Friday, June 30, 2006


"Something there is that doesn't love a wall . . . "

I live in suburbia, with plenty of sturdy, wood fences, and new stretches of it going up all the time. We actually don't have fencing, but since our neighbors all around have fenced-in yards, we're almost completely surrounded. At a neighborhood party the other day, I suggested everyone on the block tear down their fences and we'd have a huge, community space with gardens, a playground (built with all that wood), walkways, benches. Think Notting Hill.

Everyone just looked at me - the crazy, radical, anti-fence lady.

But two neighbors did discuss the idea of just fencing in their two yards that are right next to each other so they could enjoy a larger, shared space. My efforts aren't in vain.

What/who are we fencing in
or out?

Are we fencing in our dogs, our children,

Are we fencing out the big,
scary world?

As if that's all it takes.

Mending Wall

By Fobert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Thursday, June 29, 2006



Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Thanks Pris for finding this - here's who should paint me (supposedly):

Who Should Paint You: Gustav Klimt

Sensual and gorgeous, you would inspire an enchanting portrait.
With just enough classic appeal to be hung in any museum!

I actually had my portrait painted in college by a classmate who - last I heard - was working at the Art Institute of Chicago - maybe restorations. I was not so happy with the results - which was not due to his ability as a painter - but more about seeing how I'm seen.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


MH, Liam, and I are settling into summer.

I used to have grandiose ideas about all that I would get done during my summers off:

~Self-publish a book of my poems.

~Write a chick lit. novel or children's book just for fun, or the biography I have in the back of my mind.

~Super-clean and organize the house, including the attic.

~Have a yard sale.

~Follow an actual schedule, including an hour of "school" for the kids a day.

Now, I have a more realistic approach to summer. I have to account for the crash time we always have transitioning. Must resist the urge to get up and go. Must remember that it's ok for them to watch Little Bear, Kipper, and/or the baby animal documentary again, besides, it's still raining. In fact, sure Liam, go ahead and wear your Cars pjs all day. Go for it!

Yesterday, we bought a bag of goodies at the Scrap Exchange, and today, we have projects scattered all around the dining room floor, and the family room has been transformed into a fort by sheets and blankets.

Remember those days when you were little: the rainy, fort-making days?

Now, they are wearing red ball caps and scarves around their waists - they are mountain climbing of course - where's my camera?

Monday, June 26, 2006


I practiced yoga for several years, but have yet to find the right teacher here in the Triangle Area.

I notice two very dramatic changes in me when I'm not doing yoga:

~I'm less present, more scattered, I have a difficult time prioritizing and letting go of the small stuff.

~I'm less flexible (physically), my muscles feel coiled up, my spine more rigid, my posture horrible.

I changed at the new year to an non-yoga exercise program that is more "athletic" thinking that is what I need to get in shape, but what I gave up is catching up with me. I need to shop around some more for a yoga class that's right for me - not intense aerobic-type yoga classes. The best classes are the ones where I leave feeling like a rubber band - mind and body.


Here's an old yoga-related poem I just revised this morning:

yoga blanket

j.b. rowell

offered before deep meditation
when bodies lay in corpse exposed
to air-conditioned currents

blanket unfolds poncho colors
of Mexican sky to cover
chilled toes and tuck under chin

coolness woven into course wool
fibers carry smell of others
not detectable in passing

blanket warms and settles
like a parachute pulled down
by small hands in gym class

dome drops onto skin
scents mingle


The curriculum director at my school sent me an article comparing yoga to teaching:

Lessons from Yoga

The premise is that teachers need to follow a yoga pedagogy to teaching:

1) Set Your Intention

2) Personalize the Practice

3) Notice What You Notice

4) Integrate the Experience and Feel the Effects

The last stage is to pay attention to "When the Lotus Flower Blooms."

"Yoga reminds teachers about important but easily overlooked aspects of teaching. As teachers, we must always remember to act deliberately, honor the individual, and remain continually aware and reflective."

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Well, me, among others . . .

When my daughter gets asked what she is doing this summer, she says, "You know that chef on tv Rachael Ray? Well, we're cooking lots of her recipes . . ." This is so ironic because we don't even have cable anymore so don't get to see her in action. Maybe they have a best of DVD?

