cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Seasons”

The -ing of things


Spates of good weather have beckoned me out into the backyard where much needed work is required: weeding, thinning, raking, mulching. All those -ing type of tasks that result in another set of -ings such as lower back spasm-ing.

However–

There was one surprise -ing:

I planted some bulbs last year in my patio container and “whoa!” I exulted upon this sudden blooming. No weeding, mulching, raking required. Just appreciating.

Now, that’s my kind of garden-ing.

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Give Me a Break…


December consists of hurry up and wait.

At school we hurry through the last unit, hoping to complete it before

a)an unexpected snow day hits

b)the current bout of flu doesn’t empty out the classes

c)too many of my students leave for early vacation.

At home it’s a flurry of hurry as I shop, package, insert, check lists, pull down boxes, search and find–that is, when I am not grading those last minute assignments.

The wait part is counting down days to Christmas Break. We voted to make 12/21 the exit day in order to have an extra week at the end of break, instead of at the beginning. Fumes of distinctive burn out permeated the hallways on Friday. Everyone was tired. I know waiting so long for the break to begin will mean I enjoy that much more–right?

I did a happy dance in the kitchen on Saturday 12/22. Walked around in the brisk, sunny, pre-snowstorm. Definitely appreciated the Christmas weekend. Love being on break.

It’s Wednesday. Umm, how long before we go back to school?

It’s true: You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.

So far I’ve read two books, answered a dozen Quora requests, watched three movies, straightened up my Hamlet unit, polished my Merchant of Venice lesson plan, finished a puzzle, made a batch of cookies, tried out my new walking poles (thanks, Hon), slept in (6 am!). Now what?

Sheesh–I better figure out something about down time. I’ve got about four years to retirement.

They say knitting can be fun.

POM: “Approach of Winter”


I am not a fan of winter. I may have mentioned that once or twice. In fact, I confess, I am known to have at least one ridiculous emotional meltdown–a little kid unreasonable tantrum, when the first snow makes landfall. Yes, I am embarrassed. If they had a support group for Winter Lamenters Anonymous I would attend.

Once my tantrum is over I am resigned to winter. To not acknowledge that we are stuck with it for the next 3-5 months is added misery. I buy sweaters and sip cocoa. More books get read. I try to find the bright side to the dark days of winter. Nope, I don’t ski. I might be convinced to sled though.

For the most part I ignore creative acknowledgements of winter. Don’t sing to me about wintertime; I am not interested in chirpy little winter televised specials. Fine. Maybe the Olympics. So, I was surprised when I actually liked the poem that dropped into my mailbox that’s part of my subscription service. You do subscribe to a poem service, right?

This caught my eye since it caught how I feel about the onset of winter. It earned double appreciation points having been penned by William Carlos Williams–the doctor poet. Enjoy.

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine,—
like no leaf that ever was—
edge the bare garden.

 

Debatables: ‘Tis the Season


Yes, ’tis the season. It used to come right after Thanksgiving, as in the Friday after, but now XMas Retail–totally different than Christmas (a post for maybe Mitch Teemley to muse upon?) is upon us. And with it comes all the holiday hoopla: decorations, music, food, commercials, events, and specials.

Mike Allegra and I are taking on Christmas specials based on children’s books in this month’s issue of Debatables. Last month we discussed which children’s lit character deserves to be a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. Mike won that round. See all the glorious discussion and scrabbling here.

If you are not familiar with Debatables–Welcome!
If you are–Welcome back!

Each month, Mike Allegra and I take on debating mostly meritable topics concerning children’s literature. We each state our initial argument in about 250 words and then add on a 150ish counter argument. You then, dear readers, vote accordingly and add in commentary. Mike and I look forward to the votes, and truly relish your comments. Mike says the score is now 3-2. I lead. This could be an important session.

I am offering the perennial classic: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, based on the song, which is based on the Montgomery Ward coloring book. You probably didn’t know that, did you?

