Slice of Life: While in Bali

This summer I was fortunate to go on a two week writing retreat/tour in Bali under the guidance by writing/writing coach Laura DavisJudy Slattum and Made Surya of Danu Tours,  with healer and movement teacher Evelyn Hall.

I have dreamed of going to Bali for years. This tour was a wonderful way to experience such a special place. The following comes from one of the daily writing sessions on the trip: 


While in Bali I saw women lighting incense in their daily offerings, showing their deep connection to the spirit. I saw many smiling faces, people who seemed truly happy with life if even for only that moment. While in Bali I saw banana leaves swaying in the wind, bright hanging flowers. I saw hens herding their chicks across roads. I saw motorbikes loaded with families and people carrying great bundles of goods. While I was in Bali I saw dancers of strange beauty and grace dance their steps with tight precision.

While in Bali I heard the roosters crow every morning whether in town or country. I heard greetings: “Selamat pagi” and “hallo” from everyone I met. I heard “Terima kasih” and “same sama" for each small kindness. While in Bali I heard the rustle of palm leaves and the sharp pounding of rain on the roof. I heard the cooing of brown doves and the sharp cries of birds I had never met before. I heard the chak, chak of the kecak monkey chorus and tickling gamelan music. I heard priests chant at dawn each morning.

While in Bali I smelled the sweet scent of flowers at night:  plumeria blooms, jasmine and bougainvillea. I smelled the pungent odor of decaying offerings and onions frying in the kitchen at noon. I smelled the mildew of fabric that won’t dry in the humid air. While in Bali I smelled chili and lemongrass and ginger in broth. I smelled coffee brewing and chocolate being made. While hiking through the Balinese countryside. I smelled manure and cows and pigs. I smelled wet moss on cold stone steps.

While in Bali I tasted the stickiness of palm sugar, the taste of fresh unsweetened coconut. I tasted peanut sauce and ginger and garlic, the ever present nutty tempe. While snorkeling in Bali I tasted the salt of ocean water on lips. I tasted shrimp crackers and nasi goreng and nasi campur and mei goreng. I tasted cacao seeds and clove flowers picked from trees.

While in Bali I felt the trickle of sweat down my back and cool mountain breezes.  I felt a deep wonder at the richness of this small island. While in Bali I felt a deep stillness in my heart. I felt rain pour over me and waded through puddles up to my ankles. While in Bali I felt the earth under my bare feet. I felt the rhythm of dance.

While I in Bali I met Balinese writers and dancers and artists of all kinds. I met children who played music for us, and women who took care of us. I met drivers who steered us to where we needed to go. I met the stars in the dark sky at night. I met geckos and large brown butterflies and wasps the size of birds. I met huge snails that ate hibiscus flowers from my outdoor bathroom.


 
While in Bali I was reminded that how I live is not the only way. I was reminded to dance and sing, to live in my whole body instead of just in my head. I was reminded of the importance of meeting new people and opening myself to those around me. I was reminded to go out into nature and shake off the dust of cities. I was reminded of how good it feels to go barefoot and to stop worrying about dirty feet. While I was in Bali I was reminded of how important traditions and art can be, how it feels to live in a community that cares for one another.


















While in Bali, I learned how importance of the cycle of life and death. I learned what it means for people to live surrounded by symbols of their spirit. While in Bali I learned I might be persuaded to believe in reincarnation if I could stay here long enough. I learned to love this place of great beauty as well as great trouble, of hordes of tourists and quiet rice fields, of brightly colored flowers and great piles of trash. I learned to go down a river on a raft, tie a sarong and listen to prayers without understanding a word. I learned to trust the politeness of those around me. While I in Bali I learned to sit still and let my senses open wide.

Notes: nasi means rice
          nasi goreng is fried rice
          nasi campur is rice with many small dishes
          mei goreng is fried noodles
          selamat page means good morning
          terima kasih means thank you
          sama sama is you're welcome

Bali here I come

After a year of planning, I'm finally on my way to Bali to write with Laura Davis and a crew of unknown writing buddies. First leg of the trip is done. I love Cathay Pacific - I actually had enough leg room to sleep for a few hours. 