Besides the chicken dish, we've also made:

~Bread Pizza Stuffed with Meat and Mushrooms (yum)

~Bacon Bit Burgers with Smoked Gouda and Steak House Smothered Onions (out-of-this-world delicious)

We'll try a pasta dish next, maybe Everything Low Mein. Our challenge is still how to get the three-year-old boy to try new things. We may have to make a more plain version of everything for him.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


My time lately seems to be devoted to tying loose ends. I have had little time for family, and even less time for all that reading and writing I said I was going to do this summer. First things first: unplug the entire family, get my children dressed and fed, and get OUTSIDE.

tying and cutting loose ends

j.b. rowell

fingers reflect
in coffee mug glaze
type in layers,

my son says
I am a reptile
hands with fingers
working eyes darting
pulled to lone age spot
back turned
to them watching TV
in their underwear
sounds from kitchen
husband plugged into music

I follow through
on promises I didn't know
I made
cancel trips
I've been counting on
focus on just one
then another
because more than one
at a time
is too heavy for frozen
layer below

weak spots groan
with slow steps
fingers busy
fingers thinking
in reality: tangled
threads it will take
lifetimes to make sense of

Friday, June 23, 2006


A poem of mine is sort of on The Goodnight Show, but fell between the PJ cracks.

You can still hear it here . . .

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I cooked an actual dinner. I know that is an everyday event for most mothers, but I am hearing more and more about women whose husbands make dinner nightly. Now I like to cook, don't get me wrong, but my husband LOVES to and usually butts in when I try I'm stirring and tells me how he would do it. So I gave up on cooking early in the marriage. This summer, my daughter, MH, and I are learning how to cook (better) together. We have matching aprons. :)

Tonight, we plated Balsamic Chicken with White Beans and Wilted Spinach, a recipe from MH's favorite TV chef Rachael Ray. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. Next time: less onion and less wilting of the spinach. The best part was, she was more inclined to eat a meal she had a part in making, and she encouraged her brother to eat it as well. I think we're onto something here.


Speaking of TV chefs: Has anyone been wathcing the start of the second season of Hell's Kitchen? It's hilariously horrifying!


Gadget Alert: I bought a stainless steel cocktail shaker that has the recipes for 15 mixed drinks around the outside.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I was gone for five days attending back-to-back teaching conferences. This was the longest I've been away from my kids, but it was ok since their daddy is perfectly capable. His one flaw: forgetting to lock the cars in the driveway . . .

trying doors

j.b. rowell

during my late flight
last night
or even when I was
on the ground
and headed home
someone ransacked
our unlocked car

bags of snacks
sticky change and even
a GPS wouldn't do
for a thief
who took a toddler
backpack mistaken
for a purse

left it on the lawn
open with crowds
of ants scaling
a nap blanket and
a book about a friendly

not just violated
I felt my life's contents
by a society that leaves
personal artifacts behind
on the way
to the next driveway

Saturday, June 10, 2006



My daughter is the ham with her hands on her heart.

This was a performance for Grandparents' Day at school, and no, I am not a stage mom. She has been like this since a very young age - loves the spotlight. My son is the opposite.

So this brings me to my question: how do you go about fostering your children's interests? Do you get them involved in many things, just one or two? Do you encourage them to stick with something even when their interest wanes, or do you change activities whenever they express a new interest?

She has been involved in camps and classes from time to time: dance, soccer, karate, art, basketball, ice skating. Our philosophy has been to let her try lots of new experiences (I'll tell you about bribing her to jump off the high dive another time), and we only have signed her up for long-term classes when she has shown a strong and long-lasting interest. That has mostly been dance classes.

She is just starting guitar lessons since we're a wee bit tired of hearing random strumming and belting of songs. It's time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Among my sweet gifts and notes from students and parents to celebrate the end of the school year, an unusual treasure. No, not a desk item with an apple, not an "A+ Teacher" mug, not even the coveted gift certificate . . .

. . . a book of poems.

The student of mine is second cousin to the poet June Beisch. The book is titled fatherless woman and is the winner of the Cape Cod Literary Press Poetry Award. It is a treasure. I read through most of it and really enjoyed it, especially this poem about teaching poetry:

Note written to the parents of a middle school child
June Beisch

I'm writing to say that your child seems to be
adept at writing poetry
This is a rare gift and should be nurtured.
Turn off the radio and television.
Play Beethoven in the morning and Mozart at
dusk, before bed.
Resist speaking to him in the tone
of busy common sense
and give him a place where he can be alone.
Let him stay outside in the summer grass
for one whole night alone
Let him watch the moon
rise and the sun
set, let him stay in bed until noon.
Do not speak of obligations or of
things that must be done.

The students in this school are all
starving for beauty and for silence.
You see it in their eyes.
Bent over beneath their heavy backpacks, they are
already burdened
but when they read their poems aloud, it is like
the voice of God speaking.

