There is something bittersweet about April. Maybe it is because it is my birthday month that I feel this way. My birthday comes at the beginning of the month, and then towards the end of the month, I feel a deep longing. I don’t want April to depart. I want to keep its spring-freshness and cleansing showers. Then I remember that May is coming and with it, the respite of summer. And May means flowers, and that makes all the difference!
My inspiration for “April Remembers” came from Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Leilya Pitre, who teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University and coordinates the English Education Program. Leilya invited participants to go for a walk to our place of comfort and write a poem about our experiences. She used “A Late Walk” by Robert Frost as inspiration. These Frost lines stood out to me:
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.
The flower does not forget
How to blossom.
One green moment
Small and slow.
The moon remembers
To rise above the mountain.
A long, lone breath
Spinning in the silence.
April unfolds to May,
My hand opens to yours,
Your hand embraces mine.
Together we walk towards
I live at the edge of a woods and often hike the fields, hills, and woodlands of my surrounding countryside. One would think I live in a rural, bucolic place but I live in bustling New Jersey, not know for its pastoral qualities even though it’s called “The Garden State.” It seems a sort of joke, but New Jersey has varied beauty from its Atlantic coastline to its western hills and farmland. Most of my inspiration comes from this terrain that I know so well. And even though I know the woods, the hills, the coastline, the land often surprises me. There is always a gift to uncover. The woodland is where I find solitude, where my thoughts keep cadence with my footsteps, where I can go to unpuzzle the world and find peace.
My inspiration for “Every Bend” came from Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Cara Fortey, who suggested to write in a modern Tanka-style as modeled by poet and UCLA professor, Harryette Mullen.
I am in the need of good news. I am thirsty for happy possibility. So much information now is negative: COVID, a multitude of possible diseases, racial unrest, economic downturns, and violent crimes. Oh, and did I mention war? Our beautiful world is marred by war. Humans are committing atrocities towards each other. Unspeakable tragedies happen every day. It is enough to make one weep uncontrollably. To keep myself afloat, I have made a conscious effort to turn towards hope.
I have been listening “Brighter Days” by Blessing Offor, who is an amazing singer. His personal story is truly inspiring. I am in awe of how he was able to take his tragedy and transform it into a life of faith and hope. I find myself singing his song while doing the dishes, while walking, and I turn it on just before bedtime. We all need brighter days, healing words, and good news.
Today, my sixty-sixth birthday, I have been tasked to write about love. It is a good and solid subject. I know a thing or two about love. Or at least I think I do. I have poured out cups and cups of love to both the deserving and underserving. When love was new, I jumped in head-over-heels, mesmerized and awe-struck. My heart knew no bounds. I look back at that time in wonder. I was so completely trusting, so completely willing to take a chance. That is the beauty of young love.
It took me decades to learn self-love. I am still learning to care for myself, to cherish who I have been, who I am, and am becoming. This way of thinking is new to me and expansive. I don’t have to be one singular, solitary being. I am ever-changing, and in my metamorphoses, I am becoming beautiful. At sixty-six, this is no small feat. So I celebrate this day with a love poem. The tenth day of April – spring love is in the air; it abounds and abides.
After four days of constant rain and widespread flooding, the storm passed leaving the bluest of skies and sunshine. The air warmed, raindrops pooled on bright petals, and birds shook out their wet feathers. I marvel at how changeable April weather can be. April is a moody child. I understand. I was born in April. Even though she storms and rages, I am drawn to her springtime glory. I am in awe of blessed April.
It has been raining all night and is forecasted to rain for the next three days. It is April. This is to be expected. Rain is what we need, wet sustenance. The water feeds the seeds and plants, the greenery feeds minds and imaginations. Yes, springtime rain is what we all need. As I was thinking about the rain, a word popped into my head: subterranean. So much of what happens in this growing season is unseen, a secret of nourishment. I decided to play with this idea of underground, of what is happening in the subterranean world. What dark wonders occur that are the impetus for such verdant beauty?
My inspiration for Subterranean comes from Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Mo Daley provided the cherita idea.The cherita was created by English poet, ai li. Cherita means story or tale in Malay. The form consists of 3 stanzas- one line in the first, two in the second, and three in the third.
April is making its presence known today with steady ,silver showers. I woke up to the sound of rain and immediately felt comforted. I don’t know whether I love the rain because I was born on a rainy Tuesday in April, or because I am always attracted by just a hint of sadness. That hint of sadness reminds that I am a survivor, and I can weather the storms that come. When the rain comes, I know it’s time to slow down, to put on the tea kettle ,and find a good book. The rain invites me to contemplate, to go inward, to take stock of my day, my week, my life. The rain says, “It’s okay to go nowhere. You can stop being busy. You can read, write a poem, lay in bed with your head under the pillows. It is perfectly fine to rest. In fact, I demand that you rest!” And so I listen to the rain. I hear the drips, drops, plunks, and patters. I watch it fall silver from the sky and drip like jewels on each tree branch. I watch the birds puff-up and shake the water from their feathers. The world is greening and so am I. And that takes time.
Afterwinter: Rain - Three Haikus
Gray sky, springtime rain,
Drops forming into puddles.
Here comes a great splash!
Rain comes in April,
Pouring down on the meadows,
All things are washed green.
Fill with rain water - golden
Nectar for fairies.
Make Your Presence Known
The clouds make their presence known.
Swirling white and gray,
Becoming new, changed.
The rain makes its presence known.
Solid, steady drops -
Gray, silver, glistening,
Soaking the earth, nourishing.
The sun make her presence known,
Shy at first, hesitating -
Peeking behind great columns of clouds,
Finding her voice at last and shining.
The birds make their presence known,
Taking cover under the thickets
Until the rain slowly ceases,
Then soaring with a song, into the air.
