Rituals in Difficult Times
As a mother of two littles, I have been doing my best to keep our days at home as predictable and familiar as possible during these strange times.
We’re still getting dressed and brushing our teeth in the morning. Still taking the dog for a walk first thing. Still snuggling in my four-year-old’s bed at night for stories. Still making pancakes on Sunday morning.
My daughter points at the sky. “Airplane, Mommy!” Planes still fly. The squirrels in our backyard still take their share of the seed in the feeder. The rabbits still munch grass in the cool light of dawn.
This short, simple poem, “The Return,” by Jonathan Greene, reminds us that, despite COVID-19’s disruption to our lives, “some rituals/ of this good earth/ continue.” And what a comfort that is to both old and young.
Perhaps it will bring some calm to your students to think about the rituals of their lives that have not stopped, that will continue to ground them in the present and keep them focused on the good.
Here’s what working with this poem in your classroom might look like:
1. Read the poem out loud.
2. Discuss what you notice about the poem. Here are a few things that might come up, or that you might draw their attention to:
- 3, 4-line stanzas
- The poem follows a simple pattern: The first stanza explains, in simple terms, the “ritual.” The second stanza paints an image of this ritual. The third stanza feels like a refrain, or a mantra, that bears repeating.
- First-person. “We” and “us” could be anyone, observing this ritual. Anyone who is looking for this reminder.
- The simple, descriptive language: “They find their old nests / teach their young to fly”
- The repetition of the word “return”
4. Invite your students to write beside this poem, perhaps borrowing the frame:
We are heartened
They remind us,
for now, some rituals
of this good earth
Allison Marchetti is co-author with Rebekah O’Dell of WRITING WITH MENTORS and BEYOND LITERARY ANALYSIS (Heineman). She is the co-founder of Moving Writers, a blog for secondary writing teachers. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.