Monday, July 25, 2016

Celebrating Summerscapes

When I was a child, I remember chasing summer days with passion. Whether it was playing stone teacher with friends, taking a walk to the neighborhood grocery store to buy a popsicle, capturing fireflies, or visiting my Nonnie, life was full of enjoyment. Summertime seemed endless then.

What if we could re-capture our childhood passion for savoring summer days?
If so, would we be able to enjoy life to a fuller extent?

Ingredients to celebrate summerscape moments, time to savor life's precious offerings: 
  • Slow down
  • Be creative with your time
  • Take a walk
  • Go on a mini-cation to a local spot you have not visited before
  • Notice the beauty that surrounds you
  • Wonder 
  • Celebrate the positives with family and friends
Summer in the Northeast is not an endless one.
It can be enjoyed fully with with ingenuity and positivity!
I captured a summerscape moment when my family traveled to the Jersey Shore for a fremily wedding weekend. 
The heat may have been oppressive but the pleasure of being with family and friends allowed me to savor each event.
Are you ready to slow down to celebrate life? 
Consider adding your special summer moment to my newest global gallery of artistic expressions, Summerscapes. The invitation is here.

Since I was celebrating last weekend, I missed posting at Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week site. This tribute to summerscape moments is my addition. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Invitation to Summerscapes

Summertime is your indulgence time:
Relax, Reflect, Renew Your Life!

Plan a special summerscape-
a mini-cation.
Allow your mind, body, and spirit 
to connect with your inner self.

Be inspired to capture 
the joyous moments of summer
and share them digitally with the world.

During the summer when the heat reaches a high, I travel to one of the south shore beaches of Long Island. There the roar of the waves and the breathing in of the salt air, allow my mind to drift. The sand tickles my toes. I feel the call to relax and the to do moments drift away as the breeze lulls me to a dozing state. At these times, I find my "summerscape" moments. At other times, I can plan a mini-cation to a new site close by and capture the beauty of nature in summertime settings. 

Join me this summer to find special mini-cation places to recharge. It does not have to be a vacation spot far away. You know the places where you can go so your mind drifts and you relax. Be inspired to find your summerscape. Capture it with your camera, create a digital expression, and add your inspired creation to my newest global gallery of artistic expressions, Summerscapes.

Please peruse last summer's invitation and the gallery, Summer Splashings, for a sampling of the digital gallery concept before creating your summerscape moment.

What Do You Need to Do?
  • Be creative. Capture your favorite summerscape moment through an original photo or drawing. You can also choose a free image from,, or 
  • Write an accompanying poem for an image poem/digipoetry or a poetic expression for a digital inspiration.
  • Superimpose your words on the image using a photo editing tool, like PicMonkey or Canva.
  • Sign the digital composition with your name and location.
  • Post your digital expression in jpeg form (450 pixels is the best size) using the following hashtags on Twitter: #Summerscapes and @cvarsalona.
  • Send your jpeg offering to @cvarsalona at gmail with the subject heading, Summerscapes

Other Creative Options You Can Submit: 
  • A short video with a poem using iMovie or Animoto
  • An audio reading of your poem
  • A collage of your favorite summerscape sites
  • An original inspirational quote or one from a poet or philosopher about summertime or summer relaxation
  • Original photo or artwork (any format) of summer

NOTE: All submissions must have your name and locale at the bottom.

Deadline for Submission: August 31, 2016

WANTED: Student Voice (#stuvoice) for Summerscapes Gallery

Please encourage your summer program class or children to engage in this 
creative writing/artistic project to showcase their talents and amplify their voices.

This invitation integrates the arts, technology and literacy to allow voice to be amplified across the globe and bring awareness of the beauty of the earth. 

Enjoy the experience of finding your summerscape adventure and be inspired to share it with a global audience.

