C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Day Bike Ride

Today's bike ride: Two large raptors with white band on back of their tails so maybe Northern Harriers? One large raptor with a rosy tail. One smaller raptor - looked Kestrel like. Many canvasback ducks, American coots who move their heads like chickens, canada geese, many pairs of Mallards, doves, pigeons, robins and crows. Redwing blackbirds perched on cattails at regular intervals sounding like spring. Lots of praire dogs and bunnies.  No swallows in the mud nests yet and still waiting for the beautiful migrating pelicans. I like living in a healthy ecosystem.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Beppo aleppo 
Boppo avoom
Frap-Trap a’chinos
Likkitty lakatty loom
Shim sham abingno
Arigno Sadoon

Holy moly poly 
rolly ka’ching
Vabba vabrissa 
Marrisa fah-ling

Zing zong zappaty 
papa tea tree 
Prissy siss sap-a-tee
Tizzy ring ding

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Keeping Time

One of my students wanted to study time. So today we went to talk with a gentleman who repairs clocks.  We opened the door to his shop and walked in to the quietness of soft ticking.  It smelled of old wood, varnish, dust and oil.  He showed us how he repairs clocks, the tiny tools, the lathe.  He took out the works of a clock and we learned about energy transfer, gear chains, the escape wheel.  

We learned that the period of a pendulum one meter long is one second.  Coincidence? I think not!  The oldest clock in the shop, 1780, had an ‘equation hand’ so that you can set it by referring to a sundial.  My student made the connection that what we need for keeping time is a way to store energy, releasing it at regular intervals and that could be a wound spring, a quartz crystal or an excited bit of Cesium 133.  

Who would have thought - history, physics, tools and time? I’m a happy teacher!

We were deep in conversation about the eighteenth century race to make a clock for ships so they could calculate longitude.  The grandfather clock behind me struck 11 am, then the coo-coo.  We stopped talking and just listened to all the ancient time keepers strike the hour.

Baby Shoes for Sale

Stories abound about Hemingway.  In one he famously said any author worth their salt could craft a short story in six words. His example:

Baby shoes for sale, never worn.

On the radio this morning I heard about the Race Card Project ( where people share their experiences with race in six word sentences.

I thought I try my hand at six word stories and came up with two. I gave them titles, a little bit of cheating as it sneaks in an extra word:

For sale: widows home, fixer-upper.

Cardinal thinks, "I AM choosing Pope."

I love all comments, but I encourage you to play too and leave a six word story as a comment!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Neanderthal Mondays Part II

On Mondays I go learn about Neanderthals at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  I get so excited when I learn something that challenges my perspective.  Before this class my assumptions about Neanderthals were largely based on the Geico Caveman. 

This evening we learned about Neanderthal genetics.  Our presenter went through the history of studies published in journals like ‘Nature’ since 1987 and the challenges to each conclusion.  Things really began to get exciting in 2006 when analysis of the Neanderthal genome began got underway.  Genetic material was found in common with modern humans.  Neanderthals had the FoxP2 gene, possibly the ‘software’ for language.  We had learned last week that they had the hardware: the hyoid bone and nerves in the mouth.  Red hair showed up with a mutation of MCR1 - although a different mutation than the one expressed as red hair in modern humans.  Finally in 2010 the fist Draft Sequence of the whole Neanderthal genome was published.  Of the genes that make us distinctly human, we share from 1 to 4 percent with Neanderthals.

But then it got even crazier.  There is evidence that 40 thousand years ago there were up to four different hominids wandering the globe at the same time: Early Modern Humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans (found in Siberia) and Floresiensis (found on the island of Flores). All distinctly different from each other, but all shaping stone tools. Both Modern Humans and Neanderthals were using fire, living in organized social groups of up to 16 individuals, constructing shelters, practicing sophisticated pyro-engineering to create birch pitch tar, used to haft handles to stone points. They cared for the sick and old, buried their dead in shallow graves and covered them with flowers.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Puzzle

After an active morning I told my youngest son that he needed to do quiet things for the afternoon.  He finished his book and was casting about for something else when a jigsaw puzzle box caught his eye.  He went downstairs to the art/project room and sorted the edge pieces out onto a tray.  After working for a while I heard my husbands voice down there discussing where a piece might go.

