Roadside fruit and other distractions

I set out this morning to write a post explaining why I was taking Le Cahier private for a few days. It seemed like Good Friday was as fitting a day as any, although I’m not sure whether it will be back by Sunday.

There's a story here. I'm still waiting for it to tell itself.

There’s a story here. I’m still waiting for it to tell itself.

Then I saw that a new theme was available and I played around with it a little, which involved going into my media library, where I found the banana on a ledge.

I realized that after several years of sitting in my media library, that picture might finally serve a purpose in bringing about a post for poetry month.

Maybe I could write that post while Le Cahier was in private status.

Then I came across my photos of the giant Peachoid in Gaffney, South Carolina, which reminded me that I’d set out last week to write a post in response to  Linda’s essay about road trips and such over at The Task At Hand.

Her post got me to thinking about how I probably never would have seen that peachoid close up if I hadn’t been traveling solo. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the banana on the ledge if I hadn’t been alone, either.

Both the banana sighting and the peachoid visit relate to my unwritten poetry post.

On the illusory nature of peachoids and peacock feathers.

Among the things I’ve learned in this my third week as a shut-in recovering from a back injury is that the Peachoid figures prominently in at least one storyline of the popular Netflix series House of Cards. I wish I had known this several months ago when I regaled a group of former colleagues with my knowledge of the Gaffney Peachoid.

There are at least two stories here. I regret telling one.

There are at least two stories here. I wish I had known one when I told the other.

I’ve always wondered why that group of well-heeled Ivy Leaguers includes me in their annual gathering. It probably has something to do with the level of entertainment that comes from my cluelessness.

So, there’s a story there, one in which I come out blissfully unaware that I am, for lack of a more family-friendly term,  a giant peachoid.

You might think the lesson I learned is that it’s important to watch more television.

I know. Me, too.

But then someone brought me a fern with a peacock feather tucked into it, which obviously meant he fancies me.  I learned that from a drive-by viewing of Amish Mafia, which you should not watch because it is horribly offensive and yet it sucks you in and you find yourself wondering what that scoundrel Levi will do next.

Turns out the gift wasn’t so much an Amish courtship ritual as it was a pawning off of the centerpiece the fern-bearer’d won at a peacock-themed dinner event.

I asked if he really doesn’t fancy me or if he was just enjoying being mean for the power trip of it all. He glanced at Frank Underwood and suggested that maybe I’m watching too much television.

On kaleidoscopes, sort of.

I’m not just watching television. I’m watching the grass grow. Literally.

I can sit for longer periods now, which I do in my desk chair by the window, and I’ve been watching the grass return to green and the shoots of soon-to-be flowers peeking up through the beds. Inigo (my dog) came wandering by one day, and as I rolled the chair back to give him access to the window view, the idea of a kaleidoscope came to mind.

I thought about how the colors outside are changing daily and how he would have a different view today than he had yesterday. Then I thought about how, although I hadn’t planned it, this time of confinement has allowed me to spend time with him in what are likely his final days.

That thought itself shifted my own perspective, just like a kaleidoscope.

I’d like to tell you I wrote a poem about kaleidoscopes  — or an essay or a song, or that I painted a painting or made an actual kaleidoscope, but all I really had was the flash of a thought, which I would have bet was a hijack of someone’s wavelength, because it was as fleeting and random as those are.

I half-expected to read a blog post where someone mentioned a kaleidoscope. That sort of synchronicity has happened often during this down time. So far it hasn’t happened, but if you’re planning to write about kaleidoscopes, sorry about the wavelength hijack. I do that sometimes. It weirds me out, too.

Sometimes a flashing thought is just a flashing thought. And sometimes a giant peachoid is just a giant peachoid. And a peacock feather is just a peculiar centerpiece.

What was this about taking the blog private?

This week I renewed the upgrade that will allow me to keep the hippiecahier.com domain name. I’ve been receiving reminders about the expiration for some time now and have given some thought as to why I would renew. This would be as good a time as any for the series finale of hippiecahier.com.

When it came down to deciding, I renewed for one reason: to keep someone else from taking the domain name. I didn’t like the idea of a cyber-squatter taking it and charging me a king’s ransom if I decided I wanted it back, and I was even less happy with the thought of someone taking the name and creating an impostor site. I know. I’ve been watching too much television. But it could happen.

