Beyond Old Windows: A Teacher's Thoughts Between Centuries

Fables, Tales and Poems

Just a spot to share some pieces I've written for fun ...I can't set this for a summary view of just titles, so you'll have to skim and scroll down to choose a reading ... pour a cup of tea ... and welcome to a relaxing spot . Here's a Table of Contents, to help:

The Fables and Tales:

The Deer, the Boys, and the Big Brown Truck ... a fable

Where Are the Fairy Godmothers? ... believing tales of happily ever after

Moonlight and Softer Shadows ... a memory of faith

And the Poems ...

"Gift Refused"  for Rob, and me, and all the others who wish...

"To Build A Box "   for Rick, who built for my Dad, and still for others

"Scape and Scope " for Trish, a poem of love and shared journeys

" A Constant Light "  ...in the shadow of a true leader's retirement

" Namaste, Anam Cara" for the many, truly recognizing each One

 "In This Blanket" for Amy, a sweet baby poem, in anticipation...

"Then, There" ... honoring another teller of old tales, through paintings...

"To Dream (in Two Centuries)" ... a childhood remembered

"Hankie Returned, Bride to Flower Girl" ... for Stacey, then and now

The Deer, the Boys, and the Big Brown Truck

A fable for the PKP Forum Editors, December 2006

Winter had not come. Shrubs and hardwood trees had all dropped their leaves, holly bushes sported brilliant red berries, and evergreens held beautiful pinecones, but lawns were still green, and lilacs and rhododendrons were perplexed and sending out new buds.  Warm, early-morning breezes rolled fog along the back roads and coated a wet mist on the night-chilled barn windows. Still, the calendar offered reminders: decorations to be hung; gifts to be bought, or made, or sent. Knitting needles were busy, thimbles were busy, and paintbrushes were busy.  The writer’s pen lay idle, next to the notebook nearly full, but her fingers were flying on the keyboard, connecting to the deer’s website.

The cookies had become an annual tradition; freshly baked and beautifully wrapped by the cheerful crew of deer, they were picked up by the man in the big brown truck and driven many, many miles south, to the university.  He often drove through snow and ice, and that helped the cookies stay fresh. The address label on the box always directed him to the office where editors and artists worked to publish a magazine, and the cookies  always seemed to arrive at just the right time – in the middle of a new issue, just before an important meeting, at the end of a busy, hectic, deadline-filled week. Sometimes the editors and artists forgot that the cookies would find them, and were happily surprised to open the box.  They filled their smooth, wide mugs with tea or coffee, and shared the treats.  Some cookies were soft, chewy, and filled with surprises; others were sugary, crisp, and daintily shaped.  All were filled with unusual flavor combinations, as the deer were very clever bakers.  All were savored, down to the last crumb; the box was saved by an artist, and filled with pretty ornaments…

This year of un-wintry weather, though, was indeed a different year, filled with changes for the editors and artists.  Their magazine was changing, their writers were changing, and their office had changed.  The big brown truck had had changes, too; the driver was a new driver, and he didn’t recognize the name of the magazine. He drove through warm breezes and foggy roads, and when he went to the address on the label, he didn’t find the editors and artists.  He asked the post office near the university for a corrected address label. The post office gave him a new address, but it was to a fraternity house instead of the magazine; the new driver left the cookies at the front door.

As in any fable, one can only imagine at what may have happened. Perhaps the boys in the fraternity house were surprised to see the box on their doorstep.  No doubt they were very tired; they would have just finished handing in their final papers and taking their final exams.  It was time for them to head home for the holidays; their friends and families were surely coming by to pick them up.  They knew they had to pack up their laundry, but they were curious about the box. They probably didn’t notice the name of the magazine (which was very similar to the name of their fraternity) on the address label.  Feeling very hungry, they may have opened the box, filled their own mugs with the dregs of the morning’s coffee, gathered around the box, and devoured all the cookies, down to the last crumb; the empty box was likely saved by one boy, filled with shiny computer disks, and packed up for the ride home…

Meanwhile, the writer, at home in the north, still waiting for winter’s snow, decorated her windows with candles, and checked the delivery website. When she saw that the cookies had been sent to the wrong address, she typed a message to the deer, and asked for their help.  The deer kindly baked another fresh batch of cookies, and wrapped them beautifully, and asked the man in the big brown truck, in true holiday spirit, to bring the cookies to the new office of the editors and artists. And when the cookies finally arrived, the editors and artists celebrated with their smooth, wide mugs of tea and coffee and savored the treats, down to the last crumb.

