Tuesday, July 30, 2019

To Write is To Be

The art of writing is a lifelong practice of noticing, wondering and believing in the power of voice. It is a delicate balancing of ideas coming from a myriad of responses to life. After reading poet and children's book author, Kat Apel's post from the CYA Conference in Brisbane, Australia, I started thinking about the quote she shared.

"To write is to be. We are a tapestry of everything we've ever written."
-Isobel Carmondy


Writing is in the make-up of my being.
It is a thread that keeps
spinninglengthening, and
filling spaces of my mind. 

It is my equation: 
a little bit of this plus a little bit of that- 
my recipe for a unique
taste of life.

I am the tapestry

of everything I have ever written.
Word weaving is my process
to see and understand this world.
©CVarsalona, 2019

There is wonder in this world. With a positive outlook, we can find it showcased in nature and everyday happenings. I believe that my yoga practice has taught me to be more aware of what I see and to unveil that in my writing and digital artwork. My practice has gone through remixes and new designs in the creative pursuit of being mindful and aware. Within the productive struggle, I often find ideas brewing, rising, and becoming entities of thoughtful wondering.

To write is to be but to engage in the act is about becoming. 

-a piece of #digitalart I created for my #EmbraceableSummer Gallery collection-

On Slice of Life Tuesday, I write to join the Two Writing Teachers community
to be inspired by other writers.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Paddleboard Power

This week, a human interest story on paddle patrols was highlighted in Newsday, Long Island's newspaper. It caught my eye as a unique effort to keep the beautiful Long Island waters pristine for residents and future Long Islanders.

rise and shine boarders
once the sun is up explore
local waterways

mission to clean up
canals, creeks, local waters
weather permitting

paddleboard power
help collect garbage, debris-
rid the floating trash

Long Island reward
feels good to do something good
for environment
©Carol Varsalona, 2019

Long Island paddleboarders help collect garbage.
-Newsday, Paddle power by Nicole Allegrezza Fuentes, July 26, 2019
I am sliding into Michelle H. Barnes' July Wrap-up Celebration at Today's Little Ditty with my found haiku poem series inspired by the article listed above.  At the beginning of the month in the Reader Spotlight of Today's Little Ditty, my friend from Virginia, Linda Mitchell, asked that we create a found haiku. 

Find an interesting article on a topic that fascinates you. As you read the article highlight phrases with the right syllable counts for traditional haiku (5-7-5). It’s true that haiku is not strictly 5-7-5. However, for this exercise, keep to the “rule.” Once you have found several phrases, place them into the form of a haiku. I’ve shared several of these on my blog, A Word Edgewise. (See examples herehere, and here.)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Summer Swap Surprise

As an aficionado of antiquing and turn-of-the-20th-century traditions, I enjoy corresponding with friends from far away as people often did in the early 1900s.  While I do not engage in this ritual as often in the past because of the digital age, I find it to be an important one.  

When Tabatha Yeatts started the Summer Poetry Swap, I became a fan.  Swapping poetry with faraway friends deepens my relationships and brings joy.  I was delighted with the news of my swapees when Tabatha notified me.  My first poetry swap was for Donna Smith, my bold, Maine to Pennsylvania motorcyclist friend.  One piece of the visual journal that I created for her is below.

Next, I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of the Summer Poetry Swap. I was  surprised when Ruth Herseya friend residing in Haiti, notified me to be on the lookout for something in the mail. I shared Ruth's bountiful garden of blossoms and poem at last week's Poetry Friday post.

At the end of last week, I was surprised again.  I not only created a swap for Linda Baie in Denver, but I received a package from her.  Linda called us swapees and that term has stuck with me.  Below is the collection of poetic offerings that LInda gathered together for a remarkable swap. 

I am sure that you will agree that this is a beautiful collection of keepsakes!  Upon opening the package, I found a gorgeously-designed photo haiku card from Robyn Hood Black's Etsy collection with a personal note that made me smile.  There was an adorable pocket for the handcrafted card and the original poem Linda created.  This pocket will be my traveling companion during professional development workshops when I share the power of poetry with teachers. 

Linda's Opposing View poem that she wrote is one to ponder. Just the other night, while at an oudoor concert, I was wishing that summer nights would continue to linger longer.  Do you see the little umbrella that accompanied the card?  It is a reminder of the bright, scattered umbrellas that line the shores of Long Island beaches each summer. 