I have a 4 hour layover but there is a Starbucks across from where I'm waiting. At times like these I find it difficult to criticize global capitalism. 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Solitude and Sadness

Today after I drove my friend, Ruth to the airport, "Claire de Lune" came on the radio. I've always found this piece by Debussy to be sweetly melancholy, and today it was the perfect music for my mood.

Now I sit in my house alone with just my own thoughts and notebook for company. I've looked forward to this solitude. The promise of this time got me through the last hectic weeks of work before summer vacation, of tying up the loose ends of the school year. But now that I have what I wanted, I wish my friend had not left.

Just a week ago at this time I was in Sea Ranch on the Northern California coast in a funky rental house on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Two of my writer friends shared this house with me. Down the road, two other houses, both filled with other friends. Nine women who had come together for our annual writer retreat. That whole week the presence of my friends surrounded my writing with love.

I remember the first time I went to camp when I was 10. I was nervous and apprehensive the whole long drive up to the campgrounds. I didn't know anyone and wasn't sure what to expect. Then it turned out to be such a glorious experience. When my parents came to pick me up after the week was over, I cried all the way home in the car. Every time I leave Sea Ranch, I think of that long-ago car ride.

Today I don't feel quite as bereft as that 10-year-old girl.  Just a little sad.  I guess it's to be expected, coming down from the exuberance of this year's experience of what my sister calls Poetry Camp. As all of us have flown off to our private corners, I am grateful for the flurry of texting, photos and emails we've sent each other. We find it hard to let go sometimes.

I know we will stay in touch over the year, but it's not the same as sitting around the table laughing and eating, writing together, or listening to each other read new work. Nothing can replace that shared community.  I'll have to wait until next June for that.






Sea Ranch, June 2016: A room with a view and starting a book campaign

For the past few years, I've made an annual trek to the northern California coast to Sea Ranch. This is a rather other-worldly place. Made up of a community of cedar-sided houses perched on the edge of the Pacific, there is little to do here. In June, it's windy and chilly. The nearest town is tiny Gualala, 12 miles up the road.

So what's the draw? For me, it's the chance to be with an amazing group of women I met in 2011 at the AROHO retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Another ranch, another place where there was nothing to do except eat, read, write, talk and experience the beauty of nature.

This year at Sea Ranch my bedroom is in the library of one of the houses we've rented. As I type this, I sit surrounded by books. Out my window, the ocean roars, gulls riding the wind currents. This is a glorious, wild place to begin my summer vacation.


Every year when I come to Sea Ranch, I set myself writing goals, just as I would expect of my own students. This blog post is the beginning of my first goal for 2016: begin a book campaign.

One of the wonderful women in my mighty band of writers here is Ruth Thompson who runs Saddle Road Press out of Hilo, Hawaii. I am honored that Saddle Road will be publishing my first full-length book of poetry in December.

Creating a book of poetry can be a long, painstaking process. I published my chapbook, In the Poem an Ocean (Big Table Publishing) in December of 2010. For the last six years, I've been slowly and steadily building a new collection of poems. And now my completed manuscript is in the hands of my trusty publisher.

Well, at least the first draft is in her hands! I know I have many revisions to go through before the book is ready to go out into the world. All writers can expect that. We may not like it, but we expect it. It's what writers do.

What many people don't know is the other work that goes into getting a book into people's hands, especially a book of poetry from a small press. And that's a marketing campaign. Most of my non-writer friends are surprised when I tell them that I will be responsible for marketing my book. But it's true. Being a poet and teacher, I never thought I'd have to add PR representative to my resumé. Now I am.

So in the next six months, I'm off on a new adventure of revision, choosing a cover -- and marketing. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm lucky to have writer friends who have given me great advice already. But I'm always looking for more ideas.

I'd love to hear from others, not just writers, who have have been on the same path. I know artists, photographs or filmmakers face the same challenges. What was it like for you to get your work known? Maybe I'll add your ideas to my to-do list.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Flamingos Converge in Gualala: A Conversation with Nine Women Writers

Every year I have been so blessed to sneak away on writing retreat with eight other actively publishing women writers on the northern California coast. Finally, this year, we are breaking our monastic routine to join the community, to give back in a sense, by appearing for a Meet and Greet as a form of thank you for the beauty of our surroundings, to show our support for the local bookstore, Four-Eyed Frog Books, and to meet other writers in the area.

