A Sweetly Simple Day Off

What a sweetly simple Monday off from school. A soft drizzle scattered throughout the day, providing a dark and dreary backdrop perfect for Halloween lights, pumpkins, and mums.

As I graded students’ essays, the gray mist had me daydreaming of some faraway rain-drenched isle. What better telly, then, to binge on than Shetland, the mystery series based on the Ann Cleeves novels set in Scotland. I mean, look at this…

And then back to this Netflix documentary for a break from the news of the day, which continues to be so loud, combative, and irritating to the spirit….

I find myself looking to the past for learning, inspiration and optimism, even hope.

A quiet day before heading back to the classroom tomorrow. Word on the street is that seniors are up to some shenanigans and will be cutting school for an extra long weekend. Fine by me. I have much more grading, reading, lesson-planning, and daydreaming of faraway rainy places to do.

Goodnight, friends.

Beans and Rice, with a Poem

I recently discovered a new poem. One of the benefits of reading voraciously is that you are constantly learning, traveling, unearthing, sharing, exploring, questioning, wandering, growing, and discovering. And aren’t those some of the best bits of life? Some of the very actions that give us meaning and purpose?

Poet, performer, librettist, and professor Douglas Kearney read the poem in an online course I was taking (“Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop” via Coursera), and I immediately fell in love with its exquisite colors and concrete images, simple–though anything but.  I replayed Kearney’s reading of the poem several times that week and in so doing discovered another poet to enjoy and introduce to my students–Kearney himself.

And then I did the next obvious thing, the only possible choice….I cooked up a hot, steaming plate of beans and rice (tossing in cilantro, chunks of fresh garlic, and Sriracha for kicks) and devoured the delicious simplicity of the dish.

Enjoy this poem, and then go and cook up some beans and rice of your own to relish. It really doesn’t get much better, does it?

“Red Beans” by Victor Hernandez Cruz

Next  to white rice
it looks like coral
sitting next to snow
Hills of starch
border
The burnt sienna
of irony
Azusenas being chased by
the terra cotta feathers
of a rooster
There is a lava flow
through the smoking
white mounds
India red
spills on ivory
Ochre cannon balls
falling
next to blanc pebbles
Red beans and milk
make burgundy wine
Violet pouring
from the eggshell
tinge of the plate.

 

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Back to School…in Two Weeks!

Hello! I am enjoying a peaceful morning here, quiet except for the birds chirping and a distant lawnmower humming. Oh, and a quacking squirrel. Yes! I had no idea until yesterday that squirrels can make noise. I thought a wayward duck had lost its way onto my balcony, but it was a skinny little squirrel making all the racket. I am not sure if that means it is hurt, angry, or just wanting to chat. I will research.

I have been busy as a squirrel myself in the past couple of days, dusting off the syllabi, creating some new presentations in Google (I am loving their Slides as an alternative to PowerPoint), digging through my magic hat for fresher lesson plans…sometimes it’s hard with The Scarlet Letter or The Iliad, you know?

Mimi was in disbelief when she saw me getting back to work….That is the exact expression I will have on MY face when I hear those hundreds of high-schoolers entering the building on that first morning a couple of weeks from now.  Shock to the senses!

Mimi And so now, it’s busy busy busy. Lots to do before heading back, including….staring at this mountain of books remaining from my summer reading list and wondering what to read next. Sigh…life is good.

book pile

 

A Rainy Day, Hooray!

I realize most people probably prefer a sunny day during the summer, but give me a good rainy day during any season of the year and I’m happy as a kid in a puddle. Today marked the first day of a two-week vacation, and so what better way to celebrate than with heavy rain pounding the windows all day.  (Well, just to clarify, today actually began the final two weeks before I have to set the alarm clock and return to my classroom, but I am sipping from the glass half full.)

So, today’s celebration was filled with the very simplest of shenanigans indeed:

1. Hours of drenching rain that splashed my little corner of the world.

2. Vanishing for a couple of hours into THIS delicious murder mystery by Louise Penny and watching one very happy lemon tree enjoy a shower:

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3. Sketching and watercoloring! A tomato, or, um, a spaceship, depending on your perspective…what can I say, I’m learning.  (It’s fun to play!)