I’ve said before that I planned to stop blogging, once even deleting the entire Hippie Cahier blog. After a period away, I usually jump in again.

However, I think I have more of an idea of my “voice” and what I would like my blog to be, and what I’m ready to discard.

Or I thought so until I looked into my media library, which started this whole meandering post.

Meandering.  That’s the point. The point is that all too often there is no point. Just silliness. Or excessive introspection.

With so few other distractions beyond the unwritten poetry of roadside fruit sightings, mind-polluting television, and watching the grass grow and a dog die, I’ve noticed more about the kind of writing that appeals to me, both as a reader and as a writer, and I’ve been considering a more disciplined format and theme (not just aesthetically).

So, for now, I’m keeping Hippie Cahier, the blog and the persona. In a day or two, the blog will go “private,” while I decide what to keep and what is ready to archive or whether starting a new blog is the way to go.

I just wanted to say that the “private” status isn’t intended to exclude anyone. It’s intended to exclude everyone. . . but just while I make some changes.  Or not. You just never know with me.

In the meantime, I will be reading as often as chair-sitting permits.

For those of you who are celebrating Easter, have a happy one.

*********************************************************************************

I never got around to writing a complete post for poetry month.  The half-formed idea included reference to Peter Mulvey’s notion that “the trouble with poets is they see poetry everywhere.” Like in a peachoid or a banana on a ledge or the kaleidoscope sound of a desk chair rolling backwards.

He’s much better at the words and the music than I am, so here he is:

The diamante final exam: a lesson worth remembering

I taught middle school early in my career, at the beginning of the movement to “mainstream” students receiving special education services, moving them from a self-contained classroom environment into the general classroom population.

Jeff was a sixth grader in one of the classes I team-taught with the Special Ed department chair.  Try as we might, we couldn’t get Jeff to participate in class assignments.  We couldn’t get him to pick up a pencil, much less the curriculum-required blue or black ink pen.

We couldn’t get him to dictate a story or a response to a question.  We tried modification after modification, parent conferences, team conferences.

We worked hard to get a computer so that he could use a word processor. Even bribery (yes, it’s in the teacher bag-o’-tricks).  Nothing.

He wasn’t a bad student, or a bad kid. He just didn’t want to do anything – seemingly because we wanted him to.  We sensed he was probably fairly bright, but we were locked into a “Do it. / I Won’t” cycle that had probably been a pattern for him for years. (Apparently there had been a BIG power struggle – not just for Jeff but also for many of his peers  — with their fifth grade teacher over writing in cursive. )

We could tell by watching him that he was taking things in and had some thoughts about it all.  He just was not going to share and we couldn’t find a way to make it worth his while to do so.

I  experienced many moments of feeling like an abject failure, and if it hadn’t been for the highly skilled, seasoned professional with whom I worked, I might have arrived at that conclusion early on and given up on both Jeff and  on myself.

Although she felt the same frustration, my co-teacher had been through many similar challenges, so we didn’t give up on him. We did come to accept that we weren’t going to get much, if anything from him, but still we tried, hoping that some day something would click, even if we weren’t there when it happened.

Traditional diamante template from www.readwritethink.org

The final unit of the year included figurative writing and formulaic poetry forms.  There had also been a year-long cross-curricular initiative in learning the eight basic parts of speech.

I combined these in one “take home” element of the final exam:  students were to prepare a self-descriptive “diamante,”  a form poem so named for its diamond shape.

For assessment purposes, the final exam diamante differed from the traditional form in that it had to include a metaphor, a simile, three verbs, and a summarizing statement of fact, all describing the writer.  To achieve the diamond shape, the diamante began with the writer’s first name on line one and ended with the writer’s last name on the final line.

Exam day came, and Jeff showed up without a pen or pencil, much less a diamante.  He sat through the entire session with the Scantron (“the bubble sheet”) in front of him.  I don’t recall whether he even bothered to write his name.

He turned in a sheet with a few random bubbles filled in, left the room, and that was the end of our time together.  There wasn’t much for my co-teacher and me to do or say about it. That was that.

