Category Archives: Mary Shepherd’s poetry

WHAT RHYMES WITH ORANGE?

leaves-on-tree-bark

 

3-halloween-pumpkins

happy-fall-cookie

Before my mother’s dementia, she wrote poetry.   She kept a notebook and pen in her purse so she was always prepared to jot down new lines for poems no matter where she was.

She once told me that when she taught kindergarten, the introduction to poetry curriculum for five-year-olds said the teacher should point to a color and say, “What words rhyme with red?”   (Then blue, green, yellow, brown, black, etc.)   “But never point to the color orange,” the instructions warned. “It will only confuse them because no word rhymes with orange.”

Molly and I went to visit my mom/her grandma last weekend.   We fed her bites of favorite food, told her family stories, sang along to Mom’s favorite children’s songs on Molly’s iPhone, and read poetry to her.   Here, in tribute to Mom’s kindergarten poetry advice many years ago, is a poem by author Mary O’Neill that describes the color orange…without trying to find a word that rhymes with it.

WHAT IS ORANGE?   By Mary O’Neill   ~   Orange is a tiger lily, A carrot,   A feather from a parrot.   A flame,   The wildest color   You can name.   Orange is a happy day, Saying good-bye    In a sunset that   That shocks the sky.   Orange is brave   Orange is bold     It’s bittersweet   And marigold      Orange is zip   Orange is dash   The brightest stripe   In a Roman sash.    Orange is an orange, Also a mango.    Orange is music of the tango.   Orange is the fur   Of the fiery fox,   It’s The brightest crayon   In the box.    And in the fall, When the leaves are turning,   Orange is the smell   Of a bonfire burning…

THIS HALLOWEEN, and every day, STOP AND ENJOY THE ORANGE!

hay-bale-halloween

cupcakes

 

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Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, kindergarten lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Mary Shepherd's poetry, teaching

THE NORWAY OF THE YEAR

The national flag of Norway, adopted July, 1821

The national flag of Norway, adopted July, 1821

 

 

 

Red November leaves clinging to tree.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Red leaves clinging to tree. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Have you ever noticed the grim way some writers describe the month of November?  

Joseph Addison wrote this: “The gloomy months of November, when people of England hang and drown themselves.” (I double checked, and the word “months” is indeed plural, as if November seems to go on and on, which might explain the hanging and drowning, or maybe it refers to Addison’s interpretation over many years. Whichever it is, I apologize to the people of England; remember, I am only the messenger.)

Emily Dickinson describes November this way: “November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”  (I used to teach Dickinson in my English classes, and I don’t recall her writing that July is the Sahara of the year, or making any other month/place comparisons…only November.)

My mother’s writing is not well known–and at this point in her dementia, even she doesn’t recognize her own words when I read them aloud to her–but I’d like to share with you a few of her descriptions of November.  I found these typed and handwritten examples stored in her writing box. 

The windblown sleet darts ~ Like tiny ice bullets ~ Against my window pane. 

Wee button noses ~ Beneath eyes of wide wonder   ~ Smudge frosty windows.

And these last two, titled 1 and 2, were followed by a question: which one is better?  If you have a preference or comment, I’ll read them to Mom during my next trip to Kansas…and remind her again that these are her words and Haikus.

#1: Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies.

#2: Trees clothed in snow-fall ~ Are strong sentinels guarding ~ Against steel grey skies.

Both of my parents thought that each day had its own beauty, and each month had its own importance and possibility. For my mother, summer months were for planting and gardening; fall and winter months were for knitting and baking; spring months were for hoping and watching new growth. She believed every season was a gift, and all the seasons deserved heartfelt anticipation…and at least a few words of notice and appreciation penned in her notebooks.

 

Fall clouds on the Kansas horizon

Fall clouds on the Kansas horizon

Maggie on fall hike in Brown's Park, Abilene, KS

Maggie on fall hike in Brown’s Park, Abilene, KS

November picture of Colorado's Pikes Peak

November picture of Colorado’s Pikes Peak

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing

TEN WORDS

Write in chalk on a fence, in crayon on lined paper... let go and write! It's only 10 words. (Photographs by Marylin Warner)

Write in chalk on a fence, in crayon on lined paper… let go and write! It’s only 10 words. (Photographs by Marylin Warner)

The cover page of the private book I put together of Mary Shepherd's poems, stories and essays.

The cover page of the private book I put together of my mother’s poems, stories, illustrations, and essays.

Dear Mom,

When Dad was in the last years of Alzheimer’s, remember how I used to search for very short writing contests that would help us “keep the pen moving” during that hard time?  I remember finding a flash fiction contest—a story or poem of no more than 200 words—and since I was coming to visit you several weeks later, when I told you about it over the phone, we agreed to each have an entry ready for the contest when I arrived.

I wrote an odd dream-like story—it was 199 words, counting the title–and you wrote several Haiku poems on one topic and called it a narrative Haiku; your word total was something like 87 words. Neither of us entered the contest, but we had great fun reading our writing attempts to each other.  At your suggestion, we even “illustrated” our stories with colored pencils and crayons, which was really a hoot.

