Today Is a Very Nice Day

Today Is a Very Nice Day

Down by the winding river bank

Arose a mighty debate among the creatures

Who lived along its eastern flank.

 

It was raining, you see

A drizzle, a shower

Drippy drops dropping on every blade and flower.

 

As the Spider crawled under a dry green leaf,

Curling into a ball as far as it could get

The Squirrel went into its tree- hole with grief

Already sopping wet.

 

When out of nowhere came a voice with an announcement:

“Today is a very nice day!”

All the creatures looking for shelter heard it say.

 

The Owl asked, “Who just said that, the fool?”

“Why it’s me, the Toad,” he said, sitting on a toadstool.

“How is it good? My feathers are drenched!” was the Owl’s retort.

“Yes but it’s good in some sort.”

 

“How so, how so?” asked the Owl so wise.

The Toad thought it over while eating some flies.

“It’s better for hopping, it’s better for shopping…for flies that is.”

 

“It’s better for being able to move about,

And making sure my skin doesn’t dry out.

I live in the water and on the wet ground.”

 

“Yes but I don’t!” said the Owl with a frown.

“I live in the trees and on branches and twigs,

“And I eat berries and berries and berries and figs.”

 

“They need the rain too” said the Toad, “you know.

They need it to help them grow.”

 

At this moment the Fish chimed in

With a fish-eating grin,

“Well in my opinion I first should state,

I live in water and I think it’s great!

My food is here, every harvest and grain,

And I have a home thanks to the rain.”

 

“My home is gone because of it too!”

Said the Chipmunk, beginning to stew.

“Not to mention it fluffs up my tail!”

“But it makes me go faster,” interjected the Snail.

 

At that moment the rain stopped!

The sun began to shine.

“Ah,” the Owl said. “It’s about time!”

“Today IS a very nice day!”

 

“I’m not sure I like the Sun,”

Said the Mushroom. “It is no fun.”

The Bat winced. “I really hate the light,”

“Which is why I only fly at night.”

 

The Gopher climbed out of its earthy abode

And smiled a mocking smile at the Toad.

The Bird chirped, “This is far far better I think.”

But the Otter disagreed-

“A few days of this and there’ll be nothing to drink!”

 

“How to settle this debate?”

roared the Owl.

“I know- wait!

Let us go ask the Bee.”

“Okay Toad, I agree.”

 

“But what’s this, the Bee’s not home!”

“Of course, he’s in the honeycomb!”

“Hello, hello, yellow Bee,

Can you come down for me?”

The Bee buzzed down to the pair.

“I know your questions but they’re not fair,”

Said the Bee.

 

“Why don’t you go ask the Tree?

He yearns for both sun and for the rain.”

 

“I’ve been listening to you all,”

Said the Tree. “And to me it’s all the same.

A Seed needs water to grow, with time

And once a Sapling it needs sunshine.

When a grown-up it becomes,

It provides shelter from the sun.

It offers fruit to eat and a place to live

It takes and takes and gives and gives.

What’s good for you is good for me.

And what’s good for the Tree is good for the Seed,

So yes it is a nice day, a very nice day indeed.”

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The Ugly Witch, by Joseph Barone

 

 

One day through the forest of the Wayward Wood,

 

A prince rode his steed and wore a dark hood.

 

He strode away, far far from his castle,

 

Away from the marriage which he thought was a hassle.

 

A wife betrothed to, not chosen by, his hand,

 

To rule alongside him one day all the land.

 

When he chanced to ride past a maiden near a brook,

 

Who wept so loudly and violently that she shook.

 

“Excuse me, my lady” he approached near the stream,

 

“But those tears coming down make your eyes gleam.

 

What is the meaning of all this sadness?

 

Surely you can find a reason to rejoice with gladness?”

 

 

 

“I’m sorry good sir, that you must see me this way,”

 

She cried aloud.  “I’m not having a good day.

 

You see I’m a witch and my coven cast me out.”

 

His eyes widened.

 

“What is that all about?”

 

 

 

At the question she wailed til it subsided to sobs.

 

“I apologize if my question is a burglar that robs-

 

If I’m overstepping by asking, if I’m being nosy.”

 

She shook her head. 

 

“My my, your cheeks are quite rosy.”

 

“No sir I do not mind if you ask me my trouble,

 

Especially not after they burst my bubble.”

 

 

“What bubble is that, good lady, good witch?”

 

“That I’m ugly of course,” she said with a twitch.

 

“Ugly?”

 

“Indeed, with many a gruesome flaw.”

 

At that the prince dropped his jaw.  “Come again?”

 

 

“I never fit in with the looks of my sisters,”

 

“Thank goodness,”

 

“They were able to land so many misters.”

 

“Is that so?”