Maybe now that the cookies have found their intended place in the world, and the editors and artists have savored them, as anticipated, and the deer have been thanked, and the man in the big brown truck has found his way back to the north … maybe now, winter will come.

Wishing each of you happy holidays, health, peace and friendship in the New Year,

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!       Terry Palardy

 

 *****************

 

Where are the Fairy Godmothers?

Long, long ago, in that Once Upon a Time Place (the cool tile floor of the public library children’s room) I read every fairy tale anthology that those old shelves held.  I grew up believing the dream, that if I was good, I’d come out on the right side of whatever perils life offered.  The evil dragons would be slain, the prince and I would marry, and we’d live happily ever after in a beautiful castle.

I was good. And I and my prince did marry.  For a long while we lived in a cottage in the woods. We gradually winterized it, heated it with wood stoves, shoveled the paths each winter, and planted flowers each spring. We raised two children there, but knew that, in time, the hillside setting would defeat us in old age.  We looked around carefully. And we found our castle. 

 It’s a lovely, simple old house, our dream castle, close to the center of

town, within walking distance of everything we knew we’d want to walk to one day.  The library, the grocery, the bank, the coffee shop, a pharmacy, antique shops, the public beach, the school fields … all are close by.  Images of a peaceful retirement now drift through our dreams … not so far away. 

This old house deserves to be cherished and taken care of.  It is a wonderful house to host friends and family at holiday parties. But my prince and I both work full time, determined to pay off the mortgage in time to retire.  We both continue to be very, very good, and we both continue to work very, very hard. There isn’t a lot of time in our lives for scrubbing floors, washing windows, dusting bookshelves (which, yes, are still filled with anthologies of fairy tales, among other content collections). We suspect that at many times in this house’s history, there was a full time homemaker with a helper or two in residence, and that this house no doubt shone under that care. 

The prince and I both struggle with waning energy after full work weeks.  Arthur Itis  and his evil accomplice, Fahh T. Gay are limiting my efforts in “tidying” things up.  I told my prince that in my dreams, I wake up to birds singing and the fresh aroma of coffee. I still believe in the happily ever after.  We’re closing in on the retirement date.  My prince, kind as he is, has bought me a new, delayed-start coffee pot, and so that dream has now come true.  The birds chirping beyond my window give the illusion of a lovely domestic order. But the heavy-duty cleaning is still unaddressed.  Poor house. I’m sure in its past it was dealt better.

Or, was it once mystically maintained by sprites?  Did the Shoemaker Elves pop in to help the residents survive economically, freeing their time for more domestic tasks?  Did the good fairies Flora, Fauna, and Meriweather treasure the flowers and gardens for the residents? Did Cinderella’s birds and mice help with the laundry? Did the Sorcerer’s Apprentice finally learn to manage that magical broom to sweep away the cobwebs? Did a magical feather duster gently clear away the dust bunnies? Did Rumpelstiltskin spin gold to help the residents purchase more fuel to warm the house, allowing them to retire and live happily ever after in it?

I still have this image of all that we will do, once retired and finally at home in our castle. Perhaps one day I’ll adapt the magic of Rumpelstiltskin and spin wistful thoughts into gossamer verse that I can peddle to book sellers, and with the rewards entice magically-skilled house keepers into our castle. Maybe Tinkerbell will come and spread her fairy dust about, and it will neutralize all the non-fairy dust that lies upon my waiting books. For now, though, we’ll ask forgiveness of this old house, and just do what we can despite Arthur Itis and Fahh T. Gay.  

Is there a book out there that I’ve missed – one that has the magical charm to deal with housework? If only Mary Poppins could drop in on a breeze … she would be so proud of me: I take my medicine every day (though not with a spoonful of sugar … as the Dish ran away with the Spoon) I’m sure she would help with the housekeeping chores. Is there a special “once upon a time” that works best for chores?

