[POEM] the reluctance of the forest

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the reluctance of the forest

On the car ride to school she asked if today was Fall. I thought about this. Was it? Yes, today is the first day of fall, I told her. It’s finally arrived.

But in the woods, there’s still so much green. I feel the tug and pull of the forest. The trees groan as leaves drop from their branches. I’m surrounded by reluctance: branches holding tight to leaves, moss clinging to rocks, ferns refusing to yellow. But there’s a fervor among the forest. To move on. To see what this next season holds. Vibrant colors of golds, oranges, yellows, reds. The browning of grasses. The slowing down of streams.

Along the trail are fallen leaves, some various shades of autumn and some with the vibrant green of summer. Did they fall on their own accord? Or were they coerced into leaving their branches by a more powerful force?

I understand how the forest feels. The constant tug and pull. This resistance to let go of what once was and the eagerness to move on to the new. We don’t always get to control how each moment happens. The seasons change with or without our permission. The best we can hope for is a gentle transition from what once was to what will now.


Inspired by the WordPress writing daily prompt: Leaf

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(poem) nothing good can stay

by Robert Frost

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[POEM] the day of the spiderwebs

the day of the spiderwebs

this day
was the day of spiderwebs
so many of them
illuminated by sunlight
glistening from early morning dew
hanging from tree branches
draped across bushes

no phone camera could capture the magic
between each string of silk
some of them too large for the frame
some too small to show detail
others wrapped around the body
as it passed along the trail

nothing could capture the magic
of that morning among the spiderwebs

/ / /

Gina Thompson
20 September 2017
Bellefonte PA

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[PHOTOS] My weekend in Rothrock 

I spent the better part of the weekend in a place I love more than any other: Rothrock State Forest.

Saturday I took The Kids (my husband and daughter) on a 3ish mile hike in Bear Meadows. Stacy and I don’t get out too much, what with our crazy teaching lives and the little Tidbit. So date nights are few and far between. But I’m perfectly fine with our “dates” being spent in the forest. And I love that JoJo (5) wants to hike and go on adventures in the woods. I hope someday soon she can do more than three miles, but… patience. Even though Stacy and I have hiked many times around Bear Meadows and other parts, it was still great to “show” the kids my forest. (Yes, I know I have to share it with others, but shhhhhh). It would only have been better if we had spent an overnight in the forest. Perhaps that will be placed on the fall agenda. Perhaps for our anniversary.

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she did it!

 


On Sunday I went for an early(ish) morning run. Ok, so it was 8 by the time I finally got out there! The morning was thick with fog, draping across everything. Gorgeous. I decided I needed to go deep in the forest, clear my head, run if I could but not put pressure on myself to do so. I went to a place I had only been once before, called Coopers Gap. I had wanted to take Stacy and JoJo there the day before. Because it’s magical, and everyone deserves to experience a little magic. But we ran out of time and had to hike not as deep in the woods. So I went to scout out some new territory there to see where might be best to take The Kids on our next adventure. Did I mention this forest is enchanted?

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Here’s where the magic started, driving past Alan Seager into Coopers Gap

 

The purple lizard changes with the seasons. Seems appropriate.

The “high country” in Coopers Gap. Here’s a line white pine.

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In the thick of the enchanted forest

 

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This post was also inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Glorious

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[POEM] the trouble with letting go

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the trouble with letting go

you must wash away memories
(no one says you have to)
you must form the words “goodbye”
(but if you don’t, is it still so?)

to sit in the stillness of motion
watch seasons change around
your own reluctance
find ways to fill the hole
recreate the story so it begins
and ends the way it should have

but even the forest clings to green
as autumn approaches

/ / /

Gina Thompson
16 September 2017
Bellefonte PA
#porchpoems

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[POEM] among the forests

among the forests

It’s as close to an ocean as we get these days
A small state park lake 
Man made by damming the water
Sand trucked in, dumped over dirt
30 yards from water’s edge to grass

I prefer my beaches with trees
Maples thick with leaves
Creating shade and shadows against a tan ground
As long as I can still dig my feet in
Feel the grains of sand between my toes

Instead of seashells I collect rocks
Instead of surfing waves I jump over wakes from passing motor boats and jet skis
In this landlocked state we make do
Climb mountains before breakfast
And make beaches inside the forests

/ / /

Gina Thompson
4 September 2017
Bald Eagle State Park, PA

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my first week at my new job!

