Sarah #SOL22

I looked over at her, asleep in the front seat after a night of celebrating the New Year with friends and saying her goodbyes. Car packed, we were on the road to Chicago to get her settled in her new home for the next four months. She would begin student teaching in a first grade classroom in Chicago Public Schools on Monday.

That’s when it struck me…Sarah. She was holding the ratty, faded blue, stuffed hippo tight in her arms while her head rested on a pillow. When did she become this young woman? Almost twenty two and the world at her fingertips? Wasn’t she just a six year old getting a Sarah as a birthday gift?

Sarah had always been there. Sleepovers with friends, summer camp away, her first year at college and then her apartments. Now Sarah was on her next adventure. You’ve got this, Gretchen (and Sarah!)

In the Stillness

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Just sit in nature and let it over take me and write. Use my senses to observe and listen to the voice of the earth. As I learned of #writeout, a collaboration between the National Parks and the National Writing Project, I knew now was the perfect time. With inspiration from Six Room Poems by Moving Writers, I set out on a fall day to hike and write.

As I enter your space,
Time stands still.

Tall, skinny trees
Bare until the canopy of green
Takes over the sky.
Long trunks 
With peeling bark
Exposing fresh layers of life

A random leaf floats to the earth

Grey brown takes over the stage
Patches of yellow dot the backdrop
Peek-a-boo light pops in the shadows
Brown dried leaves blanket
The forest floor
The dead returning to nourish the earth

Wind moves the branches
The shadows dance
And then return to stillness

Listen closely
There is no silence
The hum of insects becomes white noise
The wind moves in slowly
Rustling a wave of leaves and branches
Like a pattering of the rain

This space is a gift
The rush of life slows down
Senses come alive
Hearts soften
Minds become curious

Life can be so simple
So beautiful

every day a new HOPE

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

Emily Dickinson

A shovel poem using Emily Dickinson’s words

every day a new Hope.
morning mercy Is
on The 
horizon. Tune out the Thing
that fills you With 
fear. Shake off the Feathers

of yesterday’s failures That 
corset your mind. Success Perches
on your actions today. In
your words. The
message radiating from your Soul

If I Blink #SOL

my hands touch the warm rubber
hard, dried and cracking along the curves
I grab and pull back
one, two, threeee
my hand releases

if I blink, 
my mind transports to 20 years ago
our almost daily trips to this park
late mornings,to return home for lunch and naps

the rhythmic pushing 
feet high in the air
little fingers grabbing that same metallic chain

if I blink,
I see our red wagon filled with snacks and stuffed animals
and always pacifiers (extras just in case)
hands gripping the sides
bodies leaned back against the rails
traveling in style

chatter bounces around the playground
kids chase up, around, over, under
toddlers waddle with caretakers protecting their every move

if I blink,
you are exploring as hover and I predict your next step 
you are running to and fro
playing with friends, plotting your games

You've grown too old for this
I begin again with the next generation
But, oh how I savor the memories of old
if I blink

A morning at Donner with my great nephew

Laughing in the Rain #SOL

The rain came down heavy. I could do nothing but squint my eyes, pedal harder, and laugh. “Now you’ll have something to write about in your journal tomorrow,” Tim joked. Oh, but sooo true. These are the stolen moments that make for a perfect slice of life– Getting caught in a summer downpour on a bike ride back from Dairy Queen.

It was a light dinner of chicken drumsticks on the grill, corn, and salad. You know what always comes after light dinners…ice cream! I sheepishly suggested it, “I would go on a bike ride to Dairy Queen later.” Tim never, I mean never, turns down ice cream.

We got on our bikes around 8:00. The sky looked dark, but the weather app said the rain wasn’t coming until 9:30ish. We left the Jeep and Subaru in the driveway with top off and sunroof open. “Should we pull the cars in the garage?” Tim questioned. “Nah,” I replied.

The bike ride downtown was pretty uneventful. The skies looks ominous, but we trusted the weather app. At one point we almost turned back to have ice cream at home, but decided to risk it.