Today is Poetry Friday so please stroll over to Books 4 Learning 
to read posts by my writing colleagues.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Rains

Summer's been rocking with high temperatures and lightning storms making me think it is trying to get the world's attention. Well, it has as far as I'm concerned. My family and I are often seen scrambling for patio chair pads, bringing them in and returning them after summer showers. 

I laugh now thinking that I was worried about my garden in the summer heat. In contrast to the visual of dying plants, my flowers and grass seem to be thriving from the heat and rainstorms. The black-eyed susans and lavender are bursting to breathe in the heat each day and I look forward to a quick downpour to cool down the evening. My grandmother's watering can has been a useful tool and a great reminder of the beautiful rose gardens that I use to stroll through on her property.

Last Wednesday, the temperatures were high so we decided to join our friends at Long Island's historic landmark Westbury Gardens for the Summer Pops series. It did not dawn on us to bring the umbrella out from the car as we walked the short distance to the great lawn. Chairs were laid out in front of the 19th Century Mansion and food tables were set up by picnic-goers. As we met our friends and placed our specialities on the table, we all settled down to listen to the music and have an old-fashioned outdoor summer picnic. 

During the break, many in the audience strolled to the mansion's gift shop and on to the huge patio and rose garden. Fireflies were blinking here and there and all seemed to be the perfect setting for a lovely summer evening stroll until...

the rains started to come down. Puzzled by what to do without an umbrella, I decided we should exit the mansion's gift shop and make a beeline to the porch area. I knew there was a huge tree that would become our umbrella. When we got to the tree it seemed so exciting to be on the majestic grounds in a rainstorm. I recalled the Great Gatsby and imagined the lawn filled with people all enjoying summertime. Since it continued to rain, many just sat admiring the grounds and the warm rain. Capturing the rainstorm settling on the historic site afforded me the opportunity to be creative

and so the night continued with the band singing in the rain until the rains passed. 


Please visit Two Writing Teachers here where colleagues are offering their slices of life for all to read. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Celebrating #ILA16

#ILA16 in Boston last weekend was an amazing compilation of #learning, meet-ups, & strong voices celebrating #literacy. It is not often that you can be in a space of learning with committed educators and literacy luminaries who share the same mindsets and vision to impact teaching and learning. I celebrate the #ILA16 experience through visuals.

My family and I arrived in Boston in time for my #edcampliteracy session where I met Twitter friends face-to-face for the first time. There were many hugs and aha moments before I presented, Discovering Wonder and Joy Through Inquiry Via Family Literacy. As Wonderopolis' Wonder Lead Ambassador, I was happy to shed light on various family literacy programs that allow students and parents to notice and wonder about new topics.

There was high energy the morning #ILA16 opened. Keynote presenters, Kwame Alexander and Adora Svitak, wowed the audience.

During the day, I met up with connected educators and authors.

My colleagues, Dr. Michele Haiken and Laura Purdie Salas, presented Transforming Writers' Lives With Digital Tools as Powerful Agents to Impact Literacy Instruction, Authenticate Voice, & Present Positive Perspectives with me to an full house, engaged audience.

After my two presentations, I felt excited to have engaged with many interested educators and ready for additional learning and meet-ups.

The short video I created expresses my interest in impacting digital literacy. You can access it here. You can read my post on a Courageous Conversation led by Cornelius Minor at #ILA16 here.

Since I missed Celebrate This Week last weekend due to my busy weekend at #ILA16, I am recounting the first part of my celebration of the International Literacy Association Conference in Boston with this post. Please visit Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week site to read how Ruth celebrates her family this week. 

Courageous Conversation

Last week in Boston at the International Literacy Association 2016 Conference, a courageous conversation ensued and created a ripple effect with far-reaching effects. I was fortunate to be present when my educator friend, Cornelius Minor, opened an impromptu forum with three simple questions. 

Why did you come? How do you feel? How do you hope to feel?

