Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Winter Wail

In the middle of the night, a howling began that disturbed my sleep. Half-awake, I tried to ascertain the origin of the incessant wailing noise. Was I dreaming? Was someone in distress? Where was the sound originating? I stumbled into the bathroom to look out my window. There was an eeriness unfolding. I watched the silhouette of majestic trees swaying back and forth in a hurried manner. 

When morning arrived there was a chilled calm in the neighborhood. Winter Wind left its calling card and the prospect of chilly weather for the week.

Winter has been an interesting season this year on Long Island so I continue to write documenting what I notice and wonder. Have you been intrigued by nature this winter?

Today is the final warm-up before Two Writing Teachers' month-long writing challenge begins on Friday, March 1st. I'm ready! 


Thursday, February 21, 2019

#haikulove for H is For Haiku

Did you know that February is National Haiku Writing Month? I did not realize that until today but I have been spreading #haikulove throughout the month. In keeping with the haiku celebration this month, I am sharing an amazing treasure trove of A to Z haiku from Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996), an accomplished poet whose imaginative poetry will delight you and hopefully inspire you to read and even write haiku.


For decades, Amy Losak, daughter of poet Sydell Rosenberg, worked tirelessly to make her mother's dream of publishing H Is For Haiku, A Treasury of Haiku From A to Z come true. On April 10, 2018, the dream became a reality; Sydell's book was published. Amy and I have been exchanging messages about her mother's book for several months so I am excited to showcase Sydell's work and provide readers with Amy's perspective on the charming and whimsical way her mother envisioned haiku. 

Haiku is that fledgling moment when
the wingstrokes become sure-when the
bird has staying power in the air
-Sydell Rosenberg

Parents, educators, and children will fall in love with Sydell's small nuggets of thoughts on city life and nature in H Is For Haiku. Her book is an invitation to slow down, pause, and savor the small moments of life. Let's take a look inside this treasure trove of haiku happiness.

In light of the recent snow that has fallen on Long Island and larger amounts in other parts of the country, I present Sydell's haiku for the letter C:

My little grandbaby would be upset if her baby could not be retrieved from a buried car but this dolly appears to be excited about her adventure. Sydell's 5-7-5 syllable pattern and child-friendly wordplay heightened by Sawsan Chalabi's imaginative illustration and visually appealing font provide the right amount of whimsy for a winter tale. 

The meteorologists accurately reported that Long Island's snow would come and go, so the following haiku by Rosenberg seems appropriate, especially since my husband usually forgets to take in my Grandmother's vintage watering can. 

In this imaginative haiku celebrating the letter D, the arrangement of raindrops from a human-like cloud brings nature to life and invites us into the poem.

In this haiku featuring the letter H, don't you just love that Rosenberg compared umbrellas to mushrooms and that Chalabi's brightly colored artwork captures the intent of the poem in a fanciful way? Based upon the Long Island weather report, this morning I thought I would see a line of children with umbrellas like the one above but nature had other plans. The sun decided to appear instead of the predicted rain. At least, I have this haiku to remind me that weather can be damp and wet but sparkly, too. 

I hope you are intrigued by the sneak peek of H Is For Haiku. There are 26 haiku in this charming alphabet book for little ones and adults. Now let's turn our attention to Amy Losak and her journey to fulfill her mother's wish.

Interview with Amy Losak

1. Amy, how did you begin the process of showcasing your mother's work?
The process was slow and halting. It took me such a long time to mobilize, for various reasons having to do with my own innate tendency to procrastinate, my fear and lack of self-confidence, and my continuing and paralyzing grief over my mother's sudden death in 1996. Thanks to the support of many understanding people, I finally began to make some small but eventually steady strides in reviewing and organizing some of her copious work. This was around 2011,

At one point, I had a kind of Eureka moment: I remembered that, a long time ago, mom had one idea in mind for illustrating her manuscript, if it ever became a book: children. I came up with my own, related idea to contact nonprofit children’s art education organizations and offer mom’s “word-picture” haiku as teaching tools. I also contacted various other organizations serving kids: nature and literacy groups, child life specialists, etc., with my ideas to integrate the beauty of haiku into their educational, creative, or therapeutic programs.