Last night I had my first Wegmans dream since my last day. In the dream, I was accidentally scheduled to work two weeks after my last day (which would be around now). So I worked, being the responsible person that I am, but it was riddled with difficulties managing my working in the cheese shop with my teaching job. (It might have been the weekend in the dream, I can’t remember.) What I do remember most is that Wegmans had developed this really yummy oatmeal recipe that had to be prepared in the cheese shop, which didn’t make sense considering it didn’t include any cheese. But it was incredibly popular and people were lining up to by our new oatmeal, so there was a lot of hustle and bustle in the cheese shop to make more batches of it. I told my boss that I could work today but that she needed to remember I didn’t work there anymore and could she please take me off the schedule, as sad as that was for me.

Yesterday completed my first week back in the classroom after my 1 1/2 year hiatus. I can’t put into words how very excited I am to be teaching again. While I was carrying a crate of classroom goodies to my car (stapler, 3-hole puncher, label maker, history books, decorations, mug and tea) I was beaming. I was so happy that I started to tear up. And what made that feeling so powerful for me was that I had never felt that excitement at the beginning of the school year before now. Yes, I loved my students at State High. I was excited to teach them and get to know them and grow together. But I wasn’t excited about… all the other stuff.

The “other stuff” at my new teaching gig is just as exciting as the students. Well, I don’t know yet because I haven’t met them. But that’s my point. This past week I spent my time in meetings and setting up the classroom and preparing materials. And all of that left me feeling energized and excited, instead of deflated, demoralized, and anxious. My colleagues are inspiring and fun. I love their passion and energy and sense of humor. They have an incredible amount of love for and dedication to their students. There’s also so much mutual respect for each other. And they have welcomed with me love, support, humor, companionship, and so much more. I finally feel feel as though I’ve found “my people” in the education world.

I remember my first year teaching (2007) and I had colleagues (not all, but a selective few) that said, “Whatever you do, don’t talk your first year. Don’t say anything in meetings. Don’t voice your opinion. Don’t ask questions. Just follow along. You’re new, no one wants to hear what you have to say.” Now, I don’t know if that was an exception, if the person(s) who told me that had a bad experience or if they were just riddled with fear. And maybe there’s some truth to it because my exodus from State High was in part because I stood up for myself. (Long story, my bias.) But I don’t feel that way in my new teaching gig. In fact, my colleagues have gone out of the way to ask my opinion, to listen, to consider my past teaching experiences. They value the knowledge and outside experience that I have to bring to our little community.

I’m grateful for my time away from teaching. I don’t feel that I lost anything (except the unhealthy cynicism) and it gave me time to regroup mentally and figure out what I wanted for myself. I wasn’t happy at State High. I needed that hiatus to figure out whether it was teaching, the education system, or just that environment. This past year and a half I’ve focused on taking care of all aspects of me. It’s been the most important work I’ve done in my life. Rediscovering my love for the trails, eating healthier, therapy, having a job… those and more are some of the things that have helped me get to a good place. A great place, in fact. And I am unconditionally grateful to Wegmans for giving me a home and meaningful work for a year. Working in the cheese shop made such a positive impact on my life. I learned what it was like to work in a supportive and respectful work environment and to be valued and cared for by an employer.

So to say things are going well for me, at least professionally, would be an understatement. I can’t wait until Monday when I get to meet our students and the real, exciting, dirty work of teaching begins. I can’t wait for the new challenges that await. I’m not counting down the days until Thanksgiving break, Christmas, Spring Break, the end of the year. I’m looking forward to all the time ahead of me to get to know my students and my colleagues and to be a part of this amazing learning community.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Thank you to everyone who has given me unconditional support and love over the years. It hasn’t been easy, and there’s still a bit more to work on personally. But I couldn’t have dealt with the stuff I’ve gone through over the years without my family and friends and the outpouring of love, support, and positive energy. #liveisbetterwithlove

I love you keep going.

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working on lessons in my new classroom!


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crate of classroom goodies!

 

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your patience will be rewarded

I’m not a very patient person (thanks mom). I wouldn’t say I’m overly impatient either (thanks dad). I am capable of rational and logic thinking when it comes to waiting for the goods, the this, the that. But that rational thought only gets me so far. Sooner or later I just want something to happen! Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about my current lack of forward progress. I wrote about how things in my life just aren’t moving quickly enough for me. And I concluded with the understanding that I needed to just be patient.

