Friday, September 10, 2021

Hearts Recollect 9/11

On September 11th the world will stop to remember one of the saddest days in history. As a former member of the Rockville Centre community on Long  Island, I shall never forget the horror of devastation that rocked our small village. Forty-five members perished in the event on an ordinary day. A child lost her mother during the attack and a group of high school seniors grieved this loss during a candlelight ceremony. The town wept as did the state and nation for their losses during the horrific event. 

Last night while watching the ABC News Special 20/20 show, Women of 9/11:Twenty Years Later, with Robyn Roberts, I felt all over again the sting of sorrow, the disbelief of the happening, and the sadness that still exists. I turned to my blog posts regarding 9/11 and created a blackout poem prompted by this haunting photo.

 Women of 9/11:Twenty Years Later, ABC

So Many Stories, So Many Hearts Broken: A 9/11 Recollection

Nation remembers:
People perished,
New York City suffered.
Incredible sadness
Blasted air.
Tears touched the community.
Heavy hearts mourned
In solidarity.
Anguish witnessed attack.
Disbelief, despair
Rose from ashes.
Charcoaled faces,
Chaos, grief grew
In wake of disaster. 
9/11, harsh reality,
a retold journey.
©CVarsalona, 2021

Yesterday, the nation paused to remember a horrific event in its history. On September 11, 2001, a never-to-be-forgotten date, 3000 people perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Of that number, Rockville Centre, a small suburb of New York City, suffered considerable losses. 48 of my townspeople people died as a result of the "largest attack on US soil" on that fateful day.  

I shall never forget theincredincredible feeling of sadness mixed with panic as colleagues and I heard the news the morning of September 11, 2001. As the media blasted the air with news, it was very difficult to continue the day of elementary school as usual. Colleagues tried to connect with loved ones who went to work in New York City; worrisome looks multiplied; phone calls were interrupted; tears shed. When I arrived home, news of the attacks were haunting the neighborhoods of Rockville Centre.  A small group of concerned South Side high school students, my daughter being one of them, were touched by the events of the day that deeply affected one of their classmates.  The concerned peers formed a bond and brought the school community together in support of their friend whose mother was killed in the World Trade Building terrorist attack while her father was out of the country on business

That night, students, heavy in heart, led a vigil march through the neighborhoods. The sky, lit up by hundreds of candles held in the hands of mourners and supporters, marched in solidarity, bringing a town together during a time of deep anguish. Many people were not among the group, my husband being one of them. Although safe, he was forced to stay in New Jersey that night. Entrance back to Long Island was closed. After hours of no contact, he did bring us news of what he witnessed. As traffic slowed on  road from NYC to New Jersey, he, along with many motorists, saw the second plane attack the World Trade Center. During a night of disbelief and despair his story as well as many others rose from the ashes Wof a grim fate. There was the friend who led the NYC Bomb Squad searches; the first responder who traveled from Suffolk County to NYC to support the ravagedorld Trade Center; other friends who walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to come home from the havoc that ensued on Wall Street. There was the brave fireman from our next town who lost his life at the site and dozens of Rockville Centre neighbors who never came home from work that night. There were the charcoaled faces, broken dreams, and voices that could not speak of the horrors witnessed. But in all the chaos and grief, the town bonded and grew strength from each other. Ceremonies, monuments, memorial parks all created during the weeks that followed allowed a town to heal in the wake of disaster. 

The remembrance of
9/11 is a heavy one that never leaves one's heart. In our neighborhood, and across Long Island to New York City children were forced to deal with a harsh reality that life is fragile and dreams can be broken. Paralleling that message was the belief that hope can exist in a town despite devastating losses. Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray, summarized this feeling during his memorial speech on Sunday, September 8, 2013. "No community suffered more than Rockville Centre...but we did not just survive this tragedy, we prevailed." 

Stories have been told, repeated, and
retold over the past twelve years. Hearts have been mended, but Rockville Centre community members never forgot the losses. September 11, 2001 marked the day for a town to be brought to its knees. Subsequent years have marked the evolution of 9/11 stories into messages of courage, survival and new learnings about life's fragile journey.

as the bell tolls,
names are read,
flags unbound, waving proudly,
and heartbreaking headlines shared.

numbered in the sky,
is our town's tradition.
Village Green is ready.
We shall remember
and wait for a 
Rainbow of Possibilities.
©CVarsalona, 2019, Rockville Centre, NY


It's time to join the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia Stohr-Hunt, our host this week, offers a Barbara Crooker poem on grief.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Dental Arts

My husband set the alarm for an early rise. When the tic tock ring went off, I was not ready. I wanted to snuggle a bit more and so I did. I usually slide into events and it looked like this would be another example of an old habit. Perhaps, it was the fear of upcoming pain, after all it has been eight months since my last treatment in Long Island. 

