Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Robin's Nest!

Monday morning when I went back to school after a week's "vacation" (not really a vacation since I worked 5 of the 7 days), I notice a huge heap of straw outside the door at the end of the hallway. It didn't dawn on me until later just what caused the mess (the picture shows only about half what I found!).

I went out, look up, and sure enough, there on a bar/ledge underneath the grated landing upstairs was the culprit: a robin sitting on her nest. Every year, we have at least one brave (or foolish?) robin who builds her nest in the same spot. Trouble is they don't realize until too late that the landing is pretty busy with little (and big) feet running on top of the nest.

I don't know what's going to happen to the three eggs in the nest. I saw the mother on the nest this morning, but twice this afternoon when I went out, she was not on the nest. So, I don't know if she's already abandoned it. I hope not!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

To be of Use

The year I graduated from high school, Marge Piercy wrote this poem that I shared with the academy staff this afternoon at our faculty meeting. In researching her this evening I found out that she lives on Cape Cod and is often in and around Boston. Cool!

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A ride around Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands Region

I've been tucked away in upstate New York the past three days for Educators' meetings. We do this every April ("we" meaning the principals superintendents of education from my church in New England, New York, and Bermuda). There must be thirty or more of us this time because we have with us the ministerial directors as well. We are planning a convention for all the pastors and teachers in our "Union" for next summer. It's exciting work, to be honest, even though it means sitting and dickering about details for hours at a time. We have had interesting and important conversations along the way, and that has made the time worthwhile, even though it has come during most of my Spring Break (boo hoo).

Wednesday, we stopped at one of our schools, a boarding school on our way to Alexandria Bay. There, we spent about three hours painting the cafeteria and kitchen facilities. We were quite pleased and proud of our work!

We wanted to find something to eat after getting settled in our (very nice) hotel rooms, but as we are here out of season, most everything was closed, so we ended up eating at the hotel Bistro. No big deal, really. All I wanted to do was sleep, which came easily after the long day of driving and painting.

Yesterday afternoon, we took time out to go on a river cruise of the Alexandria Bay area on the St. Lawrence River. It's called "Millionaires Way" and not without good reason. We saw summer retreats of the rich and famous. We saw abandoned castles of the rich. We even saw a pink mansion belonging to an NFL player (so painted because his daughters wanted a pink house)! And we saw one that belonged to an ancestor of mine (via my mother), a Kellogg summer home!!!

I took 230 pictures in all on the cruise, and most of them turned out. It was all but impossible to choose which pictures to share here. Basically, I am just randomly picking a few to give you the flavor of the place. It was a lovely (although a tiny bit windy) day. One we certainly enjoyed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day and Marathon Monday

Happy Earth Day! I just heard Tom Brokaw talk about the history of Earth Day. Turns out, I celebrated the very first one...and I do remember it. I was in 9th grade. Our whole school spent the day cleaning up the campus. We worked in small groups within our classes. Part of the fun of the day was a challenge for each group to come up with a rhyme/chant about their class. At the end of the day, a vote was taken on the best rhyme for each class. That made the work fun, and kept us working together. Guess whose chant won for my class? Yup! To this day, I remember the chant my group came up with: "We're tremendous, stupendous, yes sirree! Nineteen hundred and [ends with three...]"

This year, I'm celebrating the day by getting a new bathtub and shower. Hopefully this will help conserve water (and also improve the cosmetic value of my condo). Meanwhile, yesterday was one of those great days that happens only in New England. At least I like to think so. It was bright, beautiful, clear, and perfect conditions for running the 112th Boston Marathon (the world's oldest marathon) as well as playing (or watching) baseball (Red Sox vs. Rangers at 11 a.m.).

I was home working (cleaning) while watching the Marathon and the Sox game, but other years, I've been part of the thousands who start the day at Fenway Park and who end up out on the Marathon sidelines cheering the runners on. If you're lucky, the way I have been several times, the Sox play a quick game and you get out in time to see the leaders cross the finish line.

One year, I went from the Sox to the Marathon to the Bruins play-off game, all within a 7 hour shot. Now, that was a marathon!!!

Photos: A flag along the Marathon route; the Olympic Torch was part of the stsarting ceremonies; some of the 25,000 runners at Heartbreak Hill; Big Papi gets ready to connect with a pitch

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where I am From

Inland Empire Girl has been honoring National Poetry Month (April) by posting a poem a day. Her energy amazes me. Today, she shared a poem she had written based on one written by George Ella Lyon. You can find her poem here along with links to poems she challenged her siblings to write.

Two summers ago, I wrote a similar poem at a writing retreat at Rockport. I remember the extreme satisfaction in putting childhood memories together in poetic form, and the overwhelming sense of comfort and blessing I felt at recalling my roots. I know I am fortunate in those good memories.

