I am honored to be writing with friends. Recently I read the book My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. I loved this book, but I am not going to write a book review. What I did was took a page, page 191 to be exact, and stole the first line along with the form. “At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn.” The rest of the page is one long sentence beautifully flowing and drawing me in to the scene.
I am not Elizabeth Strout, but I can pretend for a moment that I am. I wrote.
At times these days I think of the ways the trees look in winter, all that bareness, the blue sky open beyond as wide as the ocean, and how birds are exposed on the branches, last year’s nest an unhidden cluster, and I search in my own life for meaning, trying to make a life when things are not as they seem, when all the leaves are gone, the quiet branches of a tree in winter, and the sky above, open and alive. –Margaret Simon
Then I invited some writing friends to write from the same prompt. Here are their responses.
At times these days I think about the ways the ocean invites my attention, as the cliff rises up to meet the road, looking down I feel as if I could reach out and touch the blue stillness, and yet below the surface the cold Pacific digs and pulls showing an endless uncontrollable power calling me towards its vast space that was, is, and will be, long after I am gone. —Julianne Harmatz
At times these days I think about how I will be remembered and if it will be because I made them laugh or because I made them think as I talked and talked and talked when maybe I should have been listening and I think it’s because I am changing into someone who needs more time to reflect and be purposeful instead of someone who needs to charge ahead and get it all done and I guess this makes me seem to be going off in a different direction and I guess I am because it not only looks different but it feels different like somehow I am becoming that person I should have been had other influences not forced me to develop traits for survival and strength instead of personal fortitude and introspection. —Kimberley Moran
At times these days I think about the ways my children’s arms and hearts reach out to me…once their hearts beat inside my womb and mine kept time and half time to theirs, I knew each beat and pull of muscle, each twitch of nerve. Now, they live apart from me, but every fibre of every nerve reacts and responds as it did so long ago when they call about heartbreak, loss, love, and hope. Again, in that moment, we are one body and our hearts beat in rhythm again. —Tara Smith
Then we talked about the process. The writing of it and how we each came to it with our own unique lens. The beauty of this. And how we can do this for our students. How when we write together in community, not only does our creativity flow, our connection is enriched.
But we also talked about trust. How we wrote and shared because we trust each other. When we write alongside our students and build a community of writers, trust must be present. The students need to trust each other, and they need to trust me. That I will honor their words and honor the place they came from. Real writing comes from a vulnerable place. We need to experience this vulnerability ourselves in order to understand it in our students. A teacher of writing must be a writer. This is what I believe and this is what my friends writing together proved.