Welcome to my 2015-2016 Writing page. As a Humanities teacher I love the idea of having a page where I can place writing that is sometimes spontaneous and sometimes comes from pieces that I’ve written in earlier times. Most of the writing below was published to synchronise with the kind of work that 6th and 8th grade students were being guided to write. Although I will not be working with 8th graders, I hope 6th and 7th readers, their parents and anyone else who finds this page, will just enjoy my writing as it is presented. The first two poems were written for fun, about topics that I liked, for their lightness. For those interested, scroll down to the bottom of this page. There you will find a letter I wrote last month to friends, that goes with my Dubai tandem skydiving experience – something I had wanted to do before I left my job in that city. I’ll continue to add to this page, in the hope that readers will enjoy reading my work.
By Rosana Walsh
The sunflower raised her face
To the early morning light,
A slender figure holding strong
As a gentle breeze rippled
Across the Californian valley floor
Blue skies above gazed down on
A sea of yellow heads below.
It was hard not to smile
And be happy with that vista,
For summer gold had finally arrived
by Rosana Walsh
Imagine a world without cats,
AND LOTS OF RATS!
Imagine a world without greens,
And NO MORE BEANS!
When I Grew Up at the Lake House
by Rosana Walsh
With thanks to Cynthia Rylant for When I Was Young in the Mountains.
When I grew up at the lake house, I spent my time down by the waters edge or lying high up on the wooden jetty, to peak between the sturdy boards at the fish below. Tiny silver backed sprats shimmered past, like miniature taniwhas on a mission to who knows where. Sometimes I spent days in my swimsuit, with a butterfly net in my hand and a fierce determination to snatch up just a few of those pretty fish, for closer inspection. I tried not to hear the calls to supper, as dusk settled over a calm bay and the rainbow trout began to rise and leap for their own evening meals.
When I grew up at the lake house, I would hide in the lupins of yellow and purple and blue and red. I could lie on my belly, hidden in that sea of colour and keep my peace, until my brother roared in mock protest. Up I’d fly, as swift as a pheasant in flight – and get tagged for my wholesale naivety. After that we’d head home, away from the flower fields and across the paddocks, legs scratched up and sandfly bitten. Lunch was always doorstep sandwiches. Fresh white bread filled with ham or chicken and fresh salad vegetables. Lemonade was a treat but cordial out of packets was a daily event. No one ever told me it was 90% chemical and 5% fruit.
When I grew up at the lake house, I’d dive out of bed and head towards the smell of pine needles in the big family room. I would drink in the smell of freshly baked scones for breakfast, but move swiftly to sit an arm’s length from the Christmas tree, where prettily wrapped packages laid in piles around its base. Santa Claus was being replaced by Aunts and Uncles and cousins, and just occasionally, a sister or two.
As the lake house aged, so did my guardians and so did I. Without warning, those days of growing up slipped by. I read the letter that told me the bach was sold, laid my head down on the boarding school pillow and cried. When I grew up at the lake house, time never seemed to matter. But a butterfly net, miniature taniwhas, and coloured lupins did.
by Rosana Walsh
I was born on the very edge of the time known for its production of “baby boomers”, those children that arrived at the end of World War 11. I adore raspberry colored jelly tips, chocolate coated almonds, green snifters and the perfectly rounded jaffa lollies found only in New Zealand. I stole money from my Aunty’s jar of pennies, and was spanked after I had to say how I could afford to buy not one but two small erasers. At six years old I pretended to take a bath, but got caught because my knees were still grubby. I liked my hair in ringlets, because Shirley Temple was cute and I got to be called that too. When I was ten, I saw an adult being beaten by her son and a three year old being scrubbed for wetting his bed. My favourite game was monopoly, but I loved being outside and on the beach, most of all. I remember looking up at the night sky and secretly reciting “Starlight, Starbright”. I can still see the moment when my brother played Elton John songs in the boarding school’s hall. I didn’t get to talk to him, because he was so popular with the girls. The day I learned to ride a motorbike, I rammed it into the farmer’s fence. I thought I would faint when I did a tandem skydive. I am still tandem skydiving. I cried when I was twenty years old – it was the first time I had to be strict with a seven year old student. I love Georgette Heyer books. I think I was born an English aristocrat back in the 18th century. I am a teacher who writes at a mediocre level. I want to be a writer who writes at an awe inspiring level.