 

 

 

“I haven’t a wart, a crooked nose or even a bulbous chin!”

 

“Thank goodness again!”

 

“Without such beauty, in life I cannot win.”

 

Depressed, she sat down near the stream bed

 

And left the hooded prince scratching his hooded head.

 

 

“Their skins are all vomit-green and bumpy,

 

Mine is smooth and in no way lumpy.”

 

“And that’s bad?”

 

 “My teeth are all straight and white and even,”

 

“Good.”

 

“I can’t get them yellow no matter how often I clean them.

 

Their disgust and disdain powers their magic”

 

“You see, I find that quite tragic.”

 

“But they don’t- they’re happy and successful and active-

 

My sense of humor and personality are so unattractive!”

 

 

The prince removed his hood and went to where she sat

 

She looked at his crown and asked, “what is that, a hat?”

 

He took her in his arms and gave her true love’s first kiss.

 

He looked into her eyes and said, “What?  Is something amiss?”

 

“Why did you kiss me, stranger?  What did you do?”

 

“The witches must have put a spell on you,

 

To make you blind to how beautiful and wonderful you are,

 

Your light and your smile outshines any star.

 

It would be my honor if you rode with me.”

 

“Where are we riding?” she asked with glee. 

 

“Away from something?”

 

“No.  Towards it.  Let’s go!

 

Together we ride, together we glow.”

 

 

And onward they rode and were happy ever after- no less,

 

And lived in love as prince and princess.

 

Finding Meaning, by Joseph Barone

How to write about meaning without sounding cliche`?  I’m more than tempted to explain how the world is a “topsy-turvy” place sometimes and fit in the idea that meaning is assigned, imprinted onto it by people, as well as derived from it by people in a “two-way street”.  But all the tired metaphors and descriptions ring a bit stale and dull, no matter how true.

I’d like to focus on how we can derive meaning for children without preaching or boring them, knowing that their first impressions of the world they’ve inherited, if nothing else, are extremely important.  As they navigate the world and learn its ways, the big lessons need to be written in shorthand, in a way easily understood for future reference.  Novel ideas and perspectives can be complex, but utterly necessary.

When I think about creating a new story or poem for children, I imagine how they might reflect on it.  I want them to think about it and be impacted in some way by it.  I want questions to boil in their minds as they consider the little nuggets of thought-provocation planted in the story.

As an example I’d like to use the first story I blogged- Bugsy the Horsefly.  It’s not going to win a Nobel Literature prize, nor will everyone like the story.  But if everyone had the exact same taste in everything, chicken would probably have been extinct long ago.

It’s about a horsefly whose 9-5 “job” it is to “bug” the horses in the stable of a farm.  Bugsy doesn’t like being annoying, but that’s his nature, it’s what he’s best at.  He dreams of more, of being helpful.  He doesn’t want to bug anybody.  The horse he happens to be bugging is also a good friend of his- Sam.  The horse suggests that Bugsy and all the other horseflies stop bugging the horses, and start bugging the honey badgers that keep stealing the beekeepers’ honey.  It’d be a win-win-win situation: the horses stop getting bugged, the honey is safe, and they get to do something positive.

I meant for the story to have several elements to it that a child can ask about, and a parent or teacher could answer, guided by the story.  One was the idea of sublimation, turning a negative into a positive.  Although he didn’t like being annoying, Bugsy, a horsefly, was by nature annoying and therefore good at it.  But instead of feeling sorry for himself and adding to the negativity, he made use out of it and helped out others in the process.

There’s also the concept of pooling resources.  All the flies working together drove off the badgers that were stealing the honey.  They’d all needed to work together for that one purpose in order to be able to succeed.

There are plenty of other ways of looking at what happened in the story.  And you’d probably be amazed by the kinds of questions a child might ask.  “How could a fly and a horse be friends?”  “Why did the horses allow the flies to bug them?”  “Why did the flies care about protecting the honey?”  They might not articulate the questions exactly like that, but whatever they’re asking is proof that they’re listening, and wondering.  Remember that the answers to the questions are neither right nor wrong, but it’s the questions that matter.

So in short- how do we find meaning in the world, and how do we teach children about it?  Well, I’m sure a long, complex answer may be most comprehensive, but the simple one suffices: ensure there are always questions to be asked.  Some day without realizing it, maybe even in adulthood, they’ll still be thinking about it.  As mentioned in cliche` earlier, meaning is half-created, and half-given.  You can only create with tools.  And you can only receive with the ability to do so.

I’m Invisible, by Joseph Barone

 

I’m Invisible, I’m Invisible! The girl I like doesn’t see me.

I’m invisible!  What a thunderous woe it is to be me!

When I see her I melt

Like ice cream in summer.

If I told her how I felt

It might turn into a bummer.

