Category: tree

Monday Manouvers

8:03, Monday, 25 October, 2010 – Atlanta

Way too early to be doing this, but I woke to the sound of water splashing on the street as cars tore by on the way to work and then I heard the steady thrum of rain. I got up to blackness and hurried out to see my trees. As I approached the porch doors a flash of lightning lit the skies and I saw my tree arms flailing, looking like a group of panicked swimmers whose boat had overturned, all their arms waving about madly as they tread water. The second tree was still, but mine swayed and flailed and waved. I moved closer and realised the bulk of my tree sheltered the other which stood lifting its arms to the rain. Mine continued to move like a mad thing. As the sky grew lighter I saw its leaves had curled in making themselves as small as possible against the battering of the rain. Now I am going to drink my coffee and come back later to talk about time and space and writing.

Okay, first cup of coffee down, breakfast done, laundry on. The weather has calmed down. Now it’s grey and mizzly. This will be a short piece because Mondays are that way. But I want to address time and space. Time is a difficult issue, especially as writing involves energy. Most writers hold down a job and write when they can. A lot of writers are teachers because that allows more spare time, theoretically – there are the vacations. I taught English lit and comp for 19 years, which is also how long I have been writing. However, the energy required to teach that subject, along with a couple of other factors, led to my not writing for about three years. I retired from teaching to write, so I will be discovering time and how to allocate it in a whole new way. For those who are working, what is important is that you commit to an amount of time and write at the same hour each day you write. This doesn’t mean, should you be struck with an idea outside that timeframe, that you can’t write at any time, but you want to at least write for the designated time. And, give yourself time off – a day when you don’t sit down and write during the set time.

You can also set a limit of producing a certain amount. This is easier for fiction writers who can say I will write 1000 words. Poets can elect to produce one draft of a poem per session. remember: it does not have to be good. That comes later with revision. The important thing is a writing routine. Because I don’t have the limitations of a job, I find routine a little harder. It’s easier to waffle around the time. I try to write Monday through Friday from about ten in the morning to about two in the afternoon. Those are my parameters, with the note that I am prepping supper and taking care of the flat also. I haven’t yet been good about sitting down and focusing, but that can be partly because I am still getting used to retirement, the new place, relearning how to do so much.

Place. Place is important. Some people require a desk in a quiet room with all electronic interruptions turned off. Others can write with the phone ringing, children racing around, the television on and constant interruptions. Winston Churchill wrote naked, my uncle swears by his writing desk which is a standing desk. He stands to write. I am rather taken by the idea, but the desks are expensive. SARK writes on her bed, in crayon and felt tips. If you don’t know SARK, she’s worth a visit: I write in two places. Right now when I blog, I write sitting in my large comfortable desk chair at my computer with my keyboard in my lap. That’s also how I write once I move my poems from paper to computer. When I start a poem, or am revising it, working it, on paper, I sit in my huge plush recliner, often with the television on. I have my notebooks, pen, and whatever research I need spread around me. Sometimes, when I remember my arm needs support, I will use a lap desk.

All conditions are to help you feel ready and able to write.


Tree watch days 3 and 4 and a little bit on poetry

8:15 am, Saturday 15 October, 2010 Atlanta

I didn’t write  my blog yesterday, but I did observe the trees from a different vantage point and at two times I don’t usually look at them deliberately. Our sliding doors from the living room to the porch share the same face as my writing room. I often stand for a moment and look out at the sky. The two rooms face east so I get the sun at all points of rising and in the evenings there are often clouds of some sort to watch. This was afternoon and both trees were in full sunlight, each leaf showing a different shade from green to yellow to orange to red, on its way to becoming a fall tree.

I discovered after thinking they were beeches for the first several weeks, that they are maples, big maples. There’s a cool website: that takes one through the process of figuring out what kind of tree one has. I used the leaf method as I have the leaves in front of me. They use a simple process of elimination, first narrowing, down the type of leaves, then the trees under those leaves and finally which of the tree types the tree might be in that family. I got to maple quickly and what gorgeous names: scarlet, swamp, soft, carolina red, water, Drummond red, sugar, silver, big leaf, box elder. Mine are plain old red maples. Tall ones.

I was looking out the porch doors again that evening and, because the sun had swung over to the west, my tree was now in full sunlight and its neighbour, blocked somewhat by my tree, was shadowed. I noticed that the lefthand tree is thinner, as in not as full, like a man’s hair thins. My tree is untidier but full of leaves crammed with leaves in an untidy jumble.

I worked some more on the poem I am writing about the notes my daughter left me in High School. I narrowed down which notes I wanted to insert. I read Jessie Carty’s Thursday poem share and wrote her asking about whether a poem is considered published if it appears in her blog. It is a murky area. I received two useful replies. Hers said “…it is a valid concern. I can offer, for anyone who posts here, to go back and edit their comment a week later and take out their poem if they are concerned about that. To do that you’d need to email me or leave a new comment asking me to do so the next Thursday or Friday because if you ask to remove I’ll do it right then and not remember to do it a week later.” Even more useful is Bryan Borland’s of Sibling Rivalry Press: “Ah, the old “previously published” question. Look. The only place that I’ve found that completely disqualifies a poem if it’s been published on a personal blog are the fuddy duddies at Poetry. Cooler publishers, like the folks at *clears throat* Sibling Rivalry Press, take it as a compliment if a poem has been published on a blog first. Because, you know what? Blogs have readers. And when a press publishes a poet who blogs? Odds are, that poet is going to be bringing one or two of their loyal readers to the publication.