Summer is just ahead of me – and as a teacher I always have the illusion that I’ll get so many things done in the summer, while my classroom is closed.  But then Heat and Humidity arrive uninvited, and take up residence with Arthur Itis and his evil accomplice Fahh T. Gay … they are the house-guests that, as Mark Twain once wrote, are like fish in a bucket: after a few days, they stink!  Wishing them away hasn’t worked. No one has come up with a magical charm to slay them, yet.

But I still believe in the happily ever after. The Prince and I have patience. And the old house is patient with us. If Arthur Itis, Fahh T. Gay, Heat and Humidity were forever done away with, I’m sure Beauty and her Prince’s magical staff, once sent wearily to slumber by their house guests, would then be re-energized, and the chores would be successfully completed.

Perhaps somewhere in a cottage in the woods someone is still working on that fairy tale’s ending. Perhaps that’s where the Fairy Godmothers are, helping the tale to evolve.  I’m sure they’re busy, wherever they are. I wish they’d come visit, though … we’ve been so very, very good …and our old house / castle of our dreams is in need of magic ...

 

by Terry Palardy, for Kim, and many others who have hosted these uninvited house guests of Arthur Itis, Fahh T. Gay, Heat and Humidity

by Terry Palardy,  2008

originally published at Sunshine and Moonlight 

 

 *****************

 

Moonlight and Softer Shadows ...

For many years, long winter evenings would find me sitting in the back room, beyond the kitchen of this nineteenth-century house … a cozy room that had been a twentieth-century addition constructed to accommodate a washer and dryer, a freezer, and a food pantry.  The room’s back wall was completed with a step-down, east-facing, lean-to greenhouse, where late-fall tomatoes could safely ripen, garden plants could winter over, spring seedlings could have a safe start, and store-bought house plants could offer holiday color and fragrance.

A wood stove provides the necessary warmth, and two rocking chairs and a small round table give space for a quiet moment with a pot of tea. I often sit there while doing laundry, looking through the panes of the greenhouse, watching the moon rise over the woods behind the house.  At the horizon, just above the distant trees, the moon would hang low for a while, large, golden, and steady … it would rest there quietly before beginning its gradual drift upward. On a clear night, the stars overhead seemed to beckon it along … Orion hunting Taurus in the west, little Polaris twinkling in the northern distance, and the Seven Sisters directly overhead, watching us all  As the moon rises to meet them, it lightens in color, and lessens in size, a humble acknowledgment of the company it keeps …

Sometimes, a sleepless night would find me donning my coat and boots and slipping out the back door to make tracks in a new fallen snow … guided by the night sky’s steady light, I’d watch my own blue shadow blend into the castings of tall trees and bare branches. Chilled, I’d return to my chair by the wood stove, the room lit by the now-overhead bright white moon shining calmly through the roof of the greenhouse, and I’d pick up my notebook and pen. Words would pour onto the softly-lit snowy page. I would write of plans pending, and worries wending their way through my mind … I would write of past encounters, and anticipated moments inviting a script. I would record the dreams that I could recall, and wonder about those that I couldn’t … and would savor in words the successes I’d had, bits and snatches of ideas blending into visual images captured on the page.  

For a few years, I would drive each late afternoon to my parents' house, in the north end of town, to help with my parents’ care, and they would share stories, and give blessings, and then I would drive back home. My husband, in those years, was also spending time taking care of his mother at the south end of town, in her home. In time, one and then the other needed more care than we could give in a home setting. The drive to the nursing homes was a bit longer, and a bit sadder, and in those long years, the moon found me each evening driving alongside empty pastures and a salt marsh on my way home … street lights were few and far between …but the moonlight was most often sufficient. 

Some nights the moon was itself alone in a clouded sky, in one of its various states: a slender crescent, a bulging gibbous, a smiling full face … but on many early nights it was accompanied by the planet Venus, the "evening star." Those two heavenly bodies shared our place in space and were my steady companions on what might otherwise have been a lonely ride, and the twinkling stars millions of miles beyond them paled in comparison to those two smaller bodies visually enlarged by proximity to our planet.