I hope she likes me too!

Or learns my name at least.

Or notices my smile too,

Or says hello at least.

 

When I see her I always get nervous

The butterflies in my stomach all a-circus

Juggling and clowning and running and clowning!

She makes me smile, she gives me pain,

The ache of love is such a strain.

It tugs my heart ‘til it’s a noose,

And every bit of strength has broken loose.

 

I love her laugh and her beaming smile

I wish she would talk to me a while

We can chat about her favorite things…

Like…peaches…dolls and…rings…?

I could look into her eyes,

Her beautiful green…blue…brown eyes?

 

Maybe I don’t know her as much as I think…

Maybe I don’t- doesn’t that stink?

I know she’s never a mess,

I love her striped…polka dot dress?

 

What is it about her that I love?

Her eyes, her smile, all of the above?

Through some hard thinking, I think I see

That maybe she’s the one invisible to me.

 

Love can be selfish, love can be kind

But maybe it’s a road I have to find!

I think each and every one of you would agree,

I have to see her before she can see me.

Meet Bobby Smith, by Joseph Barone

Meet Bobby Smith, it’s his first day of school.
He tries so hard just to be cool
But he’s afraid he’ll wind up looking like a fool.
Everything is new- the sights and the smells,
And even the stories that the teacher tells.
It’s tough enough with science, and math and social studies,
But fitting in?  Meeting new people?  Finding new buddies?
How will I ever do it?  He thought.
Maybe they’ll like me because of the cupcakes I brought.
He came back early from recess and set the cupcakes down.
When the schoolmates came in they ate them, but gave Bobby a frown.
He was new to them too.
So they didn’t know quite what to do.
They didn’t talk to him or make eye contact,
They seemed to want nothing to do with him in fact.
He thought some kids might even be making a smirk.
Bobby was sure that the cupcakes would work!
He got up and was about to leave the room with a frown,
But his neighbor Amy smiled at him and said “Sit down.”
She whispered, “You don’t need to give things to make people like you, Bobby.”
“Be yourself, and if they don’t like you then they’re just snobby.”
Just when he thought this day could never end,
Bobby found what he didn’t expect to find- a friend.

Three Little ShuffleBugs by Joseph Barone

Three little shufflebugs dancing a little jig,
Two of them wearing a funny little wig,
One little shufflebug flying off to France,
A second little shufflebug changing up the dance.
One, two, three, one, two, three, bee-bop and swing,
Shuffling by the window, shuffling on the wing.
All three dancing now in a happy ring,
Pockets full of posies as they dance and sing!

Colors of a Dream, by Joseph Barone

Floating, bobbing, flowing with the scene

Swimming, flying, through the colors of a dream.

Everything is possible and nothing is off limits.

A lifetime can be lived in only five minutes!

Magic exists in the centers of all places

In the breath of the air and in the smiles on all faces.

When you know you’re in a dream you can make the world bend,

And put things together in a well-fitting blend.

The power is great when you’re dreaming,

Contorting, twisting and scheming

So that things aren’t always how they ought to be,

Things are different in reality.

Then a rumble like a distant quake,

Sounds an alarm and brings us awake.

By the time we hit the Snooze

The dream we had has become old news!

But leaves us with a certain sense

That it hasn’t really left and hence,

It isn’t really gone,

But in our mind all along.

Deep inside of you and I

Is a world we make where we can fly

Where we sink or swim based on how we feel,

And both our fears and desires are real.

Wouldn’t it be great to always live there?

But would it be great?  Would it be fair?

How would we know about light and dark?

How would we know without a spark?

Good and bad don’t live in a dream,

They live in the world, in every action and stream.

Where it rains and sun shines on everyone you meet,

Whether nice or not, on High or Low Street.

The world is where we learn what makes us happy or sad,

Sappy or glad, argyle or plaid, snappy or bad.

And when the day is done time comes to retrieve,

All the things that life gives us to trim and to weave.

Drifting off to ourselves, away it would seem,

To make for ourselves, for us a new dream.

Gabby The Ghost, by Joseph Barone

Gabby the Ghost was a chatty enough spook,
She’d talk your ear off from here to Hanaluke
But don’t underestimate what she’s got to say,
It’s really important and she has to tell you today!

She wants you to know she likes having fun,
Although she’s more fond of the moon than of the sun.
She enjoys making friends with people like you,
And likes meeting nice people that are new.

So sad you can’t always see her unless she wears a sheet,
But she only wears one if it’s ironed and neat.
Getting ready to go from unseen to seen,
Getting ready to trick-or-treat this Halloween.

That’s right, you might not notice Gabby when you see her,
She might be tricking and treating next to your friend Peter,
Wearing a sheet so ghostly white,
She might just say, “Happy Halloween, and good night!”