Witness

I’m hearing the word “witness” in many places these days. Sometimes people use it when describing a horror they have witnessed. Other times, it’s the wonder one feels at being able to see something unexpected or extraordinary. It’s the latter experience I will try to share.

I play the organ for my church congregation. The way the chapel is set up, I sit behind the podium where the speakers stand. It was from this vantage point that I was a witness to a tender moment I won’t soon forget.

Mary (name changed) is a tall, slender, 17-year old with cranberry red hair who sings like an angel. She is the middle child in a family with five children. Nathan (name changed), her younger brother, is also a tall, slender 14 or 15-year old. Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t heard them sing in nearly two years. In fact, the last time I heard Nathan sing, he was still a soprano. I was pleasantly surprised now to hear his rich baritone voice.

Sunday, they stood at the podium ready to sing a duet. As they listened to their mother play the introduction, Mary reached for Nathan’s hand. At first, he squirmed his hand away, but when she reached again, he held her hand. The podium hid their hands so the congregation did not see what I saw. Mary and Nathan didn’t let go through all four verses of the song.

As the song progressed, Mary became emotional and was having difficulty singing without crying. She squeezed his hand. With a quick glance, Nathan continued and sang Mary’s solo part giving her time to regain her composure. I learned later that Mary’s grandmother who was in attendance would be starting chemotherapy the next day. Her cancer had returned with a vengeance and her prognosis doesn’t look good. No wonder it was hard for Mary to sing.

This expression of family love touched me deeply. I am grateful to have been a witness.

Poetry Friday, August 27, 2021

Poetry Friday is hosted by Elisabeth. Drop by and visit here.

One of the blessings of the past year has been the opportunity to participate in poetry classes via Zoom. One of these was a 6-part series called Poetry of Resilience that was hosted by James Crews and Danusha Lameris. I have become very fond of them as poets, thinkers, and teachers.

This week I have been thinking about my experiences with poem writing. I am a novice, at best, but with each poem I write, I gain a little confidence. Poetry is something that is a private practice to me. I read and write it mostly by myself, and haven’t shared my poems very widely. I’ve never had a desire to be published, or to enter a contest, but I’m happy to have this small space in the universe to try out a few thoughts.

Belief

Walking beaches
and country lanes

Climbing mountains
and city hills

Circling the track
and neighborhood block

Strolling along rivers
and wandering forests

Always looking
Always searching
Always listening

Starting to believe
the poem
is
in me.

DRAFT, 8-27-21

Summer Poems

Today my poem is in response to a challenge given to write a summer poem. So many poems celebrate the glories of summer. It was humbling to try to add my words. I kept thinking of the quote attributed to Albert Camus:

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus”

The idea of an invincible summer appealed to me when I first came across these words nearly 50 years ago. I thought of summer memories and images I’ve loved over the years which have lived in me as my own points of strength. In addition, I love the form of the Praise Poem which I learned from Glenis Redmond. (You can read her lesson here). These thoughts came together in the poem which follows.

Invincible Summer

I am summer.
I am a cobalt blue damselfly
Darting here and there.
I am a lonely creek
Meandering through the hemlock-dark hollow.
I am a red-winged blackbird
Perched as a sentinel over the meadow.
I am a tiny Deptford Pink flower hidden in grasses
And secretly plucked by young lovers.
I am the slow winding down of hot
Summer days–
Sunsets that last for hours.
I am August’s crescent moon
Smiling as nature’s night songs lull
Children to sleep.
I am summer.

Marilyn G. Miner DRAFT
August 13, 2021

Thank you to all the poets who share their poems here, and to Christie Wyman, who is hosting today at https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/

Self-talk of a Mosquito

As a child I practically lived outside in the summer. We had no air conditioning then so we survived by staying outside. I remember getting mosquito bites, but it was no big deal. Sadly, in recent years, mosquito bites have become a big deal producing huge welts and frantic itching that even awakens me from sleep. So imagine my indignation when I was attacked by a mosquito the other night as I slept.

