THOUGH I WASN’T ALWAYS

Why do I keep trying to understand

the list of many things that I do

 

not? I carry around a fifty-

one-year-old weathered scroll

 

inked with a variety of unknowns.

Some, once understood—now

 

not. Many new, others ever-

changing. The list

 

grows. If “life is what happens when you are making

other plans,” why plan?

 

Why do traits that attract

turn into reasons to leave?

 

Is life alone settling,

fate, or just giving up

 

on the game? Why use the word

forever when nothing is?

 

How can a lifestyle choice threaten

others? How is walking in rain

 

therapy to some, yet loathed by many?

How do crows know I am

 

a friend, though I wasn’t always?

How does a special animal change

 

a person’s life? What do you do

when they go? Why do tough

 

people sometimes betray the code

and cry? Why do some become monsters

 

instead of protecting

their children? Can the kindness

 

of an outsider make enough

difference? Why does the pain remain

 

when the damage is long

gone? How do butterflies

 

know to show up when you need

them? If writing can be an antidote

 

for depression, can it lead

to understanding? Is philosophy

 

a gift, or an over-thought

burden? Destiny, obligation

 

calling (words that are larger

than life) can you really

 

see them coming?

Herman Hesse wrote:

 

I have been and still am a seeker,

but I have ceased to question

stars and books; I have begun

to listen to the teaching my blood

whispers to me.

 

Was there an event that opened

his eyes to this

 

realization or is it the wisdom

of a tired traveler?

 

When is it okay to let go

of questions and simply embrace?

 

The surprises never

end. Perhaps it’d be healthier to lean

 

back: let the bad be curses

and the good, magic.

 

This poem started with my piece Why from the “Write to Understand” writing workshop taught by friend Matt Love  on December 10th 2016 in Astoria, Oregon and evolved over time thanks to the help from another writer friend of mine Tara Hardy .

 

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Why

Why do I keep trying to understand the list of many things that I do not.  I carry around a fifty-one year old scroll of weathered paper inked with a variety of unknowns.  Some once understood – now not.  Many new, others ever-changing.  The list grows…

If “Life is what happens when you are making other plans” – why plan

Why do traits that attract – become reasons to leave

How is walking in rain therapy to some – yet loathed by many

How does a special animal change a person’s life – what do you do when they go

Why does pain remain when the damage is long gone

How do butterflies know to show up when you need them

If writing can be an antidote for Depression – can it help with Understanding

Destiny, Obligation, Calling (words that are larger than life) – can you really see them coming

Herman Hesse wrote, “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.”

Was there an event that opened his eyes to this realization or is it the wisdom of a tired traveler?  When is it okay to let go of questions and simply embrace?

The surprises never end.  Perhaps it’d be healthier to lean back: let the bad be curses and the good magic.

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As always I learned while enjoying my day at the “Write to Understand” writing workshop on December 10th 2016.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Why Memoir

Why Memoir?

This may be a strange compound question from me, as I have been capturing a story of my own for a few years.  I think I’ve figured out a little more about why they are written, they seem to be therapeutic for the writer.  In my case it just happened.  Loss cracked me open and the words came out.  I started smearing these memories on paper and while watching them dry I found that preservation made me feel little better.  Discovery became compulsion and grew.  The spirit of my dog led me down this new path and I just kept going…

Why do people want to read Memoir?

Often I wonder why do strangers read other people’s life stories.  Many are tragic and share deeply painful moments.  Are readers looking for a similar experience while hoping to gain some insight?  Find hope?  Learn something?  Follow someone back from an edge?  Does a common thread need to pull them together?

For me these questions will hang on lines – like yesterday’s laundry in today’s rain, waiting for tomorrow.

How do you help a writer who has been damaged by hearing someone that they shouldn’t have?

Why would someone in the position of Teacher or Advisor give an over-the-top harsh critique of a gifted writer – seeking to improve upon their obvious gift?

Is it believed that crushing someone (who is likely more talented than the critic) is somehow helpful, making them fight back and try harder?

Or is it just a display of jealousy.

This happened to an amazing writer that I proudly consider a friend.

She seems to be hurting from the opinion of one person who does not deserve the power to yield that affect on her.

I never sought to write (it could be argued that I don’t) nor expect it to go anywhere, so a critical attack on me or something that I’ve written might roll off my back with a grin and a middle finger – making me of little value in helping her.

How do you help a writer who has been damaged by hearing someone that they shouldn’t have?

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.”