Image result for rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Mike, that gregarious children’s author who is rocking the publishing world with ninja cows and princes of regard, is suggesting a relative newcomer to the seasonal menu: A Wish for Wings That Work based on the title by adult/children’s writer Berkeley Breathed, known for his Bloom County comics.

Image result for a wish for wings that work

Mike’s Opening Argument:

Few creatures, (even in Christmas specials) match the inimitable, innocent, guileless sweetness of Opus the Penguin. His personality stands in stark contrast to his id-inclined Bloom County comic strip cohorts. This big-shnozzled little fella always puts others’ needs before his own. 
So it seems only fair that as Christmas approaches Opus should take a little time to consider his own wants. And Opus wants to fly. He needs to fly. 
A Wish for Wings That Work was published after Berkeley Breathed suddenly (and heartbreakingly) discontinued the Bloom County comic strip. It’s arrival was like a breath of fresh air. Opus was back! And he was in a wonderful story, pursuing a passionate goal—a goal he achieves just by being his old penguin-y self.  
The cartoon (presented here in full) remains true to the book while expanding upon it, drawing in old favorite Bill the Cat as well as introducing new characters from Breathed’s then-recently christened Sunday-only strip, Outland. It’s a cartoon that works on just about every level, even if you aren’t familiar with Bloom County (but especially if you are). Much like Bloom County, the special mixes the sweet and the salty, kid humor with adult humor. And it rewards people who pay attention; some of the best jokes linger unobtrusively in the background. 
And, best of all, there’s that ending! It gives me happy chills every time I see it. Do yourself a favor. Watch the cartoon; you’ll see what I mean.  Click on the link below for Opus in action:
Cricket’s Argument:

We might think of it just being the ubiquitous song that everyone at every age knows, but Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is pretty special, as in seasonal special. This song came out in 1949 based on the coloring book story created for Montgomery Wards. Although the Rankin special deviated tremendously from the original story it’s become a classic in it’s own right:

  • Burl Ives sings some snappy tunes
  • Memorable characters like Hermey the wannabe dentist
  • The Island of Misfit Toys
  • How about the Abominable Snow Monster?
  • And of course the famous Rankin/Bass stop motion animation
It’s a crowd pleaser about how non-conformists are contributors to society, and are, in fact, heroes in their own right. Click on the link below for cute clip:

From a kid’s coloring book to a traditional song to a classic cartoon—Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is the one special that is so special it’s the special of all specials. All the others are simply paying tribute to an original. It’s been part of tradition since 1964, and keeps on ticking despite current fine-tooth scrutiny for issues. Rudolph and his friends provide a generational bonding, and the bonus is everyone can sing along.

Mike’s Rebuttal:
As a child, I watched Rudolph every year and enjoyed it. As an adult, however, the Rudolph story bothers me. Poor Rudolph is cruelly shunned by his peers—and is only accepted back into the fray once his glowing nose proves useful. 
That’s a Christmas story that could’ve been written by Ayn Rand.
A Wish For Wings That Work, on the other hand, is a story driven by a strong-willed (and strongly motivated!) character who lives in Bloom County, a wonderful Land of Misfit Everything—including tater tot-brained cats, rhino-pigs, cross-dressing cockroaches, and a toy store owned by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Opus may be teased, but he’s never shunned. After all, Opus and all of his eccentricities are a great fit for this unapologetically odd and accepting place. Rudolph may take place in Santa’s backyard, but Bloom County better exemplifies the generous, supportive spirit of the
season.
Cricket’s Final Say:
Rudolph overcomes adversity with the bonus of acceptance, providing a story arc of beginning, middle, and a rousing resolution. Opus? He is harshly teased by some really odd ducks, who eventually come around to helping him out with his flight fantasy. Yet, there is no real resolution. The last we see of Opus he’s enjoying mock-flying. How long is that going to last? And Bill—Mike, did you forget how cruelly Opus treated the cat he rescued? He never even apologized for his scathing remarks. Rudolph is upbeat while Bloom County is quirky.
 
