Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in Brooklyn

We had  perfect day for a road trip. We  left on Monday morning, 40 degrees with breaks of sun in a winter sky.  Roads clear.  Moderate traffic, not the usual trucks pressing down.I drove for about 3.5 hours and Peter took over after that. We came into NYC at rush hour and there was a disabled van on the left lane of the Tappan Zee bridge.  Long delay, but moving 3 mph, which is better than no movement.

We found our way to downtown Brooklyn  and had to figure out how to get to Meghan's apt., which we did after several calls to our children and asking a friendly pedestrian who has relatives in Buffalo.  There were police vehicles and vans everywhere but not a cop in sight.  It was strange, especially in light of what happened a day prior.  Just for the record, I hate guns. Earlier, I had thought the man who murdered the police officers had murdered his girlfriend, but yesterday's news said she was going to survive.  It's so sad.  The violence that has occurred over this past year has thrown me for a loop.  I rarely post about this here or on FB because I think I would sound like a raving lunatic.  I spend so much time(hours upon hours) as a teacher, trying to give my students strong writing and critical thinking skills.  My classes are usually beyond the cap.  I have a very high diversity ratio, which the students of color notice and appreciate.  I think that the word is out that all of my students have an equal voice and we are there to learn, discuss, entertain different perspectives. Whenever we discuss "hot" button topics, I tell them to keep the conversation open by phrasing their position as an idea, rather than opinion.  I tell them that ideas open up conversation, whereas opinions shut them down. They look at me with that look of close scrutiny, but trust me enough to try it out.  When it works well in my classes, which is a safe learning community, they take for a test drive in their other classes and have reported success.  The important kernel in this is VOICE.  Everyone needs to have voice.

I think it's important to talk about what is happening around us.  There is so much we need to sort out. I think the more we talk, the better, in small  and large groups, in songs, in poems, in stories, in performance, in the making of art. By doing this, we have the ability to see things from two sides, which makes moving forward possible.   Making contact, not with the choir, but the others who are insular, isolated, blocked off, that is the challenge.

Long ago, my former student, the poet/artist Marie Starr said this in a poetry class: Make the comfortable, uncomfortable; make the uncomfortable, comfortable. This isn't the exact quote, but her idea.  I agree with it.  I remember when she first said this, I was pulled up by the statement,and I said, yes.

I actually say, yes, more than no.  Yes comes with a responsibility to be part of the yes, whereas no, stops action and parties walk away from each other.

So here I am in Brooklyn, thinking about this and hanging out with my family.  Yesterday, a day of drizzle, Nick, Peter and I took a long umbrella walk in Greenwood Cemetery: City of the Dead.

Meghan had alerted us to look for birds that were very green and chattered like parrots(?)  Is that possible, she said. Sure enough, high in the Gothic gateway architecture, we saw the birds flying in and out of their  nests.  We asked an attendant about the birds and this is what he said:

In 1961, a group of Monk parrots escaped from their transport at the airport. Consequently, they have survived in Brooklyn. Over 50 pairs, and they appear everywhere.  Noisy in the heat of summer and not as noisy in winter.  We watched them, flying with the grace of trapeze artists.
We followed the roads, stopping to read graves and historical land markers.  We found Leonard Bernstein's grave.  Nick and I sang, "I want to be in America."  We admired the stones, coins, flowers left at his grave. I too found a rock and placed it with the others.  It's funny, standing there I saw his face, his smile, his cigarette burning, a wreath of smoke over his head.   

Then we walked to a current mausoleum that had a beautiful reflection pond filled with Koi fish.

We took pictures.  I will post later.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice ! The longest night . .

12 Days of Christmas Writing Challenge Update:
12/17-12/20/2014, I worked on a Lyrical CNF essay called 13 Beans. Spent time revising it yesterday and a bit this morning. Such fun!

Here are some prompts:

Write a poem about something that happened to a historical someone (artist, musician, dancer, scientist, inventor, zealot, saint, sinner) you know all about. Write about it as if it had happened to you.   This will give it conviction (ethos,pathos).

Write either a flash fiction or nonfiction on SHADOWS.Include the following words: smooth, soothe, work,visit, glisten.


Now what to do on the longest night of the year?  I actually have a lot to do.  Baking, cleaning, packing for our holidays.I'm  looking forward to spending time with my two youngest children.  We're going to have a great time.

Today is my youngest child's birthday.  Happy Birthday,Nick!  He was lucky enough to be born on the Winter Solstice.  I love the fact that the light will be coming back into our lives after tonight.  The darkness at 5:30 p.m. feels like 10:00 p.m. and I'm ready to go to bed.  It's been a battle staying up because I feel the damp chill and want to get cozy. Cozy=Bed and a stack of blankets. In seconds, I fall asleep.

I'm feeling well rested. It took a week to reclaim my usual vigor.   Although every day last week felt like Saturday.  This is what happens when you lose your minute by minute schedule.

Now to make the Christmas fudge.  i can't break a 42 year tradition, can I?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wait. . .What?

My dreams last night were full of writing. I even admired it!  But like this early  morning's fog, it's all a bit vague. I've been writing this morning, but it's not the CNF created in my dream work.  I'm hoping something will trigger my memory.I should keep a notebook by my bedside.  To jot down my dreams . . .hmm.

Long ago, I was friends with a younger poet Anne Bromley, who used to have a dream catcher notebook.  I loved Anne for her spirit and poetry.  She was the little sister I never had.  She used to laugh at this notion.   
She went to Charlottesville VA, fell in love with a man named Mark, and lived on a farm that had the visitation of wild horses.  She would talk about their hoofbeats at night, summoning beneath her bedroom window.     Last time I saw her was 31 years ago. She came to visit me right after my daughter Meghan Rose was born. I wonder if she's still in Charlotteville?  I hope she's well and still writing.  I should look her up.  It should be so easy, right?

