Today’s poetry invitation on SDAWPoetry was Wallace Steven’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I realized I’ve been thinking a lot about weeds and wildflowers–especially after the comment from a colleague the other day. He started to direct us into “the weeds of our work,” and then corrected himself to direct us into the wildflowers.
I spent some time wandering around my backyard today. Taking photos of the blossoms that somehow managed to escape my husband’s mowing yesterday. I love the idea that they get down low and avoid the lawnmower–that they are wily and resilient along with their ability to brighten up an otherwise drab space.
I don’t cook. Lucky for me, I married someone who does…and does it well. And he not only cooks, but uses food preparation as a way of nurturing, a way of showing his love.
Most days, breakfast is a grab your own system. He makes coffee, I grab my yogurt from the fridge, dress it up with granola or fruit or not and eat as I check those early morning emails before I leave the house (back when I left the house). That routine is still in place on the weekdays. But on the weekends, breakfast is always something more special.
This morning was homemade buttermilk biscuits.
I love biscuits. Light and fluffy with a slight crunch, slathered with butter and honey. Perfection. And it takes some work. He starts with a fork and butter into flour, eventually adding wet ingredients until it is ready to roll.
He’s learned this folding and rolling technique that creates space between the layers of the biscuit that contributes to the light and flaky texture. When it is rolled just right, he starts the cutting. with the biscuit cutter we bought on a trip to Nashville (where the biscuits are good)!
Transfer to the pan and into the oven they go until they come our golden brown with just the right crunch on the outer layer.
And to balance out this decadence, scrambled eggs with cheese and turmeric and some orange slices round out the breakfast plate.
In each and every bite, I can feel my husband’s love and care. I hope my students can feel that kind of nurturing in the work I ask them to do. Especially during these remote learning days, when I am not able to teach my lessons through my voice, my body, through the interactions of students with me and with each other, I am carefully constructing and deconstructing my own plans and planning process to convey energy, motivation, and reasons to engage to my students. I want them to taste the sweetness in the writing I ask them to do. I look for ways for us to connect–through video, through images, through words, through text. I want them to taste the love and nurturing just like I did this morning when I bit into that homemade biscuit…with honey dripping down their chins, hungering for more.
Today is Saturday. I have to remind myself since all the days feel similar when work and home have become the same place. Saturday means not setting my alarm clock, not settling myself into my working space (at the kitchen table), and a yummy Saturday breakfast made by my husband (today was french toast, bacon, and fruit).
Since my beach walks are on hold for now, a neighborhood walk was in order. But it’s Saturday. So I talked Geoff into walking with me…and he talked me into walking to CVS so he could play Lotto (an essential task…for him).
I’m working to pay more attention to the photographic possibilities on these suburban treks. And I took a number of photos along my way. (I didn’t carry my camera, instead depending on my phone camera for the shots.)
It was coronavirus-empty today. Traffic much lighter than usual and not many people out and about. I couldn’t help but notice the sign waver guy across the way, perched on the fire hydrant. I’m glad he has work and will get paid, but it made me wonder about which jobs people are still heading out for each day. Is the iPhone repair place still open for business? Does the sign waver make a difference in its business?
So what will Sunday bring? Another neighborhood walk, some time spent reading, some last minute lesson planning (getting ready to launch a month full of poetry reading and writing), time on the stationary bike while I watch some Netflixs (i just discovered the new season of Ozarks), and more time than I want to spend at home. I’m desperately missing errands, impromptu adventures, and the beach. But I’m staying home, even though today is Saturday.
The days feel long right now…and not in that endless summer kind of way. Being homebound means that each day feels a lot like the one before, experiencing little change in scenery. With the beaches, parks, and trails closed my walks involve treks around the neighborhood. I get my cardio exercise, but inspiration and scenic beauty are sorely limited. I’m enjoying the cool crispness of early morning walks, but I don’t find myself motivated to stop and pull out my camera to snap a photo or two.
Zoom meetings, student comments, lesson planning, emails to writing project colleagues, clearing that inbox that has building up all week…the hours vaporized and the knots in my back tightened (is there something called Zoom back?). Around 3:30 I noticed an email from a dad of one of my students…and much to my delight there was a short note…”A” wanted to send you this photo she took today. As I scrolled down the image emerged! An egret perched on a chain link fence overlooking the seashore.
I felt a surge of pure joy! I love the photo–and seeing the egret and the beach were a shot of nature that I have been missing since the beach closures earlier in the week. (I have been staying away–trying to do my part to keep the virus at bay.) And it was heartwarming to know my student knows me so well. After almost 2 weeks of remote learning, this student knew how to share some remote caring. She knew I would love this photo…and she is right! Thanks A…you made my day! It really is the little things that matter most.
I love plants. I’m drawn to their simplicity, their complexity, the subtle variations in color, the brilliant bursts of color, not to mention the smells and textures and the tenacity they exhibit.
At best, I’m a fair weather gardener. I always have the best of intentions and I love to pick out this plant and that one, sure that I’ll get it planted in the perfect place in my yard or in that beautiful ceramic pot I just have to have.