Rudolph or Opus? Which special is special to you? Cast your vote, and add your comments. Thanks for stopping by and watch out for fruitcake. That’s one tradition we could do without.

Word Nerd Confessions: November


Fall has officially set up its presence. The aspen, birch, and maple trees disrobed within a week’s span with the help of couple of brisk windstorms. Temperatures hover around freezing, and the sun offers minimal light with little warmth and disappears shortly around 4 pm. The preparation for winter is underway. The Hubs threatens to put on the snow tires since black ice is fact of life not to be ignored. I understand his concern, but snow tires seems to invite or acknowledge snow. We already had a flurry of snow that had the grace to be embarrassed enough by its early arrival and leave by the next afternoon.

This month’s words reflect my ambivalence towards fall: do I mourn the passing of summer or prepare for winter with my usual reluctance? Or do I just accept it knowing spring is not that far away?

So–how do you feel about fall?

Word Nerd Confessions: September


I am smitten with a new-to-me word.

Let me first preface the unveiling of this word with a personal disclosure: if I were suddenly transformed into a flower it would be a sunflower. Their unique talent of keeping tuned in to the sun, turning their faces towards light, and following it throughout the day is something I understand.*

*sunflowers apparently follow the sun only when in the bud stage–once open they tend to face east, and this is attributed to protecting the seeds from the stronger rays of the south exposure (that is a smart flower!)

Here is a confession: I crave light. I revel in basking in sunlight. I have been accused of being a sun goddess (did not sound complimentary at the time), and I panic at the thought of being in a room without windows for a great length of time (my first year of teaching involved such a room). As long as I have daylight in some form I am content. Oh yay for my Happy Light.

I’m not keen on laying out in the sun for the sake of bronzing, yet I will do so, just to absorb the warmth, that therapeutic solar embrace. The tan is a by-product. I’m basically striving to store up remembrance of the sunlight for when winter hits my region. One student recently defined our winter as “except July and August”–slight exaggeration, but winters tend to be a solid six months around here.

Around October I wake up in darkness and finish the school day with the last rays setting. One teacher went to part-time because teaching in an interior room meant she never saw any light and it created havoc in her health. I have two windows in my present classroom and I am blessed and thankful.

Sunlight in winter. That’s a wonderful day. The snow can be up to the windows. The temperature can be dipping to stingy in warmth, yet if I can have the sun shine down and kiss my face before the cold requires covering, spring seems a reasonable distance I can bear.

So–

Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter.

According to Merriam-Webster.com:

n. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his dictionary The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words. Despite the fact that it is a delightful word for a delightful thing it never quite caught on, and will not be found in any modern dictionary aside from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Another source defines it as:

the feeling of the sun on one’s skin in winter.”

Katie Williams,Tell the Machine Goodnight (2018)

And that is why this word from yesteryear needs a campaign to retrieve it out of the archaic word vaults and pin it up on the contemporary lines of expression.

Ah–Winter Sun

To feel the sun on my skin to offset the challenge of winter

Apricity: the bestowing of the sun’s restorative kisses, to bring warmth and sustenance to the gates of that bleak city called winter

An offering. A reprieve. A promise.

POM: April 28


One of the lovelier aspects of spring returning is the flurry, fluttery returning of birds. I especially like the robins cheerup salutes of this season as they parade on the lawn feasting on worms. No robin poems of notice yet, so this dandy tribute to blue birds will suffice:

Advice to a Blue Bird
by Maxwell Bodenheim
Who can make a delicate adventure
Of walking on the ground?
Who can make grass-blades
Arcades for pertly careless straying?
You alone, who skim against these leaves,
Turning all desire into light whips
Moulded by your deep blue wing-tips,
You who shrill your unconcern
Into the sternly antique sky.
You to whom all things
Hold an equal kiss of touch.

