Saturday, September 26, 2009

Still Blooming

September has been summer. Summer has been September. Here is the bee that buzzed from sunflower to sunflower last nigh at the community gardens. Lucky flowers! Lucky bee! Lucky me, to have had summer come at last, and hang around for as long as it has - zinnias still in full bloom, pumpkins turning more orange each day, cosmos swaying, late summer raspberries still ripening. The weather people say everything changes tomorrow when fall arrives - wind, rain, more wind, more rain. But tonight, the windows are wide open, warm air is everywhere, and this is the only season there is.

Last night I dreamed - blessed illusion -
that I had a beehive here
in my heart
and that the golden bees were making
white combs and sweet honey
from my old failures.

- Anthony Machado
translated by Robert Bly

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So Many Gifts

Poetry Chair
School, September, work. Life has been crazy - not much time to sit in a poetry chair, or any other chair. I am longing for Definitely Not School Summer Camp. Years ago, this chair was a gift from my students - built by a grandfather and covered in poetry and messages written by the children. It is a one-of-a-kind chair, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It has been sitting in my green backyard, in the rain, and the sun, all summer long. Soon it will be moved inside, put away for another season. I never thought I would feel like a chair, but I do. Letting go of summer is hard.

Meanwhile . . . more gifts. Leaving my house this morning, I found a book at my front door. An amazing collection of poetry written by Jade DeFehr, one of my past summer Definitely Not School kids. She is fourteen now and spent part of the summer traveling with her family, so I have not seen her, or heard from her in more than a year. The book was a complete surprise. Because she was not coming to camp, she decided to write a poem a day all summer long. I had been looking for a new poet to carry in my bag and there she was waiting at my door - sixty-two amazing poems - she did not miss one day! It is all of July and August between two covers. I am in absolute awe! If I could have written a book, this is the one I would have written. Here is the first poem in the collection. Thank you, thank you, Jade.

Wednesday 1st

I've met just two,
or maybe three
who know what I know.
Maybe you know it too, but like
most other things,
it only counts if you can
put it to words.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September Lilies

It is the beginning of September, the end of summer, but to walk outside it would seem that summer has just arrived. For the past week, we have had the warmest, driest days in a year, and it is strange to be thinking of going back to school when the weather is telling us to go the beach or the lake or anywhere but back to school. For a week I have been walking past these lilies blooming in front of my old school They are stunning September lilies, more than a dozen white blossoms the size of dinner plates, their scent completely intoxicating. Even the lilies are saying SUMMER, not FALL. But, the sun is rising later each day, setting earlier. These days, when I return from my evening walk, it is dark and dusky, nearly night.

- Myra Cohn Livingston

up her picnic
pouring cold lemonade
in the park grass, Summer says

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Growing Wings and Other Things

Growing Wings by Hana

Getting ready to go back to school . . . I have been sorting through hundreds and hundreds of pieces of writing done by kids I have taught over the last thirty years. I am converting them from over-head transparencies into digital images, into power-point presentations, which means my house is a mess, literally littered with words, but also bursting with stories. Every single piece has a life and story behind it and a child right at the center of it. Whenever I doubt why I teach the way I do, all I need to do is look through these collections - so filled with truth and beauty. I feel incredibly sad for teachers who spend their careers having kids do worksheets, filling in blanks, marking spelling tests, etc. Hana, who was 7 at the time, a real little bird herself, drew this picture at home and brought it to school one day. I want wings just like that! I think there is a poem to go with it somewhere in those stacks of overheads on my dining room table. I am still looking for it.

Favourite Song by Lindsay
Almost twenty years ago I was teaching little children in the inner-city. Many of them were just beginning to learn the alphabet, just learning what words on paper looked like. Often their writing looked like chains of random letters. Some, like Lindsay, already knew how to leave spaces between words. One day, when I knelt beside her and asked her what she was writing, she said, "It's my mom's favourite song." And then she sang it SO sweetly: "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a ranch like me. . . " Unforgettable, really. But even more so, because it is there on the page, in writing.

Ladybug by Binh
Binh had just moved to Canada from Viet Nam the year before he began first grade. He was the little boy who once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. He drew this picture early in the school year. He was still 5 years old, just beginning to learn English, just beginning to connect letters and sounds. It must have been one of the first snowy days in the fall - look carefully on the ground and you will see a tiny ladybug walking beside him. He wrote: "A ladybug is cold in the snow." For more than twenty years, each time I have found a ladybug in my house in the winter, Binh's words are the first that come to mind. Where is he now?

Summer View From My Kitchen Window

Summer View From My Kitchen Window
I am already more than a week into my summer holidays and just beginning to settle into this greenest of seasons - so glad to be at home with my windows and my light. I am just learning how to post these blogs, spending too much time in front of my computer, not enough time with the sky.  The morning began with thunder - an hour of pouring rain and thunder!!  Long after sunrise, the sky was still dark and ominous, but then suddenly the sun broke through. I put on my garden shoes, grabbed my camera, and went out to the flowers . . .   

After the Rain

After the Rain
After all that wild weather, the day lily leaves were covered with such quiet raindrops . . . 

After the Rain

After the Rain
One side of my yard is lined with leafy peonies - the grandmother of all flowers - pink, white, deep, deep red.  I have been deadheading the flowers all week long, but this one, just opening, survived the storm. I have lived in my house for nearly twenty years; these peonies were here long before I moved in and with any luck will be here long after I am gone.