(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
My sixth graders were working on creating new words as part of our Word Origins unit (and they will be donating one of their newly invented words into an ongoing, 18-year project to build an online dictionary of invented words, called The Crazy Collaborative Dictionary Project, which has more than 1,000 words from students.)
I rarely expect complete quiet when doing this kind of work (and with this year’s antsy social crew, even less so) but the noise of students sharing out loud their words and definitions was a bit of a cacophony yesterday, one I didn’t tamp down on because the excitement and energy level for being creative was just so high, I had to let it go on.
One of my more reluctant young writers was over the moon with this word invention activity, and as I walked by, he turned to a neighbor friend and declared: “This is the BEST writing assignment we’ve had the entire year. I just LOVE doing this!”
I had to smile. You never know what is going to capture the interest of students, and his excitement, along with others, was infectious in the classroom. Heads nodded in agreement with him and then more voices began to float over the room in a strange orchestra of absurd words.
I was doing something else on my guitar when I realized I was remixing our song, A Gift of Peace, and then that remix suddenly drew me in with full attention to honor the original but at a slant. In the end, I went in an entirely new direction than where I started, but I like this instrumental version of our song.
It’s that time of year when I share out a song that I co-write with my friend, John. We went into a recording studio and then hired my son, a video editor, when he was still in college to make a video. Whatever your faith or religion, or not, if that’s the case, I hope you find some peace in your lives and in your world this season, and further beyond.
On this, the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I am remembering and listening to The Rising album by Bruce Springsteen, who wrote new tracks in the aftermath that, to me anyway, touched an emotional nerve of how the world had changed, on a small human scale of the stories of loss and survival of his characters in a landscape changed in a single day.
A few years ago, a bass player in my band unexpectedly shared his experience of being in New York City that day of September 11 over a band dinner, and later, he and I continued the discussions, as he shared his writing and poems from those days. I took some of his pieces and crafted a poem as gift back to him and his memories.
And finally, today is also the birthday of my youngest son — born a few years after 2001 but on the same day — and each year, as the world grieves in memories, my wife and I remind him and ourselves, and everyone else we know, that his presence is a gift of beauty and love to the world on a day often shrouded in loss.
My eldest son – who works as a video editor and producer — and his childhood friend — who is in the final editing stages of his first novel — are making a movie.
They, and friends, have been making movies since they were small — all sorts of grand adventures around our neighborhood that still bring smiles to my face from the memories — and now they have written a feature film called “Broken Love” and are raising money to shoot two scenes, in hopes of pitching the film to investors down the line.
From their online pitch:
“Broken Love” tells the story of an escaped convict, Ethan, who returns to his hometown in Upstate New York to recover the $200,000 in dirty money he hid before his capture and to flee to Canada with his fiance, Jenny, and their young daughter. He returns, however, to find that two local thugs are after his money and that Jenny is now in a relationship with his childhood best friend, Todd, who also happens to be the policeman in charge of his recapture. It’s a drama inspired by the real-life escape from Dannemora prison in 2015 and also by emotionally-charged relationship films like Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” as well as the darkly comedic crime thrillers of the Coen Brothers.
You should not feel under any obligation to donate but I feel the obligation (and pride) as the father of one of the filmmakers here to share their Kickstarter page in my network. I love that they are still collaborating after so many years and with different, but still creative, trajectories in their lives.
It’s always good to take a breather from the blog, particularly after a month of Slice of Life. So, for April, I am going to put this blog space on hold and focus on writing my morning poems.
Like last year, I am going to tap into random photographs and other discovered media to inspire some poetry each morning over a cup of coffee. That’s the ‘random access’ part of things, since I am doing no planning until I am ready to discover something and then write it.
I know very little of birds, so reading Helen MacDonald’s Vesper Flights (like her last book, H Is For Hawk) is like entering an unknown forest and paying attention to the world. Her writing is a tour guide, and with this collection of essays, MacDonald continues to spin literary magic — bringing the reader closer to the ground and closer to air, to notice the animals and the landscape in different ways.
Vesper Flights also provides MacDonald a chance to anchor her own personal experiences, from childhood to adulthood, with her curiosities that make her writing so exquisite to read and to absorb, with beautiful prose lines in every piece.
Her overall message, although one that she does not hammer you over the head with, is how climate change and people are changing the environmental landscapes, and that animals are changing, too, either by disappearing or relocating or dying off. She writes with intent, reminding us all of our obligations as fellow passengers in this world of wonder that other living creatures are here, too, sharing this space with us.
The essays in Vesper Flights are a crash course in varieties of birds (more names than I could ever remember) but also in our shared humanity. The stories of the wild always intersect with our own, MacDonald suggests, and we best pay attention to it.