Teaching reminds me that more often than not, my good fortune is someone else's tragedy. It's why and how, I think, teachers can make a difference. They have opportunities to mend, to heal, to empower a child to overcome the challenges family can sometimes impose on them. I remember when I first realized the weight of what I was doing sometime in my first year of a boarding school...I cried myself to sleep that night. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't think I knew how to make enough of a difference. All these years later, it still frightens me. But I know I have to make the effort. I know I have to at least try...

Anyway, back to the original point of this post, the poem:

I am from wisdom
and Godliness--pioneer
stock and patience.
Scattered wide across the
plains; traveled far across
the sea.

I am from peace-making,
peace-loving, pieced-together
moments of sheer joy
Intertwined with intensity and
purpose and God-centeredness.

I am an educator's heiress--
Twenty-nine years between occupancy,
Destined--perhaps--to follow
in footsteps I can only
occasionally fill.

I am the result of a healer's gentle touch
and example as well. Destined--at times--
to need that touch even as I give it.

I am from music--composer
and composed--making merry
measure, singing soulful songs.

I am from travelers--grandparents
who left home for this
better land; parents who
took me back just last year.

I am from leaders. I have walked
in their shadow and those of others
for years.

Fifty one years in the making,
I am from strength and vulnerability
rom longevity and commitment
and from love.

Photos: Field of daffodils in South Lancaster ten yesterday; my mother and my nephew, celebrating his 16th birthday yesterday; my family this past Christmas from the loft above.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grave sights and a full moon

During my walk around Boston on Tuesday, I stopped in at two famous cemeteries. The first was the burial ground at King's Chapel. Several famous colonists and citizens are buried here, including John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, and William Dawes, the other rider who warned colonists that "the British are coming!" Perhaps the most famous fictional character buried here is Hester Prynne, of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, set in 17th century Boston.

A few minutes walk away is the Old Granary Burying Ground. John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin's parents are among the notables buried here. I didn't have time to ramble leisurely through this tranquil spot in the midst of a busy city, but was able to linger long enough to think about the importance of each person, not just those who made the history books.

Tonight, there is a full moon, or very nearly so. I always know, without looking in the sky, if the moon is full because things get crazy at school. I love this shot the Red Sox camera man took of the moon over the Sox at Yankee Stadium. The best part, of course, is the score =)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Afternoon in Boston

I took the afternoon off to meet a friend in Boston. She is in town with National Honor Society students from her school in Maryland. They were walking the Freedom Trail today and I set out to try to catch up with them. It was a fruitless effort to find them as we were both walking, and there was virtually no way for me to catch up. I finally gave up for the time being and just enjoyed the sights.

It was a beautiful day, not too cool to revel in the hour's walk through the historic Government Center, Theatre District, and Boston Common. Many times when I wander through Boston, I like people watching. This time, the architecture interested me. I found myself being drawn to the tops of the buildings, several of which I'm sharing here.

I finally caught up with my friend a few miles south of Boston at the Kennedy Library. While her students (and other adults) went through the library/museum, we sat outside and talked. It was an all too brief reunion, but worth the minor frustration of not finding her for nearly two hours...

In spite of my happiness at seeing my friend, the day was tinged with sadness. The daughter of our maintenance man was killed yesterday in a freak accident in San Francisco. She had been walking her dog and was putting it in her car when a huge branch from a redwood tree fell down on her, taking her life instantly. It's a devastating loss. I went to high school with her, but haven't seen her since then. Still, I feel overwhelmed with sadness for her parents.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Carpe Diem

Last week was so intense, that I have been drained of almost all thought ever since. It's been hard to do much, let alone write. After the exit report I went home and just sat for an hour. I went to bed early and couldn't even read, something rare, believe me.

Thursday, we had a candidate for next year flew in from New York and I had to take him out to eat (along with our vice principal). I didn't get home until after 10. Friday afternoon late, we interviewed him, and then the next day I took him with me to a teacher's retreat at the camp our school goes to at the beginning of each year.

The camp is at an altitude so that the ice on the lake has not melted yet, but the temperature was warm enough to cause a fog to rise off the ice. It was eerily beautiful. Unfortunately, we had to go right to the meeting, so I didn't get a picture of it. I regret being a "good teacher" now, because by the time we had free time to go check it out, the fog was gone.

One thing I'm learning... and trying to do more of... is that with photo- graphy, you have to go for it, take chances, seize the moment. If you wait until "a better time," you'll most likely miss it all together. Carpe diem. Take the opportunity when you have it. I'm working to do more of that so I have fewer missed photographic opportunities...

Photos of Camp Winnekeag in Ashburnham, MA

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A turtle, a grave, a raccoon and a great big weight

I was working in my office this afternoon when the office manager came in saying "Come! Bring your camera!" I grabbed my camera and went to see what the stir was about: a turtle, a slider turtle, I think. Some kids found it out in the ball field and brought it to our science teacher.