Finding a good dentist is a mix of research and recommendations. Since I needed three cavities filled and one crown, my husband drove me to the dentist that was only five minutes away. In our new locale everything seems such a short ride. I started anticipating the long procedure during the car ride. As during my first consultation, I was greeted with smiles and a friendly hello. So far so good.

Take a deep breath.
Sit down.
The chair is comfortable.
Slide up the chair.
Dark glasses?
Flashbacks to my childhood  dental visit-
Painful reminder.
Forget that!
Dark room and dark glasses
are cues to close my eyes.
A symphony of sounds begin.
Prick, pinch.
Numbness begins.
Sit back and almost relax.
Buzz, buzz.
Change of equipment.
Open mouth. Close.
Gurgle, gurgle
And so forth.
Time is passing on.
When the crown work begins.
Three cavities filled
Crown work started.
How does it feel?
Adjustments made.
Mouthful of novacaine
Makes knowing
If the adjustments are good.
Temporary crown complete.
No pain.
Next appointment scheduled.
Bathroom stop.
Quick chuckle.

Now I know why the doctor
Chose the title Dental Arts?
What a pleasurable visit!
My Slice of Life!
Thanks Two Writing Teachers for the space to write a short narrative
on my morning event.

Friday, September 3, 2021

#PoetryPals Challenge & More Poetry Fun

Another surprise marks the near end of the summer season. For last week's Poetry Friday, I wrote about Sweet Surprises. One of the surprises was a meet-up with my poetry friend, Linda Mitchell, who lives about 15 minutes away. While writing that post, I did forget that it was the end of the month and that the Poetry Sisters/#PoetryPals invited all to take a plunge into their August challenge, WHAT THE ________KNOWS poems. The idea was to write in the style of Jane Yolen's eight-line, rhyming poem, What the Bear Knows. This challenge was in honor of Jane Yolen's 400th book.

I wrote two drafts of different poems earlier during the month of August with the topic "What Does Baby Know?" Because we have been Grandma and Grandpa sitting on and off during August, I chose to write about our twenty-month granddaughter whom we just stopped calling baby. My first poem below is slightly different than the suggested form but I wanted to add an additional stanza. 


What does the baby know? 
To be curious about all things
To find joy in life's flow
To figure out how to throw
What does the baby know? 
Be determined to share her sweet grin
To busy herself while having fun
Until each splendid day is done. 
©CVarsalona, Summer 2021 


In addition to the poems and digitized images above, I created a haiku to accompany my slice of life about the first birthday celebration we had for my son. This can be found at my blog post, A Rain-Drenched Gift. Earlier tonight, our Spiritual Journey Thursday group under the leadership of Karen Eastlund wrote to the topic, virtue. While I struggled to get started, I decided to write a goal-setting poem on the virtues I would like to work on the rest of this year. That can be found at my blog under SJT Virtue.


As the stroke of midnight approaches, I turn my thoughts to Poetry Friday. The amazing activitist poet-author-teacher, Heidi Mordhorst, is hosting this week at her blog, my juicy little universe. Heidi has an amazing array of thoughts, poems, and challenges for us to peruse at her poetrypalooza. Join me there.

I am gathering poetic and artistic expressions in the form of image poems, inspirational quotes, digital inspirations, music, artwork, and any other option for my upcoming Nurturing Our Summer Souls Gallery. If interested contact me or send in your offerings related to the topic. I have a Twitter hashtag, #NurturingOurSummerSouls, set up for incoming digital. Please send it to @cvarsalona also. 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

SJT Virtue

This month, the Spiritual Journey Thursday community is exploring the topic of virtue as suggested by our host, Karen Eastlund. When Karen posed this topic she added a long list of virtues, positive behaviors illustrating high moral standards that are important for well-being. Upon reviewing the list of virtues, I paused to reflect on how I could incorporate more virtues, character traits, into my life. I am eager to follow my one word, begin, on a new spiritual pathway.  

Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. - Elaine S. Dalton

  • Beginning a New Spiritual Journey

  • If I accept what is and

  • let go of worries and expectations,

  • contentment and joy may flow more freely.

  • If I add the power of forgiveness,

  • deeper compassion for others,

  • and a flowing gift of kindness

  • will I establish

  • a truly humble heart?

  • If so, patience will need

  • to step forward so

  • balance can be achieved.

  • Hope could fly across

  • the new path to serenity

  • where gratitude

  • will govern each day.

