Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Samhain's Fire (#SOL15, Day 31)

Samhain's Fire (M.A. Reilly, 2010, Morristown, NJ)

It's been a long winter. Cold. Icy. Holding on and here, almost April--and winter's not giving way to spring with any ease. I hear that it may snow today.


Unexpected gifts come when we most need them.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend, Catherine Cronin, in from Galway.  We have met one other time, oddly enough in England and it was so good to see her sitting in a restaurant on the Upper West Side. She brought me a book of poems-- Hands by Moya Cannon-- an Irish poet she knows.  When I arrived home this evening, I read.

Towards the end of the book is this jewel:

Apples and Fire 
As we entered
the dark winter room
there, shining on the table
were apples, gathered
in haste last September --
each one a small lamp.  
Later, as the stove's fire
carved into the cold
I began to understand
why fire was worshipped.
To share heat in winter
sweetness in winter,
is to know blessing.


What art, like friendship, does so well is help shift perspective--to reveal what is most hidden.  On this last day of the Slice of Life challenge, I wish for you--fire to worship.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dormant (#SOL15, Day 30)

When Trees Have Lost Remembrance of Leaves (M.A. Reilly, 2015)

During the last thirty days I have been participating in Slice of Life writing challenge hosted by The Two Writing Teachers.  Tomorrow is the last day. The writers I've had a chance to read during this month who are participating in the challenge have made this a memorable experience.  There's no shortage of writing talent--and this talent is comprised largely of teachers.

Participating reminds me that I am happiest making stuff. I live in a home where everyone makes things. All day yesterday, my son rebuilt a computer in order to make it more energy efficient.  My husband has journals that date back to the early 1980s. He's forever scribbling thoughts--crafting some of these into poems.


Yesterday morning I took a walk about the yard in search of crocuses. Usually by now they have pushed through the ground and soon will be blooming. 

It's been a cold winter. No sign of them yet.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Bucket List (#SOL15, Day 29)

Gondola (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

Before I die, I'd like to...

listen to the northern lights with Devon and Rob 
live on the western coast of Ireland for a year
spend another year in Tuscany 
have a studio where I can make art anytime
write that novel 
          learn the art of forgetfulness 
travel anywhere, everywhere with Rob

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Beginnings: Doorways We Walk Through (#SOL15, Day 28)

House by the Tracks (M.A. Reilly, 2009)


Edward Said wrote that “a beginning is accepted as a beginning after we are long past beginning and after our apprenticeship is over” (1975, Beginnings: Intention and Method, p.76). Being beyond a moment often helps us to reframe it.

Tonight, I am wondering about the partial beginnings I have known.

In writing about the partially unknown beginning, Said explains “that we make and accept it at the same time that we realize that we are ‘wrong’” ( p. 78).  In reading Said's words, I think about the messiness of school.  We have accepted schools as they have been made.  Fictions and realities are co-constructed on a page, as well as in a classroom--in the school house. These fictions, these realities serve us little.

There are new doorways, we need to walk through if we can find the courage to do so. 


In the current push for the Common Core State Standards and “tougher” normed assessments that dedicate weeks out of the school year for preparation and testing the folly of our ways is more and more obvious. Our need for certainty obscures that learning has always been a human enterprise, temporally located, fictitious and real.  

Yes, fictitious and real. 

Schooling though is not the same as learning. It never has been--even when we needed it to be so. The schools we have known--the ones we have made are ending. And tonight I know that another generation will not sit tight for the dusting off of something old, something too blue, something they no longer need. The signs are everywhere. 

Identity is composed in the joining of fictions and realities—be it on paper or in the lived-curriculum of a classroom.  Said explains that this composition holds constant “so long as we have language to help us and hinder us in finding it, and so long as language provides us with a word whose meaning must be made certain if it is not to be wholly obscure” (p.78). The meaning of school can no longer be made certain. 

What gets made in its stead, interests me, even though I know what we make can't help but be wrong.