We let it go in one of the gardens. Usually we have several coming out of the swamp across the playground to the gardens around the building to lay their eggs. several weeks later, dozens of tiny turtles scramble their way back to the swamp. Kind of cool!

While I was watching the turtle crawl away, I noticed something strange under some bushes: a little graveyard for a bird the 4-6th graders found dead on the ground. I thought it was kind of sweet the way they buried it, complete with flowers and grave markers...

The other cause for excitement came when two boys came running in from the dumpster to say that a raccoon was sleeping in it! I went to check it out, and sure enough, a coon was curled up at the back of the dumpster. No amount of banging on the side would wake him (or her) up. Our theory is that he gorged himself on garbage and then was too full and sleep to move. "We put a board inside to give him a way out. An hour later he was gone.

Aside from these native visitors, it was fairly quiet today as our visiting team left last night around 7 p.m. after delivering the exit report and giving us the recommended accreditation term: the second highest possible--6 years with an interim visit at 3 years! I am so relieved! I didn't realize the weight of the stress of this evaluation until it was over and a two-ton weight dropped from my shoulders!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Two Fenway Fly-Overs

Four F-14s were scheduled to fly over Fenway Park during the Red Sox' home opening day ceremonies. The cool thing for us at our school is that we are directly along the flight path for these amazing jets. We see and hear them either on their way to the ball park or on their way back (depending on which direction they decide to fly over). I warned the visiting committee that somewhere around 2 they would probably hear the 4 jets, and indeed some of them did.

I'm not going to say I'm jaded by now, having seen/heard a number of these. But I will say that there was another Fenway flyover that interested me just as much. The hawk I wrote about a few days ago has refused to leave Fenway Park! She and her mate continue to call the Park home, and today, during the opening ceremonies, the two of them flew all around the park, one of them with some kind of a rodent in its talons that it dropped into the crowd as it cruised by!!! I would love to have been there to see that!!!

The pre-game ceremonies were exciting, too. They brought in legendary athletes from all four of Boston's major sports...including several of my personal favorites from the '70s and '80s, including Bobby Orr, my favorite Bruins player, and Brian Daubach, a Red Sox player that my journalism class interviewed a few years ago in the pressroom at Fenway Park! The Boston Pops played while the team received their 2007 championship rings, and Bill Buckner (the "goat" of the 1986 World Series loss) threw the first pitch to my all-time favorite Sox player Dwight Evans.

A pretty classy affair when all was said and done. I just wish I had been there. (The only time I've had tickets to Opening Day, it got snowed out and was rescheduled for the next day...when I was flying to Russia on a choir trip. I had to give the tickets to my parents and had to watch the opening ceremony from the airport waiting area.)

Photos from the Boston Globe. I had a picture of the hawk with the rodent, but I can't find it. I'm afraid I deleted it. If so, I'm so sad because it was kind of cool...the photo here is by an AP photographer...admittedly much cooler than mine off the TV...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Elegant Diners and Visitors

It's been a busy, stressful couple of weeks. Our school is going through our accreditation evaluation. The visiting committee arrived yesterday afternoon. I met with the chair of the committee first, then took the committee (11 of them) on a tour of the school. At 5, they came to our annual fund-raiser dinner. This is our 6th year of holding this dinner. We raise $30-$40,000 each year. This year, it looks like it's more than $43,000! Not bad for a 3-hour dinner =)

Today, the committee arrived at 7:30 and worked all day until 5:30 when we went out to a nearby Italian restaurant for another delicious meal. I came home after that and crashed, as I was exhausted. I had to be at the committee's disposal all day long, including during my 2 hours of teaching. They even came to observe me, which I was not expecting, but which went well, thankfully.

So far so good. The committee will be here two more days and will give their exit report Wednesday afternoon. Until then, I remain on edge, even the though hard part for me was done a month ago when I sent off a 200 page self-study that I typed and edited myself (although I did not write it all).

And yet...for all the stress...I feel calm. We've done our best. Now, it's the committee's turn. (The beginning of May, I go off to upstate New York to do the same thing for another school. It's a very interesting experience.)

Photos: one of the centerpieces from the dinner; socializing at the dinner; my niece (who was home from college for the weekend) seranading the diners.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hawk Attack!

One of the top news stories of the day is that a red-tailed hawk attacked a young teenager at Fenway Park this afternoon! Apparently the hawk had built a nest on a ledge outside the Press box inside the Park and the girl, who was touring the Park, got too close and upset the hawk who attacked her and scratched her face enough to send her to the hospital!

Mass. Fish and Wildlife officers were already on their way to check out the hawks and the nest, but the attack happened before they arrived. They did check out the nest and there was an egg, a cold egg, in it. Apparently the hawk flew away after the attack and hadn't been seen since (as of 6:30 tonight). You can read more about the story here.

Photo from The Boston Channel (Boston's channel 5) website.