Patch of earth

Sunny afternoon
visiting my son

my granddaughter
walks me out
to a patch
of dusty gray soil
shadowed by
the old live oak
not far from
the swingset

here, she says,
is where
we saw the turtle
laying eggs
then she
went away
into the woods

that is the way
of turtles, I say
she will not
come back

my granddaughter nods
and I recall
that her first word
was turtle

my son has placed
fluorescent stake flags
around this patch
of incubating earth

for the benefit
of his expectant
child

Not sure how many eggs are hidden here in this patch of earth so near my granddaughter’s playground.

Empty box turtle shell discovered by my son’s basement. The turtle died some time ago. Not the mother, but apparently she was also an eastern box turtle. Under good conditions, the eastern box turtle can live over a hundred years. It’s a symbol for patience and is also the state reptile of North Carolina.

A turn of turtles

My son texts to say
today
the girls and I
watched a turtle
laying eggs
in the yard

which I am sure
my six-year-old
backseat prophet
slash nurture scientist
loved witnessing

here’s hoping
she’ll keep the memory
for her little sister
living her first June

and that
they get to see
a turn of baby turtles
just before summer’s end

Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs Eno River Durham NC 095938-001. bobistraveling. CC BY 2.0.

“Turn” is one of the collective nouns for turtles.

And then there were more

Dear House Finches With The Nest Atop The Magnolia Wreath On My Front Door:

I wondered why you’ve been lingering so long.

The four babies you hatched at Easter surely took to the wild blue yonder weeks ago.

I haven’t checked the nest because I feared your fledglings might be reluctant to go; after all, there’s no place like home… not to mention that in a previous season I think I may have accidentally force-fledged babies who could fly but were still cramming themselves into the nest. They gave me quite a turn, flying out that day when I came to investigate. So little. I worried if they were really ready to make it on their own. It would be my fault if they were not…

So, Finches, I have left you to come and go as you please, without interference, and I confess that the whole reason is purely selfish: your music. I savor your beautiful song. So bright and pure…sunlight is woven through it even on the dreariest day. Your song gets under a corner of my sometimes-heavy spirit and lifts it, floods it with peace and a longing I cannot quite explain. I know the day is coming when you won’t be gracing my porch any more and then I will be bereft of these joyful little interludes… so I haven’t questioned your lingering. I’ve only treasured my extended finch fantasia with a grateful heart.

Yesterday my husband asked: “Can’t we use the front door now? Those babies are gone, right?”

Bless him for his great patience with my bird sanctuary. He is a minister, after all…

I said, “Probably. Let me go check the nest to be sure.”

And then.

Then then then.

Oh, it’s going be a while yet before we can open the door.

Now I know what you’ve been up to, my beloved Finches.

Encore.

An ancient alchemy

One day at dismissal while I was monitoring the hallway, i.e., preventing a stampede, a fifth-grade girl approached me:

Mrs. Haley, I have been working on a story. I was wondering if you could give me some tips?

Of course! Is this an assignment for class?

No, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while…

Even better. Have you written any of this story yet?

Yes, a little, but I’m stuck. C. told me how you helped him last year and he said youre the one to ask…

And so it was arranged that the student would come to meet me in the morning, story in hand.

She brought a friend. Another fifth-grade girl.

I began to sense that this was either a business conference or a council of wizards… maybe both.

The student read her story (a fantasy) and explained that she needed help with where to go next.

We discussed the strengths of her introduction and how to create a hook. The friend’s eyes glistened.

I asked several questions about the characters and their problem-solving adventure (i.e., plot). The story-writer answered aloud, expanding her own thinking. When I made a suggestion or two, both girls’ faces took on an otherworldly light.

Most of all, my young apprentices (I really didn’t say ‘my young apprentices’ — I only thought it as I spoke), if you’re going to have magic in this story, you have to stick to the rules you put in place or you’ll lose your readers. Does that make sense?

Oh yes, said the friend, nodding sagely. It still has to be believable.

And off they went, leaving me marveling in their wake about codes and spells and the power of one’s own mind to imagine the unimaginable, of idea-dust drifting through the atmosphere to settle upon whomever it chooses for bringing forth the story that wants to be told.

For, in a time and place when writing workshop is out of vogue and crafting responses to texts is essentially all the writing the present educational Powers That Be can imagine, what could be more magical than a child desiring to write a story for the sheer pleasure of it?

Nothing, I think. Nothing. It’s an ancient alchemy.

Go forth, young crafters.

Your stories await.

So do I.

So do we all.

John Steinbeck on Storytelling. Jill Clardy. CC BY-SA 2.0

*******

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge…supporting student writers starts with supporting teacher writers.

Big brown rabbit

I am coming home late
if you are meeting me at the gate
unintentionally, but still
at the end of a long day
I shall go my own way
and leave you to play
sweet clover for you
sweet dreams for me
lettuce savor the evening
dear Big Brown Rabbit

All in for the kids

In the interview
the candidate said
we don’t get credit
for all we’ve endured
on behalf of kids
in these past two years

and apologized
for the sudden tears

every one of which
surfaces from depths

immeasurable
a soul subjected
to intense pressure
somehow withstanding
high temperatures
beyond describing

the weight of the world
in every teardrop

salt-worth far beyond
the rarest diamond

culminating crown
of love resounding
courage rebounding
in five wondrous words:
“I still want to teach”

Eye Don’t Cry. corner of art. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Stillness

I find there is nothing that drives away dark thoughts as much as Sunday morning, especially when it follows a night of strange and troubled dreams after a week of increasing tensions at work in a school year that seems never-ending. As I wake, pondering the attrition of humanity in general with a hymn-line playing in my head, Change and decay in all around I see, unable to tell if I am feeling heartsick, soul-sick, or just plain sick, the Sunday stillness settles my spirit. My stomach, on the other hand, needs more time…not sure if I will make it to church or not. A riotous melody from the front porch works like a tonic: a finch fantasia. The mohawk-headed babies that hatched in my door wreath should have flown on by now. I am glad they linger. I need these bright notes. I wish I could interpret them and know exactly what the finches are saying to one another… if they were not here, the silence would be so loud. There is a time for silence and it is not now. It is not the same as stillness. Sunday brings stillness, the finch song brings stillness, the wall clock with whirring crystals brings stillness. I am craving prolonged stillness, I am so tired, but I make myself go.

And if I had not done so, I would have missed it.

Backing out of the garage, closing the door, turning down the driveway… there.

Across the street, lying on the grass in front of a tangled green thicket, a large white cat, so still it seemed an alabaster statue. It didn’t move as I approached. It gazed at me as if it belonged in that very spot (I have never seen it before).

Sphinx-like. Pristine. Regal. Otherworldly. Breathtaking. I think I whispered the word Amazing.

I could have stayed and stared, I think, forever.

But, without movement of any kind, the white cat reminded me that stillness isn’t an untroubling; it is, instead, a submerging, away from surface-level fear, a shaking off, a resting place, a deep abiding.

Which paradoxically involves moving on.

I feel certain it winked at me as I did so.

Curiosity drove me to look it up: Pure white cats are rare, 5% or less of the population.
It didn’t seem to mind my taking its picture.

*******

special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge

A day in May

It is the season
of newness
of flowering
of fresh color
of cloudless sky
so blue it hurts

it is the season
of grass
of earth
of birth
of birds
of Eastertide hatchlings
leaving nests
to wing their way
through the world

it is the season
of contemplation
of existence
of life
of purpose
of time
not standing still
and therefore being
infinitely
piercingly
precious

Micah contemplates pink sorrel and a piece of pine straw