My Mindful Musings

Slice of Life: Poetry at the Fair

Another day at the Common Ground Fair was coming to a close.  Really a perfect day… unseasonably warm, clear blue sky and not too crowded.  My two girls and I had enjoyed a full day and we were strolling back to the bus.  We were caught in the place between not wanting the day to end and pushing ourselves to feeling beyond tired.  I had told them we could stop by the children’s area and they could have a little bit of time to muck around before we left.


As we made our way toward the Children’s Area, something new caught my attention.  A plaque that said Russell’s Poetry Grove stood next to a trail of stairs leading into the woods.  A sandwich board on the other side of the trail said “Poetry Reading 1:00”.  I checked my watch 12:50.  Hmmm… “Hey girls, do you want to check out the poetry grove?”  I asked hesitantly.  Fortunately they were open to exploring the poetry grove.


We headed down the trail into the woods and I felt transported to a new place.  The woods were cool and gave relief from the sun and the balsam pine scent filled my nose. As we got a little deeper into the grove, the sounds of the fair were left behind and the  quiet surrounded us.  A woman sat on a chair writing in a notebook with a pile of books next her.  She must be the poet, I thought.

A few more people gathered and sat on the granite benches still maintaining the quiet stillness of the grove.  I whispered to the girls, “Are you sure you are okay staying?”

They nodded yes.

At 1:00, the lady with the notebooks stood up and explained that this is a community poetry reading.  The forest floor was open to anyone to share poetry.  She explained it can be from an anthology or an original piece.  The grove grew quieter as everyone looked at each other waiting for someone to step up.  Finally, a gentleman stood up and share one of his poems.  Everyone in the grove listened intently and applauded enthusiastically.


I had an idea… I went on my phone and pulled up a poem we had done in class last year (some of my students loop with me).  I pushed my phone into their hands and said encouragingly, “Go on… share this one.  Remember it from last year?”

They both shook their heads reluctant to read.

Then one of them whispered back, “You should read it Mrs. Marc-Aurele!”

I shook my head thinking Oh no… I am not a poetry person.  I just enjoy poetry from the fringes and share with  my students.  Poetry does appeal to me which was what lead us down the trail but for me to share?!  I don’t think so…

Then as we sat and listened to a few more poems I began to have thoughts that fluttered in my head causing my heart to flutter too, This is one of those moments where I need to step up and be a role model.  All this talk about “Growth Mindset”?? This is my chance to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I should do this.. I debated with myself for a little longer.  When there was a pause in the readers I stood up and made my way to the front before I actually made the conscious decision to read a poem.  But there I was standing in front.  I took a deep breath and read:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
                      -Emily Dickinson
I looked up at my girls and saw them smile.  Those smiles made it worth it!

Slice of Life: Slicing on the Road

The publishing of last week’s slice is worthy of a slice of its own.  I was camping in Acadia National Park and was happily off the grid with no wi-fi or cell service.  As Tuesday approached, I used the WordPress app on my phone which allowed me to work off-line.  I squeezed in bits of writing when I could.  My trip to the Northeast Harbor Library to publish was an adventure.

I woke Tuesday morning to the sounds of rain pattering on the roof of the trailer.  I sighed and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag enjoying a little extra rest before getting the day started.  A little while later, I woke up and made the coffee while my friend Susie took care of the horses.  I dodged rain drops and moved our outdoor kitchen around to maximize the coverage of our awning.  While drinking coffee, Susie and I discussed our plan for the day which was mostly going to involve waiting out the weather.  When I mentioned my need to get wi-fi, Susie generously said I could drive the truck down to town.  Okay… I thought a bit nervously.  Susie’s truck is a large, heavy-duty diesel truck whose primary job is to haul 2-3 horses around in her large horse trailer. I have driven it before, in a straight line, on the highway while hauling the horses.  But, driving into town would be a new experience.

When it was time to leave, I climbed up into the truck and settled myself in behind the wheel.  Susie’s advice was, “Keep it between the trees!” My drive into Northeast Harbor was uneventful as I focused on keeping the truck on the road.  By the time I arrived in town, I was able to confidently able to navigate the busy, narrow streets of this little harbor town.  I was dismayed to discover others had sought refuge at the library and all of the spots were full and I figured I would need at least 2-3 spots to park the truck.  On my second trip around the block I was able to ease into a spot on the end of a side street


I have visited the Northeast Harbor Library before and, like all libraries, it feels like a home away from home to me.  I found an outlet to charge my phone and Fitbit and settled into a public access computer. After a few tries trying to remember my login to WordPress, I was ready to get to work.  I uploaded my draft and started editing and revising.  Lots of mistakes to fix since I had typed on my phone!


