Month: August 2014

What Does it Mean to be a Writer?

Last week, for a few moments, I felt like a real writer. I say this a bit sheepishly because I really don’t consider myself one. But, as I sat outside at a local cafe early one morning with my writer’s notebook and a cup of coffee I thought I might look like a writer.

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A group sat down near me and they were obviously a group of regulars. Their conversation centered on updates about what was on the agenda for the day. I was brought into the conversation as they debated the merits of the one way sign posted at one entrance of the parking lot. As one of their friends drove in the wrong way and parked more controversy erupted. One member of the group is a lawyer and rationalized that the sign states the building owners preference but holds no legal merit. We all confessed to going in the wrong way, especially if it meant getting the last spot left in the lot.

As I got up to leave, I said good-bye to the group. They all wished me a good day and then one asked congenially, “Did you write down what we were saying?” Another asked, “Are we going to end up in a New York Times article?” I told them all their secrets were safe with me. As I walked away I realized they were under the impression I was some kind of writer.

Some kind of writer… When asked what I do, my obvious answer is I am a teacher. If asked, what is your favorite subject to teach? My reply would likely be writing or reading. It is easy for me to say I am reader.  It is not easy for me to say I am a writer.  As I drove away from the cafe, I mulled over the idea of what it really means to be a writer.

After all, writers are  people whose words flow onto the page, they get published, they are creative and smart. Although many writers I have talked to confess that they don’t feel any of the above and struggle like everyone else. But, the published writers I know do have a spark and persistence that leads to getting their work published.  I am slowly coming to the realization that writers are people who observe, think and write about the world around them.

My writing consists of quickly written mentor texts for my students, occasional blog posts and a collection of claptrap in my writer’s notebook. This summer I have worked to focus on having more of a writing life. I have dragged my notebook all over the northeast on my summer travels. Sometimes I write, many times I think about writing more than actual writing. I am always on the look out for seeds that I can develop into a bigger idea. I have written, I have struggled, I have revised and written some more.

As I return to the classroom and prepare to don the many hats I wear as an elementary teacher, one hat I think I will be more comfortable putting on is my writer’s hat. In fact, I think it will be best if during writing workshop I wear my writer’s hat more visibly. I will share my real writer’s notebook with my students instead of a demonstration notebook.  I will share my writing frustrations and celebrations.  I think it will enable my students to see my teaching as more authentic because I share their  writerly struggles.

After all, I see my students as writers it is time I see myself as one too.  We are all some kind of writer.

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Full Moon Ride

I have written about my rides with Susie before… she is my dear friend who generously shares her horses with me and brings me along on many riding adventures.  Earlier this month we traveled to Acadia National Park in Maine with horses in tow for four days of trail riding along an extensive network of carriage roads designed to be used by horses and carriages.   This park is a favorite to many as it is where the mountains meet the sea creating breathtaking scenery.    The carriage roads were planned to highlight some of the most scenic views in the park.  Every time I get to ride on these trails is special but one ride on our recent trip was extra special…

As Susie and I approached the stalls after dark the horses eyes glowed and they nickered a greeting assuming we were doing our nighttime check and restocking of hay before bed. They looked a little surprised when we flicked the lights on and began tacking them up.

As I tacked Dixie up in the dim light of the stall I felt a trace of nervousness. I have never ridden at night. I am well aware of the risks of riding and knew these were magnified when riding at night. But, my friend Susie is an experienced horsewoman. I have followed her over mountains, through deep rivers and down trails that don’t look like trails. I have long heard her stories of going up Day Mountain by the light of the full moon and this was finally my chance to go.

We mounted up and met up with the other horses and riders who appeared as dim shapes coming up the dirt path towards us. I felt like I was part of a posse of bandits ready to head out for a nighttime raid; not a group of diverse women whose common bond is a love of horses. We headed up the dark access trail and as we entered the carriage road the break in the trees allowed the light of the full moon to illuminate our path. The moonlight was bright enough to cast shadows onto the rocks that line the side of the trail. As we climbed up the mountain, we were able to view Somes Sound in the distance. The landscape and seascape were illuminated by the light of the moon and speckled with tiny lights from harbor towns. It was hard to tell where the sky ended and the ocean began.

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We picked up a trot and all I could hear was rhythmic hoof beats against the gravel of the carriage road. No one talked… we were all lost in our own thoughts. We slowed to a walk and enjoyed the landscape stretched out before us in the glow of the moonlight.

The night was magical. I felt like I was floating through the night like a character in a children’s book looking at the tiny world below. So peaceful… So magnificent…

At one point we started singing “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain” in a mix of voices in a range of keys. While singing I realized I had let go of the touch of nerves I had been holding on to and could truly enjoy the experience.

We gradually made our way to the top. As we neared the summit the moon slipped behind a bank of clouds dimming the glow. The lack of moonlight didn’t dim our enthusiasm for having reached the top. We made a toast to Acadia, friendships and our horses.

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After savoring the panorama below us we made our way back down the mountain.  I hated for the experience to end.