Sunday, April 6, 2014

Close Encounters with a Moose


We went hiking on Red Hike Trail today and headed up toward the top of Glassface Mountain. Not 10 minutes into the hike we ran into a moose. Bailey stared; the moose stared. If you'd like to see the full album from the hike, just click on this sentence. And remember to click on the photos to enlarge. 

Bailey and Bullwinkle have a staring contest.


Click on these photos to enlarge. 

After the April's Fool Hike

April 1st, 2014…. We went hiking around Black Mountain's cross-country trails and the alpine slope this afternoon. How great to be in warm weather. Now, out on the back deck, we soaked in the sunshine and lay in the snow to cool off. Spring is here!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

"This is going to melt? Say it ain't so!"

On what was the first real day of spring, we hiked around the Joe Pond trails and then enjoyed the sunshine and near-50 degree temperatures on the back deck of the house. Bailey just loves the snow, and I know if he could talk, he'd say "Let's go north for the summer." But then again, I think he loves mountain streams during a hike and the brook at Weld when we're hanging out.


"This is going to melt?"
 














"It's getting warmer." 
"Time for a nap." 


Friday, March 14, 2014

Books, books, books

Avoiding my taxes and book revisions, I roamed my house this early morning taking photos of the stacks, rows, piles, and clumps of books that line my tables, shelves, desks, and piano. Some of the books I've read; some I haven't. Some are hand-me-downs from my grandfather, F. Allen Burt; others are in storage for Ken, my brother-in-law, a dyed-in-the- wool bibliophile. A select few come from my graduate school studies--those books have been read multiple times, the pages are dog-eared, sticky-noted, Post-It'd, and scribbled on. I feel smart when I see those books, except when I remember how often I sat staring at the dense writing, reading it over and over again, puzzled, left wondering. 

Hundreds of my books come from my old high school English classroom, Room 109 of Mountain Valley High School. There, my students and I collected 2500+ books for our classroom library. In fact, my students got extra credit once a quarter for donating a book! (Yes, I could be bought, but only with books.) In Room 109, we had every-anything in our stacks, from "The Basketball Diaries" and "When Someone You Know Is Gay" to "How Cars Work" and a book on forensics with a full-blown autopsy report and detailed photographs.


John Steinbeck said, "I guess there are never enough books."  This morning, I’d agree. Time to get to work.

To see all of the album, just click here.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Visiting Friends…. Kate, Nate, and Lulu 35/60

It is Spring Break, so I traveled south with a keg of beer in tow. OK. So, no keg, but we did go south as far as Cape Elizabeth for a long-overdue visit with my friends LULU, Kate, and Nate. Kate is a writer whose book End Over End is a favorite. She also directed the Southern Maine Writing Project up until a few months ago when she retired (lucky girl). We've shared many an email and phone call over our writing project work and our favorite: budgets. (Kate went to the Richard B. Kent School of Finance… we were quasi-clueless but never gave up.) Nate's a former college administrator-turned-landscaper who keeps a mean garden and loves to give tours of Prouts Neck. And then there's Lulu… sweet Lulu… she ran Bailey ragged out on Higgins Beach. At full sprint, she'd throw herself at Bailey like a defensive back and nipped playfully at his hind quarter--again, at full sprint. Bailey's exhausted!

We ate homemade soup and bread while talking writing and life. The dogs roamed, tested each other's treats, sniffed, and played. I do love knowing people's place--geography says a lot. Kate, Nate, and Lulu have a warm and welcoming  home with over-stuffed chairs, inviting artwork and family photos, lots of daylight, and backyard full of bones and toys and an itsy-bitsy writer's cabin that I'm coming back to visit. Remember to click on photos to enlarge!

Nate & Kate (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Sweet Lulu before she ran Bailey into the ground
"What's next?" 
"I'm digging Bailey's treat." 
Ride home: Exhausted… he slept all the way. 

