Over the River & Through the Woods: Good Tidings (and an Invite) for the Holidays


I decided to celebrate the holidays this year by writing a post that was inspired by two seemingly random but serendipitous events. The first was my experience at NCTE where it was so invigorating to hear educators share so many innovative and meaningful ways for students to not only embrace reading and reading but to truly own their learning. And several of the ones I found most compelling all connected literacy to the visual arts.

Should Would Could DidGiven the responses to the two posts I wrote and the links to others that can be found at the #NCTE13 Roundup on Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn’s blog “A Year of Reading,” I think many people felt the same. And that experience was still vividly in my mind as, shortly after Thanksgiving, I started noticing tweets from a group of great educators loosely connected through the Nerdy Book Club, twitter and the blogosphere. Using the hashtag #nerdlution, each person committed to doing something they’d wanted to do for a while for the next fifty days, out of the belief that making a pledge with others would keep them on track. Many choose to write every day, while others vowed to exercise more. And reading the tweets, I found myself intrigued—and simultaneously terrified—at the idea of adding one more thing to my already busy life.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I needed to write any more than I’m currently doing, and while I could always exercise more, I’m pretty good at getting on a bike (outside as long as it’s at least 50 and inside, watching old Project Runways from a stationary bike, when it’s colder). But it occurred to me that there was something I’d been wanting to add to my life for a while but couldn’t ever seem to find the time for: drawing.

Of course, the prospect of trying to find time to draw each day for fifty days seemed to much. But with all the inspiring visual work I saw at NCTE—and all the inspiring #nerdlution tweets from people doing what they thought they couldn’t do—I decided to give myself a You're-Invited-3challenge. I would try to follow the instructions that Linda Rief gave her students for the magnificent heart book project she shared at NCTE: to find a poem that resonated for me and write it out in my own hand, then illustrate it and do a little research to find out what the poet has to say about reading or writing. And I’d like to challenge (or more politely invite) anyone out there who’s been feeling an urge to reconnect with poetry, do something creative, or learn by doing an assignment you’re considering for your own students to share a poem that speaks to your heart, following Linda’s steps. If you have a blog, you can post it there with a link back here. And if you’re blog-less, you can attach the poem, an illustration and any wise words you find from the poet in an email and send it to me at vvinton@nyc.rr.com, and I’ll share it here. And, who knows, maybe we’ll even start a new holiday tradition—and give birth to a hashtag (#heartpoems anyone?)!

In the meantime, though, enjoy the holidays, both the known and the unknown, the clarity and the confusion. And follow these words of Wendell Berry, the poet I did my research on, which seem particularly apt for the season:

“Be joyful because it is humanly possible.”

The Real Work2

Heart Collage 2

© Vicki Vinton 2013 “The Real Work” Heart Collage, https://tomakeaprairie.wordpress.com

See you next year when the journey of the real work carries on!

19 thoughts on “Over the River & Through the Woods: Good Tidings (and an Invite) for the Holidays

  1. Dear Vicki,
    I had to giggle when I saw your e-mail come up with this week’s blog. I LOVE this idea and will make the time to try this out! I love how your image has an illustration of a “real” heart. I have been behind on reading blog responses, and only read yours to my last post this morning. You know you are welcome in NH anytime!! Thanks for the continual inspiration and have a wonderful holiday!! Can’t wait to see where this invitation takes me! I have already started thinking about it and have several poems as possibilities. Ahhhh…the possibilities. How I love the idea of possibilities!!

  2. Yes, just the inspiration I need to get into motion. I will try this project and bring Conrad along with me. Ha, I am sure he will love it. Your art work is reminiscent of Frida Kahlo notebooks. I like it. Enjoy the holidays. Mary Wickham

    • Hello Mary! I would adore to see what you & Conrad come up with! And now I think I have to find a copy of Kahlo’s notebooks. But FYI: the image in the lower left is part of one of those trace-the-body-of-a-child-on-the-floor drawings I did of Keila (when she was Kayla) when you guys were living on Baltic. In fact, it may have been inspired by one you did of Ian. I tried to get a bit of all the various stages of my life in there—and that’s definitely from the moms with strollers Verandah Park days.

  3. Vicki,
    You are reading my mind. The Linda Rief work has been haunting me since you wrote about it. I want to draw (never take the time to), I need to pay more attention to poetry, and that Wendell Berry quote is perfection. Your drawing of a questioning heart is a perfect background to the collage, and the images say a lot about your journey past and present. Yes, so many possibilities.

    My students and I played around a little with the idea of blending visuals with text last week. We choose favorite lines from favorite scenes in our recent read aloud. Then students simply sketched what they felt or felt the line meant. They chose a color of paper that matched the feeling they got from the scene and used markers, crayons and colored pencils. They loved this. Some have already started to do it for their own books. Perhaps it is a beginning of something we can build on. Looking closely around them and thinking about what connects; building a collage.

    Thank you for the invitation. Sometimes we (I) need to be invited, because we (i) don’t realize the value of the (my) work.

    • Possibilities is turning out to be my favorite words these days, and I’m so glad if this gives you a little nudge for something you’ve wanted to do, too, as all the nerdlution tweets did for me. Though perhaps we (I) need to remember that we (I) need to find the authority within ourselves to give ourselves permission.

      And do you know about Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac site? You can sign up for free (though contributions are welcome) and they’ll email you a poem every day. Even if you don’t have time to read them all, it’s a great way of bringing poetry into your life.

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  5. Okay. I am going to do this during break. Hard to pick the poem, but probably something from Jane Hirshfield…or Mary Oliver…or Linda Pastan…or Kay Ryan. David Budbill? Jack Gilbert? Even Louis Jenkins? This is gonna be tough. Thanks for the challenge! 🙂

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  7. I’m in! Seems like something to try on a regular basis…maybe monthly. But I’m not committing to that “on paper” because I don’t want to jinx it. We’ll just have to see what happens. The other thing I want to do is inspired by Paul Hankins. He posted on FB his colorful illustrated notes taken while viewing a TED talk. I want to watch more of those — so much to learn. Hmm…I seem to be going down a path inspired by Steve’s Fiction/Nonfiction musings…linked by art. I wonder if there’s something there for a certain NCTE preso?!?!

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