Then, at the end of the day, I found a crumpled up piece of paper tossed on my desk at the back of the room.  I opened it to find this diamante, which I have kept ever since in a little frame on whatever desk where I find myself.

Although I’ve altered the names for privacy’s sake, it is written in ink and was signed…in cursive. . . by someone who taught me a lesson worth remembering:

You never really know what’s going on with a person and people will surprise you in the nicest ways.

diamante-final-exam

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Diamante links:

Read. Write. Think. (An interactive diamante generator).

University of Oregon

Wikipedia

A traditional diamante begins and ends with nouns that are opposites.  The poem can be used in two ways, either comparing and contrasting two different subjects, or naming synonyms and antonyms for another subject.

The subject is named in one word in the first line. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the subject, and the third line contains three verbs ending in the suffix -ing which are related to the subject. A fourth line then has four nouns, again related to the subject, but only the first two words are related the first subject. The other two words describe the opposite subject the lines then are put in reverse, leading to and relating to either a second subject or a synonym for the first.

                              Noun
                       Adjective-Adjective
                         Verb-Verb-Verb
                      Noun-Noun/Noun-Noun
                         Verb-Verb-Verb
                       Adjective-Adjective
                              Noun

Peace. Love. Hitchcock’s chin.

Today seemed like as good a day as any to bring back the idea of peace.

For whatever reason, I recently stumbled across two videos of Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam’s “Peace Train.”  I was fascinated at the difference between the two and how very moved I was by both versions.

My favorite comment from that  post explained that the first was from a time of celebration and the other was a prayer.

I love the youthful joy of the first version and the sweet silliness of the line where he explains the song’s origin, being on a train and thinking about Alfred Hitchcock’s chin:

If everybody could, you know, love Alfred Hitchcock, I think it would be a better world, don’t you?

I’m intrigued by the stories artists tell of where particular works came from and it gives me hope to know that he created such a timeless piece from a seemingly idle thought.

A timeless peace would be nice, too.

I love the quiet maturity and hopefulness, however measured, in the later / latter version.