In reality, most of my plants arrive as gifts, frequently from students and their families. As they enter our home, they claim their position in the kitchen garden window (it’s one of those windows that pushes out, creating a sort of mini greenhouse). Lucky for them, my husband has a green thumb and works hard to keep all the house plants alive and well. He mists the ones that need mist, waters the ones that need water, and leaves those that need little mostly alone.
But every now and then, in a flurry of decorating and cleaning, I purge that window box exiling those that are overgrown or straggly or on their last breath to the back yard. (With the exception of the orchids–they get to stay in even if they are not looking their best!) The exiles take their place along the edge of the patio where they can take advantage of the sprinkling system, ensuring that they will be watered with regularity. (It doesn’t rain much here, so irrigation is essential!)
It’s been raining most of the month of March here (we seem to be trying to catch up on rainfall totals for the entire year), so we’ve turned the sprinkler system off for the time being. With a rain-free day today, I decided to take a break from endless Zoom meetings and worries about student remote learning (Google Classroom glitches) and wandered out into the back yard.
Who knew that dandelions can grow tall…like knee high? And that all phases of dandelion bloom can be represented at the top of a single plant? I love dandelions, so I left these to thrive…if only temporarily until my husband heads out.
Then I wandered over to the exile zone…and wow! Those exiles have banded together to become a beautiful wild garden! Lavender reaches high, waving its fragrant blossoms. Aloe, like a giant spiked serpent, peers out from beneath. Swirls of succulents show their perfect Fibonacci sequence–math and nature perfectly intertwined.
But the piece de resistance (imagine that said with the perfect French accent) is the fuschia plant that I was certain was dead. It is vibrant and healthy…and when I tried to turn the plastic pot it is growing in, it didn’t budge–the roots have reached out of the pot into the ground. Such a gorgeous harbinger of spring!
I can’t take credit for any of the beauty on display in the backyard. Luckily this wild garden mostly takes care of itself (with a little help from my husband). But I am delighting in it today as it lifts my spirits and brightens my day!
Gloomy weather makes this global crisis feel like a blanket of darkness, weighing heavily on our shoulders as we attempt to find some kind of normalcy with schools closed, work re-directed, and social distancing the new norm. I’m trying to keep a daily outdoor walk a regular feature of my day…so headed out this morning when the tide was low to walk on the beach.
The beach was a study in light and shadow today with dark clouds towering above the crashing waves. Slivers of sunlight transformed the wet sand into a mirror, reflecting images of the cliffs onto the shore.
As I walked today I remembered a tower of rocks I noticed yesterday–one that was knocked over (unintentionally) by a clumsy preteen just as I headed over to photograph it. My husband and I decided to recreate our own version of it today, balancing smaller rocks on a large rock pillar.
Finding the just right rocks was a challenge–one we were willing to undertake. He carefully stacked one atop another, checking for balance, noticing the flat spots, the round spots…looking for stability. I tried to talk him into standing one with a heart shape up on end…but it wasn’t happening today. We left it in the stack though and built on it with a few smaller pebbles.
As we left our tower of rocks, the sun peeked out, illuminating the water. Brilliant layers of turquoise were framed by the white froth of the waves below and the dark of the clouds above.
Light and shadow…and a bit of balance, somehow the beach is always a metaphor for life and its challenges. Fresh air, exercise, and my camera–the trifecta that keep me positive and ready for whatever curveballs life throws.
I’m fighting some kind of upper respiratory infection and the laryngitis that always seems to come with it. Luckily, I was able to work from home today (obviously not a teaching day for me!) and not even have to deal with commuting on a rare rainy day in southern California.
So I laid low, kept quiet, and got quite a bit of work done as the rain pattered its soothing rhythm on the roof tiles.
So when the light changed in my house this afternoon and I realized the sky had brightened and there was a break in the rain, I checked the weather app and then headed out to the beach for a much needed walk.
Sometimes I feel like I am solar powered, energized by blue skies and sunshine and depleted by days that are pervasively gray. I could feel my energy levels rise as I headed from the parking lot down to the shore. It felt so good to get outside in the fresh air. In spite of the rain, it wasn’t cold out…the conditions were perfect for a walk.
I love that the beach always surprises me. There were people like me, in jackets and tennies walking along the shore. There were those in jackets and bare feet, walking in the water or throwing rocks into the surf. There were the teenagers in bikinis, seemingly not experiencing the chill of water in the 50’s and air temps in the 60’s. And always, always, there are the surfers. Most wear wetsuits year round…and nothing ever seems to keep them out of the water.
And today’s treat was the cormorant. I’m always on the lookout for seabirds–seagulls are usual, but it’s tough to see seabirds close enough to photograph. I saw from a distance that there was a bird sitting on the tide pool outcropping. I had my camera ready and crept as close as I could without drenching my shoes or scaring the bird. I click and click, watching as the bird gets ready to launch. And I catch that shot…just at lift off!
Sometimes a break in the rain is just what you need.