The loneliest were the nights of the New Moon, an odd name for the nights of no moon. Venus, Polaris, and the others were left then to their own devices along that dark road … but in the moon’s absence, they faithfully returned to their place each night, as did I, knowing that the moon, predictably, would return in its time, steadily, gradually blossoming along its path, joining us once again with the warm, gentle light of trust, of confidence, of wisdom gained from experience. It is an example of practiced stability … it wanes when it must, and reliably returns to full strength … it is a humble model of reasonable potential that I can emulate, and follow.

The other, the sun, is often credited with being our life source on this planet … so much fanfare is given, so much praise … high expectations are held … the potential of solar power, the promise of vitamin D, the warmth on a cold winter day, the lightening of moods … all true, and all valued.  The sun, though, in all its power, can also damage. The sun gives us skin cancer, heat stroke, burnt-out crops, a relentless, blinding light that exposes every flaw, casts harsh shadows, and fades and weakens exposed surfaces. The flares on the sun’s surface interrupt the transmissions of this planet’s satellite system, much as the lesions and flares in our aging brains interrupt the transmissions of our nervous system.

While I respect the power and capacity of sunlight, I cannot warm to its harsh light as I do to the moon.  I try to escape the sun’s power and its glare.

The moon, in comparison, has a power within its own cycle … its light is not glaringly showy, as the sun, but quietly gentle, and compassionate …  it affects the ocean tides, and the cycle of women, and often the emotions of humanity. I remain in awe of the sunlight, but I am impressed with and unfailingly comforted by the beauty and reliability of the gentle, unassuming, humble moonlight.

 

by Terry Palardy,  2008 

originally published at Sunshine and Moonlight

 *****************

 

                             The Poems

Written with love, for Trish, Floyd, Rick, Rob, Steve, Amy, Stacey, and artists and children  across the centuries and millennia of our generations ...

 

 *****************

Gift Refused          for Rob, Rick, Tristan, Trish, Zoe and me ...2003

 

To walk on a moonlit

wintry beach

is to know the true pace

of our planet,

the gentle roll of the tide

that could guide

a less frenzied heart.

 

To walk on a moonlit

wintry beach

is to know the feel

of the vast plain of snow

the expanse a reminder

of our smallest part.

 

To walk on a moonlit

wintry beach

is a gift parents might give

"If only there were time"

to share with their children.

 

But Homework wins

again...

to give less of that is

to give more of time together

... time meant

 

To walk on a moonlit

wintry beach

Sadly, a gift

parents won't accept.

 

The gift they ask for,

the Busy, the More

is so much Less 

than a

 walk on a moonlit

wintry beach.

 

 Teachers take their cues from the community in which they work, and are expected to keep children occupied with homework in the evenings ... Parents take their cues from the company they keep, the media they read, the goals they were raised to value  ... Students take their cues from the models that are set, the expectations that they are to meet, and the limits of time itself. 

There were many calm winter nights in my childhood in the fifties, when I was free to walk along the snow-crusted water, with an older sister or two, though they had too many chores and homework to do ... and so I imagined it, instead ... when I was old enough to walk there alone, I was too busy with chores and homework to do so ... and when my son was a child and then a student, and I a teacher, he and I were both too busy with chores and homework to do so ... potentially magical memories, lost, forever. 

Terry Palardy,  Winter, 2003

 

 *****************

 

 

 

 

To Build A Box    for Rick, who built for my Dad, and still for others

 

To build a box

and fill it

with someone's working life

 

to make a  place

to store each piece

to keep it safe for others

 

to plan the space

and sand the boards

and fit the edges tightly

 

to seal its top 

transparent, forever

to keep it all together

 

to polish it

and handle it

and finish it in time

 

for him to share

with those who care

his stories 'on the line"

 

all this you've done

you are the one

I'lll always see within it.

 

You've built the box

that holds his work

and  keep his light within you.

 

And I will love you forever, Rick, for having done this for Dad.

 Love, Terry  

by Terry Palardy, 2000

 

Pictured below:  Rick, Patch, and Bob's Box ... finished, July 16, 2000

in time for Bob's 87th birthday party on July 28th...

