Asking The Right Questions

I took another Writing Class at the Hugo House,

“Asking The Right Questions: Self-Inquiry in Memoir” by Suzanne Morrison.


She started by having us write answers to the following questions and then share our answers.

–       Write one sentence about the story we are or want to be writing. “My story is a reflection on learning about life, from living with a dog.”

–       A memoir we love.  “A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz”

–       A song we love.  “Into the Mystic by Van Morrison”

–       A word we love.  “Perhaps”


Then after some discussion about how to dig for questions and capturing feelings by writing about “Glimmers” (moments that cause recollection and reflection in sensory detail) we were given our first prompt.


1 – Write about a Glimmer that comes to mind that has occurred in 2014.

“Winter had many days shrouded in thick dense fog.  The mysterious cool wet precipitation now causes my hip to sing with searing pain, before I even go outside.  Walking in the fog makes me recall numbing pain from football hits, stinging burns from Kung Fu kicks and the flames from a car accident that I could not walk away from.


2 – Take one thing from your writing that links back in time, ten years or more.

“The slow motion of impacting into the side of a pickup came suddenly from the left.  Deafening explosions of glass and metal distracted enough to not anticipate running into a little house on the right.  Crunching wood replaced the sharp memory from a few seconds earlier, only to be erased by the fire where our windshield used to be.  Laying in the mud watching the burning car with my feet still in it seemed like a fitting end, at least it was quiet.”


3 – Write about something from the second Glimmer that embarrasses you.

“Being an only child makes it easy to be your Mother’s favorite.  A certain burden comes along with being the chosen one, one that does not allow for making bad choices.  Choices that put you in the hospital after a silent ride in an ambulance, after a noisy life-changing event.  Parents do not like life changing events in the early morning hours, on Mother’s Day.”


4 – Write about something that has happened to someone else that is tied to your last writing.

“My friend Dan decided not to wear his seatbelt, he never did.  Driving too fast in the foggy drizzle to get home a little sooner seemed to him like the thing to do.  The other older driver of the pickup shared that perspective and had a similar smelling breath.”


The next few were given as homework.

5 – Reminds you of a subject you’re interested in.

“I’ve always been drawn to cars, in particular muscle cars of the sixties.  I also have what my grandfather called “A heavy foot” after my mom asked him how I did when he taught me to drive his pickup, the summer after sixth grade, on the gravel roads near his farm in North Dakota.


6 – Something that you don’t understand.

“Despite several documented examples of getting into trouble and a few painful episode’s resulting from traveling fast, I still have a love affair with the nasty bitch we call Speed.  All forms of logic and punishment cannot seem to make me completely part with this mistress of blood rushing excitement and the tastes of adrenaline laced moments.


7 – Riff on one word or phrase that has potency.

“I still have a love affair with the nasty bitch we call Speed.  I’m not sure what to do with this one but Love is a drug and perhaps so is Speed.”



Maze Freedom

A steep winding road drops from our plateau down around an interesting earthen grassy funnel-shaped field and on into the Kent Valley.  I drove this cut-off route many times and never stopped, over several years… I never stopped.  Until I had a speckled co-pilot, I never stopped to visit this place.

Somehow upon first glance of this site Sarrah knew that we should stop.  Pressing her moaning howling head against me and thumping her tail wildly against the truck interior until I laughed, said “OK” slowed down and turned into the lot, then whimpering filled the cab.  Excitement exploded out of the bouncing black and white blur of fur, into the sea of green.


This former gravel pit turned into park is an aggressive walk, making it typically less crowded.  The steep stairway into the labyrinth of spiraling lateral walkways is a hip grind in and a calf burner out.  In youth Sarrah would run up and down the hillsides between the paths and with age mellowed into staying close.


I doubt Sarrah really noticed much of the view as she was typically so excited running and sniffing, perhaps when time slowed her some of the surroundings became more apparent.  On clear days Mount Rainier can be viewed to the south, on foggy days the over-developed valley disappears.

This maze of a park became a favorite place to enjoy some freedom.



August 2012 I attended a writing workshop titled “Making a Personal Metaphor from the Natural World” by the writer Matt Love at the Alder Creek Farm Conservation Site in Manzanita, Oregon.  This one-day experience was packed with many memorable moments, but the last couple of days keep bringing me back to one of the last writing prompt lessons of that day.

From Matt’s “Nature Metaphor Inventory List” prompts – we were to write down what first came to mind (and a bit why it was chosen):

Animal –

Bird – Eagle (don’t flock)

Water Creature –

Tree – Cedar (stay consistent)

Season – Autumn (cooling time)

Landform – Mountain (largely impenetrable)

Form of Precipitation – Fog (hard to see thru)

Astrological –Comet (flash & go away)

Element (gold, copper, etc.) –

Some I didn’t have a strong answer for in the short time given for each, so I skipped them.

Then we were to choose the one that best describes our individual writing style and expand on it, I chose Fog.

Here’s my list of why, because I:

–      Use a lot of questions (many go unanswered)

–      Don’t follow a linear path

–      Use punctuation… approved and Not, to affect! Cadence

–      Confuse those not paying attention

–      Like to intrigue and cause readers to wander and wonder

–      Find mischievous pleasure in drawing a reader in (once you start walking in fog, you have to keep going)

–      Hide small treasures for those who think

I’m not certain how accurate this was/is but it has been very foggy here for a few days and I kinda like it.

Winter Walking

The Pacific Northwest offers dampness in the longer evenings, the kind that makes bones ache a little, in the aged and the damaged.  These cold night walks were my least favorite, but also became part of our routine.  I found that ending each day with a stroll does let mental junk settle and unwind springs.  Living near the Puget Sound often brings moist cool marine air induced fog.  This heavy, thick, ‘cotton like’ mysterious air requires a little more caution when walking amongst distracted moving vehicles, due to poor visibility as it shrouds depth and changes perception.  Sarrah and I typically walked three times each day; we experienced all flavors of the weather that come to the Pacific Northwest.  Some varieties were appreciated more than others, but we grew to enjoy all of these experiences, together.