Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Dock and A Pond: Writers' Workshop

"An Undervalued Variable: Does your writing teacher write?" That was the title of my master's thesis.

About 90% of the writing teachers I surveyed do not write on anywhere near a regular basis: not even a twice-yearly newsletter. I wouldn't want to learn golf from a non-golfer. I don't want to teach writing if I'm not a writer: so I write.

Besides my own blog, I practice my writing at Pictures, Poetry, and Prose, aka PP&P. Laura Jane daily posts a picture and a prompt. I'm collecting most of my entries from there and posting them here. If you'd like to explore her blog, go for it.

I'm also posting a link to the photographer sites and the original PP&P site. For the adventurous, you can see more photos and read more entries on the picture of the day. (Perhaps you'll be prompted to practice your craft! Go ahead. Have some fun!)

Today, I've pulled two stories that have a loose connection: both pictures feature water.

Here is the picture that prompted the first piece. I wrote the piece from the point of view of the youngest girl on the dock. I have 36 first cousins: many of the female! I have two older sisters. I have daughters. It was no stretch at all to compose a piece from a young girl's point of view. (I also teach at an elementary school.) This entry won the daily prize at PP&P. The piece also reflects my general optimism.

Photo by Sabrina
Visit her blog - Nouns Make Verbs

(Other postings based on this photo at PP&P.)

This has always been one of my favorite childhood pictures. Aunt Joyce took the picture of the four girl cousins: the two older and the two younger. That's me on the far right -- the youngest.

We were at Big Bear Lake enjoying the sun in our cutoffs and shorts.

But what makes this picture my favorite is that Cousin Candy is wearing the friendship bracelet I made her at camp. (She's on the far left.)

It was the first time in my life that I felt included, valued, and loved by the older cousins.

That week changed my life, and this picture is proof of my arrival into the society of the girl cousins. I mattered.

The second piece I'm sharing today is based on the photo below. In addition to teaching writing, I teach math. Hidden in this short poem is a lesson on integers: positive and negative numbers. See if you can find it!

Photo by Lorelei
Visit her photo gallery at -
and her blog at -

(Other postings based on this photo are here at PP&P.)

Countdown and Beyond

A three-arched bridge.
A two-storied pagoda.
A single pond.
Nothing to do but sit.
One hour gone.
Two fish jump and disappear.
Three picnickers leave.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bird and Birds: Writers' Workshop

One of the reasons I began this blog was to practice the craft of writing. As part of this undertaking, I discovered a lovely community over at Pictures, Poetry, and Prose, aka PP&P. Laura Jane daily posts a picture and a prompt. Sometimes I dive into the pool of creativity and make a splash.

Since not all of my readers follow that blog, I've decided to post a copies of most of my contributions to PP&P on this site. I'm also posting a link to the photographer sites and the original PP&P site. For the adventurous, you can see more photos and read more entries on the picture of the day. Perhaps you'll be prompted to wade in too!

Today, I've pulled two stories that loosely share a common topic: birds.

Photo by Jim Pankey "WildSpirit"
Jim's Photography can be found at Picasa and fotonothing

(Here's where the picture and prompt appear on PP&P with the contributions of others.)

My poem:

A Complementary Hummingbird

What marvelous evolutionary adaptations!

What improbable aerodynamics!

What lovely shades of green, yellow, and lavender!

What? A non-bug-eating bird?

What? No more overly brittle eggs?

Pretty bird!

Lured by the sumptuous scent of the lavender-hued blossom, the hummingbird suspended its flight mid-air and hovered miraculously in an apparent defiance of gravity.

Scientist, engineer, artist, entomologist, environmentalist, child, and poet:
complementary paradigms converging for a moment in time.

The second "bird" post is based on the following photo and my past:

Photograph by Tammy Vitale
Visit her website -

Here is my post and the originals at PP&P:

Closing Time

The college Job Finding Center had been helpful, and I had a job: groundskeeper at a large private residence. I'd been working for a month or two when it first happened: they came.

My school schedule allowed me to work late afternoons, and as the days were shortening, I soon found myself working until early dusk. The combination of working late and the change of seasons brought about my encounter with the birds.

Each day, about 45 minutes before dusk they would arrive in the avocado trees of the estate. It was as if they were waiting, waiting to go home before the sun finally set.

I was working in the avocado grove doing weed control when the first bird arrived, a fore-runner of the coming flock. They gathered in the trees until the sun began to fade, and then they moved up the hill to higher ground.

I'd like to think they were enjoying the sunset over and over again, but I think the sun was escorting them to their roosts. The day was ending for them, and it was almost time for me to go home too. It was closing time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oh Happy Day: The Fence is Up!

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained" is a saying I heard a lot in my home growing up. Perhaps that attitude fostered in me a bit of the risk taker. It certainly didn't hurt.

I ventured a fence building project. Ninety-five percent of the results are in... and once again... I am thoroughly adequate!

My dad used to say, "Son, just try to be above average."

I used to think that was aiming rather low, but above average sometimes means "good enough." Everything doesn't have to be your best, but if you can do above average, or at least adequate, then you've accomplished something.

The biggest hurdle in this project was moving the 6' by 8' panels from the back yard to the side yard. Each of the panels weigh about 150 pounds. Besides transporting them to the side, each panel had to be lifted over some plants and into place.

The biggest hero in this project is my nephew, John. He came over and helped me. "Two are better than one" is what Solomon said, and I totally agree. John not only helped me move the panels, he helped me attach them to the poles. Plus, he had a cordless power drill that could drive screws.

Some parts of some projects require help. I got help today, because I asked for it. It wasn't a huge deal for John. He's on vacation this week, but his wife's not. He has the time. It wasn't a huge deal for John, but it meant a lot to me. I couldn't have done it by myself.

Sometimes we have the opportunity to do a favor for someone. It may not be a big deal to us, but it is to them. Sometimes, we are the needy ones, and the help is deeply appreciated.

That's what friends are for. That's what family is for. But there is no guarantee that friends and family will come through. But when they do... how sweet it is!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Garden Enclosed...

"Lovely outdoor spaces that invite relaxation, reflection, and friendship."

That's what I'm aiming for as I enclose a small patio along side my house. Sometimes to create such a space requires other things to be masked from view. A garden is a bit of an illusion: as if the world where well tended and picturesque everywhere.

It is just a mask, just an illusion, but I enjoy "sweet lies:" even my island of sanity in a sea of madness -- my garden enclosed.

Here's the work in progress:

One eight foot section of fence waiting to be transported and mounted:

The second section, waiting to be assembled:

The tools of assembly:

The tubular supports: eight foot tubes -- six feet above ground, two under...

How I "drilled" the holes in the ground for the tubular supports -- I used to work for an oil drilling company...

The ladder and sledge hammer for pounding the supports into the drilled holes:

A place in the shade for breaks:

A replacement stool I modeled after the one from my youth which rotted out. (Yes, I'm that old.)

Other tools:

What's missing is the sweaty shirts. The blister. And the inner smile: I think this is going to work.

It's also fun using tools, most of which I've accumulated over four decades from the men I looked up to. Men who passed on their tools to a "younger" generation. They passed on a useful legacy, and I'm building on it.