At last, I connected with an outstanding New York organization, Arts For All (arts-for-all.org), and they “got” my vision. We’ve had a successful partnership for several years now. I fund the teaching residencies. AFA teachers have used a number of mom’s haiku in two city schools (one in the Bronx, one in Queens) to help teach the basics of drawing, painting, and collage; music; and theater, to mostly second-grade students (and other grades, as well). I’ve had an opportunity to visit the two schools several times to discuss mom’s haiku and share some of her story (it’s important that they connect the words to a real person: the writer). The teaching artists are so talented and dedicated, under the amazing leadership of Executive Director, Anna Roberts-Ostroff.

Other rewarding endeavors I have engaged in:
-Programs with the Children’s Museum of the Arts (Manhattan), the Queens Botanical Garden (Queens, NY), and the Teaneck Creek Conservancy (Teaneck, NJ).
-Free event at the Poets House in Manhattan. 
-Upcoming workshop on April 25 for Poem In Your Pocket Day-https://poetshouse.org/event/poem-in-your-pocket-day-2/

2. What do think of the way the illustrator visualized your mother's haiku?
Sawsan Chalabi’s art is wonderful–full of vim and joy and I love the clever lettering. The poems are an integral part of the illustration. Schalabi.com

3. What are your next steps for promoting the concept of small moments?
I hope to continue interacting with young people in various settings on the potential for haiku to elicit and capture an appreciation for the “small moments” that surround our daily lives. I also hope to publish another haiku picture book, perhaps one that combines my work with my mom’s. It’s in the works!

4. What would you like to add to our discussion, Amy? 
I view myself as an eternal beginner. I started writing haiku late and I have a lot to learn. This is fine! For me, it's more about the process than the results. Writing haiku has opened my eyes and all my senses to the myriad small moments that can be treasures, if we only take the time to perceive them. I enjoy writing haiku, even though it’s anything but easy. Of course, this process helps me stay connected to my mom. Poets study and practice this form seriously for years. It's a dedicated community that is global. I feel fortunate to be part of it, thanks to social media.

5. Let's list the accolades for your mother's book, Amy.
-Chosen by National Council of Teachers of English as a 2019 Notable Poetry Book
-Nominated for the 2018 Cybils Award in Poetry 
-Included in SCBWI's 2018 Official Reading List
-Selected by Amelia Island Book Festival in Florida for its Authors in Schools program
-Received 35 ratings and 20 reviews on Goodreads.com
-300 third grade students at Yulee Elementary School attended Amy Losak's presentation and        received copies of H Is For Haiku

As Amy says, "Some of Syd's short poems (a few were published decades ago) have a city sensibility. But they also have a universal, timeless appeal. Haiku are brief: they impel young readers to slow down and linger over something they may ordinarily overlook, and perhaps find bits of magic there."

I would like to thank Amy Losak for continuing conversations with me so the magic of her mother's delightful haiku could be showcased during National Haiku Writing Month.

I close with my version of a weather report for Long Island

and what I imagine Virginia weather would be like.

These digital inspirations were humbly designed using Rosenberg's delightful haiku and Chalabi's imaginative illustrations as mentor texts.

This week, Poetry Friday is hosted by the talented poet, experienced haiku writer, and creative entrepreneur, Robyn Black at her blog site, Life on the Deckled EdgePlease circle back during April for National Poetry Month when all the Poetry Friday poets will be celebrating.

Save the Dates:
4/17/19 - International Haiku Poetry Day
4/26/19 - Poem In Your Pocket Day

*Interested readers can purchase a copy of H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books) at your favorite local or online booksource.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Quiet Reflection

As seasons pass from one to another, my writing life grows in its daily practice of observing ordinary, life-living moments. Why I ask do I seek to weave golden threads of thought into delicately-formed patterns? Is it to adorn even the grayest of days or find peace in the simplest of acts?