The journal Linda sent has delicate faded flowered pages to write upon. I am not sure that she knew I always have loved pressed flowers.  When I first looked at the beautiful journal, I thought that since I am such a messy writer with scraps and snippets of thoughts and crossed-out words all over I would not want to destroy the treasured gift.  Then, I thought I could make the journal my special Sierra notebook for all the poems I write for my granddaughter.  "In every moment there clings the sweetness of a faded flower."  What an endearing thought to remind me of nature in all its stages of seasonal delight. 

Also included in the package was a poetry book, When We Were Very, Very Young by A.A. Milne, that will become my Grandma read aloud.  As I browsed through the pages, I found a poem, "Sand-Between-the-Toes,"  that reminds me of summers on Long Island.  Tonight, as we traveled to a new beach on the north shore of Long Island before the theater, my family and I found a coarser type of sand that filled my sandals with a gritty mix. I laughed as I tried to discard the sand that lodged between my toes.  

What Linda Baie offered in her swap will entertain me throughout the summer and into the year.  Summer has a special spot in my heart as Linda knows.  Her swap was handpicked and handcrafted to make my summer days brighter.  

Linda plans on sharing what I sent her in a future Poetry Friday post. 

I have one more swap to engage in and I have been already been collecting ideas.  Stay tuned for that reveal.  In the meantime, if you have poetic offerings for my #EmbraceableSummer Gallery collection, please send them my way to share all the ways to embrace the summer season. 

 🏖  🏖 🏖
The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by my friend Margaret Simon at her blogsite, Reflections on the Teche.   While cleaning out her parents' home and helping them transition to a retirement home, she found some items that sparked the creation of a poem that has depth, meaning, and a beautiful image in its closing line. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


#Hashtags pop up all the time on Twitter but Monday's trending hashtag, #IFeelTheHappiestWhen,  made me smile.  In the summertime, living is easy; it's the time to catch happiness vibes in nature's playground. Come along with me to take a peek at a Long Island summer day.   Find out what makes me happy.

This weekend was one of those times to explore the art of relaxation, despite the heatwave that swept over Long Island.  Sweltering heat, temperatures climbing past 100 degrees, and blazing sunshine created a combination that called for constant hydration, air conditioning, and finding balance.  A walk along the shore filled with sounds of the ocean, gulls swooning, and cool waves splashing is usually appealing but getting to the shore means crossing the sizzling sand. This plan was not an option on such a hot day so I needed to come up with another idea to find the sweet summer life at the Long Island shore.

Plan B evolved. A short jaunt to the beach late in the day when the wall of heat was bearable became a plausible alternative.  My husband, son, and I drove to the beach mass at Malibu Beach.  To our surprise traffic was light and the local priest laughingly announced that he would skip the homily until September.  That was a good plan considering the heat quotient. 

Once mass was over, we were on the quest was to find a restaurant by the water with a slight breeze.  We were pleased to find an open table at one of our favorite restaurants, Pop's.  All we needed to do was wait for a half-hour to be seated.

This was a delightful option since the tropical-like outdoor area with a sandy beach overlooking a quiet canal was not crowded. As we sat in the Adirondack chairs watching the boats pass by I realized that our summer afternoon outing would become a memorable event.

Animated digital postcard created at Buncee 

#IFeelHappiestWhen I commune with nature and family
while enjoying the beauty of sweet summer life.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers. I am looking forward to seeing how how my writing colleagues will respond to the prompt, #IFeelTheHappiestWhen...

Friday, July 19, 2019

Being in the Creativity Zone

Being in the creativity zone is such a wonder-filled experience!  Sparks fly; mind races; thoughts pass by in streams of bright-colored digital inspirations.  When I start creating, I am lost in time, transfixed until I suddenly look up. "Oops! I am almost late for ..."  

The zone is in a wonder space, a creativity playground. It is not a fancy place. Unlike a child's playground, any spot will do that has a place to write, create, and revise. Digital tools, a computer, and iPhone are necessities in my wonder space. In addition, fancy paper, colored pens, and a glue gun are tucked into my literacy toolbox for any spontaneous DIY projects. I shared my wonder space with grad student teachers last week at my ELA Summer Institute. With a bit of passionate prompting, they entered the zone to create their digital designs and digipoetry. You can see what they created while in the zone here.