Friday, March 27, 2015

And Full of Sleep (#SOL15, Day 27)

And Full of Sleep (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

                                                         Sick on my journey,
                                                         only my dreams will wander
                                                         these desolate moors
                                                                          - Basho


Yesterday the fog called and I could barely answer it.
I was resting.
(Yes, resting.)
I hate being sick.
I have little patience for this lying down.
On the way to  and from the doctor,  I was able to make a few images.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Books Like Hidden Treasures (#SOL15, Day 26)

We Need Diverse Books (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

Yesterday I presented a workshop about how to prevent reading difficulties to a group of principals all of whom lead elementary schools in the Bronx.  I had asked Abe Barretto, Vice President of Educational Sales for Lee and Low Books, if he could provide some book samples with a focus on read aloud. Abe put together books and information about Lee & Low for each participant. I spoke with the administrators briefly about the quality of read aloud books.

I was surprised when Abe shared a thank you email that one of the principals who had been at the workshop sent him later that afternoon.  Here's a portion of it:

I was pleasantly delighted to see the presenter share your books as great books for Read Aloud to expose our students to world knowledge.  Your books are like hidden treasures ( I knew this 9 years ago when I first read a lee and low book ). Finally, the treasure is reaching a larger audience of students and educators.  Let me be the first to fill your bucket and thank you for sharing such amazing treasures.  I am sure you will receive many calls this week.  Have a lovely evening.

After I read and reread the email, I thought a long time about the graciousness that abounds; how we have been connected well before there was an Internet.

So in the spirit of the local publisher who makes sure that a group of principals leaves with some books to bring back to the children at their schools and a fine principal who recalls a connection made years earlier, I too wanted to share with you a handful of titles I routinely use for read aloud that are published by Lee and Low.  And I would agree with the principal that these are like hidden treasures.  The children actually cheer to hear and interact with these texts.

Here's the list with links to the Lee & Low website.


From Unit 1: Concepts

From Unit 2: Neighborhoods

From Unit 3: Giving Thanks

From Unit 3:Reading and Libraries

From Unit 8 Contemporary Stories


Grade 1

From Unit 1: Going to School

From Unit 7: Birds

From Unit 8 Contemporary Stories

By second grade many of the titles are used for both read aloud and then used with students in small group study with an emphasis on writing in response to text.

Grade 2:  Read Aloud & Small Group Study

From Unit 1: Himalaya

From Unit 3: Inspiring People

From Unit 8: Community

Unit 6: Contemporary Narratives
Unit 5: Mongolia

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sunblind (#SOL15, Day 25)

Sunblind (M.A. Reilly)

All the desks of my life have faced windows and except for an overwrought two-year period in the late 1980s when I worked on a word processor, I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming, or brooding.              - Joyce Carol Oates, pp. 137-138

I always seemed to find a window seat throughout my schooling--be it in elementary school or high school or even later, college.  I was lucky that way, given as I am to distraction. Place a camera in my hands or an unlined notebook and a chunky piece of charcoal and I can focus rather intently for hours. I'm a keen observer--thanks to years at school and the many ways I learned to amuse myself. 

I see in image.
Almost constantly.

Rearranging bits of landscape into frames of my making. 

In the mornings when we drive to work--Rob at the wheel, me sitting shot gun--I'm watching the landscape slowly reveal itself as we make our way down the steep hill that secludes us from the rest of NJ. It's like being in a David Hockney painting--the soft roll of hills, the steeper inclines. Imagine his Garrowby Hill with a single line of cars making their way down, down, down to the mess of highways that typifies this corner of New Jersey. And then its 60 to 70 mph and its all impressionistic until we hit traffic and in northern Jersey it's all traffic all day and the world slows, slows, slows down into a garish version of Juan Gris's The Sunblind.

And I think, we are all elbows that do not move well. 
All of us are sunblind.

Oates, Joyce Carol (2009). The Faith of a Writer. New York:  HarperCollins.