 

 

 

 

 The box was built during the summer of 2000, the year between my mother's passing and then my dad's own ... but he had time to share the history contained in plaques, commendations, certificates, dedications commemorations and memories within it, and it remains safely preserved for future generations to know and appreciate Grampy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This box is in memory of

Robert J. Crawford

Retired District Chief, City of Boston

Fire Department

served 1941 - 1973

married 1940 - 1999 and still beyond

lived a full life 1913 - 2001

He 'crossed the bar' in the new millennium.

 Terry Palardy, 2010

 *****************

The 'Scape and Scope                                                                                                            for Trish's Eighteenth 18th... with love

 

Each of us faces a journey

Through the 'scape and scope of life …

 

At times, a straight line

is the given path.

Some walk that well-worn, softened way

on mossy tract, in calm content.

Those move in ease within the lane

and need not build a strength to rise

above a flat horizon.

 

And others wander, weaving, winding,

wanting just a way  around

the hills and drops of life.

Some ponder, plan, and skirt the promised

challenge life would soon provide;

averting eyes, horizon-blind,

wistful, wondering, waiting for the wind.

 

Some few will climb relentlessly,

on steep, sharp, jagged, heavy rocks

 that shine like diamonds, asking strength,

 altering angles, opening views;

and with a breath, and upward look, will rise, and fall,

and grasp, and gain; the peak attained.

Those see and know the 'scape and scope of life.

 

… Each of us makes

of the journey we face

what we can, what we will.

The 'scape and scope are undefined

Until found.

 

                                                          

For you, Trish, a journey necklace, and its story, and all our love,

 from Dad and Mum and Rob, on the 18th anniversary of your 18th birthday.

-Terry Palardy, April, 2007.

 

 

 *****************

 

A Constant Light  in the shadow of a leader's retirement, 2005

I started this poem in September, and planned to finish it for your surprise celebration in November. But it took its own time, growing through seasons, as we all do. Predictably, the core of its message stayed true, and it was finished in June.

Throughout many changes, your unwavering focus on what is best for the students has remained a true beacon, quietly inviting those trying to find the best paths. They say, as we age, we need brighter lights to read by; throughout the fall and early winter of my teaching years, you have given a steady beam.

Thank you, for all of it. Though you may soon go out of my sight, you will never be far from my mind.

A Constant Light

 

In the passing blur of years

Through the changing lens of time,

Goals and plans are challenged on a night so

Still.

Constellations offer light

As they circle high above,

Casting brightness in the dark of night on cue.

Still,

It is we who are in motion

As we alter our perspectives

And adjust to shifting, changing points of view.

Still,

One star holds in its rotation,

Always steady, always present;

Its position is unwavering and true.

Still,

Sometimes dimmed by transient moonlight,

Sometimes veiled by foggy cover,

Also missed by those beyond the star’s venue,

Still

Our north star remains, magnetic,

Often sought and often followed,

In position, always ready, shining through.

Still

It stays, waiting, in our sight,

And our path is clear and bright

When our goals are lit, in focus; we renew,

Still.

When we trust in its location we proceed;

When we follow its direction we succeed;

When we walk in its reflection we can lead,

Still.

                                                                                          Terry Palardy, for Floyd

                                                                                                           June, 2005

                                         *****************

 

 

 

   Namaste,  Anam Cara

He

is one

who enters

a person's life

softly as a smile

a wave that says hello

a hug that warms and strengthens

a gentle look that welcomes words

 offers quiet company

a gift of silent peace

lighting a dark day

in such a way

reminding

me of

Thee

 

Terry Palardy   

Spring, 2000   


 Namaste is the respectful Hindu greeting translated as "The spirit in me bows to the same spirit in you." Mother Teresa worded it in this simple way: "I see God in every human being."

For a beautiful representation of the Celtic Anam Cara, visit this simple site:

http://www.lifestreamcenter.net/anam_cara.htm

 

 *****************

 

In This Blanket for Amy Harkins, and Kevin, December 1997, from Aunt Terry

If you sense a scent of pumpkin

     with a hint of fallen leaves

          in this blanket, I did knit a bit

               outside on Halloween.

                    And the children thought me just a part

                    of the scenery of the night,

                    with knitting needles clicking

                    underneath the lantern light. 

If you sense a scent of turkey

     with a hint of mince and clove

          in this blanket, I did knit a bit

               on Thanksgiving Eve, at home,

                     waiting up for Trish and Zoe, Tristan,

                     Indy, Ralph and more

                     needles clicking, with Rick cooking

                     in the kitchen, by the stove.

