Friday, June 29, 2018

Watering Can Memory

"Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas." - Elizabeth Murray

With that quote in mind, I whimsically created a palette of colors to salute a summer's day. I used the apps MobileMonet and FotoJet to render an artistic touch to the photo, similar to what an artist would do when painting a still life.

"Painting is but another word for feeling." - John Constable

Creating digital art allows me to artistically express myself and use the end-products as prompts for writing poetry. I flip-flop between original photos to slightly digitized ones to digital art pieces to create an array of "painted" images to evoke different feelings and moods. Below is my first attempt at a writing a cherita, a poem that tells a story, from my latest rendering of digital art. I have been admiring the cheritas that fellow poet friends have written and today I am pleased that I moved past my comfort zone to try one.

midday heat respite

petunias perfectly posed
wait patiently

afternoon ritual
remembering childhood summers
with watering can in hand
©CV, 2018


Each day I use my Nonnie's watering can, thoughts of my childhood summers with my grandmother flashback to decades ago when I would playfully dance around her beautiful gardens. Each bed was filled with fragrant aromas from gorgeous flowers. When I watered the flowers they stood tall to salute the sun. This ritual brought much joy to me. My grandmother's watering can has been painted and repainted over the years to preserve it as an artifact of childhood happiness.

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Carol Wilcox today. Carol, not only is greeting the writing community with a dazzling summer blossom but is introducing the poetry of Lynn Ungar, a poet that "uses small details to share big truths".

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Evening Thoughts

"Evening Thoughts", my short video created with the digital video platform, Animoto.

It was later in the day. The long ride back to Long Island from Virginia seemed endless. Just then, as the sun began to set and Manhattan was faintly visible in the muted haze, I felt a burst of energy. Peacefully, I watched the sky change colors before my eyes. 

From one side of the bridge to the other, I turned to capture nature's magical moments. Poetic thoughts rumbled in the corners of my mind, as my husband continued the drive.

It was surreal as the sky transformed itself before my eyes. Exhaustion from the endless, slow-paced ride in traffic seemed to be a faint memory. Transforming the photos into digital art allowed the last hour and a half of the journey to become a joyous occasion.

Today, I found this quote by Ayn Rand that speaks to the pure pleasure of gazing upon a Manhattan sunset. “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible..."

At Two Writing Teachers, it is Slice of Life Tuesday. Join me there.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Pure Joy-Grandmotherhood

There is pure joy in being a first-time grandparent. Life has taken on a whole new meaning from the very first moment that I received the text and photo that Sierra Kathryn came into the world. I instantly felt an astounding amount of joy that has grown each day.  

Leslie Stahl in her book, Becoming Grandma, talks about the enormity of being a grandmother from the initial jolt of elation. She quotes Ogden Nash's poem:

Stupendous, miraculous, unsurpassed,
A child to stagger and flabbergast,
Bright as a button, sharp as a thorn,
And the only perfect one ever born.

One year has passed and I am still feeling jolts of happiness. Whether I am face-to-face or in a Google Hangout, Sierra's radiant smile brightens my world. Using Ogden Nash's poem as a mentor text, I created the following.

Remarkable, miraculous, unimagined
A little one so charming you can't fathom, 
Curious as a cat, radiant as the sun
And full of perfection yet undone.
©CVarsalona, 2018, Virginia 

I have found out that a Grandma's time is not her own when she is grandbaby sitting. This post is short and sweet so I can go back to spending time with Sierra and celebrate her birthday tomorrow. 

My artist/poet friend, Michelle Kogan, is hosting today's Poetry Friday Roundup and adding her BAYOU SONG Book Review. Michelle's interview with author and poet Margaret Simon is the first stop on the BAYOU SONG Blog Tour. I will be one of the last stops on July 27, 2018. 


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Off We Go

Sunshine spread across the sky and all was still. The last bag was packed and stored in the Jeep. With a prayer for safety and a look at Google Photos, we headed to the highway, hoping for light traffic. Luckily, we whizzed along the Belt Parkway in record time. Staten Island, New Jersey, and Delaware passed on by. Our destination was in sight until we spotted an accident. Traffic slowed down-just when we were making time.

The sky turned an ominous shade of grey and sprinkles bubbled up on our windshield. To add to the unexpected, we were rerouted to Washington, D.C. in the middle of rush hour. Another accident, rain, traffic, and tension followed. Our GPS led us onward, turn after turn until we arrived in Reston, Virginia.

The home was quiet. We started to unpack and then, the garage door opened. Our little grandbaby entered with my daughter. All the uneasiness of the trip melted away from the radiance of our precious little one-year old's smile. The journey to the destination was worth the time we spent trying to arrive. 

Happy Birthday to our One-Year-Old!

Time to link-up with Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Tuesday.

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.
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,
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.