What I Know of Leaves

As a child, I loved autumn – the fallen leaves, raked in piles on my lawn with their musty scent always thrilled me. I remember my Dad and I raking the leaves from around the entire yard to create the largest mound possible before plunging into the mountainous pile.

I still find great pleasure in the autumn leaves, but I haven’t jumped into a pile of them in quite some time. Perhaps I need to do that again. But these days I find myself admiring the colors and shapes of leaves. I enjoy the crunch of dried leaves beneath my feet as I cross the lawn and I still love their earthy scent. I enjoy watching the squirrels scamper through them as they seek to hide their treasures.

I think the leaves are my favorite part of the season. They seem to pair nicely with jeans, hooded sweatshirts, and hiking boots.

Upon the wind, they gather and play
dancing and swirling as though
they were a sign of youth and vigor
instead of the dying of another season.

Laying one upon the other
Shifting and stirring,
rustling with
each footfall and breath of the Earth.

Hues changing, ripening
with intense beauty and fading
into the background with age.

Advertisements

Fighting the Inbox

a to-do list a mile long
emails pouring in
each one adding
to the already overwhelming pile
of things that must be done

every day I fight this inbox
whittling away at each new task
only to return and find
more email in the box

time should come with
buttons,
pause, stop. rewind

I often think of the absurdity
that someday I will be dead
and those emails will likely still pour in
at least then I won’t have to dig myself out
from beneath the ever-deepening pile

End of (my) summer reflection…

It’s that time of year again, for me anyway, when I start back to school (work). So I thought it would be good to take some time to reflect on my summer and my thoughts about the upcoming school year.

My summer started out with me feeling vaguely apathetic towards the break. I am usually much more excited to escape the daily rhythms of life as a teacher. The idea alone of sleeping in is enough to bring a smile to my face – hey, getting up at 5:30 a.m. gets tougher the older I get. However, this year I’d managed spontaneously to decide that I wanted to take a position as summer camp director for a nature camp. At the time, it seemed liked a fantastic idea. I’d get to spend time in nature, have some structured activity to my summer, and earn some extra money. But as summer approached I became extremely apprehensive about the prospect of giving up three weeks of my “me time,” the idea that I would be in charge of 35 children and a few teenage volunteer counselors, and that a whole host of horrendous trauma inducing events could potentially occur to myself or the children I was in charge of. (Yes, my anxiety was highly involved with my imagination pertaining to the potential traumas, but that didn’t make them any less real in MY mind.)

As so often happens with my well-intentioned spontaneity, I had begun to regret my decision. What had I gotten myself into? Surely someone was going to suffer a broken bone on my watch, or worse yet, a fishhook injury the likes of which the world had never seen before, or even a snake bite, and don’t get me started on the thought that some child might wander off and drown in the lake. Aaaakk! I couldn’t handle the pressure (self-imposed, yes, but still), how was I ever going to be able to do this?

My first week off from school I spent preparing for the following week that would be the first week of nature camp. I had plenty of activities planned. The campground owner thought I had great ideas, and things would go very well. I wasn’t convinced, but I was going through with it, ready or not.

The first week of camp was a good week. Everything went well, and there were only two bloody noses the whole week. I can handle bloody noses. As long as it isn’t my blood, I’m usually good to go.

After the first week of camp, I had a week to myself to decompress. It was a relief to have made it through the first week of nature camp, and I felt more prepared for the remaining two weeks I’d have later in July.

Then there was a week of vacation with my husband at Rehoboth Beach. Vacation was good though my moods fluctuated frequently. You never think of anxiety and depression fucking with your vacation time – a time when you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun – but mental illness doesn’t give a shit about that sort of thing, it does what it wants when it wants. Despite that, we still managed to eat several delicious meals out, enjoy kayaking, take two boat rides (an eco tour and a sunset cruise), take a day trip to Assateague, see two plays at the local theater, have dinner with friends, and take two separate nature/bird watching hikes. All in all, we still had a great time.

Upon returning from vacation, I had a week to prepare for the next two weeks of nature camp and the arrival of my two younger cousins. They were going to be visiting and helping me as camp counselors. I was extremely glad to have their company and their help.

The final two weeks of nature camp went fairly well. Only one small glitch with an unhappy parent caused me a significant deal of stress and anger, but in the end, things worked out. I managed to please the majority of campers and their parents who were supportive and kind. I even managed to have some fun in the process.

Looking back on the camp director experience, I think it went well overall; however, I would hesitate to do something of that nature again. On the other hand, it was wonderful to have my teenage cousins visit for two weeks. And we’ve made tentative plans for a visit again next summer.

Following the camp experience, my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a trip to Cape May, NJ. It was an amazing weekend getaway! We went to a crab and beer festival, took an ecological boat tour, did a small bit of hiking (it was exceedingly hot), and again enjoyed some amazing food.

The past two weeks have provided me with some down time for which I am extremely thankful. I’ve spent my days wandering local parks, taking pictures, reading, and writing. I’ve visited all of my favorite downtown coffee shops and just generally had time to mentally relax and feel like I’ve had some much desired time to myself. All topped off with a visit from my mom this weekend and a trip to the Mt. Gretna Arts Festival.

