Sibling Assignment #176: Winter Grace

I gave the assignment this week. "This assignment is in three parts. First, choose a poem that you feel best exemplifies snow and post it. Second, explain why you chose that particular poem. Third, find photos you have taken that connect in some way with the poem and your own writing about the poem." You can find brother Bill's post written after a blizzard in Maryland here and sister Carol's will be added when complete.

I discovered and rediscovered a large list of poems about snow this week. Often the poems dealt with animals in snow, fun things to do in snow, or simply shoveling snow. I had never read this poem before, but this is what I like about it. With simple examples, the author speaks of the beauty of snow. I love photographing snow and think bare landscapes of snow and sky are simply beautiful.  She focuses on solitude. These is a quiet calm when I carry my camera alone in snow. 

I love the stark contrast of bare branches to white snow. It is easy to capture the truth of snow. It doesn't hide. Nature is always there. In melting snow we see what lies beneath. The garbage along the stream, the muddy creek, a dead bird, animal sign. The world is sleeping.  The world is growing under the ground, inside the branches, and in burrows and caves. Winter is hibernation and I really love her last lines of the she used the words  slowed-down season, darkness, solitude, cold, and night. Snow is a blanket of winter. It is a blanket that provides rest for the soul, a place to be along, a time for darkness, and pure beauty.   I chose a series of photos I have taken that married well with her words.

Winter Grace
If you have seen the snow
under the lamppost
piled up like a white beaver hat on the picnic table
or somewhere slowly falling
into the brook
to be swallowed by water,
then you have seen beauty
and know it for its transience.

And if you have gone out in the snow
for only the pleasure
of walking barely protected
from the galaxies,
the flakes settling on your parka
like the dust from just-born stars,
the cold waking you
as if from long sleeping,
then you can understand
how, more often than not,
truth is found in silence,

how the natural world comes to you
if you go out to meet it,
its icy ditches filled with dead weeds,
its vacant birdhouses, and dens
full of the sleeping.

But this is the slowed-down season
held fast by darkness
and if no one comes to keep you company
then keep watch over your own solitude.
In that stillness, you will learn
with your whole body
the significance of cold
and the night,
which is otherwise always eluding you.

Patricia Fargnoli 

Sibling Assignment #175: The Art of Waxing and Waning

Brother Bill gave the sibling assignment this week. "Write a piece of creative non-fiction that ends with this sentence (or a slight variation): "Suddenly, bittersweet vellichor filled my entire being."
I will post theirs when complete.

 I have a passion for words. I love the placement of words on paper, whether I am reading or writing those words. I love the sound of words from a paragraph of a book, the verse of a poem, or a stanza of a song. I love the mixture of images and sounds of words which create a script for a play, movie, or television show. All of these forms of the written word draw me in, capture my attention, put in a zone where everything else is mute, or keep me fascinated for hours and days, but not on a routine basis.

My passion doesn't follow a set routine. I realize many skilled readers and writers set goals of reading so many pages or writing so many words each day. It it also what I wished for my students and attempted to provide time and structure just for that in the classroom. I also wished it for myself. Being away from daily time with students in the classroom, it has made me realize that just doesn't work for me. I felt like a failure because  I wasn't reading a book or books, writing a blog post each day, keeping up with a journal, and/or watching an important film that everyone was talking about. When there was more time for myself after leaving teaching, I had a vision of doing it all. It hasn't worked that way.

My passion for words is all about waxing and waning. I can sit and never move until I read an entire book. I can then go three weeks without reading another. I can fill up ten pages with prose on a given morning, but not write again for a month. Sometimes all I do is listen to music. Other days I only listen to silence. I can decide I am going to watch all films starring Diane Keaton and do it for weeks. Then there is a dry period.

In our family we joke about our obsessions. I obsess over lists of books I want to read, prose I want to write, titles of films I want to see, music I want to listen to. I obsess to get through the lists, but then may set the lists aside. I immerse myself in my obsessions, then move away. Fortunately during the dry periods I do a lot of thinking and reflecting. Again, it is the art of waxing and waning.

