I like the way the syllable count forces language, creates opportunity for new thinking. Today’s prompt from Ethical ELA asked writers to come up with a line of a poem and continue with poem using the same number of syllables in each line. As I walked the beach this morning, I kept thinking about the monsoonal moisture promised by the weather forecasters–and the fact that I know it won’t result in the rain we need so much. I found myself obsessed with rain as I walked, counting syllables in my head. Here’s the resulting draft and the beautiful sky last night that fueled today’s obsessive thinking.
Some days are the perfect convergence of conditions–that can either make or break your day.
Mondays can be challenging. Coming off the weekend students are unsettled–some tired, some amped, some seemingly have forgotten what this whole school thing is all about. And somehow, I always start parent conference week with an early morning conference. Today was no different.
I like morning parent conferences. They feel almost leisurely in the quiet of the morning before the stresses of the day emerge. But…today I had to rearrange my lesson plans since someone would come in to teach my class while I attended an IEP meeting. And…I didn’t know who it would be until I was already teaching this morning.
Then there’s the forecast. Last week we had summer mid-week, with coastal temperatures in the 80s. Today’s weather called for wind and rain…maybe even thunder and lightening. Any weather in these parts is an event–and my rain boot, umbrella toting students came to school ready for it! (What is it about wind and the prospect of rain that causes students to lose their minds? They were definitely stirred up today!)
No breaks later, it hadn’t rained. I wrangled the students back into learning mode as we explored some poetry (reading and writing) and did some drawing (tulips) that we will paint tomorrow. A minimum day dismissal arrived before the rain–so all those boots and umbrellas were not needed at school today.
But the rain did come, wafting in sheets during one of my conferences. We could hear the wind and see the sheets of water through the windows as we chatted about progress and appreciated the child’s unique qualities. And I was thankful for a rain-free teaching day since cooped-up kids are not my favorite start to the week.
Once my conferences were done for the day, the sun came out and I couldn’t resist a bit of photography outside the classroom, trying to catch the sunlight on the damp flowers that were clearly enjoying some rainfall in this usually dry climate.
While there is still some more rain in the forecast for the evening, it held off long enough for a neighborhood walk once I got home this afternoon. The snails were out everywhere creating their own kind of obstacle course (how I hate that crunch when I accidentally step on one!) as I made my way up and down the sidewalks.
End result? This rainy day and Monday converged in a way I can claim as a good day. It was busy and hectic as all parent conference week days are, but the rain made its appearances at times when I could appreciate it rather than curse it. All in all, a pretty darn good rainy day and Monday!
Where I live weather casters have to work at nuance. So many days are mostly sunny, sometimes accompanied by night and morning low clouds. And this year, like so many years, we are in a drought, inches away from our whopping average rainfall of 10 inches per year.
When I hear a forecast for rain, skepticism is my first reaction. It isn’t uncommon for for a rainy day prediction to fizzle and disappear, replaced by that that little sunshine icon. And this morning, the sun rose like clockwork, making me doubt the rain I heard about…and even planned for today.
Today was my vaccination day (yay!), so I was careful to dress in short sleeves to make the process easier. But, it was also supposed to rain, so I layered on a sweatshirt and remembered to grab my raincoat as I dashed out the door for work. To the east some patches of stringy clouds were visible–they didn’t look rain bearing to me. When I turned west, I could see the rainclouds gathering along the coast.
After my Zoom meeting with my class, I grabbed that raincoat again and headed off to our local fairgrounds-turned-vaccination-supercenter. I wasn’t sure how the whole thing would work, would I need to walk up and stand in line? Would they tell me they had run out of doses just as I arrived at the front even though I had an appointment? Would I end up standing in the rain?
None of my worst fears came true. I drove into the orange cone maze and made my way around and into the big barn where I’ve looked at livestock during the county fair. My credentials were checked, my arm offered, and my first dose was injected without me ever leaving my car. I proceeded to the waiting area for 15 minutes, and water drops began to fall on my windshield.
Back in my classroom, the rhythms of rain were the soundtrack for today’s planning and preparation. Light drops punctuated with heavier showers. I could see the trees swaying, dancing in time to the rain, through the classroom windows.
When I got home I realized I hadn’t taken a photo today. I grabbed my umbrella (the rain was heavier by then) and wandered around the backyard, looking for a shot that would express the feeling of rain. I remembered how hard it is to capture rain in a photo (something I don’t get to practice too often). I tried to avoid the big pools on the patio and the muddy spots beyond as I explored, noticing how the plants seemed to be reaching out and welcoming the rare sky drops.
Today was a perfect rainy day. I’m ready for sun tomorrow.
Will it ever stop raining? We have gone from impending drought here in Southern California to several inches over our rainfall average for the year. Today alone we may have gotten more rain than we often get in months!
The downside of the nonstop rain is that feeling of being cooped up in the house. We’ve had no real breaks in the rain today…so I finally decided I would walk, rain or not. I got into my raincoat, grabbed my (mostly neglected) umbrella and headed out. The skies opened up about halfway through my walk. I pulled up my hood and popped the umbrella and forged forward. The walk was just what I need…
In these parts we’re known for being fickle about the weather. We want some–until we have it–and then we complain that it arrived. A heavy downpour delayed my walk this morning, but also inspired me later, when the sun peeked from behind the clouds so I could head out into the backyard in search of water drop photos…and a poem.
