Friday, August 25, 2017

My Summer with the Old Man


Photo: Vicki DeLoach


Nope, the "old man" is not my dad. Nor is it my husband, in case you were wondering. I'm referring to the old man in this poem by Joseph Bruchac.

BIRDFOOT'S GRAMPA

The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our lights and leaping,
live drops of rain.

Read the rest HERE.  (I'll wait.)


It's a wonderful poem, isn't it?

I've been thinking about it a lot over the course of my crazy-busy summer. Not only do I identify with Birdfoot's impatience, I also feel kinship with those little toads—hopping in one direction or another, only to be stunned and confused when something throws them off course. I'd like to say that I identify with the old man most of all, but that's a stretch. I'm definitely not there yet... though I may be a hop, skip, and jump closer.

This summer I was a full-time toad multitasker—one might even say "amphidextrous" (wink). There was the Teacher Toad, who conducted several different poetry workshops; the Traveler Toad, who found her way to the Berkshires for a reunion and to Atlanta for a college visit; the Mom Toad who held things together back at the homestead; the Chauffeur Toad, who is often mistaken for the Mom Toad; the Conference Toad who had a taste of her first ILA experience; the Editor Toad, who, with the invaluable assistance of a Toadlet Ditty Committee, got the next volume of the The Best of Today's Little Ditty under way; the Friend Toad and Daughter Toad, who made themselves available with limited success; and the runt of the lot—the self-starter Poet Toad—who, more than anything, is well-practiced in the art of patience.

It's a lot to manage, all those hoppity-hoppers. Is it any wonder that the littlest ones get ignored? Until this summer, my modus operandi was to spend an inordinate amount of time juggling time and priorities, ever hopeful that I could find a way to have it all. Of course, it never worked. Outrageous expectations breed disappointment. Period.

But thanks to the old man, I'm beginning to see things another way. Who's to say that any one of these toads doesn't deserve a leathery hand and a fast track to greener pastures. No one fancies being squished when there are places to go and things to do. Priorities change, yes, but that doesn't make one goal more deserving than another.


Photo: Peter Reed


So guess what? I've decided it's okay to take my time. To watch for toads in the road. To explore new opportunities "knee deep in the summer/roadside grass." To carry life in the palm of my hand.

If there's one thing we've learned from current events, it's that life is unpredictable. Predictably unpredictable, in fact. Far more important to me right now is the desire to be present and resilient than the desire to be productive in any one area. I hereby give myself permission to change the rules as I go.

Huh. Looks like my One Little Word has cropped up again—Change.

Lesson learned. Toadally.


A new DMC challenge is on the way! Our next Spotlight interview will be unveiled on September 1st.









It's great to be back to Poetry Friday! Thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for hosting this week's roundup at Check it Out.







61 comments:

  1. I love this post, Michelle!! So much yes to accepting the unpredictability, and counting any/all of the toads as deserving :-)!

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    1. So glad you connected with the post and poem, Tabatha. I only wish accepting the unpredictability came a bit easier.

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  2. I'm right there with you, Michelle but wouldn't have known how to say it.

    I've been telling my friends that this year is going to be about balance for me, but knowing balance for this wifemomteacherfriendwriter will never mean even and fair amounts of pressure and time.

    Cheers to being knee deep and changing the rules as you go. And carrying life in our hands.

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  3. Dear Michelle, I toadally love this post. :) Glad you are moving now from the hoppity hoppity to the watching the toads in the road. Both are important, yes? xo

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  4. Hi Michelle, you sound awfully wise. And yes, it is a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing it and for sharing your reflections on your experience being a lot of different toads.

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    1. Thanks, Liz. I only wish I felt as wise as I sound! But at least I'm headed in the right direction.

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  5. What a beautiful poem indeed. Sigh.

    But you forgot the Skype-with-Renee-to-Keep-Her-Sane-and-From-Getting-Squished-in-the-Road Toad, which is, selfishly, my favorite toad of all.

    And I raise my glass of swamp water to toast you and your toadally awesome vow to do it your way. Here's to chillaxin' on the lily pad. <3

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    1. I quite like that Skype-with-Renee Toad too. :) Cheers to chillaxin' with my swamp-mate! *clink*

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  6. Love your post, Michelle - and yes, life is busy, unpredictable, and fleeting! You have a good handle on how to prioritize. I'd not seen the poem before, so thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Matt, but re: priorities? In theory, yes. In practice... the jury's still out.

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  7. My husband does all he can to miss a toad on the road - but he is perhaps the only Australian who does. (The cane toad was introduced in 1935 and is decimating so much of our native wildlife - and spreading so far.)

    But I understand your sentiment, Michelle. :) Take your time and nurture your toadlets. And value moments. And I'll be hoping your poetry toad gets a chance to hop to it!

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    1. Ha! I knew one of my Aussie friends would bring up cane toads! Yes, you're right, Kat. They are clearly an exception to the save-the-toads cause.

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  8. Ah, Michelle, I rode along a dark road one night in a spring long ago and experienced an abundance of frogs crossing the road. It was both thrilling and frightening. I knew all those little guys wouldn't make, but I continued on as if they would. I hope all your crossings are good ones; please know we have your back-slimy, though it may be! ;-)

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  9. Love this wise post, my friend. (And Joseph Bruchac - is he a national - no, world - treasure, or what?!) Life is muddy and drippy and you can't save them all, but yay for the miracle of toadlets. (Buffy introduced me to that word a while back, and I do love it, as I see you do too.) XO

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  10. Perfect post, Michelle. Just recently travelled in a rain one evening with peepers leaping across the lanes between flooded rice fields, like wayward rain drops soaring in horizontal arcs in my headlights, awkwardly perpendicular to nature.
    Glad you are back.

