Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking Long

                    The Tuesday Slice of Life is hosted by Ruth and Stacey at their blog,       
                         Two Writing Teachers.  Go on over to read some terrific slices!



I am reminded of the John Moffitt poem that begins like this:

To look at any thing,
       If you would know that thing,
     You must look at it long:

and you can find the rest here.


I had Sunday afternoon, a cooler day, to do some yard work.  A cold front is on its way, so the temperature had dropped to the 60’s and it was a pleasure to be outside doing a task that I had put off, but needed to do before the Monday trash pickup.  This is definitely a slice of my life, to work outside when I can, now planting a few seeds, pulling grass from the flower beds, sweeping the caterpillar-like seeds dropped from the aspens. 

This time, my task was to rake all the little sticks that drop consistently from the cottonwood tree in our backyard.  While it’s a beautiful old tree that gives wonderful shade, cottonwoods are messy and drop sticks constantly.  We’ve had some high winds recently and more have blown down because of that too.  And so I grabbed my rake, a trash bag and was off to the chore. 


Raking sticks doesn’t seem like much to write about, does it?  However, while raking and picking up the larger sticks to save for kindling next winter, I saw robins, crows, chickadees, wrens and a glimpse of the kestrels that nest next door every spring.  I watched ants carrying what looked like a part of another insect to their home (two working together).  I found some roly-poly’s (wood lice or pill bugs) close to the trunk of the tree and watched them scamper for the dark.  The squirrels fussed at me to bring peanuts and even though I was close, drank from the birdbath.  I saw lots of ladybugs and felt good that they were doing their job eating the tinier insects from my flowers.  There were garden spiders out too, making their rounds of food gathering.  And I found a clump of beautiful fungi, which I haven’t been able to identify, but clearly they too are having their meal.  (Look at the upper lefthand corner of the photo.)  Just being in a small part of my back yard and on the other side of the fence in the park became a wonderful look at the animals there.  I imagine I missed a few, too. 

All because I was gathering sticks, and looked long!  

42 comments:

  1. My backyard can be a place of delightful nature watching as well. I like how you tied the poem in and shared your process of looking long.

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    1. Thank you. It's amazing what one can find if looking.

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  2. "you must
    Be the thing you see...
    You must enter in
    To the small silences between
    The leaves"
    How lovely is that? And how lovely that you did exactly that, which made a mundane chore a thing of beauty and enjoyment.

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    1. It's wonderful when we receive such beauty. Thanks, Tara!

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  3. This reminds me of the ditch in Fletcher's book about a writer's notebook. Lovely!

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    1. Thanks Maria. If only we can find time to let the students look, too.

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  4. When we look, we can find life teeming in a place that didn't seem to be full of life, but it is. I enjoyed your glimpse into a simple slice of life. It's good to have those kinds of days.

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    1. As I wrote, Elsie, I was reminded of your walks. They stay in my mind as inspiration! Thank you!

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  5. "You must look at it long"...I like this line. For me, it's a good reminder to slow down! I love all the things you noticed---sounds like more inspiration for poetry!

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    1. I've been working in non-fiction poetry with students, so you are right, maybe this will be a next poem. Thanks, Deb.

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  6. You make sticks sound so lovely. I enjoy taking in nature and taking notice as you did. I love that poem, my favorite line was, "You must enter in/To the small silences between/The leaves." I tried to imagine being there. I wonder what I would see/notice?

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    1. I hope we can move more students into looking long, and noticing those small things. I know that my three year old granddaughter does, but somehow seemingly overnight, that curiosity fades. Thanks, Betsy!

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    2. Oh Linda, that's so sad but often true. The spirit of inquiry and the quest to understand in a world where an answer is often so easy to find and in a world where the right answer is a simple letter on a test. Looking long is so hard--wait, I have a text. Really, I do. Thoughts interrupted by the distractions around us. In the yard and raking sticks, looking long. I bet you left your cellphone in the house.

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  7. You worked. You looked long. You noticed. I helped to clean the beach this weekend, I worked but not with an observant mind. I emptied my mind and heart of worries and stress by just moving my hands. Later I noticed the patterns the rake had made in the sand. Didn't write or take any pictures.
    You wrote beautifully.

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    1. Hm-m! I wish I had a beach to clean, Terje. It sounds delightful. Sometimes emptying one's mind is the thing to do, too. Thanks for the thought!