Mincing, wanton blue-bird,
Grimace at the hoofs of passing men.
You alone can lose yourself
Within a sky, and rob it of its blue!

Has Spring Sprung Yet?


If Yoda lived around my geographics he might mutter: “Strange I think this weather is.” 

  
Plastic tulips to fool the moose that ate last year’s batch.
For instance:

One day last week I ate lunch out on the “patio” (back doors by my classroom) soaking up the delectable rays of 50+ degrees, only to wake up to snow flurries six days later.

This must be spring. That roaring lamb thing is in gear.

I know the calendar declares spring to be around March 21. Being too comfy to get up, I checked the Farmer’s Almanac on-line instead. I definitely got distracted on the way to corroborating the date:

According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. 

Apparently the FA editors decided it was worth a try–and suceeded.

Some pithy verse:

One swallow does not make a spring.

Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.

In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.

Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.

Spring-time sweet!

The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet.

The vernal equinox signals the beginning of nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere! 

  • Worms begin to emerge from the earth.
  • Increased  sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets.
  • Birds are migrating northward, along with the path of the sun.

After checking out planting schedule links and other diversions, I discover Official Spring is Saturdayish and not Monday after all–Leap Year influence. Then again I knew it was spring about three days ago because:

1. A huge robin trilled a bodaciously loud and cheery morning song as I readied to get in my car and go to work. Having just read The Secret Garden, I felt compelled to chat with him. He must not have known the robin from that book as he utterly ignored me.

2. Cars are driving down the road with the ubequitious yellow bagged tires needing to be switched over from their studded weather partners.

3. Girls are wearing tank tops at school.

4. Daffodil points are cautiously peeking up out of the barren landscape.

5. Seniors are skipping classes more than attending them.

6. Black is no longer a first choice grab in my wardrobe. Got me a real hankering for purple, pink, and yellow.

7. Turtlenecks suddenly seem so negative. 

8. It’s not dark when I get home.

9. Primrose pony packs greet me outside the supermarket.

10. I set up my resin chair outside the front door. I’m catching any stray sun ray I can.

What spring signs are harkening your way?

 

POM:October–Singing in the Fall, I’m Singing in the Fall


Due to the roasty, toasty temps we experienced this year, I’m becoming more of an autumn fan than a summer lover, my allegiance to fall begins to wane when the leaves start swirling down. While I don’t actually loathe raking and burning the farewell of summer, I do detest how the days are darker–both in the morning and in the evening. I do adore my Happy Lights. One in the bedroom and one in the kitchen. I’m about to trot to Costco to purchase another for my office.

Being the type of person who prefers solutions to problems, I appreciated this poem find. Instead of fretting about the impending gloom, I shall whistle instead.

Whistling in the dark, with a poem in my heart image: morguefile.com/morethanordinary

The Gift to Sing
by James Weldon Johnson, 18711928

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
      I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
       And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
       And I can sing.

POM: SEPTEMBER


September heralds in fall and school. Being a librarian at heart with a day job as an English teacher, I have a soft spot for poems about books, especially those about libraries. This one hits the spot quite nicely.

My First Memory (of Librarians)

Nikki Giovanni
This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
       wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
       too short
              For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big
In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
       a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

This summer was an odd one. In my part of the world June is usually a bit drippy around the edges until after July 4th. Summer decided to rev up early and we suffered through high nineties through most of the season, which caused a set of horrendous fires in the surrounding states.

We usually coast into a gentle fall, with chilly nights and warmer days, allowing the ability to sneak in sandals and linen skirts a couple of more weeks. Not so this September. We are nightly lighting chill breakers in the stove and I forlornly have folded away my summer stock of tank tops and capris.

As a farewell to summer, as fall officially begins this week, I have included an August poem.

August

Lizette Woodworth Reese
No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still

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