I thought of this incident when Christie Wyman (you can find her here) challenged a small group of poets to write a poem from another’s perspective. At first, I found it difficult to think of an object, a character, or a person whose perspective I could take. Then, I started scratching again and my topic became clear. Here is a draft of that poem:

Self-Talk of a Mosquito

You know,
I’ve been through a lot already in my life.
I’ve escaped dragonflies from above
and fish from below.
Now it’s my turn to feast.
Oh my…I’ve caught you sleeping.
Where should I begin?
First, let me just slide in here
Between your fingers…
This skin is thin—such a tender, delicate spot.
Yikes!
Here come the scratchers.
That was fast.
I’d better move on.
What about that sleek forearm
or the squishy spot on your tricep?
Mmmmm…juicy.
Can I possibly penetrate those tense, tight trapezius muscles?
I’m going to try. Here goes!
Good thing you’re still sleeping and don’t notice my voice.
This muscle is tough, but
you won’t miss the tiny bit of blood I take.
You’ll know I’ve been here
By the spit I leave behind.
It’s just a little anticoagulant to thin your delicious blood.
Scratching again? Scratching still?
Antihistamines, I’ve heard, might help.
Thank you.
You’ve been a most gracious host.

August 4, 2021

Many thanks to this week’s hostess, Mary Lee. You can find her roundup on her blog, A(nother) Year of Reading. I hope you will join us for reading, writing, commenting, and celebrating Poetry Friday!

By the Window, an ekphrastic poem

The old trellis

leans against the time-weathered window.

Rudbeckia crowds reach their faces upward–

their brown gumdrop centers

encircled by petals like yellow sun rays.

These bursting blooms endure across years and shout

Even when

No one lingers to witness such glory.

May I pass by and stop.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Molly at https://nixthecomfortzone.com/. Be sure to stop by and enjoy a bit of summertime poetry!

Dinner

My husband will eat anything (except scallops=allergy!). He has only one request when I cook. “Make lots of it.” It doesn’t matter what “it” is. He’s eaten my best cooking and my worst cooking. It’s either “good” or I hear, “It was fine, but maybe next time…”

Over nearly 46 years of marriage, my interest and motivation in cooking has gradually diminished. I would rather spend my time doing other things. Without kids at home anymore, I haven’t had much motivation. With the pandemic, we have fallen into survival level food. Take-out has been more frequent (curbside pickup is so tempting), and my cooking has been very basic.

Enter 16-year old granddaughter, Samantha. She is living with us for a few months and being a nanny for our new grandson–her cousin, Peter. This has been a very happy summer for me with her in my home. When I knew she would be coming to stay, my biggest anxiety was dinner.

“I’m going to have to remember how to cook again!” I said to my sister. Daily dinner seemed like a big challenge.

Imagine me going back and forth the five paces between kitchen and dining room as I put plates, forks, salt, and napkins on the table. A big bowl of shrimp pasta salad and a bowl of watermelon chunks were in the center.

“I’m so excited!” she said.

“Why?” (I assumed she would tell me about an activity she was invited to go on.)

“For this salad!”

“Oh! I hope it’s good!”

It really is the little things that matter. I have loved having Samantha with us, and I found that my pleasure in making food has increased. I don’t even mind doing the dishes. And that says a lot.

Stories from my life, Tuesdays and every day in March. Thank you Two Writing Teachers.

Poetry Friday

Christie Wyman’s Poetry Ponderings class began this week. We explored the functional, flexible, and fun list poem. The varieties are endless. My thoughts were drawn to my sisters. Our parents are gone and as we are getting older now, we depend on each other in new ways. We have an older brother, but he has always lived far away. The three of us live within 30 minutes of each other and are very grateful.

A sister can be…

a partner for jumprope
an opponent for games
a cheerleader
a joker at the table
an alto in the choir
an accompanist extraordinaire
a maker of beautiful things
sewn, knitted, or embroidered
a friend
a companion on walks
a sharer of stories
a potato salad making wizard
an appreciator
a “Faithful Fretter” when things are hard
a recommender of books
a constant in times of change

for always

Sisters

Poetry Friday Round-up is graciously hosted today by Margaret at Reflections on the Teche



Fireworks

I have been out of the habit of attending the 4th of July fireworks in my town even though we live just up the street from where they are presented. It started when I had a child who could not bear the sensory overload of flashing lights and booming sound. Later, it was I who could not bear the mosquitos and crowds. And then, there was often a grandbaby to stay with that made it easy for me not to go. But this year, on Sunday, the 4th of July, I was coaxed into going.