Sometimes that’s what writing is: accepting a challenge or pursuing an idea, doing the writing and rewriting, meeting a deadline, and then celebrating the process alone or with a fellow writer. You and I celebrated by going to the White Grill and laughing over coconut cream pie…and we also brought back pieces for Dad and his caregiver, even though they hadn’t written anything.  We were feeling generous.

Even though you like to have me read to you, Mom, you’re not interested in writing any more. But I still perk up every time I find a short-word-count writing contest with no entry fee and a great prize for the winner.  And guess what I found last week?  A 10-word writing contest!  Really!  How hard can it be, writing ten words? (Not easy, actually. They have to be the right words, but come on, step up to the plate, batters!)

I love the premise.  Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story of fewer than ten words. His was only six words:  For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

When I taught my Writing To Publish classes for high school seniors, I assigned them to write their own six-to-ten word short stories.  Some really loved the challenge. Others hated it.

Love it or hate it, it’s a creative mind-boggling, teeth gritting, writing activity.  It’s a challenge.

Gotham Writers is again offering its 10-word short story contest.  Last year’s winner was Ingrid Bohnenkamp of Springfield, MO.:  The city burned. Alice lit up, watched. She’d quit later.  One of the finalists I really enjoyed was by Dan Moreau of Chicago: The inmate always called, wrote back, easily her best boyfriend.

The entries are submitted online by May 5, 2014, so you don’t even have to pay postage. There’s also no entry fee.  Only one entry per person.  For full details and prize:

http://www.writingclasses.com/ContestPages/10W.php

What do you think, Mom, will any of our friends enter the contest? I hope so.  It’s not like they have anything to lose, and there is a lot to gain. If they do the work and meet their deadline, they can go out and treat themselves—and maybe their friends who also entered—to coconut cream pie!

"10 words" ~ written in Colorado snow.  It's been a long winter... ;)

“10 words” ~ written in Colorado snow. It’s been a long winter…

Ten Words?  That's the number of fingers on two hands. Count'em. You can write ten words?

Ten Words? That’s the number of fingers on two hands. Count’em. You can write ten words!

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, writing exercises

THE GIFT OF OBSERVATION

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Maggie the Reindeer Dog; observe her antlers?

Maggie the Reindeer Dog; observe her antlers?

St. Lucia, "Bearer of Light"--do you observe the candles or the cupcakes?

St. Lucia, “Bearer of Light”–do you observe the candles or the cupcakes?

Dear Mom,

Humor columnist Dave Berry wrote this about Christmas shopping:  “Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”

Berry is right about one thing, each of us “observing” in our own way. Before the dementia, Mom, you were an astute and creative observer of life.  Then you would take out your tablet and pen, and your favorite observations became poems.

Today as others hustle and bustle around busy malls, searching for perfect gifts, I’m going to again share the poem you wrote in 1990 about the perfect romance you discovered in a shopping mall.

“SHOPPING MALL ROMANCE”   ~by Mary Shepherd

Surrounded by parcels I sat there,

On a bench in the shopping park mall.

I had finished my Christmas shopping

And in exhaustion feared I might fall.

I could see him coming toward me;

His eyes sought mine all the while.

I tenderly watched his quick footsteps.

He held out his arms with a smile.

I glanced at the pretty young lady

Who possessively grabbed for his hand.

Did she know what a treasure she held there?

The greatest in all our fair land.

He fell on my lap and clung to me.

I patted his plump-diapered rear:

A seventy-two-year-old grandma.

And a fifteen-month toddler so dear.

As you shop for those last minute, perfect presents this Christmas, may you have the gift of observation.

In the early stages of dementia, Mom reading to her great-grandchildren.

Years ago, in the early stages of dementia, Mom reading to her great-grandchildren.

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Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren

MARY’S ONGOING ROMANCE

A garden rose in lavender. (All pictures by Marylin WArner)

A garden rose in lavender.
(All pictures by Marylin WArner)

Patron Saint of Lovers

Patron Saint of Lovers

Santa Ana

Santa Ana

Dear Mom,

In LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP, Jane Austen wrote this: “The Very first moment I beheld him, my heart was irrevocably gone.”

It’s true, isn’t it, Mom?  One glance, and you can lose your heart.

I’m going to share the poem you wrote in 1990 and show our readers just how true love at first glance was in your experience.

“SHOPPING MALL ROMANCE”   ~by Mary Shepherd

Surrounded by parcels I sat there,

On a bench in the shopping park mall.

I had finished my Christmas shopping

And in exhaustion feared I might fall.

 

I could see him coming toward me;

His eyes sought mine all the while.

I tenderly watched his quick footsteps.

He held out his arms with a smile.

 

I glanced at the pretty young lady

Who possessively grabbed for his hand.

Did she know what a treasure she held there?

The greatest in all our fair land.

 

He fell on my lap and clung to me.

