Tag Archives: one little word

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?

 

Watch Them Soar

I can watch them for hours as they coast on the air currents high above my head. They seem to play with each other…follow the leader, tag, red rover red rover won’t you come over… Some arrange themselves in perfect formation, vees of aerodynamic perfection performing intricate maneuvers in mid flight. Others fly solo, seemingly free from the attachments of family or community.

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Birds are hard to photograph.  Maybe that’s the draw for me.  They don’t sit still and the slightest movement sends them to the sky.  They seem spare and compact, unlimited by the constraints of time and space.

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

Robert Lynd

Birds require patience and silence.  I have to sharpen my senses, still my heart, and settle into the landscape to have a chance to watch them in action.  And when I pay close attention I learn a lot about the unique qualities of the birds I am watching–and maybe something about myself too.

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Watching birds is a lot like teaching.  The most important part of my work is getting to know my students.  I have to recognize the subtleties of their behavior, knowing when to let them grapple productively and when to step in and offer support–a place to perch until their wings are ready for the next flight.  I have to remember to be still and let the learning come rather than force my pace. Patience and silence are important here too.

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Like students, birds often seek cover, blending in with their surroundings rather than risk standing out in the open, exposed and vulnerable.  But when the space is safe enough and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear their song.  And with time you recognize those voices, even when you don’t see them.

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When the light is right for a mirror-perfect reflection, I realize that I love birds in the wild but resist the idea of caging these creatures. Yeah, they’re easier to get close to and photograph in a cage–but something essential is missing.

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But mostly, birds and students give me hope.

In the words of Emily Dickenson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Watching birds reminds me to expand my self-imposed limits and to give my dreams flight–to take to the metaphorical skies and soar.  And that’s what I want for my students too.  Their lives are awash in possibility. I hope that my small breath under their wings helps lift them to pursue their interests and passions.

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So they can soar.

One Little Word: Expand

It’s that time of year…time to choose a word to guide my year.  I’ve already selected and rejected several, testing them only to find out they were too literal or too confining, not the inspiration or guide I am looking for.

Last year I chose explore…and indeed I did explore.  I looked under rocks, climbed up mountainsides, and discovered landscapes beyond my usual experiences.

mushroom fairyland

A mushroom fairyland found in Olympic National Park near Seattle, WA

The year before that I chose play for my one little word.  Play reminded me to find the fun around me, to push against my seriousness and to make time for myself.

Hiking Merry Christmas

On top of Iron Mountain

This year I am anticipating change.  I will take on an important new role in my life.  Very soon I will be grandma to not one, not two, but three baby boys!  And I can already feel my heart expanding as our family grows.  Over the last several years, I’ve been watching my sons walk the path toward fatherhood, becoming loving and attentive husbands and dog dads…and now nurturing, caring dads-to-be.  My amazing daughters-in-law are big in belly and heart, one carrying identical twins, both women already imagining how they will balance motherhood and work, family and friends.  I had such fun spending time with them over the holidays–talking about their dreams and fears, and watching the babies push and bump, making their presence known from the inside out.  I am lucky that even when I am not with my sons and daughters-in-law, I am the recipient of updates and what were at first mysterious sonogram portraits, becoming more familiar and now revealing hints of the features of the babies that will soon enter the world outside their mothers’ bodies. As grandma, I anticipate building new relationships with my sons and daughter-in-laws…and with these little boys who are my grandsons.  (I can’t wait!!!  The time has passed both excruciatingly slowly and in a blink of an eye, it won’t be long now!)

And I want to continue my growth in other areas of my life as well.  I am continually looking for ways to expand my understanding of teaching and learning.  How do I create conditions where learning can happen–both for my students and for myself and other adults in the room?  How do I facilitate learning within our writing project community–for myself and the others who comprise this inspiring group?  How do I ensure there are pathways that welcome new voices and new perspectives, enriching our educational community by increasing the diversity within our community?

I also want to continue to play and explore the world on my own terms. My photography continues to be a tool that encourages me to try new things and expand my visions of what is possible.  We already have some places to explore on our wish list…as nearby as Yosemite and some international destinations as well.

And so, my one little word this year is expand.  I hope to expand my heart and mind, my understanding and empathy.  I am striving for an expansive year of growth, of love, of adventure, of relationships (and not of my waistline!).

fields on I5

Space to expand…both in front and behind!

 

Taking Time to Explore

I’ve been debating on a word to call on as a muse for 2015.  I’ve been looking for a word that is active…that will push me to move out of my comfort zone, challenge me mentally and physically, and will work for both my professional and personal life.

And today’s adventures pushed me to decide.