Back home: "Where's Lulu?" 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Old Friends

There's nothing like meeting up with an old friend at an unexpected time. That happened today on Whitecap Mountain when we met up with Mike Simoneau and his pup near tree line. Mike coached and taught over in the Jay/Livermore area for many years while I did the same in Rumford/Mexico. Mike's one of the easiest people on the planet--always smiling and upbeat (except about snowmobiles). We hiked back down the mountain chatting about mutual friends, former athletes, and local hikes.  Here's to old friends and easy conversations. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Mike and the pups at tree line. Click on the photo to enlarge. 





 

Blue-Collar Writer

"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. 
They are the ones who keep writing."

–Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark 


In my writing classes someone inevitably reads a stunning few lines from a 5-minute quick write. Her classmates will gush OhMy or mouth Mmmm. Then, I might say, "Gosh, you sure can write." The writer will smile and avert her eyes to the praise. Thing is, writers in writing classes like mine rarely keep writing beyond their graduate school assignments. Most are teachers whose busy lives sap their energy, and the notion of squeaking out 20 minutes at 5:30 in the morning or at recess to work on a short story demands putting off some kid-related chore. Most teachers I know, especially those adding to their week's work in graduate school, put their students at the top of their to-do lists.    

But every once in a while someone will come to me and talk about getting serious about their writing. They're looking for advice. If they're interested in writing short stories or articles, I send them off to library collections or bookstores to review magazines and journals. I say, "Read what they're publishing and see where your work might fit." I picture myself back in 1979, fresh from quitting a good job in Indianapolis "to write," going to the UMF library and perusing its stacks of Maine publications like Maine Life, DownEast, Puckerbrush, Maine Sunday Telegram, or Bittersweet. First, I targeted Maine Life and Bittersweet.

The poems I wrote fit well in these magazines. Mine were accessible Maine poems, free from clutter and secret meanings. Same with my articles. I simply told the story of "The East-West Wilderness School" or how the sport of ski jumping in Maine and across the country was dying. I loved the rush of composing and completing this writing. And if the piece made it to publication, I read and reread it, looking at my name, author bio, and the hefty black print on the page. I loved seeing The Title "by Richard Kent" in the Table of Contents.

But my suggestion of looking at publications often takes the writer by surprise. Even if they don't say it aloud, I can sense the "I won't get into one of those magazines." Really, what they're after is the key to the published writer's castle. And at some point, in some way, I always say, "Just write." 

I offer other advice like find a trusted reader/editor (sometimes I'll recommend "my" Anne Wood). I explain that they'll need to keep drafting until what they need to say surfaces. I'll probably share Ron Carlson's line, "The writer is the person who stays in the room." I may tell about the 40 drafts of the introduction to Writing on the Bus (and how my first reader Gayle laughed at me--made fun of me-- from drafts 30 to 40) or talk about an article I've recently written that took me 60 or 70 hours to compose over the course of several months. Writing is hard for me, I'll say. And at some point I'll always add, "If you want to be published, you will be published. Just keep writing." 

I have good ideas for articles and books, and I'm entrepreneurial. That's my forte as a writer. My writing center book and Room 109 were original. So are my series of books for athlete and teams. Recently, I did a book with my friend Josie Bray… this book, Writing the Dance, may open possibilities for other workbooks-journals in the arts. Beyond my ability to recognize and write about original ideas, I also stay in the room and do the work. 

I suppose that's why I call myself a blue-collar writer. Rarely do I produce eloquent prose like those students whose quick-write lines stop us in class. But I do keep writing until the job is done, just like a house painter or a chimney sweep.          
      

Friday, March 7, 2014

Hiking Red Hill

We hiked Red Hill today on a 35-degree day. Talk about awesome to be above freezing! Remember to click on the photos to enlarge.
Rich on the left and Bailey on the right :)


Sunday River
Red Hill Road



Mount Blue in Weld
Mount Washington behind Sunday River (or so we believe)

Road Trip--Rangeley to Weld

I've never seen the roads this bad in western Maine. Pot holes and frost heaves make traveling a nauseating affair. But, the views are still quite wonderful in the winter.











