every student, which can be challenging because some of them think they have a cloaking device and can be hidden in plain view.  There were moments of brilliance, and moments of surprise, and moments of  boredom.  It's what we teachers expect in our work.  It's what keeps me coming back.

Once again, after having family gather at our farm for Thanksgiving, I gleaned a cold and cough that has lasted for 3 weeks now.  My sad nose has had it.  It's going to go on strike. I did sleep well last night, for the first time in several weeks.  I sleep for a couple hours, then wake and work  in the early morning darkness.  You would think I would give up this ritual for more normal hours.

Maybe my spirit guide is an owl. I do love owls, especially Snowy and Long-eared Owls.  I hear them at night calling to each other.  In January, they will find their mates and set up their nests. In the thick of winter, their fledglings are born.  Now that I am "free' for the rest of 2019, I hope to spend my time wisely.  I want to take long walks, and see a few new movies, and meet up with friends that  I haven't seen in weeks. I want to write every day, without interruption.  I found my creative life (august-now) was caught in a vice grip. I literally had to filch time to do some of my own work.  Teaching is such a battery-draining enterprise.

For a teacher,the energy is flowing out.  For a writer, the energy has to flow in.  The creative process  demands no distractions or interruptions, and all I had this semester was exactly that-- interruptions with a capital I.

 Now, here I am, with weeks of free days on the calendar. Time to recharge and see what inspires me.

Happy holidays to all.

Artwork: Elizabeth King Durand May, 2019

Friday, October 4, 2019

October 4th, 2019: Kiira's Sunset

Photo P. Tonery on 9/20/2019 Kiira's Sunset. Moscow Road, Hamlin NY