They long for the wind-in-the-chimney sounds of poetry
and they too, like Odysseus, want to eat the cattle of the sun.
Everything around them is fast becoming elevator music, so
let them believe that they are going to the moon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Yesterday, I posted a photo of my sweet boy before catching wind of the movie-fueled, media hysteria over the date. Note to self: do not post photos of young son on 6/6/6. Never mind the fact that there is a 2 and a 0 and another 0 in the date. People may think it is a sign, or worse, and OMEN!

Then I read about all these mothers who are actually scheduling the birth of their children around the date. That's some serious marketing of our fears.

By the end of the day, when I was tucking Liam in I actually let it get to me. While he was doing his usual tired babble and talking about some silly yet dark things, I began to panic. Could it be that my halo-haired son is really . . . ?

Fortunately, another blogger's boy already holds the title of anti-christ, so I have nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


“ . . . those locks of hair trembling in the wind, and I said to myself, What I’m looking at is only a shell. What’s most important is invisible . . . ”
The Little Prince

Monday, June 05, 2006


After the last day of school, I wrote a poem. This may not sound like such a big deal, but teachers on the last day of school are generally frazzled, exhausted, and thinking about what needs to get done to finish off the year. After the last day of school for students, a different type of work takes over for teachers: progress reports, student files, packing up the classroom, meetings . . . I'm still not writing as much as I would like to, but I have been writing under all sorts of circumstances including child on lap, while getting ready in the morning, in the car. Where's the strangest place you have written?

The Mockingbird Mama Is Never Far
J.B. Rowell

from the nest she makes annually
outside the classroom window
in dense shrub. The children look
out and report when she brings insects
or berries for bobbing open mouths.

As we walk by she waits nervously
on a branch or even in the street, hops
and flashes her white on gray wings.
Never swoops or harasses, she returns
to the nest after we pass on tiptoe.

The last day of school, the baby birds
are ready. They venture out to the ends
of branches. Cry, cry for her to come
with food in beak. They don't know
their bodies are capable, have become

full and feathered, with crowning tufts
over yellow eyes. Soon, the males will
mimic and swoop in circles above treetops,
and the females will make their own nests
near the comfort of commotion to be observed

by caged fledglings hungry for summer.

Thank you Debbie and Suzanne for your editing advice on this one. Debbie suggested changes to the last line and is credited for the last four words. I don't usually take someone else's phrasing as a suggestion, but she nailed it I think.

Okay, so let's hear about the strange places you have written . . .

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Was the Bard a Woman?
A new contender for authorship of Shakespeare's works

By Anne Underwood

June 28 issue - For more than 150 years, literary sleuths have questioned whether William Shakespeare—a man with a grammar-school education, at best—could possibly have penned some of the greatest works in the English language. "You can be born with intelligence, but you can't be born with book learning," says Mark Rylance, Shakespearean actor and artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London. But if Shakespeare didn't write the plays, who did? Dozens of candidates have been proposed, most of them men. But at a conference of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust in London next week, American writer Robin Williams will argue that the true bard was a woman—Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke.

Sidney (as her biographers call her) is a logical suspect. Sister of the Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney, she was a poet herself and one of the best-educated woman in England, along with Elizabeth I. Perhaps not surprisingly, her name has surfaced before as a possible collaborator on Shakespeare's plays, although never until now as a candidate in her own right. Scholars are unlikely to be persuaded. "The very fact that there are so many candidates is almost a proof that none of them is the author," says Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon. But that doesn't deter Williams. "One homicide detective told me, 'You're using the same reasoning we use to track down murderers'," she says.

In short, Mary Sidney had the motive, means and opportunity to write the plays. At her home in Wiltshire, she fostered a literary circle whose mission was to elevate English literature—a strong motive. Gary Waller, a Sidney scholar at Purchase College in New York, has called her salon "a seedbed of literary revolution" and Sidney herself "the first major female literary figure in England." With her vast library, education and command of foreign languages, Sidney also had the means to create the works. And with her extensive connections in the literary world, she had opportunity to smuggle the plays to theater companies. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but the first eight Shakespeare plays were published anonymously—"and three of them," says Williams, "provocatively note on the title page that they were produced by Pembroke's Men, the acting company that Mary Sidney and her husband sponsored."

Sidney-as-Bard would solve a number of riddles, argues Williams. It would explain why Shakespeare wrote love sonnets to a younger man. (Sidney had a younger lover, Matthew Lister.) It could clarify why the first compilation of Shakespeare's plays, the First Folio of 1623, was dedicated to the earls of Pembroke and Montgomery (her sons). And it would explain Ben Jonson's First Folio eulogy to the "sweet swan of Avon." Sidney had an estate on the River Avon—and her personal symbol was the swan. "There are swans in the lace collar and cuffs of her last portrait," Williams notes.

