writing with q’s

a quiet space where we play with a curious set of words

heads drawn to our notebooks as pens move across pages marking in silence

only the drone of the air conditioner weighs heavily


a loose queue of four or five patrons extends from the counter

yellow and red signs list taco choices

we wait and wonder when we will be next

and the words spoken were Quechua

sounds unfamiliar to our ears

shiny black hair swept back from warm brown faces

Quechua words breathed from full lips

sounds as full as the day’s length

now the Quechua woman leans against the quoin

the quoin placed hundreds of years ago

by the hands of Quechua workers

a queue of days separates

the woman here today from the men

who carried and placed it here 500 years ago


the quiet of this room

distracted by the squeak of shoes and the rattle of keys


wonder when we will be next


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Layers #4

I haven’t posted every day by any stretch of the imagination.  Yes, I recognize that as trite.  I will continue to try.

light creates a layer

shadows of leaves shift their impression across my knees

while one stem lifts up and down shifting like a breath

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Layers #3

take care of the man reading in your living room who expelled a cough when he read that Pip found her father

and the two labs who lie in curves upon the living room floor with the fluffy grey cat who has yet to realize he’s not a dog

beyond the safe reaches of the lawn around the house, cars pass and people walk

news of a shooting half a country away weighs in my heart and upon my brow

while reactions of those who share my attitudes towards the NRA have grown numb, believe ‘nothing can be done’

am I resigned to a world where news of lives lost from lone gun-men, tropical storms and misplaced military fire mesh through the airwaves emitted from my car radio?

only to be followed by in-depth analysis of media from a myriad of platforms

only to return to the kitchen found within the safe reaches to saute garlic and onions, squash and tomatoes

prepare supper

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Layers #2

I started this post not knowing what to write about, and after talking to my partner about the shooting in southwest Oregon it came to me.  Consider this to be my layers of thought.

Yesterday I walked with a few teachers; we walk the track at our school during advisory – fitness Friday.  As we walked we spoke of this recent shooting.  We’re all liberals.  None of us would consider owning a gun.  And yet they didn’t want to hear about it.  Felt there was nothing that could be done about it.  Later that evening I spoke to my younger daughter, who also believed there was nothing to be done about it.

I teach tenth and eleventh grade English.  My eleventh graders recently read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and my tenth graders recently read Herman Hesse’s Siddartha.  For the last two days I’ve listened to the President speak.  A man who holds more power than most of us and yet he seems powerless in the face of the gun lobby, the NRA.  How can this be?

I am a woman of peace and when I think of Dr. King, I think of non-violent protest.  Why aren’t we Americans who are not satisfied with the way things are, staging protests, sit-ins at NRA offices, in the halls of Congress before our Congress men and women’s offices which accept money from the gun lobby?

And as I reflect upon Siddartha (my students have been writing about how we gain wisdom) I wonder about our next steps. I am not satisfied with inaction. How and where can we find the wisdom needed to stop these mass killings?

The same people who support the right to bear arms are the same people who are against abortions. How can life be judged? How can we at least not get these people to understand that guns are not being controlled?

I have thought of the faces of Mexican students who were killed in Mexico last fall that were displayed in the streets of Oaxaca. Why are we not plastering the faces of Americans whose lives have been lost to senseless violence in this country? Might they be a constant reminder of life that has been lost.

As a mother of two children every time we live through another mass killing, I think of the mothers who are grieving.  About the sadness and anger which must accompany such a loss.  Why do we continue to tolerate these actions? Our personal freedoms are being eroded by the too powerful gun lobby.  Schools have been the target too many times.  Since when did going to school become a dangerous act?

Today I will hold those who grieve close in the layers of my thoughts.  I will consider ways to find power to begin to change the pattern which has become, oh too prevalent in our American society.

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I came to the idea of writing about layers one morning this past summer as I started my morning walk.  The clouds were layered in the sky – cool greys against a pale blue sky.  Hills against the horizon gave way to layers of landscape.  Office buildings along Mo-pac and trees along the Barton Creek and the greenbelt trail.

There are layers of meaning in so many things.  A glance can mean one thing to me, while my interpretation may be way off from what was intended.  Yesterday as I walked through writing conferences, listening in to my students’ conversations, checking their drafts.  I asked a student to show me her draft and felt a sigh of annoyance as she leaned over to unzip her backpack.  After taking her draft out I remarked, “How hard was that?” To her she had made no such gesture.  I wonder where my interpretation came from.  No doubt past experiences that I had laid upon this moment.

Layers provide warmth and protection.  This morning I thought of this while lying beneath the sheet and quilt.  Enjoying the warmth as I woke to the morning.  We’re still weeks away from needing layers of protection to provide warmth.  Our days remain warm.  But in the early morning as I rise I appreciate a warm nest from which to emerge.

I guess what I hope to do through my writing is discover and articulate some connections among these various ideas.

Places I hope to go in the days which follow are closer observations of the physical layers I notice in the natural world, more layers of meaning, and references in my reading.

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My first assertion

I chose a quotation from Joan Didion’s essay “On Keeping a Notebook,” because I found so much of what she had to say provocative.  I keep a notebook.  I’ve kept one for years.  More than ten.

More than half way through her essay, she says, “But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I.'”  Our notebooks are our written scrapbooks.  Scraps of our lives, from our lives, about our lives at that moment in time.  That’s why I am so obsessive when it comes to dates.  I want to remember not just what was happening in my life at that moment.  The light in the morning.  The frustration with a child or a spouse.  But thoughts about the books I was reading or the music I was listening to.  Who was the best act at ACL last night?

So what is it that I really want to say about this quotation?  To begin, I agree with her. When we write we always reflect a little bit of ourselves in our writing. When my brother’s son died, I tried to write about his death, our family’s loss. I’d write. Maybe a half a page before I hit a wall.  Finally I realized that the story of losing a child was not my story.  My story was from the perspective of a sister whose brother had lost a child.  I felt that my brother had lost part of his childhood.  That trust that all would be okay was gone.  This wasn’t going to be okay.  Our conversations which followed.  There was the day when Niki’s goldfish died. He remarked, I can’t even keep a goldfish alive.  Sigh.  My pain was for my brother.  My family and I watched my brother and his wife waiting for them to break.  I remember likening them to the glass ornaments in “The Glass Menagerie.” That was my story. From a sister’s point of view.

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Teaching two new grades

I am teaching tenth and eleventh grades this year.  Both are new classes for me.  Luck for me the students are familiar. Together we are navigating new curriculum.  I want to help them expand their world through literature.  I want to guide their writing skills.  Together I expect to learn a lot this year.  Most important I want to have fun learning together.

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