Today I decided to use Georgia Heard’s 6-room poetry strategy as preparation for writing my poem. This is something I have used with great success with students in the past, but hadn’t thought about it in a while. I happened upon this beautiful yellow bird (apparently some kind of an oriole) who posed for me while I was exploring along La Jolla Cove this morning, and knew I wanted to try to capture something of that experience for today’s poem.
Here’s my poetic effort for today:
Waves crash, swoosh, hush in the distance
ambiance, Sunday’s soundtrack
A flash of yellow
in the local brush
wild mustard waving
regal in your bright brilliance
trimmed with black epaulettes
Waves crash, swoosh, hush
steel gray skies and seas
a monochromatic backdrop
for your golden brightness
my eyes drink in your honeyed sweetness
sunshine on a cloudy day
Is that tiny hummingbird on a nearby branch your friend?
After more than a year of staying close to home, we ventured out this week, spending several days away from home. This morning represented our final leg–knowing we would land at home later in the day. We didn’t have a concrete plan when we woke up. We knew we had about 4 hours of a drive–and were in search of an adventure somewhere along that path. We considered some lakes (up in the Grapevine) and even talked about walking on our local beach once we got home. The beach! Why not explore a beach that is not close to home?
We decided we would head off to Malibu. A beach everyone has heard of, but so many people have not visited. We programmed the navigation and set out through the mountain pass. Clearly there are others who are also itching for some travel. LA’s freeways, while not at peak gridlock, were plenty full. Midway there, Google maps offered another route–one that would save us 11 minutes. We took it.
Once parked, we set off to explore the beach. Right away we heard the shrill sound of birds. What was that? Seagulls? What was going on? We watched as a huge cloud of birds lifted, screeching and calling. It happened again and again.
Cloud of Birds
A high pitched cloud
swirls up from the beach
somehow sensing each wing
flying high, flying low
over the surfers, above the shore
moving in synch, as one
a crowd in perfect unison
Is it murmuration?
A bit of investigation on our drive back home led me to discover that these are likely least terns, a tern variety recently at risk. I really don’t know if murmuration is specific only to starlings, but it was fascinating to watch these birds rise and fly and move as a group.
We loved our morning in Malibu. The weather was perfect, the crowds minimal, and the traffic manageable. A perfect ending to a bit of a spring break.
Faced with a long drive back home, we decided to detour and find some mini adventures on our way. It makes for a long day…but was filled with small surprises that provided the perfect fodder for some Haiku.
Today was the last day for students to attend school in our hybrid AM/PM schedule. They will be remote for the rest of the week to allow time for parent conferences and then after a week off for spring break, the class will unite and become one whole class that attends school all 5 days together. I look forward to this coming together–and hope that the two halves of my class will complement each other.
The PM group is the half that NEEDS their fresh air break. They burst from the classroom doors when it is time, unleashing the energy that they have tried (not always successfully) to contain in the classroom. Today started no different. Most of the kids skipped eating a snack and headed straight for the playground equipment. But a couple sat on the grass to eat a bite…and before I knew it, they were chasing ladybugs.
And catching them.
Gently cupping them, they lifted them from the grass to bring them to me to photograph. (I love that they know that I will want to take photos!) They transferred these brilliant red polka-dotted beauties from the cupped palm to rest on the arm so I could get close for a clear, close up photo with my phone. Somehow they could find these tiny gems when they were not visible to others. Like jewelry, they wore these insects as they danced around the field. Sometimes the ladybugs rested patiently on the arm, other times they spread and fluttered their tiny wings in a blur of red.
These kids never stop talking. They kept up a torrent of descriptions and theories as they ran and collected these friendly insects. One theory they floated was that the number of dots was equal to the age of the bug. (Were they thinking days? Insects don’t tend to live very long lives!) Luckily I had just read an article on ladybug varieties, complete with gorgeous photos (who knew that would come in handy!), so I was able to talk to them about the large number of varieties of ladybugs that exist.
An impromptu break chasing ladybugs was the just right way to end this current mode of teaching. Moments like these remind me how much I enjoy the exuberance and energy of children–and the ways they fuel my teaching and my own learning.
We’ve been writing in 7 minute intervals. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. There’s something about the timer that seems to help my students focus intently on the writing. And when the timer sounds, someone always wants to share.
Of course, that 7 minutes is only the smallest part of what it means to write. That timer-influenced writing usually follows a stimulus of some kind (often a picture book or poem), conversation as a group and in partners, studying a mentor text and the moves that writers make, and sometimes drawing or some other kind of art.
Today we wrote about a place we love. But first, last week we read My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero. We noticed how she focused on places she loved in her community and on her dad and family. We studied her writing. We marked the action words she used: zigzagged, cruised, revs, and roars. We notice the way she uses senses, including sounds and smells and textures, in her descriptions. We paid attention to her comparison of the experience of riding the motorcycle to a comet in the sky. Then we started to name places we love: Tennessee, Legoland, grandma’s house, the kitchen… We sketched a map of this place. And finally, after a quick demonstration of how I might use the mentor text to get started with my writing, I set the timer.