That said, I keep holding back a few poems and submitting to Poetry. One day, dammit!

The real answer, I think, is everything in moderation. Publish some on your blog or here in Jessie’s comment section to grow your audience and make connections. Hold some back for those strict, nun-like publications with rules about where they’ve appeared previously (present company’s publications exluded. I can’t remember Referential’s policy…).

I would never have experienced any success in the writing world at all had I not started a poetry blog. It changed everything for me.”

So, I shall contribute a poem I am working on, next Thursday, maybe the one about my daughter, but I shall hold onto the ones I might want to submit to a “stuffy” magazine.

tree watch – day 2 – and more words on words

7:30, October 14, 2010 – Atlanta

I am up earlier than usual. Usually, my husband brings me coffee at 6:35 and I keep him company until he leaves for work at 7: 20. then I go back to bed for forty minutes. This morning I felt too energised to go back to bed, so came in to look at my trees in the early morning before the sun rises.

The two trees are still. Even the leaves look relaxed. The tree closer to me at the window is almost silhouetted, where the other tree, which sits a little further out, more exposed to the sun when it comes,  is lighter against the washed out sky. When I stand to look out the window more closely at my tree [the closer one, the one in which I too perch] I notice that one branch has, with great abandon, turned a bright red. Except for a yellow leaf here and there, the rest of the tree is still predominantly green and I wonder what has spurred this branch into its bold action. Even the tree closer to the sun doesn’t have a renegade who has turned earlier than the rest.

In front of me some branches begin to sway, as if in anticipation of awakening. I see behind the trees streaks of pink amid the bluegrey clouds of early morning. And now the silhouette has disappeared. Enough light shows me the leaves still relaxed and curled in but I can also see the many shades of green. The leaves on the thin branches near me, are bunched untidily, crowding so that some leaves expose the pale sage of their undersides, while others show the darker spring green of their upper face.

Yesterday I worked on a poem I started in the car, while my husband drove us up Interstate 85 to Washington D.C., last week. It’s about my daughter and a pile of notes I found from her, this summer, while packing out of Jakarta to return to the States. She wrote the notes on every conceivable type of small paper she found to hand and with whatever implement was handy. They were notes she wrote me during her junior and senior year at the high school where she attended and I taught. I never knew, as a teenager, how she felt about me, but our relationship was there in the over one hundred notes she wrote. They spoke of fondness and love although they asked for Twixes and money. I smile now as I write this, as I smiled when I read them the first and second times. I want the poem to show that relationship.

I can see the white church steeple topped with a bronze cross, that pokes up from behind the outermost tree. I know the church sits across the road. The spire does not reach as close to heaven as do the two trees.

words on words

10: 30 am, October 13, Atlanta, Georgia

I have been away a long time. When I first started my blog, I had a purpose, though short lived because it was seasonal. I am not someone who can come to a blog with no purpose and so, the silence. But I have started writing poetry again after a hiatus of three or four years, when I discovered I no longer had the energy to both teach and write. This year I retired from teaching to focus on my writing and after a few weeks of trying to find out what the contemporary scene is, I have discovered a number of things: I must read poetry, I must read about poetry, I must find a likeminded group of people to have conversations with, and listen to, and I must write.

My desk buts up against the wall fitting just under the window sill. And I, I look into the treetops seven floors up. I am part of the tree on my own branch. If I were to raise the blinds and open the window, which I shall do some cooler day, I will be that much more part of the tree for I shall hear and smell it. If I were to crawl out my window and fly, a little, I could perch on another branch, a thinner less substantial branch than the one I perch on now.

When we first moved in six weeks ago, the leaves were a bright fresh green, although they curled in on themselves a little in the heat of the Atlanta summer. When I sit at my desk they are the first thing I look at and now I think I want to record the differences I see at different times of day, different weathers, different seasons. Both Woolridge [Poem Crazy] and Kovitt [In the palm of Your Hand], suggest looking at something for a long time and then really looking at that thing, describing the minutiae not seen before looking for a sustained amount of time. A colleague of mine and I, when we taught creative writing, used to set an exercise where the students were instructed to find a space somewhere on campus and sit for at least twelve minutes recording at least twenty five images trying to include at least four senses. The increased focus allows us to see, hear, touch, smell and sometimes taste with an awareness not usually brought to what we walk past, or take for granted in our daily lives.

The sun has been rising and is now topping the tree directly in front of me. Because it rises behind the tree the tree facing me remains in shade. The tree next to it, to my left, radiates in the sunlight. I can see that some of the leaves, those furthest from the tree’s trunk and closer to the sun’s rays, have started their fall blush and one spray has turned red. After last week’s cold spell, the trees are turning. No wind today although the branches nearest me move slightly as if unable to still themselves.

In trying to identify the type of tree I have found an extensive tree guide on Google and have narrowed the tree type down to maple, or maybe sycamore, but I think the leaves are to small for the latter. The sun is hot now and I shall close the blinds but maybe I shall visit earlier tomorrow.