Thursday, March 6, 2014

Water Polo Team Notebook

After a few weeks of discussion, I started working on a Water Polo Team Notebook with John Vargas, former Olympic and National Team coach, and current coach at Stanford University. He's a good guy who spent 19 years at the high school ranks. I know little about water polo other than it's a ball sport in the water not unlike soccer. My niece and nephews play(ed). In fact, Victoria just scored three goals in a match for UCLA. We're using the same template that I used for the Soccer Team Notebook with Amy Edwards of Gonzaga University, so with that model in place the writing should be a bit easier on John and me.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Living Alone

Recently, a friend shared that she and her husband had separated. Such news always hits me in a couple of ways… most of all I just feel sad for everyone involved, especially when I like the people. On her blog, my friend wrote about feeling alone when her child was at her dad's for the week. Living alone has always been a complicated subject for me. So, to explore my thinking at 60 years old, I wrote a response to my friend:

I live alone. It can be difficult at times, but mostly I like the quiet, solitude, and freedom that alone-time offers. I like living in the thoughts I have and with the activities I choose to undertake. I’ve always struggled with being told and with crowds—not sure why. When being alone gets challenging, I connect with a sibling, a niece/nephew, or a friend and spend time in conversation on the phone, in email/Facebook, in person, or via Skype. In rare instances, I’ll go for a hike with someone :-)… Mostly, however, I like hiking alone.

When the solitude wears me down, I’ve been known to host exchange students to calm that innate need to be a father and to bring absolute chaos into my life… Ha! … hosting means allowing noise, getting pissed off at a teenager, and giving giving giving. Most of all, of course, hosting means parenting, and somehow since 1985, being a host dad has worked for me off and on over the years. (And no, my friend, I’m not suggesting you take in some kid from Ethiopia!)

As you know, I got a dog. We now have established the same schedules and quirks…. It’s such a funny thing to behold: he with his carrot at 10am and me with my second cup of coffee. Then, he goes back to sleep under my office chair and I continue writing in the outward quiet. In the afternoon, the two of us hike or ski. Not surprisingly, we share schedules and temperaments… “Odd ducks,” my father would have said.

When I read your blog entry, I understood deep down why you’d be missing SWIF. It makes total sense. But at the same time, there’s more. I know there’s something valuable about this time for you and my suggestion is to wallow in it… explore it… welcome it. She’ll be back on Sunday… and always.

Take it from someone who lives alone.
  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Granny Bozenka!

Back in 2004-05, I had the great joy of hosting Michal Cicala of Slovakia. Since those days ten years ago, his mom has kept in touch on a monthly basis keeping me posted on their kids' successes and life in Slovakia. One of the joys in Michal's and his family's lives is Granny Bozenka, the 82-year-old matriarch of the family. Here, she celebrates her birthday with her daughters and below is a picture from about ten years ago. Bozena is ageless!

2014
c. 2005

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mountain-Dog Ski at Minus Cold Degrees

We headed out today for a ski even though the cold and wind brought the temperatures to below zero. Didn't matter to Bailey, as you can see, he's just so happy to be out in the snow running and romping, weaving and dodging and wondering all the while, "Where's the treat?" To see the full album, click on this sentence.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Hike (34/60)

On Martin Luther King Day, we headed up Whitecap Mountain in Rumford for our first winter hike.  The temperatures hit 28 degrees, the warmest it has been in a while. At the tree line we ran up against a snow squall, so not knowing what might happen with the snow, I decided to head back down. For the full album, click on this line.


 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The weather & the writer's life

As I walk the streets of my neighborhood, the remnants of ice storms, rain, and early-season snow storms are everywhere. Pot holes in the asphalt and mounds of ice on the side streets create an obstacle course for drivers. At times, "walking" those streets meant hoofing through the snow banks on the side of the road. At home, $90 of sand made my driveway safe. Thinking back, I'm not sure I remember such a difficult stretch of weather.
"Route 108 Ice Rink": ice-covered road in Maine
Just these past few days I've been able to get into the woods to hike. Bailey prances when he knows he's about to go off leash, acting like a cow the first time she's let out of the barn in springtime. A bit of warm weather and a dusting of snow on the logging roads and snow mobile trails made the ice maneuverable.

