Tag Archives: ordinary

Garden Poetry

My students are lucky.  They spend a half an hour in our school garden every week, growing vegetables, learning about bugs, noticing what grows well and what struggles, and tasting!  I often don’t get to go out with them, but today because of a shift in my schedule due to conferences, I joined them…and turned it into an opportunity for poetry writing!

I was drawn to the artichokes, purple and green knots growing strong and tall.  When my students sat down to write, so did I.

artichoke

Artichokes

Globes

like dinosaur paws

clenched

holding a tender heart inside

tiny swords

protect that meaty center

purplish green

beckons…attracting me

and spotted ladybugs

When will they be ripe?

Douillard 2018

I know that photographs and visual images inspire my writing.  It’s true for many of my students as well.  During yesterday’s search for the ordinary, I noticed one of my students arranging jumpropes on the ground and photographing them.  And then this sometimes reluctant writer sat down to write.

Color Brain

Color strings sewing

my brain into thoughts,

ones about madness,

ones about fear,

ones about happiness,

ones about sickness,

ones about coldness,

and ones about love.

On the string of fear

the purple hides

with red,

next to blue and turquoise.

Leah

Leah's photo

How’s your poetry writing coming along?  What inspires your words and thoughts?

Ordinary Inspiration

The weather was gray and gloomy today, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out with our iPads and poetry notebooks in search of inspiration for continuing our poem-a-day challenge. Students were excited about the prospect of exploring the playground as a source of inspiration.  They had 5 minutes to explore and take one photo.  The next 7 minutes were spent drafting a poem.  After some sharing back in the classroom, they had 7 more minutes to revise.

Our school yard is filled with trees, palm trees and pine trees, and the kids love to play under them and around them.  And some were inspired to write a poem featuring a tree, like this one:

Tree

A tree that I’m looking up to

I see it in the distance

I call it my wishtree

It’s as high as the bright blue sky with big bushy leaves

Shining down to me

Calling me

Brayden

My poem for today also features a tree–the iconic palm that stands in the center of the playground.

cardiff palm

The Cardiff Palm

Tall against the thick gray blanket of clouds

that blocks the sun.

Your crown of green fans out:

a home for birds

shade on sunny summer days.

An ever-present sentinel, standing watch

over generations of school children

listening to their playful shrieks

a backrest for tired athletes

a symbol of our coastal community.

Tireless palm

standing tall.

Douillard 2018

Some kids are still refining their poems inspired by William Carlos Williams.  Here’s one inspired by the Red Wheelbarrow:

The Rocky River

So much depends

upon the river.

The fish slither through

the river.

Tadpoles turn into

frogs.

And birds fly over all!

Stone

And this one by This is Just to Say:

Easter Candy

 

I have stolen the Easter candy

that you hid in the cabinet

 

that you were probably saving

for after dinner

 

Forgive me

They tasted so good

 

The chocolate wafers

gave it away

 

Kalani

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Staycation

Sometimes I long for exotic vacations, opportunities to explore places I have never been.  I imagine wandering through iconic museums, looking up at skylines made familiar through movies and artwork, and a peek at a way of life different from my own.  And then I remember that I live in a pretty special place–one that is exotic for others!

Today I had a rare day off and set off with my mother, my sister and my niece to enjoy a wonderful staycation day.  We headed off to Coronado–best known for the Hotel Del Coronado (a historic, high-priced beachside hotel), a naval station (North Island), and miles of exquisite beaches.  Locals call it an island and mostly access it by driving across the iconic Coronado Bay Bridge, a curving stretch with breathtaking views of the bay and the San Diego skyline, but it is actually a peninsula.

We walked and walked, feet in the cool water while the sun (even pretty early in the morning) warmed our shoulders.  We noticed some posts in the distance and found the fence that separates the public beach from the Naval Air Station.

img_2425

We also found that this far end of the beach was designated as a dog beach and the dogs were loving the water today.  They chased and retrieved balls and chased and played with each other. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes, and like people, they seemed relaxed and happy as they played along the shore.  They were obviously enjoying their own staycation!

img_2427

After lunch at El Indio, a favorite San Diego Mexican restaurant, we decided to head to Old Town.  I can’t remember the last time I explored this part of our city.  It was HOT today, so the cool greens of the beautiful botanical art sculptures were soothing to the eye.  I love the way the plants were a growing changing part of the art piece.  (This is a full body, taller than me piece…but I was drawn to the face and the juxtaposition of light and shadow.)

img_2436

Earlier in the week, as a part of our Summer Institute, we took folks out around the UCSD campus for a writing marathon.  This University of California campus is a jewel, filled with natural beauty and with interesting art installations called the Stuart Collection.  As we visited different parts of the campus, we took time to study the art, consider it in relation to our own thinking after nearly four weeks together, and wrote.  We started with this piece by Michael Asher.  As often as I have been on this campus (weekly for years) and have walked past this piece, I never knew it was an art installation.  This ordinary looking water fountain is made of polished granite to look (and function) exactly like the metal ones we are used to seeing.  I find myself still thinking about its placement, its ordinariness, and wondering how it ended up in the UCSD collection–and I know I will never look at it in the same way as I did in the past.

img_2405

And then we headed off to another piece in the Stuart Collection–the whimsical, enormous engineering feat that is Bear by Tim Hawkinson. Made of local boulders, this bear stands more than 23 feet tall in a courtyard formed by three engineering buildings. This piece is a favorite of our young writers, an enormous reminder of childhood.

snapseed

So consider a staycation in your place.  What sights and sounds will capture your imagination?  What might others see as exotic?  Or how might you see your local place in new ways?