The following piece follows the third autobiographical writing by Linda Rief, called “When She was fifteen.”
When she was seventeen, she believed that living in institutions like her boarding school was the best thing ever, even if her big sister hated the place and had tried to escape twice in one year. She believed the most important thing in life was to hide the cigarettes from the seniors, in their very own common room and then get those after the dance love letters for the girls out of the principal’s office drawer and back in there before anything was missed. She believed her second to last year at school was awash, because everyone thought she was too young to attend business college.
She believed she was the poor niece, cousin, whatever, because she was a hand me around child of no particular abode. She babysat the cousins once removed, ironed the first cousin’s shirts, then basked in that family’s spa pool, with the sliding doors opened, Pink Floyd playing full blast in the background – when the adults were all out partying. When she was 20 and told she couldn’t leave home until she got married, reality arrived in one powerful hit and the living of a half life lifted.
That summer, she worked for another cousin. Days she flipped hamburgers, served up steak and chips with wine and mushroom sauce, peach melbas and banana splits to hordes of sun blistered holiday makers. She cleaned out the cousin’s husband’s tripe pot, watched her brother wow and woo all the local girls with his music and muscles and fobbed off the advances of a boy that knew about those love letters thrown back into the principal’s top right desk drawer. At night she sought refuge in the cousin’s parent’s beach house, and then hit the beach early mornings to drown the feverish workings of a seething brain in the sounds of the ocean breakers.
While the summer turned towards Fall, she took that hard earned wad of cash, bought that coveted turquoise blue ford escort car, headed legitimately towards her first teaching job and wondered what her sister would think..about the greatest escape, ever!
Photo credit: http://www.carpoint.com.au/used-cars/FORD/ESCORT/model-make.htm
When we write about a time when we had no choice, it helps us understand someone else’s reality, where there never was a choice and never will be.
by Rosana Walsh
At fours years old,
there was no choice.
A dead father and a runaway mother,
she was lucky to have a home.
Just not one to call her own.
At ten years old
there was no choice.
A place in an orphanage,
where children surplus
to requirements went.
At fifteen years old,
there was no choice.
This time – a boarding school,
where rules and reality
couldn’t be bent. She loved it.
That truth would be hers.
And without all of those no choices, she
wouldn’t be the teacher that she knows she is, today.
What would you do if your friend expected you to jump off a rock, high above the water, at a place called Bully Point, on a lake called Taupo? And what if your other friends were waiting for you to go first? Well, in my case it was my 28 year old principal asking his 38 year old assistant principal (that would be me) to jump at the same time as he did. This was his idea of a teachers’ retreat – a challenge at the beginning of a new school year. His mostly female staff were in shock, and I was their team leader – oh dear. No choice. I jumped.. and had a blast.
So, did I truly have no choice? In reality, I could have walked away. No one forced me to jump. But the truth of the matter was that I didn’t want to let my boss down and I didn’t want to lose face in front of my colleagues. It didn’t take me long to weigh up the pros and cons of jumping or not jumping. Adults who live in a society that allows them many forms of freedoms, can make choices. Children on the other hand, no matter what place they find themselves in, rarely have a choice in their formative years. It is indeed their reality and a big part of what forms them.
My poetry isn’t perfect, but it still has meaning for me :
By Rosana Walsh
Sisters can be SO annoying!
They take your things when they say
They talk over the top of you when they say
They scream in your ears when they know
They pretend to offer help and then act as if
Sisters can be so annoying
truth is, I would miss
All of that, and their love
If my sisters
By Rosana Walsh
True Adventures with Animals
We heard an exclamation
And ran to see the event
Now that was quite a discovery
What was hidden
Under his tent!