I have been watching children grow for forty-two years. The funny thing, like plants, children don’t always grow in a straight line reaching directly up to sun, luscious and fragrant. Sometimes growth takes a hard, circuitous route and more time than expected. With plants, you might need to adjust the proper amount of sunlight, temperature, moisture, air, and nutrients. You also might want to provide beautiful music to encourage growth. With children, it helps to be patient, provide encouragement and a positive attitude. Follow their circuitous route and give them the creative space to discover their interests and passions.
Lately, I have been bombarded by teachers with fixed mindsets about student progress. The words: can’t, doesn’t, won’t, below grade level abound. They repeat the mantra, “She’ll never catch up.,” over and over again until it becomes their truth. This fixed mindset about student growth has been debilitating to me, and I can’t imagine what it does to the students. Children, even if they are having trouble learning, have no trouble understanding how their teachers regard them. They know what teachers think of them, and if the teacher’s truth is that the child can’t learn or there’s something wrong with the child, then undoubtedly the child begins to believe it too.
I believe that humans are miraculous creatures. They can surmount overwhelming odds. They can achieve their goals with hard work, encouragement, and burning desire. They can crush any limits with strong will and motivation. I know this to be true. I have seen it. The third grader who struggles to pay attention becomes a poet and a therapist. The second grader who struggles to read, grows up to get a doctorate in education. The first grader who applies an awkward pencil grip and avoids writing, grows up to be a world-class adventurer who sails across the Atlantic. Without some kind of struggle, it is difficult to truly learn. There should be no shame in struggle. We shouldn’t give children the message that if you are struggling to learn something, then you are not quite up to par and that this is the way you will always be.
This idea of children needing to be given space to question experiment and explore reminds me of the story of Gillian Lynne described by Ken Robinson in his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Robinson explains that as a young girl growing up in the 1930’s, Gillian was thought to have a serious learning disorder, and school officials recommended that her mother take her to a psychologist. Gillian’s mother complied, answering the psychologist’s questions as Gillian sat on a chair listening. When Gillian’s mother and the psychologist left her alone in the room, the psychologist deliberately turned on his radio. As the music played, Gillian got up and began to dance. As Gillian’s mother and the psychologist watched from the doorway, the psychologist asserted that Gillian did not need to attend a school for the learning disabled. Instead, he proclaimed that Gillian was a dancer, and he recommended that she attend dance school. Gillian went on to become a famous British ballerina and choreographer. She is best known for her choreography of the Broadway hits, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. (Robinson, 2009). It is this shift in perspective that is necessary for connecting children with possibilities. By encouraging risk-taking and experimentation, teachers guide students to explore their personal strengths and passions, allowing children to become authors of creative narratives of their own design. Children begin to see themselves as actors in the true sense of the word. They are part of a creative growth process, responsible for their own learning.
Didn’t They Know?
My family dubbed me.
"Stop being Sara Bernhardt,"
My mother declared.
Didn’t they know?
Didn’t they know
That I cut my teeth
On words and sounds,
On the sharp crackle of
On the soft chew of
I was born a poet,
Didn’t they know?
My family called me.
"Get your head out of the clouds,"
My father demanded.
Didn’t they know?
Didn’t they realize
My mind was made
For curious, impossible things?
To wander and wonder
To dance with the breeze
Weave words into poems
And poems into stories
And stories into a rich, wild life.
Didn’t they know?
Last week, after a day of wild rain and wind, my husband and I ventured out on the last day of our South Carolina vacation. We biked along lush paths, sat by the pool to soak up some sun, and then drove to one of the beaches we have come to love. We walked down the long path to the beach. On either side there were dunes and a creek and scrub pines laden with huge pinecones. As we approached the fencing, we saw the vast expanse of sand, sea, and sky.
The sky was decorated with amazing clouds. I gasped and thought, “This is what sublime is. Sublime is the surf and sky dotted with this dramatic cloud cover in shades that run from bright white to cream to pale blue to pink to lavender. I said to my husband, “This beach is never the same twice. There is always something new and beautiful. Just look at that sky!”
I started to laugh remembering a time I spent last year with a group of three-years-old children, who were observing the cloud formations and commenting on all the shapes they saw. Some saw turtles and pirate ships, others saw castles and giraffes. Of course, one young pragmatist clearly proclaimed, “Don’t be silly! They all look like mashed potatoes!” I wrote more about this here.
As a poet, photographer, and teacher, I am attracted to the elusive nature of clouds. They represent creativity and possibility. They can shape-shift. If I was a superhero, I think that’s the superpower I would like – to change my structure – to become something else and then something else again. Clouds break apart and come together; they change color and shape and quality. They embody what it means to be creative. They are the definition of sublime. I wrote more my connection with clouds as inspiration here.
When my husband and I take photo trips, whether near or far, I am often attracted to doors and windows. I like exploring small quaint towns that have been revived by artisans and documenting what I see. Maybe I am drawn to doors because they signify possibility to me: “one door closes, another opens…” I am curious by nature and enjoy imagining what might be behind each door. Who”s inside? What stories do they bold? If the door is painted, why did the owner choose that particular color? How does that color reflect the mood and personality of the inhabitants? The door is like a dressed up package. Untie the bow, knock at the door, and find out what’s in store for you. There are so many choices – all is possible. Hope is at hand.
In the same way, I am also intrigued by windows. Where doors are solid and impenetrable, windows are translucent and reflective. I can see through, into the building and also see a collage of images in the reflection. To me, windows represent both the past and the future. I can look both back and forwards in time. What is created in the photograph is a connection been the past and future – what I left behind and what still awaits me. Photographing windows gives me the opportunity to play with color and light. I am able to compose and create a unique collage. Below are some examples of the photographic play I did on a recent trip to South Carolina.