Poetic Strokes & Word Flow Anthology 2014: Homeschool Writing Group Well Represented!

JJM Braulick, Leslie Schultz, & Atia Cole  (photo: Liana Cole)

JJM Braulick, Leslie Schultz, & Atia Cole (photo: Liana Cole)

In our longstanding writing group of four, three of us were eligible to submit work to the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating Organization (SELCO) 2014 Poetic Strokes/Wordflow regional anthology. (Scroll down for text of our poems!)

Each of us did, and–surprise!–each of us is thrilled to announce that our work is represented together in the same volume. SELCO represents eleven Minnesota counties. Poetic Strokes is open to adults (ages 19 and older) resident in these counties; poets in this age group could submit two poems each. Wordflow is open to residents aged 14 to 18; younger poets could submit one poem each. All told, 307 poems were received this year from 223 poets residing in 37 communities, and 51 poems were selected for publication (23 by 21 adults, 28 by 28 younger poets).

We three are very honored to be included, and to know that our work is on the shelves of the libraries in those 37 communities. We are also proud of the legislators and the people of Minnesota for making this possible with funding from the Arts and Culture Legacy Fund (ACHF). The ACHF was created in 2008 from the Clean Water, Land, & Legacy amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. Funds are used to help promote arts and culture throughout the state (including this year’s Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry Project and Poem in Your Pocket Day projects.)

Legacy Logo ColorFinal

Poetic Strokes Tide

Poetic Strokes Chosen

Poetic Strokes Forest

If you would like to have a copy of the anthology for your personal or civic library–or to receive notice of the 2015 competition next fall–please contact: Reagen A. Thalacker, Regional Librarian, 2600 19th Street NW, Rochester, MN 55901 (507) 288-5513!


In Praise of Glorious Autumn Leaves & “Housecat” (Poem for Alpine)

Autumn Pink Leaves in Japanese Garden 2008

Autumn Oak Leaves 2007

Every year, I am dazzled by the colors of the leaves as they turn and fall. Above are pink and green leaves in the Garden of Quiet Listening, a Japanese garden on the Carleton College campus, just a few blocks from my house.  Every year, I want to hang onto these colors, to bring them inside, to keep them in some way past their expiration date. Here are a few attempts:

Autumn Leaves Preserved 2003

Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging 2003

Autumn Leaves Raked with Julia 2003

Many years ago, when it was brought home to me that all mammals don’t perceive color in the same way that humans tend to, I tried to imagine the world from the point of view of my cat, Alpine. Below is her baby picture, taken the first day I met her.

Alpine as a Baby

Some of you might remember Alpine. She used to spend lots of time on window ledges (and couches, too).

Alpine on the Couch

Alpine Undignified

Alpine Undignified

Alpine has also inspired lines in several poems over the years, including the whole of this poem.


Alpine’s down is filling in
Between her summer fur and skin.
Crouched low on a window ledge,
She watches leaves desert the hedge.
She cannot see their orange and red;
Does Alpine mourn the autumn dead?
Not she; she yawns at the setting sun,
As much to say an evening’s done
As to convey an unconcern —
For whether seasons stay or turn.

Leslie Schultz (1982)

Alpine with Patience and Fortitude (New York Library Lions)

Alpine with Patience and Fortitude (New York Library Lions)

Here is Alpine the literary cat, overlooking Gulliver’s Travels, Vanity Fair, and (maybe?) Jane Eyre, colorful volumes held upright by scaled down copies of the famous New York Library Lions, Patience and Fortitude. Regarding color vision, it seems that the jury is still out on which colors cats can see. (If you are curious, here is an interesting link to an NBC News story.) All I know for certain is that I wouldn’t exchange my human color perception for anything, not even feline grace.

Autumn Leaves on Brick

Autumn Leaf with Polka Dots 2007

Have you seen any polka-dotted leaves this year?

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Autumn Leaves on Second Street 2007

Back to (Home) Schooling for the First Year of High School & Poem “Desire”

Yellow Leaves Leslie Schultz Watermark

Labor Day is (paradoxically) an extra day of rest, a little booster rocket of celebration needed for the burst of energy we summon to launch into fall. Doesn’t autumn feel at once like an ending (to the growing season, to the languid opportunities of summer vacations) and also a new year, a threshold marking heavier clothes and weightier endeavors?