If you sense a scent of balsam

     with a hint of cinnamon tea

          in this blanket, I did knit a bit

               Christmas Eve, by the tree,

                    window candles lit my lap with

                    needles clicking, while nearby

                    Rob's Lego's snapped together

                    under Grampy's watchful eye.

If you sense a scent of wintry snow

     a hint of glistening ice

          in this blanket, I did knit a bit

               while weather wasn't nice.

                    Robbie sleeping on the kitchen floor

                    in Nana's house with me,

                    while Rick pushed snowdrifts all night long

                    on slippery Georgetown streets.

If you sense a scent of Nana's house

     her creams, or Grampy's soap

          in this blanket, I did knit a bit

               in their kitchen, full of hope

                    that one day the little stitches

                    all would warm your baby's nights

                    each one made with thoughts and wishes

                    that your futures will be bright.

 

Typed then, when I could knit, and again now, with much love and faith in the futures you have ahead

~Terry Palardy, 2010

*****************

 

Then, There             viewing Christopher Gurshin's folk paintings at Salt Marsh Antiques

As though you are there, in your painting, you share

The balance of work and rest earned

The scenes you portray of a faded, soft day

Or an evening just fallen, time turned.

.

In your quieted hues, you offer hushed cues

of the values of effort and strength,

The beautiful lines of the simpler times,

sunlit workdays of limited length.

 

As an icicle melts to reveal what's concealed

In its crystal clear center, the past,

So the water you use when creating your hues

Paints a moment so pure it will last.

 

Time is still, in your work, without rush, in your brush,

As you labor alone, in that place.

I work, too, but with pen. In my thoughts, it is then,

In that quieter world, I keep pace.

 

When my pen's lost the view, I can find it anew,

For you paint it, as though you are there

What your work shows reminds us, though struggles may find us,

There's a rest that is earned, one we share.

 

  The same rest that was earned, then, there.

 

 I wrote this poem in appreciation of the folk art displayed at a local shop, painted by a local artist, near the end of the twentieth century, but portraying New England life in an earlier time... a time that I may once have known ... to see more of his art, visit the photo gallery page of this site, or click this link to go to

Christopher Gurshin's website

Terry Palardy

December, 1999

 *****************

 

 

To Dream  (in Two Centuries)                        November 6, 1999

.

She could fly

truly, once as a child

in sneakers, or tap shoes,

tee shirts or sequins...

on city streets,

on wooden stage,

light as a feather,

breeze in her hair,

a gleam in her eyes.

She could fly

truly, and look like she danced

over escalators, staircases,

no one could tell...

hands above the railings,

feet skimming the surface,

light as a feather,

breeze in her hair,

a gleam in her eyes.

She could fly

truly, yet she stays aground

walking with them,

holding hands, steadying,

younger hands, older hands,

waiting, knowing maybe later

light as a feather,

breeze in her hair,

a gleam in her eyes,

she could fly.

Terry Palardy, November, 1999

 

The subway station in the city of the 1950's had a long, wooden escalator, and the rush of air accompanying an arriving train was enough to catch a small girl who was poised at the top, and gently support her as she cruised down the narrow, slippery, clacking space. Balance was a gift, fondly remembered today, in 2010. "Holding hands, steadying" has taken on a new and treasured meaning in this new century.

 

 

*****************

 

 

"Hankie Returned, Bride to Flower Girl" ... for Stacey, then and again

 

Once, a long long time ago

There was a little flower girl

Who wore a gown of lace and gold

And walked before the bride

 

A hankie bordered with fine lace

She gave the bride to carry

To tuck inside her sleeve of white

On the day she’d marry.

 

Now the little girl is grown

The golden gown is put aside

She’s traded it for one of white

For now she is the bride.

 

The hankie is returned to her

To fit inside her sleeve of lace

It brings a history of love

And happiness to Rick and Stace.

with love, from Auntie Table and Uncle Rick

appreciating that you'd saved it, all these years ...

the hankie given in 1970  and returned with the poem in 1989 ... 

so grateful that its promise has come true for you, too.

 

*****************

 

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