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    1. Whoa, what a great image, Damon! That's a poem just begging to be written! Thanks for the kind welcome back. :)

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  11. Wise words, something for me to re-read once in a while, Michelle. I love the story poem lesson, meant for us to remember, too. Change is good, "Toadally".

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    1. I'll have to come back and re-read this from time to time too, Linda. LOL. I have a nasty habit of not listening to my own wise advice, especially when I need it most!

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  12. Love this poem--live drops of rain surely have places to go! And so glad you are toadally present and taking time to smell the toadlets.

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    1. So tell me, what DO they smell like??? (I figure if anyone knows, it would be you.)

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  13. Welcome HOME.....I think my all my toads are friends with all your toads. I laughed as I read your post and better yet...it was a welcome home for me too. You go, you writer-poet girl! You are toadally rockin life.

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    1. I'm sure they are friends, Linda! Probably off having a good time somewhere even as I write this. ;)

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  14. I love this poem and I love this post. So much to think about here. Thanks for this.

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    1. Thank you, Rosi. Isn't it wonderful when you really connect with a poem? It's such a gift.

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  15. Thanks for sharing this lovely poem, Michelle! Most days, I certainly feel like I'm frantically hopping from one lily pad to another, trying to keep everything afloat in my little pond. I appreciate the reminder to stop and take a breath.

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    1. I hear ya, Jesse! I could use regular reminders as well.

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  16. Yes, we all have our journey, but if we can help the little toads along the way, it makes out journey that much better. I'm glad you're back.

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  17. I hope these two toads pass somewhere along the journey. This post was genius. Keep on toading along.

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  18. Michelle I was so entrance by Joseph Bruchac poem " BIRDFOOT'S GRAMPA,"
    that I read everything on that page, and then explored the entire website, a wonderfully rich poem and new site for me, thanks!
    I love your soft, silly, humor on this topic of what's important, and your poignancy about what's prioritized and what can be left to the side, it sings a familiar song to me–maybe some of those things we thought were important really aren't. I'm looking forward to your September Spotlight interview Ditty challenge. BTW, the toad is Toadally perfect, he toad me so!

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    1. He toad you so, huh. LOL. I'm so glad you connected with my post, Michelle, and that you found a new poet and website to explore besides! I think you're going to like next month's challenge. :)

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  19. Here's to a toadally good and busy summer. I've enjoyed many of Bruchac's novels, but I was not familiar with his poetry. Thank you for sharing it. It's a lesson I'm constantly learning and relearning.

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    1. Yes! Learning and relearning... that's exactly how I feel, too, Kay.

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  20. I'm trying to come up with a witty "toadism" to add to those already listed, but I'm coming up a little short. :) Regardless, this post was spot on for me, especially right now. Your words (and that lovely poem) are just what I need to hear. Enjoy the toadlets and the work that's coming in, and the rest will follow - eventually. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. A little short, huh? I see what you did there, Liz. :) Thanks so much for letting me know that my post reached you in a personal way.

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  21. Lovely introspection! Thank you for the reminder to be present and resilient.

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    1. Thanks Teresa. We all need those reminders, don't we? More often than we think we do!

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  22. So clever, Michelle! You are safely crossing more roads than you realize.

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  23. Joseph Bruchac just has such a way with words, every poem or story is a treasure.

    Sometimes I feel like my life is a game of herding cats - as soon as I think I've got them all penned in, one slips through, and before I know it they're all running everywhere. But, we do the best we can! :)

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    1. I'm with you, Jane. That's really all we can ask of ourselves — to do the best we can. And better cats, then, say, eels, right?

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  24. I hate seeing a dead animal on the side of the road. I'm always wondering where they were headed when they got in our way.

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    1. Oh I know! And every day there's a few more. It's heartbreaking.

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  25. Not only do I love Birdfoot's Grandpa, but I loved the next poem down on the page you linked. It, also, is about slowing down and noticing more. It worked for me this morning -- slowing down to bicycle speed got me two new poems!

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    1. Fabulous, Mary Lee! And how much do I love that we can count our blessings in numbers of poems?!!

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    2. Mary Lee, I'm so glad you mentioned the other poem on the linked page--which of course I had missed until you pointed it out. (I must have been rolling along!) It is also wonderful and that reminder to slow down is one I need to hear often!

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  26. Michelle, I love the linked poem, your post and the creative way that you shared your thinking and your journey. It sounds like you had an important and fulfilling summer. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Molly. Important and fulfilling, yes, though I might have liked just a touch more lazing about!

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  27. Thank you for this brilliant post, Michelle! I've missed your voice these past few months, but am so happy that they have been rewarding and productive for you. Bigfoot's grandpa is a man after my own heart. I recently drove home during a downpour and the tree frogs were leaping every which way. I managed to avoid hitting any, but other drivers hadn't been as cautious. Looking forward to hearing more about your summer adventures!

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    1. I bet you're an expert frog dodger, Catherine! Clearly those other less cautious drivers are not familiar with Bruchac's poem. :(

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  28. Such a terrific post. I know you've had some great adventures this summer besides deciding which poems for the next TLD. I love this poem, it reminds me of the story of the person throwing the starfish back into the sea. Someone said to the person, you can't save them all to which the reply was "I saved that one."

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    1. Yep. That line gives me chills each time I hear it, Jone. Kindness and compassion are so important, now more than ever.

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  29. I admire the patience and love of the Birdfoot's Grandpa. I admire your toad analogy. I also have many toads hippy-hopping here and there. Glad to see you back in PF. Looking forward to the first spotlight. XOXO

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  30. I'm late to the toad conversation, but am glad I stopped by. I love reading your insights, Michelle. And thank you for introducing me to this poem by Bruchac - one I will be "pond"ering for a while. Looking forward to your spotlight challenge. =)

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