Thursday, February 27, 2020

On a Cold-Smacking Day

Today, I woke to a chilly day. Tiptoeing my way to the bathroom, I felt the cold tiles under my feet, heard my husband asking for the quilt to hug around his shoulders. As I looked out the window, I saw trees dancing and heard the wind howling. It was a cold-smacking day, a descriptive backdrop for a sensory poem at Michelle H. Barnes' Ditty Challenge created by Buffy Silverman, the author of a new children's book, On a Snow-Melting Day.

On a Cold-Smacking Day

Loud morning sounds filter in 
orchestrating a wake-up tune
"Let this sun-shining day begin."
Sounds surround as birds croon.
Winter dances its syncopating step,
digging a fast tree-swaying,
blustery, wind-yowling rep.
Spring interjects on this cold-smacking,
winter-dancing, February morn.
Winter, can I please send you packing?
Answer, a brand-new thought is born!
©CV, 2020

"...only when one comes to listen, only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard." -Sigurd F. Olson

I'm heading to the theater but will leave this post for the Poetry Friday Round-up at our host, Karen Edmisten's blog. Last week, she shared a different approach to creating a black-out poem. You can find that format here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Waiting Is Difficult

An interminable amount of time
slowly moves, clocking passage
like the meandering river before me.
Waiting is difficult-
  sitting, transfixed on time
  watching a roomful of patients
  exiting, wondering, doubting
  When is my turn to end the wait?
Waiting is difficult-
 a name called, a smiling face
 small talk that eases the 
 tension within.
Waiting is insufferable
 but river-watching 
 holds the key to peace.
Wait time-resolved
good news floats through air
bringing smiles-small gifts
and great treasure-
like the river, life moves on.

This post is written for all who find waiting to be difficult even in the presence of faith and hope. I am offering it to Two Writing Teachers for its Slice of Life Tuesday weekly writing event.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Thoughts From the Road

Winter's Gray Day

Breezing along the highway, catching the sights in fast motion, life moves on. A jumble of thoughts maneuver in and out of traffic as cars pass by. Conversation snakes around turns, pauses, and starts again. The motor hums in tune. Mystically, a structure appears in a cloud of mist, rising like thoughts, spiraling to new heights.

As darkness approaches and our destination nears, I reflect on what is and what is to come, a weekend with my little granddaughters, in the endless stream of life in motion. 
I write in the middle of the night when the house is quiet, reminding myself that sunrise will soon start a new day of thought with my little ones.
I am offering these thoughts to Poetry Friday, hosted by Canadian host, Cheriee Weichel at Library Matters.  Cheriee introduces a marvelous Candian poet, Avis Harley, and shares Avis' new poetic format, the intravista.
Special Thanks To:
Thinking back on the week of writing, I am excited to share a new poetic form to me, the Scupham stanza. Thank you to David L. Harrison and Matt Forrest Esenwine for sharing their Scupham poems. Mine is below. I added a digital element with a Buncee template.

Because I am always delighted to notice and wonder about the beauty of the season, I am sharing a stunning photo that was sent to me by a Twitter friend, @Math912Teacher. Her nature photo called me to create a haiku.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Valentine Vignettes

Valentine's Day is a special time of year to spread love because:
"Love is our true destiny. 
We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone -
we find it with another."
-Thomas Merton

As a tribute to the spirit of love, each Valentine's Day, my house is decorated with turn of the 20th century Valentine postcards and heart mementos created by my mother. Breakfast is a ritual so this year I walked into the kitchen with a purpose, to prepare a Valentine's Day family breakfast with love. I immediately headed straight to the refrigerator without looking around the kitchen. Then, I heard my husband say,

 "Are you unobservant?" 
"What? Oh, my! 
Laughter commenced.
I was not paying attention to my surroundings. 
Determined to create breakfast,
I walked right past a lovely sight. 

While my husband does not write poetry, he certainly knows how to pick out just the right card with a beautiful poetic sentiment. A gorgeous bouquet of roses set in a crystal vase accompanied the card. The spirit of love was filling the room and I felt it.  

A valentine surprise-
endearing love greeting,
romanticizing gift,
designed to make hearts lift.
At a special meeting,
two spirits share sweet sighs.
©CV, 2020

The above poem is a Scupham Stanza made of a sextet, 6-lines, with a rhyme scheme pattern of a-b-c-c-b-a. Each line contains the same number of syllables. Poet and children's author, David L. Harrison whose new book, After Dark Poems About Nocturnal Animals, is working on a Scupham poem with three stanzas. 


