Saturday, June 16, 2018

Celebrating Sunshine

When the sun peeks its golden head out from a grey sky, I, like many others, rush outside to catch the warming rays that fortify my body with natural Vitamin D. Not only does my body benefit from the sunshine but so do my mind and spirit. So just what did I do when the weather changed from rainy and damp to sunshiny days and warm temperatures? I:

  • Finished my herb garden in between the rainy days. 
  • Took walks around the neighborhood.
  • Ate lunch on my patio and popped outside just to sit and feel the warmth on my body. 
The best day of the week was yesterday. My husband and I traveled to the north shore of Long Island to see the musical, Singing in the Rain. Because of traffic, we missed the special luncheon at the restaurant but we were able to get a seat overlooking the water for an early dinner. While we sat and enjoyed the food, I stared at the ripples in the water. They were so soothing and then, a solitary duck slowly glided across the pond adding to the pleasure of the sight. The afternoon was filled with a sense of peace. 

By the time we arrived in Northport, the harbor was hopping with many people. The sun was casting a beautiful glow across the harbor. Some people were strolling along the marina pathway, others were sitting on the park benches just staring out at the sunshine being reflecting across the water. 




Dusk made its entrance and the warm breeze continued. This made for a delightful stroll to the 90-year-old ice cream parlor featuring homemade ice cream. 


The afternoon was filled with many memories that I was able to capture with my iPhone and digital tools. The musical, Singing in the Rain, topped off the day with warm romance and sprinkles from the rain that showered the stage. Being in the third row, I felt a sprinkle or two but that was a delightful surprise. 

I am celebrating the sunshine that nature offers and the brilliance that a little baby's smile brings. My sweet Sierra is one year's old today. Her smile and photos that were sent out from San Francisco where she is with her Mommy and Daddy on a business trip, lit up my screen. While waiting for a Google Hangout call, I created a birthday card to send out. 


So now when the grey sky and the rain dampens a day, I will remember these past spring days that were filled with real and virtual sunshine. I will put a smile on my face and just sing in the rain. 

********

I am joining Ruth Ayres for Celebrate This Week at her blog site, Ruth Ayres Writes. Ruth ends her post with " I am so grateful for the chance to reset and remember the things that matter most." What a beautiful thought! Reset and remember is something that I will take away with me this week. 


Some of the digital art that I created will be included in my Sense-sational Spring Gallery. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Thoughts at Water's Edge

There is a slowed-down pace at the water's edge. (I wrote about this at last week's Poetry Friday post). I realize that each time I visit the ocean on Long Island's south shore, I  feel like the waves weep me away into another dimension called tranquility. All water bodies seem to have a spiritual, calming effect on my mind but the beach heightens my awareness of life.

While walking on the boardwalk, I observe and ponder. I notice many cyclists enjoying the scenic bicycle route on the Long Beach Boardwalk. I watch the steady pace of the bicycle enthusiasts moving by those promenading in the walking lane. The cyclists' fluid movements seem to be in harmony with each other. You can tell that they are enjoying this favorite boardwalk pastime by their leisurely stroll.


Life is like riding a bicycle. You don't fall off unless you plan to stop pedaling.
-Claude Pepper

With this quote in mind and the end-of-the-school here on Long Island fastly approaching, I wonder how many people are thinking ahead to summer. Each day the weather turns away from the grey skies and rain to glorious spring days, there is a rush to go out the door and enjoy the pleasures of nature but do we ever stop to ponder how we approach life? Do we take time to relax in a favorite pastime or do we rush through that as well? This morning's yoga practice embraced the breath. Perhaps, we need to do more of that for us to continue to peddle through life in a smooth, fluid pattern in order to savor what is around us. 

Below you will find William Stafford's poem on bicycling, It paints a vivid visual of a winter filled with silence and calmness. The poem brings me into a harmonious state without having to be on a bike. See if you agree.

Maybe Alone on My Bike

I listen, and the mountain lakes
hear snowflakes come on those winter wings
only the owls are awake to see,
Their radar gaze and furred ears
alert. In that stillness a meaning shakes:
And I have thought (maybe alone 
on my bike, quaintly on a cold
evening pedaling home), Think!     
(You can read the rest of this poem here.


Now join me for the Poetry Friday Round-up hosted by Karen Edmisten at her blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Finishing Strong

Here on Long Island, the Belmont Stakes is a "happening". While I usually do not attend the race since the crowds are huge and the traffic endless, I do celebrate with family and friends. Last week, my family attended the 22nd Annual Belmont Festival on Seventh Street in Garden City. The street was filled with vendors, two musical groups, and restaurants opened for street-goers. We strolled down the street, dodging beach balls that were being thrown by fast-moving middle schoolers, and listened to the rock music. 