Wherever you are when you read this, whatever you believe or don’t believe, who(m)ever you love, whatever is your joy, here’s wishing you peace, love, and music. And maybe a little Hitchcock.

~~~

A healthier relationship: It’s like riding a bike

It may seem a bit insensitive to be declaring my new love so openly. I realize it hasn’t been long since I made the break from that unhealthy relationship, and so publicly at that.

I can’t help it. You know how it is when you’re basking in the glow of newfound love.  You just want the world to know.

You want to spend all your time together getting to know your new love, discovering all the little things that make him (or her)* special.  All day you find your mind drifting to the next time you’ll be together, striking out to explore the world from a new perspective,  or remembering the special moments from that last time.

You drift off to sleep at night thinking about how lucky you are and you can’t wait to get up in the morning to see him (or her)* again.

Truth be told, I’m old enough to have been around the block a time or two, so I’m still a little cautious, but optimistic.  It’s not just my new love: I’m not sure of myself, either. Can I take proper care of him (or her)*? If I learn to do everything right, will I end up getting hurt anyway?

It’s like riding a bike. This gender-neutral one. One of my favorite things.

I mean, things look good, but looks can be deceiving.  Before we go too far, I want to be sure there’s not a slow leak in that front tire.

I had to take that tire off to get him (or her)* home and the owner’s manual strongly cautions about making sure the tire is properly attached, which only makes sense.

The brakes seem just fine, but the streets around here are flat. I don’t want to be headed downhill, carried away with the thrill of new love, headed toward water or a major intersection, when I find out things aren’t what they seem.

I have a plan, though, which led to the serendipitous discovery in the next and final piece of the three-part series, “A Few Of My Favorite Things.”

*For lack of an appropriate singular gender-neutral pronoun other than “it.”

My favorite paper clip: A (possibly unhealthy) attachment

Here’s lookin’ at you, clip.

To you it may be just a paper clip. To me, it’s a serendipitous emblem of hope, a curious mix of mystery and possibility.

It came into my life  last week. Of all the copy rooms in all the offices in this bureaucratic, document-infested town, this paper clip wandered into mine.

I don’t know how it got there. I don’t know where it belongs.  All I know is somewhere someone must be missing it. It’s too special to end up sitting  in a communal supply  bin, hoping for rescue from the miasma of ordinary office supplies.

There it was, carelessly tossed among the utilitarian metal clips, disregarded, possibly even envied by its fancier plastic neighbors, so obviously out of place but with nowhere else to be.

There I was, attending to my own administrative tasks after normal business hours, both of us out of place in this fluorescent-lit machine room.

For my part, I come here often, and when I do, I always check the bin for plastic paper clips.

I’ve been hoarding them for some time now, ever since the Great Recession forced our supply room to stop stocking plastic clips as a cost-cutting measure. Thanks to a highly placed ally and these stealthy procurement runs, my secret mission to maintain a steady stock of plastic paper clips has met with quiet triumph for almost four years.

Until this one appeared, a good catch was a handful of large plastic clips, which are slightly more precious to come by.  When I surreptitiously cast my glance across the counter, I never suspected spying this. To say it is the coolest paper clip ever to have entered this room is a gross understatement.

Not only does it combine the durability of metal with the color and pliability of plastic, it’s guitar-shaped. You don’t just come by guitar-shaped paper clips any day of the week.  It has to be special to someone, which means it’s quite possible someone else around here appreciates guitars. Or maybe music in general. Or maybe just fun paper clips.

Still, this is a rough-and-tumble town.  This paper clip should be cherished,  not haphazardly attached to meaningless documents and tossed in a bin, like so many everyday metal fasteners.  I’ve taken it home, where it has been sitting on the sideboard. Every time I pass by it, I smile.

It’s a really groovy paper clip.  For now, it’s one of a few of my favorite things.

This post is the first of a three-part series of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress.  Serendipity is one of my favorite things*, if a bit more abstract than would be in keeping with the spirit of the challenge. So I went with paper clip.

The challenge  topic gave me a framework for writing about three things that have come my way recently through the beauty of serendipity, which, as you may recall (*because I just said so), is one of my favorite things.  I just love it when things fall into place like that.

If a nickel were had by me. . . .

yoda english class

It makes little sense that  I remember her fondly. She was cranky and dour. The thunder of her condescendingly didactic reprimands belied her tiny, withering frame. Very early in our acquaintance, I came to appreciate that she was justified in the less flattering traits. They are the reasons I smile when she comes to mind.

I wasn’t in the habit of giving my professors nicknames, but for whatever reason, in no way intentionally connected to a former First Lady, the name Lady Bird occurred to me and I couldn’t make it stop occurring.  Her husband then was Mr. Bird.

When she couldn’t hear what we were saying, it was Mr. Bird’s fault because he’d forgotten to change the battery in her hearing aid. You got the sense that, unless his hearing were similarly uncharged,  Mr. Bird would be getting an earful when class was over.

Mr. Bird was already retired, while she had to eek out one last lousy semester due to changes in the university’s retirement system. As much as she had loved her work, she didn’t want to be slogging through Chaucer with another group of unappreciative 20-somethings any more than most of us wanted to be there. She had things she wanted to do in life. We were suffocating her.