And so I write
in the stillness of quiet corners,
in the midst of sublime joy 
and chaotic discord.
I journey onward,
a traveler and observer
seeking inspiration,
finding quiet spaces where
wonder spreads its wings,
like a butterfly fluttering in the wind. 
Nurtured by curiosity, 
I reflect upon nature's patience
and persistence in its
seasonal interplay with life.
I pause to dream, ponder, and imagine
words taking root to find their purpose
in a hurried world that forgets
beauty exists in both
the ordinary and the sublime.
©CVarsalona, 2019

As I eagerly mull over the prospect of engaging in a month of writing for the 12th Annual March Slice of Life Story Challenge, I feel each new day of writing deepens my practice and allows me to explore my writing life from different perspectives. Join me as I try out new moves, revisit past techniques, and capture other's thoughts to broaden mine. 

Thank goes out to Leigh Anne Eck for calling together a community of writers to make writing plans for 2019 under the hashtag #letwwrite2019. Today, I wanted to start the journey with a quiet reflection written when the only sounds I hear are the murmurings of the house.

Thanks is also offered to Two Writing Teachers its weekly Slice of Life Tuesday.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Within Winter's Reach

This year, Lady Winter shared her sense of beauty with the world as she created multiple headlines. She walked the season's runway dressed in various apparels, ranging from frosted snow dustings, gray skies, dampened rains, and patterned ice, providing me with inspiration to create my own digital designs and digipoetry.

Golden Shovel Poem

I started with the strike line, The dust of snow, from Robert Frost's poem, Dust of Snow at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/dust-snow.

Lady Winter tiptoed into the
dawn spreading frosted dust,
Pausing for wide eyes of
wonder to marvel at her artsnow.
©CV, 2019
©CV, 2019
Line Lifting 
"One must have a mind of winter" and "For the listener who listens in the snow" from Wallace Stevens' poem, The Snow Man.

One must have a mind of winter
to breath in nature's frosty breath,
whisper into the chilled wind,
and be awed by the magic of the dance
in early morning light.
For the listener who listens in the snow,
winter peace is within reach.
©CV, 2019


Tonight Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Cybils Award Party at her blog site, Check It Out. I am excited to see some author friends' names mentioned as finalists. Time to join Jone. You can access the list of Cybils winners here.



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Rainy Day Magic

I learned these past few days that rainy days though dreary, in reality, can be magical when you are with your grandbaby. 

Grandmother love is unique.
It wipes away raindrops;
Warms a chilly day.
Leads me to bookstops
And filters sky's gray.
©CV, 2019

Listen to a piece of rainy day music here.

On this rainy winter day, I am at peace as my grandbaby lays asleep in the next room. Tomorrow I travel back to Long Island but tonight, I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Winter Bee Surprise

It was an ordinary winter day. I walked into the kitchen to do ordinary tasks when I saw something from the corner of my eye. I could hardly believe it. Walking on the rim of my large pot was a yellow bee. Quietly, I gasped. I watched in wonder and then, quickly went into fear mode. It sounds odd but it was just seven months ago when I got a big surprise. I encountered a hive of yellow jackets in my backyard-Ouch

Fast forward to this week of professional development and I decided to feature my story to stir wonder in others. Why was a bee in my kitchen? I turned to Wonderopolis' Wonder of the Day #51

Then, I found Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, chose a strike line, and retold my story throguh a golden shovel poem.

Bees Were Better by Naomi Shihab Nye

In college, people were always breaking up.
We broke up in parking lots,
beside fountains.
Two people broke up
across a table from me
at the library.
I could not sit at that table again
though I did not know them.
I studied bees, who were able
to convey messages through dancing
and could find their ways
home to their hives
even if someone put up a blockade of sheets
and boards and wire.
Bees had radar in their wings and brains
that humans could barely understand.
I wrote a paper proclaiming
their brilliance and superiority
and revised it at a small café
featuring wooden hive-shaped honey-dippers
in silver honeypots
at every table.
Poem copyright ©2008 by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Bees Were Better,” from If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems, Ed., James P. Lenfestey, (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Naomi Shihab Nye and the publisher.

From Strike Line:
"I studied bees, who were able
to convey messages through dancing"

To: Golden Shovel

It happened quickly, as I
Was washing dishes. I studied
Him wondering where other bees
Were hidden, those who
Knew how to attack, were
Destined to persist, and able
Enough to target me as food to
Sup on. I slowly approached to convey
My thoughts on his presence. Messages
Were sent out through
Multiple swipings as he continued dancing.
©CVarsalona, 2019


Each Friday, I  join my poetry friends for Poetry Friday. Today, children's poet Laura Purdie Salas is the Poetry Friday Roundup host at her blog site, Writing the World for Kids

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Home is Where the Heart is!

