Category Archives: clmooc

Puzzling Times

I don’t play games.  I’m a pretty reluctant participant to those ice breaking activities we all experience in professional development, the days we head back to school in the fall, and now even on the ever-constant Zoom meetings.  And I don’t own any jigzaw puzzles.

At least I didn’t.  Until last week when the constant sameness of the stay-at-home, work-at-home, play-at-home routine drove me in search of novelty–in the form of a jigsaw puzzle.

As a disclaimer, I did play games as a kid.  I did puzzles as a kid.  My own children played games and put puzzles together.  But game playing, as a family activity–as an adult activity is really not a part of my everyday life.

But there was a puzzle to purchasing a puzzle.  They are obviously in demand right now.  Amazon is delivering puzzles in July.  Target had none in stock.  But I did find one that I could order online at Barnes and Noble and pick up in the store near my house.  My husband thought I was crazy when I came home with the puzzle–but he’s a good sport so we cleared some space on the table (we each have a table as our home offices) and opened the box.

There’s something oddly soothing about looking through hundreds of tiny interlocking pieces in search of a straight edge.  It’s both mindless and intentional.  Stimulating and calming.  Purposeful and aimless.  We found ourselves shifting roles, one of us searching, one of us building and then trading.  Patterns began to emerge and all those bits of color, pieces of words, and abstract shapes began to take on meaning and become recognizable as parts of a bigger whole.

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I’m looking for that same sense of recognition to make sense of the disparate pieces that now constitute work and life during a global pandemic.  Shutting down and sheltering in place has been scary and stressful, but began with a sense of temporary.  As we stretch into the third month and looking to the future feels like looking into the brand new box of a 1000 random pieces, “normal” and whole feels so far away.

It was hard to grasp finishing the school year without being face to face with my students.  It’s harder still to imagine starting a new school year meeting my students through a computer screen.  Or teaching students in shifts and keeping them at arm’s length.  And maybe hardest of all, just not knowing what the next day, the next week, the next month will mean for all of us as we navigate so much unknown…with the threat of disease and death attached to all we don’t know.

So for now, I’m making sense of jigsaw puzzles while I am not able to make sense of the world.  We finished that first puzzle today, enjoying the satisfaction of setting those final pieces into place to complete the picture.

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New puzzles have been ordered and we’ll take this one apart tomorrow, careful to make sure that all the pieces get back into the box.  And we’ll offer it up to family and friends, giving someone else a chance to make sense of 1,000 pieces.

In these puzzling time, I’ll be doing some more puzzling.

Light Show

Some of our beaches reopened this week–much to my delight.  I’m back to walking the shoreline as often as possible (when the tide allows walking room that fits my work schedule).  On Monday morning I noticed the mucky, murky waves…and remembered that we are in the midst of a red tide.  A red tide is an algae bloom and all that muck is red algae.

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During the day, the red tide is not particularly appealing…but at night, it’s spectacular!  Last night we headed the beach after sunset, in the dusky light before darkness comes.  We were surprised at the number of people at the beach–it had been a gloomy day and there was plenty of cloud cover.  But then, people were not there for the sun…they were there for the light!

As we parked we noticed lots and lots of surfers heading to the beach.  People kept their distances, but one glance at the waves told the story of why they were at the beach as darkness was settling over the sea.  As waves crashed, the water glowed brilliant blue!

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We watched surfers soaring through the electric blue of the waves, waders and swimmers trying to catch up to the light.  Walkers and gawkers in their coronavirus masks kept their distances and tried to capture this bioluminescent phenomenon with their cameras.

I’m always reminded that I need to work on my night photography technique when I get these spectacular photo ops after the sun sets.  But I keep trying anyway.  Even if the photos don’t begin to capture nature’s beauty, they do give a glimpse into the wonders of bioluminescence.  And it was a wonderful break from staying at home in my neighborhood!

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What a light show!

 

Watching: NPM20 Day 30

On the last day on National Poetry Month, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, I found myself without inspiration for poetry writing.  So like all good writers, I picked up my phone to look for some inspiration.  I started generally on Twitter where I found myself going down the rabbit hole of pandemic politics–lots of uproar about beaches and closures in our state, with the governor “punishing” Orange County for bad quarantine beach behavior during the heat wave last weekend.  But I digress (you can see…I did go down that rabbit hole…)

And then I came across my friend Kevin’s blog where I found his pocket sized poem for today about watching.  And then I remembered the rabbit–not the rabbit hole–from this morning…and I used Kevin’s words to find some of my own.  (Thanks Kevin!)

Pandemic Morning Walk and Watch

Watching the wild rabbit on the black road

Watching the neighborhood walkers

Watching long-eyed snails crawl across almost dry sidewalks

Trying not to squish them

Watching misty dew drops slide down shrubs

Across crosshatched cobwebs

And down my unnecessary sunglasses into my eyes

Watching you as I cross the street

And the rabbit runs.