I’ve been patiently waiting for over a year. I left the classroom bruised and beaten, and with a heavy chip on my shoulder for public school. I won’t get into the dirty details, but those of you close to me know at least some parts of this story.

For a year I hemmed and hawed on education. It’s my passion, no doubt. But every time someone asked me if I was going to teach again, I’d say, “Well, not in a traditional public school.” I elaborated to say that I would teach in an “alternative” setting — like a private school or a charter school or a specialized school. Although around here, those opportunities are few and far between. But teaching in a “non-traditional” setting was always my preference. It’s how I taught (for better or worse) in my more “traditional” classroom, given some obvious limitations. For nine years my dream job was teaching at our district’s alternative program. It was like a charter school within the district. But that opportunity didn’t happen during my tenure.

After the chaos of leaving the high school mid-year, I needed to take a break from education, as much as I loved it. So this past year I’ve been working part-time in the cheese shop of a local, uh, grocery store. It’s really more than just your average grocery store. It’s a fancied-up version. And it’s been a really wonderful and meaningful experience for me. I never had the experience of working retail. Let me tell you — it’s not easy. You miss out on a lot of stuff. Your schedule isn’t consistent. And the public is not always nice. (But actually, I rarely encountered rude or ungrateful customers.)

I loved almost every single minute of that job. No, it wasn’t intellectually demanding. No, it wasn’t high stakes, high-pressure work. But it was fun and warm and friendly. I found ways of making it challenging. And I felt valued and important. No, we weren’t solving life’s problems in our little cheese shop, but we were doing meaningful work because we believed in providing a quality product (in this case, fancy cheese) to our customers.

Another side benefit of working in the cheese shop is it allowed me time and flexibility to grow in other areas of my life. Particularly my trail running. Retail hours suit trail running very nicely. I could run in the morning on my days off or before work. And even though I missed out on a lot of evenings with my kid and husband, I had a lot of unique time slots with them — both individually and together. The cheese shop gig also gave me stability while I continued the very important, hard work on my self. That job, the friendships I made there, the people I worked with, the value and importance I felt as an employee — these all were paramount to my personal growth. When I left the classroom I was fighting a lot of demons. A year and a half later and I feel like a whole different person. I’m alive and hopeful and joyful and excited about all the little adventures and challenges that come my way.

It’s been a great year in the cheese shop. And just shortly after I celebrated my one-year anniversary with the company, I had a very serendipitous conversation with a local teacher. This led to me applying for and accepting a teaching position at a local charter school. And so now I am transitioning away from this job I called home for the past year and back into the classroom, in an environment I believe will suit my education philosophy much better. I’m sad to be leaving my cheese family, but I’m so over-the-moon excited for this new chapter in my life. I can’t wait to meet my kids and get to know them, to teach and love and support them, to connect with colleagues and make new friendships, and to be a part of a community of teachers with like-minded philosophies.

I can already foresee how this new career will present some personal challenges: time for trail running, logistics of scheduling pickups and drop-offs, the strain on certain friendships. But life is not perfect, and there’s always going to be an element of stress and challenges. I’m ok with this. It will all work out. As long as there is patience and understanding and support, all those little challenges will work themselves out over time.

But, you guys…. I get to be a teacher again!

I have been patient… and forward progress is happening.

ILYKG

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[POEM] the watch maker slows time then speeds it up all while laughing maniacally

 



the watch maker slows time then speeds it up all while laughing maniacally

mashed avocado vibrant green
coffee whipped milk
that moment
stolen
a thief of time
fifteen minutes, thirty
sipping hot coffee
soft melodies filling space
silence filling space
birds, wind, highway noise filling space
dogs sigh, bark, snore, jingle collars
they want to run far and long
but they sleep because it’s hot

this moment
was stolen
like the others
I am a thief

avocado browns on the toast
coffee cools in the mug
while I type type type
try to articulate my passions
in a letter
trying to sound professional
but sincere

I’m not saying what they want to hear
(that was never my problem… or
maybe “problem” is exactly what it is)
I don’t lack for honesty
about my passions
I don’t compromise myself for others

a stolen moment
a thief wrapping time around time around time
try to stop it, will it to slow
s l o w     d o w n
but it doesn’t
instead, speeds along and laughs
you can’t steal moments
only borrow them apologetically
with gratefulness
from the time keeper, watch maker
but I will continue to try
to thieve when I can, where I can
smell summer flowers and fresh air
sit in silence and then not silence and then silence

/ / /

Gina Thompson
24 July 2017
Plesant Gap, PA

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the lack of forward progress

 

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cobblestone beach, Acadia National Park. July 11, 2017. Photo credit: me

I asked a friend how he was doing these days. He said “fine” in that way that doesn’t really mean fine at all. Then he elaborated a bit to say that he feels as though he’s in a holding pattern and not making much progress (in life).