Giving and receiving is part of the creative process. Beside designing summer poetry swaps for Donna Smith and Linda Baie, I have been inspired to create digipoetry while observing nature. A couple of days ago my family took a quick jaunt to the beach. Our stay was short for the afternoon heat was rising and we noticed a dramatic difference in the sky. From gloriously bright to cloudy gray, it changed its look and sent us off trudging through the sand back to the car.

For the Embraceable Summer Gallery collection

Being in the zone, means that there are other poet colleagues there as well, creating in their wonder spaces.  A couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised by an email from Ruth Hersey.  A postcard arrived but it was not from Haiti.  Ruth was visiting family in Kentucky where she was visiting family and decided to create a summer poetry swap for me as part of the exchange started by Tabatha Yeatts. On the back of a serene picture postcard, James Archambeault's KENTUCKY, Ruth wrote the following poem. 

Spring to Summer 2019

Where Carol lives,
the seasons how up
one after another,
each beautiful in its own way.
She collects snippets of each
to fill a gallery.
Where I live
the seasons don't change much;
each month is hot and sunny
with alternating mud and dust.
I collect snippets of tropical blooms
for my own gallery.
This year I'm visiting my parents,
waiting for summer
in a world more like hers;
each morning is chilly and damp
and you can almost hear the grass growing.
I take pictures of all different flowers
from the ones at home,
snippets to fill a gallery
both Carol and I
could love.
©Ruth Hersey, 2019

Ruth's Garden of Blooms and Poem
will grace my Spring Splendor Gallery collection.

Today, I am joining the Poetry Friday Roundup at Carol Wilcox's blog site, Carol's Corner.  For those who have puppy love, you will love to see 8-week-old Rooney and the poem she wrote about him.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Timeless Words

Last week, I had the privilege of teaching an ELA Summer Institute for graduate students at Molloy CollegeDuring the four days, we engaged in discourse on student-centered learning, created an interactive digital notebook, and filled it with wonderings.  Words became our tool to power up conversations and activate new pathways to learning.

I take the time now to reflect on the power of words, the foundation of conversations, the conduits for our actions. They can be inspirational or destructive. They can lead to bonding with others or entanglements. Words are the superpower of educators. With positivity, they encourage students to collaborate, think critically, and ultimately to create as learners.  

An early morning Twitter conversation among global friends inspired me to reflect upon an important quote from an inspirational leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. 'With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."  In a post that I wrote last year,  I used MLK's words as a call to action question. "Are we ready to hold the stone of hope in our hands, open the doors to positive discourse, unite as a brotherhood of peace, and never lose infinite hope?"  I revisit this question again considering the timely events in history. 

As educators, are we ready to have courageous conversations? My class discussed this topic last week as their call to action. It is my thinking that words should be used to promote inspired thinking and create plans that encourage students to collaborate as a harmonious group of learners. We must listen intently to others and be mindful of the words we use to express our thoughts. Let's model this.

Are you ready to use words as your positive superpower?

Thank you Steve Kelley, for starting the conversation with a tweet this morning.

It's Slice of Life Tuesday, so I am joining the Two Writing Teachers' community of writers to exchange words that encourage positive conversations.

Friday, July 12, 2019

In the Creativity Playground

For four days this week, I soaked in academia life in a wonder space that I created for five passionate teacher/grad students at Molloy College's ELA Summer Institute. While people around us were basking in the warmth of summer days, we were heating up our conversations and igniting sparks in our wonder space. 

As a tight-knit community of practitioners, we noticed, wondered, explored, and discovered new pathways to develop lifelong readers and writers who wonder and create, 21st-century style. Sparks flew and relationships grew each day. A community of connected educators formed as we engaged in critical thinking, creating, collaborating, and communicating. From collective commitment, perseverance and a good amount of grit and risktaking, authentic, standards-based learning experiences developed in our creativity playground. The teachers moved beyond their comfort zone many times to don the role of curriculum designers, ready to start September off with the motto #StartStrong. 


Below is a compilation of image poems created on the Bunnee platform by the secondary teachers who studied with me from five different districts on Long Island and in Brooklyn: Cindy Chambers, Christine Gallehugh, Jeanne Glynn, Melanie Picchioni, and Sari Schulman.

