Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A campfire story

July 24 Teachers Write Quick Write:  Write a story to tell around the campfire

This spring I did a poetry study of Dark Emperor and in my research I found a poem by Wendell Berry titled: To Know the Dark.  It was suggested that to really know the dark you have to be out at night in the dark with no flashlight at all.  So I challenged my students to do that this summer...

"I spent a summer when I was 18 as a camp counselor in charge of a group of little girls. All summer long the other counselors had been spooking each other with stories of 'Scarface' allegedly lurking around the cabins at night.  Reportedly there had been sightings of him.   One night during the week we were to  take our small groups and camp in the woods with just our sleeping bags on the hard ground and sleep under the stars. We roasted marshmallows, made s'mores, sang a few songs putting off the inevitability of going to sleep. We had to put the leftover ingredients  in crates so the raccoons wouldn't get them.  Once the campfire had gone out it was very, very dark.  One by one the girls drifted off to sleep and I was in charge.  Gradually the woods became  alive with all kinds of nocturnal noises.  Could it be Scarface?  I was terrified and even more so because I was in charge.   All night long there was a scuffling sound as the raccoons tried to get into those crates. As a city girl I was almost as afraid of those raccoons as I was of Scarface.  I forced myself  to get up and try to shoo them away. There was not too much sleep to be had, and when I got up in the morning I felt like I had dirt in my teeth from sleeping on the ground.  For better or worse we were still alive and headed back to camp for the new day."

That is what I want you to do this summer.  Go out in the dark without a flashlight.  Lay on the ground and look at the stars and just listen for awhile.  Then you will have a campfire story of being out in the dark without a light and be able to tell others what happens outside at night.

A cup of coffee

July 23 Quick Write: include a cup of coffee in your writing...

    I was reading an article about finding happiness:  you were  to list things that made you happy and put those things first and foremost in your life to keep unhappiness at bay.  All kinds of things came to my mind:  having enough money to pay all the bills, a beautiful garden, children doing well in life.  These are things one can not control.  I felt a little simplistic but what I really thought would make me happy was a deep, dark, rich cup of coffee and the time to enjoy it. It could be in a coffee shop or  cafe or on my front porch...nothing special.  Just to have the time to sip it and think about the day ahead- that is happiness for me.  Perhaps it is more a feeling of contentment than outright happiness but it gives me quiet joy.  Then I am ready to face the day, come what may.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Panoramic view/narrow view

Panoramic: Trees, shrubs, and beach grass cascade down the hillside to the sandy shoreline. The summer drought is reflected in the bronze and rust colored grasses. A red-winged blackbird tussles in a shrub while a white butterfly meanders through some flowering Queen Anne’s Lace. In the distance the white lighthouse at Wind Point stands guard at the edge of the shore that juts out into Lake Michigan. The water is deep blue against the powder blue sky but gradually fades into lighter shades of turquoise as it reaches the shore. A breeze off the lake is cool and refreshing as it combines with sudden wafts of sun-warmed air from the land.
Small focus: Tufts of drought browned grass sway in the wind as a lone bee buzzes through them. The seedheads are dried tightly as if to keep any possible moisture inside. The olive green weeds next to them are curled and dried in the morning sun.
  • Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink
    We are feeling the impact of no rain here in Central New York. The playing fields are dirt and hay (a definite fire hazard) and my lawn hasn’t been mowed in weeks.
    A red-winged blackbird tussles in a shrub while a white butterfly meanders through some flowering Queen Anne’s Lace. In the distance the white lighthouse at Wind Point stands guard at the edge of the shore that juts out into Lake Michigan. The water is deep blue against the powder blue sky but gradually fades into lighter shades of turquoise as it reaches the shore. – WOW – Excellent description! It sounds like a beautiful landscape.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Happy writing!
  • Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
    I echo Andy’s response. Your panoramic view with the red-winged blackbird, the Queen Anne’s lace, and white butterfly offers a vivid blast of yellow and red against the black of the bird and white. Nice! I think your panoramic and focus bits are great together. Thank you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Day in Chicago

