Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New England poet and daffodils

Thou yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring!
Thou herald of rich Summer's myriad flowers!
The climbing sun with new recovered powers
Does warm thee into being, through the ring
Of rich, brown earth he woos thee, makes thee fling
Thy green shoots up, inheriting the dowers
Of bending sky and sudden, sweeping showers,
Till ripe and blossoming thou art a thing
To make all nature glad, thou art so gay;
To fill the lonely with a joy untold;
Nodding at every gust of wind to-day,
To-morrow jewelled with raindrops. Always bold
To stand erect, full in the dazzling play
Of April's sun, for thou hast caught his gold.

Amy Lowell, who wrote this poem, was born 134 years ago in
Brookline, MA, some 15 miles south of where I teach. She's
one of my favorite American poets because she writes with
such passion and color. She comes from old New England
stock with one of the early cities named for it (Lowell, MA,
one of the major mill towns at one time). Even though this
poem is about April's sun, it describes I'm longing to see
right now. I love winter, I think snow is beautiful, and I
don't mind the cold weather. But I am more than ready for
more sun, for flowers, for spring!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Write it Down!

I loved this that Kristen wrote over at her "French Word a Day" blog. It captures so well the frustration of the aging memory that I (who had a legendary memory at one time) struggle with on a daily basis. I, too, must now write things down before I lose them and they are gone forever. Write it down! That's the only way to do it for me any more =(

Write it down while it is fresh in your mind, fresh as the hand-grated parmesan that falls over scalding hot risotto.

Write it down while it is thick, thick as the brouillard [fog] that covers a patchwork of grapevines on the rolling hills of northern Italy in December.

Write it down while it is still chattering, like the wrinkled signores' "Bene! bene!" in the town square at Monforte d'Alba.

Write it down while it is strong, strong as the ink-black espresso that fills half a demitasse* at Marco's place in Alba.

Write it down while it is pouring, like the olive oil
my husband splashes onto his plate for bread-dipping while waiting for the antipasti.

Write it down while it flows, like red Dolcetto* from an uncorked bottle.
Write it down while it is dark, like the winter sky above the foothills in the Piedmont.

Write it down while it is hot, hot as the bagna cauda* that bathes the yellow roasted peppers and halved onions in Renza's kitchen.

Write it down while it is passionate, like the lovers' quarrel that silences an entire Italian cantina but for the flailing lips of one Franco-American couple.

Write it down while it is fizzing like sparkling water, now swallowed (along with a bit of pride and an apology), at a pizza dive on the outskirts of Bra.

Write it down while it is funny, like the name of the Italian town above.

Write it down while it is sensual, like the lips of the kissing Italians. (Why do they call the twirling of tongues "French kissing"? You've not seen kissing until you've seen Italian kissing!)

Write it down while it is crisp, like the cotton sheets at Alberto's bed and breakfast in Castiglione Falletto.

Write it down before it is gone, never to return, like cappuccino foam at the bottom of a cup. Pop...pop...pop.... Poof!

Photos: Cassis, France, where I had an unforgettable conversation the summer of 2004 with a Frenchman that I later wrote down so I wouldn't forget; my hotel room work space where I wrote and drew assignments for my Creativity Workshop class in Aix-en-Provence, France; sunflowers in outdoor market of Aix that inspired much of my writing the summer of 2004; garden park overlooking Cassis Harbor, where I sat and wrote about the conversation I didn't want to forget; drawing of doors and side streets of Aix that I did as part of my "Book of Days' assignment that summer.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

God, Who stretched the Spangled Heavens

I learned a new hymn today. During the praise time at church the song leader shared a beautiful hymn with us. It's actually in our hymnal, but I don't ever remember singing it before. Sharon thought it was particularly appropriate for this week, considering the eclipse, the meteor, and the satellite...

God, who stretched the spangled heavens
Infinite in time and place,
Flung the suns in burning radiance
Through the silent fields of space:
We, Your children in Your likeness,
Share inventive powers with You;
Great Creator, still creating,
Show us what we yet may do.

We have ventured worlds undreamed of
Since the childhood of our race;
Known the exstacy of winging
Through untraveled realms of space,
Probed the secrets of the atom,
Yielding unimagined power,
Facing us with life's destruction
Or our most triumphant hour.

As each far horizon beckons,
May it challenge us anew:
Children of creative purpose,
Serving others, honoring You.
May our dreams prove rich with promise;
Each endeavor well begun;
Great Creator, give us guidance
Till our goals and Yours are one.

