Tiny Art Gallery

Tiny Art Boxes

This was an interesting surprise. I was biking the local rail trail when I spied a box up on a stand, and thought it might be a new Little Free Library. Nope. It was a Tiny Art 4 All display, one of five newly installed small boxes of public artwork located along the trail that will feature local artists, changing the art every few weeks for the year. I stopped at a second box a bit later and will need to go another time to find the other three. I love our small art-centered city.

Peace (and Art),

Remembering Duke (Farewell, Old Friend)

Duke the Dog Collage

We had to put our dog, Duke, down yesterday. He had a good life, living 15 years, a long time for a big dog. Nearly all of that time was with us, after we rescued him from the streets of the Carolinas as a 9 month old pup.

Duke has often been sleeping near me in the mornings, when I write. And walks with him have given me time to think. He was a gentle dog, to people and other animals, and I will miss him dearly.

Our younger dog probably does not yet understand why he is missing or where he is (we are also watching a relative’s dog, so there is another canine presence here, which is helpful).

The house feels a bit empty, for sure. We’ll miss him. Good dog.

Peace (and love and sadness),

On Juneteenth: A Focus On ‘Black Rosies’


Rosie, the riveter as a black woman poster.

D. Elisabeth Glassco shared an entire thread on Mastodon the other day about ‘Black Rosies’ — the nearly forgotten members of the Rosie The Riveter generation of women who helped with war efforts at home during WW2. Efforts in recent years have worked to raise the profile of these woman.

Among these unsung heroes were over half a million “Black Rosies” who toiled in shipyards, factories, offices, and various other sectors to combat both foreign authoritarianism and the entrenched enemy of racism on the home front. Sadly, their immense contributions went largely unacknowledged for decades. — Glassco

But, unfortunately, many of these women worked in conditions and environments that were laced with prejudice and inequality, and for a long time, the iconic image of Rosie The Riveter was a white woman. Remembering the contributions of ‘Black Rosies’ is important as part of expanding the story narrative of our country’s wartimes history and I was intrigued by the insights and resources that Glassco shared (and I thanked her on Mastodon).

Black Rosies not only played a vital role in the war effort but also sought economic empowerment. For many Black American women, becoming a Rosie offered an escape from dead-end domestic and sharecropping jobs, aligning with the ongoing Great Migration. The war provided them with an unprecedented opportunity to earn money and shape a better future. — Glassco

Glassco’s posting caught my attention — not just for Juneteenth — but also because some of the work I have done with the Springfield Armory National Historic Museum and with Write Out (a National Writing Project/National Park Service partnership) has touched on and used the Rosie The Riveter story, with both other educators in Professional Development and with middle school students in summer programs that we have run at the Armory itself.

There is a Rosie The Riveter WW2 Home Front National Park in California. In particular, the life and story of Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin has received a lot of attention, as it should.

I don’t particularly remember ever coming across this many resources (see list below) related to Black women who were also considered ‘Rosies’, but I wish we had had more in our Armory programming, particularly when working on historical inquiry with young people. Seeing themselves in the primary historical documents of the Springfield Armory has always been one of our program goals. We work hard to diversify the resources, to expand the stories, to make sure place and culture are central to the inquiries.

So, here’s further appreciation to D. Elisabeth Glassco for giving us more resources and ideas to think about for any future programming and for teaching me something on Juneteenth.

Peace (Making Progress),

PS — here is Glassco’s curated list of sites and videos:










Wandering The Chalkroom (Laurie Anderson’s Text-based Virtual Reality)

(image via https://massmoca.org/event/laurie-anderson/)

It was a hot, humid day here in New England, so we took our teenage son to the MassMOCA museum — a huge, cavernous modern art extravaganza created out of an old manufacturing complex. It’s cool in there, in both degrees and art. We hadn’t made reservations in advance — it was more a hit-the-road on a whim kind of day — and we took a chance to see if there was any room for us to explore the Laurie Anderson Virtual Reality exhibit entitled “Chalkroom

No luck, the attendant informed us, as the day was booked solid in advance. Dang. We knew our son would enjoy a VR experience. We wandered away, slowly, but a few minutes later, we heard the attendant calling us back. ‘Come on,’ he informed us, with a smile, and a secretive wave, ‘I’ll let you in,’ and he led us into a completely dark room with virtual reality stations set up.

If you know anything about Laurie Anderson – musician, visual artist, writer —  you know she is full of interesting experimentation. The Chalkroom VR takes that to another level altogether, fusing technology with immersive text. The Chalkroom is based on a live exhibit she created years ago for the Guggenheim in New York, in which she converted rooms with etched writings in chalk. In this VR version, the visitor in immersive goggles flies and wanders through a fascinating landscape of virtual writing and art. It’s difficult to describe. Anderson created the experience with collaborator Hsin-Chien Huang.

(image via https://massmoca.org/event/laurie-anderson/)

In one room called Cloud, my favorite, you use the VR set to pull words off the walls and create a swirling cloud of letters and words, so that you end up standing in a maelstrom of texts set in motion. In another called Tree, my other favorite, you come upon a tree, whose leaves are letters and words, and you can either fly up through the branches, causing letters to fall and float, or once at the top, channel down along the trunk of the tree. In another called Rain, you are standing above a puddle of water, as rain in the form of text, comes falling around you. In another, called Writing, you shine a line on the walls, and write your own texts, scribbling lines that are made out of other words, so that her writing becomes your ink, but only temporarily, as you then watch your graffiti lift off the walls, float off and disappear.

Laurie Anderson’s voice, meanwhile, is whispering in your ear the whole time, providing snippets of story and text, a gentle hum of the artist perched on your shoulder even as you are invited to make your own choices about what room to explore and what to do once you get there.

