A friend and I have been doing some quick writing exercises, then discussing them. We each pick a topic (perhaps just a word to use as a jumping off place) and each write on both topics. Each topic has had either a ten minute or twenty minute limit, so there's no time for careful planning or for editing. Afterward, we discuss what we've written. It's been fun, great for jump-starting writing ideas that could often be expanded, and often leads to some surprising thoughts, images, and insights in both the writing and the ensuing discussion. Here are a few of the pieces I've written.
Face to Face with an Animal (10 minute writing)
He alights on my shirt front and looks up at me, bright, black eyes fixed on my amazed, brown eyes. Time stands still as we connect across seven inches, across species, even across class- bird and mammal. He a tiny Black-capped Chickadee, I an adult human being.
An intricate creation, perfectly formed, independently functioning, or at least as independently as any of us can imagine ourselves to be. I wonder if he realizes that every breath is a gift. No, he wouldn’t realize it, but he does live it-- living each moment fully in the present, trying, learning, repeating, and finally trusting.
And I am overwhelmed by this gift of trust, given so gently, so much at risk if I were to prove false. Trust—a precious thing to give and to receive. I receive it from the tiny bird; I give it to his Creator and mine, he who made both the bird and me, and on whose hand I alight and rest.
A Joyous Childhood Moment
I bounded through the front door and turned a somersault , then rolled on the large Oriental rug in the entryway. Energy overflowing, I did another somersault, then leaped up and looked out the French doors, beyond the brick terrace, past the dogwoods clothing the hill in pink and white splendor, and to the soft, blue hills in the distance. I look down at my legs and smile. The soft blue denim with white stitching was magical, giving me strength and skill and possibility.
My first pair of blue jeans opened a new world to me, and I knew inside that I could do anything and go far. They made me feel free in a way I hadn’t felt before. Someday I would walk into those hills, those blue hills that beckoned to me every day.
Rest (10 minute writing)
Oh, thank you! I hold out my hands, palms up, to receive the gift, and embrace it with a sigh of gratitude.
Rest— my body, but even more my soul is renewed in times of quiet. Quiet, but it might not be still time—perhaps hiking in the woods, invigorated by the lack of social pressure and by stretching my legs and pushing my body. That may not be rest for some, but for me it is as though fresh life is being pumped through my veins.
With each step I take, my vision of who I am comes into clearer focus—ageless, clean, made of joy. Sight unobscured, I see; ears clear, I hear. I breathe deeply and am filled with boundless energy, with overflowing peace, with bubbling joy, with deep gratitude.
Sensory Input at this Moment (10 minutes)
Hard metal presses against my seat, my feet, my back, slightly softened by the towels with which I’ve covered the deck chairs. The hum of air conditioners fades in and out of my awareness but is always there, as is the sound of distant traffic.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker churrs from my left across the stream. On all sides I hear the tapping, tweeting, chirping, rattling, and singing of birds—so delightful! Dog toenails click on the deck , then soft fur brushes the underside of my knees.
Colors are muted by humidity and by the heavy cloud cover; that softens the greens and makes them all alike. A hummingbird hovers briefly by the dogwood, then vanishes.
The freshness of mint, the jungle-scent of thyme waft by, the blue tartness of my morning berries lingers in my mouth. This is morning on my deck… thus my day begins.
Growth (10 minutes)
They stretch and push, then pop out of the ground and surge upward, reaching toward the light, spreading leaves outward and skyward to catch the sun.
I was watching some awe-inspiring time-lapse photography of seeds germinating and growing into strong, young seedlings. Growth—amazing to see and inspiring to watch.
But growth isn’t always so clearly visible. In fact, sometimes it isn’t even discernible until seen in retrospect. Nor is it always lovely and awe-inspiring to watch. More often than not it’s a messy, halting, sometimes painful process.
Beauty out of ashes, and those ashes seem to be all one sees for quite a while. Even once the beauty can be seen, the smudge of ashes remains for quite some time, perhaps to remind of us whence we came. Is that so that we don’t take the beauty for granted but remain aware of the process? Or perhaps so that the next time we or someone else is struggling to emerge from the ash heap, we can hold out hope that they or we can grow toward upward and someday stand tall in the light.