There was much love being spread on Twitter this Valentine's Day, so I decided to create a Buncee with one of their new templates. This one is for all of my Twitter friends. Let's continue to spread the love together. 


I do not find the meaning of life by myself alone. I find it with family.

Now it's time to spread the love of writing at Two Writing Teachers
for Slice of Life Tuesday and the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge
starting on March 1st.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

"After Dark" Blog Tour & Giveaway

Welcome to the 2nd Stop on the After Dark Blog Tour!
Today, I am delighted to present David L. Harrison's imaginative book to readers
and offer a book giveaway.  

Have you ever thought about what happens in the outside world of animals after dark? Lately, my family has been following the antics of three feral cats in our neighborhood. Reading David L. Harrison's beautifully written children's book, After Dark-Poems About Nocturnal Animals, has given me insight into the world of animals who are awake while humans sleep.  

As you can see by the above book cover, this book offers a delightful look at animals living in the wild. David Harrison masterfully weaves a story about the nocturnal world of animals through a series of poems while illustrator Stephanie Laberis offers vivid images to capture a nighttime awakening. Each page of the book builds on the other to intrigue children, adds to their background knowledge of nocturnal animals, and sparks interest in blending poetry with science.

I thank David, Word Song, and Boyds Mill Press & Kane for offering this type of reading experience for young readers. Within the pages of the book and the back cover, you will find twenty-two descriptive, lyrical poems, two interesting fact pages, and an array of artwork that pops out from a dark-night scene. After Dark is a wonderful book to spark a child's imagination while focusing on information about nighttime animals. 

Giveaway News:
Readers within the United States can enter a drawing to win David L. Harrison's latest book by commenting about the book in the space below. You can also use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin as your platform to share your thoughts. Please add my Twitter handle, cvarsalona or Facebook name, Carol Varsalona, so I can be sure to enter your name in the raffle drawing. As Kathy Temean says in her February 11th blog post  that was the first stop on the #After DarkBlogTour, "Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book." 
The deadline for commenting is February 16th at 8 pm EST.

Quick Peek Inside The Book:
Curious children may wonder what happens at nighttime after they are tucked in bed. Nocturnal animals awaken. In After Dark, poet David L. Harrison and Illustrator Stephanie Laberis bring the world of selected nocturnal animals to life. We see animals being mischievous, playful, or on the prowl for food within twenty-two descriptive, lyrical poems. In addition, there are two interesting fact pages to broaden children's knowledge base of nocturnal animals. Laberis' artwork pops out from darkened night scenes, introducing readers to the amazing world of nocturnal animals.  

On the back cover, David Harrison features a raccoon whom he calls an escape artist. In a whimsical way, the raccoon is shown pilfering food and hiding. I can relate to Harrison's description of the raccoon. This nighttime creature has been spotted in my neighborhood for years. Each time a crafty rascal is spotted, he quickly returns to his home in the sewer system with his food loot. Before he reaches his destination, he topples over garbage pails leaving a mess for humans.

My Burning Questions for Author/Poet David L. Harrison:
Because I am curious about the why behind writing a children's book via the lens of poetry, I asked David L. Harrison, "How did you conjure up such an inventive collection of poems about what happens in the quiet of night?
The tone of a book needs to be set with the first words and maintained consistently throughout. And after I finish my work the artist must find that same groove and stay in it. My mood here, what I was feeling and wanting to convey to young readers, is that after dark is a busy time for wildlife. Creatures of the night open their eyes, sniff the air, and venture forth from nests, dens, and tunnels to begin their evening’s activities. The same is true of many kinds of insects, spiders, and scorpions. No matter where we live our nights are populated by a bustling community of creatures, many of them seldom observed by humans, especially young humans with early bedtimes. 
My approach was to show my respect for the individual creatures I chose to include and to fit my words to their own particular lifestyle. For the wolf I focused on a cub. You wild thing./You bouncy pup,/roughhousing/with your siblings. The cougar Pads on soft,/silent feet./Leaves few clues/to where he’s been. The screech owl, who doesn’t bother to build a nest, advises, Don’t waste effort/with twigs and thatch./They’re only eggs./They’re going to hatch. The slug poem needed to sound like a slug with its slow, sticky gait.  Along a path of slime/you softly flow. The firefly blinks around the yard looking for love.  Firefly flashes/polka dot the lawn./Blinker off…/Blinker on.