  • Then, I shall be blessed

  • with the grace  of

  • living life to its fullest intent.
  • A thankful heart is the greatest virtue. - Cicero

The steps on the spiritual journey leading to a virtuous life are many. It is my goal to slowly and mindfully develop essential virtues to better navigate life. I am grateful for this month's reflective topic and the opportunity to create a new pathway to happiness!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Rain-Drenched Gift

Birthdays are wonderful days to celebrate the beginning of a new year of adventure in life.  In our family, a central part of a birthday party is the cake. It has always been our way to honor the traditions of the past, celebrate the present, and indulge in the sweetness of life. The tradition dates all the way back to my Nonnie who was know for her sweet delicacies. 

My daughter, son-in-law and little girls were in charge of the cake. My husband was the family chauffeur, I the birthday planner, and my sister a guest. My job was to find a restaurant offering outdoor eating in our local area. 

The day began with the usual humid weather and sunshine-a good sign that we could eat outside. The restaurant was in place but we needed to arrive early to get seating outdoors. My son was working until 6 o'clock so the rest of the family decided to meet early to make sure the reservation would guarantee a table outdoors. The reviews for the Blue Ridge Seafood Restaurant were very good. it was only a few minutes away from my son's workplace, so that was convenient. When we arrived there was a short line but by the time my son arrived the line was wrapped around the entrance. Luckily, calling ahead and arriving early worked to our advantage in being seated under a roofed patio. 

Shortly after our appetizer and beverages, the sky became dark. It was still very humid but we all knew what that meant. It seems that this summer, the weather is a topic of concern and rainstorms seem to start at the whim of nature. The week before we planned on eating at this restaurant until we walked out the door to my house and were greeted with a torrential storm. This time, we were all settled into our delicious seafood dinner (except for my husband who is allergic to shellfish had a huge plate of ribs), until a crack of ominous thunder roared and lightning cut across the sky like a knife cutting cake. Oh, well! We felt fortunate to be under a roof until the rain took a sharp turn and whipped into the patio area and onto our backs.  

"You can move to another table," the waitress, drenched in rain, exclaimed.  Luckily, we were finished with the dinner and awaiting the cake.  

"Let's not worry. The weather won't dampen our spirits." So, we continued to party on as my 4-year-old granddaughter would be inclined to say. 

The cake was beyond delicious as indicated by the chocolate faces of our two little toddlers. As we made a mad dash to the car, I remarked that this party would always be one for the family to remember. 

surprise greetings
nature astonishes all
rain-drenched gift
Happy 2021 Birthday, Derek,
Love Mom!

Let's hope that the birthday luncheon on your official birthday this Wednesday 
is a day without rain.

My Slice of Life is being sent to Two Writing Teachers with wishes for Great Happiness for my son!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Sweet Summer Surprises

This summer there have been many wonderful gifts that bring joy: grandchildren frolicking, nature walks along a creek, new friends, and the soft sounds of poetry flooding the corridors of my heart. It's a new beginning in a new surrounding and quiet blessings come with sweet surprises along the way.

SURPRISE #1After a nature walk with my grandgirls, I designed a digital collage of photographs I took during our walk. I blended them into a postcard similar to the turn-of-the-20th century ones I have in my collection. My thoughts are in the form of a dodoitsu but I took creative license in only using 4 syllables instead of 5 for the last line.

SURPRISE #2The long-awaited, face-to-face meet-up with my next-town neighbor, Poetry Friday poet-librarian, Linda Mitchell. I was running late when the doorbell rang but that was fine. We hugged as old friends would after Linda extended an unexpected housewarming gift.

Lunch, chitchat, plans for future poetic outings, and meet-ups were part of the afternoon fun. Linda left with two boxes of professional texts for her teachers, Wonderopolis swag, and books for her library. I happily said goodby knowing that two more boxes were removed from my stack of unopened items. 

SURPRISE #3: Linda devised an on-the-spot poem swap for us. I would send her some photos of my antique collection of early 20th-century prints by the famous illustrator, Harrison Fisher. She would write ekphrastic poetry for each print. She suggested that I write about her cookie, brownie, and cupcake treats. I added in the digital artwork, and a selfie of us (which I call an ussie when it is more than one person). A story-poem evolved from the above picture prompt.

SURPRISE #4: I created memories that were encapsulated in digital art and poetry while Linda shared her poetic thoughts through ekphrastic skinnies that you can find at her blog post, Poetic Luncheon

SURPRISE #5: I happened upon the following quote by a 20th Century poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

"Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone."

Perhaps, Ferlinghetti meant that graffiti is a form of visual communication and poetry is the format to communicate the richness of what we see and feel. 


Join me for the Poetry Friday Roundup at EFL teacher and writer Elisabeth Norton's blog, Unexpected Expectations. There's a party of poetic thoughts going on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Baking with the Grandgirls

Last week at Poetry Friday, I shared a unique and creative summer poem swap gift from Mary Lee Hahn. It is a custom-designed oracle haiku and dodoitsu deck. For today's slice of life, I use one line from the deck to create a dodoitsu (a four-line poem of 7-7-7-5 syllables) about a highlight of the three-day weekend with the little grandgirls. Each moment with them is a gift.

