Tag Archives: egret

Clearing the Clutter

I’ve been thinking a lot about clutter.  In my mind, I am a minimalist. I love those wide open clean spaces, creating a blank canvas that facilitates thinking and creativity.  I’m drawn to those books that offer clutter solutions, guaranteeing success in easy steps to get rid of the junk and keep life carefree and unjumbled.  I regularly browse them in the bookstore, taking note of the tips and advice, but seldom put any of it into practice once I get back home. I guess I have to admit that I am a bit of a packrat. 

There are different categories of stuff I have a hard time parting with.  Books compel me. I seek them out like old friends. I crave having them around.  They teeter in tall stacks beside my bed, crowd into the corners of my bulging bookcases, peek out of baskets beckoning to me.  The ones I’ve read remind me of my own thinking and learning, taking me back to different times in my personal and professional lives.  They are those mentors and coaches that helped through tough times, kept me on track or pushed me to the next level in thinking or doing or feeling. The ones I haven’t read yet are the gateways (I hope) to new ideas and new ways of thinking about being in the world. Novels, professional books, nonfiction, fantasy…they all intermingle on my shelves and in my mind, which do I get rid of?

Cards and notes and bits of paper filled with love also linger in my life.  They are tucked into books, crouch near important papers, and hide in drawers and files.  Like rays of sunshine, they warm my heart and lift my spirits. Then there are those keepsake items.  The musical stuffed dragon we bought for our youngest son when he was born, the tattered blanket that was never far from his chubby fist.  Then there’s the letterman jacket showing off the achievements of our water polo playing son, the baby blanket my grandmother crocheted, and the book about education wars my son wrote as an example of satire in seventh grade.

There are also the items that still have use left in them.  The extension cord that has been curled up in the drawer for the last five years because the lamp being used now has a long enough cord.  The drawer of pens that all still work, even though no one uses them. And then there are clothes. Those jeans that are worn thin but you still love, even though they stopped being comfortable five pounds ago, the sweater in your favorite shade of blue that must have cost a fortune but makes you itch every time you wear it.  The baby clothes that remind you of the time when your now grown boys were a babies, won’t one of them want that tiny Padres jacket for his own child one day?

How do I get from my real life clutter to the wide open spaces I see in my mind?  I think about all the books and blogs and videos out there that espouse the perfect solution.  Unclutter in 30 minutes a day, change your life as you tidy your house…you know the claims. And perhaps the bigger question is, do I really want those sleek, shiny spaces that I dream of or does the physical clutter contribute to the complexity of my own thinking?  

As I walk through the Price Center on my way to our meeting room, one of the quotes on the floor catches my eye: “Perfect Order is the forerunner of perfect horror.” Carlos Fuentes.  I stop and snap a photo. Wait…has this quote always been here? Have I walked over it time and time again? Was it placed here purposely for me to find today…just when I most needed to stop and think about it?  As I work to frame the photo with my phone, I’m frustrated by the reflection on the shiny waxed floor, my inability to get the perfect shot. I continue to ponder the meaning, wondering about the appeal of perfect order–that perceived beauty of the sleek and shiny.  The myth that rules and a lack of ambiguity somehow leads to clearer thinking and robust, equitable solutions to the world’s thorniest and most persistent problems.

Perfect Order

Maybe I should take a note from nature, noticing the ways that beauty and complexity are intertwined.  Simplicity is not a straight path with clean uncomplicated solutions and easy answers. Remembering that even my clutter is part of a complex system–memories wrapped up with functionality, sentimentality intermingling with purpose and usefulness–can help me as I continue to chip away at the piles here and the stacks there.  I do want to make space in my life for new–new pathways, new memories, new books, and new ideas–and also leave space for the new to intersect with all that came before.

I have to face it, minimalism is not a likely lifestyle for me.  It’s not likely that I will achieve that perfect order that will result in perfect horror.  I love ambiguity and have spent much of my life pushing against rules that serve as gatekeepers rather than safety nets.  A new lens might help me re-view and re-vision my clutter, seeing new opportunities in what was once simply a mess. Perhaps now is the time in my life to start looking carefully at why some of those things remain, long after they’ve ceased to have use for me.  I’m sure I can find a good home for that extension cord and the drawer full of pens. I will prune, donate, reimagine, and gift the excesses. And I will be patient with myself, knowing that if I can’t part with something today, the time must not be right, and instead I will work to appreciate those teetering stacks and overflowing baskets knowing they are providing me support and comfort for the time being.