DQ was abuzz with people. A softball team, kids and parents, people everywhere. We sat low to the ground on two parking blocks, the concrete stop at the head of a parking space, because every seat was taken. We enjoyed our ice cream (Thin Mint Blizzard for Tim, Hot Fudge Sundae with nuts for me) and people watched.

We felt the first drop of rain when we were no more than a block into our 25 block bike ride home. By the time we reached 7th Street, it was a downpour. I stayed to the right riding under trees hanging over the street for a bit of reprieve from the rain. We couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves. We took a risk for ice cream. Was it worth it? You bet!

Morning Porch Sittin’

Our rustic home for 3 days in Happy Valley, Tennessee

I turned over in bed and noticed the faint light penetrating the thin muslin curtains. Ah, morning time. I love the first streams of light and the soft nudge they give me to wake up and start my day in the stillness.

Brewed coffee in hand, I step out of the 100 year old cabin onto the front porch. The wooden screen door creaks on its hinges. I catch it carefully so it doesn’t slam. I breathe in the damp mountain air; feel the moisture on my skin of the fog rising off of the Smokies. I settle into the rocking chair with my books and notebook. THIS is what I came for. These next 120 minutes of time to think, reflect, observe, and be at peace in my mind.

I notice the chorus of little birds on the hillside across the quiet street. Swooping and calling in playful movements. So many varieties playing chase in the meadow.

My devotion and prayer time come first. I picked up a bible from the end table inside, inscribed with “Bobby Christian.” It molded to my hand, soft and malleable from years of use. I wonder what life was like for Bobby? Did he and his family attend the church two lots down?

A deer appears near the top of the hillside. His head on a swivel; frozen in place and looking for enemies. I beg him to relax and feel the safety of this place. He knows the area much better than I and the risk of being out in the open. Finally, he settles and feeds on the dewy grass.

Next up, notebook time. I let my mind process some of what the last month, last year has held. My role as instructional coach was put on hold to address many different needs in our building…tech support for teachers and families, teaching 6th grade math online, teaching 3rd-5th grade writing online, teaching in a very challenging 5th grade classroom in person for the last nine weeks, preparing for my son’s high school graduation and the open house that followed. Putting these thoughts on the page allows them to leave my mind; breaking the cyclical thinking attached to them.

My eyes search the unruly overgrown wire fence separating the road from the hillside. The green of the trees brings peace and calm to my being. I’m not sure what it is, but trees have this immediate effect on me.

I open Mary Oliver’s collection called Devotions. “I Worried” spoke to me. I love the last stanza: Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang. Then I read “Passing the Unworked Field” about Queen Anne’s lace, how it stands straight on its thin stems how it scrubs its white faces with the rag of the sun how it makes all the loveliness it can. Sitting in a rocker on the porch of a 100 year old cabin reading Mary Oliver. The perfect setting to feel the essence of her poetry.

I hear a rustle in the cabin. The others wake to the start of the day. My solitude time is over, but I am filled up and ready for the family time ahead.

The view from the front porch

Trees #SOL21

Inspired by Janeen Pizzo, I gave a go to my own Pantoum poem.

The tress, they stand through it all
A new fresh start every year
Shaking off the winter gloom
Green emerges, new life

A new fresh start every year
Blazing summer heat drips from your leaves
Green emerges, new life
A place for solitude and rest

Blazing summer heat drips from your leaves
Changing right before our eyes
A place for solitude and rest
You shed your coat of many colors

Changing right before our eyes
A skeleton of what you once were, strong and mighty
You shed your coat of many colors
The trees, they stand through it all

My Kind of People #SOL21

I do it every time. Driving past, I peer into the driver’s side as they pass. A parked car, I look around for evidence. Checking to see if they follow suit with my expectation. And usually, the answer is yes. If you own a Subaru, you are my kind of people.

I’ve never been much of a car person. In fact, cars actually annoy me more than they interest me. Loud, obnoxious cars: noise pollution. Racy, shiny sports cars: waste of money. Big, overpowering trucks: highway bullies. And don’t get me started on cars or trucks that blow black, poisonous smoke. My main objective with a car–take me where I need to go safely and cost effectively.