Teachers Write July 16th Assignment
We got off the Metra at the Ogilvie Station.  The tracks have always terrified me so we hurried down the stairs to the station.  We were surprised to find an organized, shiny floored lobby with bistro tables with umbrellas labeled 'The French Market'.  We were happy to check that out.  There was an abundance of fresh fruit in crates when you entered and then a roomful of counters with every kind of food imaginable.  What a great introduction to the big city.
   Then we headed out to the skyscraper canyons.  It was a sweltering hot day but the buildings mostly protected us from the hot sun.  The streets were strangely empty due to the construction going on further down the road.  The sidewalks however, were filled with tourists and their backpacks so we fit right in.  We had decided to skip the bus ride and walk from the Metra station to the Chicago Institute of Art.  I was pleased to see the efforts businesses made to give the city some greenery.  There was a raised bed in front of a bank that actually had a small green lawn with automatic sprinklers embedded.  Many businesses had large containers brimming over with colorful exotic plants. After we walked a few blocks we crossed an antiquated black iron bridge that went over the Chicago River.  There was a large yacht going under the bridge with a swimming suit and life vest clad family heading in from a morning of adventure on Lake Michigan.   We gazed up at the beautiful architecture of the older buildings:  so much beautiful detail in the design.  At times we had to scoot under scaffolding and almost walk in the street from improvements being added on to buildings.  The locals stood out from the tourists by how fast they moved, scooting and skirting around us as we lumbered our way down the crowded sidewalk.  In a few places men sat on the sidewalk with a cup to collect money for their sustenance.  One creative fellow was sitting against a telephone pole singing in a beautiful bass voice at the top of his lungs.  I admired his voice but didn't give him monetary assistance although it was tempting to show I appreciated his talent!  When we approached the art museum, we were surprised to see a line of about 100 people snaking out of the doors and down the street.  We were not the only people to think of visiting on this hot summer day.  This proved to be a test of will as the sun beat down on us unmercifully.  Thankfully we were entertained by a street vendor who threatened to tell his jokes if no one purchased his magazine.  Since no one did, we heard his joke several times in varied renditions.  I should have given him a donation just to take my mind off the perspiration trickling down my back!
     The stone lions outside the art institute stand guard in front of the handsome building.  Last week someone rigged them up to roar scaring the daylights out of the tourists.  Since I was aware of this, of course they didn't roar for us.
      The museum itself is a maze of galleries with seemingly no rhyme or reason to it.  It wasn't just us that became confused, other patrons also expressed dismay about getting lost looking for the cafe.  We started off looking at a collection of miniatures, small dollhouse like displays collected by a wealthy woman to show architecture in all stages of history:  Asian, American, European, Greek, and others.  I tended to like the Japanese for its peacefulness and the English Manor house with its medieval look.  Next we stumbled upon the Asian artifacts, seeming more like a museum collection rather than an art collection.  We saw beautiful porcelain pillows that women used to preserve their elaborated hairstyles while they slept.  The museum has fascinating details next to each display, but one starts to go blind after trying to read each one.  I set off an alarm pointing out an ancient hinge on a stone carved Japanese couch.  This was only the first of many blunders I made that day.
     The highlight of the day was the beautiful display of impressionistic art by Monet, Renoir, Pisarro, Gaugin, and Seurat.  There was a Frenchwoman giving a lecture to a group of French tourists in front of the "Sunday in the Park with George" pointilism painting.  I stared at them to see if it is true that they are more fashionable than us but I wouldn't have even have known they weren't Americans if they hadn't been speaking French.  They were thinner than us, but just as wrinkled...One young woman had a scarf twisted around her neck even though it was a beastly warm day.

Writing nonfiction...

I have never written nonfiction so this week’s challenges were something new for me. When I was 10 we had the assignment to write a poem and I was stumped. So I dug out my beloved Childcraft encyclopedia (weird, I know) to get ideas and wrote a poem about Dolley Madison saving Washington’s portrait. It was published in the school newsletter and my parents were so proud. So on a whim I spent the rest the day this week researching Dolley Madison. She is a fascinating lady and I learned about her tragic dealings with her son, which I had never known. I may make a model picture book for my students with the research material but even if I don’t, it was a rich learning experience that I can share with them. I would not have had this esperience without Teachers Write!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 'bistro' table

bistro table
4 bistro chairs
2 tomato plants
2 poblano peppers
2 bean plants
yellow Gerbera daisies
2 tricolor sage
3 jade plants
2 decorative gnomes
purple mushroom garden ornament
mauve owl garden ornament
green watering can
bronze watering can

Bistro Table
I saw a photo on Facebook of a table set for two on a balcony with a Moroccan tablecloth, tall tapered candles, wine glasses, and a gourmet dinner.  So I rushed to prepare the bistro table on our front porch setting it up for a lovely and romantic dinner.  I put the Mediterranean style meal on the island counter and my husband and I filled our plates.  As I headed for the porch he headed for the living room.  "Aren't you going to eat on the porch with me?"I asked plaintively.  Not even turning around he replied, "I'm in the middle of watching the Sherlock Holmes movie and I want to see what happens."  Disappointed,  I headed out to the porch for my gourmet solo meal on my beautifully decorated bistro table.  Sherlock wins out every time...