While dabbling in different poetic formats myself, I inquired, "Are all the poems in your book based on a specific format?"
Poetry ranges from doggerel to sublime. At its worst it should be shot on sight. At its best it protects our language and reminds writer and reader that every word has meaning and only the right one will do for the purpose at hand. Now and then when I finish a poem that works I sit back and brag on myself. I nod and smile and say, “That’s really good, Harrison. Way to go!” Most of the time that doesn’t happen. And some of the time I throw out the work and start again. In the end I wind up with a collection of offerings for my reader that include numerous poetic devices put there to make his or her experience more enjoyable and meaningful. I like interior rhyme, near rhyme, free verse, traditional formats -- couplets, triplets, ballads -- but sometimes I find myself in unknown (to me) territory when I’m looking for a unique way to express what I want to say. At such times I’m not sure if I’ve just invented a new form or stumbled across an existing one unknown to me. Either way, if it works, I go with it. 
In a Hurry is an example of a poem that will engage children with its rhyming format
and a title that is appropriately visualized through Laberis' illustration.

I encourage my 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter who loves books to talk about a book after a read aloud, so I asked David, "What would you like my little reader to take away from your fanciful collection of animal poems?  
Your granddaughter is going to love the pictures. Stephanie (Steph) Laberis is a gifted artist who also develops characters for animation. I hope your little one will follow the general gist of the poems though a fuller understanding may have to wait until she’s a bit older. Each time she hears the words, a little more of their meaning will be clearer. The wolf cub might grow up to be a leader. The raccoon looks adorable, but she is a sly old thief. We have much to learn from our fellow creatures so the younger we start thinking about them the better.
About the Author:
David L. Harrison, prolific poet and children's book author, stated in the Reader - The Journal of the Arkansas Reading Association, "Authors think: reader, reader, reader. How can I entice my reader to giggle? Think? Feel? Turn the page." The book, After Dark, Poems About Nocturnal Animals does this. Any child who loves to read will eagerly want to turn each page.

I look forward to sharing David L. Harrison's book, After Dark, with my granddaughter. I will travel to Virginia next week with the book in hand. After a read aloud of After Dark, Sierra will most likely point to each illustration and retell the story about the nocturnal animals she sees. Reading with a grandchild is special. 

Thank you for joining me for a sneak preview of David L. Harrison's After Dark. This book will provide children with the opportunity to engage in the act of reading while building a wealth of information and language.

Please follow the #AfterDarkBookTour. Many of the blog tour spots provide an opportunity to win a copy of After Dark like I am offering tonight. You have until Sunday, February 16 at 8 pm EST to enter the giveaway.  Be sure to include my handle or name when responding on social media so that you will be included in the raffle for a copy of the book.
Keep reading, #BooksMatter!

It's almost time for the Poetry Friday Roundup at Teacher Dance. Thank you to a wonderful writing colleague and poet, Linda Baie, for hosting. Enjoy all the poetic goodness awaiting you at Linda's blog site!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Coddiwompling Through Life

Ever since I read fellow slicer, Molly Hogan's blog I have been intrigued with a new word, coddiwomple. What does it mean?, I wondered.  The word has a lilt to it, making me think of our family's winter walk in Reston, Virginia.


Under a winter sky,
she meanders down the trail,
stopping to notice the sun's brilliance 
casting shadows along the path.
Pausing, she wonders, peeking into fallen logs.
"Where are the animals?" Then, moves on
following the sounds of the woods.
A wayfarer of life marks her steps
finding solace in the winter woods
as she coddiwomples along.
©CV, 2020

(coddiwomple- a slang word to move or travel for a purpose but without any fixed destination) 

Oh, to be a child again, finding delight in simple walks, intrigued by nature and the beauty of the woods on a winter day! Watching my 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter walk along the path made for a joyful family outing. While most of us did not know the trail, we traveled to soak in the warmth of the sun, delighting in the weather and the sights. It was time to inhale the fresh air, purposefully walking and talking as a family and being surprised by a small stream that we needed to cross. "Balancing on the rocks-could we do this, my husband and I wondered?" If my granddaughter could cross the stream without fear, we could. I was the first to cross over successfully but managed to get my sneaker wet by stepping in the water on top of the rock. With a positive outlook, I realized that I conquered a small fear, and kept my balance without falling into the stream. When my husband and son finally made it to the other side of the stream, we kept moving on, feeling proud of our accomplishment.