~Catherine Cameron (1927- )

Photos are from my walk around this afternoon. Not exactly spangled heavens, but the result of yesterday's heavenly sprinkling...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Well, it was spectacular, especially considering it was 24 degrees and I was watching it from a lighted parking lot very near a major (lighted) highway. Doesn't make for spectacular pictures, though, sad to say. But it was so worth the cold!

Tonight, I left school at the same time I did last night when the moon was so nearly full that I knew it was going to be a challenging day today. In fact, I said as much to a colleague as I pointed the moon out to him when we left. "Beware the moon!" I said.

Tonight, I left school once again admiring the moon, after a somewhat hellacious morning (yes, the moon was to blame). I looked at the dark sky that cradled a brilliant moon and couldn't wait to watch the eclipse, hoping that it would be more than a pinprick in the midst of blackness when I tried to photograph it.

No such luck. Still, it was beautiful. I watched it take place while talking on my cell with my parents. They were watching 85 miles north of me in Maine. We saw the same beautiful red slowly slide across the pale yellow until the eclipse was complete (my mom's photo at the top of the page).

Breathless, chilled, I couldn't take my eyes off what my camera could not begin to capture...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The moon was beautiful as I was leaving school this evening. It was nearly 6, and already dark, except for the moon that was playing hide and seek in the clouds. I took a few pictures, trying different settings on my camera. The first shows how dark it was, with the moon hidden in the clouds (you can catch a glimpse of it in the center of the picture). The next shows how big and bright the moon was when it came out from behind the clouds. I also used the night setting, which I regret now,'s done.

The title reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows from the 80s: Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd. Such a hilarious show at its best. I love that you can get your old favorite shows on DVD now and watch them at will. With this series, there's a take off of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" that is outstanding. I'm about to show it to my English Lit class next week. It makes it clear how relevant and funny he can be. Still.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

It was a love-filled Valentine's Day at our school. Four of the ladies of the staff got Valentine's Day flowers today... including me! Two bouquets of roses were delivered to our morning staff meeting to our PreK/K and 1st-3rd grade teachers. One expected it. Her husband gives her flowers for everything. It's a sweet happy non-surprise for her each time the flowers arrive. But the other teacher was not expecting anything at all, so was caught completely off guard. It was so much fun to see her absolute surprise and delight. Our office manager received a small bouquet of tulips from one of the students and her mother.

I actually received two beautiful plants. A mini-rose bush from a colleague and his family and a pair of cyclamen from my sister and nephew. I, too, was surprised and delighted. I had not expected anything.

In addition to these sweet remembrances, one of the teachers brought in strawberry shortcake muffins for our morning meeting (oh, so delicious) and the Spanish classes made Valentine's Day cards for all the staff (in Spanish).

Hope it was as nice for others as it was for us!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

360 Degrees

The weather has been wild lately. Not that that's unusual in New England. They say if you don't like the weather here, wait a few minutes and it'll change. That was literally true on Sunday. I went out to the grocery store and while I was inside, all kinds of things were happening outside. Wind, snow, heat (relatively speaking)...and I wasn't inside all that long.

When I went out to my car, I was struck by the sky. Every direction I look had a different sky, a different mood. One way was bright and sunny, another was dark and angry looking. Oh, so interesting, this New England weather!

Photos: The 360...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy 19th Birthday!

I always say that 19 was one of my favorite year. I couldn't say for sure why I say that. I was a sophomore in college, I was living off-campus, I had a boyfriend who had a car (a fast one), I was taking interesting classes, I changed my major from home economics to English... Maybe 19 was the first time I felt like I knew who I was and what I wanted to do. Whatever the reason, it stands out in my memory as a good year.

Today is my youngest niece's 19th birthday. Our family celebrated yesterday, but today is the day. I remember it clear as a bell. She was born in the same hospital I was, although many years later. It was a Friday, as I recall. My mother called me from the hospital to say the baby was born. I was so excited, I could hardly wait for my class to finish so I could drive the 45 minutes to the hospital to see her. I remember rushing up to the OB floor and meeting my mother at the entrance to the unit. I fell in love with Kait the minute I set eyes on her. She had an immense amount of dark hair and was such an adorable baby!

When she was three, I took a year off from teaching and was nanny for her and her baby brother. We had a great time together, although sadly she doesn't remember much if anything of that time. Nineteen years later, we are still close and enjoy hanging out together. What a lucky aunt I am!

Mass Routes

One of my friends (a former student, actually) is conducting an interesting project. He's literally driving all the numbered routes of Massachusetts and blogging about it here at Mass Routes. I've known him since he was a very young boy and I was in college (we were neighbors for awhile). Several years later, I taught him (all four years of high school). He went on to college and is now married and has an adorable little boy the same age as when I first met him!