In our neighborhood, there is also an annual picnic held on the Hill of Three Oaks, on the nearby Carleton College campus. Families come. Children are one year older than last fall, giddy with the anxiety and possibilities of stepping into a new grade. But that will be later. The evening picnic is the time to pass potluck dishes, lounge on the brittle August grass, converse with kind neighbors, swat mosquitoes, watch the young ones run across the fields in seemingly random but purposeful ways, and watch the sun sink over the St. Olaf hill. The day after Labor Day is Back-to-School.

IMG_8546 (Pink Leaves) Leslie Schultz

Our family isn’t always able to attend the picnic, and this was one of those years. With a mound of apples to preserve, an mound of mulch to move, and a several text-related deadlines, we decided to stay home and tend to this enjoyable labor. For us, the shift into the school facet of fall isn’t so sharp and clear as it is for our neighbors, because we have been homeschooling since January of 2006.

Since we homeschool, we have some flexibility if we need or want to take time off during the traditional academic months of September to May, and we also have the option to continue to work on academic subjects during the summer. Most of the time, Julia is keen to continue making progress in languages, music, mathematics, and history–as well as in her creative writing–during the summer. At the same time, the pace is slower, she has fewer structured courses, and we plan for time off and for visits with friends. In addition, Julia spends more time swimming, having sleep-overs with friends,  training for the local Y Kids Tri triathalon, biking, and reading more books just for the sheer pleasure of the summer read. We also dream up a few special summer projects. This year, as regular readers know, we published a co-authored novel called And Sometimes Y, and hosted a readers’ theater to examine William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in detail.

Monarch & Coneflower Close

But will things be different, now that Julia is on the cusp of high school?

Enrolling in a baccalaureate program is four years away, but last month, she took her first admissions tour, and she is beginning to make choices that will prepare her for the roller-coaster ride of college admissions in just a few short years. We’re planning a couple of other campus visits, to colleges in other states, next year. Julia now keeps her own records for time spent on each subject, and she’ll begin to prepare her first transcript in January. She’ll also take the SAT for the first time then. Julia is thinking about a program we have in Minnesota, called PSEO, in which she can get support to attend college-level classes while still in high school and planning to work through a high school chemistry text this year. This is the fall she’ll publish her first solo title–something she’s been refining on for four years–and continue to work on a novel.

This year, she plans to continue to make lots of time for folk dance and recorder–she is a founding player of the Rice County Recorder Consort–piano, music theory ,and the Mexican Folklorico dance troupe. She’ll continue with Chinese, Latin, and Greek, and  riding lessons at Winter Haven Stables, and she wants to spend more time in prairie landscapes.

McKnight Prairie

On the Way to Winter Haven

(View on the Road to Winter Haven Stables)

For this year, the weekly schedule looks similar to last year’s, but I sense that change is moving in, like weather that hasn’t yet arrived. It will be interesting what directions Julia uses to chart her course. And it remains to be seen how I will chart my own!

Compass Plant   (McKnight Prairie Remnant)

Compass Plant (McKnight Prairie Remnant)


The summer sky is swollen silver and blue,
perhaps meaning rain, perhaps a cyclone, or
perhaps nothing at all, a few drops on the dust
while the birds frantically hide in the wide maple crown.

She sits bent-legged on the braided rug, leaning into
three books at once, old books with cut pages and
spines of slick leather.  Behind her is the kitchen
door, where the supper dishes will wait her out.

She is so young.  She could be a colt or a bird who has not
yet stood to find its balance.  Her head bends toward her knees,
and her hands reach out to the world she begins to enter,
born up by a wind of desire into the storm of herself,
welcoming, as heroes do, a difficult passage.

Leslie Schultz

Julia holding Peanut

White MailboxOther News

Future posts will include: “Urban Adornments” (a look at the ways that cities add to the quality of life through public art both humble and monumental), interviews with several creative people, more on homeschooling adventures, and lots of photographs and some new poems.

Thank you for reading this! 

If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them.

And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone.