We knew we wanted to squeeze one more hike into these precious days off…something a bit out of our ordinary choices.  And when we left the house this morning in our hiking gear, with cold weather layers ready, we thought we were heading up into our local mountains.  But at the gas station, we changed our minds and headed off on a two-hour trek to Palm Springs and the aerial tramway.

tram to the mountaintop

The tram takes you from the bottom of the mountain near Palm Springs to near the top of San Jacinto at over 7000 feet.  What we didn’t anticipate were the crowds…or the snow.  Each tram holds about 80 people and takes about 15 minutes to go from the valley to the mountain station…and there are two.  We were lucky and only waited 90 minutes for our turn to go to the top.  By the time we boarded the tram people were waiting more than three and half hours!

Once we got to the top, we headed off on a five plus mile hike…in the snow!  And ah, it was breathtaking!  As we walked away from the lodge, we moved away from the throngs of people who had come solely to throw some snowballs and slide in the snow.  The sun shone brightly on the clean, white snow.  We could hear birds chirping and our own breath as we climbed the mountain.  We happened by this family of snowpeople as we headed out on our hike.

snowman family

We reached our destination at 9100 feet!  Crisp and white and fresh…Round Valley (the peak is another three miles up, we’re saving that for another day!).

at altitude

The views were gorgeous!  I had that same feeling of peace and relaxation that I get when I walk on the beach–a sense of the power and beauty of nature.

tree on San Jacinto

From the magnificence of the trees, rocky mountainside, and enormous boulders, to the fragile elegance of icicles and the reminders of what is yet to come from the pinecones…the wonders of Mother Nature surrounded us and wrapped us in her arms.

pinecone in the snow

And for the cherry on top, as we got back into the tram for the trip back down the mountain, the sun was setting with the full moon in view.  As the tram floor rotated 360 degrees during our descent, we were treated to amazing and colorful views of the entire valley below.

full moon at sunset in the tram

A friend reminded me that I could actually stick with my word from last year for more than a year…play has plenty more potential.  I could probably stay with it for a lifetime.  (And I think it will remain with me!)

But I’m ready to add to play…and this year my word will be explore.  I want to explore possibilities and places, new ideas and old habits.  I want my explorations to take me in new directions, to push me to try things I haven’t imagined I would ever do, like hike up a mountain in the snow!  I look forward to exploring this year…physically, intellectually, imaginatively, and playfully.  Hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Zooming In: Reflecting on One Little Word

Early in 2014 I decided that the word “play” would be my One Little Word (OLW) for the year…my muse, reminding me to make time to play and to plan for fun in my life and in my work. And I have loved my word.

And play I have.  I have spent an extraordinary amount of time at the beach this year and learned to see it in ways I wouldn’t have considered possible.  Photography has helped me play this year, encouraging my exploration, taking me outdoors, making me more observant, stoking my curiosity.

I mentioned the new camera in my life in this post, a Sony a6000, and with a new zoom lens, we set out for the beach yesterday.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my iPhone and have gotten quite comfortable with its photographic capabilities over the last couple of years.  So heading out with our new camera is a challenge.  So each trip feels like a playground filled with unfamiliar equipment.  I’m still mostly in the automatic mode, and with the zoom lens, trying to figure out the boundaries of focus…what is too close, what is too far, how to get a crisp image…

So zooming in, here’s a seagull in the light.

gull in light

I like the way the background is blurred while the one bird is crisp in the foreground.  And you can almost feel the warmth of the sun in this shot.

This guy, in contrast, is silhouetted against the water.  I like that you can see that he is wading in the surf, you can even see where his foot is displacing the water.

seagull silhouette

I was also playing around with action.  This particular camera is known for its quick focus, allowing me to focus and capture motion that I might otherwise miss.  I caught this gull gliding right into the edge of my frame as I looked out toward the horizon.

gull gliding

And this surfer almost surfed his way into my line of sight.  I love the energy of the shot even though he didn’t quite make it all the way into the frame.

surfing action

The last few days when I have been at the beach I have noticed seagulls flocking, gathering and swooping through the air.  Through my lens yesterday I was able to capture some of that energy and the numbers of gulls.

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And in contrast to all of this energy, I also captured this moment of solitude as I zoomed in on this hiker with a full pack pausing to notice something in the rocks.  I’m not sure where he came from or where he was going, it is not usual to see backpackers on the beach.

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There’s so much that I see when I am out taking photos that I am not able to capture in my digital images.  As the sun was setting last night, I was able to watch gray whales frolicking offshore as they migrated south.  We could see the spray from the blowholes in the distance as they surfaced and then the dark of their bodies as they breached, leaping up out of the water. It was like they also were inspired by my one little word!

