I was definitely having trouble settling in on an idea for writing today, so I grabbed my notebook and started flipping through the pages for inspiration. Something. Anything. Undoubtedly, I thought to myself, I’d find something for sure among all the treasures I’ve been collecting.
Decidedly I paused in the section clearly designated for writing from a word. Plainly, surely, and obviously I realized it absolutely had to be the word definitely. I don’t recall exactly how I misspelled the word in a handwritten letter (remember those?) to my parents from college, but I certainly have not misspelled the word since. However, without fail, I double check my use of the word recommend. Every. Single. Time. I categorically don’t trust myself with that spelling demon.
Palpably, my dad was not accustomed to proofreading my letters for spelling errors which indubitably is the reason this memory has stuck with me all these years. My learn-a-word-a-day-dad hung on every word penned in my letters home from college. I was, the youngest and only of his three children to venture into the unknown world of higher education for our family, an achievement he had only dreamed of for himself. He undeniably believed it would open up countless possibilities for my future. Unquestionably, it did.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my dad credit for my love of words, phrases, song lyrics, and literature. He is unequivocally the reason!
On day two of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge I used the four words ‘sun seeking nature lover’ in a 25 word description of myself. Today I thought a bit more about those words and how nature nourishes me.
I’ve always been one who’d rather be outside than inside ever since I was a little girl, but now that I’m older I understand the benefits that being outside contributes to my well being. The past year of the pandemic has highlighted for me the true value of immersing myself in nature. Considered a safe and acceptable outdoor activity, my husband and I turned toward hiking and have hiked over 100 miles of the Ice Age Trail. We’ve benefited greatly from the healing qualities the quiet forests, wide open prairies, and the shorelines of the beach. As we’ve hiked up, down, and around the kettles and moraines of the Ice Age Trail we’ve learned to slow our pace of life and breath in the pine scented air and listen to the winds rattle the leaves or crash waves onto the shore.
The moments have been so memorable and powerful I am able to revisit them in my mind’s eye regularly and often whenever I need to pause and regroup. It’s medicine to me. I’ve learned to breathe like the waves finding focus and grounding. The smell of the pines, the whisper of the winds, the colors of the leaves and flowers all work together creating inner peace for me and that’s something I’ve needed a lot of this past year.
Yesterday I saw four Cardinals visiting our bird feeder. One of them returned today and brought along a Woodpecker friend. It was a Downy Woodpecker. How do I know this you might be wondering. I grabbed the binoculars that reside permanently on the windowsill and observed it’s blocky head, black and white plumage, and straight back posture as it sat perched at the suet block specifically purchased to attract the woodpecker species. Keeping the feeders filled is a daily ritual for me that I take seriously. I mean, do you store birdseed in your Tupperware cereal container for easy pouring? I don’t mind sharing with the furry friends either, but when I catch a squirrel plopped smack dab in the middle of the feeder greedily stuffing it’s cheeks and swinging away likes it’s a private hammock, I give the window a not-so-gentle knock or send the dog out to chase it away.
My husband has become accustomed to me shouting “cardinal” or “blue jay” or “woodpecker” at random times throughout the day. Sometimes I add “female” or “male” when I’m feeling especially knowledgeable about a certain species. He’s really sweet about it all and often joins me at the window to get a closer look with the binoculars. It’s not uncommon for me to echo the simple two syllable “fee bee” song of the Black Capped Chickadee when we’re walking our dog,which my husband also finds amusing.
This morning when I let the dog out, I heard the birds chirping and was instantly inspired to go for a run, so I set out on a favorite and familiar route. Here’s the problem. My husband has asked me repeatedly not to run on a particular road close to home because it’s narrow, can be a little busy, and because of one little mishap involving a trip to Urgent Care for stitches. However, it’s mostly busy on summer weekends due to tournaments at the ballparks located nearby. Today is a Wednesday in March, so away I ran on the forbidden tree lined road.
I ran cautiously focused on the road and my footing when I heard the calls of the Cardinals and the Chickadees. Did I dare look around and take my eyes off the road? My attention bounced back and forth between the road and the urge to scan nearby trees. At that moment I began to wonder if I might be one of those crazy ladies obsessed with birds like the Pigeon Lady on the park bench in Home Alone 2.
The reality is birds have become a source of comfort and remembrance for me as they have for so many others who’ve experienced loss of a loved one. Cardinals appear when loved ones are near. I became familiar with this symbolic sign ten years ago after my father in law passed away following a hard fought battle with cancer and was reminded of it again when my own father died suddenly two years ago followed by my sister in law six weeks later. This past December, a week before Christmas, my mother in law unexpectedly passed away. Four loved ones. Four Cardinals.
Yesterday I saw four Cardinals visiting our bird feeder.
Today’s inspiration came after watching the game show 25 Words or Less. My husband and I started watching it when my mom came to visit. We’ve been watching the show ever since whenever we’re home, which is basically always, thanks to COVID. Describing yourself in twenty five words is also an introductory activity my high school teaching daughter used to get acquainted with new students learning virtually this year so I thought I’d give it a go. It seems like an ideal way to introduce myself as a return slicer.
“Oh! Look at that pillow,” I remarked as we weaved our way through the pillow aisle heading toward the rug section of Home Goods. My husband and I were in search of an area rug. It was the third Home Goods location we visited in two days, determined to find the inspiration for a living room update in the form of a rug. I knew I was pushing my luck dragging my husband along, but I truly wanted his input on this rug that we’d eventually select. We had an idea of the vibe we envisioned, but every rug on display just didn’t click. It ended up to be a quick in and out errand.