Even her dates dovetail with Shakespeare's—which is more than one can say of some of the other candidates. Edward de Vere, widely regarded as the leading contender, died 12 years before Shakespeare, requiring a revisionist chronology of the plays. And to embrace Christopher Marlowe, one has to believe that he faked his murder in 1593 and escaped to the European continent. "But there is growing evidence for this," says Michael Frohnsdorff, head of the Marlowe Society, add-ing that a new commemorative window in Westminster Abbey gives Marlowe's dates as "1564-1593?" Sidney's are more straightforward. She was born three years before Shakespeare and died five years after. When she suffered a series of personal losses, the plays turned darker. "It all fits," says Williams.

Case closed? Not yet. As intriguing as Williams's argument is, her evidence is circumstantial. Proof, says Sidney biographer Margaret Hannay, "would require things like letters from contemporaries praising 'Mary Sidney's Hamlet'." Until that proof turns up, scholars will stand by the man from Stratford. But that won't stop mystery lovers from trying to unseat him. The intrigue could prove as immortal as the works of the Bard—whoever he or she really was.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


From Writer's Almanac:

A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley
by Allen Ginsberg

All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering brown fence
under a low branch with its rotten old apricots miscellaneous under the leaves,
fixing the drip in the intricate gut machinery of a new toilet;
found a good coffeepot in the vines by the porch, rolled a big tire out
of the scarlet bushes, hid my marijuana;
wet the flowers, playing the sunlit water each to each, returning for
godly extra drops for the stringbeans and daisies;
three times walked round the grass and sighed absently:
my reward, when the garden fed me its plums from the form of a
small tree in the corner,
an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and lovelorn tongue.

It's the birthday of poet Allen Ginsberg, born in Newark, New Jersey (1926). He fell in love with the poetry of Walt Whitman when he was in high school, after hearing his English teacher read a passage from Whitman's "Song of Myself" to the class. He later said that he would never forget his teacher's "black-dressed bulk seated squat behind an English class desk, her embroidered collar, her voice powerful and high ... so enthusiastic and joyous ... so confident and lifted with laughter."

He went to Columbia University, planning to take pre-law classes and become a lawyer like his brother, but he switched his major to English after taking a Great Books class from the critic Lionel Trilling. He fell in with a group of poets and artists that included Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs. They read poetry to each other and took drugs and had all-night conversations, and sometime in the late '40s they started calling themselves "Beats."

When Ginsberg was twenty-six years old, he was sitting in his apartment in Harlem when he suddenly had a vision of William Blake. He told friends and family that he had found God. He said, "My body suddenly felt light, and [I felt] a sense of cosmic consciousness, vibrations, understanding, awe, and wonder and surprise. And it was a sudden awakening into a totally deeper real universe than I'd been existing in." But Ginsberg still wasn't sure that he wanted to be a poet after he graduated from Columbia. He worked as an apprentice book reviewer for Newsweek magazine for a time, and then he spent five years working for an advertising agency in an office in the Empire State Building. In 1955, he and his psychiatrist decided he would be happier writing poetry. He took six months of unemployment insurance money and moved to San Francisco, where he became part of the poetry scene that included Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In October of 1955, he read his poem "Howl" to a large group of people at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. It was a huge success, and it launched a writing career that lasted over forty years.

"Howl" begins, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night ..."

Ginsberg wrote, "I want to be known as the most brilliant man in America ... who sang a blues made rock stars weep ... who called the Justice department & threaten'd to Blow the Whistle / Stopt Wars ... distributed monies to poor poets & nourished imaginative genius of the land."

He said, "Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private."

Friday, June 02, 2006


Amazing how easy it is to get kids up in the morning when it is the last day of school, and a half day too.

by Shel Silverstein

"I cannot go to school today,"

Said little Peggy Ann McKay.

"I have the measles and the mumps,

A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,

I'm going blind in my right eye.

My tonsils are as big as rocks,

I've counted sixteen chicken pox

And there's one more--that's seventeen,

And don't you think my face looks green?

My leg is cut--my eyes are blue--

It might be instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,

I'm sure that my left leg is broke--

My hip hurts when I move my chin,

My belly button's caving in,

My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,

My 'pendix pains each time it rains.

My nose is cold, my toes are numb.

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,

I hardly whisper when I speak.

My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,

My temperature is one-o-eight.

My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There is a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?

What's that? What's that you say?

You say today is. . .Saturday?

G'bye, I'm going out to play!"