How often do we walk through life fearful of tasks or situations? Can we accept life with its challenges and victories? We can choose to move on with a positive attitude, purposefully coddiwompling on our journey. Understanding that our destination is not a fixed one, helps us realize that life is fragile and uncertain with many turns, detours, and crossings to encounter.  In our personal and professional lives, we journey onward realizing that it takes courage, stamina, and faith to walk the walk. On a winter day, I found contentment in a simple family walk.

It's Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers.
Join me there to read a variety of posts and check out the 2020 March Slice of Life Challenge.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Misty Thoughts Revisited

Last Saturday I traveled to visit my sweet granddaughters. A thick grayness followed me throughout the trip. Upon returning to Long Island, I was surprised by the same gray tones hovering over the Verrazano Bridge. 

A drizzling rain left dampness in the air. As our car approached the bridge, an intense desire to capture the sight of the harbor shrouded in mist came upon me. I decided to explain the sighting through a definito poem introduced by my poet friend, Heidi Mordhorst. Heidi explains her definito as a "free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights word play as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem". 

The photo below set the stage for my mind to wander in thought. I modified the word play fun to reach an older group of students. I also added my definito word in a phrase at the end of the poem. 

A misty chill of winter hovers
over an indistinct shoreline.
Nature wraps itself around 
a February morning,
sharing only a fraction of light
within a hazy, hanging fog.
A groggy world passes by,
blurred by discontent as
a single ship glows like a beacon
in the brumous haze.
©CV, 2020

Today is when the Poetry Friday writing community gathers for its roundup. The fabulous poet/author and friend, Laurie Purdie Salas, is this week's host. Join me at her site to read about her new venture. 

*I hosted Spiritual Journey Thursday yesterday. A few of my Poetry Friday friends joined me in writing about seasonal bliss. You can access the post here. If you would like to share your thoughts, please follow the link up. The site is open all weekend.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Seasonal Bliss-SJT

This year, I am on a journey to discover a balanced life. There are many facets to my journey. Being rooted in faith is a fundamental element. Spiritual rooting is essential but I also need physical rooting. In the yoga studio, I work diligently to root each foot into the earth before readying myself for balance poses. Finding a healthy balance in life is my quest for this year. 

One consistent step to finding balance, my 2020 one word, is to observe nature's symmetry. Stepping outside to see the beauty of a winter day can be enough but a walk at the beach is exhilarating.

Inspiring scripture verses also guide my journey. Ecclesiastes 3:1 connects faith, balance, and nature, "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven." In 1966, Judy Collins beautifully shared the scripture verse with Pete Seeger's song. This gentle tune brings reflective time to ponder my thoughts on seasonal bliss and the importance of balance.

The song also leads to play with language and write about nature that lifts my thoughts as I coddywomple through life.

The unique word coddywomple was introduced to me by my poety writing colleague and photographer, Molly HoganI found it as a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. The definition of coddiwomple is to travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination. The word inspired me to create the above digital inspiration with another writing buddy's (Ramona Behnke) one word light that is an uplifting word by itself.

Travel in a purposeful manner.
Treading lightly on the paths you cross.
On your way seek and enjoy
each one of nature's beautiful seasonal delights. 

As host of Spiritual Journey Thursday, I invite you to add your thoughts on seasonal bliss below. Do you sense it? Where do you find nature's bliss? Why is it important? Enjoy your reflection time and continue to find the beauty of the seasons. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Misty Morning Thoughts

The day was shrouded in gray tones. As we crossed the Verrazano Bridge, I felt as though I walked into a heavier mist of gray. Everything but the steel on the bridge was obscured so I tried to capture the grayness of the day in a photograph. I wondered about life and felt a strong urge to write. Since I could not get to my notebook fast enough, I scribbled on the back of an envelope, transformed my thoughts into a haiku, and composed this image poem. 

Sometimes it is hard to see in life. If the fog rolls in we can't see anything. Most people get caught up in life that they forget the purpose of life is to be happy.  -Frederick Lenz
The gray sky did not dampen my thoughts at all for I was on my way to see my little granddaughters. It is true happiness to be near them. I am sure that this same sense of happiness and joy I feel are also felt by other grandparents.

It's Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers. I join the community of slicers each week to share a small moment.