Of course, I was a bit distracted by the goings on around me.  The library was a busy place on a rainy summer day.  Based on my listening in to the various conversations at the circulation desk, the Northeast Harbor Library does a wonderful job making all feel welcome and accommodating summer visitors.  Whether its giving directions, explaining available services or loaning books and DVDs the library has it covered.

While I was working, a friend came to talk to the 10ish year-old girl who was playing a game on the computer next to me.  “Did you go to sailing camp today?” the friend asked.  The girl replied with a nod as she was very focused on her game.  I was confused because she was sitting next to me and I was definitely not at sailing camp.  My confusion was cleared up about ten minutes later when a group of four children all blond and freckled like the girl next to me approached wearing life vests.  They told her it was time to go.  After some arguing, she sighed and reluctantly left her game and picked up her own life vest which was on the ground between us (I hadn’t noticed it) and off they went.

The lady across from me answered a phone call about a piece of writing she was giving feedback on.  Before I could get too involved in listening in on her conversation, the librarian came over and quietly asked her to take her call outside.

A little bit later, I heard a man come in for his first visit of the summer and reconnect with the lady at the circulation desk.  He gave her a friendly greeting and reminded her of his name.  She said, “Oh yes, hello you live at ______ ! How was your winter?”  They chatted for a bit and  he asked if it would be okay if he played the harpsichord. She enthusiastically replied, “Yes, I am sure our visitors would love to hear harpsichord music!”img_1927

Wait… what!?!  Harpsichord?  I figured I missed something.  But, no… A few minutes later I hear the harpsichord.  Eek… I guess the last time it was played was last summer when he played it.  So the playing actually meant tuning and I had to listen to the pling-pling of out-of-tune harpsichord while I tried to focus on finishing up my post.  Soon pling-pling was joined by wonk-wonk… someone’s car alarm was going off outside the library window.  Pling-pling… Wonk-wonk… Pling-pling… Wonk-wonk… I looked at the guy next to me and we both chuckled and rolled our eyes.  For a moment, I longed for the days when libraries were quiet!

I read some other slices and left some comments.  I may have left a comment as someone else.  The person who logged into the computer before me and didn’t log out.  I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.  The joys of shared computers!  I double checked to make sure I was logged out.img_1928

I wandered around the library a little bit more to soak up some of the coziness before heading back out into the drizzly Tuesday.

Today I am back in my favorite reading, writing, blogging, thinking place!


Thank you to the wonderful team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life writing community!



Slice of Life: Classroom Corner Clean Out

When the calendar turned to August 1st I had the typical mix of emotions. Hating to see summer end but beginning to look ahead to a new school year. This year the mix of emotions is even more intense because my son will be returning to college for his junior year and my daughter will be heading off to her freshman year of college in Chicago…. a long way from Maine.  The pressure is really on for me to be ready early because we will be taking her to Chicago the second to last week in August.  This is usually prime time for getting ready for the new school year. I typically take the month of July off unless we have some rainy days but there were no rainy days this July. So the pressure is on to get ready!

The school was quiet. The only other teachers working were at the other end of the building. As much as I would have loved to have seen my colleagues after the last month off, I really needed quiet time to myself. Thanks to the newly waxed main hallway, I was able to work without interruptions.

The first few steps into the room are both overwhelming and a homecoming. It feels good to come back to the place that is my second home during the school year and get ready for a fresh start. But, the disarray left behind from the room cleaning means my classroom is far from ready to welcome new students.


I walk past the jumble of desks and chairs piled by the door and dump my laptop and lunch bag on my desk. I typically start my annual cleaning and overhaul in a corner and work my way around. The trouble is I always start in the same corner, work my way around the room, run out of steam and end up with a corner that I never get to. I use this corner tuck more in stuff there to get it out-of-the-way. I tuck it behind a curtain and I myself that I will get to it when things settle down… things never settle down.

I start by pulling out rumpled charts, boxes of books and boxes of unknowns. Most of the charts get tossed into the recycling bin because I like to re-make them with my students. I took pictures of some of the more inspired ones in case I need to re-create them. I move the books to the library, promising myself that I will get them into my class collection on the day(s) when I focus on my classroom library. The boxes of unknowns were interesting. One was a science experiment I did years ago…into the trash and recycling it goes. Another was a box of clothes I inherited from the previous teacher (Ugh! 15 years ago!) that I kept around just in case. I bagged them up for Goodwill. Feeling sufficiently successful, I piled everything up nearby.  I made a request for new shelves in that corner that I hope will be installed soon and I can put everything in an organized way.