But I also won’t be complacent.  Change means looking for a new order and that means I will need to ditch some of things and thinking that no longer serve me.  Maybe this is what all my heron and egret sightings have been telling me: lighten the load, stretch out, and let your imagination take flight.  How can I not be inspired by those amazing yellow feet!

yellow feet in flight

 

Finding my Spirit Animal

I think I’ve found my spirit animal, my patronus (to borrow from Harry Potter).  This is not the same as saying here is my favorite animal or here is the animal I identify with, this is the animal that keeps finding me and when it does, it brings me energy and calm, power and focus.  

Long walks along the beach have become a norm for me.  At first I started walking for a reason to take pretty photos.  But the more I walk, the more I need to walk and the more I want to walk.  I walk to burn off calories, to engage my muscles, and to breathe. I walk to think, to reflect, and to problem solve.  I walk to notice, to engage with the world, and to write. I most often walk on my way home from work, but I also walk on weekends, on vacations, and sometimes right before the sun sets.

Seagulls are a staple of my walks on the beach.  These birds are the ever-present, iconic bird of the beach.  They gather on the shore, they swoop and soar overhead, they keep a sharp eye on things…especially those snacks people think they have tucked carefully away for after their ocean dip.  Pelicans are a regular sighting as well. These bombardiers fly in perfect formation, shifting leaders as they speed along the coastline.  If you watch carefully, you may spot one over the head of the surfers waiting for the perfect wave as it waits and then suddenly drops, snapping up a fish in its huge pouch-like bill.  And there are the sandpiper category of birds (curlews, avocets, plovers) that love the low tide feeding opportunities. They are much shyer than the seagulls and much more fun to watch as they run up and back with the waves.  And I take lots of photos of all these birds, trying to creep up close without causing them to fly off.

But back to that patronus, the spirit animal.  Some people have always known their spirit animal.  For my husband, the bear is his kindred spirit. He takes comfort and energy from seeing bears and identifies with their fierceness, their lumbering ways, the way they protect their young, and their general good looks.  I have never considered that I might even have a spirit animal until lately. I think I started to make some connections about the possibility of animal totems when I read a post by a virtual friend, Molly Hogan over at Nix the Comfort Zone where she talked about the significance of some Baltimore oriole sightings outside her window.  When I read about Molly’s oriole, I immediately thought about the snowy egret sightings I had experienced–and the joy each sighting brought.  I’d been writing about egrets and photographing egrets without considering any connections I might have to them.

egret in the surf

I often come across these beautiful birds at low tide and spend lots of time watching their bright yellow feet stomp the murky water to bring fish and other food possibilities out of hiding.  I learned to creep close without disturbing the birds, clicking my camera lens trying to get a perfect shot. And lately, the birds seem to be finding me. Just recently egrets have appeared at unexpected spots along my beach walk, and we’ve hung out together on the edge of the surf.  Each sighting brings a sense of calm and intense pleasure, a camaraderie and comfort that comes from being with those you care about and who care about you.

egret close with ruffeld feathersegret looking

And then, as I started writing this earlier this week I came across an art print a CLMOOC friend had sent me a while back while I was looking for a container of sea glass I have on display in my house…a print of a heron.  I stopped and snapped a photo of it, remembering that when I had looked up animal totems on the internet that heron and egret were defined together.

heron printScreen Shot 2018-06-28 at 7.40.34 AM

Later in the afternoon I headed out for my usual beach walk.  I was feeling good already, the sun was shining (something that can be a bit iffy in these parts in June), I found a parking place not too far away, and I was ready to stretch my legs and breathe deeply.  As usual my camera was strapped around my neck, ready for whatever shot presented itself. As I reached the mile mark along my walk I considered turning back, but decided since the day was so beautiful and the tide was cooperative I would continue on a bit further.  I am so glad I did…just at about the point I had planned to turn around I noticed the familiar shape in the surf. But wait, it wasn’t white. As I walked closer and watched carefully I could see that it was a great blue heron hanging out in the surf! I have never seen a heron on any of my beach walks, but there it was!  

heron in the surfheron flying

The coincidence seems too great to be a random sighting.  I am certain these birds are bringing me messages of calm and support.  They are certainly bringing me strength and inspiration and an incredible jolt of joy.  So I am claiming the egret and heron as my spirit animals, patronus if you will, there to call on in times of need.  

So now I am wondering, do we each have a spirit animal, an animal totem representing our strengths and bringing us power and focus?  Is there more to the heron/egret than I have yet discovered?  I’d love to hear about your experience with your patronus!