Six inches from pincers
To tail and a deeper shade of red,
The scorpion had chosen
To settle near Chico’s
They both survived!
It’s okay to play with the
Sealions, said Chico with
We believed him and happily
dived right in
They came tearing towards us
While Sharon decided to spin
Upside down and around
In a circle, with one
Clinging on to each of her fins.
Big eyes and faces
bewhiskered, those pups
They loved it all
While patrolling from
A reasonable distance was
Papa sealion, close to
The bedrock wall.
By Rosana Walsh
It used to be so easy to laugh,
Especially when I was young..
Laughed at my kitten trying to
Climb a tree
Laughed as my friend and I ran
Against the wind
Laughed when my cousin came off
His water skis-
Why is it so hard to laugh like that now?
The muted green leaves of the twisted willow at “Troutbeck Road” hung over the fence that separated garden from culvert and culvert from road. This willow backed into a big walnut tree, and neither would ever be balanced, unless the house owners took one of them out. Those two trees though, symbolized my joy in owning an acre of garden that housed lots of perfectly pink rhododendrons and radiant red azaleas. The garden was walled in on one side by a line of tall, dark and sturdy pine trees. On the opposite side, a typical farm fence stood, for the house at the end of the winding driveway had once been a farmer’s family home.
There was a huge unwieldy rockery to look after in the garden, but it meant that there were hidden paths to be walked and quiet places to sit and think. I could sit on a rock and mindlessly pull out weeds, while my mind wound down from school busy to home harmony. I often think that if I’d followed my gut instinct and taken time off work to be in that garden, I might still be enjoying the green of those quiet places. I was always happy digging away in there, but never had the time to keep up with the work to make it look great.
“Troutbeck Road” we owned and the best memories are of going out into the nearby forest, with the dogs eager to leap out of the pickup,for their daily run. We’d take our time and bring back loads of freshly cut pine logs, neatly stacking them in the side shed to dry out for winter heating. Turning over the deep brown earth in the compost heap at the back of the wood shed and watching the heat and steam rising out of it was another favorite memory.
I can still see Mike arriving in with a grin, his wicker basket full of small red apples from the lonesome tree in the paddock next door. I’d laugh and say “Now look whose channeling The Darling Buds of May?!” I think of the calming effects that listening to a hundred or more cows in that paddock had on me, as they softly chewed their cuds in unison. My Uncle Bill spent days raking up bundles of crunchy red, brown and gold leaves one Autumn. He was doing that the day he turned 75 and I could see in the smile of his eyes how much he loved that job.
That house and that garden with all its seasonal colors, had so much potential. I don’t yet think anyone has ever done justice to them. I loved it long before Mike and I bought it. If I went back now, I’d bowl the house over and replace it with something solid and complete, long and low. I’d renovate the gardens as well, while leaving in some of the healthier established trees and shrubs.
My bet is that after all these years, the twisted willow has gone. Instead, the walnut tree will reign supreme at the entrance that separates what once was my home and haven, from the rest of the weary world. I was always happy in that garden.
A Letter from Dubai
By Rosana Walsh
16 July, 2015
8:35 am and Skydive Dubai was right on it, saying we’d have a three hour experience. Got there at 5:00 and left at 8:00, and I am starving!! Just waiting for brekky before…..
Hah! Breakfast arrived, and then I flopped over, on the couch. The first hour was about opening the door to a small army of manservants, all with specific jobs to do – this with me mostly asleep.
That kind of sleep is almost like being drugged. I am so glad I gave myself this day to rest, because I obviously needed it. It’s now 6:00pm and I will head out to Dubai Mall – I think. Depends whether I feel awake enough!
Well now, the jump. 15 in the plane, 5 clients with their tandem guides and film/photographers.
I was the granny on board, and also in the building. My body managed it and that’s what counted – yay!!! What a blast and what a view – as a one off physical challenge that has a quick adrenalin rush, it’s an experience to be had. The skydiving crew was made up of nationalities from all around the world, including a kiwi woman in her 40s, complete with silver fern stickers on her helmet.