A woman I work out with said a similar thing about her running. She feels like she’s not getting better and maybe getting worse. She expressed how it was hard to motivate herself, which means running less, which means not getting better.

 

I told my friend in response to his “holding pattern” comment that I felt similar.
“… just kind of a slump. Not depressed really… at least not in the same way I used to be. But I’m getting really frustrated with my lack of forward progress in various aspects of my life.” 

Frustration. That’s what I’ve got here.

I want to write poems, but the words aren’t forming and flowing for me.
I want to run in the woods, but my legs are heavy and my breath is labored and my mind won’t stop telling me I can’t
I want to find a job that matches my passion for education, but I’m unsure of what that looks like.
I want to get my real estate license, but my online course is taking a lot of time and I think I’m doing it wrong — it’s been so long since I’ve been a student.
Speaking of being a student: I’m finishing my M.Ed. this fall but I haven’t yet signed up for my last course or done draft work on my Paper. The last time I wrote academically was in 2012.
I want to have a happy, fun-loving relationship with my spouse, but we’ve got so much going on and little time to work on us.
I want to not be so poor that it’s scary. I want to have enough money to pay my bills each month, and maybe some to save. It’s hard seeing others around me buy lovely things and to feel jealous. I hate that I drive a car that everyone else thinks is cute but that has no air conditioning, a non-functioning convertible top, and no backseat for my kid.

When I was trying to formulate the words to describe my mental state to my friend the word hopeless kept popping up. In that, the difference between what’s going on now and my life two years ago is that I no longer feel hopeless. There isn’t that same doom and gloom that weighs heavy on me. These days, I have a lot more hope and belief in my own ability to forge on, even in difficult times. If you’ve been following my journey for a while now, you know this difference. You’ve read it, you’ve seen it. I am so proud of my journey out of the darkness that consumed me years ago. I am much happier, stronger, self-loving, confident, and hopeful.

But I’m frustrated. And I’m impatient. I want things to move along more quickly than they are. I see friends making forward progress and accomplishing great things and I feel left behind. I feel like a loser. But a lot of that is on me. I could have started real estate classes last year when I was thinking about it but too scared to do it. I could have set up a training schedule for my trail runs and read articles on improving my technique and speed, but I haven’t. I could have immediately looked for other teaching jobs after my last one ended.

Let me give you some insight that I suspect is not so unique to me: I get an adrenaline rush and terribly excited about the thought of doing meaningful work. But I have an irrational fear of failing, which keeps me from starting that work. You can’t fail at something you haven’t done, right? (Side note: I call bullshit, of course. All those cheesy motivational posters are right: you miss out on every shot you don’t take, so…)

It’s been a year and a half now since I’ve been in the classroom. I miss teaching. I miss the relationships I formed with my students. The meaningfulness of it all. I still don’t miss the politics. The unsupportive environment I felt there. But I miss watching my kids (students) grow into their own identity. I miss being there for that, helping them with that, guiding, encouraging, supporting. And I miss the intellectual challenge of teaching. I joke with a friend who only knows me post-teaching and say, “I wish you would have known me when I was smart. I used to be smart, you know.”

I don’t really know what my point is of sharing this. I came here to write a poem, but this came out instead. Maybe it’s ok to be in this holding pattern, this roadblock. As long as it’s temporary. And as long as I continue to feel hopeful about my forward progress. I need to learn patience. And I need to give myself more credit for what I DO do than what I’m not doing. Day in and day out I’m doing a ton of meaningful work – as a mom, wife, friend, co-worker, etc. I am making foward progress, it’s just slow. Maybe that’s what I need right now.

That, and maybe a good kick in the ass.

Thank you to those who continue to love and support me. My life would be nothing without all the love I receive from friends and family. I can’t seem to formulate words that doesn’t make it sound so cliche. But the people in my life and the relationships I have with them is what keeps me moving. I love the fuck outta every one of yall, even if I don’t say it all the time.

~ I love you keep going ~

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