One Sunflower

Poem Project – entry #21 I’ve Been this Way Before

If you’ve been to camp, especially a camp where there are canoes, you’ve probably sung the song, My Paddles Keen and Bright.  That song has been playing in my mind this past week while my daughter and her husband were on a trip in the Boundary Waters with my sister’s family.  I’m sure they were not singing as they sweltered in the heat and humidity and tried to forget the swarming mosquitoes that bit ruthlessly through their clothing. But I was humming it as I sketched out a picture for a fabric poetry page.

I found myself thinking about how trips I’ve taken in canoes are similar to my journeys each year as a teacher.   Like professional development sessions, my paddle has been measured to fit from my toes to my nose but it’s all in the grip, the turning of the blade and the length of the stroke. No matter how much I try to center my gravity, the first steps into the boat are tippier than I remember.  As a camp counselor, I usually carried  less competent canoeists with me for a while, slowly moving them from position of passenger to Bowman, practicing strokes with them until they were ready for a place in the stern of their own canoe.  This year I’ll be working as a coach and mentor to other teachers and we’ll practice our practice together.  Sometimes,  I’ve had to get out and pull my boat along the shore.  I remember one trip on the Hood Canal when the winds were so fierce we had to walk our canoes from one camp to the next.   A second set of shoes would be a good idea…

So I’m packed, I think.  I’m heading down to the dock and will loosen the rope on my canoe and set myself a course for another year….

…my paddles keen and bright, flashing like silver, follow the wild goose flight, dip, dip and swing….

Eyes on water and sky,
balancing my weight on wicker and wood,
I lift the paddle and begin to stroke.
The old rhythm and song
pulse within me.
I’ve been this way before.

A. Bacon
entry for Slice of Life – check out more at Two Writing Teachers link (ps, I know I goofed and put the paddles on the same side of the boat but here’s some perspective, sometimes the paddler in the stern needs to paddle on both sides, mistakes in art allow for the divine to show up.)

« My art

10 responses to “Poem Project – entry #21 I’ve Been this Way Before

  1. blkdrama says:

    It sounds like you are pulling away from the dock balanced and poised for another great school year. Bravo! In this period of teacher bashing, you are holding on firmly and singing into a new year! I’m smiling!

  2. Wanda Brown says:

    Docking your canoe to mentoring was enjoyable:)

  3. Annie says:

    Thanks for inspiring the rest of us who have “been this way before,” and for reminding us of the poetry of the process.

    It was a joy to read your mother’s writing last week.

  4. 2girlsandapoodle says:

    i love your post, art+writing. it’s so familiar, but speaks very deeply of your own personal experience. i worked as a coach with teachers last year, and loved it, but if your experience is anything like mine, there will be many days of tippy boats and pulling it to shore yourself. it is a wonderful journey, though. i wish you a year of great partnerships. thank you for sharing.

  5. Stacey says:

    Canoeing with my parents on the Delaware River in high school was part agony and part bliss. It’s a treasured memory regardless of the hard work it involved when I was paddling in the bow.


  6. The way that you’ve connected this experience to teaching is so poetic and truthful.

  7. Ashley C. says:

    Intriguing comparison! If only “rowing” in the job gave me well-defined biceps!

  8. Lynnelle says:

    Beautiful picture. It reminded me of how I feel about my girls. I want them to be close as they grow together and work toward their goals. Beautiful!

  9. natalee says:

    Beautiful! One of my favorite places to be in on the water. I love the comparison to teaching.

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