I don’t have my MacBook here, so am not able to take a look at my video. Of course, once again, the glasses stuck to one of my eyelids, and that’s not exactly an attractive look, as one hurtles towards the earth at some ungodly speed – with a photographer buzzing around your head for close up shots – haha! He really did look like an enormous bee, with his helmet and cameras, one for stills and one for video, cord in his mouth to “bite” those shots. Can’t wait to see the end results. The Palm Jumeirah looked amazing from up there.
The free fall is the buzz, and then the quiet that comes once the parachute opens is great – I got a guided commentary of the area, which was a nice bonus. Then when you wind down to the ground, there’s noise as the wind catches the shift of the parachute. Landing was fun. We slid in to stop right in front of the photographer. Just so worth it. I don’t think cage diving with a great white shark will have the same buzz!
Monica, YES, fabulous idea to take that jump on that day. But who knows – if you decide to grow your consulting work internationally, you two may find yourselves out this way again.. To jump on your day though, is just such a symbol of love – can’t wait to hear all about it.
Sun has almost set out there, and all the mini and maxi super yachts are heading for home after a gorgeous day out at sea. Meantime, everyone is waiting for that cannon to sound. Ramadan is coming, and I heard one of the skydive Dubai cashiers say to some guy, if he wanted to have a beer, he’d better have it today.
Time to go and wake up. I am headed to winter tomorrow afternoon. Not sure what that means, but am betting I will find out quickly!
My History As a Writer
By Rosana Walsh
I wrote this piece back in 2012, for a SUNY (State University of New York) paper. The writing I am asking my 6th and 7th graders to do is around identity. They are being asked to dig deep and share who they truly are. When they present their “If You Really Knew Me” digital stories, it’s not unusual to see individuals covering their eyes or pulling their hats over their eyes; it seems true that the eyes are the windows to one’s soul. The following writing feels like the baring of my soul.
A Danish philosopher once said,”life is experienced backwards, but is lived forwards.”
My earliest memories of being inside a life, still exist somewhere within the deeply private me. Soul stories, blue eyed and undeveloped. They linger in shadowy forms; visualizations of experiences that wrap themselves around me and my three siblings. I don’t even think that the fifth sibling had arrived at that point. I recall the four of us being in one bedroom, with the afternoon sun filtering through half closed venetian blinds. And no adult in sight. I was aged three, still with a living and working 52 year old father and a barely there 23 year old mother. All that would change for sure in a year’s time. My siblings and I would be scattered across our large but not particularly welcoming family, just as the “hand me around” children from my culture often were.
Today one of my students told me that he recognized Anna’s confusion about how to handle Sarah’s anger against her Papa. It frightens him when his own parents argue. He imagines what it might be like if they left each other. Will he be forced to choose a side?
My earliest memories seem to be related to moments of fear. But as my cognitive abilities grew, I began to know and not just to feel. With that knowing came the understanding that there was indeed a world where I was truly me and where I was in complete and absolute control. I still do cherish the world of thought. It’s that unique place where every human being dwells separately, and where no other human being can enter or replicate what is produced in that space. My thought bubbles have always teemed with words, and so many of them have been just for me – my secrets, my knowings, my dream worlds. As a ten year old, I was forever being told by adults to stop dreaming, and of course I continued on in a world which began to steadily link itself to the writing of words. I fell in love with words. In my first year of school, I recall my Aunty handing me a small, rectangular tobacco tin. The top was yellow and red. The brand name has long since faded from memory. Inside were handwritten word cards. The cards were shiny and the writing was in black ink. I fell in love with words. And I fell in love with those teachers who gave me the space, to quietly breathe my thoughts into a life on paper.
Today one of my of quietest student’s voices resonated for the first time across the room. She was visualizing the coming of a squall that would throw Sarah and Papa together to work as a team. She shared what it was like to be a frightened child waiting for a storm to hit. She knew for a certainty, what that was like.
