Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Break!

Mine officially started on Monday of this week when my husband walked out the door to go to work, and I didn’t. The first thing I did to celebrate my vacation was to gather an armful of flowers from our garden and place them on my coffee table. Take a look:

The second thing I did was grab my backpack chair, fill its oversized pocket with books, put on my hiking boots, and head to Big River. It is a short seven-minute drive from my home. Here is where I settled for a time of reading, writing and contemplation:

The second day I met a friend for breakfast and the meal was almost too pretty to eat, almost. 

It was big enough to share and have leftovers, but we didn’t. We didn’t have leftovers that is - we DID share.

My husband took off the last half of the week so we could travel to the wine country for a stay in a Bed & Breakfast. We spent our mornings and evenings sitting on the deck enjoying the pastoral view, reading, chatting, and writing.

Yesterday morning, sitting behind that coffee cup you see above, I reread poems from a book by Mary Oliver and that reminded me of a poetry exercise I learned in a writing class. I enjoy the way it helps me feel the rhythm of language used by poets I admire. If you’d like to try it, start with a line or stanza in a poem and exchange each word with another of your choosing, using the same part of speech, noun for noun, verb for verb. Here is one I wrote yesterday using four lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, Lightning:

Her words:
            The oaks shone
            gaunt gold
            on the lip
            of the storm before
            the wind rose,

My words:
            A rock glistened
            sharp silver
            in the gaze
            of the morning after
            a cloud passed,

You get the idea. If you or your students try this exercise, I’d love to see what you write.

Now back to my Spring Break. You know that hike I took on Day One? You saw the relaxing spot I found, well I had passed it about five minutes into my hike, but did I stop? No. I kept hiking, searching for the perfect place - tree branches to hang over my chair, enough sunlight filtering through to keep me warm and light my book but not too much glare, close enough to the river to hear it rippling, and far enough from the trail so I wouldn’t be interrupted by other hikers. I wasn’t asking for much! Now my chair has two padded shoulder straps but after 45 minutes of hiking and searching, the padding seemed thin. Then there is the metal bar that gives wonderful support when I’m sitting, but doesn’t feel so wonderful digging into my lower back with the added weight of a small stack of books. I finally figured out I wasn’t going to find the perfect place so I turned back toward the pleasant place near the beginning of my hike. I had achy shoulders and a bruised back when I got there. I loved the hike but I loved the final destination even more.

We’ve left the trails and vineyards behind and now we’re in Roseville. I am attending a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference today. I’ll write again next week but in the meantime, I hope you’re able to see your perfect/pleasant places, moments, and circumstances before you travel too far past them, and before you accumulate too many bruises along your path.

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