The next day, there was anticipation for the Belmont Stakes race. I watched the pre-show talking about the history of the race and the biography of Justify's jockey, Michael Smith and the trainer, Bob Baffert. I waited to see the fashion worn, especially the fascinators and the traditional wide-brimmed hats. Then, we went off to a Belmont Stakes dinner party at a friend's house to immerse ourselves in the pre-race activities. Guests crowded into the family room awaiting the race. My iPhone camera was ready to capture the action.


The excitement mounted as the horses paraded out. 


Justify, the clear favorite, was beautifully groomed, calm, and impressive in his stature
He was ready for the race of his lifetime.


Stamina and the guidance of his jockey were clearly needed to win the Triple Crown. 


Looking back on the weekend and thinking ahead to the end of the school year, the hashtag #finishstrong comes to mind. I'd like to end this post with a comparison of the race to the Triple Crown with students' path to lifelong learning, a goal that educators prize at the end of the year. 

Justify finished strong with the ongoing caregiving of his training team, the guidance of his jockey, stamina training, and the vigorous cheering of the crowd. Just like in racing, educators need to encourage students to finish strong by passionately engaging them in active learning activities up to the last day, provide caregiving in ecosystems of trust and positivity, guide their learners, and be champions of hope to help students attain educational victories. Students, in turn, need to build stamina, persevere in the face of difficulty, and strive to become lifelong learners. 

"A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning." -Pat Riley

Are we ready to take on the challenge of finishing strong? Let's build positive momentum leading our students onward. Here is a found poem created from thoughts culled from a short video of Justify's race to the Triple Crown. Perhaps, it will inspire educators and students to finish strong like Justify did.

Finishing Strong

Take an early lead.
Set the pace.
Slow down a bit.
Reflect.
When you're halfway home,
Continue the run.
There may be a far turn but
Stay strong.
At the top of the stretch,
Come roaring home as you
Hear the crowd cheer you on.
Become an inferno of strength
To move you closer
Toward your end goal
Because you are a winner!
©CVarsalona, 2018

**************

It's Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers. I am heading over to join my fellow slicers.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Celebrate Springtime's Digital Art


Lately, I have been looking at springtime through a different lens as I prepare the process of designing a spring gallery of artistic expressions. Stroll with me to view nature's artistic landscape from Long Island to Virginia and back again. I am always amazed at how even a grey day (and we have had many on Long Island this spring) can be filled with new insights if I have the patience to quietly look at life in a different way.

Inside a lush Long Island garden center, springtime speaks in colors that inspire, even when the world outside is filled with rain and grey skies.

Atlantic Nursery, Long Island

Bringing springtime florals inside allows for a colorful palette to brighten the decor.


On sunshiny days, outdoor nature walks are filled with wonder.
When in Virginia, the family visited the Meadowlarks Botanical Garden and were surprised to see an imaginative children's space tucked away among the greenery.

©CV, 2018

Nature has a peaceful effect on well-being.
The pair of ducks illustrates how a gentle pace of movement in life is beneficial to all.

©CV, 2018, Vienna, Virginia

Returning back to Long Island, I caught another peaceful scene when my husband and I traveled to Northport for our theater night.

©CV, 2018, Northport Harbor
©CV, 2018, Northport Harbor

Standing on the pier and gazing out across the bay brought instant serenity and time for reflection. In all of the sightings above, the world stood still as I gazed through the lens of my iPhone camera. On each of those days, I better understood Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote: "

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."

With patience, I transformed nature photos into contemplative images through the painterly process in which I digitized the original photographs for my upcoming gallery, Sense-sational Spring.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing the incentive to gather our thoughts and celebrate with her each week, even though it may be as Ruth says, in "the middle of the muddle".

Friday, June 8, 2018

Beachside Calm

In search of peace and calmness, I travel to the boardwalk to stare out into the Atlantic Ocean waters. There is a gentle mix of tranquility and exhilaration found on this windy spring day. 



I search the ocean's extensive vista, watching foaming waves rush against shore in a cyclical pattern. Within this panoramic view, gulls playfully swoon in between slices of billowing clouds and spiral down to meet the undulating wisps of sweeping sea. Under a canopy of blue-grey sky and amidst churning ocean sounds, beachgoers engage in their ritualistic routines while I momentarily restacknowledging the presence of nature. Slowly, I breathe in springtime freshness, letting go of stagnant thoughts. Transfixed on the majesty of the day, I become one with nature. With gratitude for life and living, I cast pent-up emotions out to sea, letting the gusty wind carry them far away from this placid day.