As I led the way back toward the exit detouring past the pillows again in order to get a second glance, I reached out just to check the price tag. Humph! A little pricey just for a pillow I thought. Then I squeezed it and felt just the right amount of perfect. I ran my hand across the appliquéd sunflower design with the seeds carefully embroidered with numerous French knots. They add a dimension to the single colored object. Summer sunshine yellow!I fancied that pillow, however we said our goodbyes and headed home. That was Friday.
On Saturday morning I began to repaint my son’s bedroom. He moved into it after my daughter went off to college. Off at summer camp for a week, I thought I’d surprise him with sports themed room make over. Wouldn’t he be surprised to come back to a red and white room showcasing his school sports memorabilia and complement all of the Wisconsin Badger decor? Turned out he did in fact love it, but now that he’s older returning home from college it doesn’t hold the same appeal.
I remember how difficult it was to paint over those buttery yellow walls of my daughter’s room. It was my favorite room in our entire house. It oozed happiness. After she left for college I often found myself wandering in there whenever I needed a mood change because it just felt so bright, sunny, and joyful.
I forgot how easy it is to transform a room just by changing the paint color and was very pleased to have the room done by mid afternoon. I experienced the same melancholy feeling watching the rocket red walls disappear that I felt when I painted over the yellow walls years ago. An unusually mild, almost-Spring-like day I was able to paint with the windows open. It was an inspiring day and after cleaning up all the painting materials I walked out and told my husband, “I think I’m going to go buy that yellow pillow.”
I entered Home Goods with my eye on the prize, hoping the pillow would still be there. It was! I scooped it up and tossed it into my cart. As I wandered up and down the aisles looking for other possible decorative items my pulse increased and my creative brain kicked in. I spotted yellow tables perfect for bedside tables. I walked past mirrors, mirrors, and more mirrors and thought about the mirror just sitting in my basement. Everything I looked at reminded me of I had something I already owned at home. Why buy something new? Two yellow wooden patio chairs could become bedside chairs to compliment the pillow. A handmade quilt with pops of yellow could find a home on the bed. Spray paint a couple of old unused frames for the wall. I was optimistic about the possibilities of creating a bright, sunny, luminous yellow bedroom again, so my pillow and I checked out. The room I envision will be a place of retreat to rest, regroup, and recharge like my daughter’s room use to provide. All because we went shopping for a rug.
Birds make contact calls to keep in touch with each other. When a bird calls, it’s telling you what it is and where it is.
Nearly every day my daughter calls or FaceTimes during her afternoon walk. Having access to many different paths not far from her neighborhood, the walks have become part of a new routine for working from home. They provide a moment of self care, a respite from the anxieties and change brought about by this pandemic. Little does she know, this daily ritual also comforts me. Our calls are mostly pleasant, but, as any birder knows, sound is often the best way to detect a bird’s presence.
Mother birds are protective of their children, so every day I ask, “Where are you walking today?” Regardless of the route, I can always hear the symphony of birds singing in the background, often distracting me from our conversation. Eventually, I’m drawn back to the sound of my daughter’s voice. If you’re trying to learn the different songs sung by birds, it’s important to focus on one bird at a time. Like every birding expert understands, developing your birding ear can also reveal hidden details. How can I tell a song from a call? Bird calls tend to be short and simple, on the other hand, birdsongs are usually more complex and carry a clear pattern. I’ve learned to focus on the different qualities, including rhythm, pitch, tone, and repetition.
What message does her song carry today? Is there a trill, quick run of phrases like that of the Warbler? Or is it the pleasant, flutelike whistle of the Chickadee? My feathers get ruffled when I detect a harsh crow call of warning, or the fast and jumbled rhythm of the Marsh Wren. Begging calls are made by young birds as they flutter their wings trying to get their parents’ attention. If phrases are repeated over and over as the Mockingbirds often is, or the pitch isn’t slow and steady, we carry on walking and talking until the tempo slows and melodic notes return. I’m making progress in exercising my slow and steady voice like that of the sparrow, even though I’m her mother and cannot help but worry as the weeks of social distancing continue. For now, our flight calls keep us flocked together.
Green is a hopeful
fertile ground of emotions.
It is gratitude, fresh and brand new.
Green is comforting, encouraging
as it begins stirring from slumber.
It reassures us
some things remain predictable and certain.
Green is bossy,
commanding attention to nature's prosperity
warning us not to take it for granted.
Green is restless and screaming
Breathe me in
Celebrate this day!
(draft Earth Day, 4/22/20)
Slice of Life Tuesday – The weather report announced 34 degrees, although it feels like 23 degrees with northwest wind gusts up to 20 mph.
Message in the Weather
Wind - direction and speed
fiercely aimed at me, urging
Sunlight and heat
Sharing the wind's howling message
Stay settled inside
Hold back and draw comfort from my embrace
Until the winds shift
Sun shining Get outside
Armed and ready
with Norwex cloths
and a simple cloth
Scrubbing in circles
Streak free shine
A new perspective
Glistening and glowing
Must be Spring
Today is the thirty-first and final day of the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. I set out on a quest to create space and time for enhancing my writing life, and I discovered so much more through this challenge. Thank you, The Two Writing Teachers, for this forum to explore my writing.
Tomorrow will be the first day of April – the month to celebrate poetry. It will also be the day to begin a new 30 day yoga exploration. Inspiration for today’s poem appeared while lining up seven months of printed calendars used for my daily yoga practice. There they were, seven words stacked like the spines of books, waiting to be turned into a poem.
Finding my TRUE self
for the breath
JOY for being
I will KISS
To CREATE a new beginning
Welcome to The Curious Kindergarten, a blog about the discoveries my students and I make in our full-day kindergarten! A bit about me: I have been teaching Kindergarten for several years and have recently started implementing some philosophies from Reggio Emilia into my classroom. Our learning journey is a work in progress, and I hope visitors view it as just that: an opportunity to reflect and grow each day. Thanks for stopping by!