Click on the Show Pages button to see the work. You can go to 
https://app.edu.buncee.com/buncee/029132ef0e6743028d1ccdcf48b344e5 to see the larger version.

This is one sample of the work that was created at the ELA Summer Institute. From a vulnerable stance, each teacher designed her image poem and subsequently presented her work. An additional surprise followed this activity when Christine replicated the mini-lesson with her five-year-old daughter, Lucy. With her mother's help, Lucy dictated a poem and chose an appropriate image. Lucy's poem will also appear on Twitter under the hashtag, #SpringSplendorGallery. In the future, I will design that global gallery of artistic expressions and send it out globally. 

Now, I'm off to be immersed in more poetic goodness at the Poetry Friday Roundup at the blogsite of this week's gracious host, poet/photographer educator, Jone Rush MacCulloch. Jone is sharing a poetry fortune cookie swap sent to her from Tabatha Yeatts, the creator of the Summer Poetry Swap.  

*It will be appreciated if you leave a  comment for the teachers and Lucy so they can add it to their glow and grow statements. They are newbies to the connected colleague world.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Summer Joy

It's that joyful time of year when life on Long Island seems to be full of a carefree,  relaxed sand-in-toes type of spirit. School is out. Laughter is in the air. Summer hues brighten the landscape, and seashore breezes refresh the mind, body, and spirit. It is a joyful time of year to explore, play in the sun, relax, and recharge. 

I pause momentarily before the day starts to reflect on my writing life, realizing how nature influences my thoughts and sparks ideas.

This is my 2nd attempt at writing a cherita
my tale of the opening of the summer by the sea concert series.
My 1st cherita is also about beach life and can be found here.

While so many ideas float through my mind, I find peace through noticing nature and writing about beachlife here on Long Island. May your summer days be filled with joy as you embrace summer.

You are invited to share your summer life moments with me at the hashtag #EmbraceableSummer on Twitter, at my gmail, Instagram, or FaceBook accounts for a future gallery of artistic expressions.

Take a stroll with me to the Poetry Friday Roundup at Tricia Stohr-Hunt's blogsite, The Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia is blending a letter written by her grandmother during war times with the prompt, heat, as her guide. It is quite interesting so you may want to stroll over to her site with me. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Summer Beach Tale

As a matter of habit these days, when the sun appears everyone runs outside and so it was last weekend. My husband and I took a short car ride to the beach in the late afternoon after the dark clouds turned bright. As we approached the beach parking lot, a small group of piper plovers was sunbathing in spillage of water from the pond nearby. While they splished and splashed, I moved closer with my iPhone ready to take a photo when my husband called out to me to stand back. 
"Stand back, these endangered birds are very protective of their young. They will attack you if you closer to their territory."
I gingerly moved away but all to my surprise the entire group flew instantly into the sky and started hovering closer to the ground. 

Realizing that I was close to being bombarded, I called to my husband to wait for me. Feeling like I was on the set of the Birds trying to dodge attacks, we headed for the beach pathway and a peaceful walk to shore. As we passed the piper plover protected habitat, we saw hundreds of birds sunbathing and parading around their nesting ground. One photographer was off to the edge of the habitat quietly waiting for a chance to photograph these small, endangered shorebirds. 

As we watched the plovers, suddenly with remarkable speed and sound, they gracefully flew in a beautiful grouping from sand to sky. They swooned and called out to one another as we slowly walked across the beach. Then, suddenly one plover decided to swoop down, buzz around my husband, and peck his head. With a jerky movement, he grabbed his head to make sure he had his hair in tack. I was surprised by his frantic swatting of the air and immediately put my hands up to protect myself but by then, the plover ascended up into the sky. 

While my husband did not think this was a malicious act, he realized the plover was protecting his territory. As we moved a little bit further away from the fenced-off protected area, we realized that there is an instinctive need for both birds as well as humans to protect their young.

Greg Gard, 1-day old piping plover chick, Nickerson Beach
skywings take flight 

swooping and swooning
over sand-colored dunes

beachgoers walk peacefully
until head-pecker
©CV, 2019
(The above poem is my first, humble attempt to tell a story using the cherita format.)

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday so I am off to join Two Writing Teachers.