(read more here)

Slice of Life: NaPoWriMo


Hello Slice of Life community! Happy National Poetry Month!

This is my third year of participating in NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month.  The goal is to write a poem every day for the entire month. This year, coming right off the Slice of Life Story Challenge in March, I wasn't sure I'd make it all through April this year so I decided not to post every poem as I did last year. It turns out my instincts were correct. So far, I've done fairly well but have missed a couple of days. Since sharing is part of the fun, I joined a private Facebook group with a several of my friends. We're posting our almost-daily poems and commenting on them. Because it's private, the pressure is off. They will still like me if I don't show up every day. 

Writing a poem a day means quite a few mediocre poems, but once in a while there's a keeper that could turn into something significant. And sometimes, there is something that is just plain fun.  For Day 10, the prompt was to write a poem based on the titles of books taken from my bookshelf. Since I have a stack of poetry books sitting next to my writing chair, I decided to use the titles of those books. Here's what came from them:

Ask Me
Dear Girl
How to Read a Poem
it is
Difficult Fruit
this Crazing
of The Human Line
Ordering the Storm
Like a Beggar
The Sharp Edges of Knowing
blurred with
Smoky Inky
Felicity
it is the
Taste
and Shift
Small Things:
Owls and other Fantasies
flying like angel
Ariel sending out her
Cry of the Nightbird


I thought this could be a great prompt to use with students. If you try it in your classroom, I'd love to see the results. Happy writing.


SOL 2016 Day 31: The Last Day!


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Now that this day has arrived,  I'm sorry to be done.  Along the way, more days than not I grumbled and moaned about committing to this challenge.  I'm so glad I kept going because this has been one of the best online writing challenges I've been involved in. What made this experience so special? The writers, and the amount of interaction between bloggers.  I've been in other online "communities" with almost no interaction at all. During the Slice of Life Story Challenge, for almost every post I got at least a few comments from readers, letting me know they appreciated my words. 

I know this project is so wonderful because it was created by teachers. The women behind Two Writing Teachers live what they espouse for developing writer capacity in students and teachers alike. I am so grateful I discovered their blog while researching  professional development ideas as part of my job. I've recommended their blog to other teachers in my district, and have added them to my reading list.

I'll be back for Slice of Life Tuesdays and look forward to reading
many of the blogs I discovered during this month. So farewell for now.

SOL 2016 Day 30: Taking What Others Give Us


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

The best thing about this month-long blogging challenge has been reading other blogs and gathering ideas for writing along the way.  A few weeks ago I saw this format in someone's blog (I wish I had written down whose! Maybe someone out there will tell me who you are!). Then yesterday I read someone else's blog (again - why didn't I bookmark it?) using the same idea. Thank you to those now-anonymous bloggers. Next time, I will bookmark your blog:




Currently enjoying a time of peaceful solitude 

Listening to the refrigerator hum

Drinking my second cup of coffee

Wearing my weekend clothes on a Tuesday

Reading over my words as they flow from pen to paper

Feeling that familiar doubt that always creeps in

Wanting to banish that critic for today

Watching sun light slant across the living room floor

Needing to breathe in and out

Thinking of all the things I could be doing but am not

Enjoying the spring flowers blooming outside my window

SOL 2016 Day 29: Spring Break!


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today I consider my first real day of Spring Break. I've been off for four days now, but  visiting family always takes a bit of work,  driving back and forth to visit Mom and Dad, Brother, Sister-in-Law and Niece takes energy. Wonderful to see them, but still some work.

This day I slept in, wrote my morning pages, then unpacked my suitcase and went out to buy groceries. Enough chores so that I didn't feel completely slothful.

But for the rest of the day, I did very little. I read a few pages of my new book and fell asleep in my chair. I watched some inane television shows, and fell asleep in my chair.

Yep, today feels like Spring Break.

SOL 2016 Day 28: Really Only Four Days Left?