Being stuck inside for most of the past 3-4 weeks gave me time to focus on an article for English Journal. The issue is about using sports literature in the English/language arts classroom; my piece has three parts. First, the article focuses on the ways athletes and their coaches use writing in team notebooks and journals to advance learning and performance in sports. Next, the piece addresses the ways athletes' writing serves as a model for how interest-driven "expressive writing"can be used in an English/language arts classroom. Third, I talk about writing across the curriculum or disciplines in an effort to create "the writing school." As straightforward as the article may sound, I struggled mightily.

Since 2005-2006, I've written extensively about athletic team notebooks and journals. Writing an original piece on this subject meant thinking about my audience: English teachers. Truth be known, English teachers make me nervous. I know… I am one, but still…

In the article I suggest that English teachers might like to adapt their journal-writing practices to include prompts about a student's part-time job, activities (e.g., chess club, student council), or sport. My premise is that writing about "the self"--especially a student's interests--should spawn more authentic and enthusiastic writing. I also believe, like so many writing theorists, that "expressive writing" is a powerful way to learn.

One of my worries is that some English teachers don't require their students to journal. But perhaps if those teachers hear that athletes like football players and ski racers write as a way to learn, that they'll think their English students should, too. It's worth a try.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What we do to our pets....

Click to enlarge the humiliation. 
My friend and colleague Bailey Joy-to-the-World Means is a Christmas fanatic. Since having her in class at UMaine some years ago, Ms. Bailey has gifted me, and now Bailey Tuckerman, a wide range of Christmas paraphernalia.  If you'd seen her in class as December appeared, you'd know I was not the only recipient of her Christmas cheer. Most of all I marvel at her organizational skills of getting gifts out to her wide range of friends and family. Knowing this effort, I do my best to dress up Bailey Tuckerman in the gift. This year, as with 2011's Santa Watch hat, my obliging pup was less than enthusiastic.      


However, at this point in his life Bailey probably knows that after the humiliation there's the Yuletide pay-off. This year, a humongous bone from Uncle Fred's stuffed with treats. And so it goes....

The Yuletide Bone


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Shaming...

I heard that when a farm dog kills a chicken that some farmers tie the dead chicken, or parts of it, around the dog's neck. I guess the act is a reminder and a shaming, and after a few days I'm sure the dead chicken has to be downright disgusting.

Click to expand photo.
This morning, Bailey swiped a  bag of holiday Chex Mix off my kitchen counter. He ate it all leaving the plastic bag in shreds on the floor. When I came back into the kitchen and saw the bag, well, I wasn't happy. The chicken farmer idea immediately came to my mind, so after several "Bad dogs," and I put the plastic bag over Bailey's head.

I headed back to my office and  left him standing in the corner of the kitchen when I snapped this picture. Eventually, Bailey came skulking in and lay down beneath my desk next to my feet.

After a minute or so, I looked down at the plastic bag and my devoted pup. He kept his chin on his paws and never looked up. At that moment I felt a wave of shame come over me. I lifted away the plastic bag and gave him a gentle pat on his head and a scratch behind his ears. Then, as always, his tail began to move. Forgiven again.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Book: Writing the Dance (33/60)


One of the delights of the past sad year has been working with Josie Bray, a director and choreographer from Boston who teaches at Emerson College. She's also a former high school student who, at 14 years old, strode into my high school English classroom and ripped the place a part with her fine work. I wrote about Josie's work as a dancer in my class in Beyond Room 109. She undertook an ambitious independent study on dance and performed an original dance for us at the end of the quarter. Since then, Josie has worked at regional and Off-Broadway theatres, and as an assistant on several national tours and the recent Broadway Revival of Ragtime.  
Josie was the Co-Artistic director of the Animus Ensemble, a Boston-based theatre company, for five years and also served as the Executive Director of Green Street Studios, Center for Movement and Dance.  She currently teaches at Emerson College and is producing a new musical intended for Broadway.  Josie practices yoga and Pilates, experiments in the kitchen, and spends time with her hilarious husband, Jack, and their energetic preschooler, Redd.