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    2. I think it is so sweet that you reply to comments. It is interesting to see how your post triggers thinking and how you build on that.

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    3. It's nice to have a conversation sometimes!

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  8. So often stuck in a task not really seeing the beauty around me, whether in a classroom or in nature. Thanks for the reminder. I think this is a great thought to take with me back to school tomorrow in a room full of squirrelly 6th graders and a school full of people counting the days. Thanks for your simple wisdom. Maybe I will take pause and look long before I speak. :-)

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    1. One time at the end of the year, we did reflections outside & it was quite amazing how the students, when quiet and reflective, made connections between themselves & something in nature. I think we do just have to pause. Thanks Maya!

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  9. I always enjoy reading your blog Linda. I like the poems and connections you make and the inspiration you share. I am not much of a nature girl - I enjoy the sunshine but I would rather read a book in the sun than pull weeds, rake, or interact much with nature. However, I am always amazed by the connections people make with those tasks. Thanks for sharing - the poem was beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Robin, the poem is amazing isn't it? I'm glad you get out in the sun at least! I guess I'm taking after a grandfather who was always busy in the yard.

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  10. It's amazing what you can see if you look long and hard enough! My favorite thing about nature is that you never know what surprises you will find or what animal friends might visit you. I'm glad you found plenty!

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  11. No place I'd rather be than in my backyard...although I do at times wish I could look out and see the mountains of my youth (I think I just found my slice for today). I love the "looking at it long" notion. I am always inspired by you and your words. Thank you for being you.
    Tammy

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    1. Thank you, Tammy, in your very busy world right now, it must be hard to find any time to look long. Maybe in June?

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  12. Wow,Linda,
    It's true, it is amazing what one can see when one takes the time to look and truly notice...thank you for sharing the beauty of your day...
    You inspire me to notice more deeply...

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    1. Thanks Amy. I agree that it happens when one really notices.

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  13. How wonderful that you took the time to look. Personally, I'm a pathetic got-to-get-where-I'm-going person. This post really speaks to me, telling me to take the time to see all that's around me - to see and LOOK AT it. Wonder over it. Ponder it. Thanks for the reminder. Without it, I'm afraid I'd never stop to smell the roses. :)

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    1. It was rather serendipitous, although I do believe I've been listening to all those writers out there saying to slow down & pay attention. Thanks, Wendi!

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  14. Thanks for reminding me to Look long! I will think of your post when I am out doing yard work this weekend!

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    1. You are welcome, Carol, but I do know it's a busy time for you this particular end of the year. Best wishes!

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  15. Oh, this is a gem, Linda! Looking long. What a concept. It makes me think of the common core standards (in that way that means I am inspired, not the dry boring lecture sort of way). If we are going to raise thinkers, we must give them opportunities like this to look long. What a world you would've missed had you looked short. Or worse yet, not looked at all. Your connection today is quite the spark.

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    1. Thank you Christy, but I know that everyone is so anxious to include all those other things that are set down. How do we find the time for students to pay this other attention?

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  16. Looking long.... love that language. Thank you for mentoring how to look long in the everyday events.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Dana. I just read your post. Wow, what a story you told. I think you looked long at that monster, too!

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  17. Your long look reminds me of Annie Dillard's book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Both of you cause me to desire to slow down and take that long look and write what I see. Who would have thought that there was so much to see when you are gathering sticks.

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    1. You are right, Annie Dillard is such a peaceful writer who notices so much. Perhaps her words have entered me in some way? Thanks, Jama.

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  18. It seems the thing we need most is time - time to look around, to notice. But you have a keener eye than most and so were able to see what others might overlook. Thank you for taking the time to give such good details about what you observed. Yes, you made the best of "stick pick-up" day!

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    1. I should have titled this 'pick up sticks'! Thank you. I think now I will look even more to see what's out there.

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  19. I love this poem you have shared - so true, we must look long. Your lovely description of your day of raking reminds me so much of observations I've made of my preschoolers in the garden - you discovered so much, they always discover so much. Really sweet!

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    1. Thank you Maureen. I believe that my years of observation in teaching has taught me to look long in a variety of ways, & sometimes I forget, so this is a nice reminder to slow down once in a while.

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  20. Only you Linda, can make a chore sound so romantic. :)

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  21. That poem is one of my favorites - I can remember the book I first read it in and the photo that accompanied it. Thanks for reminding me - as well as a reminder to enjoy more noticing while I do chores.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!