A hush fell over the room. Pencils raced across the page. And when the timer rang, hands started going up. Unfortunately, there was no time to share today. We’ll have to start there tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear how these much-loved places will be transformed into words on the page.
Writing with students is all about planting seeds. I can’t wait to see what blossoms.
Exploring with my camera is a way to clear my head, to relax, and to pay attention to the world. But I have to admit, the monotony of a lockdown year has taken its toll. I’ve had to work to find new ways to look at the things I have seen over and over again.
For a change of pace, today we headed up the coast to a seaside town about 30 miles north of here. We did a bit of shopping and then, of course, headed out to the beach to walk and take photos.
I know, I know…I take beach photos regularly. But a different place offers a different vantage. Today I found myself focused on lines. We parked near the train station and right away my eye was drawn to the parallel levels of lines…the train tracks, the fence line, and the horizon line of the ocean behind. (And the blues were magnificent today!)
As I stepped up closer to the fence to peer over at the ocean, a series of horizontal lines came into view.
We had intended to walk the seaside trail parallel to the shore, but on the east side of the train tracks. Unless the tide is low, there isn’t much beach to walk on this beach. We started off–but the summer-like weather brought out the crowds–and the trail was feeling pretty uncomfortable with a combination of runners and walkers, dogs on leashes, and bikes (both electric and pedal-powered) whizzing past. At the first staircase access to the beach, we headed to the sand, realized the tide was low and getting lower, so decided that the shoreline was out best walking choice. There were still people, but they were much more spread out–in the water and laying in the sun–giving us a wide, unencumbered walking space.
As we passed the pier, I could hear aircraft. Helicopters are pretty usual. We have military bases nearby, coast guard copters, and of course people out to see the sights from above. But when I looked up I noticed a small plane cruising by…right over the pier. More lines.
Every time I visit a pier I feel compelled to take a few shots from beneath. There is something about the view of the ocean through the elaborate under structure that fascinates. Each pier is a bit different–some have a specific “door” to look through. This one does not, but it does have lots and lots of different lines to look at.
Even the pigeons managed to get in on the line action today. They were hanging out not far from the fishing people on the pier. Just waiting.
So is there anything significant about all these lines? This would be the time for the pithy conclusion to give meaning to a series of photos featuring lines. Instead, I appreciate a day slightly different from the ones that preceded it. And a perspective that took my eye in some different directions. Hope you also enjoy these lines, in all their insignificance.
It’s jacaranda season. The time of year when the trees burst into purple flower, spreading cheer and news of springtime.
While the trees are not native to our area, they are iconic in our area. I even just read that they are the official (non-native) tree of San Diego (as of 2000). Apparently it was Kate Sessions (the tree lady) who brought these beauties here and made sure they were planted all over the city.
In full bloom, these trees are beautiful. They are fragrant and their color ranges from bluish purple to these in my neighborhood of the more pinkish purple variety. My eye is always drawn to them as I turn the corner to drive into our neighborhood.
They’re messy…but such a beautiful harbinger of spring in our area. There are places in our city where the ground will be covered in these purple flowers as the blooms begin to drop.
Cue music: imagine Prince and Purple Rain. The city becomes carpeted in purple, like our own version of the yellow brick road. Raining down from above, purple blossoms are everywhere. They fall into your hair, stick to the bottom of your shoes, and cast a magical hue as spring begins to shift to summer.
I like to think of each day a treasure hunt. I look for those hidden gems–sometimes only unseeable because of my own shortsightedness.
On those days when everything seems unbearably humdrum, monotonous, with sameness coloring my every thought, I have to stretch myself to find something, anything at all, that I can classify as treasure.
I was finding myself in the humdrum doldrums on a recent walk at the beach. Impossible, you say! The beach couldn’t possibly be boring or mundane. Except when my brain fills with negative thoughts…all the I want-tos that just can’t happen…yet.
Time for a treasure hunt.
Winter tides bring lots of rock onto the shore. And sometimes, when the light is right and I look at just the right angle, I’ll notice the glint of buried treasure. Sea glass comes in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and degrees of ocean sanding. It’s always such a treat to come across a piece during a walk along the shore.
Sometimes the treasure is all about just how you look at something. There’s a place along the beach that we call “the corner.” The cliff juts out a bit, making it tricky to get around when the tide is high. But when you look at that corner, the cliff itself, just right, a face appears. Another treasure. Judge for yourself.
You never know when you’ll come across the remains of someone’s work of art. It might be a stack of stones: a beach cairn. It might be an image raked into the sand. And sometimes it’s a sand castle. This treasure caught my eye because of its creative use of algae. Even in its tumbledown ruin, you can see the brilliance of the design…and the cloudy light also brings a certain feeling of low-key ambiance that whispers treasure in my ear.
Reliving this treasure hunt brightens my day. Remember that treasure is in the eye of the beholder–that the littlest of bright spots can make all the difference in the way you feel at the end of the day. Make time for a little treasure hunt. I’d love to see what treasures you find!