The mentor poem I left for my students today was Pencils by Barbara Esbensen. We studied this poem earlier in the year and I wrote about it here. And here are some examples of their poems as videos written in October.
Midway through our spring break, I haven’t seen what my students have come up with as they encountered this poem again. But I am looking forward to seeing their writing as their poetic skills continue to evolve.
So with raindrops on my mind, I wrote again with Pencils as my mentor text.
Even though today is technically spring break for me and my students, I found evidence of poetry writing in our Google Classroom. I scheduled a mentor poem for each day this week to inspire and support my young poets–all poems we had studied earlier this school year. Today’s poem was The Blue Between by Kristine O’Connell George.
The steady downpour of rain was another influence evident in my poem and my students’ poems. I’m trying to appreciate the much-needed rain and to find ways to make this week feel like a break. Instead I’m feeling cooped up, without the escape of neighborhood walks. I tried to duck out early this morning, thinking I would beat the rain–just to pull the door open to the skies opening up! I rode that stationary bike…but it’s just not the same for me.
For escape, we took a drive up the coast in the pouring rain. The sight of the stormy ocean was a refreshing change from the walls of the house–even if viewed only through the car window.
across sky cheeks
Gray on gray
blotting out color
dampens fire risk
Look closely at each
and find the hope
And a student poem by E–also inspired by the rain:
Everyone hates the rain, sulking in their raincoats,
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!
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.
There’s not much weather where I live. In fact, it’s not unusual for a forecast for rain to fade away before actually materializing. It’s been a dry winter, so the prospect of rain is something people look forward to–even if it causes inconveniences.
I spent the last two days working in Berkeley. When I looked ahead at the weather to pack for my trip, I noticed that rain was expected today. I packed my raincoat, double checked that my umbrella was in its home in my suitcase, and hoped that the rain wouldn’t be the deluge I experienced on my last Berkeley trip in January that left my socks drenched and my pant legs damp.
When I awoke this morning and peeked out the hotel window, the streets were still dry. Thick cloud cover quilted the sky, suggesting that rain might just arrive. By the time I was ready to head downstairs for breakfast with my colleague, the air was damp. A light mist spritzed us as we navigated the sidewalks to our chosen restaurant. As I dipped my hands into my raincoat pocket I felt a slip of paper. Closer examination revealed it was a receipt from my last trip to Berkeley. Had I not worn my raincoat since my trip in January?
The rain increased by the time breakfast was done, now coming down at a steady rate. With hoods up, we walked and talked in the rain. It wasn’t coming down so hard that we had to hunch down, instead we reveled in this liquid gold, knowing our state is in great need of water.
By the time I got to the airport later in the afternoon, the sun peeked out, casting a glow over the tarmac.
My flight home was painless–and especially gorgeous as we started to descend. Layers of clouds interspersed with ribbons of magenta, red, and orange framed my view of the ocean. As we dipped lower, we sank into thick white cotton, obscuring the view for a bit until finally my city came into view.
I caught the last bits of sunset walking to the car and am left wondering if the rain will follow me here. The weather app says it will rain overnight, but will it? Rain overnight sounds good…but in these parts we never know weather or not the weather will arrive!
With a forecast of nonstop rain for today, our plan was to find ways to be out exploring…and also to not spend our entire day drenched to the skin. We did pretty well, starting our day with some time in Seaside’s tiny aquarium. I have mixed feelings about places like aquariums and zoos, but I also know that the opportunity to see and learn about animals helps to build empathy and ultimately, appreciation and a sense of protectiveness for wildlife and nature.
I was drawn to the octopus. I read The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery a couple of years ago,, an account of the author’s experience with an octopus at an aquarium. These strong and nimble creatures are purported to be smart, the problem solvers of the sea. I was lucky enough to be in front of the tank when the octopus began moving this morning. I was fascinated as I watched its suction-cupped arms navigate the glass pane of the aquarium wall.
Great Pacific Octopus
master of disguise
hide out finder
squeezing into the tightest space
Armed times eight
thousands of suckers in place
climber, acrobat, magician
practicing sleight of suction
on rocks and clear glass windows
showing agility and strength
only possible from this
Giant Pacific Octopus
Here’s a student poem that seems to capture my mood for today:
The Peace of Wild Things
When wonder for the world
grows in me
and I wake in the shining rays of the sun,
I drag myself out of bed and to the water’s edge
where I feel the peace of wild things.
And another that is more reflective of a southern CA perspective on rain:
Wait for Wet
I wait for wet.
I wait for the gentle pitter-patter of wet on my green umbrella that waits on a dusty hook in the closet.
I wait for the sound of rubber boots splashing and stomping through wet, sprouting a tail of murky water in wet’s wake.
So much depends on a light sprinkle of wet that tumbles through the clouds and dusts my eager face.
For tomorrow, I am waiting for dry…and off from the seashore to explore mountains! And of course, continue my April poem-a-day adventure.