As I look back on my own childhood in my Nonnie's kitchen, I reminisce about mixing wonder with childhood dreams during one of our creative activities. A little bit of dreaming with a good amount of chocolate are delicious ingredients in a sweet treat. 
summer shakes away stormy blues
with grandgirls in the kitchen
whisking, baking, licking spoons
great expanse of life.
©CV, 2021

My little ones started the 2021-2022 school year yesterday, just like many Northern Virginia educators.  My best wishes are sent out to all who create enriched learning experiences for all their learners. 

Tuesday Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

Friday, August 20, 2021

Summer Bursts with Color and Creativity

Summer 2021 bursts with sizzling temperatures, brilliant sunset colors, and fierce storms. In between all of those nature-made events, creativity has flowed.  Summer Poem Swap #3 took me by storm (so to speak). A small package arrived filled with the flaming colors of summer. Inside I found a stack of custom card stock, water-colored cards created by Mary Lee Hahn that were tied with a turquoise ribbon. A letter was penned on a similar water-colored paper that was oversized. Included was a sentiment that touched me: "This is a custom haiku (or dodoitsu) oracle deck, made with phrases found in your poems". Mary Lee designed a workable and reusable deck of cards for me to enjoy and create different haiku or dodoitsu poems. Not only was the swap gift unique, but it was also a learning tool since I never heard of a dodoitsu.

Haiku (5-7-5) by Mary Lee

find open spaces
mix wonder and childhood dreams
be glad for blessings

Here is a photo I found in Mary Lee's blog post, Missing Mom dated 12/20/2017 that I thought would pair nicely with the above Haiku.

Dodoitsu (7-7-7-5) by Mary Lee

gratitude floats through the air
the sweetness of goodness found
in robes of golden sunrise
          great expanse of life.
          ©CV, 2021

I thought this Google Image was wll-suited for the above dodoitsu.

Mary Lee ended with a wish for me. "Have fun mixing and matching to create new poems with your very own words!" Since she requested that I not share my deck until mid-August, today I feature the sizzling, colorful, and creative poem swap. Grateful for this gift and the opportunity to write, I started to create immediately. 

 My thank you dodoitsu to Mary Lee:

gratitude floats through the air
blossoms like a bud of spring
in robes of golden sunrise
         how charming you are
         ©CV, 2021

I had fun playing with the deck. 

The above image poem was created using the FotoJet app. It is one of the many photos I have from the wooded trail along the creek in our community. It will be added to my Nurturing Our Summer Souls Gallery collection.


Last week was one of the firsts in our family! My daughter competed in her first triathlon and my son saved a life at work! Because these were proud moments in our family's journey, I wanted to share the events with all. Unfortunately, after I published the post, the revised copy disappeared along with the cheritas I wrote to commemorate each event. Now, I am in the process of recreating the poems since the originals were lost. 


Thank you, Carol Labuzzetta, for hosting Poetry Friday for the first time. Carol shares her experience teaching a summer enrichment program. She provides a serene photo to prompt our own imaginations. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What Calls To Me

Each summer the sea calls to me. Sometimes it roars with urgency and other times it enchants me with its lulling sounds. As one of "nature's promoters of peace", the sea inspires me to write. Whether I am at the beach or gazing into one of my photographs of the ocean, I respond to the call. I fill my thoughts with coastal colors, like quiet moments and healing aloe, to set the tone and fill my creative space with calm. Adding soothing music of waves ebbing and flowing and soft lighting, stillness surrounds me. Even when words do not flow, I am at rest waiting for the muse to call. 

Seaside vibes ignite creativity sparks.

Tonight, I write for this week's Poetry Friday Roundup knowing that our teacher-poet host and Wonderopolis Ambassador colleague, Christie Wyman, is also in the creativity zone. What Christie offers is a "poetic salad, side dish, or dessert to extend our Poetry Is... community poem. She is eager to read what poetry means to each writer and create a Part II Community Poem. While I forgot to hit the send button for my submission, I add it here and look forward to reading what Christie creates. 

As a poet, writer, and digital artist, I look at life through two lenses, the poet's and artist's points of view. 
From the artist's vantage point:
Poetry is a sun note opening day
across a painted skyway.
©CV, 2021

From the writer's point of view:
Poetry is a brushstroke of words
illuminating a thought.
©CV, 2021

May my digital artwork and poems inspire you to nurture your soul. 
If interested, I invite you to offer an image poem, nature photography, digital art, video, song, or inspirational quote for my upcoming Nurturing Our Summer Souls Gallery.