I began to search for places where I could feed a growing habit: the orphanage’s tiny library that housed the whole series of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” and “Secret Seven” books. I could sit for hours, undisturbed, fingering through the largely untouched “Look and Learn” magazines, with their beautiful illustrations, comic strips and short stories. Sometimes I would slyly rip out the center pages, stuffing them into my pockets to be poured over on another day. They held cards of flowers, trees or animals from around the world. In that tiny library, National Geographic magazines hugged each other in tight rows. I hugged many of them back, cherishing the worlds hidden within. I met Canada in a stolen map, and learned the provinces’ names and flowers by heart. I savored the word “Saskatchewan” and dreamed of running where Ann of Green Gables ran.
Today one of my students asked me why a flower from the prairies was called a paintbrush. We all realized that between reading “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and “City Green”, we’d learned the names of at least a dozen flowers.
In the Boarding School’s more comprehensive library, I disappeared into the writings of Louisa M. Alcott, Charles Dickens and the Bronte Sisters. My reading took another turn to the romantic poets, John Donne being a favorite. I also discovered Georgette Heyer’s “The Black Moth” and Daphne du Maurier’s “Frenchman’s Creek”. My High School History and English teacher began to question my thinking, to ask for my opinions (imagine that) and to badger me out of the classics and into books that challenged. I read Mahatma Gandhi’s biography and came out the other end believing he was a god – said teacher smashed that to smithereens.
My first carefully crafted piece of writing was a report on World War 2 and I cherished the feedback my teacher gave me about that. However, my best English essay emerged through a haze of anger, aimed at a teacher that cared little for her subject, and less for her students. I’d written about the merits of living and learning in a small boarding school for Maori girls. This as opposed to a large impersonal grammar school that couldn’t see potential in three of those girls who’d made it into their senior year. Beyond that, I still see the words “Why have you been hiding your light behind a bushel?” written across the back page of the only decent writing I did in Teachers College. It was a journal that tracked a week’s hiking and kayaking trip through one of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks. I barely spoke a word through that trip, but observed, listened, breathed, and wrote.
Today one of my students asked if “Sarah, Plain and Tall” was the first of a series.
“ Does it have to end? I don’t want it to end!”
She is just waking up to the joys of what lives between the pages of a really good book.
I see now how all of that work with words and the connection to a tenuous beginning in life, has influenced who I am as a person, a writer and teacher today. I spent years away from writing, busy growing through life’s ups and downs. Much of my successful writing has been academic in nature. The writing that I most enjoy these days though, is connected to entertaining my family and friends with the tales of an international teacher, living in a world somewhat different to theirs. But the writing that I cannot live without, comes from my four siblings. I often marvel at how we were raised in different spaces, and yet we are all writers, each with our own individual styles. One sibling just won a New Zealand wide writing scholarship and will publish next year. Another sibling is spending more and more time writing his autobiography. I have letters from yet another sibling that are beautifully written and heart wrenching, all in one. These letters are pillars of writing strength for me, and have become more so with the lengthening of our years. They, along with all the other readings I’ve done through my life, are my own precious mentor texts.
Which brings me back to my thought bubbles. Those bubbles continue to teem with words, but they are no longer just for me, no longer just my secrets, my knowings, my dream worlds. I put them where my students can see them glitter, feel them sparkle, and use them as places to strengthen their own thought bubbles. I have truly enjoyed reading and writing, but I now have a real love for the teaching of reading and writing. At the beginning of each year I tell my new group of students that reading is thinking and writing invokes thinking. I’m always, always excited by the prospect of what they will bring to the life of reading and writing in our classroom. Most of all I know that I am not just looking at these beautiful faces waiting expectantly for me to direct them, and to tell them. Instead I smile at every single one and think about the stories tucked away inside those souls, blue eyed and undeveloped. And I think, “What will you teach me today, about you, about me, about this world we currently inhabit together?”
Today one of my students predicted that Sarah and Papa would marry. He based it on the fact that Sarah had called Papa “Jacob” for the first time, and that Papa had put his arm around Sarah, and laid his chin on the top of her head. “What’s that a sign of?”, I asked. “Of loving”, he said.
Reading is thinking and writing invokes thinking.