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Here I am, having posted for 27 days in a row. Some posts were more successful than on others, depending on the demands of daily life and my involvement level.  That's how writing goes no matter what the task. For a few days now I've been counting down, hoping I could make it to the end of the month. Now that there are only four more posts, including this one, I find myself feeling almost nostalgic. 

I've participated in such online challenges before. For the entire year of 2014, as part of a private Facebook group, I wrote and posted a haiku everyday (well, to be honest, almost every day. I missed 2 or 3). 

Writing haiku became so much a part of my life that I've continued with that group although I  admit I haven't written one every day. But every few days I find a haiku within me to post.

Last year I wrote a poem each day for NaPoWriMo as part of National Poetry Month.  National Poetry Month - April - starting four days from now.

And that's what I've been pondering as I reach the end of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Am I up for another month of writing and posting? Can I come up with 30 poems? 

I find myself doubting my ability to commit in the same way I felt as March 1st rolled around for Slice of Life. But as I make it to the home stretch of this wonderful journey, I feel that maybe, just maybe I can keep going.

SOL 2016 Day 27: Portland Haiku


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

blue grey northwest sky
rain clouds sun playing tag while
spring green dances wild

SOL 2016 Day 24: Going Back to Teachers College


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Yesterday I got the email I've been waiting for.  Along with two of my co-workers, I've been accepted for a second year of Writing Workshop training at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York. 

Last August, studying at Teachers College was one of the most inspirational experience of my educational career.  I loved participating in mini-lessons, listening to advice from expert writing teachers and writing, writing, writing. I was in heaven.

Then being able to work with my coachee teachers in bringing writing workshop to life in their classrooms has been incredibly rewarding. It's wonderful to see students engaged in writing that is personal and authentic. 

This has been an incredible journey, and I'm glad it's not over. See that smile on my face? I expect to look like that again this summer.  

SOL 2016 Day 23: Full Moon For a Very Full Day


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today I put in a 12 hour work day.  With the rest of our district's ELA Department team, I made a school board presentation this evening. As I walked outside and saw the beautiful full moon, I thought, "what a great thing to write about." That's when I realized I hadn't posted for today. It had completely slipped my mind.

By that time it was 8:45 p.m. Only 15 minutes to meet the deadline for today's slice. I sat in my car in the city hall parking lot, posting the following extremely brief post from my iPhone. I made it, but just barely:

School Board presentation tonight. Nuff said.

SOL 2016 Day 22: It's hard to know what to say...

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.


Today I don't seem to find words. So I'm reposting my friend, Esther Cohen's blog for today. 

I’m Posting Someone Else’s Poem Today, or Muriel Rukeyser

by Esther Cohen
It's hard to know what to say about something as awful as the Brussels terrorist attack.
Poem
By Muriel Rukeyser
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.
Muriel Rukeyser, “Poem” from The Speed of Darkness.
(Vintage Books, 1968)



SOL 2016 Day 21: Kendama



Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today I had back-to-back classroom observations. Traveling through the halls of a middle school during passing period is always challenging. Since I became an instructional coach last year, I've lost my chops. I'm surprised at how much the noise and craziness bothers me now.

Then after making my way through the mass of adolescent wildness, I walked into a language arts class in the midst of their mid-block break. Kids chattering and playing their middle school games, finally set free from adult talk for a few minutes. And as always this year, the kendamas were out.

I work in Daly City, California, a suburb just south of San Francisco.  About 30% of Daly City's population is Filipino, so it is affectionately known by some as "Manila by the Bay".  This means that Filipino culture figures very large in our classrooms. No school event is complete without lumpia and a few years ago students performed tinikling, a Filipino folk dance with sticks. (What I find humorous  is that when I was a student way way back in the old-time days in Illinois, that dance was part of our gym class, even though I had no idea where it came from.)

The latest student craze is Kendama. Although Wikipedia says that this game comes from Japan, in Daly City it's the Filipino students who have brought it to our schools. Every free moment students have, they start playing.

Today I saw the best incarnation yet: a kendama made from a highlighter, string and a roll of cellophane tape! Unfortunately by the time I could get my phone out to take a photo of the creative contraption, the bell had rung and it was time for writing workshop to start. Maybe I'll catch the same young man in action next time I visit.