I am often a skeptic to the emergence of Virtual Reality as the next step for creative composition — the whole Meta World thing bothers me because I know how companies are already gearing to exploit the experience for financial gain — but Anderson’s work has opened my eyes a bit wider for other possibilities, for the way that Anderson and Huang so effectively merges text and story and technology and sound together into a fascinating experience within her imagined world.

I love that text itself is key component, too, (white chalk writings set against a dark background) as she uses letters and words and phrases to chalk the walls and floors and ceilings, and then invites the viewer to explore those terrains, which sometimes open up into wider narratives and compositions in the virtual world. It’s also worth noting the tension between the old school writing (chalk boards) and the new (virtual reality), as Anderson bridges the past with the present/future.

Peace (writing it on the walls),

Story Portrait: What Some Of My News Reading Says About Me

NYT Story Portrait

I am a subscriber to the New York Times. I started up not long after Trump was elected and I have continued onward since then. As a former journalist, I am a news junkie, for sure, and I enjoy the Times for its depth of coverage and voices.

I noticed a feature called Story Portrait that kept popping up, and so I followed the thread. It’s no surprise that my news article browsing is being tracked by the newspaper — we are data, after all, and if I wanted to avoid that, I could get the paper version every morning. Story Portrait appears to gather and collate topics and headlines from assorted articles I have read over some period of time, and spit out a word cloud of sorts.

I tried to find the explanation behind the algorithm, to understand better how it works, but I could not. I did Story Portrait, anyway, because I was curious and I figured, the Times already knows what stories I have clicked on to read, and for how long, so I wasn’t giving them information they didn’t already have. (Although I wonder if they are going to use people’s results for some advertising blitz that I am not aware of or notified of).

The result was sort of interesting, with some topics and headline titles (sleep issues are nothing new for me but the new year has not been better, alas, and articles about school often get a close look) and it includes some of the pieces my wife has been reading (chicken dinner) as well as myself, since we share an account together.

You can even read it as a sort of a poem. Other than that, I am not sure the particular value.

Peace (and portraits),

What If I’m Not Writing

Working By Emergency Light
Working By Emergency Light flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

For quite a long time — many years, in fact — I wrote on this blog every single day – rain or shine. For some of those years, I was even known to post twice a day.  I know. I know. What was I thinking? I was thinking that writing here would oil the gears of my imagination, and open up other writing ideas.

It did.

This blog (which is also my own personal digital archive of ideas and thinking) became a place to plant and nurture seeds, to try out new ideas, to think through whatever it was I doing. Comics. Poems. Songs. Stories. Essays. Whether the audience was myself or others who were stopping by or reading it on RSS, my blog has long acted an extension of my writing identity, a place to land each morning, getting centered and situated, before the rest of the day began.

But the past few months have altered my relationship with my writing here. I’m trying to sort out why.

Maybe it was just that I have been worn out by teaching this year, as so many colleagues have expressed as well. I surely am exhausted and frustrated, and summer break can’t come fast enough (a little more than two weeks). Most days at school have become long, difficult days with a growing range of student behavior and mental health issues taking up so much of my time and energy, trends that no doubt can be traced to the Pandemic and the disruptive years behind us all. Knowing that reality and the source of it all doesn’t make any day ahead any easier to navigate. Sleep is also an issue, as in not getting nearly enough.

At some point — and I think it was in March and April, when I was joining some activities around poetry and also finishing up the daily Slice of Life challenge — I just took a break from the blog’s daily writing one day, and that break kept on going and going and going.

Now it feels a bit as if the break has broken my blogging.

I have still been writing small form poetry every morning, and I’ve been posting the odd book review (mostly written earlier, and then pulled from my draft bin) and sharing silent photos for Sundays here and other odds and ends, but I have not been doing deep dive writing about the topics that I have long centered this blog around — teaching, writing, music, art, collaborations, etc.

Strangely enough — and somewhat alarming to me, the writer — I hadn’t even noticed the absence of my reflective writing voice, that voice I’ve developed here at my blog over years, until … well … I did. I suddenly noticed what was not there anymore. I’d look at this space and it felt like some distant echo of the writer I was before, but I couldn’t quite hear it anymore. When I am not writing regularly, I find myself on a day-to-day survival mode, as opposed to being able to step back and see the larger landscape.

I’m now attuned to the absence of that voice and I miss that part of me.

So, now what? I am not ready to be writing here every day, all over again, and maybe that era of me as a daily blogger is long past. I’m actually OK with that, if I can still find a strategy for nurturing my writing self.  I need to find a connection back, to spark the creative spirit that nurtures me as a teacher and a writer and a creative person. I know I have teaching colleagues and I have writing friends, and others in my collaborative circles, that I can connect with, and get support from. Perhaps summer break will be what I need.

I’m mulling on where to go from here, and how to find myself back to the writer I want to be.

Peace (and self-care),


Watching Scenes from a Movie

Broken Love Movie (viewing party)Yesterday, my son and his friend shared two scenes from a movie they are producing — Broken Love — to a select audience of Kickstarter supporters, and it was so interesting to see the work they did in shooting, editing and producing these two important scenes from their movie.

During a Q/A period on livestream, the two talked about the logistics of the filming, working with other actors and a small production team, and where the idea for the story originated from.

The Kickstarter helped fund the making of these clips and now, they are going to use what they have to try to get funding and support to keep going on their movie project, and it has been great to see these two friends, who made movies as kids, continue to follow their passions forward. (My son, Colin, now works as a video editor, and Sam, his friend, is a writer finishing up his first novel).

Peace (showing it to the world),


Slice of Life: The Noise Of Curiosity

(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.

Peace (capturing it),

Music Remix: Gift of Peace

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.

Peace (singing it),