 

This is Just to Say…

Today’s poetry inspiration came from Williams’ poem of apology, This is Just to Say.  In addition to studying the original, we also read some of the poems written by 6th graders in the book also titled This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman.

Students had fun playing around with their own poems of apology.  Here’s a couple composed by the third graders in my class to give you a taste:

Dear Romeo,

I’m sorry I have to whip you sometimes

Also, I might tire you out sometimes,

but you’re always a handsome horse

lovable, huggable, gentle, and soft

Oh how I love your long mane

drifting in the sky

when we canter across the field

Love,

Tyler

I gave them a whole 7 minutes of writing time!  It’s conference week, so students are on a minimum day schedule…and time is short!

I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Sorry, I really didn’t think it through.

Although we had fun doing it, I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Cody

And one more student poem, this one inspired by yesterday’s Red Wheelbarrow.

The Thread

 

So much depends on

a brand new jacket

and a loose thread

 

Pulling

into bits and pieces

 

until it is

one loose

and wiggly line

 

Lauryn

I found myself returning to the topic I explore in my first two poems.  Today’s was written to that same egret I featured before–but from a slightly different angle.

This is Just to Say, My Friend

 

I have stalked you

my lens focused close

waiting for your head to turn

your neck to arch.

 

You seem so peaceful

and focused as you

stare out at the blue horizon

scanning for danger

or maybe appreciating the view.

 

I’m sorry for any disturbance

I cause with my close looking

and the click of the shutter.

 

I just can’t resist your elegant neck

and charming yellow feet!

 

Douillard 2018

LRG_DSC08563

Maybe, dear reader, you’ll try your own poem of apology today!

Let the Poetry Begin!

My students and I decided to take a 30-day challenge to celebrate National Poetry Month. We have committed to writing a poem each day of the month–in spite of the fact that our spring break begins when school is out on Friday!  Hopefully, a poetry-filled launch this week will keep the poetry spirit alive and well during our time off.

To add to the motivation–for myself and my students–I plan to blog my poem-a-day…and feature poems written by my students on my blog as well.

To get started, I will include my poems one and two here today.  Look for some student poems starting tomorrow–they needed time to refine their early efforts.

Yesterday’s poem was inspired by the snowy egret I watched and photographed on the beach on Friday.

snowy egret

Snowy Egret

Tuned to channel nature

where the constant whoosh and roar of waves

matches the rhythm of my heart

 

I scan the distant horizon

for the alabaster of my low-tide friend

As I come close

I notice the porcelain statue

with yellow feet

that unexpectedly

stomp and stir the shallows.

 

He’s rewarded for patience and persistence

with a briny treat.

 

My reward is the glimpse

of those charming yellow feet.

Today we learned about William Carlos Williams through the book, A River of Words.  After reading a bit about his life and interests, we studied The Red Wheelbarrow to pay attention to how Williams put this iconic poem together.  We then did some writing of our own under the influence of The Red Wheelbarrow.  

Here’s my version, again related to the egret I am so drawn to.

The Tidepools

So much depends

upon

a low tide

on the beach

uncovering shallow pools

filled with fish and crustaceans

nearby the snowy egret

wades and waits.

How are you celebrating National Poetry Month?

Splash

Water. There is something about the sound of a splash, waves curling with foam before crashing onto the shore, the white noise of the ebb and flow of tides that brings a calm and focus to my brain, causing connections to build, ideas to generate, understandings to emerge.

Maybe it is the smell, briny molecules that tickle my nostrils.  Cool, damp. Particles searching for their polar opposites, sticking together, forming droplets that create a film on my skin, a chemical change that soothes not only the body but also the soul.

Could it be the walking that makes the difference? Putting one foot in front of the other, the bipedal motion integrating the hemispheres of the brain, breathing in and out, swinging arms in rhythm. Or is it the combination of water, walking, and fresh air that energize the mind, replenish the spirit, and allow for creative thinking and problem solving?

As I walk the shore my eyes search the horizon, taking in the blues and greens and all the shades of white.  I notice the ripples in the sand under my feet, the tiny bean clams sitting up on end partially buried, the uneven terrain of pools and islands revealed as the tides pull the water back.  Seagulls squawk, shouting directions and warning to their kin,  Sandpipers whistle their concerns.  Pelicans dive and float, soar and scan, only to dive again.  Children scream and squeal as they race into and out of the water.