I don't know why my life has been filled with these kinds of relationships.  Real friendships, then the drifting away.  Life filling up the distances.  Children born. That was the real game changer.  Having a family is a mysterious dynamic. It requires so much of . . . well, everything. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fisher Gothic!

Fisher Gothic!  Jade and I had our picture taken at the Student Art Showcase on 12/4/2014 at St. John Fisher.  Art Students in Liz Durand's class created this photo opportunity.  Many posed.
Sch fun!

The Art Show was a huge success.  Over 90 attended and stayed a long time, talking about art, their projects and so on.

Big Thank you to Nancy Greco, Heather Erwin, Liz Durand!
The Arts Minor Faculty at St John Fisher are the best!

Ninth Day of Christmas Writing Challenge

It's December 16th and all is well.  Had two terrific planning meetings yesterday.  I feel energized!  Looking forward to these upcoming collaborations.

For today's writing challenge, I thought I would put up some subject prompts:

1. Cars, Diners, Dives

2. Baskets, boxes, bins.

3. Keys.

Ready, Set, Go!  (Poem, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction.)

For prose, you decide word limit.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Eleventh and Tenth Day of Christmas Sans Holiday Music!

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and began working on poems, submitting work, sending emails.  Accomplished a lot.  Drank too much organic coffee. 6:30 a.m., showered, dressed, ready for the day.  Made an eight apple pie and pecan turtles.  Timing is essential in this process.  I kept time.
Made over 55  pecan turtles, without any mishaps.

 My focus on the 12 Days of Christmas has been poetry, past two days.  Beginning with haiku/senryu. Have been concentrating on honing idea and image in these new offerings that tumbled out of me.  I'm getting better at these forms.  Polishing them to become the crystals I like to hang on fishing line in my kitchen window.  Multifaceted, emitting shafts of light. That is the haiku/senryu I want, the ones that contain enough mystery to keep me coming back to re-read, again and again.

Moved on to writing Haibun, which is the Japanese prose poem that ends with a haiku/senryu. This too informs the rest of my writing. I have always loved compression, distilling language to its essence, its truth.

The weather is raw and damp.  Snow that came last week is melting slowly.  Gray light, shades of winter coming closer and closer.  It's a good time to work.


Tenth Day of Christmas, I woke up at 6:30 a.m.  I made coffee.  It's Monday and I have a lot to do today.
 Meetings this afternoon regarding writing residences and professional development workshops. I may go for a walk this morning.  I need Ontario's ions, the lake air to fill my lungs.

My youngest son is winging his way home today from Germany. Haven't seen him in 2.8 years. He'll be landing in NYC to join his sister and we will be joining them for the holidays.   We will give new meaning to the SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS.

I haven't done any writing yet.  Will resume work on a lyric CNF I began a while ago. Found it yesterday in my poking around some older files and wondered why I didn't finish it.  Most likely distractions, the push and pull of daily life.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Challenge. Please Join me!

Oh my, my last post was October 25th, with its held-in-flight maple leaf, and that is what my life has been like since that date until now.  Yesterday at 2:08 p.m. I entered grades for 126 students.  I read and read and read for five days and four nights.  Let the bells ring!  The Fall 2014 semester is complete and I am satisfied.

This morning, once again I'm  up before dawn.  Hard to break habits; I keep very strange hours.  It puzzles everyone who receives emails from me in the wee hours of morning. I prefer to work in these hours when I am alone with my thoughts, my full attention on whatever is in front of me.  I do sleep, and I can fall asleep in a second.  That is before my head hits the pillow, I'm gone . . . And when I wake, I'm ready. 

So here I am, thinking about how I'm going to spend every delicious free moment of this holiday season. 

Of course, I'm going to have a lot of fun.  After all, I bought cocktail napkins: "KEEP CALM & JINGLE ON."  Good motto, I think.

I have plans to make my traditional Christmas fudge and Santa Beards and Pecan Turtles.

This is our holiday card from Red Rooster Farm.  Homegrown Cherry Bomb peppers placed in an accidental arrangement on our porch glass table and dusted with the first snow of the season.  I saw the image when I was gazing out the picture window facing the orchard.  Oh, quick, take a picture of this, I said to the one who listens to me ( acting as art director). Viola!  We hope you have a Hot Holiday!  Photo by Peter Tonery.

 So, you may be wondering what the 12 Days of Christmas Challenge is.  Beginning today, I am going to write every morning, with purpose.  Any genre, form  X 12 Days = New Work to launch me into the New Year.  Please join me. I will post my progress  in daily reports. 

The reason why I need to do this is to get back to the rhythm I had established over the summer.  I created a month long  CNF lyric essay challenge.  I promised  to write the baker's dozen and did, and to my delight 12 of the 13 essays have been accepted for publication.  The 13th essay has not been submitted. I don't know why I'm holding onto it, but I am.  Maybe it will be released in time.

Also, in a catch-up (not ketchup) conversation with Sarah Cedeno, I've decided to get back to my novella, which has been patiently waiting for me to return.  Sarah has had the recent experience of accomplishing this form, and I loved listening to her yesterday at the SUNY Brockport English Dept Holiday  Get Together. So, Sarah, if you ever read this, you have given me  the nudge in the right direction. So my plan is to dust off those pages and re-emerge into the lives of my characters who do as they please.