Dinner time came kids were at the table, but my husband? Still with the puzzle.  Bed time stories and brushing teeth.  I wander downstairs to get a glass of ice water.  The puzzle has expanded to three trays of sorted pieces that fill the kitchen table.  “Who is doing this puzzle?” I ask.  “I’m just helping him out,” he answers.  My bedtime comes, I go back down to the kitchen.  My husband almost has the edges finished. “You’re helping him out a lot.  Are you going to finish it for him?” “I’ll be right up,” he says, “I’m almost done with this bit with the letters on it.”

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snow Day in Three Acts

Snow Day in Three Acts                                              Saturday Snow
I want to paint my face like an ice dragon.                     Saturday snow
No it will get on your scarf.                                            nowhere to go
But it will come alive outside in the snow                      falls on the world
I’ll paint it when you come in                                         soft as
(from upstairs)                                                                cat’s feet
I can’t find any sweat pants!                                          (no that’s been taken)
Where’s my coat?                                                           kisses
Where’s MY coat?                                                        (could be mistaken)
Zip me up?                                                                     blankets the world in a silent shroud
I ate your coat.                                                              (oh, for crying out loud)
Oh so that’s where my boot was.                                   But this moment I have
Ow! My chin's in the zipper.                                          curled up in my chair
I’m going to throw the snow!                                        children outside
Can you throw your boot?                                            snow in the air
I need shoes.                                                                  running and falling
They’re in the bathroom.                                               sliding and calling
Mom, please tighten my boot tops.                                Shrieking with laughter
No! (like a pirate) Never!                                               how could I no?
Mom!                                                                             I suit up and go
(youngest, in the middle of chaos, spins 
around on a stool, chirping ‘no!’)
Can you tighten my boot so I don’t have to take my snowpants off?
I look like a marshmallow.
Take your school backpack upstairs. please.
Mom where are my gloves?
(youngest, still spinning on the stool)
Mom why do gorillas have such big nostrils? Because they have big fingers!
Oh no! My shirt’s on backwards!
(struggles to turn turtleneck around without removing bibbed snowpants)
Mom can you tighten my shoes now? I think I may overheat.
I look like a red marshmallow!
(sister shouts to brother upstairs)
Will you go get my hat? It’s on my bed!
(smallest brother)
I see my gloves! Mom will you lift me up? They are too high.
Get the step stool.
Mom could you help me get my other glove on?
Could you zip me up?
Where’s your hat?
Upstairs in my backpack.
sound of the clothes dryer
the dishwasher cycles
click of the computer keys
faint swhirr of the fan
soft flow of warm air from the vent
creak of the chair
Grandmere’s voice in my head
‘snow like feathers sign of good weather,
snow like meal snows a great deal.’
Snow skitters agains the glass
I break off an old leaf from the geranium
blooming a blood read burst against the white window
soft snap as the stem comes away, the smell of geranium
bubble of boiling water
sharp fresh smell of the tea
soft ceramic 'tunck', the lid on the tea pot
Muffled sounds of glee
through the window to the back yard
The door slides open
Mom come and help us! 
We can’t get the ball of snow on top!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Planning Adventure!

Today was exciting and exhausting.  The students have all chosen what they will study this spring and I am planning adventures!  There are five of us who are field trip teachers.  We divided up the students by topic. We all have our favorites, but then there are some - like the student studying chocolate - we all want to plan that field trip!  I can’t help seeing the interconnections between the topics my students have chosen.  I have to suppress the desire to take all my student on all the trips I plan so they can see how every topic intertwines with their own.  
          There are three students studying the following: Paris, French pastry and France. We will go to Les Delices de Paris, a p√Ętisserie, speak some french and interview a friend who lives in Paris half the year.    
I have two students who want to know about medieval times. We will go to the cathedral and then hunt for dragons in the art museum.  
I’ve always wanted to get an actor to meet us at the cathedral in costume so it can really feel like time travel.  

I have three students who want to study ancient humans and ice age animals.  The Denver paleontologists just uncovered 6000 fossils last year in the mountains.
We will go to the museum run between the legs of mammoths and mastodons. 
I will take the chemistry students and the magic students to the chemistry magic show.  But the magic students will also meet with a magician, shouldn’t my sixth grader, who is studying lying be there too?  And my two young magicians should tag along on the day we interview an expert on lying and micro-expressions. Of course they should, magic is deception. 
And shouldn’t my older student, who is exploring illusions, accompany her classmate when we talk with the physicist about gravity and time?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bully

I watched a disturbing video from March 3rd that was making its rounds on the internet.  Somewhere in Great Briton a group passing out leaflets against hate crimes is bullied by members of the BNP, an ultra nationalist group.  I don’t pretend to know anything about either group beyond what can be found on wikipedia, but I found the body language and word use of the bullies interesting and disturbing.