"By wisdom, a house is built, and through understanding, it is established. Through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." 
-Proverbs 24:3-

For the past month, I have been trying to declutter my house based on the wisdom of  Marie Kondo, Japanese organizing consultant. I have started to look through shelves, closets, and attic to determine the worth of saved items. While doing so I linger in the memory attached to each object and then, make a decision on whether the piece still brings joy. If not, I place the item in a donation box or in the throwaway bin, letting go of any sense of loss I may have.

For several days, I have been reflecting on this month's Spiritual Journey 1st Thursday topic, "Home is where the heart is," offered by host Donna Smith. I was struck by another scripture reading, "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." - Matthew 7:25
How many times have I turned to faith, believing that the family foundation would withstand challenges? How many times have I relied on the bonding of hearts to bring joy back into the home again? 
Understanding that it is not the structure of a house that brings hearts together leads to the concept of home. My home has been adorned with a tapestry of invisible love that filters the drama of the outside world and withstands the turmoil of inner struggles. It is my home not the house that becomes a sacred place of refuge and warmth, bringing hearts together and strengthening bonds. Do you feel the same way?


Home is where your heart is!
is home where your heart is?
©CV, 2019


Listen to Elvis sing his tender song, Home Is Where The Heart Is.


I now join this month's Spiritual Journey 1st Thursday's discussion with Donna Smith at Mainely Write.

The above poem is my attempt to write a "skinny", a poem of eleven lines in the following format: The 1st and 11th lines can be any length. The 11th and last line must be repeated using the same words from the 1st line and opening line, however, they can be rearranged. The 2nd, 6th, and 10th lines must be identical. All the lines in this form, except for the 1st and last lines, must be comprised of only one word.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Winter Through a Lens

It happened suddenly. A forceful wind kicked up as the sky darkened. People scrambled, rushing to find warmth indoors while hair blew in several directions, blocking my vision, as I crossed the street. It was a relief to leave the parking lot where winter was leaving its calling card once again.

Within minutes, the blustery winds brought in a quick, upstart snowstorm. People inside the funeral parlor where I was, quietly whispered to each other, "It's snowing outside." By the time I left, the snow turned to rain but the cold remained. As the week progressed so did the record cold temperatures. Twitter friends from across the states, shared comments, weather maps, and photos of the deep freeze. 

Winter 2019 - ice cold! - Jennifer Sniadecki, Indiana

After a storm that deposited a little more than a dusting, I digitized a photo to give it the effect of a typical post-storm, winter day. To follow the wacky weather systems noted in the newspapers, Long Island is back to fluctuating temperatures. So far, we have not brought out the snow shovels. That is so unusual!

amidst billowy blankets -
fire the furnace
©CV, 2019, Long Island, NY

I am on a quest to capture winter around the globe so join me to create winter digitals, whether you have snow or not!


I am joining Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesday!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Winter Cold

The weather on Long Island has been fluctuating so rapidly that I need to find humor in the current deep freeze. Last night, we went to dinner and the theater on the north shore of Long Island. The short walk from the car felt like we needed face masks to survive. Clearly, winter is making its mark this January and enjoying the way everyone is responding.

During this past month, Long Island had gray days of what I call Rainuary weather. The sun appeared on and off. Temperatures ranged from mild to bitter cold and with that the sinus pressure in my head built up. As with the past Januarys, a sinus infection may be in store for me so it is time to make light of the extremely cold weather. I was watching the Kelly and Ryan Show yesterday that featured a Minnesota weatherman depicting what a -24 degree day is like. I think you will find humor in this reporting from St. Paul. Reflecting on the comedic reporting, I need to stop thinking that our record chill of the teens is so terrible.

Since the winter weather is what it is, I have turned my thoughts to find beauty in what I see in nature. 

Below is a piece of digital art and a septercet I penned.

I am joining the Poetry Friday Round Up at Tabatha Yeatts' blog, The Opposite of Indifference, as I am eager to read what my colleagues are offering today.