Having grown up with a vision-impaired parent, I understood her crankiness born of  her inability to be as fully engaged as she would have liked.

Having things I wanted to do in life, I understood her impatience with having to eek  out one last lousy semester.

One day she stood at the front of the class and recited the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Recited, not read.

I followed along in the text and as best I could tell, she nailed it.  She had every right to be condescendingly didactic. Boy, did she know her Chaucer.

She amused me, fascinated me, and terrified me. These days, I couldn’t recite more than the first line  from the Prologue (something to do with April showers), but the best and worst thing Lady Bird did was to leave an imprint in my consciousness about passive voice.  Whenever I see or hear it, I think of Lady Bird and I wish I had a nickel.

When she returned our first set of papers, she was livid. Livid, I tell you.

In total disgust, she complained at a volume that indicated Mr. Bird had shirked his battery-changing duties yet again,  “If I had a nickel for every time you people used passive voice, I could retire today.”

I was amused. And terrified. And fascinated.

What on earth was passive voice? Was I guilty? What was so bad about it that this diminutive, otherwise harmless academic would be so enraged by it? In those days, you had to find a grammar book or go to the library to figure this out.  Times were tough.

I scoured my paper. No comments about passive voice.  Did that mean I wasn’t guilty, or had she just grown tired of writing about it by the time she got to my dribble?

And so it went with the next set of papers. Same complaint.

. . .If I had a nickel for every time you people used the passive voice, I could retire today.

A professor’s pension

If I was one of the passive aggressors, I was starting to feel a bit guilty about not paying up, thereby keeping this woman from enjoying her golden years. If I wasn’t one of them, I was starting to get indignant with them on her behalf.

She never told us what passive voice was. I don’t know whether that was  because she considered that the responsibility of composition teachers, who had very clearly failed us, or if she just didn’t hear us asking.  Her job was to teach us medieval English literature and to get through this last lousy semester.

I don’t know how many papers we wrote, but every time she handed them back, we got the nickel speech.  Eventually it was more amusing than terrifying.

At the end of the semester, I bought a decorative jar and we filled it with nickels to present to her with a cake and some flowers.  Lady Bird spent that last class telling us about her plans, which sounded more like work to me, but work that she was passionate about.

I like to think that when we wished her well and thanked her for the semester, she heard every word.

My twain of thought is loosely bound

I guess it’s time to mark this down.

Nathaniel Hawthorne nudged Jimmy Buffett out of my head this morning and as much as I admire Hawthorne, I find this unacceptable. Hawthorne is for fall, the time of year that I used to (try to) teach The Scarlet Letter. This is Mr. Buffett’s time of year.

For the past few days, the Live From Anguilla cd’s have been in rotation while I drive and think over a lot of things, including choosing the answer to one of those 20 questions that are going around.  I’ve been putting a lot of thought into  what year and place I’d like to go to. One of the top contenders has something to do with a timeless beach in Hispaniola.

It’s not that Buffett isn’t literary.  Maybe Twain and Lewis Carroll crept into my dreams and Hawthorne was striking back.

Whatever the reason, the first thing in my head this morning was a phrase he notoriously penned to a publisher. Frustrated at the lack of his own literary success, Hawthorne complained about the “d****d mob of scribbling women” rising to fame and fortune writing the domestic fiction that was wildly popular in mid-19th century America.

I spent a semester in college studying Hawthorne and the women writers of his time, examining whether Hawthorne’s quote was the rant of a misogynist or just a frustrated writer watching the free market respond to something other than his highly disciplined, carefully crafted work.   It was a whole semester and I came away with many thoughts. I could go on ad nauseam (and you know that’s true), but I won’t.

More to the point is why this was the first thought on my mind this morning, especially given that I fell asleep watching The Hangover.

(Please don’t judge. It was on regular cable and I need to renew my passport. If renewal involves any sort of citizenship test, I want to be as up to speed as possible on American culture and I think I was the only US citizen over the age of 10 who had not seen it. If the test includes anything Kardashian, I will not be crossing international borders anytime soon.These are the things that I worry about. )

Relieved to find the bathroom free of tigers, I set about my morning with the thought of the d****d mob still in my head.  It may help or it may distract you to know that I tried many variations of “ScribblingWoman” when I set up my blog user name and all were taken.  Apparently, there are a lot of us. [The Phrase I Didn't Write would go here.]

Holy cow!  THAT right there is the overriding point that I’d need to muddle us all through for the next thing I say to make sense.

[The Phrase I Didn't Write] is what keeps me from being one of the  popular bloggers. It’s the kind of phrase that haunts me. It’s the kind of phrase that dashed my high school BFF Billy’s dreams of vicariously donning the homecoming tiara. It’s the money line, the kind  that you would laugh at. The kind that would bond us as hip modern women and the men who dig them.  The line that I know goes there but something keeps me from going there.

I’m sorry, Billy.

It’s that something that I came to the keyboard to write about, but I’ve gone on enough for now and the time has come for me to hit the road.  I’ve lost an hour of steel drum reverie this weekend and the work week looms ahead.  Maybe I’ll come back to it in The Phrase I Didn’t Write, Part II. 

Or maybe not.  You just never know with me.