A Saturday in Winter


The sky is blue.
The snow is melting.
The paper whites are fading.
Is is over?

you confuse me at times.
The view from my window says come outside and play in the sun.
Are brumal days and nights over?

Is Mama Bear being tempted on this fine Saturday morning to emerge from her hibernaculum?
Her secret winter home,
 dug within the hillside
covered with majestic Ponderosa pines
that I see outside my window,
may also be heating up in this weather.

Will she be out today?

Or will she, 
like I,
prefer to stay tucked inside a cozy den 
where one does not have to deal with the vicissitudes of weather and life?

* Inspiration for this bit of prose comes from:
  • A post on Facebook by Patricia Polocco where she said, "Make today count...not in a "get more work done" way....but use this day to heal your mind from all the garbage you have dealt with all week, that can't be helped."
  • A challenge by Allpoetry.com to write a poem about surviving winter.
  • Dictionary.com.  This site listed some great words about winter. I don't generally use the words hibernaculum or brumal, but aren't they wonderful words?
  • The view from the windows in my upstairs study/guest room.

On Meeting a Favorite Poet

I must make a confession.  I like to read poetry, but it is not my genre of choice for reading for pleasure.  I guess I have to be in the mood for poetry.  Some poems have really spoken to me over the years, and I treasure them.  Poetry can touch the soul when prose can't.  As a teacher, I never liked to teach poetry.  I could almost hear the students moan before we started a unit on poetry.  And yet, I also have learned much about life and about my students after we have read poetry together.  Poetry brings people together.  It speaks to soul and to the heart.  It helps us share our deepest feelings with each other.

Having said all that about not loving poetry, and yet loving how it has touched my life, I wish I could have expressed my feelings by writing this poem with this title:  "The Trouble With Poetry."   This link will take you to an informal reading by the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins.

Now, I must also confess I don't just love the poem, I have a huge crush on the poet.  Oh, ok, I fancied myself in love with Billy Collins at one time.

I heard Billy (I am taking the liberty of using his first name here) speak at a conference for English teachers about ten years ago.  I was enthralled with him and his writing as I listened to him read his poetry in his dry delivery style.  I went out and bought a bunch of his books.  I taught him when I had the chance.

Then, in 2007, my oldest daughter excitedly called me one day to announce that the school foundation board on which she served was bringing Billy Collins to town as their guest speaker for the annual author event fundraiser.  "Do you want to come over for it?" she asked.

The night of the big event, I was thrilled see that my daughter had a table for us right at the front of the room.  After the dinner, Billy read his poetry to his adoring fans.  It was then announced that he would sign books for those of us who had purchased his books.  Unfortunately, the book signing table was set up clear across the room from our table.  By the time I got in line with all my books and a flyer from the event for him to sign, there was already a big line.  My feet were killing me, but I stood dutifully waiting my chance to meet my favorite poet.

My daughter gave me her books to me to have them signed because she was stationed near Billy with her camera in hand so she could photograph the moment I would finally have with Billy.  Did I mention that I was at the very end of a very long line?  I think that by the time I got to Billy, my patience was worn thin, my feet were really killing me, my lipstick was long gone, and I probably really had to go to the bathroom.  Billy probably was also more than ready to be done with signing book after book long before my turn in line came.  Still, I was not deterred.  I would speak with Billy.  Maybe we could connect on some literary level.

I felt like a shy girl in high school when he took my books.  He didn't even look up when he asked what I wanted him to say.  He spoke so quietly, I had to lean over to hear him.  I thought perhaps I could chat him up.  I said, "I heard you speak in Colorado at an English teachers' conference a few years back."  He said, "I don't remember being there.  They all seem to run together."  He did look up as he spoke.  I had leaned over because I couldn't hear him.  My daughter snapped the picture.  She captured my moment on film.  I thanked him and walked away from the table a bit deflated.

My daughter came up to me and said, "Mom, I don't think you will want the photo.  Your cleavage really spilled out of your dress when you leaned over, you looked confused, and he looked bored."  I was mortified by my wardrobe malfunction, but at least I don't have to worry.  I am sure he will never remember.

I still adore Billy Collins and his poetry.  I have some books that he signed.  I kept the flyer he autographed.  I asked my daughter to destroy the photo.

Self care

Love After Love
The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving
 at your own door, in your own mirror
 and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self. 
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, 
to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life. 
 ––Derek Walcott

The Photographs 
Spanning Many Years
Many Roles
~ The Sweet Fragrance of Childhood ~

Student on Trip to England with Professor
Teacher in Classroom

Wife of
High School Principal
Mother of Five Children
Grandmother of Seven

April is National Poetry Month

Grandmother at Journey into Elderhood (click on either word to find her blog) posted the poem above on her blog today.  I was reminded that I had posted this same poem in December of 2009.  I have added a few photos to that original blog entry and am reposting it today.  "Love After Love" is one of my favorite poems.  Just as it did in 2009, it speaks to me again of the importance of self care.  I continue on that journey of finding "that stranger who was yourself."

Repost of thoughts about this poem from blog entry posted in December of 2009:

We play many roles in this life.  As mothers, as sisters, as wives, as teachers, I think we don't always take good enough care of ourselves. Not only do we neglect ourselves, but we sometimes find that we have become "the stranger who was your self."

At the end of 2009, I am working on becoming reacquainted with my self. What do I really want to do with the remaining years that I have left? What is really important? What remains in my life, and what do I discard?

I hope to start taking down those "love letters from the bookshelf" and explore who I was, who I have become, and what it all means. The demands of motherhood, career, and professional responsibilities are now behind me. It will be interesting to see what choices I make in 2010.

April ~ The Cruelest Month?


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

May 2010


I've long since quit trying to analyze poetry for a paper that must be written for a college course.  Now, I try to enjoy poetry for its own sake without digging too deeply.  Yet, I must ponder why this poem speaks to me as it does.  Is it the whole of the poem, or just parts that reach the deepest parts of the sadness I have experienced this month?

I think the beginning two lines speak the loudest to me.  Spring with its evidence of new life, re-birth, the cyclic nature of life has always been comforting to me.  The first sight of my beloved favorite flower, the daffodil, has always filled me with joy.  

Did I lose my innocence about life last spring?  Do those happy, sunny jonquils now mock me rather than lift my spirits?  Or, must I dig deeper in my soul to find comfort that no longer finds joy just by seeing the early blooming of those bulbs planted with such hope last fall?  

The poet is right.  Beauty is not enough.  April, for what purpose have you returned again?  

Julie In Ireland
Your coming has brought new grief to a heart that was healing.  It reminds me of how much I have lost.  It reminds me of that sunny little girl who was born on a beautiful day in April.  It reminds me that the last time I saw her was as year ago in April.  I associate her with daffodils.  They were blooming when she was born.  I had them carved into her headstone.  

Life brings its disappointments, its failures.  Life brings grief, and for some, it brings unspeakable heartbreak.  

The poet makes a statement, and then she asks a question:

It is apparent that there is no death.
What does that signify?

For me, the answer is: in this life, beauty is not enough.  Faith is.  

After A While

April is National Poetry Month.  I am dedicating this poem to my beautiful daughters who have had suffered so much loss this past year.  They are strong women who are dealing with much besides the loss of their dearly beloved sister.  This poem speaks to me about them and all they are learning.

Keicha, Julie, Amy
April, 2010
After A While You Learn
By Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
That kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child
And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid- flight
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers
And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.

Julie's Tree

Planted Summer 2010
First bloomed 
April 8, 2011
On what would have been Julie's 35th Birthday