Slice of Life: Dumped in Dimples

 

Each week during Kate Messner’s Teachers Write summer writing camp, Jo Knowles posts a Monday Morning Warm Up. This week, Jo urged us to write about a “favorite summer memory from your teen years.” I’m not sure this is my favorite summer memory, but it is definitely the most vivid!

You hear the roar of the water before you see it. Then you face thousands of gallons of water cascading twenty feet down the face of a rock ledge, creating a foaming, turbulent froth just above where your raft is about to launch for a trek down-river.

Crazy paddlers, including my kids, running Youghiogheny Falls in 2010.

In July of 1976, when the rest of the country was swept up in Bicentennial celebrations, I gazed up at this waterfall in awe and relief that no similar falls waited downstream. The river that stretched in front of me was strewn with boulders. Little riffles of whitewater danced around them and clouds billowed in the sky above. Dense stands of pine and oak lined both banks of the river. I was ready for an adventure!

Little did I know what a ride I was in for.

The first two rapids were easy. Our raft bobbed up and down like a cork over the gentle, rolling waves. The splashes of cold water were refreshing after an hour in the hot July sun. By the time we got to Lunch Rock, I felt like a pro. I inhaled my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the favored lunch of paddlers everywhere. Soon we were back on our way.

My future mother-in-law, was paddling at the front of the raft, showing me the ropes. “We’re coming up to Dimples,” she said. “We have to head straight for a boulder, then paddle hard right to miss hitting it. “Big Jeff out of Baltimore,” an old family friend, was steering at the back of the raft. “Don’t you dare dump us in this rapid!” she warned him.

“Never!” he laughed.

Again, I heard the roar of the water before I could see what was ahead. This sounded as loud as the waterfall at the put-in. “We’ll be fine,” Jeff reassured me.

The once meandering current picked up speed and swept us into a ribbon of waves. A boulder as big as an elephant loomed up before us. “Paddle!” Jeff screamed. I dug my paddle into the water and pulled with all my might. But it was too late. The raft hit the massive rock head on.

Before I really knew what was happening, I was in the rushing water, beneath the raft. Gasping, but trying to stay calm, I got myself out from under the boat. Somehow, I maneuvered myself and the capsized raft into and eddy at the bottom of the rapid. Dripping and paddle-less, I managed to turn the boat right side up.

But now I was on the other side of the river from where my mother-in-law-to-be and Big Jeff had washed up. The rest of our crew had gone ahead to “play” in the next rapid and were unaware of our plight. Miraculously, my paddle washed up next to me. With a whole two hours of rafting experience, I climbed back into the raft and guided it safely across the river.

Someone always gets dumped in Dimples! (This isn’t the raft I was in. If there are any pictures from that day, I don’t know where they are.)

By this time, the other paddlers (including my boyfriend!) had realized we were in trouble and came to our rescue. Fortunately, no one was really hurt. Shaken up? Absolutely! But aside from rubbery arms and scraped shins, I was fine.

After a rest on the rocks, we piled back into the raft and made it to the take out without any more mishaps. I survived my white-water rafting initiation! But “Big Jeff out of Baltimore” never heard the end of dumping me in Dimples!

Years later, I was able to make my way down the river on my own. And I’ve never flipped in Dimples again!

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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Poetry Friday: My Great Escape

This draft is my response to the Teachers Write mini lesson that Kate Messner posted on Monday.  In it, she asked writers to consider “how might different elements of [a] story look different to different characters?”

To inspire us, Kate shared the story of a king cobra that escaped from a Florida home a few years ago. Despite my irrational fear of snakes, I knew I wanted to write from the cobra’s perspective.

Kate’s new novel, Breakout, is a fictional version of the real-life drama of two inmates escaping from a prison near her home in upstate New York. Three characters tell the story from different points of view, giving readers a more complete picture of events. One character, Lizzie, often manages to find humor in this serious situation. The article about the escaped snake also included humorous Twitter and Facebook posts people wrote at the time, imagining where in the world the snake might be. But I found nothing humorous about the situation. I felt sorry for the poor woman who found the snake, and I really felt sorry for the snake. 

My Great Escape

Stolen from my jungle home,
stuffed into a barren box:
no royal treatment for me.
My days were spent in misery.