And that’s where my Subaru fits in. I currently own my second Subaru Outback. My first one was a used, white 1999 that served me well for many years. Running errands, transporting toddlers, then preschoolers around, taking the dog for a hike. But, eventually our family needed a car with three rows of seats to accommodate friends and trips. When I traded my first Subaru in, I knew it would not be my last.

Fast forward a decade, and I now have my next Subaru Outback. The kids were older, and they were driving themselves. We were ready to be done with the larger, family vehicle. As we began looking for our next car, I knew I wanted another Outback. The rates were so good, we decided to purchase a brand new one; the first new car I’ve ever had.

Here’s where my experiment begins. I have found that most other Subaru drivers I encounter have many of the same characteristics. We are earth loving, enjoy being active, kind, thoughtful souls, creative people, and usually dog owning. Recently, my predictions have been correct.

  • I was leaving a weekend yoga class and chatting with a fellow yogi. As we left the studio, I saw her head towards a Subaru Outback. Check: enjoy being active
  • Running in a nearby neighborhood, I spotted two Subaru Outbacks parked in the driveway. Next to them were raised garden beds. Check: earth loving
  • Recently, I was listening to a livestream Indigo Girls concert, and Emily told a story about a drummer she met while getting her Subaru worked on. Check: creative people

To all my fellow Subaru owners…you’re my kind of people 💚💙

A recent mailing from Subaru. This could have been me 25 years ago, but my body’s a little too old for this type of camping now.
I write along with the Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday for the Slice of Life Challenge.

So, What’s Next? #SOL21

31 days later, and I’m still here writing! This is my 2nd year participating in the Slice of Life challenge. I must say, it is even more rewarding this year, than last year. I knew what to expect, what it was going to take, and even employed some new strategies to help me be successful. I am proud of myself, not only for growing as a writer this month, but also for learning new things from fellow slicers, and become an all around better human.

So, what’s next you ask?

Keep writing! Since November of 2019, I’ve made a commitment to writing. I’ve written almost everyday. I rise early at 5 am, have my quiet time followed by my writing time. A cup of coffee with each one. This is my favorite time of the day. I will continue this practice. It starts my day off right and sets me up for success.

Visit Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday Slicing isn’t over! Last year, I sporadically participated in the Tuesday challenge. This year, I want to keep the momentum going.

Revision work I hope to improve my revision process on my slices. One strategy I employed at the beginning of the challenge was to write my slice the day before, let it simmer in my mind throughout the day, and then revise and publish it the next morning. This practice led to better writing. My goal will be to flesh out my first draft of my Tuesday slice on Monday morning, continue to think about it, rework words, add ideas, and be ready to publish on Tuesday.

Revisit the March challenge My reading and commenting on the SOL challenge barely touched the surface of the exemplary writing that was posted this month. I hope to go back to many of the days and read more pieces and comment to others.

Encourage others to write with me I shared this challenge with my staff this year. No one joined me, but I planted the seed. I hope to provide opportunities for us to write together and ways that we can share our writing with each other.

Feedback Giving and receiving feedback is such an important part of this challenge. I know I would eagerly check my comments throughout the day to see who read my post and what they thought of it. That reminds me of our students. When they write, they need feedback! And the sooner the better. I have a goal to provide quicker feedback with students, and for that feedback to contain a lot of positives.

In the last 31 days, I’ve become a better writer, a better teacher of writing, and a better human. It’s #whyiwrite. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for organizing this challenge! I’ll see you on Tuesdays!

The Seasons of North Christian Church: Spring #SOL21

your grandeur is unmatched
vast all-embracing roof to shelter those inside
tall reaching spire that touches the heavens
our eyes reach upward
a direct line to God
lines, angles, symmetry
everything in its place

The first to arrive are the daffodils
announcing spring is here
perky and fresh, dewy and delicate
you skirt the majestic meeting place
with a canary smile

Tulip trees trumpet
(in case you missed it)
spring is surely here
soft pink petals adorn the trees
only to fall in a cascade of perfume
a carpet of silk leaves
cushion the magical fairy garden

two reminders that the next lap begins
a hand off of bitter days 
in exchange for glimpses of warmth
an emergence of new growth for the earth
and the soul