I skipped over my classroom library because it is several days of work all on its own.  I moved on to the file cabinet tucked into another ignored corner.  I started looking through files and decided it was worthy of a full clean out.  As I dug in, I felt like I was on an archeological dig of my teaching career.  First, I came across old writing prompts with samples on transparencies… transparencies!?!?!  It’s been years since I have had an overhear projector.  Next, I came across the product descriptors and packets for the book projects my students used to do.  I cringe and remind myself of my favorite quote from Responsive Classroom training, “You do your best until you know better”.  All of this useless debris that I saved “in case I need them someday” was all dumped into the trash or recycling.  img_1849

After these two big clean outs I was feeling pretty accomplished.  I puttered around a bit more before packing up and heading home.  I felt like I had a good start and will be back soon.  In the meantime, there is still more summer to enjoy.

Slice of Life: We Took to the Woods

Several years ago I read the We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich.  I had picked it up in a bookstore in Greenwood, ME while on a week long camping trip.  Rich’s writing pulled me in and I felt like a member of her family as she shared her story of living in the woods of Maine in the 1930s.

we took to the woods cover

Fast forward to now… My friend, Denise, discovered Umbagog Lake State Park on the border of New Hampshire and Maine as a great place to camp and kayak. When I discovered this was the setting for Louise Rich’s stories, I was thrilled with the possibility of spending time in the same woods on the shore of the same lake where she captured so many stories.  When Denise and I discovered the option to stay on a remote campsite, we jumped at the chance for solitude in this remote wilderness.

We made our reservation months in advance.  Truth be told… as the date for our trip approached I began to get nervous.  Being isolated… no people… no phones… I was worried about our safety. Bears, axe murderers, falling and not being able to get up… I had conjured many images of catastrophe in my head.  I checked the weather secretly hoping an early hurricane or severe weather would be forecasted and we would have to change our plans and stay some place more civilized… No such luck.  Perfect weather for the weekend.

My departure day arrived and I was running late because I had so much to pack… we left nothing to chance and planned for all possibilities.  I had everything but the kitchen sink.  By now I had embraced the idea of this grand adventure and was ready to go.  As I made my way west, I enjoyed the drive and my last moments in air conditioning.  At the last town, I stopped for an iced coffee and to send a final text to my family wishing them a happy weekend and reminding them I will be home Monday.

I bumped down the road of the state park and there was Denise patiently waiting for me, it’s not the first time I’ve been late.  We pulled our vehicles up to the dock and transferred our gear to the boat that would ferry us out to our site 2.5 miles from shore (one of the closer sites).  The driver didn’t have much to say… I imagined he was sizing us up and determining our success or failure on this adventure.  When we arrived at our site, his only comment as he helped us unload was, “You staying for a week?”. Okay, maybe we overpacked just a smidge for a weekend adventure.  He wished us well and headed back to the state park.

boat out

We unpacked and set up camp… I had one moment of serious panic when I realized my backpack with books, notebook and Scrabble had been left behind… at home.  I needed to calm myself because going without a phone was one thing.  But, no books?!?!  I was afraid I would lose my mind.  But, I quickly re-focused and settled in and settled down.

Our first night was spent enjoying the view from our site, making dinner and getting caught up.  It had been a few months since we had seen each other so we had lots of stories to share and problems to solve.  I was so tired after the long day, I fell right asleep.

When we woke up on our first morning, Denise, being the planner, decided that our first paddle of the day would be back to the campground so I could borrow a book from the lending library and not lose my mind.  She is a true friend who understands what is important in life.

Our first paddle was fabulous… the lake was smooth… Lots of birds including loons to see.  We peeked into the woods and marshy areas hoping for a glimpse of a moose.  We arrived at the state park which was now our new version of civilization.  I found a book (a trashy romance novel… a guilty pleasure to be honest), we stocked up on ice and enjoyed a coffee.  We paddled back to our site into the wind, it got a bit rough with an occasional white cap but we felt accomplished having gotten our first paddle out of the way.

As the weekend progressed we fell into a natural rhythm, eating, reading, talking, wildlife-watching, napping and more paddling.  The weekend passed quickly, much more quickly than I thought.  By the end of the weekend we were plotting for next year… Same site but getting ourselves out there in canoe or kayak.  Deciding what we can live without… too many extra clothes, complicated meals and an awning.  Non-negotiables… cots, french press coffee maker and books.