Desperate to stretch,
uncoil my sleek brown body
I watched for my chance,
bolted from that ranch.

I slithered through suburbia,
searching for a place to settle:
a bamboo thicket or a fallen tree
where I would be free.

But my dream was not to be…

I was found behind a dryer.
Hissing, hood flared in warning,
I rose up as if on a throne:
Leave me alone!

I put up quite a fight
before Animal Control officers
caught me, ended my spree
and returned me to captivity.

draft © Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Poetry for Children, where Sylvia Vardell has some exciting news and the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Slice of Life: Know Where You’re Going

Yesterday, Jo Knowles shared a writing warm up as part of the Teachers Write summer writing camp urging writers to “know where you’re going.” She also observed that “most general advice, if you think about it long enough, can be applied to writing.”

Jo’s words were still echoing in my brain as I headed out for my morning walk. When I paused to check the progress of the rebuilding of my neighbor’s stone wall, I thought, “Of course! Writing is like building a wall.” Not advice really, but certainly a useful metaphor.

These talented stone masons have a direction, they know where they’re going. You can’t see them in these photos, but there are two strings precisely positioned on either side of this trench to guide construction. What else can we learn from these stone masons about writing (and teaching writing)?

Notice the huge rocks forming the foundation of the wall. This will stabilize the wall against the forces of weather and time and prevent it from crumbling. Without a strong foundation, our writing often falls apart. More worrisome to me, though, is how writing workshops can crumble if we don’t take the time to establish the rituals and routines that are the bedrock of any successful workshop.

                    

Look how many rocks they have! They will never use them all in this wall. Just as these craftsman need multiple rocks so they can choose exactly the right one for the right spot, writers need to write and write and write. This will ensure they have plenty of material on hand as they craft personal, meaningful writing.

The men building this wall clearly know what they’re doing. They have a valuable skill, honed through years of hard work (see above). We also have skills. One of them is to help students view themselves as writers with stories to tell and ideas to share. Without this vision, writing is just a task to complete (or not). Students have to share our vision of what is possible through writing—or at least see its potential: providing the opportunity to “write something personal and powerful.” (Gallagher & Kittle, 2018, p. XV)

These ideas aren’t new or groundbreaking (pun intended!) But it’s important to revisit them. During these long summer days, when the demands on our time are different, take a few moments to consider the importance of laying down this bedrock, of building this foundation, layer by layer. Reflect on the year that was and use those insights to refine a vision for the coming year. Without it, we won’t know where we’re going.

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: This Dew-Dappled Morning

School ended last week and I spent a good part of last weekend reading and relaxing. As I sorted the stacks of books I’ve accumulated over the past few months, I found Searching for Stars on an Island in Maineby Alan Lightman. In her rave review, Maria Papova called Lightman’s book “a splendid read in its entirety,” and I ordered it immediately.

The intersection of science and spirituality is endlessly fascinating to me, and Lightman’s poetic approach to the universe captivated me at once. One line was in my mind when I went for a walk at dawn the other day: “All is in flux.” I hope Mr. Lightman won’t mind that I “borrowed” his line to begin this poem.

All is in flux.
Shimmering in dawn’s golden light,
morning glories hum
with breakfasting bees.
Raspberries ripen.
Maples dazzle and beckon.
One… two…
three crows alight
on the highest branches.
Their caws echo
across the countryside.
I step into this dew-dappled morning,
searching for what is true.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

                        

Please be sure to visit Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: Summer Reading

Today is really only the second day of my summer break. (I don’t think the weekend should count.) I am working hard at looking busy and being productive. But honestly, I haven’t accomplished much and feel a little adrift.

One thing I have managed to do is read the first chunk of I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson for an online reading group organized by Sally Donnelly. This Printz Award winner and Stonewall Honor Book was on many Best-Book lists when it was published, deservedly so. At first, I was so caught up in the story that I missed the nuances of Nelson’s writing. I’m rereading now with ever-increasing awe at the power of this book.

                    

I have stacks of novels and professional books I want to read this summer. Sunny, the third installment in Jason Reynolds’s amazing Track series is next on my list, followed by Refugee, by Alan Gratz and The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo. Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle’s 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents is at the top of my professional stack. Ellin Keene’s Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning and Jeff Anderson’s Patterns of Power are also on my list. Wish me luck!

         

What are you reading this summer?

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.