The aggressor was clearly intimidating the man with the leaflets, getting up in his face, telling him to leave.  His voice was loud and threatening.  But the words the aggressor chose were the words of a victim: 
‘No one is getting violent here are they?’ he says getting up into the leafleter’s face ‘You’re heightening the situation so you take a step back and stop threatening me!’ he steps forward again forcing the leafleter to step back. ‘No one is threatening you are they?’ he says as his comrades shout profanities over his shoulder at the leafleter, ‘You’re not welcome here.’

Eventually the leafleters return to their car and leave, coming back later to pass out their fliers.  The bully acts like a bully, moves like a bully, sounds like a bully, but uses words to paint himself a victim.

On the car ride home this afternoon I heard North Korea behaving in the same way as the BNP bully.  They swing around weapons, then declare themselves threatened when their neighbors react.

At school some of the teachers have been working through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help students think about people's actions.  I’m trying to find where this interactions sits, if it sits there at all.  Why do we humans feel the need to frame ourselves as victims before lashing out? Why this dance and mincing of words?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sometimes Good, Sometimes Bad

Day 7 Slice of Life
The March Slice of Life Challenge-hosted by Ruth and Stacey,

Great Stuff!
Tweet at #Slice2013 

It is a day of small steps forward, 
small steps back
A day when I go from one thing to the next, sure I’m forgetting something
I plan a chemistry magic show, 
bring a student to meet with a sci-fi author
a student frustrated with algebra
two students want to study the middle ages
we will go to the cathedral and the art museum
a student with missing assignments who’d rather not see me
I can’t get the swordfighting instructor to call me back
math placements for next year - nothing is neat or easy

I sit to talk with a young student as she works out what it is she wants to learn next.  She knows what it is but can’t quite say it: 
‘Good and bad.’ 
‘What is good and what is bad?’ I ask.
‘Yes... No... Feeling good and feeling bad, why we do that.’
‘What happens in the brain?’ 
‘No, well, kind of.’
I watch her struggle to say the thing she cannot quite pin down. 
‘Why is it we are the way we are?’ she finally asks. ‘Why do we feel the way we feel?  Sometimes good, sometimes bad?’

I come home and my husband has shaved off his beard.  
I kiss his smooth cheek.
‘Your skin is red.’
‘It must not be used to being out in the world,’ he says

My son puts on a tape of lullabies to go to sleep.  My friend Sarah recorded the songs as a baby gift when he was born.  She left us last fall. Cancer.  Her sweet high voice floats across the hall as I write.  I write the way I feel, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frank Armbruster

As field trip teachers we are contacting interesting and passionate people every day and asking them to give time to our students who share their passions.  So many people give so much to us that, though we try, we could never thank them enough for what they do to inspire and encourage our students.  One person in particular has given his time and his talent over and over again.  

Frank Armbruster is one of those that always say yes when we call.  He is an eccentric, enthusiastic inventor, a passionate ‘out-of-the-box’ thinker.  His infectious energy never failed to engage students who met with him, and to inspire deep and creative thinking.  He would appear at our office door with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye.  He would excitedly tell of his latest creation and shower us with samples of his inventions.  Our office is filled with all these little bits of Frank’s bubbling, creative mind.  We hear today that he had a serious set-back to his health.  The field trip teachers spent an hour this morning making a video, showing how we use what he has given us, telling how we treasure the time he has shared with us and our students.  I am reminded again that time is a precious gift, meant to be shared.  Thank you Frank.  We all wish you the very best!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Neanderthal Mondays Part I

This March I’m taking a class on neanderthals on Monday nights.
The first thing was saw was a review of how neanderthals have been drawn over the ages.  Mostly the artists have portrayed a dominant societies projection of a contemporary alien ‘other.’
We really wanted to make sure we didn't look too related!