Summer Pleasures: From Small Farms to Table & “Cruciferous” Poem

Big Woods Vegetables

Summers mean local produce is in abundance here. Our family been part of the Community Supported Agricultural movement (CSA) for the better part of two decades–since before we ever heard that recent dictionary entry: locavore. In a CSA, consumers buy a share of the harvest prior to the planting season, then share in the abundance of the just-picked harvest and the drama of the weather’s impact on the crops. Depending on the week and the year, we will be surprised by a mix of vegetables, greens, herbs, and even sometimes flowers or fruits. Part of the pleasure is discovering the flavors of new varieties of old favorites (tomatoes) or learning about entirely new delicacies to cook (Celeriac? Tomatillo? What do I do with these?)

Above is a photograph I snapped by chance as I went to pick up this week’s share at  Big Woods Farm CSA. Right now, our refrigerator is full of the freshest and most flavorful cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots, beets,  and greens, as well as a just-blended dressing of cilantro and lime juice. And the kitchen counter holds an enormous bowl of various types and colors of tomatoes. This year, thanks to a new cookbook from the Duluth Grill, I am experimenting with making my own ketchup.

Making Our First Batch of Ketchup with Three Varieties of Tomatoes

Making Our First Batch of Ketchup with Three Varieties of Tomatoes

If you don’t already lean toward the delicious and healthful and environmentally sound choice of organic food, you might be interested in the resources on the Local Harvest website, everything from farmers’ markets to CSAs in your own area. By supporting local growers, you also help to keep small producers–the new family farms–in the business of serving their neighbors and supporting their families. In addition, you reduce carbon emissions and prevent genetically modified organisms from entering the food chain, all while enhancing your own well-being and pleasing your palate. For us, this is a bargain no matter what angle we look at.

The one challenge we’ve found is making good use of all this abundance. Some of the fresh pickings that we can’t eat during the week, we give away to our friends and neighbors. We also preserve food by blanching and freezing it. It is time-consuming, but very satisfying to see the freezer fill up with grated zucchini and partially baked winter squashes (for breads, muffins, and stews), and with bell  peppers, beans, onions, carrots, tomatoes, corn, and herbs (for soups, stir fries, and casseroles).

From Field to Doorstep: Beans from Big Woods Farm CSA

From Field to Doorstep: Beans from Big Woods Farm CSA

This year, we are also freezing blueberries, peaches, and apples–these last from trees planted by Tim and his siblings on the farm they grew up on.

First Step: Freezing and Stewing 20 lbs of Michigan Blueberries

First Step: Freezing and Stewing 20 lbs of Michigan Blueberries

We also seek out other local growers when we can. One favorite example is just down the road: Lorence’s Berry Farm. We depend upon their strawberries, raspberries, and asparagus in season, and also enjoy their frozen berries, jams, and syrups.  Lorrences Sign

Julia's Gluten-free Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Rice Cheese

Julia’s Gluten-free Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Rice Cheese

Julia, a dedicated environmentalist (who has recently instituted a composting program for our kitchen) proved that we can take good, fresh food on the road. There will be more on our trip to Duluth in an upcoming post, but here is a photo of the ready-to-bake pizza she created in a hotel room with only a microwave oven–gluten-free and dairy-free, no less–using basil and cherry tomatoes from our first vegetable delivery from Big Woods Farm.

Using local produce from small farms and gardens grows on us each year a bit more. We continue to learn of new options and also to become better (more imaginative and healthful) cooks. And we’re curious about your discoveries! Please let us know your favorite sources, your plans for next season.

As for us, we have a scheme for growing hard-to-find Yellow Indian Woman soup beans at a well-cared-for garden we know about–stay tuned!

Now, for more on the poetry of the garden:


Silvered cabbages sparkle with dew,
appear like treasure in the field rows.

Peas twine along the chicken wire,
studded with fat purple blooms.
Sweet onions pulse toward the surface,
Their fragrant tops the green of park benches.

At the corner of my vision, lies a thin, black hose –
No, it’s a snake weaving through the baby beets.
Raspberries glitter, cherries dance.
Asparagus has gone to seed, red berries bejeweling
those tops like fluffy Christmas trees, while corn silk
drapes wet, sweet, unripe.   A blush
of yellow-orange begins to gild the pumpkins
under the dragonfly-blue haze of August.