All present were encouraged to engage in an open conversation on racial relations to help us grapple with the troubling issues of the times. As reflective educators, we listened, partnered to discuss the bystander/upstander concept, and pondered ways to bring the conversation to students on an academic level. The discussion centered on a positive perspective so that trust was built among educators from around the states. During the short time together, a community evolved. 

After the first reflective pause, Sara Ahmed's statement, "Be vigilant of our own biases," prompted me to complete a quick recheck of my past actions and how I have dealt with the issues. I reflected on the amount of racial tensions multiplying throughout the world, leading to a disregard of kindness to fellow man. I thought about the word hate and how it has led to violence and the uprooting of seeds of love. I questioned why there is general unrest and a sense of disconnectedness in the world.

Why did I come to Cornelius Minor's session at ILA 16? 

I came to hear the conversation that would push me out of my comfort zone. How did I feel? To say the least, I felt uneasy. On the other hand, I felt empowered to have a voice in a conversation with thoughtful educators. What I hoped to feel was a sense of balance when I left the room. 

During the courageous conversation, positivity flowed as we grappled with the issues and our emotions. We confronted the uncomfortable and connected as a body of collective practitioners. We provided avenues to explore, knowing that much needs to be accomplished. 

From this conversation, words started spinning in my head. A draft of a poem recording my impressions of the powerful interaction at ILA 16 evolved. I listened, wove words together, and created. Dr. Stephen Peters' words, "Courage and fear cannot co-exist," resounded with me and brought closure to my thoughts. 

From a powerful ninety-minute happening, the following thoughts were designed into a digital composition.

When I left the room, I was almost speechless. The effect of connected educators trying to make sense of the unthinkable stayed with me as a hope for future conversations with family, friends, and educators. One week later, I am still thinking and engaging in face-to-face and Twitter conversations on the issue of man's inhumanity to man. 

What can be done to stop fear from rearing its head and breaking down walls? 

Times are changing. No longer can we skirt the issues of world politics and biases that lead mankind to become involved in destructive outcomes. I believe educators stand on the precipice of change. Connected together, we can:
  1. Embrace change
  2. Build cultures of trust in active learning classrooms 
  3. Engage students in courageous conversations, allowing all voices to be heard and all identities addressed 
  4. Provide the open space for students to explore their feelings through writing 
  5. Continue grappling with tough issues as a body of practitioners

It is my hope that as connected educators and colleagues, we can band together to raise our voices as a collective body of thoughtful practitioners of life. We have the power to make a difference in a world ridden with disconnect. It our voices that can be heard and our voices that will impact our students' and children's lives. We can become the difference makers that will bring about change.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Slowing Down

Fireflies, summer's magical fairies, are flitting to and fro on humid, summer evenings here on Long Island. I notice their quick bursts of lights blinking in the darkness reminding me of children in search of wonder. Like the children catching fireflies, I search for wonder and notice that is all around me. 

For the first Poem Swap created by Tabitha Yeatts, Jone MacCulloch shares some of her creative spirit with me as she reminds me that summer is a time to slow down. I am definitely in the mood for that, especially since my house has been a revolving door of service repair people and contractors.

Thank you, Jone, for the poetry postcard that combines your artistic talents and graces my desk area. Your words provide me with much to ponder during the hot, humid summer of 2016.

Poetic voice is present in nature, the seasons, and within our hearts. I wait for each evening that the fireflies light up the darkness.

For all my poetry friends, I thank you for continuing to inspire me to wonder. Spring's Seeds Gallery has been released. You can access it here. I am already envisioning my new seasonal venture, Summerscapes, and hope you join me in search of relaxing summer moments to slow down time. 

Now, it is time to visit my poet friend, Mary Lee Hahn at a Year of Reading to catch up on all of the Poetry Friday postings. Please join me.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Spring's Seeds Gallery Unveiled

As a troubadour of life's whisperings,  
I open the door to Spring's Seeds, 
the gallery of artistic expressions 
that speaks of the wonders of nature in springtime.

