Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes on a Mountain in September

 Kate Messner has a poem titled "Sometimes on a Mountain in April" that I really like. Since I just spent some time in the mountains over the weekend, I thought I would use her poem as a jumping off point for one of my own.

Sometimes, on a mountain in September,
gold barely shows itself,
hiding its treasure.
Reds, deep and rich,
velvet the hills,
vying with deep greens
for attention.

Sometimes on a mountain in September,
the sounds of the town in the valley
are drowned by the still-rushing river,
bounding over rocks,
nourishing mother and fawn
hidden beneath the reds and greens.
Crickets, startled by our presence,
chirrup loud exclamation points
as they fly past.

Sometimes on a mountain in September,
the sky is the bluest you can remember.
The beauty almost hurts your eyes--
so unused they are to seeing.
It definitely dents your heart.
And the road that led you to this spot
winds away like a promise:

Sometimes, on a mountain in September,
worries and stress get buried
under reds and greens
and rushing rivers
and crickets
and sky.
Sometimes on a mountain in September.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

anticipating fall

As I thought about writing this post, I realized that I had written in March about watching for the signs of spring, anticipating the end of snow and cold. It made me realize that I am a person who likes the changing seasons (fall and spring) better than the "real" seasons (winter and summer). I don't mind a few summer days where it's hot and the pool sounds like a great idea, but I get tired of trying to get a walk in or some weeding done before it's so hot that I am sweating until my glasses fall off. And I don't mind a few cold, snowy days in winter where I can sit curled up inside, tucked under a blanket, warming my hands and insides with hot chocolate, and watch the snow fall through the triangle of street lights. But, eventually, I want to go outside, and I get tired of worrying about cars sliding (and me slipping) on icy roads or the necessity of bundling up in layers and layers of sweater, coat, hat, mittens, scarf. I like spring and I like fall. The problem, of course, is that they are both so fleeting. Can that be why I like them--their very ephemeral nature?

Anyway, I was driving through the neighborhood this week--in a hurry, running an errand to a neighbor before going to work--and I saw this:
I'm afraid my jump-out-of-the-car-and-quickly-take-a-photo-with-your-phone picture doesn't quite capture what I saw, but I thought it looked like a huge cornstalk bouquet! Sure, the vase is a garbage can, but it still seemed like a big fall bouquet out there, just waiting to brighten my day the way any bouquet of flowers would. The sight made me realize that we are getting on to autumn. And, sure enough, yesterday I saw the reds showing up near the tops of the mountains. A sure sign.

In Alaska, we watch for weather signs all the time. In the fall, we watch the fireweed, a stalky wildflower that grows everywhere. Its purple flowers bloom from the bottom up, so we know that when the tops are blooming, the icy cold and the long nights are not far away. Then we watch for "termination dust," the first white dusting on the mountain tops that surround the city to tell us our snow blanket will be there soon. In the spring, we watch for "break-up" when the ice on rivers and lakes starts to break apart. A sign of hope. I grew up watching signs of the seasons, so I guess even though I don't live in Alaska anymore, I still do it.

Cornstalk bouquets and red and gold leaves tell me that autumn is just around the corner. I'm a little excited and a little sad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

tangles and messes

A few weeks ago, I woke up with a big snarl in the back of my hair. I am talking the size of my hand--half my head in the back. I have no idea what my dreams were to have caused such a mess. And no matter how much I brushed, I could not get the snarl to go completely away. I would comb/brush until the back of my head seemed smooth, no tangles, and then, a few hours later, I would catch a glimpse of myself somewhere with a big lump on the back of my head. The snarl was back! It's like my hair had a life of its own, winding up and twisting together as I sat at my desk or in a meeting. Each time I found it, I would brush it out. It would reappear. I was plagued with the snarl-lump for two days, and then it was. . . just. . .  gone.

This past weekend we purchased a new TV. Since my daughter-in-law moved to another state last week--and she has done everything with technology in our house for the last three years--I was left to be the one to hook up the new TV. It isn't as simple as plugging it in. I had this mass of cords tangled and twisted, some going to the modem, some going to the cable box, and some going to some other box (why do we have so many???). I wasn't even attempting to hook up the DVD or VCR. I finally got the cable to work. Yea! we could watch the game (and it was not even half-time!). Time to order pizza. Oops!  I had done something so we didn't have internet or phone. Great. I called Lindsey, and she tried to talk me through  solving the problem. This box and that cord and "where did you connect the short black cord?" and "are you sure the phone connection is plugged in?"--something I had neglected earlier.  She said to send her a text with a picture of what I'd hooked up to what. (I learned how to attach a photo to a text--I'd only sent pictures with emails before. But now I can't see how to get the photo I took for that to put on here to show the big rats' nest of cables and cords!) Before she could get back to me, I figured it out. But it was a trial. Stressful.

In November I am presenting at NCTE. I am speaking about trends in articles related to writing instruction in English Journal over its last hundred years: what do I see? what patterns? who speaks? who is ahead of the game? what are we still struggling with that was a problem in 1912? So, as part of my preparation, I am reading/reviewing past issues of EJ: 100 years of journals with 8 or more issues a year=a lot of reading and note-taking.
Here are some copies of EJ I have in my office right now, but much of the work is online. It's interesting, absorbing inquiry. But it's a mess. It's too many threads right now--and I can't yet make sense of them. I'm even dreaming about this stuff.

Right now I see my life has a pattern: tangles and messes. All I can do is trust that, like the prior experiences, this one, too, will work itself out. (Well, I actually didn't untangle all the TV cords; I just hid them behind the TV stand. I don't know what that means for my present circumstance.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

time out

It's only the start of the school year, but I'm already thinking of how to combat stress. I can't keep eating cookies as a stress reliever: Dark chocolate chip cookies at Cafe Paesan. Oh my! Already they are in my head, drawing me with their sweet mixture of butter and chocolate, crunch and chew.  I have been resisting. . . so far.

Movies are a way to de-stress. Not DVDs. In-the-theater movies. Where the lights go out and no one phones or drops by. Where my work isn't sitting on the table near me or where the laptop isn't settled on my lap at the same time. In the dark. Giant screen. Total absorption. But there aren't always movies playing that take me on a trip away from stress. (Some even make me feel more stressed. . . )

 I would love a vacation--I know, it's only the second week of school--so that isn't going to happen any time soon. So, I take little mini-vacations in my head. I have a variety of "places" I visit, mental photos of places that relax me: The view from above Sundance when the fall leaves are all sorts of golds and reds against the dark evergreens. The Oregon coast at dusk when sound is as important as sight, waves washing on sand with gold sunlight a trail across the ripples. I visit these places in my head; they settle me and help me relax.
This is my newest addition to the collection:
It's the view from the Jackson Lake Lodge, just outside Yellowstone. I could sit there all day. When I first visited the lodge two years ago, the image of this view stayed with me. I hadn't taken a photo that visit, so as time passed I figured I must have imagined how impressive and relaxing it was. I didn't. This time I took a photo. The view is just amazing: lake, trees, blue sky, marsh grasses, and those peaks. We sat outside (squirrels everywhere) and then inside, spending several hours with this view in front of me. Just reading, thinking, breathing. I could sit there for days.
 I think this photo should be my screen saver. Reminding me to relax. And forget about cookies.