I went into my summer rather apprehensive about what was in store for me, but looking back (as is usually the case), I didn’t need to be so worried. I’m very grateful for the summer that I’ve had.

A lesson I should currently be applying to my impending school year; I’d like to say that I will, but I know myself better than that. There will be anxiety. There will be stress (self-imposed and otherwise). And there will be challenges. And even though I know that I am strong and capable of handling all of that…it still worries me.

I haven’t been sleeping well the past few nights, and I’ve had several stress-dreams, so this afternoon I’m doing something special for myself. I’m going for a massage. I haven’t had a massage since our honeymoon ten years ago, and I’m excited by this opportunity.

So here’s to the new school year:  may it be filled with fun, amazing students, opportunities for growth, and a sense of fulfillment.

 

 

 

Mountain

[In response to One Word Prompt]

As a child, my family and I took week-long vacations to Ricketts Glen State Park to camp out in the mountains. We’d spend the week encountering wildlife, hiking the trails and falls, swimming at the Lake Jean beach area, and biking around the camping loops. I loved every minute of it.

I remember one trip in particular that stands out. It was the summer I met Tom. Tom was an elderly gentleman who played the bagpipes at the wooded amphitheater across the lake. He enjoyed playing there because of the acoustics. The beautiful and mysterious melodies that danced across the lake drew me in; I was entranced. I remember racing around the lake at dusk hoping to catch his evening performances. He was the first man I’d ever seen wear a kilt and traditional Scottish regailia and I was in awe of his bizarre plaid-bag-with sticks looking instrument and its oddly haunting sounds. I vaguely remember him letting me squeeze the bag and being delighted by the honk it made.

I wish I could say that I remember more about the man or that I’d somehow remained in contact, but that isn’t the case. I do however remember half expecting and later hoping to hear his music each year as we returned to our family camping spot. I don’t recall ever seeing him again though.

 

 

A Thank You to George S. Schmidt

Upon being asked recently when I began writing and who my favorite writers were, I recalled a specific book of poetry that I’ve kept in my collection for a considerable length of time and have periodically returned to throughout my life. I’m fairly sure the book came to me at around the age of 8 or 9, but how it became mine, I’m not entirely certain. Mostly likely I picked it up at a yard sale or library sale as I do know that it was not a new book when it came to me. Its pages had already begun to yellow at that point.

From the first time I read the book, there were a number poems that I enjoyed. Not every poem was of interest to me (as is still the case), but one poem, “Sunlit Yesterdays,” stands out in this collection as a poem I’ve repeatedly read to the point of near memorization. I have no idea what exactly drew me to this particular poem as a child as it is the poet reflecting on his life in old age. But this poem has always drawn me in. There are a few others I’ve always enjoyed within the collection as well. The book is entitled Random Rhymes, which seems rather nondescript and ordinary.

20160527_170152

However, my most recent re-exploration of this book focused not so much on the poetry itself, but I was curious about the background of the book and its author. I made some interesting coincidental discoveries (exciting to me anyway), and I wanted to share them.

So the book was written by George S. Schmidt and it just so happens that he was from York, PA, which is only about 30-40 minutes away from where I live. This information intrigued me, and I have been digging for more details. The forward of his book indicated publication in 1928. I was able to find a copy of the book for sale on Amazon. Even more amazing, I learned that this was Schmidt’s second book of poetry, the first was entitled Vagrant Verses.  Mr. Schmidt was a business person and lawyer in York; he was born in 1861 and died in 1935.

George S. Schmidt appears to have had a sense of humor that I quite appreciate. In the forward he says, “I am transmitting this booklet to the individual members of the Order, and to a few other of my friends, at a time when their hearts are so throbbing with goodwill towards men, and their eyes to dazzled by the lights of Christmastide, that their vision is impaired, and the manifold defects in these random and disconnected rhymes may ‘to some extent’ escape them.” I find this amusing. It appears that he gave this book only to a small circle of friends (it was privately published) and told them that even though they received the book out of his love and affection for them, they were in no way obligated to read all of it or any of it for that matter. A man after my own heart, he was.

I am sure none of this is of interest to anyone besides myself. However, I can’t get over the idea that I’ve kept this book for over 20 years because it marked the beginning of my love for poetry and in part inspired me to write poetry myself, and for the past 15 years, I’ve been living within miles of the author’s hometown. The book traveled over a hundred miles to get to me as a child, only to land close to home once again.

So, in conclusion, I thank you my dear departed friend, George S. Schmidt for your many years of company. I have indeed read each poem in your collection, and though I do not like every poem, I do appreciate your work.

Infinite Loop

silence allows for
thought
allows for silence

introspection’s grand
architecture dips below
the horizon

an infinte loop
in mechanisms of time
the clock circles ’round
ticking hours past

even the gatekeeper’s
locks and keys
breach immutability
by virtue of time’s ephemeral nature

imperceptibly entreating
all to dust
reposessing even citadels
of human progress
withering stone and steel
with elemental forces

stillness creeps in
allowing room for silence