And the sunset was beautiful in oranges and reds as the bird flew through.  (All of the photos in this post are unedited.)

colorful sunset

I’m still contemplating my word for 2015, searching for one that will inspire me all year.  I’m looking for a word that is active, encouraging exploration and possibility and that will work in both my personal and work life.  I’m open to suggestions if something occurs to you!

Play is the Word

Today is January 18th…and I think I may have found my “word.”  Lots of people make resolutions for the new year to set their intentions and make change in their lives.  It’s evident from increased traffic at the gym and folks in exercise clothes walking in the neighborhood.  What I notice is that by the end of January, attendance in the gym is waning and best intentions are set aside…again.

My friend and SDAWP colleague Janet wrote about finding her word for the year here, and even though I read others’ blog posts about their words, it was reading her post that got me thinking about what my word might be for the year.  I thought about the usual suspects…focus, balance, love…but they weren’t resonating as the word.  And I let the idea of a word slip to the back burner.

This morning I woke up to find that Janet was authoring the writing prompt for the iAnthology this week, the same group that I am now posting a weekly photo challenge for, and that she had decided to riff off the photo challenge I posted for the week: frames.  Here’s what Janet wrote:

Kim Douillard has begun to curate a great Weekly Photo Challenge here on iAnthology,http://ianthology.ning.com/group/writingwithimages/forum…

and since we both hail from the San Diego Area Writing Project, I thought it would be fun to piggyback on her prompt this week with my own twist on Frames.

At the beginning of the year, many of us set goals and resolutions for the new year. I wrote about this on my blog http://writinginmyhand.org/?p=1082 at the beginning of January. Since we are about 3 weeks into the year, I figure many of those have already gone by the wayside. (For example I am on the couch writing this rather than hitting that 8 am cardio class this morning). But rather than frame my year as an “all or nothing” goal setting adventure, this year I have opted to frame my year with one or two focus words that guide my decisions this year.

My word to frame my year is PURPOSE.

It is quite an interesting way of looking at the world when I focus on my word. For example, rather than get down on myself this morning for not making the class, I remember my purpose for exercise is to stay healthy, and later today I can go walk the beach with my husband instead. It’s also healthy to write, to create, and to share, so all is not lost on the morning on the couch. See, framing your decisions with a word changes the perspective. It has influenced many decisions as I returned to the classroom this past week as well.

So I am asking you this week to set a word, or two if necessary that frame your thinking this year. How will you frame your world? You can use images, words, video, music, whatever you feel shares your word. In this busy time, a one word post or image will also give us all pause to think.

Looking forward to seeing how you frame your world.

Janet

As I read this invitation by Janet, I realized that I know what my word for the year is!  I will frame my year with the word play.  People who know me might be surprised by this decision. I’m often accused of being too serious…and working way too much.  But if you’ve read my blog over the last several months you’ll find evidence of my attention to play…both for myself and for my students.

In a #clmooc Twitter chat the other night, some of my colleagues and I talked about play…how we define it, why it matters, what it might look like in the classroom, and how we find it in our own lives.  Through that conversation, we found ourselves wanting to make more time for play in our lives…and to consider ways to infuse play into the things we do everyday.

In lots of ways, my photography has been a way of infusing play into my life. I find myself on the lookout for interesting photo opportunities while I’m commuting to and from work and making intentional plans to explore with my camera on my days off from work.  I’m taking time to pull off the freeway, find a parking place near something interesting and start shooting some photos.  Just the other day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I followed a sign for a park I had never visited and discovered an amazing view of this region where I have lived most of my life.  I could see all the way to the ocean from this vantage point…and was surrounded by native plants, and even found a community of monarch butterflies dancing in the setting sun.

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The other morning when I headed downstairs to have some breakfast before work, I noticed the full moon peeking through the half round window in my living room.  I grabbed my phone and captured a shot…knowing, as I’ve mentioned before, that the moon is tricky to photograph.  But when I had a bit of time today, I played with the photo in Camera+ (cropping and adjusting) until I created something more interesting…and if you look closely in the left hand side of the window, you will see the moon peeking through.

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When I take the time for play, I find that I have more energy and a better attitude to apply to all the other parts of my life.  I also find myself eager to try new things, experiment, and push my learning.  I’m studying photographs I admire to incorporate new techniques in my own. And my play is not only about photography (although lots of it is!), I’m also playing with some other things, especially digital tools.

And I want play to infuse my teaching too.  I want my students to find the play in their learning and I want to create opportunities for play to be the goal.  When we have a passion for the things we do, new possibilities open in front of us.  So, Janet, I want play to frame my year…and thanks for asking.

How about the rest of you…what word or words will frame your life and learning this year?