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 #staycation for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Share your place with us this week, taking us on a #staycation journey with you.  What hidden treasures will you uncover when you vacation (even for a few minutes) right at home?

Making Writers

Sometimes writing feels like standing all alone in the fog–shivering in the damp–uncomfortable and vulnerable, waiting for the worst.

img_2284-1

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Writers write best in a supportive community, in a place where attempts are celebrated and seeds are planted–some intentionally and carefully like those meticulously cultivated gardens and some flung far and wide like dandelion seeds floating in the wind.

dandelion seed

And writers also need to play and break the rules, find their own voice in the cacophony of others.  Occasionally they need a nudge to take those carefully stacked plates and push them over, flinging the words here and there, then gathering them again to make meaning of the shards of ideas uncovered in the process.

IMG_7754

Sometimes writers need to lean in close, breathe in the sweet scent of what it means to create new life as ideas emerge from words rubbed together.

img_9905

At other times, writers need to step back and take in the long view.  What new understandings reveal themselves when you look from the heights, from places you hadn’t dare stand before? Writing can be a process of discovery, exploring new territory or old territory from new perspectives.

DSC06678

Writers need inspiration, sparks that send them on wild chases and deep digs.  And to be inspired, writers must open themselves–listen carefully, look widely, pay attention to the mundane, and seek out the ordinary. Nothing is too lowly to inspire words and ideas. Consider even the cat, asleep, with its head in a box.

img_1895

But mostly, writers need to trust that they have something to say–to themselves, to their neighbors, to readers and other writers.  They have to trust that words matter, thoughts matter, and the world matters.  They must want to write, and need to writer, but most of all, they actually have to do that thing that so many resist, and WRITE!

IMG_7306

If you want to make a writer.

***Note:  This piece was inspired by the article Hey Matt by Molly Toussant where she writes about her beliefs about teaching writing.  This piece was created as a “found photo essay” inspired by a peek at my media library as a way to think about writing and writing instruction.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciating the Ordinary

Some weeks just don’t lend themselves to extraordinary photography. Now I’m not complaining about my week–it’s been fun and busy, with lots of writing and thinking as we complete week two of our 4-week SDAWP Summer Institute.

Sunsets are not always a sure thing here on the coast–night and morning low clouds can interfere with sun sightings.  Last weekend, we decided to risk it and headed to the beach near sunset.  We were treated to some pretty orange as the sun dipped low.  If you look closely you might noticed the pelicans in the upper left corner flying through the frame.

img_2190

It’s not unusual to see these flying billboards–banners attached to small planes that buzz the coastline mostly advertising alcoholic beverages.  I noticed these two different planes flying by and saw that they would cross paths right overhead.  They were not dangerously close, but I’m glad they were paying attention to each other!

img_2200

We’re pretty fortunate that the beach we frequent is mostly free of garbage in spite of the heavy usage, especially in the summer.  Balloon trash is pervasive though.  This balloon looks to have been around for awhile–with most of the words worn off.  The #Litterati movement (and my friend Janis) reminds us to pick up trash where we find it and dispose of it properly.  I love the sky and the sea in this unfiltered photo, there’s something about the clouds and the sea foam of the waves that creates a texture and an echo.

img_2196

The walk from the parking lot to the building where the SI takes place each day can be both ordinary and interesting.  I noticed these two small orange birds as they perched on the sign near the sidewalk where I walk. Using the app Colorsplash, I turned the photo to black and white and then allowed the bird color to remain in my hopes of highlighting them.

img_2216

I was reminded of the power of nature…even just a tree in a parking lot…to affect my mood.  Rachel Carson’s quote captures the jolt of strength and sense of oasis that I experience when I look up through the leaves of the tree.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson

img_2228

The practice of noticing makes an incredible difference in my life.  The photos I take capture only a fraction of what I notice, and noticing helps me appreciate the little things in the ordinariness of my life. So take a look around, how might you view the ordinary in new and more appreciative ways?

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 #ordinary for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What will you find when you pause to appreciate the ordinary?  I can’t wait to find out!

 

Looking Closely to Look Back: December’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

We’ve reached the twelfth month, the last of the calendar year.  Traditionally, it’s a time for reflection, of taking stock of the year in order to make progress in the new year.