In all of this commotion, there is stillness and space.  I breathe deeply, taking it all in.

Splash.

egret silhouette

 

One Little Word 2018: Stretch

The past few weeks have passed in a blur…just where did 2017 go? School was in session right up through December 22nd, leaving only the weekend to finish last minute preparations for Christmas and the whirlwind that was about to ensue.  And once family left on Sunday, I had time for a bit of celebrating before waking up yesterday to a new year.

In spite of the time warp, I have been thinking about a word to guide 2018 as well as reflecting on last year’s word.  For 2017, I chose the word possibilityPossibility is a great word, and as I read last year’s post I could still feel the reasons I chose this word.  But what I have learned about a word as a talisman is that I need a word that requires action, a word that reminds me to do something when the going get rough or stagnant and I need that proverbial kick in the butt,

So for some weeks now I’ve been trying on words.  Even this morning I thought I had settled on my word, but found myself reconsidering as I pulled out my computer to begin writing.  I thought reach would be that perfect word, encouragement to go beyond my comfort zone, to look past the edges of my sightline.  But suddenly, reach seemed too stagnant, too grabby, too self-serving.  I needed a word with more layers, something to encourage me to go beyond, but also to be flexible, introspective, and compassionate.

Stretch…somehow it feels right.  I need to make space in my life for more stretching, allow this body to bend, to regain the flexibility that I’ve allowed to erode as yoga has faded from my regular routines.  I want to stretch my mind and my thinking, remember to listen carefully to others and to consider perspectives different from my own.

I want to stretch time, gathering up minutes that turn into hours that I waste doing things that don’t matter and return to more writing, reading, and photography.  While I still always fit those activities into my life, I know I can be more mindful and deliberate about making them a priority.  I want to grow my skills, stretching to learn something new each day.

I intend to stretch my legs, walking and hiking into new places and seeing familiar places in new ways.  And I want to stretch out my passport and travel, exploring some new venues–those places we’ve talked about visiting but haven’t quite gotten to.  I will also keep stretching low, picking up those little boys who are almost not babies anymore!  Stretch to reach those small hands that are so eager to explore the world, offering me new insights on teaching and learning.

I can already feel the muscles in my back and shoulders unknot and relax, knowing that each stretch will result in flexibility and strength–a combination that seems perfect for 2018.

And as a reminder, a photo from my New Year’s Eve beach walk of an egret stretching into flight.  Like the egret, I will stretch my wings, pay attention to my surroundings, and even stir up the waters to uncover the tasty tidbits beneath.  (Have you ever watched an egret hunt?  I love the way they stomp and rustle the waters to get the fish to come into view as they search for food.)

stretch

What will you choose as your One Little Word for 2018?

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

Summer officially arrived last week, with the longest day of our year.  Coincidentally, it is also the same day as my wedding anniversary…and this year we celebrated by heading off to a “secret” speakeasy downtown.  It was fun to dress up and spend time exploring my own city–and slip into this hidden specialty bar tucked in behind a wall of kegs that is actually a door to another world.  Inside, glass topped tables reflected the interesting photos on the ceiling and bartenders created magical libations that I might not otherwise try.

light on the table

Summer also means time on the beach.  Living close to the coast, I spend time on the beach all year round, but the summer brings out different dimensions.  There are lots more people on our beaches in the summer…last week, when the tide was low, we came across this group of people enjoying the tidepools.  And it seems that someone created a still life arrangement…with the green bucket carefully arranged atop the pile of kelp.  A little app magic turned it into a beautiful painting.

still life on beach

Summer also means a lot more activity.  More walks and more runs, playing in the water and on the sand.  It seems that the same holds true for the egrets too.  I caught this guy in midstride as he played in the surf.

tiptoeing egret

And the beginning of summer also announces the start of our SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute.  We spend 4 weeks together on the UCSD campus…writing and reading and thinking and talking…with some making and playing thrown in too!  With only 3 days under our belts we are already making connections and taking risks, sharing and learning with each other. There’s no better way to spend a chunk of the summer!  The Geisel library is an iconic image of UCSD and always conjures the intense days of writing and learning with a community of dedicated educators.UCSD-summer

So this week’s challenge is all about summer.  What evokes summer for you?  How will you represent the carefree days, the warm weather fun, or even your summer learning and work? It can be travel, staying at home, time with family and friends…start capturing those images of summer in your world!  I know that summer is a busy time for me…but there’s always time for a photo or two or three…

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #summer for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Let’s see summer in all its glory…through your lens!