I took a day recently and revisited my bookshelves, boxes of books from the move, stacks of journals, pieces of writing, and films waiting to be watched. I felt comfort in being surrounded by so many words.I found books to give away, others I wanted to share with friends and family.  I listened to music, I read my writing, I revisited my blog. I organized, plotted, planned, and set goals on how I might add more of my passion for words into my days. I also gave myself permission to wax and wane.

As the afternoon sun set behind the mountain out the window on that day, I took a deep breath and slowly scanned the room filled with papers, dusty books, spirals, composition books, file folders, brand new books, pens, an original i Pod, a granola bar wrapper, and a cold cup of coffee. Suddenly, bittersweet vellichor filled my entire being.

from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, 
which are somehow infused with the passage of 
time—filled with thousands of old books 
you’ll never have time to read, 
each of which is itself locked 
in its own era, bound and dated and papered over 
like an old room the author abandoned years ago, 
a hidden annex littered with thoughts. 

Sibling Assignment #174: Kellogg: My Hometown

Sister Carol gave the assignment this week:
"Look back over 2015 and write about one of the most memorable things that changed you, and write about the transformation." You can read Bill's about new experiences with his camera here. I will link sister Carol's when it is completed.

2015 was the year that had more changes wrapped up in twelve months than any other to date. Everett and I discussed this exact topic last night and between our two blended lives couldn't come up with another year so full of changes, excitement, work, stress, happiness, support of family, support of friends, and support of each other. 

What changed me the most? My hometown of Kellogg, Idaho.  It was a smart move as we transitioned into a retired life to move to Kellogg. When thinking about this post I was reminded of simple reasons why this town transformed me.

Kellogg reminded me once again of what it is like to live in a town where local businesses provide what you need, are hospitable, will deliver to your house, or drop everything to make sure things are working out. Mom lives next door and has a strong desire to shop local as much as she can . It has paid off for her and for us. When our new fence was being built Mr. Ace himself drove down to check on materials and questions Mom had, since we were putting them fence up between our two yards. When Mom needed a new chair to ease her pain, Mr. Furniture Exchange was there, brought a chair, let her try it out, and then set it up. Putting a new washer and dryer into our basement was a challenge, but Mr. Furniture Exchange had our neighbor and crew moving it in with speed and grace. They removed to old ones and all was done with and efficiency. We had the same experience when we purchased a car locally. Good service, hospitality, and follow-up. Everyone was helpful, friendly, and kind.

Although I don't really need a reminder, every day I marvel in the beauty of my hometown. Growing up under the fog of smelter smoke and brown hills, it is so different now to be greeted by the magnificent Kellogg Peak out my front window, incredible sunsets looking west, fall foliage covers the streets and hills with striking autumn colors, and tree lined streets heading uptown. 

When we were making our plans to return I was excited to reconnect with friends. What a joy it has been to not only reconnect with friends, but also finding people I hadn't seen in many years. The people that surrounded me during my first twenty-five years of life here in Kellogg hold a collective set of memories that include me, my family, and a long stream of memories that now are being revisited over and over. I enjoy having the same neighbors as when I grew up.  It was a good life growing up here, maturing, and beginning a teaching career. I look forward to more lunches, visits, and time spent with many, many lifelong friends.

This is the first time in thirty-five years that I have lived in the same place as my family. It makes it even better when my brother is able to be here for extended visits. Getting reacquainted with my mother as a next door neighbor has been a joy. Having my sister and her husband close by has been fun and I look forward to having more time together as we plan gardens and outside dinners in the spring and summer. When the nieces were home it was special to host everyone here for a dinner after Christmas. We can all help each other with pet care, borrowing food, giving someone a ride, lending the pick up, and supporting Mom. 

I love the things that are familiar. I love to shop at Stein's because I know where everything is. I was filled with happiness the day I got my library card again at the same library I spent so many hours as a child. The HumDinger still has great burgers and fries. Stepping into Kellogg High School brought back a flood of memories. So did walking the area around KHS. It was the same at Sunnyside Drug and the Post Office. I love Teeter's Field

. "For if anything is capable of making a poet of a literary man, it is my hometown love of the human, the living and ordinary."  Joseph Campbell

It is time to create some poetry.