I patted his plump-diapered rear:

A seventy-two-year-old grandma,

And a fifteen-month toddler so dear.

I love this poem, Mom. Every child is precious to you, and each one makes you fall in love.  What a wonderful, creative way to live!

In her book, THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION, author Brene Brown says there is no such thing as “creative and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”

Thanks, Mom, for a lifetime of using your creativity.   Love, Marylin

Mary's great-grandchildren, Grace and Gannon

Mary’s great-grandchildren,
Grace and Gannon

single rose

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

WHAT WE SEE

Abandoned farm house. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Abandoned farm house. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

detroit house

log cabins

Dear Mom,

During a trip to Colorado Springs many years ago, you visited my high school English classes.  In one class we were beginning Transcendentalism, and I wrote this quote on the board: “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau 

I displayed pictures of houses—very old, decrepit houses—and told the students to choose one and write for ten minutes about what they saw and what might have happened there.  Sitting in the back of the room, you lifted a little notebook from your purse, closed your eyes and thought for a moment, then took a breath and began to write.

When the students shared what they’d written, the usual responses ranged from eerily sad tales to creepy horror scenes.  Much later you showed me the beginning of the free verse you’d written that day. Eventually it became a full narrative poem, but here’s what you wrote in the early draft:

Gone from the warped and bare front porch

The soft weary voices of evening—

And the steady creak of the porch swing

As weary ones rest from their labors,

Relax from the plow and the washboard.

 

Great are the secrets you hold there,

And the love that was whispered in evening.

But gone are your voices forever,

As the broken glass of the windows,

And the rusted spring at the screen door.

                   From “Lonely House” by Mary E. Shepherd 

I post this for your friends and family, Mom, and especially for your great-grandchildren who would otherwise never know your feelings about farm life in the 1920-30’s, and the beauty you found in simple daily events.  What you wrote is a reminder of your gentle and hopeful spirit.

_____________________________

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”  ~Confucius

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.”  ~C.S. Lewis

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”  ~ Sir John Lubbock, English writer and archaeologist

pink tree blossoms

pink house

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Henry David Thoreau, lessons about life, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing exercises

TO ONE WHO COULD NOT STAY

Grace Shipley's engagement picture.

Picture of Grace Shipley’s engagement to   Ivan Ray Shepherd

Grace's son Ray at one year, and at age 5, two years after Grace's death.

Grace and Ivan’s son Ray at one year, and at age 6, three years after Grace’s death.

Dear Mom,

When your granddaughter Molly came for a visit and brought her children, Grace and Gannon, I reminded you that Grace had been named for Dad’s mother, a devoted and loving young woman who died of meningitis when Dad was only three years old.  When I told you this, you shook your head and said, “Oh?” And later, when I tried again, you asked, “Do I know her?  Was she my friend?”

No, Mom, you never actually knew Grace Shipley Shepherd.  But I do believe that you two became friends because of your grateful heart for the woman who gave birth to the baby…who grew into the man you married.

You don’t remember this, but thirty-eight years ago you wrote a poem to Grace.  You sometimes felt her presence, the spirit of the woman who lost her battle against a horrible disease and could not stay to take care of the little boy she loved so much.  You also wrote some beautiful, very personal letter-type essays to Grace, but I know you wouldn’t want those shared, so I won’t.

Here, Mom, is your poem “To Grace,” your tribute and comfort to the woman who had to leave her child behind.  Sometimes during clear moments when I’ve shown you pictures of Dad as a baby, held by his smiling mother, Grace, you pause and close your eyes.  I like to believe that now Dad is gone, reunited with the mother he lost too soon, he and Grace both smile and send their love and thanks to you.

TO GRACE, 1897-1922   ~  by Mary E. Shepherd

I watch him sleep, so like a little boy,

Content so long as his hand touches mine.

Husband, dad and granddad kind and dear,

The glint of dreams come true when our eyes meet.

 

I think of how, a three year old, he lost you,

His mother, whom he loved so very much.

You were so ill, a terrible pain within you,

Unable to express the love you knew.

 

Then when you died he sat in his daddy’s arms,

Aware that something great had left his life.

And when he looked upon your lifeless face

He searched in vain for the sweet smile he knew.

 

No one could take the place of his lost loved one,

Though his dad was good and did the best he could.

Grandma became the one who understood, his mainstay,

To help him through the years a young boy knew.

 

For fifty years my dearest, my husband and a little boy!

I’ve known the love you planted in his heart.

Kind, good, and loving, he shares my life each day,

As many paths we have traveled, side by side.

 

Together we have loved our little boy:

The one you gave to me.  

Engagement picture of Mary Elizabeth and Ray(Grace's son)

Engagement picture of Mary Elizabeth and Ray (Grace’s son)

Mary and Ray's great-grandchildren, Gannon (left) and Grace, named for Ray's mother, Grace

Mary and Ray’s great-grandchildren, Gannon (left) and  Grace  (named for Ray’s mother)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, making a difference, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, Spiritual connections