I think how this garden feeds my eye,
all of me, passes through me in many ways – death,
rot, renewal, and new fruit.  I pick a nasturtium,
tuck it behind my ear, head up the hill, then pause—

there is a small rattling in the bluebird house.
Suddenly,  the surprise of a rounded blue head, and
a rosy breast, flushed
like an embarrassed cheek or ripe peach:
duet tints of happiness.

Leslie Schultz

Thank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone.



 White MailboxOther News:

I was thrilled to learn that my sonnet, “Tintern Church of England School for Girls”, was named one of three “Top Choice” selections for the 2013 Great River Shakespeare Festival/Maria W. Faust Sonnet competition. I am interested that this news came soon after my post on not “pre-rejecting myself or my work”, because I wrote this sonnet thirty years ago. Although I have sent it out a number of times, it had not yet found its audience–until now!  Click HERE to read all the winning sonnets.

And remember the Mars Haiku contest? The winners are in! Thank you to those who voted for my entry; although it was not one of the top choices those selected from 12,530 valid entries, I believe it will still keep those winners company on the DVD that will orbit the Red Planet. Thank you!


Anniversary Poem and Wedding Dress Adventures

Roses in front of the beautiful Northfield Public Library

Roses in front of the beautiful Northfield Public Library

This August, Tim and I celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary: the silver one. It is true that we each have a few silver hairs, but, honestly, it simply doesn’t seem that long to us, despite documentary proof:

Leslie and Tim in 1988

24th Anniversary

We’ve shared a number of adventures thus far, including getting to know the surprise party planner pictured above between us. (That surprise party for our last anniversary was the most delightful party ever–wonderful company, delicious food, and a perfect setting. Thank you, Julia! Thank you, Ellen!) Even the dress I wore (my great-grandmother’s gown, brought back from the brink with refurbishment in 1988) had some adventures in its last year of 2010. After decades in a dark box, it got a chance to see the world before leaving it:

Wedding Dress in Snow

Wedding Dress with Tulips

Wedding Dress Country Road

The Dress and I on Last Day

Although the dress is gone–the netting rotted beyond repair before its Viking funeral send-off on our twenty-second anniversary–our adventures continue. I couldn’t bear to throw it out, but it didn’t make sense to keep it in a box when it could no longer be worn. Our ceremony to celebrate and honor the dress gave us a sense of new possibilities and a tangible metaphor for the necessity of submitting to those changes life insists upon.

Wedding Dress and Full Moon

(Photo note: what appears to be the sun setting is actually the full moon rising!)

Later this month, Tim and I are planning an urban adventure together. We’re staying a short time at a luxurious hotel and giving ourselves the rare luxury of unplanned time–many ideas for things to see and do but nothing actually scheduled!  (Julia and Peanut will sojourn in the country with friends.)

Wedding Suitcase

And we look forward to all the new discoveries on the road together toward our golden celebration in 2038. Here is a poem I wrote in honor of our twentieth anniversary.


The champagne cork lifts off, sails toward a night
sky littered with stars. Probably it lands
on the grass, perhaps on the roof of the shed.
No longer bottled up, sharp smoke disperses.

We bring our bubbling glasses together,
raise them in honor of each other, our friends,
our cherished place on Earth, cheering, “Here, here!”

The beautiful silver flight of the knife
ends with a thud, sunders a crisp melon
under the sweet rising moon of August.

We’re surrounded by intergalactic cold,
an uncertain economic climate,
political tumult.  Yesterday, hail
strafed this peaceful town and its lush gardens,

yet we are calmed in all this whirling by knowing
in our universe there is no down or up.
Just this one central moment,
this warm hand, this sweet breath, this sip of home.

Wedding Champagne Glasses

Thank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone.


Other News

White MailboxWe are beginning to make plans for Julia’s freshman year of high school. One highlight–among many–is the chance to study again with a master teacher. Julia Denne is offering an online course on master works of short fiction from 19th century Russian writers. After studying Tolstoy’s War and Peace in depth last year with Julia Denne, our Julia is interested in the wide variety offered by this new syllabus: writers from Pushkin to Chekhov are represented. Online discussions are sure to be lively. Take a look at www.bytheonionsea.com.