I am intrigued by the endless passion of the sea and the inviting nature of the beach. Staring into the ocean, I  temporarily remove myself from the hectic pace of life. 

Quietly, I walk along the beach,
calmly
observing
nature's
beauty,
calmly
breathing
in
freshness.
Calmly,
I quietly walk along the beach.
©CVarsalona, 2018, Long Beach, NY


Skinny Poem Format
I have been intrigued with the skinny form of poetry since I heard about it this past winter. It is a challenging short poem form that consists of eleven lines. The first and eleventh lines can be any length while the eleventh and last line must be repeated using the same words from the first and opening line (however, they can be rearranged). The above skinny poem is my final version after many iterations. 


Poetry Friday is here this week at Kiesha Shephard's blog site. Kiesha is ushering in summer at the ridge with her poem, Summer's Song

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Anticipating Summertime

There is so much to love about summertime on Long Island's south shore
You can stroll on the boardwalk, observe the happenings, 
and follow up with a relaxing afternoon at the Atlantic Ocean shore. 


If you are not a beachgoer, you can find solace in the arboretums and botanical gardens. The myriad of town and county pools are filled with families enjoying the sun, swimmers practicing their skills, and various social outings. There are endless opportunities to embrace outdoor living and find the easy calm of a Long Island summer. The be as you are, relaxed pace of sweet summer living is an important feature of life here. 

Years ago when I first arrived on Long Island, I learned quickly never to tire of summer living. I was then and still am intrigued by the endless passion of the sea and the inviting nature of its beaches. On grey or rainy days, I often visualize the beach to create a virtual experience for at the beach calm pervades. 

As a beach lover, I understand the ocean's appeal and positive effects on the psychological and physical aspects of life. Much has been written on this topic. The ocean is like a medicinal herb offering healing. There is relaxed feeling at the beach when the weather is warm. Cares seem to slip away and stress reduced. People are more present "in the moment" when at the beach. The to-do list slips away.  You can get your daily dose of Vitamin D at the beach and sleep better at night. For me, I can remove myself from the hectic pace of life and feel re-energized when staring into the ocean's waters. There is joy at the beach.


calmness beachside
once removed, rises inside
like rushing waves
©CVarsalona, 2018, Long Beach, NY


#The beach is a sacred sanctuary for humans and oceans."
The above quote is from Surfer Today.

"Calm is trust in action. Only trust, perfect trust can keep one calm."
God Calling by A.J. Russell

I am anticipating summer here on Long Island and the next time I visit the beach, I will ponder the beauty of summertime at the hands of the Supreme Creator.

Margaret Simon is the host of Spiritual Journey first Thursday this week. She chose "summer" as the writing prompt topic. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Nature's Fashion Statement

Mother Nature, the trendy diva that she is, never fails to make a bold fashion statement. Whether she is dressed in brilliant, verdant green or muted greys, she confidently dashes across the states calling attention to her stylish spring looks.


Nature dresses in verdant colors
Fashioned for life's festivities-
Colorful, chic, and in vogue,
Runway designs for show.
Sprightly springing, spring
Steps in bold style
Blossom-ready,
Blooming
Fresh.
©CVarsalona, 2018

I have been admiring the new poetic forms that are popping up on Poetry Friday blogs and decided that this week, I would try a new form, the nonet, a nine line poem that has 9 syllables in the first line and moves down to one syllable by the last line. I often ponder a new form for days trying to word weave in my head, like I am playing a mental game. Then, I capture my notes and fashion them into a poem. 

Since fashion is on my mind these days, what with the new flowing florals and lacey tops, I envisioned Mother Nature dressed for spring in the photos I took. The one above was digitized with Waterlogue and the one below was a splendid backdrop for my iPhonography photos. While spring comes in spurts, I was happy to capture this one below while visiting my grandbaby in Virginia.


I'm gathering digital offerings like the ones above for my spring gallery, Sense-sational Spring, this week.

Now off to catch the seed storm photos and poetry at Buffy Silverman's spring-filled blog that you can access here. Buffy is hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Window Poems

I wake each day, look out my window, and wonder what will be. Do you do this?


At the beginning of the month, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes invited Julie Fogliano to  Today's Little Ditty. During the interview, Michelle asked Julie to create a Ditty Challenge for May: stare out the window and write what you see. In response, I have penned three poems.