So…what if we look to the world around us, paying careful attention to what is currently in front of us–and use those images and related thinking to look back, to reflect on the year?

Just last week I had the opportunity to watch some college students dance (many thanks to my niece, a dance major).  Their energy and passion were obvious–and contagious!  Looking at this image reminds me that we are not attached to the the ground…we are also in flight, ready to follow our imagination.

IMG_7935

We tell ourselves so many stories–including stories that fuel our frustration and impatience.  Sometimes we need to reframe a story, view it from a new perspective to change our feelings and perceptions. Traffic can be a pain…or an opportunity depending on how your look at it.

HipstamaticPhoto-470355569.962430

And sometimes doors don’t look like doors.  They might just be spaces you haven’t noticed before.  I’m determined to ride the train to Los Angeles one day soon…and this image will remind me to include this on my to-do list.

IMG_8017

Those quiet moments of waiting and watching sometimes pay off in a beautiful photo, but always fill my heart with wonder and joy…even when the photo doesn’t happen.  I get just enough rewards like this one to remind me to stop, listen, watch, enjoy what is right in front of me.

IMG_7655

I see dozens and dozens and dozens of seagulls–at the beach, when I drive down the freeway, at school–and yet I never tire of them.  There is a certain elegance about taking flight, gliding on the currents, and over the currents (and waves) below.  Does anyone remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull back in the day?

IMG_7997

Going to different places means seeing things that are familiar…and well, ordinary.  I like to notice the new…the magnificent architecture, the iconic art…but sometimes find myself snapping a photo of the familiar, like this walk sign.  (Now I find myself wondering if walk signs are really the same all over, maybe I need to take some more photos of them!  This one is from Minneapolis.)

IMG_7875

And then there is light.  Sometimes it is sunlight, sometimes moonlight…and sometimes a wonderful art piece that is all about light.  Add dark to the light and the camera creates effects that are even more interesting, reminding me that we can’t always capture images as we see them…sometimes they create themselves right in our own hands in front of our eyes.

IMG_7755

To get you started, here are some prompts for the month:

  1. Spaces
  2. Places
  3. Movement
  4. Relationships
  5. Home
  6. Outdoors
  7. Family
  8. Story
  9. Favorite
  10. Gift
  11. Memory
  12. Dozen
  13. Night
  14. Nature
  15. Quiet
  16. Rhythm
  17. Sharp
  18. Warmth
  19. Flame
  20. Moment
  21. Light
  22. Sky
  23. Doors
  24. Ground
  25. Celebration
  26. Water
  27. Delicious
  28. Hands
  29. Reflect
  30. Dance
  31. New

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you pay attention to your world and reflect on the year and your experiences. You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved. You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Let’s look closely to look back and move forward as we bring 2015 to a close.  Enjoy the winter holidays, whatever version you celebrate, and let your camera help you find the joy and wonder of the season.

Weekly Photo Challenge: In Search of the Ordinary

This week has been about looking for interesting, ordinary subjects for my photography.  I’ve been attentive to my surroundings, considering angles and frames as I look around.  This morning I was out on playground duty when the water fountain caught my eye.  I see this water fountain all the time, but today I saw it in a new way as I noticed the beads of water from the heavy, moist air.  I leaned in and took this shot.

IMG_7116

And even before that, as I chatted with the early arriving students in my classroom, I looked down at the floor and noticed this enormous moth!  It was bigger than my outstretched hand…and in retrospect, I should have framed my shot including something to give a sense of size perspective.  But I do love the wing detail that is evident in this view.

IMG_7155

I took the long way to my UCSD office this afternoon, noticing the detailed architecture of the buildings in the distance.  But my detour took me to a patch of mushrooms, a wall of fall-colored ivy…and then I looked up and noticed the angles of this eucalyptus (and a break in the cloudy gloominess of the sky, framing the branches in brilliant blue!).

IMG_7151

As I headed back to my car for my trip home, the sea of cars in the parking lot below where I parked caught my eye.

IMG_7152

Earlier in the week I couldn’t fight the urge to pull over to the side of the road to capture the beauty of the ocean and the sky on my way home from school.  The sun and the clouds and the sea and the train tracks created the perfect composition as the truck drove by.  (Feels like a perfect truck commercial!)

IMG_7100

And trains and train tracks are a constant in the coastal communities here.  We can hear them from school and frequently have to stop and wait as the train rushes past.  I don’t always get a front row view…but I did for this one!

IMG_7061

So go out into your everyday life in search of the ordinary.  What catches your eye?  You might have to kneel down, lean in, or stop and turn around to notice those things that you see everyday.  Try a new angle, look for different lighting, or pay attention to what a child or a pet notices. I’m sure you’ll find something magnificently ordinary!

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 #ordinary for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

I can’t wait to see what you find through your lens when you take some time to search for the ordinary!