“It’s just down the street. You can go home if you need to, but come!”

I sat on a neighbor’s concrete driveway and waited until dark. I looked up and saw splendor I had forgotten. The lights, colors, booms, and thrill of not knowing what would come next. I tried to pay attention and be present this year. (We have been through a lot as a nation, and it seems more has been criticized than celebrated.) But, that’s an essay for another time. Instead, here is my poem to try to capture some of the experience I had celebrating our America.

Spirals of fiery light

Shoot toward the stars.

A ball of light bursts into luminescent spokes

Tipped with red, white, and blue.

Colored bits of light fall like confetti and disappear,

Leaving spider veins of smoke etched on the night sky.

Then, flash!

A ball of light surges upward again and again,

Erupting to rain fronds of sparkling weeping willow boughs.

Glittered fire-anemones briefly kiss the sky

Like celestial Queen Anne’s Lace.

It’s a wonder to consider

what gave man the desire to send earthly joy to

the glories of the night sky–even if just for a moment.

“We seek the fire of the spark that is already within us.” ― Kamand Kojouri
Writing slices of life Tuesdays and each day in March. Thank you twowritingteachers.org

Curmudgeon

Lucy Calkins sometimes tells students that they can write like a curmudgeon or write like the words are gold. Today, I had my second tutoring session with a student who is determined to be a curmudgeon. He says that he hates writing because he doesn’t like to share. Well, in a 1:1 setting, would sharing be so bad?

First tutoring session:

Me: So, T—, what did your mom tell you about why we are working together?

T—: (with a sneer) Nothing.

Me: What did she tell you about the work we did together last week?

T—: (with a louder sneer) Nothing.

I proceeded to point out many of the strengths I observed while doing initial assessments. And then, I mentioned that his mom and I felt that perhaps some work on writing would be fun. This student was on a computer for virtual school all year. He hasn’t had a real workshop experience in over a year. He’s an avid reader. He’s a great speller, and he has made it clear that he’s not buying what I’m hoping to sell.

Trying not to be intimidated by an 8-year old, I pressed on. In my teaching, I have often used the 5-minute quick write to build a bank of writing and to build writing stamina. I thought this would be an easy invitation to writing with the open topic, “Summer.” We talked a few minutes to prime the pump and I set the timer. We began and I wrote, too.

My writing took me back to fun summer evenings of my childhood and memories of neighborhood kids gathered for games of Hide-and-Seek, S.P.U.D., and jump rope. I could hear the ringing bells of the “Popsicle Man,” and could feel the stickiness of popsicles dripping down my arm. I remembered the bikes, wagons, and roller skates we shared and being chased by neighborhood dogs. I loved getting to stay outside until dark when it might be cool enough in our un-airconditioned house to sleep. It all came back in just 5 short minutes of writing. “I love writing,” I thought to myself.

T— wrote 38 words in the 5 minutes. He wrote something to the effect that summer should be for fun and other activities and “not this annoying writing thingy my mom is making me do.” I thanked him for his honesty, even though inside, I was wondering, “Am I annoying?”

Second tutoring session:

I hoped our second session would improve. Today, I gave him a choice of prompts for the quick write. (Choice is motivating, right?) He checked the box. Again, I wrote, hoping to model what “write the whole time” looks like. He wrote 9 words, 7 of which were the words of the prompt. My heart sank as I wondered what would help turn this relationship in a more positive direction. One voice tells me to discontinue–it’s been a hard year and this student will be successful when he returns to school. Another voice asks, could some writing support now help him be more confident when he returns to school?

What would you do?

June 1, 2021

I am happy to report that my work with my granddaughter, Alice, has been a success! Last week, she read a first-grade benchmark book with 97% accuracy. She reads with expression, especially when her 3-year old sister shares her chair and listens. My favorite day was her rendition of The Teeny Tiny Woman (If you’ve forgotten, you can refresh your memory here.) with the Teeny Tiny imperative, “Take it!”

A year ago, I had packed up my classroom and sadly left an empty school, retiring without getting to say goodbye. I wondered how I was going to navigate retirement. My Alice Project helped so much to fill the void for me. At least 4 mornings each week this school year we have met on Zoom, practiced letters and sounds, studied how words work, and learned to read, write, and spell. It’s been a great year, at least in this way!