Skulls were this night’s view
Erectus, Heidelbergensis
Neanderthal too
brow ridge and occipital bun
zygomatic arch flat as my thumb
Large nasal chamber  to warm ice age air
Light eyes, red hair!
Then me and you
We have a chin now
But what does it do?

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I’ll get up early, write then swim
I sleep in
I get up later and write 
I’ll write till 7, then take my son and go swim
I write till 8
I'll take my son and swim, we’ll get home at 9 and I’ll take my daughter to the writer’s workshop
We swim till 10
I’ll take my daughter to the writer’s workshop and meet husband and boys downtown at 1
We aren’t ready to leave till 11
I say to my husband “We’ll meet you downtown at 2”
My youngest son throws up
“Never mind,” I say. “We’ll come back home at 2:30”
My daughter and I write till 3
We make it home by 3:30
I take my older son to the branch library for his research project at 4, the library closes at 5
“That’s an interesting topic,” says the helpful librarian.  “I’ve never looked for information on the space programs of monsoon Asian countries before.  Perhaps upstairs in the college library?”
At 4:45 my son and I are sitting on the floor in the stacks looking in the indexes of a dozen books on Asia and space.  They blink the lights.  The library is closing.
We make it home with a pile of books - what to make for dinner?
Husband and older son will leave at 6:30 to go juggling
Dinner is on the table at 7
They leave at 7:30
Sick son feeling a little better.  I tuck him in.
I’ll just write a quick slice.  I’ll be done by 9
It’s 10

Saturday, March 2, 2013

On Watching the Spring Come In

When the children were small we went on nature walks every week from January to May deep in the Connecticut woods.  
Our friendly neighborhood naturalist, Ronnie Kamphausen, would help us find vernal ponds filled with tadpoles, turn over logs to find salamanders and peek in the speckled red spathes of skunk cabbage, the secret hiding places of bees caught out on a cold spring night.  We moved to Colorado and reveled in the prairie and the mountains but somehow got too busy to just watch each week to see the spring creep in, until now.  
Today we took the first of what I hope will be weekly spring walks near our house to watch for the change of the season.  We saw ducks on the pond, a kestrel in a tree and prairie dogs chirping alarms. We threw snow at each other and covered our boots in mud.  It was glorious.  
Each of us brought some small thing home to sketch as well.  We were inspired to do this by my friend Ruth Ann Olson, who writes a blog about her small farm (  When she was a young schoolgirl in England they would go for a walk each day and every student was expected to bring back some small thing to draw.

So here is to spring as it slowly comes in and seeing the magic as it happens!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Today a List of Stories

The alarm
Tea - don’t forget to get the tea going before you get in the shower
Find something clean in the dryer
Start the shower
Wake the kiddos
A little light, a little kiss
Same for hubby
Water’s hot
brush teeth
“Are you ready? Are you out of bed? We have ten minutes!”
The tea, remember the tea
Drive teen daughter to high school
She talks about the story of Moses and
Slavery in the antebellum south
I think how everything, everything I know 
is knit into my memory as a story
At work I tell stories
About people who spoke Latin
About the invention of Algebra
I listen to stories
About why he wonders about stars
About how Tock, the new puppy, came home
About her love of bees and magic
We work on telling together
on how to say Eyjafjallajökull
and other fancy words

Drive home
Listen to stories about budgets and cardinals
both sequestered on the same day
In the grocery store we tell knock knock jokes
Buy a dizzy chicken - spinning while it cooks
Stories round the table
Stories before bed
Write a story for Slice of Life
Set the alarm
Bed and I tell myself the surreal stories of dreams.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Today I am a Small Creature

This evening I was looking at the photo of Saturn hanging above my son's desk as he did his homework.  You can see our home if you look carefully.  Earth is a small blue dot, second ring in from the outside, in the upper left of the photo.

Today I am a small creature 
wandering in wonder
on the thin crust
a mere mote of dust
brushed by a wisp of air,

a creature teacher
wanting wonder to awake
waiting in the wake of time
to see if what I though was fine
will root and grow.

What arrows are there
that I can throw ahead
to say when I am dead
such a one was here?

None I fear
when I turn and see what was cast
I throw my present like water
on fires of long past,

only an echo 
of one mother, no other
two hundred thousand
years ago.

Her faint call
encodes the thread
the weft that powers the web
echoes off each cell wall.

Will her long line
throw forward in space
find out new place
be unbroken by time?