 

®Douillard

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Book Spine Poetry: NPM20 Day 29

Our school librarian posted a book spine poetry challenge for my students today.  With the poem-a-day challenge, students have done many different kinds of poetry, but I hadn’t introduced book spine poetry–so this was pretty perfect.  And I was inspired to create my own book spine poem as well.

I’m not sure if it breaks the rules to add a title…but I did it anyway.  Here is my book spine poem:

Write It

Quiet

minds made for stories

open a world of possible

between the world and me

rhythm and resistance

schooltalk

the power of habit

writing and teaching to change the world

Book Spine Poetry Mrs D

What poem will your book spines write?

Write About Hands: NPM20 Day 28

Our mentor text for today was Karla Kuskin’s Write About a Radish, a fun reminder that there are topics that are overused and sometimes we need to think about the mundane, the ordinary, the run of the mill when we go looking for poems.

My students had fun with this.  They wrote about grubs, paper, kumquats, an ant, a carrot and more.  I am reminded that it really does take daily practice and a commitment to trying things that feel hard or uncomfortable to get better at whatever skill you are working on.  I can see my students’ daily improvements, moments of breakthrough, troughs of lack of inspiration.  One of the benefits of the this remote learning environment is that I am writing feedback on the poems that are submitted each day–and I see the take up of that feedback in subsequent poems.

My own poems are lacking that kind of feedback.  But lucky for me, I am also learning from my students.  As I study their poems, I learn about my own.  When I see their fresh, unexpected moves, I imagine what those might look like in my own poetry.  And like them, the daily practice matters.

So my own poem, inspired by Karla Kuskin’s Write About a Radish.

Write About Hands

 

Write about hands

too many people write about diamonds.

 

The shiny gold setting

the faceted cuts

that reflect the sun

creating a sky full of stars

in the moonless sky.

 

These hands

with unrefined nails

and sun beaten skin

wear those diamonds,

a symbol of a love

that endures.

®Douillard

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Thesaurus of Color: NPM20 Day 27

Last year in April I experimented with paint chip poetry with my students.  It was so much fun to rifle through the paint chips, picking them at random and then incorporating them into poems.  I noticed right away how this color language elevated their poems, adding a layer of sophistication to their already beautiful ideas.

And in this time of remote learning I wanted to figure out a way to bring a version of paint chip poetry to my students.  Some google searches uncovered a thesaurus of color by a blogger on the web.  This color thesaurus became our new version of paint chip poetry.

Having played with poetry dice a couple of weeks ago, students had already experimented with incorporating words into their ideas and poetry from outside sources.  So today’s assignment to pick some color words to use when crafting their color-focused poems wasn’t a stretch.  And there were some wonderful results!

K played with yellow words:

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R took us out in space:

SPACE

 

AT THE CENTER 

MILLIONS OF TINY COLORS

LIKE SWIRLING BRIGHT BUTTER 

IN A MIXING BOWL, FUCHSIA,

 MAGENTA, GARNET, SCARLET,

THE COLORS OF THE GALAXY!! 

 

WHITE FLECKS, TOO, OF ROSES AND SNOW,

ORANGE OF SUN, BLUE OF THE DEEPEST SEA.

 

AND THEN THERE’S LIGHT.

NOT THE WHITE LIGHT OF THE STARS, BUT

THE LIGHT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY, WHERE

BIRDS DRIFT AND SOAR. THE BLUE OF ICE

DELICATE AS LIFE.

And E started with canvas and ended up with autumn’s leaves:

Canvas.

An ivory surface,

A beautiful sheet.

Changing over time,

But sticking to an overall beat.

Crimson red,

As hot as it is magnificent.

Apricot orange,

Chaotic as fire.

Butterscotch yellow,

Glowing like the sun.

Lime green,

Leaving a trail of bitterness.

Lilac blue,

Spreading seeds across the page.

Night sky purple,

Dark but not dreary.

All these colors,

Put into one piece of paper,

One pile of Autumn leaves.

For my own poem, I found inspiration in my neighbor’s lawn as I walked down the street to check the mail.

Flamingos

They arrived in a flamboyance*

of blush

every color of pink

from the palest of morning sunrise skies

to the mortification

of heat that creeps up the neck

to blaze in your cheeks.

 

Planting themselves

on the lawn

chewing bubblegum

en pointe in ballet slippers

a display of extravagant proportion.

 

A quarantine gift for a neighbor

A delight for the neighborhood.

 

®Douillard

*a group of flamingos

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Pick some interesting color words and try your hand at writing some poetry under the influence of color today!