As scheduled we could hear the putter of the boat as it arrived to pick us up on Monday morning.  We quickly loaded up and headed back to the main land as rain drops began to fall from the gray sky.  A mix of emotions… can’t wait to go back, glad to get home to my family and a hot shower, not looking forward to life demands, sad to say good bye to Denise and leave this little slice of heaven.   Also worries… what if it rains next year, how will we transport gear ourselves if it is windy.  I made myself put all thoughts aside and just enjoy the moment.












Remembering my Grandmother With a Pot of Soup

My family of four celebrated Thanksgiving Day in three different places. I have come to accept that this is how life is as the children grow older and have exciting opportunities. We all arrived home for the weekend to celebrate our Thanksgiving on Saturday and maintain some of our traditions even if they couldn’t happen on Thanksgiving Thursday.

We ate the traditional meal which we prepared together over several hours and then ate in under thirty minutes. As we worked to clean up, I had a moment of pause as I tackled the leftover turkey carcass. I usually take off as much meat as I can and guiltily throw the bones away. For some reason I wrapped the whole thing up as is and stuffed it into the fridge.

I’m not sure why but thoughts of my grandmother who has been gone for more than twenty Thanksgivings drifted into my mind. Just like we could count on mashed potatoes and gravy as a side to our Thanksgiving meal, we could also count on some form of turkey soup on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I have always felt a bit guilty for  just tossing out the carcass but I have just let it go.

I am not sure what possessed me to follow in my grandmother’s kitchen footsteps but I changed things up. Nothing in her soup came from a box or can… fresh and homemade was her standard. Anything else just didn’t exist. After much googling, I found directions for making turkey stock from a carcass that seemed to be a lot like what my grandmother did.

Sunday morning was gray and chilly and the house was quiet.  I pulled carrots, onions, celery and thyme out of my refrigerator.  I cut the carrots and celery up into large pieces and added them to the pot with the turkey pieces.  I quickly cut onion into quarters and tossed it into the pot before my eyes watered.  I rubbed the thyme between my hands and sprinkled it into the pot. The smell of the fresh cut vegetables and whiff of onion reminded me of my grandmother and I felt like she was there with me.  I imagined she might have tutted a bit because she would have thought I needed to get more meat off the bones but also smiling because she was glad to see I wasn’t being so wasteful.  I set the pot to simmer for a few hours.


Later in the day I walked the dog and when I came back into the house I felt like I had traveled back in time.  The comforting smell of the simmering pot of stock made me feel as though I was entering the front hallway of my grandmother’s house. So homey and cozy… I missed her and felt like she was with me all at the same time.

In true Granny fashion, I rolled up my sleeves and strained out the stock and poured half back into the pot.  The other half I let cool and poured into containers for the freezer.  I imagined a nod of approval for planning ahead and having stock to make soups in the future.

I diced more carrots, celery and spices and tossed into the pot with the turkey.  Later I added rice and dinner was ready.  As I sat down to eat I breathed in the steamy aroma, enjoyed and remembered.



A Fresh Start

I vividly remember the first day of last winter. It was a brisk, yet unseasonably warm, December Sunday. It was the first weekend of winter break and I finally had a chance to get out in the yard and do the fall yard work that had been neglected for the entire season due to a crammed schedule and an injury that had thrown me for a loop.  While I was dreaming of a white Christmas, I appreciated the extra time to clean up the yard before the snow arrived.

As I raked leaves across the brown grass my mind wandered.  First, I was so thankful and joyful to be able to move again.  It felt so good to take a step and know that I wasn’t going to be wincing in pain or have my knee completely give out.  Then I began to think about my writing life… much like my yard it had long been neglected which was so frustrating and disappointing for me.

As I continued around the yard, cutting back perennials and cleaning out beds, I kept on mulling over my writing.  I felt like I needed a change and I needed to shake things up but not sure how to move forward.

Meanwhile I kept mulling… But not writing much… Two more seasons passed…

Here I am nearly a year later.  My writing life has “wintered over”  long enough and I finally feel ready to bring my writing life back to life again.  So here it goes…

I have moved on from old blog “My Random Wonderings”; a title I came up with quickly on the eve of the March “Slice of Life” challenge a few years ago.  My new blog, “My Mindful Musings”, likely won’t contain vastly different content from my prior blog. But, I hope it does reflect a more focused purpose and sense of mindfulness I am attempting to embrace in my life.  Over the last few years, I have allowed my life to run me ragged. Now I am taking control and focusing on what is important to me.

I am looking forward to growing some of the ideas that I have been mulling over and rejoining the “Slice of Life” community.

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