While the heat of the summer is upon us, step back to springtime and savor the varying landscapes that decorated the world with radiance.

Every spring is the only spring -
a perpetual astonishment
- Ellis Peters 

I invite you to stroll through the gallery, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Awaken your senses as you peruse each creative, digital image poem, inspirational quote, and tranquil musical interlude. Poetic perspectives of spring are exemplified in well-crafted words and mood-inspired photographs from around the globe. 

As a confirmed wonderologist, I encourage you to notice and wonder the many sides of springtime along with me. Be filled with the representations of life as they remind you of nature's gift of new life. Spring's Seeds Gallery with its digital blossoms awaits you. 

Digital voice matters so please enjoy your tranquil journey back into springtime.

Vivaldi's "Spring" ushers in the gallery.
The day is fresh-washed and fair, 
and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air. 
~Amy Lowell

Spring has returned. 
The earth is like a child that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke submitted by Diane Mayr

A rain kissed tulip 
Greets spring's cooler weather. 
Happy for its return. 
~Ramona Benchke

Please click here to see video created by the class.

Birds greet spring days with melodious chirping.

Zen gardens fill the air with their own tunes. 
Listen to the music as you stroll through the gallery.

e.e. cummings' "In Just Spring" was 
the model for the above poem
You can hear Cummings reading his poem here
A special repeat showcasing of the
"Thoughts Take Flight"
Created by Irene Latham and 
written by 30 Poetry Friday poets
"Behold, Spring is but a dance away!"
I grasp my pen, then capture this day."
You can access the poem in its entirety here.

Pause here to listen to the Mikado's song, 
"The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring," 
while viewing the digital blooms. 

To honor the global contributions to the gallery, 
please pause to listen here to Errach.
"This song is original music put to an Old Irish verse poem concerning the season of Spring." 

Digipoetry and inspirations from around the world

Photo Corner
 Please view Spring's Seeds Gallery Photolog here.

Nature is at peace in my garden.
I often wake to morning speaking softly 
of spring days. I hear my garden whispering:
"As spring flowers bloom, digital blossoms shall grow."
Balance (in my garden).png
The fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, 
a rare fusion of fluff and majesty,
 the peony is now coming into bloom.
–Henry Mitchell, American writer

Spring inspires!

Chopin's Spring Waltz is an inspiring accompaniment to the gallery. Listen here.


Spring Renews Life!

Spring reminds us to slow down and 
savor all the world has to offer.
Spring brings outdoors inside!
Each day I am reminded to notice life 
as it spreads its seeds of inspiration.

Spring Invites Reading Time!
Gallery visitors, thank you for sharing reflective time with the Spring's Seeds Gallery community. I would appreciate it if you would leave a response in the comment section or at #SpringsSeeds and @cvarsalona on Twitter to recognize the efforts of the gallery contributors who are listed below:
...To know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant. is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and submitted by Tabatha Yeatts

You can visit the previous 9 galleries by clicking on each link below: 
Winter Wanderings, Autumn's Palette
Summer SplashingsSpring’s Symphony
Winter WhisperingsFinding FallSummer Serenity
April AwakeningsReflect With Me: Bring a Community of Writers Together to Celebrate Life & Teaching.

It has been a delightful experience to present global perspective of spring through a poetic lens. Spring has washed the world with color this past season and spread its seeds of inspiration.

Thank you to Jackie Yun for her reflection on 
the various galleries created.

While it is summer, the sun is setting on a cool, spring-like day here in Boston where I am presenting at #edcampliteracy and #ILA16. I am reminded tonight that seasons reflect the beauty of the earth in our surroundings. 
May Spring's seeds spread their wonders 
throughout your summer days. 
I am am grateful for the Poetry Friday community for always supporting my efforts to spread the wonder of poetry and the power of voice throughout the year.
Katie at The Logonauts is hosting 
Poetry Friday Roundup here this week.