Window Poem #1:
Remembering when a week of rainy and damp weather was the norm:

Mother Nature colored the world a shade of grey,
While leisurely planning her artistic play.
Thought again, and repainted the sky
By mixing her favorite bright, blue dye.
Her plan to change the landscape green
Was vividly noticed on my window screen.
©Carol Varsalona, 2018

Window Poem #2:
After the endless rainstorms that I watched each day from my window, I created this image poem / digital inspiration:



Window Poem #3:
My latest digital inspiration recollects what I have seen this week from my window vantage point:





Thank you Michelle H. Barnes and Julie Fogliano for inspiring me to present my poetic perspective from my daily practice of looking out my window.




Are you interested in another creative challenge? I am collecting digital inspirations, nature photography, inspirational quotes, image poems, spring songs, and artwork for my Sense-sational Spring Gallery of Artistic Expressions that will be unveiled in June. If interested, the invitation with the guidelines can be accessed here

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Serendipity

Railroads have played an important role in American history since the early 19th century so when Margaret Simon asked the Poetry Friday writers who would be interested in a photo/poetry exchange, "More Than Meets the Eye," for the May 25th Poetry Friday Round-up, I chose the Long Island Railroad system as my topic. Margaret's guidelines encouraged all to create after close observation and a dash of research.
  1. Email an original photo from your geographical area to your partner. Identify the photo specifically in case your partner wants to do some research. 
  2. Write a poem in any form in response to the photograph you receive.
  3. Create a blog post including the photo you were sent and the poem you wrote. Pingback to your partner's blog and link it on my site for Poetry Friday on May 25th.
When I found out that Kay McGriff was my writing partner, I was delighted. Kay and I have been involved in various challenges and she often creates image poems for my galleries. I knew that this was going to be a good match but I did not know that it would be a serendipitous one. Both of us without knowledge from the other independently chose railroads as our subject. Kay sent me her beautiful photo of the railroad crossing over the Muscatatuck River in Vernon, Indiana first. I wanted to move past my comfort zone so I tried a prose poem followed by a poem that deals with personification and linked the ideas together. 



To Kay's email, I replied, "Kay, this is so interesting. I was planning on sending you a photo of the Long Island Railroad stop because the railroad is one of the prominent means of transportation across Long Island....Serendipity!" I followed this with four photos that Kay could choose as her prompt. Some were from my hometown that is on the western end of Long Island, one of the closest stops on the railroad that heads to New York City. The other was from a town that is mid-island. I am looking forward to seeing which photo Kay chooses. 



Reflecting on a Hoosier Spring Day 

Morning opens sun-kissed and scented with the smell of Hoosier springtime. A softened glow proudly showcases a long-standing railroad crossing. All is silent and still honoring sacred land once trod by Native Americans. Even the jeweled tones of the Muscatatuck River pay homage to spring's call causing a hazy mirrored reflection. Above a connecting railroad crossing strong and solid stands proudly against the soft river bend that winds its way toward town. There is no sign of a train passing through, yet the woods echo tales retold by retired railroad workers who reside nearby. The river waits at this bend to reawaken history but on this spring morning only a lingering memory of time past exists.
I am from time past,
from structure and steam
moving from here to there
in rhythmic speed.
I am from a bending river 
wrapped in mosaic colors
of sunshine and stories
quietly humming
tall tales once told.
I am from strong people
laboring in the sun,
swelling with pride
watching their railroad 
chug along as it 
sings its morning song.
I am from Hoosier pride
residing in gentle folds
of the Muscatatuck River.
Come visit me - I am
nature's resting place.
©CVarsalona, 2018

Postcard from Indiana
to Kay McGriff



Now it is time to see what Kay McGriff is sending me for the "More Than Meets the Eye" exchange program created by Margaret Simon who is also Louisiana's hostess with the mostess for the May 25th's Poetry Friday!



Happy Memorial Day Weekend


I am gathering spring digitals for my Sense-sational Spring Gallery.
Please join in!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Self-Care & Happiness

It's Sunday morning. For the first time in a week, sunshine covers the sky with softened wisps of cotton puffs. Beachgoers flock to Long Beach Boardwalk to stroll alongside the Atlantic Ocean shore. One of my favorite south shore happiness spots comes alive with springtime joy. 

What makes this place special? Rising surf rushes to shore in rhythmic patterns as sea gulls silently swoop up and down. Life slows down beachside, below the busy boardwalk. People share their zen-like routines and rituals. Meditative practices are seen everyone from dozing babies and senior citizens on boardwalk benches and in strollers to a lone fisherman basking in the sun. A solitary yogi bows in respect for sun salutations. Serenity is found. 


Atlantic Ocean beaches are one of my go-to happiness spots. What's yours?


The above poster was shared by Happiness Coach, Kim Strobel, on #NYEDChat last night. The conversation revolved around the topic, The Science of Happiness. You can access the transcript here.
It's Tuesday so I am now joining  Two Writing Teachers with this slice of life.