We have stayed in touch all this time (going on 25 years since I knew him as a student), although now mostly through blogging. Anyway, I've just been taking a journey through Massachusetts via his Mass Routes blog. It's actually quite cool! I remember him writing in high school how he wanted to travel all the "blue highways" and how he once took a cross country trip mostly off the main highways. This project of blogging all the numbered highways in the state is ambitious, but very interesting. Knowing him the way I do, I'm sure he's having a blast.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rain Drops, Hornets' Nests, and a Country Store.

Yesterday, on my way home from my committee meeting, I stopped by The Salt Box, a favorite country story in the town we lived in for 27 years. As always, I had a great time browsing through the items. I could go back there every day for a week and never see everything they have there. It's that kind of store.

I bought a painting to match the one my sister got me for Christmas, which pleased me no end. Going out the door, I happened to look up into a big tree near the parking lot. There, I saw not one, but two hornets' nests! I was so surprised at seeing two such works of art in the same tree!

Later, at my favorite Barnes and Noble, I noticed how the rain drops sparkled like diamonds on the bushes outside. I couldn't get the lighting in the camera to show what I was actually seeing, so the picture is disappointing, but it was a glorious sight for me =)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Collective Experience

I've spent the past three days working on a Curriculum Committee made up of teachers from all over New England, New York, and Bermuda. Ordinarily, my first thoughts of curriculum aren't all that exciting. But always, on second thought, and considering my years of experience on curriculum committees, I am fully excited about the possibilities. Usually, I'm not disappointed. And I certainly wasn't this week.

This is my second year on this particular committee. The big committee was broken into smaller groups. Mine focused on writing. There were five of us: a superintendent from New York, two elementary teachers--one from New York, one from Bermuda--and two secondary teachers--one from Maine and one (me) from Massachusetts. Our assignment was come up with ways to integrate spirituality into our teaching of writing (we all teach in Christian schools).

After some brain- storming, we divided ourselves into two smaller groups, by grade level. Coincidentally, the two elementary teachers were the younger ones of our group, The two of us secondary teachers, while we do not look our ages (ha!) had 65 collective years of teaching between us. That was a shocking thing to discover, but it made our job easier. We were able to put together five sample lesson plans to one full and two mini-lessons on the part of the other two.

Some might chalk it up to elementary being more complicated than secondary, but I prefer to call it practice... experience...that has to count for something =)

Photos: the road home...soggy and misty after dousing rains all morning.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Not so Perfect Season

I guess this picture says it all...

Good thing I wasn't too invested in the game, working all through it (grading essays and editing articles for the school newspaper. I could hear the people upstairs from me yelling and clapping with every play, though. They were awfully quiet at the end...sigh...

Oh Say Can You See?

My father is a purist about many things, but especially about music. There are certain things you don't mess with. If, for example, Cesar Franck composed a piece for the violin, it's just not right that the cello takes it on. Never mind that it sounds equally, albeit differently, beautiful on either instrument. It was composed for the violin (my dad's instrument...and he was a very fine violinist in his day), then no other instrument should play it. Period.

He feels even more pas- sionately about the Star Spangled Banner. You should not mess with the nation's anthem. He takes great offense when singers add all kinds of embellishments to it trying to make it more interesting, or something. He says that's not something you mess with, for all kinds of patriotic reasons. I mostly agree with him on that (although I do like Franck on the cello).

I remember in 1991 when Whitney Houston sang it prior to the Super Bowl it caused a great stir. There was all kinds of conver- sation about it as it was a great departure from all versions previous (it's a real bear to sing, if you've ever tried it). Still, to this day though, it is considered the favorite recorded version.

I always think of my dad whenever I hear someone attempt to sing the national anthem, especially at an event such as the Super Bowl. Most times, it's not so great, and again, I think how right he was about trying to make it your own. Tonight, though, as I listened to the young Jordan Sparks render our national anthem, the 42nd time this has happened in such a setting, I was moved to tears. She sang every note pure and true to a beautiful orchestral accompaniment (and yes, I am partial to orchestras). It really was lovely. As she finished, I saw her wipe a tear from her own eye and I realized what an amazing experience that must have been for her, too. Good for her!

And go Patriots =)

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Last Sunday, my niece performed the Lalo cello concerto with her college orchestra. She earned the right to do this when she won the concerto competition back at the end of November. Her parents and brother went south to TN to hear her play and reported back that she was amazing. I knew she would do a great job. I feel sad that I was unable to go hear her play. Even today, almost a week later, I am filled with regret. It's hard when you have to miss out on important events like this in the lives of those you love. I am fortunate, though, that there is technology that will enable me to see a recording of her performance and allow me to enjoy it, if not live, via Memorex =)