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4. Tuning in to (and subsequently BINGEING) the brilliant A Very English Scandal on Amazon Prime. Give both Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw an Emmy! A Golden Globe! Here’s a review in The Atlantic for your reading pleasure:

Review of A Very English Scandal in The Atlantic

5. Devouring a tomato/spaceship (mozzarella and fresh basil included) whilst catching up with this wee one after being away for a week.

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6. Watching the rain continue to power-wash the world outside and feeling the peace of knowing there’s no place I would rather be.

It’s that simple.    

A Summer Sunday

I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of Sundays. (Were you expecting a juicier, saucier admission?) During the school year, I awaken on a Sunday morning and immediately think of the million and one things I want to squeeze into the day ahead before heading back to work on Monday, things I probably should have already gotten to during the workweek or at least part of Saturday–you know, three loads of laundry, a Crock-Pot of chili, a full week of celery chopped, pile of bills, at least one power walk, vacuuming, five classes worth of essays to grade, finish writing a book of poems, iron my shirts, read the Times front to back, watch every single football game being televised, go to a football game, watch Masterpiece Mystery, write a novel, read a novel … well, you get the idea. Never enough time. And poor, innocent Sunday seems to rub that in my face, though I know she means no harm.

Now, part of me is being hyperbolic, of course. I am a teacher. I enjoy freedom-filled Sundays all summer long. I load my time with what I want, when I want it.  I have sacrificed a lot of material and financial comforts to follow my dream of teaching, but I reap every single reward this special vocation offers. I am grateful that I have always inherently enjoyed simple pleasures and that I know how to live comfortably and within my means. And I have also lived enough and seen enough to know that all of the  blessings in my life make me wealthier than any man or woman on the Forbes list.

But I digress…back to Sundays. This Sunday. Today. Simply spectacular! My sister and I are together again for a week of shenanigans on our annual summer vacation at the Jersey Shore. We have vacationed here since we were tiny girls, playing Charlie’s Angels with cap guns, smashing around in bumper cars, licking ice cream cones, and sharing stories of what we were going to be when we grew up. We return because this place connects us. Its roots grow deep.

Anyway, nothing earth-shattering, just simple and restful, like Sundays are meant to be, I suppose. Soul-filling. I sketched. She sipped a special coffee. We laughed and chatted, people-watching from our balcony a few yards from the boardwalk. She napped. I plunged into the most beautiful coffee table book entitled The Sea and daydreamed of manning a lighthouse in the middle of the Irish Sea or re-cruising the Alaskan fjords. We savored a delicious caprese salad (including cucumber slices and garlic stuffed olives) composed with the freshest of ingredients from my visit to my friends’ garden the other day. She bought two original paintings at the art show on the boardwalk. I ballooned with joy as she excitedly recounted her conversation with the artist. And we ended the day in the best way possible, perhaps the only way, when you’re down here on vacation…a twirl of soft serve ice cream. Dipped in rainbow sprinkles, of course.

Sunday, I may just be discovering your wonderfulness after all.

Small caprese

Small Em's art
Two original paintings (on aluminum) by New York artist Kevin Liang

Small The Sea

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Farewell, Sweet July

Hello! I am relishing a quiet, peaceful last morning of July here at home. I debated going to the beach, then thought I might run to Target and Wegman’s, stared glumly at the World Literature textbook I need to start re-reading and planning for September’s classes. In the end, the nicest choice won out: reading some poetry on my balcony and listening to the choir of birds chirping in-tune, out of tune, perching quickly on and off the railing to say hi.

Have you read Mary Oliver? She writes with such an observant, poignant, grateful eye. Take a look at this nugget from “Messenger”:

My work is loving the world./Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird–/equal seekers of sweetness.

Ah, I love that. Imagine if we were all “equal seekers of sweetness”?

I can’t wait to see what sweet simple joys August brings. Thank you, July, and farewell.

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Mimi wishes I would open the screen door and let her out on the balcony.